MELBOURNE, Florida – Okay golf aficionados here’s today’s quiz. Who knows on what coast of Florida Melbourne is found?
It’s on the east coast, a/k/a Space Coast, where you’ll find Baytree National Golf Links, my third visit to a Melbourne area golf course. It was interesting to see, that all three courses within a few miles of each other, had distinct differences that were mirror images of their ecological community.
Built in 1992, the championship course at Baytree National was designed by the World Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player who understood the sensitive environment that boarded this course which presented him with an opportunity to build a Links Style course that would add to its majestic beauty and preserve forever the open space so vital for this area. Playing at over 7,000 yards from the tips, Baytree National is peppered with 82 white sand bunkers and omnipresent waste areas that replace cart paths on most holes.
The Dwarf Bermuda greens are of varying shapes and sizes that allow difficult, as well as easily accessible pin placements. These greens offer the golfer a unique change to the lightening fast greens found at most golf courses in this area. The softness of the green’s texture requires a firm and consistent ball strike that will give the ball momentum to negotiate the difficult to see breaks along its path to the hole. The practice greens will give you a good chance to get the feel for the greens before you play.
The par 4, 1st hole is an awesome opening hole from all tee boxes. It offers the golfer a wide-open fairway that has water to the far left, a large bunker to the right of the green, and of course a fairway lined with native shrubs and trees just waiting to swallow up an errant tee shot. Get use to the initial fear of hitting a ball that either fades or hooks because it’s going to follow you around the course!
The Par 3, 2nd hole is your first introduction to a discontinued fairway. This hole plays longer than advertised so think about going down a club. This will ensure that you will reach a playable surface that will give you a second shot instead of a possible double bogey from an unplayable lie. This green is surrounded by 5 bunkers.
The par 4, 3rd hole is your first introduction to the indecision of club selection. This wide-open fairway will present you with the risk or reward of a short hole. Choose wisely or you’ll be spending time looking for your tee shot. Precise placement of your second shot is vital to avoid three putts.
The par 3, 4th hole, the par 5, 5th hole, and par 4, 6th holes will test you driving skills, club selection and patience. This course will constantly test your shot-making skills but keep in mind that a well-placed drive is a good start to any hole. There are plenty of safe landing areas. The problem is finding them and getting your shot there. This is a true links course that will give you a taste of a what golfing is all about.
The par 4, 9th hole is a test of your golfing imagination. A long drive gets you a short approach shot over a discontinued fairway but might get you behind tree limbs or into the marsh area that will require a penalty stroke. Playing it safe will result in a longer second shot but this is where you go with your own golfing instincts. It’s a relatively easy hole but it will challenge your decision-making skills and club selection.
The par 4, 10th hole, the par 4, 11th hole, and par 3, 12th hole are all pretty much the same as far as being able to score well with good tee shots and well-placed approaches. It’s a breath of fresh area for the moment but don’t get used to it.
The par 5, 13th hole is long and beautiful fairway that is well protected by water along its right side from 250 yards in. Trees and wetland boarding the entire left side of the fairway waiting for that errant tee shot that decides to hook instead of draw. This hole is an easy par 5 for anyone who can hit three average shots down the middle of the fairway. Enjoy these first four back nine holes. You’ve got trouble ahead!
The Par 4, 14th hole is your first real introduction to a link’s course “dogleg left” layout. Hitting a driver down the left side over the wasteland area will work but a well struck tee shot that goes straight out from the tee box will, in most cases, not hold the fairway and result in a lost stroke plus an almost impossible 3rd shot over a long and tree laden waste area. If you’re not careful with this hole, it could certainly ruin a good round.
The par 4, 15th hole and par 5, 16th holes are both slightly different but shot selection on both holes start with good solid drives that stays predominately in the middle of the fairway. They both have more problems to the left of the fairway than right but a good score on both holes will require reaching the greens in regulation.
After playing 16 holes, it was nice to enjoy a moment of satisfaction looking forward to the completion of a good round. But these last two holes were about to challenge that feeling.
The par 3, 17th hole is the longest par 3 on the course. Unfortunately, only half the green is visible from the tee and It’s split into sections by a large “hump.” There is a bunker along with 2 grass hollows short of the green, which are not visible either. You have no idea where your golf ball landed unless it hits the right most part of the green. You can only imagine what it must be like playing a tournament and having this hole ahead of you.
The par 4, 18th hole is almost an exact replica of the 14th hole but with a sharper “dogleg left” and absolutely no way of seeing the green without riding up the fairway 160 yards. This is the perfect ending hole to a golf course that kept you guessing for the last 17 holes. A well hit drive over an intimidating waste area along the left side will give you the best chance for a mid-iron to a green protected by water along its entire left side and back. A drive hit to the middle of the dogleg could end up off the course resulting in an unplayable lie. This is the perfect “risk or reward” finishing hole.
Baytree National Golf Links provides both a challenging and enjoyable experience. The pro shop staff, general manager and all the course employees were top-shelf hosts and hostesses. If you’re ever in the Melbourne area be sure to put Baytree National on your calendar. You’ll be glad you did!