The Nicklaus Course at Bay Point is the only Jack Nicklaus-designed course in northwest Florida. It is the tougher of the two courses at the Marriott’s Bay Point Golf Resort & Spa; the other course is the Meadows.
Formerly called Lagoon Legends, the original course design was one of the most challenging in the state. The Nicklaus team was brought in to make the course more “resort-friendly” during the redesign in 2005. After opening, the course was named a finalist for the 2005 Renovation of the Year by Crittenden Golf Inc.
The Nicklaus Course measures slightly over 7,000 yards with a slope rating of 143 and a course rating of 75.3. The layout includes multiple tees to allow any skill level of play. The course runs along the natural topography, which means it’s full of native scrub oaks, Florida pine trees, white-sand waste areas and saltwater marshes. Illusionary bunkers tempt golfers into a risk/reward scenario on many of the holes.
Hole 2 (194 yards, par 3)
Water, water everywhere — in front of your shot to the green. You’ll need an accurate tee shot, since there is no margin for error with this water hazard. If you are likely to err, err right and not left. The pond runs the entire length of the hole, and the green is tucked into the left side. I was able to muscle a 4-iron to the back of the green and two-putted for par.
Hole 3 (439 yards, par 4)
This is a dogleg left in which you have to carry water — and on the day we played, three little kids! After shooing away the rug rats, I slammed a ball on a beeline from the tee to the left side behind some native Florida pines. Actually, this was not a bad position, as it looked like I had enough room to lift the ball up and make the green. Unfortunately, I hit the shot thinly and just cleared the trees. The smart play is to favor the right side of the fairway for a clean mid-iron shot to the green. This was not one of my better holes and one I would like to take a stab at again.
Hole 5 (398 yards, par 4)
This No. 2 handicapped hole is a real beauty, with spectacular views of the Grand Lagoon and St. Andrews Bay. But as Bob, our playing partner from Montréal, said, “It’s the signature hole, and it eats a lot of balls.” Bob teed off first and pulled a ball so far left it nearly landed on the bridge that divides the two fairways. I teed up, thinking, “I have mastered the rentals.” I wanted to impress Gene, the 82-year-old gentleman in our group who hit the ball past me on many holes. I nailed it, favoring the left and landing on the upslope near the bridge. Ron and Gene, moving to the “senior tee box,” hit two perfect drives. From there, my partners landed in various parts of the marsh. I had an upward sloping shot, in harm’s way of the wooden bridge but only 150+ yards to the green.
Hole 6 (509 yards, par 5)
Lots of sand must be a Nicklaus design favorite, and this hole is proof. Lining the first half of the right side is a waste bunker, so you’ll want to drive left. All four of us landed on the safe area of the fairway. The next shot needs to be a solidly hit fairway wood, preferably landing before the large trap on the left about 60 yards from the green. A simple chip shot to the green is all that is needed from there, but the green has a sharp incline to the back and left.
Hole 12 (522 yards, par 5)
This is an intimidating beast of a par 5, as your tee shot has to clear a pond and then land over four traps to an elevated and blind landing area. I had a slight hook to my drive and my ball nearly ran to an area with heavy growth. The hole is a dogleg right, and the turn is made at your second shot. Fortunately, I was able to rejoin the group with my second shot. From this point, you need to gain as much distance as possible. Your third shot to the green will be about 90 yards out. Avoid the massive bunker on the left of the green which begins about 30 yards out and runs to the back.
Hole 14 (470 yards, par 4)
This is ranked as the most difficult hole on the course, but by some incredible act I parred it — and I don’t think I was ever on the fairway. There is water on nearly the entire right side and a waste bunker is ready to catch wayward balls that land right. I landed in the waste bunker after the first stretch of water on this dogleg right. Gene and Ron directed me to aim for the safe landing area near a lone pine tree on the left. I took a more rightward path and landed on the edge of the pond, nearly rolling into the water. From there, a little chip landed me close for a “gimme” putt.
Hole 17 (234 yards, par 3)
Here’s a very tricky hole with a massive bunker on the right of the green and a large body of water that has to be cleared. From the tee box, all you can see is the elevated green that seems much farther way. During our round, gusts of wind played with our minds, making us question our club selection. Only Gene hit this green in regulation. I was able to sneak out a par with a good chip and putt.
Hole 18 (408 yards, par 4)
This great finishing hole reminds me of a design often used on the Myrtle Beach course I frequently play. From the tee box, cut off as much of the hole as possible by driving your ball left of the fairway trap. This will mean crossing a large pond that runs the entire left side of this dogleg. My rental clubs did not cooperate, and I sliced a ball to the right, adding distance to the hole. I was able to get the blade of my 4-iron on the ball for a gutsy landing where the fairway narrows about 97 yards from the green (with water on both sides). Here I slightly overshot the green, but I was still in a putting situation and walked away with a bogey. Gene, Bob and Ron bid their farewells.
The Nicklaus Course at Bay Point
Bay Point Resort Golf Club & Spa
4701 Bay Point Road
Panama City Beach, FL 32408
tel 850 235 6950
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