Royal Amelia Golf Club

Royal Amelia Golf ClubWhat could a golf course have in common with ice cream? Aside from the fact that we golfers likely love the taste of both in any season of the year, Royal Amelia Golf Club on spectacular Amelia Island north of Jacksonville, just might be the Neapolitan ice cream of golf courses. Acclaimed designer Tom Jackson has blended an open, Scottish links-style with one featuring a more typical Florida flavor with doglegs and lush vegetation and added holes that’ll remind you of Pinehurst and the well-mounded, pine-tree-lined fairways of the Carolinas.

The result is more appreciated the more you play it. And with five different tee boxes on every hole that can make the course play from 4,800 to over 6,800 yards, and SEVEN different pin positions on each enormous green, it’ll be a long, long time before you play the same course twice. Maybe Royal Amelia’s closer to 31 flavors than just three?

Royal Amelia has thrived as a “pure golf” alternative to resort and residential courses. No houses, no traffic or construction noise. The adjacent municipal airport is actually a noise-reducing advantage, acting as a buffer between your golf experience and the vibrancy of Amelia Island life. General Manager and Head Professional Scott Womble and Superintendent James Wathen have been at Royal Amelia from the beginning, understand where the course has been, and where it is headed. You may have heard stories about Royal Amelia’s financial picture over the last couple of years, but Womble assures golfers that issues concerning ownership will be resolved, likely this fall.

Royal Amelia Golf Club, Jacksonville, FlYou’ll get a taste of what you’re in for when you drive up to the clubhouse and are greeted by Royal Amelia’s young, but very friendly and attentive staff. The clubhouse might not look like some of the Taj Mahals you’ll see at a few other courses, but it is extremely functional, extremely temporary and you’ll soon find that most clubhouses, like many of those other courses, are overrated.

Royal Amelia, on the other hand, might be the most underrated course in Northeast Florida. You’ll know why when you step onto its enormous practice range, or when you putt on the near-perfect TifEagle greens. Superintendent Wathan has not only learned how to develop the tempermental TifEagle strain to its most-consistent potential, he’s taught the developers of the grass a thing or two.


Time to dig the spoon into Royal Amelia’s first flavor, the three-shot par-5 first hole, Jackson’s first scoop of the links-style holes with large, inviting landing areas, tightening near the green. “The Take-off” (yes, Royal Amelia’s holes are all named, and those names are also excellent tips on playing the holes) suggests just that, go ahead and launch your drive, but unless you can carry your second shot over “Alligator Creek” 470 yards from the white tees, its best to lay-up and hit a wedge to the nearly-40-yard-deep green.

That creek, by the way, meanders through Royal Amelia, coming into play at #1, #9, #10 and #18 and obviously comes with a story. Just this spring, a large ‘gator was removed from the creek, leaving the area to a very few of his smaller, less-cantankerous brethren. Very near where the gator lived, a kingfisher was raising her new family, testament to the wonders of nature that abound at Royal Amelia.

The dogleg-right second hole (named “Cut It Big”) and the third (Straight Away) are both short par-4’s where well-positioned tee shots offer openings to undulating greens guarded by bunkers short-right. By the time you’ve bounced your second shot into the receptive green at #3, around a lone pine perfectly-positioned front-left, you’ve had a taste of all three of architect Jackson’s style of holes. Yet because the seamless way he blends his holes together, you likely haven’t noticed.

Royal Amelia Golf Club, Jacksonville, FlThe two par-3’s on the front side both require you to avoid water to the left, a large pond at the “All Carry” fourth and a green-side pond at the “Tuff 3” seventh that catches more tee shots left than you might imagine. A cluster of bunkers within driving range on the left of the par-5 fifth (“Boomerang”), in front of the green on the short par-4 sixth (“Blue By You”), and on three sides of the green at the par-4 eighth must be respected. The fourth side of that green gives “Gator Hole” its character with every shot hit to the right side funneling towards the water. A large oak in the right side of the fairway at nine provides a target for your tee-shot to the #1 handicapped hole. Miss that tree left and you’re open to clear Alligator Creek to a 40-yard-deep green with some wonderful pin positions on its two tiers (wonderful if you’re the closest to that pin).

Keep the ball out of the very penal woods on either side of the 10th and right on #11while avoiding fairway bunkers on the right side of both and birdie is a possibility. You might be better served with an iron off the tee on both holes, and you’d better pick the right iron to avoid the “Watery Grave” on the left of the par-3 12th. But feel free to grip it and rip it at the par-5 13th, named “Runway”, that pays homage to the airport as the longest of the par-5’s. The toughest part of this otherwise wide-open hole isn’t what you can see, its what you can’t. This is a hole where its tough to pick out a visual target, and a below-the-horizon-line lake intrudes just short of the green on the left.

While the par-3 peninsular-green 17th is Royal Amelia’s signature hole (think TPC at Sawgrass, only longer, to a slightly smaller green), the par-4 14th might be the most fun. A more-than-90-degree dogleg left over a lake, the smart play is a long iron to the generous landing area and a short-iron in, but you’ll surely be tempted by the possibility of carrying the water to the green with a 240-yard-plus drive that carries across the lake and avoids three bunkers that guard the green and landing area beside it. Pull off the shot of your year and an eagle putt is a possibility.

Royal Amelia Golf Club, Jacksonville, FlThreading the needle between water right and a ball-gobbling bunker left at the par-4 15th (“Short Cake”) and around a stand of large oaks at the longer par-4 16th (“Let’er Rip”) gets you to “Wally’s Place,” the aforementioned tie-walled 130-160-yard 17th, complete with its own bunker in front, just like that other “signature 17th” at Sawgrass. Wally was the resident gator for years at this terrific par-3, until meeting his end this spring.

The final hole is a wonderful risk-and-reward par-5 that should be played as a three-shotter, hitting the second over Alligator Creek to a preferred landing area to the right of the green for a short pitch-shot home, though “home” is a 42-yard-deep green with the Intracoastal Waterway as a backdrop, and fitting conclusion to your island golf experience.

With every hole a unique challenge at Royal Amelia, you’ll likely come off the course thinking it very, very playable. Yet you’ve also been well-tested. With a 137 slope from the tips, a strong 129 slope from the 6,128-yard member tees, and even a 117 slope from the very women-friendly 4,800-yard forward tees, Royal Amelia truly comes off as a flavor of golf course you’re likely to want to try again. Like your favorite ice cream, you’ll love the different essences of Royal Amelia, and you’ll likely leave this island getaway with a hunger for more. For more information, and the latest specials at Royal Amelia, call them at (904) 491-8500, or logon to www.royalameliagc.com

 

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