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Long Weekend: Amelia Island, Florida

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 or members (limited public play for an additional $25)

Characteristics: Tight driving holes through gorgeous hammock groves and cypress trees draped with Spanish 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: ****


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