Walking Through History at Palatka Golf Club

    By John Schwarb

    My friend Jeff and I knew we were in for a treat when we made the 40-minute drive recently from home in St. Augustine to Palatka for a round at Palatka Golf Club, the 1925 Donald Ross-designed gem in Ravine Gardens State Park.

    There are more than 1,100 courses in Florida but only a few dozen from this era, Florida Historic Golf Trail tracks that dotted the state long before amusement parks and megaresorts.

    Here’s more succinct context: Babe Ruth played Palatka Golf Club.

    That little nugget, found on the back of the scorecard, just about stopped us cold. (Famous pros Walter Hagen, Tommy Bolt, Tom Lehman, John Daly, David Toms and Greg Norman were also noted as visitors.) For the rest of the round we wondered if the Babe had hit errant shots off the same moss-draped trees we did, or if maybe he “called his shot” on a short wedge into Ross’ trademark tough, tiny greens.

    We could not have had a better time on the parkland layout, a 5,862-yard par-70 from the back tees. No par 5 is longer than 476 yards and only one par 4 is longer than 398 yards, so no one needs a Tour-caliber effort off the tee to post good scores. And the five par 3s are as enjoyable a set as you’ll find anywhere, with the 189-yard third hole particularly strong as it requires an uphill shot over a ravine.

    Hard to believe this course was in danger of extinction just a few years ago, as the layout had fallen into some disrepair and business consequently suffered. But an overhaul of the management and maintenance structure put the club back on track, and on the Tuesday morning we visited there were all sorts of folks getting in a quick round.

    The residents of Palatka have a true diamond in their 88-year-old municipal course. I’m glad I ventured off the beaten path a bit to discover it.

    If you go
    Palatka Golf Club
    1715 Moseley Ave., Palatka