Ponte Vedra Inn and Club's Lagoon golf course is pretty, flirtatious younger sister to Ocean
PONTE VEDRA, Fla. - You can tell as soon as you get your scorecard that playing the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club's Lagoon course won't be as, shall we say, prestigious as the resort's other course, the Ocean.
The Ocean scorecard is a big, fancy green and cream number. The Lagoon scorecard is small, black and white and utilitarian: Just the facts.
It is so. The Ocean Course is the resort's marquee layout, having served as a U.S. Open qualifier several times and once even being named host for the Ryder Cup Matches before World War II took care of that little bit of history.
The Ocean is over 6,800 yards from the back tees while the little 'ol Lagoon just barely passed the 6,000 yard mark last year, and that was only because officials insisted on topping that yardage so it wouldn't be referred to as an executive course.
Don't let all this dissuade you from playing the Lagoon, however. It is a tiny gem, like that really cute, shapely, precocious younger sister who's always flirting with her older sister's boyfriends.
First of all, it has some impressive ancestry. Robert Trent Jones designed the front nine in 1961 while Joe Lee did the back in 1977.
Then hometown boy Bobby Weed came along last year and pretty much tore up everything they did. The Lagoon got new tees, fairways and greens, and the routing changed on several holes. They also re-did the irrigation and added some very colorful but tasteful landscaping.
Most of the regulars here, far from lamenting what Weed did to the old masters' work, rave about the new layout.
"We love it," said Gerry Klingman, playing with his wife Kathy and buddy Sam Acciavatti, all of Ponte Vedra. "It's a course everybody can play and have fun. The Ocean course, you know, is pretty hard. This is a good alternative, a relief after playing the Ocean."
And that length can be deceiving. The Lagoon has a handful of short par 4s, two of which are less than 300 yards and very drivable, and another just 329 yards - all from the back tees. The remainder of the holes all have good length, including a 578-yard par 5 and two par 3s over 200 yards.
Add to that relatively tight fairways, mix in a lot of water with strategic bunkers and waste areas, and you have a fun little test of golf in a very picturesque setting.
Lagoon Course at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club: The verdict
The Lagoon, as befits its name, has a lot of little lakes and lagoons running through it; they come into play on 11 of the holes.
It's an open course dotted with mostly palms throughout, giving it a south Florida look, but also with some pines and old oaks in certain sections. The rocks around the greens that have water are a nice touch. There are homes, but they are often on the other side of water hazards.
Best of all, the course has some movement to it, which you don't usually get in this part of Florida. The fairways roll in spots, and many of the greens are elevated with high-lipped bunkers and interesting drop-offs. The small, fast greens have good slope and excellent undulation -- enough to challenge your putter, but not overly penal.
The entire golf course is in tip-top shape. It's open to members and guests staying at the resort.
One note: the Lagoon does attract some of the older resort set and play can sometimes be slow, but course marshals do a good job of moving people along.
St. Augustine lodging
St. Augustine is a great place to play both the Ponte Vedra golf courses -- just a short drive away down scenic A1A -- as well as the St. Johns County courses at the World Golf Village. And if you're going to stay in America's oldest city, why not stay in a bed and breakfast in one of the city's old houses?
The St. Francis Inn (www.stfrancisinn.com) dates back to the 1700s, an attractive pairing of old world charm and modernity. Built by Senor Gaspar Garcia, the house is made of native coquina shells with a private courtyard and pool. It's located in the shady historic district, with its narrow brick streets, but still within easy walking distance of shopping, dining and the pleasures of St. Augustine.
Each of the 17 rooms is unique: a combination of suites, a private cottage, the 1880 'Wilson House' and a beach house on Anastasia Island. The Southern breakfast buffet is excellent.
August 14, 2008