If you’re looking for the toughest test in town on a golf vacation, you usually don’t have to look far. Course-ranking lists in books and golf magazines and online message boards are quick to tout the Really Hard Courses, almost demanding that you take them on.
That’s great, but finding a friendlier track is just as important on a golf trip. Think of it like a ski trip – do you arrive on the first day and immediately hit the highest, toughest black diamond trail?
Of course not. You get your legs underneath you first.
On a recent visit to Panama City Beach, my inaugural round was at Bay Point Resort’s Meadows Course, which turned out to be a perfect spot to loosen up after a five-hour drive from my St. Augustine home.
Tree-lined fairways frame each hole but only a few times do they feel claustrophobic, as in you must hit a perfect drive. Several greens are raised and offer interesting chips when missed, but hey, if you’re about to settle in for a multi-day golf trip, you’re going to have to sharpen the short game.
The back tees at the Meadows are just over 6,900 yards and the next set is just under 6,400, manageable numbers if your handicap is 2 or 20. From the back tees, for example, the par 3s range from 153 to 197 yards.
For the most part, you can be a little loose around the Meadows but still have fun and shoot a decent score. That’s the kind of course you want to play at the outset of a golf vacation.
After that, you can take on the brutes in town – like the Nicklaus Course at Bay Point Resort, Northwest Florida’s only Nicklaus-designed course that has had a reputation for almost a decade as a bring-your-‘A’-game-or-else track. We’ll cover that in another post.