Teeing Up on the Treasure Coast

    By Bob Harig

    Even if you don't make as much as the pros, you can still play like them in Martin County.

    Truth to be told, choices abound in Florida. From hundreds of miles of sandy beaches on either side of the peninsula, to freshwater lakes throughout the state, from the nightlife of South Beach to the glitz of Naples or to the spring break scene of Panama City Beach, there is something for everyone.

    So what to make of golf? There are more than 1,000 courses in the Sunshine State, some world-famous, with the best architects in the world making their mark. How do you decide?

    Perhaps that is what makes Martin County so appealing. Located on the east coast about 30 minutes north of Palm Beach, it, too, has its share of beautiful layouts, designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Gary Player and Pete Dye. But it is not the first place that comes to mind when golf is mentioned. And that, in itself, might make for the best reason to check it out.

    The area is known as the "Treasure Coast," and it is one of Florida's best-kept secrets - an affordable, under-acclaimed part of the shoreline that doesn't seem to mind the lack of attention.

    Martin County is made up of a smattering of towns such as Hobe Sound, Palm City, Indiantown, Jensen Beach and Stuart. It is home to such golf legends as Greg Norman and Nick Price, and their swank clubs, the Medalist (designed by Greg Norman and Peter Dye) and McArthur Golf Club (Nick Price and Tom Fazio). Loblolly Pines is another well-known private club.

    But unless you have well-connected friends, those are the courses of lottery dreams.

    Affordable, public layouts, abound; there are more than 20 courses that offer such access. And they are all a golfers' delight.

    Hutchinson Island Marriott Resort, PGA Village, has three courses, two designed by Fazio and another by Dye. The beauty is the price: The summer rates range from $32-$119. The PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance is a 35-acre, state-of-the-art teaching facility.

    Hammock Creek caters to the casual player, with its generous fairways and huge greens. It is perfect for a group outing. Throw in Eagle Marsh is a must-play for the serious single-digit handicap player. An excellent itinerary might include a visit to the PGA Village for a round on the Dye Course. The Champions Club at Summerfield is an Audubon Society-honored course that offers plenty of scenery. Add in Palm Cove, which offers a nice challenge with narrow fairways and greens, and you've got a nice, diverse golf vacation.

    Again, the beauty is in the price. "We do not see rates over $30 for paying guests and the reason is simple: The PGA doesn't do that," says Erickson, whose course at Hutchinson Island is an 18-hole executive, perfect for a vacation warm-up and part of a 200-acre resort.

    Martin County is home to more than a few golfing legends, but for vacationers, it's also an above-par Mecca that caters to amateurs as well as pros. From the municipal course in Stuart to diverse layouts such as Hammock Creek, the Florida Club and Indianwood, these emerald-green fairways just may be the true jewel of the Treasure Coast.