AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. - We see the finished product long after the molding and sculpting and preening that goes into building a golf course. In the case of Long Point at Amelia Island Plantation, you can still feel the presence of Tom Fazio's original canvas.
Fazio captures three distinct settings in this signature layout that, along with the Oak Marsh Course, rank as the toughest links in Amelia Island Plantation's four-course portfolio.
Long Point is framed against the tidal salt marshes that dominate the golf resort's property. Its holes wind through forests of tall oak and pine trees. And the Atlantic Ocean looms with its natural dunes and beach vegetation, tying Long Point together in a package worthy of Amelia Island Plantation's four-diamond rating.
The golf course plays under 7,000 yards from the back tees, but players with single-digit handicaps shouldn't consider that a sign of weakness. Fazio gives you rolling fairways and various sizes of undulating greens, forcing you to play all the angles and consider the way shots might bounce. Fazio also protects par with his unique style of daring you to challenge his strategically placed hazards.
His best works always include a short par 4 or par 3 for players of all skill levels, and at Long Point, it's Nos. 8, 12 and 14. The eighth hole measures only 287 yards from the green tees, but a piece of marsh sticks out near the green to gobble up any wayward bombs or, even if you hit short, ensnare poor approach shots.
Another example comes at No. 12, which, along with the par-5 11th, takes you for scenic rides along large marshes. At 316 yards from the white tees (348 from the blue box), the 12th is a sharp dogleg left that tempts you to blast a drive over the marsh and get as close as possible to the green. Or take a penalty shot and re-tee.
The 311-yard 14th is another risk-reward special, narrowing almost like a "V" amid the oaks and pines as you head toward the green.
"We've got a really good mix of courses -- and holes," said Dean Grunewald, head professional at Long Point. "There are a lot of holes along the water, which resort guests just eat up. There are a lot of really tough holes, which the good players love. We've got championship level golf to your fun, scenic holes, here and at all our courses."
A perfect set of par 3s bring the ocean and dunes onto Fazio's tapestry.
The 15th rates as Long Point's signature hole, a 166-yard shot that you might need to take out over the beach so the prevailing sea breeze can guide it to a deep, hour-glass green.
No. 16 covers 158 yards and requires a similar shot. Only this one goes to a bowl-shaped green that funnels a well-struck ball toward most pin placements.
Every nuance stands out at Long Point, and finding a favorite isn't easy. Tees and greens are tucked neatly into cozy corners. Small greens and fairway humps and ridges are used in defense of what seem like easier holes. Maybe the length could be stretched, but Fazio simply has a great knack for building layouts like Long Point to perfect scale.
Sweet and spicy - like at No. 6, a par 5 with a tee shot through a chute and over a pond. The fairway narrows in the layup area and bottlenecks at a bulkhead green that hangs out over another pond.
Or subtle and simple, like at No. 4, a tight dogleg left that pivots perfectly with the marsh on the left and big oak trees on the right. From the tee box, everything looks framed like an Ansel Adams photograph.
Fazio weaves three great themes across Long Point's landscape.
The resort's golf academy also hosts the ESPN Golf Schools. Ed Bowe, the director of instruction, has worked extensively with Hank Haney, coach of Tiger Woods. Bowe, who also is Haney's brother-in-law, and his staff offer a complete range of personal teaching and video analysis.
Amelia Island Plantation's practice range has five target greens, a short-game area with putting and chipping and a state-of-the-art digital video system.
February 9, 2009