FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. -- Course architect Bobby Weed has done some fine work in northeast Florida.
The Ponte Vedra Beach resident has designed some high-profile public tracks in his backyard. His Amelia Island Ocean Links is short on yardage but long on beauty, featuring several holes along the Atlantic Ocean. His Slammer & Squire Course complements the more celebrated King and Bear Course by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer at the World Golf Village in nearby St. Augustine.
Surprisingly, some of Weed's best holes can be found on a relatively unknown place south of Jacksonville called The Golf Club at Fleming Island, a residential course that's popular with the locals. Some might even argue Fleming Island is the best of the three. There aren't many houses to detract from its natural setting among the pines and swamps.
"Weed did the Slammer & Squire, and we hear this is just as good or better at one-third of the price," said Troy Albers, the general manager at Fleming Island. "That's not a knock on the Slammer & Squire. That's just what we hear from customers."
Fleming Island's tough greens
The par-71 Fleming Island doesn't have championship length from the tips at 6,688 yards. For the crowd it caters to -- the aging snowbirds and the average joes -- the 6,410-yard blue tees and more forgiving 5,888-yard white tees are a perfect mix. The whites take the bite out of some of the course's most demanding tees shots. The three amigos -- the fourth, ninth and 14th -- are all long par 4s with water up the left side.
"Bobby did a good job of designing a fair, fun golf course," Albers added.
Hitting greens in regulation remains the secret to unlocking the course record (a 61) or any other respectable score.
Weed propped up many of his greens with edges that drop off into bunkers, wetlands and all sorts of tricky side-hill lies and collection areas.
"The elevated greens play havoc with me," admitted Doug Seeley, who lives near the course. "You have to hit the perfect shot or you pay a penalty. If you are off the green, you need to be in the planned access route or have some flop shots (ready to use)."
Weed's most creative hole plays as drivable par 4 of 294 yards (from the blues). Players who miss up the left side of the horse-shoe fairway at No. 12 face a blind shot over a massive bunker built into a hillside. The euphoria of a birdie often fades quickly at No. 13, a 449-yard par 4 that plays like a par 5 from the blue tees. A 3-5-3-5 finish beginning at No. 14 ends the day with variety and more scoring opportunities.
The Golf Club at Fleming Island: The verdict
Every golfer I interviewed during my recent four-day swing through the courses south of Jacksonville liked Eagle Landing at Oakleaf Plantation in Orange Park the best, followed quickly by Fleming Island as the second choice.
They're both in a similar price range and both well conditioned. I think the difference has to be that Eagle Landing plays several shots easier than tricky-tough Fleming Island.
What average golfer doesn't love shooting lower scores?