Selva Marina Country Club in Atlantic Beach, Florida: Classic golf with a few twists

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. -- Selva Marina Country Club is an old-school course that has a few unexpected features that make it intriguingly up to date.

18 Holes | Private | Par: 71 | 6815 yards
Selva Marina Country Club, No. 1
A water carry makes navigating Selva Marina Country Club's par-4 first hole a math test.
Selva Marina Country Club, No. 1Selva Marina Country Club, No. 7 greenSelva Marina Country Club, the lone treeSelva Marina Country Club, No. 18

The golf course is a staple in Atlantic Beach, Fla., near Jacksonville, dating to 1958 and trumpeting its claim to fame that Jack Nicklaus carded a double eagle there in 1966. It's built on land that was home to a golf course in the early 1900s, later a casualty to a World War I-era recession.

Russel Radel, assistant professional at Selva Marina (which means rainforest by the sea), said the course stands out in the land of flat.

"Like a lot of ocean property, it's a flat piece of land," he said. "But they did a lot to make it interesting."

Water carries, solitary trees and super-smooth greens are consistent on the course. The surprises are the added touches, such as solitary, rough-covered swales that arise in the middle of otherwise straight-forward fairways or a smattering of seemingly innocuous trees that can keep you from par.

Following its motto -- "preserving the past, building the future" -- Selva Marina Country Club is getting some added attention from its new management company, Hampton Golf. The company oversees all aspects of the club, from its tennis courts, golf course and competition-sized swimming pool. It's sprucing up the place inside and out.

Radel had worked at TPC Sawgrass but said, "It's a whole different world here. This is a nice, family-style operation. We've got a lot of good people here."

Selva Marina Country Club: A lot to like

Expect a lot of water carries on this course and a lot of subtleties, like those mid-fairway swales. It's also classic golf, a course that's walkable, can be played in less than four hours and has five tee sets, from 7,007 yards to 5,340.

You'll likely encounter large bunkers at the greens, a few valleys that trap a ball's forward motion, and a good mix of straight and doglegged holes. Hazards are used sparingly but effectively. No need to make an entire fairway mounded or undulating when a simple ridge will do. No need to burrow a bunch of bunkers when a single, strategic tree can add turbulence or a single bunker 20 yards in front of the green can foil your approach.

The stars of the golf course are the par 4s, combining all types of hazards to challenge your game. Atop that are medium-fast greens that are sharply sloped and smooth as silk.

Selva Marina Country Club: Holes of note

No. 7 combines a dogleg left around a single tree and water with a bunker straight out and a single, skinny tree in the middle of the fairway right where a perfect drive could have been. A berm juts out from the left mid-fairway, and two huge bunkers flank the green. That's a lot from a little ol' par 4.

The 13th hole includes a single tree in the middle of the fairway, so decide from the tee which side you'll pick.

Selva Marina Country Club's 15th hole has a canal angled across the hole about 120 yards from a very elevated green.

The final hole is a par 5 that heads right toward the green but has a bunker cluster across the fairway. Beware going too far left at the green, there's nothing but air to save your ball from the bulk-headed brink.

Hans and Elsa Reichart played the course for the first time. "It has good greens," Hans said, particularly on the back nine, Elsa added.

Why Trevor Grooms, a 10 handicap, likes Selva Marina has nothing to do with the course. "I like the wind. And I like the history of the course," Grooms said, drinking in the data from the scorecard: site of the 1965 and 1966 Greater Jacksonville Open and 1975 Lady Jacksonville Open.

Parker Greenwald and Charlies Meierdierks, both 14 and teammates on the Fletcher High School golf team, said the course is in great shape, particularly the greens. Greenwald's favorite hole is the par 5 fourth hole. "If I don't spray my drive, I can get there in two. But I spray my drives a lot."

Selva Marina Country Club: The verdict

One can sense this golf course is getting some new life breathed into it.

The greens are in great shape, and the course design has a lot to offer. The variety of length, hazards and tempo keep the E.E. Smith-designed course interesting and entertaining.

Lisa AllenLisa Allen, Contributor

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

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