A ceremonial event, attended by golf, tourism and elected officials, featured a first tee foursome consisting of Lee Elder, the barrier-breaking, four-time PGA TOUR winner; Tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl; Brad Hauer, the resort’s director of golf; and Paul Propis, vice president of the resort’s board of governors and golf committee chairman. The Palm Coast, Fla., resort is managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts.
Renowned for its six Atlantic Ocean-hugging holes and closing stretch named “The Bear Claw,” the Ocean Course has been closed since October 2016 after high winds and storm surge from Hurricane Matthew caused damage across the majority of its holes. The resort’s owners and Salamander took a long-term view regarding conditioning and opted to conduct a complete course restoration in conjunction with Nicklaus Design.
Staying true to Nicklaus’ masterful design, the Ocean Course restoration has included the re-grassing of all fairways, greens and rough with the salt-tolerant Platinum Paspalum, as well as the reconstruction of each tee box, bunker and green complex. The new salt-tolerant grass was tested by high winds and storm surge caused by Hurricane Irma in September, but the turf stood up well and the restoration project completion was only pushed back a few weeks.
“Today, the Ocean Course reclaims its position as one of the finest golf courses in the country,” said Salamander Founder & CEO Sheila Johnson, who also serves as an executive committee member of the United States Golf Association. “The location is unique, the views are exquisite and the conditioning now matches the spectacular locale. We thank Lubert-Adler, the resort’s owners, for its commitment to the game of golf, and are honored that the Ocean Course rejoins the rotation within our Salamander Golf Collection.”
In addition to the Ocean Course, Salamander is also reopening its North Course at Innisbrook Resort near Tampa Bay. The course, designed by Larry Packard, had been closed for four months for a renovation of its greens.
As one of only a handful of courses in the Southeast to feature Platinum Paspalum, the Ocean Course’s new surface features thick, short grass blades. Tolerant of all seasons, the grass can withstand seasonal temperature changes yet maintain a beautiful verdant year-round look. The addition of new and bright white Angle-G sand has also significantly brightened the already visually appealing course.
“By replacing Bermudagrass with the salt-tolerant Platinum Paspalum, we now offer golfers one of the purest surfaces in the game,” Hauer said. “And, in addition to improved playing conditions for golfers of all levels, the views of the Atlantic Ocean are simply incredible.”
The Ocean Course originally opened in April 2000. And, while the integrity of the original design has been retained through the recent restoration, new forward tees have been added to each hole, making six on each. This allows the par 72 course to play as short as 4,100 yards, but retain a challenging overall length of 7,201 yards from its back tees.
Throughout the Ocean Course’s restoration project, Hammock Beach’s other championship layout, the Tom Watson-designed Conservatory Course, continued to accommodate guest and member play.