So I'm standing on the first tee at the Amelia River Golf Club as black, rain-swollen clouds roll and tumble ominously overhead, driven by ocean winds pushing hard from the east.
You see, Amelia River has a distinct links-like feel at that point, a course that could almost be situated in the Emerald Isles of Ireland. And of course links golf is often played in this sort of brooding, European weather.
After No. 1, the course turns inland into the more lyrical and typical Amelia Island terrain and, as if by cue, the sun breaks through, illuminating wildlife scampering among live oak, sabal palms, wax myrtle and pine trees.
It's a beautiful course in a beautiful setting, with no homes or development of any kind to distract from the experience. You get a two-for-one deal here: the open, links-like holes that border the local airport, Nos. 1, 5 and 13, while the rest of the layout features tree-lined fairways and a parkland setting.
Amelia River, which used to be known years ago as Royal Amelia, is a Tom Jackson design. It's never been overly demanding, but it is a course that will hold your attention throughout the round, with interesting angles and contours, relatively flat greens with subtle breaks and tiers, as well as some very fun risk/reward options.
The course welcomes you gently, as you ease into both nines; the tougher holes come toward the end. No. 9, for example, on the front nine has a tight driving corridor off the tee and Alligator Creek cuts across the fairway about 3/4 of the way down.
No. 14 challenges you right off the bat, with water all down the left side – begging you to go for it – and No. 18 is one of the best finishing holes in northeast Florida: a winding par-5 that's narrow off the tee with the creek guarding your approach to an elevated green, framed beautifully by the Intracoastal Waterway.
Green fees are very reasonable for a course of this quality, and the club also offers two different kinds of "players passes," which include discounted or free green fees, unlimited driving range use, advance tee times and other amenities.