The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach, a Florida ‘bucket list’ destination

The par-3 eighth hole offers the first glimpse of the Atlantic during the round.

A golf friend of mine from the office rarely comments on my social media posts but couldn’t resist the other day.

“The rest of us are working and you’re playing a bucket list course,” he tweeted.

Yeah, that pretty much sums up The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort.

Jack Nicklaus’ course at the Palm Coast hideaway – No. 75 in Golf Magazine’s most recent top 100 U.S. public course list – has six holes on the Atlantic Ocean, more than any other track in Florida, and playing them is a sublime experience that every golfer should experience twice.

(Yes, twice. If you’re like me you’ll be shooting pictures and being mesmerized by the crashing waves on your first tour of The Ocean Course; a second round is required to try to post a score.)

The course has all the great design touches you’d want – undulating greens, strategically placed bunkers (three holes on the back side have bunkers in the middle of the fairways), some risk/reward options. But The Ocean Course’s genius is in the routing.

While warming up on the range the ocean beckons close behind you, then the first seven holes play through developed areas. A long cart ride from the seventh green gets the heart racing and on the par-3 eighth tee you have arrived at the first of the six ocean holes. Take it all in.

The back nine is similar, going away from the ocean on the first several holes before building to a flourish at “The Bear Claw,” a finishing foursome of oceanfront holes. That’s two nines that build drama to a close on the Atlantic. Perfect.

Three cool holes

No. 9, 468-yard par 4: One of two ocean holes to play parallel to the Atlantic the entire way, and the No. 1 handicap hole. Tough uphill approach especially with a strong wind.

No. 15, 450-yard par-4: The opener to “The Bear Claw” demands a good tee shot and then, on the uphill second, you feel like your target is at the edge of the Earth. Which it is, in a sense.

No. 18, 466-yard par-4: The mirror-image to the ninth is the No. 2 handicap hole but can play completely different depending on how the wind switches in the two hours since you played the ninth.

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