Country Club Casual on Ponte Vedra Beach

By: Erin Marvin

Vacation like the country club set in Ponte Vedra Beach.

When you hear the words "meet me at the club" in Ponte Vedra Beach, chances are the person who said it wasn't referring to a music-thumping disco.

Home to a close-knit community of posh golf and beach resorts (and, thankfully, no music-thumping discos), this Florida destination allows you to vacation like the country-club set, whether or not you can afford to live like them.

An area landmark built in 1928, the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club sprawls over 300 oceanfront acres. Its sister property, the Mediterranean-styled The Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach (only 1.5 miles down a stretch of white-sand beach), was built about 60 years later. While they offer distinct - but elegant - accommodations, they share many of the same amenities, including two resort golf courses.

The 6,574-yard Ocean Course was designed by British architect Herbert Bertram Strong in 1928; the Lagoon Course, at 6,022 yards, was added decades later by famed architects Robert Trent Jones and Joe Lee and restored by architect Bobby Weed in 2007. In contrast to the challenges presented by the Ocean Course's strategically positioned sand bunkers are the Lagoon Course's water hazards, in the forms of lakes and lagoons, which show up on 11 of the 18 holes.

In Ponte Vedra Beach, golf is the name of the game, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Sawgrass Marriott Resort & Spa, "the Pebble Beach of the East Coast" and the second largest golf resort in the country. Eight championship courses are open to club members and guests of the resort, including the much-feared and revered THE PLAYERS Stadium Course, host of The PLAYERS Championship.

The resort is also home to a second TPC course, the Dye's Valley Course, also designed by Pete Dye; the water-heavy Sawgrass Country Club; the short, tight fairways of Ponte Vedra Golf and Country Club; and the natural beauty of Marsh Landing Country Club.

Life After Golf

Mickler's Landing: Huge, rolling sand dunes and sweeping natural views make this a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Go early in the morning (parking spots fill up quickly) to collect shells, see families at play and people of all ages sunning themselves on the white-sand beach.

The Cultural Center: Art exhibits change frequently and special programs and classes are offered to adults and children (free).

Sawgrass Village:
What it lacks in overall ambience it more than makes up for with a variety of shops and restaurants, including Aqua Grill (for a special night out) and Elizabeth's Café (perfect for a light bite).

Affordable Alternative

Like most country clubs, the above resorts come with a high price tag, and even a weekend getaway can cut into Junior's college fund. A slightly more affordable alternative is the Hilton Garden Inn Ponte Vedra Beach, located near the TPC Sawgrass courses. Please note: There are no formal relationships with TPC, although golf relationships can be made with TPC or other local golf courses with advance notice.

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