Even with 375 golf courses in play, course designer Jack Nicklaus holds special memories of Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
“This wasn’t just about a golf course. With Harbor Shores, we set out really to change a community. When we started, we had a factory where the first tee is. We had to remove toxic waste and buildings. This was a non-profit project. But in the end, the whole course looks beautiful and we hope is enjoyable to play.”
When the course first opened in 2010, Harbor Shores ranked No. 3 in GOLF Magazine’s Best New Courses You Can Play list. GOLF Magazine said,
“One of the year’s feel-good stories is this short but stern Jack Nicklaus Signature design that weaves through hardwoods, marshland and the massive white sand dunes that edge Lake Michigan on holes 7, 8 and 9.”
The Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid played Harbor Shores May 24-29, 2016 for the third time and returns in 2018 on May 22-27. Past champion Rocco Mediate (2016) returns to defend against a strong field, including Colin Montgomerie, Scott McCarron and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Just one of three Tom Watson signature golf courses in Florida (the others are in Port St Lucie and Reunion Resort in Orlando) the 7,776 yard Conservatory course on The Palm Coast was completed in 2006 and held its first PGA Tour event in 2008.
No Florida course is complete without an island green and Tom Watson’s 200-yard 8th hole at The Conservatory is more forgiving than most. If the ball misses the green, it will find the rough or bunkers, not the water. Looking to the green from the 18th tee box, all the golfer can see is a minefield of strategically placed bunkers. Only looking back from the green does the player notice the wide generous fairways and the most sensible approach to navigating the hole.
Describing his approach to golf course architecture, Tom Watson says:
I want my golf course designs to challenge the limits of the golfer’s mental, as well as physical skills. I do this by incorporating the illusion that a particular shot is more difficult or easier than it actually is.
The Conservatory clubhouse is a 44,000 square foot one-of-a-kind, featuring a glass-domed atrium which evokes a turn-of-the-century British palace in the Bahamas. Though just a short distance away from The Hammock Beach Resort as the crow flies, The Conservatory Course is tricky to find in a car without GPS.
The Ocean Course
Opened for play in 2000, the Jack Nicklaus designed Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort consistently ranks as one of Florida’s top golf courses.
Incorporating both wetlands and The Atlantic Ocean into his design, The Ocean Course features one of Nicklaus’s signature techniques– a dogleg with water on the shorter side. Resist the temptation to cut the corner and golfers will find generous landing areas and a chance at par.
The Ocean Course doesn’t have the penal PGA tour stopping six-inch rough found at another Golden Bear design, The Champion Course at PGA National. But it does have “The Bear Claw,” a collection of four holes along the Atlantic Ocean. If it’s breezy, wind can make this course “a real bear” and a challenge to pull the correct club.
For approach shots that miss the turtleback greens, the fringe around the greens has been mowed down, making putting a safe option. Accurate GPS carts and friendly staff, from the pro shop to the cart return, all make for a great round of golf. Guests staying at the Hammock Beach Resort can walk to the first tee from their room.
Located halfway between St Augustine and Daytona Beach on Florida’s Palm Coast, The Hammock Beach Resort offers special golf packages for both tracks. All condos and villas have balconies with great views of the Atlantic Ocean and come fully equipped. Non-golfing family members will find plenty of activities here. The resort’s huge waterpark comes complete with a lazy river. Other amenities include: a full-service spa, a marina, tennis courts, and 9 holes of Miniature golf with real grass. Beach combing, surfing lessons, biking on nature trails and kayaking are all fun options.