Golf in the USA: Jacksonville, FL

Golf in the USA: Jacksonville, FL

This post is part of our Golf in the U.S.A. blog series. Golf in the U.S.A. rounds up the best public-access golf courses in music's biggest cities, so you can play some licks and swing the sticks on your next golf trip. Be sure to check out our previous installments: Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA, Long Island, NY.


Jacksonville: Where Florida Begins...and so Does Your Next Buddy Trip

Some cities can’t get no respect. For example, can you name the most populous city in Florida? Outsiders might mistake the bright lights of Miami or the theme-park glitz of Orlando for the Sunshine State’s biggest deals, but Jacksonville tops the list.

And it’s not lacking in tourist appeal...especially if you’re looking for the next golf trip location for you and the guys.

Jacksonville’s music scene is largely slept upon as well...not because you haven’t heard of the bands, but because you mistakenly gave other states the credit. Let’s set you straight on this city’s deep rock ‘n’ roll roots, as well as point you toward both Jacksonville’s headline publics and more casual golf joints.


TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)


The iconic TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course has a heavy metal origin story...out from the swamp came one of the most imposing monsters on the PGA Tour. Pete Dye was given a sloppy piece of land and what amounted to a blank check, and he created a course built for spectators, along with punishing holes like the the closing Cape, which wraps around the central lagoon, pushing the game’s best to finish just one more hole and earn the biggest paycheck in professional golf. Dye’s use of angles and visual intimidation is on display across the property, but attention inevitably turns to the shortest hole. Dye’s wife Alice imagined the scariest wedge shot in golf, and avid golfers sacrifice more than 100,000 balls to the lake every year. Still, No. 17 is the most popular answer when Sawgrass asks “what hole is it y’all wanna play?”

“What song is it y’all wanna hear?” is the legendary question asked by Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant on One More from The Road. The answer, he knew, was “Free Bird,” which closed the Jacksonville group’s debut album with five minutes of guitar solo. Those kind of closing fireworks are akin to the Stadium Course’s trio of challenging holes. Many assume, incorrectly, that Skynyrd calls Alabama its sweet home. The truth is the band, and most other bastions of the “Southern Rock”—including Molly Hatchet and .38 Special—hail from Jacksonville.


TPC Sawgrass (Dye’s Valley)


Those intimidated by Stadium’s hazards (or ticket price) may find a happier medium at the TPC Dye’s Valley. The second 18 was a collaboration with designer Bobby Weed and pro Jerry Pate; Pate had won the initial Player’s Championship and he probably had a hand in talking Dye into creating something less intense this time around. Granted, it’s no pushover: You’ll need to set yourself up strategically to win the skins, but fewer superhuman shots will be required. If you want a taste of the Players Championship life, the closer at Dye’s Valley is similar to its big brother. If you want to try biting at the edge of the lake, there’s plenty of opportunity to get wet.

Milder, but cut from the same cloth. Sounds like the other obvious entry from Jacksonville’s Southern Rock legacy: The Allman Brothers. They and Skynyrd obviously share adoration for blues tradition, but where Skynyrd took its guitars in a more bombastic direction, Duane Allman and Dickey Betts took the more mellow route across legendary jams. Both should be appreciated by classic rock fans, just like both of these courses should be enjoyed on their own terms.


Ponte Vedra Inn & Club (Ocean Course)


Many forget Pete Dye wasn’t the first architect to raise a Jacksonville course for messing with the pros. Heck, he wasn’t even the first to install an island green in Jacksonville! Ponte Vedra Ocean Course designer Herbert Strong was used to dunes back home at Royal St. George’s, so he used a team of 100 mules to drag the land into shape during 1928. Bobby Jones described the winds and slopes as “a course to challenge professionals,” and it was awarded the Ryder Cup almost a decade after its founding. World War II cancelled that event but you can challenge the still-slippery layout. The highlight, as at Sawgrass, is the island green. No. 9 plays 157 yards, but features considerably more safe areas to miss. If you lost a half-dozen balls at the Stadium, now’s your chance to get back at your buddies.

As it’s important to remember the course that preceded Dye in the Jacksonville region, it’s important to remember the groundbreaking musicians who laid the groundwork for the city’s rock ‘n’ roll scene. Blind Blake is one of the most legendary bluesmen, and we mean that literally. Little is known about “King of The Ragtime Guitar” Blind Blake, but Paramount Records claims he was born in Jacksonville. His picking style laid the foundations of the “Piedmont Blues” style, and the popularity of blues as we know it.


World Golf Village (King & Bear)


At Fury Golf, we’re all about the core needs of a golf trip: Good drinks, good food, a nice cigar or trip to the local casino, and of course great golf. Those who appreciate the game’s history should head down to the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine. Obviously you’ll be hit with more history than you can shake a fairway wood at, but there’s great golf to be had. The Village hosts two courses, and the King & Bear is typically hailed as the destination of choice. It features a design collaboration between two of the Hall’s greatest members, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus (just in case the name wasn’t a giveaway). The designers claim that No. 15 (a potentially drivable Par 4 with water all up the right) and No. 16 (a beefier Par 4, at 470 from the tips) are the best holes. Debate your buddies, and the Great Ones, as you play.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame features both the Allmans and Skynyrd, but they’re not the most deserving names in Jacksonville’s pantheon, surprisingly. That title goes to Ray Charles, who dominated early rock ‘n’ roll. The seeds for his talent were planted nearby to the World Golf Village, at the Florida School for The Deaf and The Blind in St. Augustine. He learned the works of Beethoven and other composers by reading sets of braille music for both his left and right hand, and then combining them from memory on the keyboard. In a word: difficult. Be sure to share that story with your buddy when he complains about how tough it is playing with rentals.


Blue Sky Golf Club


Regardless of your hobby, people go to Florida to relax. If you want a break from the strictures of golf, and feel comfortable playing in your sandals, Blue Sky Golf Club is the place to go. The club site has a “Dress Code” page just to tell you “wear what you like.” It’s also got a progressive take on tee times. If you’re all tied-up after the previous four rounds, Blue Sky offers 3, 6, 9 and 18-hole rates that you can use to settle those bets. After you’re done, grab a seat at the Blue Sky Bar & Grille, which is equally equipped for your relaxation. Arnold Palmer was known as The People’s Champion, and the vibe at this course best lives up to the designer’s claim.

As Blue Sky serves as an “alternative” take on the golf club atmosphere, it’s fitting you look for some alternative soundtrack takes. Not alternative rock, but further, with the Quad City DJs. This outfit perhaps best sums up the Jock Jams ‘90s sound with singles “C’mon and Ride It (The Train)” and the Space Jam theme song. Members Jay Ski and C.C. Lemonhead were also involved with “Whoot, There It Is” and “Tootsee Roll.” Now, there’s one Jacksonville band we haven’t mentioned... but if you rent one of Blue Sky’s “souped-up” golf carts, you may want to consider it as part of your soundtrack.


So what’d we miss is Jacksonville, FL? Courses or bands? Got an opinion on what city we should travel to next for Golf in the U.S.A.? Either way, let us know in the comments!

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