By: Claudio DeMarchi
“OK, looks like we are in for some rain on the back 9. Let’s pack it in,” said my playing partner Phil.
“If you want to pack it in I don’t blame you, but I am playing this one out with or without you” I replied. “Are you nuts, has the cold gotten to you?” is what Phil comes back with! He then adds, “You hate playing in the rain and cold.”
I gave him “the look” and then smiled, “Phil, this might just be the best course that I have ever played in Florida so I am playing.”
With that comment Phil too decided to stick it out. “You know I just play golf, but you have a whole different perspective of golf and golf courses that I am just now learning to appreciate.” I thought that was a pretty nice thing for Phil to say. “I’m learn’n,” as he likes to say!
The Raven at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is where we were playing at! Skies were gloomy and threatening right from the moment we left our base in Panama City Beach and the temperature in the car did not hit 50 degrees until we arrived.
On the 1st tee of the Raven Course, one of four courses that make up the complex, we had hot coffee with a little ‘extra’ in it – you can do that in the US you know! At least there was no wind!
The Raven is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and Jr. certainly does maintain the artistry in design that he picked up from his Dad, who is one of my favorite’s, but just not as mean. This is a very unique course for Florida as it actually has a sense of elevation change and the odd blind tee shot. I could not say that there is a weak hole on the course. Some of the shorter holes are laden with strategically placed hazards. Beautiful white sand bunkers for those who like sand, me not so much, but you can’t help but notice the design work that went into the bunkers. There is plenty of water to deal with off the tee with some adventurous carries to get you into positioning for the next shot. Of course a fair number of the greens are tucked into watery situations and the par 3’s are all unique and vary in yardages.
I could go on and on about the course but will not! Instead I suggest that you take a look at the course layout on the attached link. Click here. A few of the most memorable or favorites on the front were Par 5’s #3 and the over 600 Yard 7th with it’s green tucked away. Who would not like the island green par 3 – 6th? On the back the stretch of 15 through 17 is an awesome close. 15 a short par 4 with a monstrous bunker staring you down. 16 you get to play the par 3 of the day and 17 just a good old par 5.
Put this one on your Florida bucket list!
Another buddy of mine, Doug and his wife Cathie, spend their winters down in Destin now. Doug is on a mission to play at least 250 rounds of golf every year for the rest of his life. We were on the putting green at Indian Bayou when I saw Doug approaching. “No wonder you like playing down here so much, other than the fact that it’s warmer you seem to have stepped it up a notch in the caliber of course that you are playing!” I said to him, “Smart Ass!” was his reply!
After playing Indian Bayou I guarantee that you will say that “these are the best greens that I have played in a long time! Maybe ever!” Doug tells me and others have confirmed that the greens are like that all the time. This is a 27-hole complex that you will want to make sure you play when in the Destin area.
The 3 nines vary greatly. The Seminole has forgiving fairways and a little bit of water but the greens are huge, making putting the slickest of greens a real challenge. Accuracy is the key on the Choctaw Course. Stay away from the long ball game here, the hazards will jump out at you. The Creek Course might be one of the most unique nines I have ever played. On the short par 5 -4th my advice from Doug was “just take out your driver and hit it straight, you will be OK.” “OK” I said as I look down the fairway at nothing but the home of the swamp thing. Sure enough there was a landing area and my ball was there. The xext shot was pretty much the same as the first – another long carry over the swamp to a narrow landing area. Thankfully after that it was only a short wedge to the green and I was happy to get away with par! “Welcome to the swamp… you survived the worst of it” said Doug.
I think I need to spend a little more time with Doug and Cathie in the winter and maybe you should too! Challenge and enjoyment is what golf at Indian Bayou will provide you with.
Pensacola – The Immaculate Reception
When Lori Coppels of the Pensacola Bay Area CVB had invited us over to Marcus Pointe Golf Club for a meeting to discuss a potential golf packaging program for the area, and an afternoon round of golf we had no idea just what we were in for. We knew that we were having lunch at the course…burger, hotdog and chips or maybe living it up a bit and having a clubhouse. Far from it my friends! IRON at Marcus Pointe, under the direction of Executive Chef Alex McPhail, offers up an unprecedented culinary clubhouse experience. Check out this dinner menu! And yes, the wine list is pretty impressive too!
Marcus Pointe is a classic Earl Stone design that has recently undergone some major renovations and I only know this because we were told that. The course plays to about 6,700 yards with 5 sets of tees, so no excuses for playing the wrong tees. Golf Digest has given this course a 4 star rating so you know that you are in for a treat.
For early December it was in impeccable condition and we had the pleasure of having GM Ed Schroeder join us on the course. Ed was a wealth of information on the area, and has had a very distinguished career in travel and tourism. Throughout the round of golf Ed provided us with some great insight into the area and on the course. Most memorable was on the par 5 – 8th tee. I remember Ed saying “I know you’re playing well, nobody makes par here!” It made my day to walk away with one! 6,700 yards of solid golf that would be enjoyable for all playing abilities.
After our round Phil and I were in store for some touring of historical sites and museums, time permitting. Unfortunately golf took a little longer than expected and we ran into the charming Marketing Manager Nikki Nash in the parking lot. Upon meeting her we could not help but take some time to admire her new wheels, a beautiful dark green Mini Cooper Countryman S. Ed did come to the rescue, he indicated that there might be a couple of watering holes that we might want to check out as we made our way out of Pensacola. Of course we took his advice, and let’s just say that it took Phil and I a lot longer to get back to Panama City Beach than we expected.
There are a number of other courses in the Pensacola area for you to test your game out on, and so many things to do including many, many more miles of those white sand beaches along the Florida Panhandle. Come and explore for yourself. www.VisitPensacola.com I know I look forward to a return visit!