Golf Course Review - The Golf Club of Amelia Island

FACTS AND STATS: Course Architects: Mark McCumber and Gene Littler (1987). Year Opened: October, 1987. Location: Amelia Island, Florida. Slope: 140. Rating: 72.9. Par: 72. Yardage: 6,738.


1 - Par 4 427 Yds 10 - Par 4 413 Yds

2 - Par 5 572 Yds 11 - Par 4 438 Yds

3 - Par 4 343 Yds 12 - Par 5 513 Yds

4 - Par 4 407 Yds 13 - Par 3 150 Yds

5 - Par 3 160 Yds 14 - Par 4 349 Yds

6 - Par 4 365 Yds 15 - Par 5 490 Yds

7 - Par 4 392 Yds 16 - Par 3 199 Yds

8 - Par 5 491 Yds 17 - Par 4 382 Yds

9 - Par 3 206 Yds 18 - Par 4 441 Yds

Par 36 3,363 Yds Par 36 3,375 Yds

Awards Won: Nominated as Best New Course of the Year (1988), 3 1/2 Stars - Best Places to Play by Golf Digest (1994-95, 2002), Top 100 Women-Friendly In US - Golf for Women (1995, 97-98, 2000), Top 100 Courses in the United States by Links Magazine (1997), Top 20 Courses by Florida Golf News (2001). Top 10 World's Best Golf Resorts - (Travel & Leisure Golf (2003), Top 50 Golf Resorts - Luxury Golf & Travel (2006), 4 Stars - Best Places to Play by Golf Digest (2006), Top Golf Resorts by Conde Nast Traveler (2007-08, 2012),

Key Events Held: Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf (1998).


HISTORY: As it turns out, The Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach is a perfect complement to the Ritz Carlton, which overlooks the stately course.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the course was designed by PGA Tour veteran Mark McCumber, along with legendary golfer Gene Littler in 1987.

McCumber, who had a solid PGA Tour career, winning 10 times, including The Players Championship and the Tour Championship, has been designing and renovating courses for the past 30 years and the course at Amelia Island was one of his first.

Littler, who is one of just 11 players to have captured the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open, won 29 times on the PGA Tour and 47 worldwide and was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990.

With a swing as silky smooth as Sam Snead, Littler's nickname, "Gene the Machine," was quite appropriate.

So when building this golf course, the owners had hired quite a pedigree to craft a venue worthy of the area.

With five sets of tees, ranging from 5,767 to 6,738, the Golf Club of Amelia Island fits all forms of golf. From the junior player to the inexperienced golfer to the most skilled athletes, this course will provide not only a challenge, but extreme enjoyment.

It's no wonder that in the past 25 years, it has garnered some of the most prestigious awards in golf. From its Best New Course nomination in 1988 to its rating as one of the Top Golf Resorts by Conde Nast Traveler in 2012.

The Champions Tour thought so highly of the venue, that after 20 years in Texas and California, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, the tournament which started the Senior Tour, moved to the East Coast and the Amelia Island course.

The duo of Charles Coody and Dale Douglass defeated Hugh Baiocchi and David Graham in a playoff to capture the title for the third time, when The Golf Club of Amelia Island hosted the event in 1998.

After opening the tournament with a 10-under 62 for the lead, Coody and Douglass fell one shot behind Baiocchi and Graham heading into the final round. Trailing by one with one hole remaining, Baiocchi sank a 30-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead and when Douglass got up and down for par, they headed to a playoff.

On the second extra hole, Douglass holed a 20-footer for birdie and the title in the 54-hole better-ball event that was the precursor to the Champions Tour. Legendary golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez and his partner Hubert Green matched the low round of the event with a final day score of 62 to tie for eighth. In addition to winning the Legends Division, Coody and Douglass also captured the 60-69 Legendary Division.

Interestingly enough, Littler, who paired with Don January that week, tied for seventh in the Legendary Division.

HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW: The opening hole at The Golf Club of Amelia Island is not your run of the mill starter. Not only is this the No. 3 handicap hole, it stretches to 427 yards in length and is tree-lined on both the right and the left. With 100-year-old trees encroaching on the fairway, you'll be pressed in finding the fairway. A mid iron will remain to an undulating green that slopes from back to front. If you can, stay below the hole and avoid the greenside bunker to the right.

The second is a boomerang left par-5, the longest hole on the course and rated the most difficult. Trees adorn the left side, while a pair of bunkers run deep at the corner of the dogleg. The second shot is of utmost importance, as the fairway tightens with water down the left side, narrowing the landing area. If successful, you'll be left with a simple pitch to a very accessible putting surface. Although sand protects both sides, the green is very wide, but just 21 paces deep. A real birdie opportunity.

From the longest to the shortest, as we reach the par-4 third. Just 343 yards in length, the key here is the tee ball, which must favor the left side, as a tall, elegant oak stands watch down the right side of the hole. Bending slightly to the right, just a short iron should remain to a small demanding putting surface. At 28 paces in length, a ridge in the front-right and a bunker on the left, this hole is not as easy as it looks.

Hole No. 4 is a genuine test. This straightaway par-4 can be stretched to 407 yards from the gold markers and usually plays into a stiff breeze. The fairway is fairly generous, but the key is the approach. Be careful off the tee, as the landing area runs out at the 288-yard mark with a lake on the left, tightening the landing area. With a mid-iron, your best play would be toward the right portion of the green, as water and sand run quite close to the green. Although a bunker looms right, it beats the alternative. The green is less than 30 paces in length and narrow. Complete these four holes close to par and you'll have an opportunity to shoot a good score.

The first par-3 on the course comes your way at the fifth. Just 160 yards in length, it's all carry to the green, as a lake fronts the putting surface. Don't fool with a front flag, especially when the wind is in your face. Take an extra stick, play for the center of the green, one of seven on the front nine under 30 paces in depth and move on.

As you reach the sixth, you'll realize The Golf Club of Amelia Island is all about angles. This sharp dogleg left puts extreme emphasis on your tee shot, as three trees guard the left corner of the bend and two bunkers flank the right. Although just 365 yards, you'll need a precise tee shot to conquer this beauty. Now it's time for your approach to a tiny green with sand and water on the left and a shaved chipping area on the right. Remember, short does not mean easy.

One of the more deceiving holes on the course, the seventh is not the longest of par-4s, but certainly of the most entertaining. Bending slightly to the left, your tee shot must clear the meandering body of water that cuts in front of the tee and winds down the left side. Cut your tee shot too much to the left and you'll be in the drink. With a tee shot down the right side of the rolling fairway, a mid-iron approach is all that is required. The green is oval in shape with a daunting front bunker complex. Take a extra stick, as the putting surface is slightly raised and the last thing you need is your second shot plugged in the bunker.

Finally, a realistic shot at birdie, the par-5 eighth. Only 491 yards in length, so take advantage as best you can. Attack the corner of this dogleg right with your tee shot to give you a chance at getting home in two. With a fairway metal, you'll be able to get home, but you'll need to be precise, as the green is long and slender and guarded on both sides by sand. Even so, the putting surface is without drama, so go for it.

The closing hole on the front nine is also the longest of the par-3s at 198 yards. This gem features a false front, making a tucked pin quite difficult to get at and a back-left flag will bring the greenside trap into play. One word of caution, do not miss right and long, as thick brush and trees receive plenty of play off the sloped back of the green.

Running parallel with the 18th, the opening hole on the back nine is a medium- length par-4 of 413 yards. Playing fairly straight, the first key here is the tee ball, which must avoid the left-side bunker. Although a small lake protrudes into the fairway, it should not come into play off the tee. Your approach with a mid-iron must be struck precisely, as the green is slightly elevated, not to mention just 23 paces in depth. Sand also protects both sides, so you'll need to be spot on.

The same can be said for the 11th, another par-4 that runs 438 yards and bends ever so slightly to the right. The big difference here: no fairway bunker and a very generous landing area. The second shot is the deciding factor of scoring on this hole, as you'll have a fairly long approach to another minuscule green with sand guarding the left side. The green is not difficult, but a back-left pin could cause issues.

A realistic birdie chance, No. 12 is just 513 yards from the tips and very reachable in two. Avoid the water that swings to the right and the bunkers to the left and you'll have a shot. Your approach in two must be spot on, as the green is guarded on the right by sand and the left is very close to the 13th tee box and out-of-bounds. If you decide to lay up, you'll need to clear a wetlands area that sneaks out into the fairway at the 130-yard mark. The green is bland in undulations, but quite small, circular and just 26 paces in depth.

The first par-3 on the back nine is the 13th and it's also the shortest. The tee box is slightly elevated, as it provides a great view of the green, which is a whopping 35 yards in length. Sand protects several angles of this narrow putting surface, that features plenty of slope and a ridge on the left. It's rated as the easiest on the course, but it's not to be taken lightly.

One of the several signature holes on the course, the 14th is a wonderful, short par-4. At just 349 yards, a three-metal is the play off the tee, as the fairway runs out at the 260-yard mark. Your approach over wetlands and into the wind, must be struck with authority, as the trouble borders the putting surface. This green is one of the biggest on the course and features plenty of slope. Take an extra stick with a left pin and don't forget the wind!

The 15th is risk-reward at its best. This par-5 of just 490 yards doglegs to the left and requires two carries over wetlands. From the tips, the first carry is 215 yards over the first marsh. A sweeping draw off the tee aimed at the fairway bunker in the distance will work exquisitely. Here is where it gets tricky. With just under 230 yards remaining, you're faced with an uphill approach over the 30-yard wetlands to a severely elevated green. It's doable, but difficult. If you decide to lay up, you'll have to contend with a small landing strip short of the green and a pot bunker fronting the putting surface. The icing on the cake is the green is only 22 paces long with a severe ridge in the center. And you thought you were making birdie.

The final par-3 is the best on the course and certainly no pushover. Just under 200 yards, it generally plays into the wind on most days and features one of the most difficult greens. Your approach is all carry over wetlands to a very wide and fairly deep putting surface. The ridge in the center will move balls left or right and the bunker short sees an enormous amount of play. A back- right flag will bring the marsh into play, as the green slopes hard toward the water. It's hard to be believe that this is the 16th handicap hole.

A sweeping dogleg left awaits as you reach the 17th tee. With a very wide landing area, the tee shot should be the least of your worries. The series of bunkers down the right is a great aiming spot to turn one over in the fairway. A medium iron should do the trick to this narrow and fairly long putting surface. Little undulation on this hole, including the green, but be wary of the bunkers on either side. It's never as easy as it looks.

The closing hole is the longest par-4 on the course, a robust 441 yards from the gold markers. Putting your tee shot in the fairway is of utmost importance, as trees right are like a jail and OB left is death to the scorecard. The rolling fairway will leave a possible uneven lie to strike your approach that comes in the form of a long iron or hybrid. This putting surface has plenty of slope and is 31 paces in depth, so pick the right stick or you'll be faced with a possible three-putt. Although no sand, the grass hollows around the green will keep you guessing.

FINAL WORD: Comparing golf courses is not like comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. You can't do it.

How can you say that Augusta National is better than Pine Valley or that Merion is finer than Pebble Beach? Again, you can't.

What you can do is decide wether you would want to go back and play that course again and again. Obviously in these cases, yes.

That's what you need to figure out when visiting the Ritz Carlton at Amelia Island and, more specifically, The Golf Club at Amelia Island.

You can't confuse this course with Augusta National or nearby TPC Sawgrass. But, what you can do, is figure out if you'd play the course over and over. Again, the answer is yes.

The Golf Club at Amelia Island is a wonderful mix of long and short holes that wind through the majestic moss-draped oaks that populate the northeast Florida coast.

Rarely will you find a hole that resembles another, and yet you'll remember each and every hole.

From the tree-lined first to the par-3 fifth over water or the wonderful stretch from 14 through 16, the GC at Amelia Island will be a memorable one.

A real test of a course's conditions is generally in the rough months of the summer and GCAI passes with flying colors.

The diversity of the layout, with its great contrast of holes, is sensational.

Although not long by today's standards, GCAI is quite a test. It's a course that will challenge the best players, and reward good shots and penalize bad ones.

The course is manicured to perfection. In fact, it's so good that the Concours D'Elegance, an event showcasing vintage and rare cars from around the globe, is annually held on the 10th and 18th fairways each March. In addition, those two fairways are maintained by the event year round.

But the course is just the icing on the cake at Amelia Island Ritz Carlton.

The amenities at this outstanding resort will bring you back, again and again.

From the surf of the Atlantic Ocean, just a pitching wedge away from the glorious hotel, to the culinary delight of SALT, the 5-star dining experience.

Not a company to rest on its laurels, The Ritz-Carlton, Ameilia Island completed its $65 million, five-year project earlier this year. Renovating all of its 446 guest rooms, adding a full-service spa and other wonderful amenities.

"We approached this extensive project with a comprehensive plan, but the cornerstone of the investment is our continued dedication to an exceptional guest experience for travelers and meeting groups," said James E. McManemon, general manager of the resort.

Part of the room renovation included integrating natural colors, shapes and textures from the nearby Atlantic Ocean. To say that the views from the rooms are stunning would be an understatement.

"The overall look is a dramatic conclusion to the five-year investment in enhancing the guest experience," McManemon added.

Don't judge a golf course solely on reputation. Decide what you want out of your visit. A family experience second to none. An alternative to the hustle and bustle of Orlando, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and other golfing destinations.

The Golf Club of Amelia Island will become your "Golden Delicious."

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