Long Point at Amelia Island Plantation
AMELIA ISLAND, FL - When Long Point opened in 1987, it became Amelia Island Plantation’s first fully conceived and constructed 18-hole golf course. It is now the resort’s most recognizable course and recipient of the greatest amount of accolade. At only 6,775 yards from the championship tees and a par of 72, it is also a golf course intent on being enjoyable rather than thuggish.
Part of the course’s widespread popularity is due the fact that Tom Fazio designed it, arguably the most popular name in golf course architecture over the last 15 years. There is little doubt that when a Fazio course opens anywhere, it is assured of being widely played and roundly applauded, justifiably or not.
A more convincing explanation for the course’s popularity is its uniform beauty: it is an ideal display for the island’s abundant scenic features. Moreso than Ocean Links or Oak Marsh, Long Point appears to most players as the most consistently isolated and showy course: it’s as green as they come and blends superbly into its environment. Long Point has even hit the top of several lists as the most “beautiful” golf course in Florida.
Of course this should be no surprise given the natural richness of the site and considering whose desk the design came off of. Tom Fazio specializes in making pretty golf courses. So many of the most photogenic courses in the United States that are not situated on coastal properties or on otherwise dramatic landforms have been crafted by Fazio and his artistic team. When deep-pocketed owners want a high profile, visually alluring golf course they usually seek out Tom Fazio first.
Long Point was designed and built at the approximate point in Fazio’s career when he ascended into the realm of superstardom (an admittedly relative term for golf course architects). In the late 1980’s, particularly with the opening of every architect’s dream project in Shadow Creek outside Las Vegas, Fazio went from being a talented and respected golf course architect to the most famous and desired designer name since Robert Trent Jones. His name is now instantly recognized, and if attached to nearly any project, virtually guarantees it money and popularity.
In 1986 Fazio was involved with two projects that would redefine what could be done with bulldozers and heavy equipment: in North Carolina the mega-construction at Wade Hampton was nearing completion; and in Nevada plans were being drawn for Shadow Creek, a creation that would become the greatest feat of golf course engineering to date in which a mature and “mountainous” course would be fabricated from desert dust and Steve Wynn’s virtually unlimited budget. At the same time, just down the Atlantic coast, he was laying down what he says was among the easiest and most natural 18 holes he’s ever done, Long Point.
The juxtaposition of these projects is interesting. Recently, Fazio has so much as admitted that he would now prefer to build golf courses on non-descript property so he could freely use his machinery to create the features he envisions without feeling limited by natural obstacles. With his army of bulldozers, he’s proven to be a master at creating something out of nothing, but Long Point shows that he also has the ability to craft understated, graceful holes when given a site as pristine as this one.
The land on which Long Point now lies was part of the original property purchased by Amelia Island Plantation when it was established in 1974. For years it was vacant, never specifically designated for golf. The golf boom of the 1980’s forced the issue.
“We just wanted another golf course,” says Bart Hiter, Public Relations Manager for the resort. “We were growing so much in the early 80’s, we just needed more golf to make us more appealing, one that offered different golf holes to give [guests] more to do.”
While the low-lying land did not add much to the course strategically, it turned out to be ideally suited for a stylish, attractive course à la Fazio. The very best features of the site are now encapsulated in the variety of holes, neatly framed by Fazio’s architecture.
Fourteen holes sit on the west side of Highway A1A and reveal the island’s inland/outland nature. Holes two, four, eleven, and twelve extend to the western perimeter toward the tidal marshes of the Intracoastal Waterway. The course crosses the highway at the 13th and climaxes emotionally with back-to-back par threes at 15 and 16 that border the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. These short holes match Ocean Links’ back-to-back par threes a short distance to the north and make Long Point the only course at Amelia Island Plantation that breaches both the marshes and the beach.
Despite Fazio’s statement that Long Point was an “easy” course to build, there is a significant amount of visible construction, more so than at either Oak Marsh or Ocean Links which both actually required more industry to create. Excess earth was piled onto many of the fairways to create moguls that rise and drop and rise, often in the extreme. The mounding in the first fairway, for example, can cause vertigo. Grass hollows and deep bunkers are dug into the earth surrounding the built up greens. Containment mounds line the fairways at certain points to create frames for the shot and to capture errant balls.
Some holes are inspiring, such as the 424-yard second. The drive from the rear tees must fly 230 yards of wetlands to find a broad, rippling fairway lined by the marsh on the left. The hole has an open, sweeping grandeur to it, susceptible to the hot winds that rush the vast savannah stretching beyond. The second-shot angles to the right as the field narrows approaching the relatively tight green. Deep, grassy depressions and spotty bunkers protect it right and long and the marsh encroaches on the right. The putting surface is mostly hidden from the fairway.
The 12th plays much longer than its 348 yards. Forming the northern boundary of the course, lining a narrow inlet of the Waterway with the 12th hole of Oak Marsh on the opposite bank, this hole rolls to the left along the edge of the marsh. At the 80-yard mark, the fairway begins to rise and bubble before tumbling back down into a circular green that fades into the hazard on the left.
Thirteen and fourteen show a narrow, tree-lined look. These are tight, mid-length par fours (368 and 349 yards respectively) banked by mounds on either side that pinch into the smallest and trickiest greens on the course. They are the consummate picturesque holes that look more like parts of California than Florida. Following these are the back-to-back par threes along the surf, striking holes that seem a bit forced for Long Point because they are so far out of the way.
A handful of holes at Long Point are unremarkable (the two par threes from the first nine, seven, nine, seventeen). Perhaps these are intentionally blasé counterpoints that help highlight the more comely holes, but some might view them as disappointing usages of the site.
The greens at Long Point also do not distinguish themselves, particularly compared to those at the other two courses. They are principally round or square-ish in shape, are rarely set at any type of interesting angle (13 and 14 are the exceptions), and contain moderate but conventional contours and tiers. Though maintained beautifully, the greens are imminently accessible from most positions in the fairway. Mid- and high-handicap players will like them, but for others, there is too little genuine intrigue or fascination to the angles of approach or slope.
If this seems overly critical of a course that has regularly been ranked among the finest in the state, it is only to accentuate the fascinating Oak Marsh and Ocean Links that do not get the same amount of ink as Long Point.
Long Point remains the most popular course at Amelia Island Plantation and seems to get more of the royal treatment than the other two. Part of this is due to its location, separated from the main body of the resort with its own clubhouse and facilities. It is also more of a private club, as members and Plantation residents receive preferential tee times.
“Long Point is about 90% members because it is theirs, not the resort guests’,” Hiter explains. “Basically it gives them the exclusivity of having their own club and course. They don’t have the huge crowds in the spring that they do at Amelia Links.” Resort guests are welcome to play Long Point but may only book tee times one day in advance.
Eighteen-hole rates for Long Point begin at $110 from mid-November through mid-February. The high season is October through mid-November and mid-February through mid-May when rates are $150.
Walking is not allowed at Long Point and carts are included in the green fees. The course would be walkable, although the distance of holes 13 through 16 from the core of the course would make it difficult.