I have a resident’s bias when touting St. Augustine as a great golf destination, though the facts are my best defense.
Nearly every fan of the game knows that the World Golf Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, flanked by two great golf courses. Just up Highway A1A from St. Augustine is Ponte Vedra Beach, home of the PGA Tour and world-famous TPC Sawgrass. Also in the neighborhood is the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club.
But those aren’t just the only options for teeing it up, of course. Away from the resorts are some fantastic stand-alone tracks, and one of the first that comes to my mind is St. Johns Golf and Country Club.
Just off I-95 between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, SJGCC (not to be confused with St. John's Golf Club, also in St. Johns County but farther south in Elkton) is a woodsy track designed by Clyde Johnston. It’s a quality test of golf without being the doctorate exam that is TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course – though both courses have hosted PGA Tour competition.
St. Johns has been a frequent host of qualifiers in the PGA Tour’s “Q-school,” the annual sweatfest where players compete for their professional livelihoods. Players in that event take on St. Johns at its full yardage of 7,236.
On a recent visit, some friends and I played the 6,801-yard blue tees, which was more than enough on a cool, breezy morning. The majority of the holes seemed to play into the wind and the fast, sloping greens demanded full concentration.
At the 18th hole we imagined past Q-schools and pros needing a birdie to perhaps continue their golf dreams. We were glad we didn’t have as much at stake, as just one man in our foursome managed par. But it was a fine time nonetheless at one of St. Augustine’s best courses for the money.
Three cool holes
No. 4, 382-yard par 4: A fairway wood or hybrid is the play if you’re up a tee or two; I hit driver and had a 100-yard approach off a downhill lie over water. That didn’t work out so well.
No. 13, 194-yard par 3: Take an extra club or even two to carry the water on this tough one-shotter to a two-tiered green.
No. 18, 462-yard par 4: The No. 2 handicap has water all the way up the left and in front of the green and woods right. Yet a drive down the middle can find bunkers.