Ponte Vedra Inn and Club: Going Back in Time with the Lagoon Course

By Derek Duncan, Contributor

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL -- It’s nowhere near as old as its sibling course, but the Lagoon Course at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club still predates any other golf courses in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Nine of its holes date back to 1961 when Robert Trent Jones added them just west of the sixth through ninth holes of the old Ocean Course, which he had revised in 1947. In 1977, Joe Lee was brought in to add another Lagoon nine, giving the resort 36 holes in two distinct courses.

The Lagoon and Ocean courses possess many differences, differences that were further delineated after Bobby Weed renovated the older course in 1998. Most evident is the Lagoon’s lack of length, playing at just under 5,600 yards from its longest tees. It also occupies the interior portion of the property, away from the Atlantic atmosphere and breezes.

The original Trent Jones nine shares common ground with the first nine of the Ocean Course and mirrors its interplay with the lakes and canals. The complexion of the second nine, a tight and thrifty use of land by Lee, is different, better utilizing the lush vegetation and showing a greater variety in its holes.

At first glance the Lagoon seems like simply a reprieve to the challenges of the revamped Ocean Course. Most members head over here when not in the mood for the full test that the bigger, older course provides.

Head Professional Bruce Mohler puts it this way: “We’ve got an extremely difficult golf course depending on the tees you’re playing (the Ocean Course), and to compliment that we’ve got more of a ‘target golf’ golf course. You can go out there if you’re a beginner and not spend 10 minutes on one hole putting or chipping back and forth if you don’t have the skill or experience.”

“We’ve got a foursome of 90-year-old men that come out here three days a week to play golf,” Mohler continues. “They don’t hit the ball very far but they play fast and they enjoy it and they love the Lagoon Course. They won’t even mess with the Ocean Course.”

Yet Mohler cautions that the little course is not quite the pushover it may appear to be. “Some people look on the card and see that it’s 5,600 yards and think it’s a pitch-and-putt course. But it’s position golf. If you get out of six, seven, eight, and nine near par, you did great.”

The Lagoon course will particularly test those with loose swings. Holes three through seven, eleven, thirteen, and fifteen threaten with water short of the tee or to the right, while the eighth and sixteenth show the same hazard on the left.

In contrast to the new, rambling greens of the Ocean Course, the putting surfaces on the Lagoon Course are dainty and slower. The green at the 15th, a go-for-broke dogleg right par four of 294 yards, is a mere 10 paces wide and 17 paces deep. These tiny targets are frequently fronted by steep bunkers, so less than the boldest of approaches must pick one side or the other to play to.

The strength of the Lagoon Course is its rhythm. After two warm-up holes, water is introduced on three, four, and five. As Mohler mentions, the most difficult stretch on the course begins with the 379-yard par four where an inlet of water prevents drives from traveling more than 240 yards. Eight is 192-yards with a right-to-left sloping green, and nine is the Lagoon’s most challenging hole at 445 yards and a par of four.

The interest really picks up on the second nine that starts with back-to-back par fives, followed by back-to-back par threes and then another five. The quick pace continues with two reachable par fours at 15 and 16. The only weak link from the sixth hole on is the typical 18th, a 335-yard dogleg left that lacks any real character.

Nevertheless, changes are on the horizon as the Ponte Vedra Inn plans to renovate the Lagoon Course in the next several years. Though an architect has yet to be named, the Inn would like to see the greens reshaped and the course lengthened to at least 6,000 yards. Additionally, the outdated grass (which is still wonderfully maintained) will also have to be replaced.

In the meantime Mohler says he’s happy with the role the Lagoon Course plays. “It offers the experience of ‘I’m out here to enjoy the outdoors, to relax, to have fun with my family or friend or business companion,’ versus the golfer who says ‘I’m here to play a tough golf course, I’m here to focus and concentrate.’”

Weed hopes to have a chance to do to the Lagoon what he did to the older course. “It might be able to compliment the Ocean Course,” he says, “which can be a lot of golf.”


Opened: First nine, 1961; Second nine, 1977
Architects: Robert Trent Jones (1961); Joe Lee (1977)
Length: 5,574; 5,239; 4,571
Par: 34-36-70

Derek DuncanDerek Duncan, Contributor

Derek Duncan's writing has appeared in TravelGolf.com, FloridaGolf.com, OrlandoGolf.com, GulfCoastGolf.com, LINKS Magazine and more. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Cynthia and is a graduate of the University of Colorado with interests in wine, literary fiction, and golf course architecture.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment