PALM COAST, Fla. -- Driving into the entrance of the Hammock Beach Resort, you are impressed by its size. The castle-like main building with its towers and red roofs, villas and lodge stretch out along the coast against a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. One of Salamander's Grand Golf Resorts of Florida, Hammock Beach has just about all the vacation toys you can think of to please golfers and non-golfers alike.
Like its sister properties Reunion Resort in Orlando and Innisbrook Resort near Tampa, Hammock Beach does not allow tipping. As soon as you drive up to the front entrance, a bellman greets you by name (already phoned in from the gate) and takes care of your luggage and your car and clubs. If you try to tip, it will be refused.
Yet whether you are ordering a slider, champagne or getting a spa treatment, you won't find a more accommodating staff from the bellman to the massage therapist. That is something the Salamander group works hard to accomplish at all its Grand Resorts.
Hammock Beach has two exceptional golf courses, the Ocean Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design with six holes revealing views of the Atlantic, and the Conservatory Course, a nature-rich beauty designed by Tom Watson located about eight miles from the resort. Both are open to members and guests of Hammock Beach exclusively.
Each course offers a distinctly different golf experience. The Conservatory's handsome $34 million clubhouse overlooks a links-style landscape of dunes, wetlands, marshes and a huge number of bunkers, while The Ocean Course winds through residential neighborhoods and trees and features Nicklaus' four-hole "Bear Claw" finish.
As good as the golf is, many come without their clubs. There is just so much to do for everyone. "We see a lot of golfers spring and fall, while in the summer, 80 percent of our guests are families," said Jason Kern, sales director at Hammock Beach Resort.
With a distinctly European feel, the lobby is comfortable with wood columns, coffered ceilings, deep cushy chairs and sofas of rich fabric and leather, floral carpets, fireplace and art work. At one end of the lounge the Coffee Bar is a popular gathering place, while Loggerheads Lounge is the place to be for drinks and entertainment or for a fine smoke head to the Crown Jewel Cigar Bar.
For fine dining or that special dinner, book a table at Delfinos, where you eat by candlelight, or go more casual at the Atlantic Grille in the lodge overlooking the ocean.
All accommodations are beautifully furnished condos in the main hotel, villas and lodge, where 20 suites are popular choices for corporate retreats. Traditional decor features a variety of jewel-toned fabrics, upholstered chairs and sofas and wood accents including beams and desks. Suites also have kitchens or wet bars and balconies, many with ocean views. Configurations range from studios to the penthouse with several three-bedroom, three-bath apartments. Couples or golfing groups often request villas with two bedrooms and two baths.
Kids and "big kids" will log plenty of splash time in and around the 91,000-square-foot, multi-level water park with its giant water slide and lazy river. If the youthful fun gets a bit much for older folks, there is another pool just for grownups as well as a casual bar and restaurant on the top deck.
Pathways from the main resort complex allow easy access to the beach. In warm weather, Hammock Beach chaises dot the sand. And there's also tennis and cruises on the resort's Sundancer.
After golf (or just because you want to be pampered), you'll find the spa a great place to unwind. The spa menu includes treatments for men like a Gentleman's Facial as well as the Golfers-Sage treatment combining massage strokes with stretches. The Hammock Massage is a favorite with a mix of Lomi Lomi, Swedish, hot stone and aromatherapy.
You may never want to leave your perch at the pool or beach, but there is more to see outside Hammock Beach like the Spanish Colonial city of St. Augustine (founded in 1585), Marineland, with its Dolphin Encounter, and wind-swept Flagler Beach, home to fun and funky restaurants like the Golden Lion.
Because Hammock Beach is located on Florida's northeast coast, its high season is spring, summer and fall. In the winter, it is a few degrees cooler than Florida cities to the south and sunning on the beach may be a bit chilly. Still for golfers, the weather is pretty much perfect much of the time.
March 12, 2012