There’s one obvious calling card at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club – the par-3 ninth hole on the Ocean Course, golf’s original island hole and one that has been copied dozens of times in Florida and elsewhere.
But visitors know there’s much more to this Northeast Florida hideaway. Specifically, 85 years of rich history.
The Ocean Course and the original Inn opened in 1928, and since then the resort has welcomed guests from all over, especially from all over Florida. Families love the beachfront in the summer while couples can spark a little romance with the winter nighttime chill. Golfers, of course, can enjoy two courses year-round. All with the touches of a AAA Five-Diamond Resort.
Walk through the wood-floored great rooms in the main Inn building and you can read about the facility’s history through old advertisements, visitor letters and more. I was fascinated to see the old golf rates from 70 years ago – 50 cents for a round on the Ocean Course!
There’s living history, too. Andy Radovic, the VP of sales and marketing, said it’s not uncommon to hear about fourth-generation guests staying at the 300-acre property. There also are third-generation employees, the discovery of which Radovic called a “Norman Rockwell moment.”
Radovic himself has been there for 27 years and the Inn and Club’s general manager has been in his post for 31 years – and that’s just two of many long tenures among the 600 employees. I’ve only heard of such widespread employee loyalty at one other Florida resort, The Breakers in Palm Beach, perhaps not coincidentally, another gorgeous property on the Atlantic with a historic golf course.
Of course, the bricks-and-mortar of the place alone make it a terrific vacation spot. On my recent visit I stayed in a recently refurbished first-floor room with a porch right on the beach, with the sounds of the waves completing a perfect night. The main building, golf club and restaurants were all an easy walk away along or across scenic Ponte Vedra Boulevard.
But the history and the people made the strongest impression; it’s easy to see why generations of guests keep returning. Maybe some day my kids will visit here. Hopefully they’ll invite me.