Edgewater Beach Resort and The Hombre Golf Club

By Derek Duncan, Contributor

PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL -- If you see Wes Burnham during your stay at the Edgewater Beach Resort, it will probably be on the resort's golf course, The Hombre. Even then you're not likely to notice him since he'll probably look just like the dozens of other golfers, wearing shorts, playing a mean game, and drinking a beer.

Burnham doesn't particularly want you to notice him either. What he does want you to notice is his golf course, the one he designed and constructed himself, all 27 holes of it. For that matter he won't mind if you admire his resort either. Yes, in addition to The Hombre, Burnham owns the Edgewater Beach Resort. He designed that too.

Despite the obvious successes of his business ventures, this Alabama native remains soft-spoken and keeps a relatively low profile, away from his golf course at least.

"He's really a kind and laid back person, even though he built all of this," says Edgewater General Manager Andy Phillips, motioning to the resort's three 12-story towers that stand along the pristine white sands of Panama City Beach. "He's obviously a great businessman to have done all this."

At the moment "all this" is the premier destination in Panama City, according to Phillips. Edgewater Beach Resort is certainly the most complete resort in the area, comprised of over 500 privately owned suites that are rented out to visiting guests, 27 holes of golf at The Hombre and a separate 9-hole executive course on property, 11 various swimming pools, 11 tennis courts, an on-site spa and health center, and two restaurants. Burnham also designed the 11,500 square foot "lagoon" adjacent to the Palapa Beach Club & Lounge that is perhaps the most spectacular beach pools in the Panhandle.

In 2000 the Conference Center was expanded to over 32,700 square feet, nearly 1/3 of it in the 13,365 square foot Palm Grand Ballroom, making the Edgewater Beach Resort a completely functional convention option for large groups.

"Two years ago we simply didn't have the facilities to attract groups on a national level," explains Gary Griggs, Director of Marketing. "Now we're not only the largest conference facility in Panama City but we can compete with the other premier resorts in the state for those large groups."

Golf at The Hombre

The clubhouse at The Hombre, located about two miles from the resort on Highway 98, is serviceable if not special. Inside the front doors, however, is a piece of memorabilia most clubs would kill for. Etched onto a massive plane of glass nearly 10 feet wide and 8 feet high is a portrait of Ben Hogan swinging the famed one-iron on the 18th hole in the final round of the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion (his heroic par there forced a playoff which he won the following day).

Hogan was invited to The Hombre to dedicate the artwork shortly after the original 18 holes opened in 1989 but was unable to make the trip. The story goes that Burnham then had the etched portrait packaged and delivered to Hogan's home in Ft. Worth, where, upon seeing it for the first time, he shed tears. The Hawk signed the glass and the panel returned to Panama City where it stands today (the front doors and windows of the clubhouse had to be removed to get it inside).

Burnham's generous gesture earned The Hombre the Hogan Tour's third tournament stop in 1990, the tour's debut year. The Hombre hosted another Hogan Tour event as well as several from the Nike Tour throughout the 1990's. It has also been the site of seven PGA Qualifying School tournaments and is preparing for its eighth later this year.

The Hombre consists of three nines, The Good (added in 2000), The Bad, and of course, The Ugly (Burnham is a Clint Eastwood fan). The Bad and The Ugly, which comprise the original tournament 18, place a premium on approach shots and possess holes of widely varying looks, lengths, and orientations. There are few indifferent plays at The Hombre, and virtually no repetition.

The Bad is a thrilling course that begins with a quartet of holes as strong as any in the region. The first three are daunting, measuring 581, 457 (a par four with water right and directly in front of the small green), and 182 yards respectively, but the best might be the fourth, a 507-yard par five (a very reachable 452 yards from the men's tees) with water along the right. The fairway here is massively proportioned to invite aggressive drives and second shots to a large green that must trim the corner of a lake.

The Ugly is also balanced and tree-lined, but without as many notable holes. The Ugly's 511-yard 8th, however, is a classic go/don't go hole with a shallow green perched closely over water and a front slope that deflects everything short into the pond. The Good is routed on the southeast section of the property and is wide open comparatively.

What drove Burnham to design and build his own golf course rather than hire an architect?

"It's something I've just always wanted to do," he says reluctantly. "I enjoy landscaping, so I though why not just build a golf course."

If there's a secret to designing your own course, Burnham isn't letting on.

"I just went out and did it. That's about all there is to it."

It may seem trivial to hear him downplay it, but The Hombre is a serious golf course that manages to combine finesse with power - along with plenty of quirk - something with which many practicing architects struggle. It just doesn't resemble too many other golf courses.

After playing the fourth hole on The Bad, for example, where the golfer can fully whale away on two shots, nothing but surgical precision will suffice at the fifth, a 362-yard par four where the landing areas in the fairway and on the green are only a matter of paces across and bracketed by bunkers. The drive at the 399-yard sixth can go almost anywhere, but that's followed by a delicate pitch over water to a sloping green reminiscent of the 12th at Augusta National.

What really gives The Hombre character deeper than virtually all other Panama City courses (aside from the refreshing lack of "perimeter mounding" on The Bad and The Ugly) are the greens that, simply put, probably wouldn't have been built by a "real" architect. These vigorous and never boring putting surfaces come in shapes and contours that could only have been imagined by an unfettered and carefree mind, or in other words, Burnham.

"It's a fairly short course so you've got to make the greens interesting," is all he'll say about it though.

Some greens defy description other than to say, to name a few, that the stepped-up rear tier of the ninth green on The Bad, surrounded by a moat of sand and only slightly bigger than an office desk, is a brazen target; the tumultuous fifth green at The Good looks like the type of hallucinated shape only a surrealist could create; and The Ugly's 157-yard stacked fourth green bears strange resemblance to the energy domes that Devo used to wear.

Above all these greens are a trip to play and putt. Funny, the property itself is one of the most uninteresting in a state full of banal pieces of land, but there is more energy and vigor in The Hombre than at hundreds of better known and higher ranked courses.

It would be fascinating to see what Burnham's imagination could create on a property with some actual topography, but alas he seems content to concentrate on his one and only golf course. "He tinkers with it all the time," Phillips says. "He's got a very high standard, so he's always pushing to get the course to be as good as he thinks it should be."

The same could be said for the Edgewater Beach Resort. There's little doubt that under the careful guidance of Burnham and Phillips this beautiful property will spare no expense to remain the top resort on Panama City Beach.

Who's It For?

The Edgewater Beach Resort is for those wishing for arguably the finest resort experience in Panama City Beach. Every room is a suite, perfect for stays of more than a few nights, and because the resort is one of the few on the beach that purposely does not cater to the Spring Break element, the tone is relaxing yet still festive year round. Oh yeah, the beach isn't too bad either.

The Hombre is chalk full of fun golf shots that will entertain anyone looking for a lively round. And because of its highly original green complexes and overall balance it will also appeal to those with a more appreciative eye for golf course architecture. It's distinctly not a contemporary "country club for a day" course, and thankfully so.

Edgewater Beach Resort and The Hombre Golf Club
11212 Front Beach Rd.
Panama City Beach, FL 32407
800-874-8686
850-235-4977
The Hombre: 850-234-3673
www.edgewaterbeachresort.com

Vitals

Opened: The Bad and The Ugly, 1989; The Good, 2000
Architect: Wes Burnham
Yardage: The Good-3,170; 3,007; 2,849; 2,533
Yardage: The Bad-3,393; 2,970; 2,611; 2,419
Yardage: The Ugly-3,427; 3,093; 2,664; 2,381
Par: The Good-35; The Bad & The Ugly-36

Rates

Gulf Front Suites (Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter)
1 Bedroom $162-$264 $96-$212
2 Bedroom $180-$348 $115-$282
3 Bedroom $264-$496 $152-$394

Golf/Tennis Villas
Efficiency $111-$148 $76-$115
1 Bedroom $114-$169 $88-$123
2 Bedroom $137-$198 $101-$157
3 Bedroom $188-$284 $140-$237

Green fees for The Hombre are $75 before 11am, $60 between 11am and 2pm, and $45 after 2pm.

Location

Edgewater Beach Resort is located in Panama City Beach, west of Panama City. From Highway 98 (Back Beach Road) turn south (toward the beach) on Beckrich Road, exit C. Take Beckrich approximately one mile until it dead ends at the resort. Go through the light and turn right into resort.

To get to The Hombre from the resort head back out Beckrich to Highway 98 and turn right (east). The Hombre is less than a mile on the right.

Derek DuncanDerek Duncan, Contributor

Derek Duncan's writing has appeared in TravelGolf.com, FloridaGolf.com, OrlandoGolf.com, GulfCoastGolf.com, LINKS Magazine and more. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Cynthia and is a graduate of the University of Colorado with interests in wine, literary fiction, and golf course architecture.


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