Summer Beach Resort Perfect for All Seasons
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Imagine the typical Florida vacation: ocean waters cascading against the shore; miles of densely populated beach; burning sun reflecting off concrete; course, gouging sand; lines for everything; loud bass thumping from cars cruising past your beach towel.
Sound familiar? Putting those images out of mind can be difficult once they've been experienced.
Often leasing a condo or villa in Florida for a few days or a week is like being transported directly to spring break at Daytona Beach. Rather than a getaway, you find yourself in a rat race more furious than the one you're trying to leave behind.
If there's one place in Florida that's decidedly not overbearing, it's Amelia Island. The only thing this stunning, wooded island near the Florida/Georgia border has in common with the aforementioned scenario is the steady roll of the Atlantic Ocean, and here you feel you have it all to yourself.
Somehow, Amelia Island has managed to remain untouched, pristine. While other vacation areas in the South have been overrun with construction and commercialism, it's managed to stay aloof from the Catch-22 pitfalls that mass tourism brings to formerly attractive places.
There's plenty to do on the island, and several outstanding resorts, but the one that might best reflects the overall laconic atmosphere of Amelia Island is Summer Beach Resort.
Flanked by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel to the north and Amelia Island Plantation to the south, Summer Beach is a family's dream - a complex of beautiful condominiums and villas set directly against the wind-swept dunes on the southern end of the island.
In its situation regarding the ocean it's not that different from the others, but the deliciously hands-off attitude makes it the place to be for pure relaxation. It's as luxurious as its high profile neighbors, yet even more comfortable.
The resort consists of several villages including the 7-story Ocean Place complex with up-close views of the beach and the Atlantic, and the Summer Beach Village complex featuring villas either on or with direct access to the beach. Since Summer Beach doesn't have all the onsite hullabaloo of a hotel or full-service resort (there is no dining on-premise, for instance) it's a hypnotic place - a getaway from pressure - the world is only as close as you want it to be.
Not that staying as Summer Beach will mean you're missing the action. The resort shares property with the Ritz (which leases the land from Summer Beach), so some of the finest dining and drinking in north Florida is literally steps away. Also shared between the two is The Golf Club of Amelia Island, a private 18-hole course that winds its way through the low forests surrounding the resort.
The Golf Club of Amelia Island
Barry Moore owns a car dealership in Baltimore but frequently flies down to Amelia Island to his home on The Golf Club of Amelia Island.
"Once I get to the airport, it's an hour and a half flight. From there a car picks me up at the Jacksonville airport and brings me here to my house. I can get from Baltimore to the first tee in two hours," he says.
Barry and his wife Sharon are members of The Golf Club of Amelia Island and play together nearly every day they are at their home here. They love the course for it's high level of service and impeccable conditioning, even in the hottest months of the year. The course suits their games as well. Both hit the ball straight (particularly Sharon) and wield efficient short games.
Barry is the gregarious sort, indicative of The Golf Club of Amelia Island's membership. He points to his house behind the green at the 2nd hole, a long dogleg left par 5 that requires the second shot to heroically clear or stay short of the fronting pond, and laughs off suggestions of privilege.
"That's what we say about the Plantation," he says, referring to Amelia Island Plantation just down the beach. "That's the 'old money' down there. Up here we're the 'no money.'"
It's funny, but untrue. One look around the property is all it takes to notice the effort and money put into the course.
Measuring less than 6,700 yards from the championship tees, The Golf Club of Amelia Island certainly doesn't emphasize length, but it's not likely to be overpowered by just anyone either. While there's nothing diabolical about the setup, the feeling is that one may get farther by craftiness rather than strength.
The routing is smart in that it utilizes the ever-present trees to its advantage, placing them just inside the fairways or at the crooks of doglegs. It finds variety in the frequent changes of direction (especially heading outward) and with the presence of numerous small water hazards. In fact, water comes into play on seven of the first nine holes.
The second nine is more of an out and back routing with less tree cover. Instead of parkland-style water hazards, there are natural wetlands that creep onto the eastern edge of the course. Holes 14 through 17 require approach shots over or circumventing the preserves while playing successively into the prevailing wind. Here the presence of the Atlantic some 200 yards away can be felt, both in the gusting wind and the moist open air.
The firm of Jacksonville native and former PGA Tour player Mark McCumber designed The Golf Club of Amelia Island in 1987 with input from Gene Littler. The course was quickly cited as one of the most attractive in the region, so much so that in 1998 the Senior PGA Tour held the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf Tournament before here before moving the tournament to World Golf Village the following year.
McCumber's design manages to adeptly straddle the fine line between resort course and member's course. On one hand, it's pretty and makes quite an impression. On the other hand, since there are correct and incorrect positions in the fairways, shotmaking never becomes a bore. The greens are spacious with just the right amount of contour to be described as having nuance. They're likely to continually challenge the everyday player without confounding the resort golfer.
Perhaps the best compliment is that The Golf Club of Amelia Island fits the site. The course looks like it belongs on Amelia Island, reflecting the tropical, subdued nature of the land it sits on.
Summer Beach Resort
5456 First Coast Highway
Amelia Island, FL 32034
Who's It For?
If you are planning a vacation or getaway in Florida and want a natural and peaceful locale, Summer Beach Resort is ideal. The room accommodations are luxurious and comfortable, offering stunning views of the beach and the ocean. The Golf Club of Amelia Island is a superb, peaceful, members-style course that winds its way around the resort's forested grounds.
Architect: Mark McCumber
Yardage: 6,692 yards; 6,119; 5,741; 5,039
To get to Summer Beach Resort from I-95, take exit 129 at Highway A1A and drive east over the bridge to Amelia Island. Turn right at the first light and drive 4.9 miles to the Golf Club/Ritz-Carlton entrance and proceed straight. The Summer Beach Resort check-in offices are two miles ahead on the left.
Room prices are largely dependent on views. One-bedroom villas range from $130 to $205 per night and $750 to $1465 per week. Two-bedroom units range between $155 for limited views to $325 per night and $975 to $2195 per week. Three bedroom condos and villas lease between $190 and $410 per night and $1200 to $2695 weekly. Call 1-800-862-9297 for more information.
Green fees at The Golf Club of Amelia Island are $130. Guests of the Summer Beach Resort qualify for a rate of $90.
Walking is generally not permitted but may be allowed during certain hours of the day. The course is flat and tightly linked, and would not pose a walking problem other than the heat.
January 12, 2003