Garry Smits
April 20, 2009

On this scenic barrier island, the sun rises spectacularly over the Atlantic and sets over some of the widest stretches of Florida's Intracoastal Waterway. In between solar events, Amelia Island offers some of the best high-end resort golf anywhere. Just beyond the Georgia border, almost every course on the island is a gem, and each has its own distinct personality. Some of the most acclaimed modern course designers—including Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer, Mark McCumber and Bobby Weed—have either left their stamp on the area or have a facility under construction. And be prepared for your mind to wander while taking in some of the most attractive golf vistas on the eastern seaboard: red, sandy beaches; rolling dunes dotted with sea oats; craggy, graceful ocean hammocks; deep oak and pine forests; and expansive marshes.

Jacksonville International Airport is about thirty minutes from the island. Almost every rental car company is represented, and there are shuttles available to and from the Amelia Island Plantation and the Ritz-Carlton.

All of the island's distinctive layouts keep its natural surroundings well intact—true barrier-island golf experiences. And for most courses, rates can be less depending on packages or the odd twilight fee.

Amelia Island Plantation; 800-874-6878.
Length: 6,775 yards. Par: 72. Slope: 135.
Cost: $110 to $150 with cart for resort guests (limited public play for an additional $25).
Characteristics: Tom Fazio's 1987 layout is regarded as one of the top courses in Florida. It's longer than the other two Plantation tracks and has large, undulating greens, many of them elevated, and back-to-back par-three holes along the ocean (numbers six and seven).
Pros: Scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Amelia River and vast salt marshes.
Cons: None, unless you drive it short and crooked.
T&L Golf Rating: *****

On the island's south end, in front of the Ritz-Carlton; 904-277-0012.
Length: 6,692 yards. Par: 72. Slope: 128.
Cost: $130 with cart for Ritz guests.
Characteristics: Water is in play on seventeen holes, but forced carries off the tee are required only five times from the 6,119-yard middle tees.
Pros: The four par-three holes are absolute gems, including the course's signature hole, the 160-yard fifth.
Cons: Walking is not practical.
T&L Golf Rating: ****

Amelia Island Plantation; 800-874-6878.
Length: 6,592 yards. Par: 72. Slope: 130.
Cost: $90 to $130 with cart for resort guests ormembers (limited public play for an additional $25)

Characteristics: Tight driving holes through gorgeous hammock groves and cypress trees draped withSpanish moss. Water comes into play on fourteen holes.
Pros: Pete Dye kept nature a big part of the course.
Cons: Bring insect repellent. Gnats can be a problem.
T&L Golf Rating: ****

Amelia Island Plantation; 800-874-6878.
Length: 6,108 yards. Par: 70; Slope: 134.
Cost: $90 to $130 with cart for resort guests ormembers (limited public play for an additional $25).
Characteristics: Bobby Weed's creation features five oceanfront holes and another ten with lagoons or marsh wetlands in play.
Pros: The sheer beauty of the ocean holes. Plus, if you're a straight hitter, length is not a demand.
Cons: On almost every hole, sacrifice distance for accuracy. Leave the driver in the bag.
T&L Golf Rating: ****

The Amelia Inn (800-874-6878), built two years ago, is the Amelia Island Plantation's hotel, offering more than two hundred rooms, six restaurants, spa services and, of course, easy accessibility to Long Point, Ocean Links or Oak Marsh. The Golf Club of Amelia's clubhouse is a wedge shot away from the front door of the Ritz-Carlton (904-277-1100). Rooms run more than $200, but various packages can reduce that figure. Of the half-dozen bed-and-breakfasts in or near the historic district of Fernandina Beach, try these standouts: The Williams House (904-277-2328) or the Bailey House (904-261- 5390).

Seafood is the way to go here. And the Golden Grouper (904-261-0013) makes seafood in the traditional style (fried, broiled or baked) or with a cajun twist. For something funky, order the crab burger. Brett's Waterway Cafe (904-261-2660) offers good seafood with the best view in the Intracoastal Waterway. Or check out the Marina Restaurant (904-261-5310), annually named as one of the area's ten best.

Night Life
Two ocean-side clubs, Sandy Bottoms (904-277-0814) and Sliders (904-261-0954), offer live music. For the neighborhood bar scene, there's O'Kane's Irish Pub & Eatery (904-261-1000), and the Ritz (904-277-1100) offers nightly entertainment from small jazz combos to big-band orchestras.

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