On a recent trip to a Champions Tour event I was lucky enough to get a moment with Tom Watson, World Golf Hall of Famer and all-around golf icon.
Four days later I was booked to play his Conservatory course at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, and asked him for one tip.
“It’s a beautiful course,” Watson said. “Keep it out of the heavy stuff.”
I wasn’t sure what he would mean until I got there, but upon arrival at Florida’s longest course, I understood.
“Heavy stuff” was a sort of code for all sorts of obstacles.
The Conservatory is one of the top courses in the state (Golf Magazine ranks it 18th-best among Florida public/resort tracks), a brute for more than just its 7,776 yards from the tips (or 7,300 from the golds), which no one short of a touring pro should be playing anyway.
Watson masterfully wove water, woods and more than 130 rough-hewn bunkers of all sizes around 18 holes, creating visual challenges. Humps and bumps are all around and even in the fairways, so a drive right down the middle could end up with a sidehill lie.
If that sounds like golf in Scotland, that's intentional. Watson won five British Opens (and nearly a sixth at age 59) and adores links-style golf, and those influences are all over the Conservatory.
My day there felt British, with overcast skies and on-and-off rain throughout the round but not enough to keep the course from playing firm and fast. No way that me and two other visitors were going to call off our tour of one of the state’s best.
Watson told us to keep it out of the heavy stuff, and we mostly did.
Note: The Conservatory will be closed from early June through early September to install new Paspalum greens. Call the course for more information.
If you go
The Conservatory at Hammock Beach Resort
Address: 300 Conservatory Drive, Palm Coast