Golf gets green flag on coast near Daytona Beach

Hammock Beach 18th hole Hammock Beach Resort

Golf gets green flag on coast near Daytona Beach

Golf

Golf gets green flag on coast near Daytona Beach

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The state of Florida has 1,350 miles of coastline, second among the 50 states only to Alaska. It has more than 1,000 golf courses, the most of any state.

Now, here’s a snap quiz: What are your three favorite oceanfront holes in Florida?

Got you, didn’t I? Florida has many delightful beaches and courses, but it’s rare that those natural and man-made wonders collide to form any felicitous meetings of land and sea, to poach a phrase. You’re more likely to be staring at large homes or condo towers, rather than cresting waves, on your second shot into Florida’s finest “oceanfront” holes.

That is, unless you’re playing the aptly named Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, 30 miles north of Daytona Beach, where each nine ends with a flourish of coastal holes, six in all, that invariably ignite a flurry of selfies and envy-inducing tweets.

Three-putted No. 8 because the Atlantic crashed during my stroke. #FirstWorldProblems

Snap-hooked my drive into the drink on 16 because a seagull squawked in my backswing. #GolfsABeach

Slow-playing 18 to enjoy one last walk down the Ocean. #FinishStrong

When I suggested to my pals Pete and Fitz that we should try to play Hammock Beach during a winter escape from New Jersey, Pete quickly called up the resort’s website, then sent me an email five minutes later: “Holy crap, we have to play that place.”

What can I say? We’re suckers for eye candy. So sue us. (There’s more on the way. Brad Hauer, Hammock Beach’s director of golf, said there are plans to do a controlled burn on the dunes line and plant grasses that will allow for easier maintenance and even better ocean views.)

When we got to the 15th tee, the first of four in a row that cavort with the Atlantic, the hazy sunlight over the ocean created a surreal mixture of light and shadows. “It looks like Teletubbies land,” Pete said. It was as if someone was sending us a message: Boys, get ready for something special.

Hammock Beach has been one of the best stories in Florida golf over the past year. When Hurricane Matthew hammered the state 15 months ago, a 9-foot storm surge left the Ocean Course underwater. It was rebuilt for $3.5 million with wall-to-wall Platinum Paspalum, which thrives in seaside environments, and reopened in November.

Best of both worlds

This month, according to Ty Brassie, the resort’s director of sales and marketing, visitors to the races at Daytona International Speedway can enjoy the best of both worlds.

“Being up here at Hammock Beach gets them outside of the hustle and bustle (around the Speedway), but still close enough that they can enjoy the track and get back and forth quickly,” Brassie said.

It also provides them access to The Conservatory, Hammock Beach’s second course. Its greens also are grassed in Platinum Paspalum, but that’s where the similarities end. The Conservatory is inland and awash in sand rather than water. Tom Watson, the architect of record, created a course that forces players to hit it high and land it with some precision. In that regard, it’s arguably an even better test for good players.

There’s a buzz around Daytona, and not just because race week is approaching. Just west of downtown, near 36-hole LPGA International, Latitude Margaritaville – a partnership between a Canadian developer and Jimmy Buffett – is in the early stages of a development with a targeted total buildout of 6,900 homes. That figures to be a huge boon for neighboring LPGA International, a 36-hole facility.

“If you don’t go to LPGA, we’re the next best game in town,” said Ryan Meyers, general manager at Riviera Country Club in Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona Beach.

Old-school cool

Riviera oozes old-school cool. It’s been family-run by the Meyers family since 1953. (Meyers’ parents still own the home by the 12th tee.) It has 330 members, but no tee times. “That’s the way it’s always been,” Meyers said. And it’s home to the Riviera Open, which is billed as the longest-running winter tour event in the country. The 57th Open was played in December. Over the years the tournament has attracted numerous players with Tour pedigrees. Tournament champions have included Al Kelley, Bert Yancey, J.C. Goosie, Jim Dent, Morris Hatalsky, Billy Hurley and Kenneth Staton, who later shot a course-record 57 in 2015 despite a double bogey on No. 11. Matt Every is a four-time Riviera club champion. And Mo Norman used to hang out at the Riv.

All of Riviera’s history, of course, still gets trumped by the city’s racing heritage. Well-to-do gentlemen began racing on Daytona Beach’s hard-packed sand 115 years ago, and that eventually gave way to racing on a 4.1-mile oval up the beach and down A1A.

Daytona Beach’s population swells by nearly 200,000 people on race weekend. Daytona International Speedway runs tours year-round, allowing fans the chance to ride on the world’s most famous racetrack.   All visitors should experience that at least once, even if their primary interest is the area’s beaches and golf courses.  Gwk

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