Review: Golf Digest

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Golf Digest: Destin, FL Golf Course Reviews

This Destin, Florida golf course review by Ron Kaspriske was published in Golf Digest Magazine. Ron Kaspriske reviews Sandestin’s four championship golf courses—Raven Golf Club, Burnt Pine Golf Club, Baytowne Golf Club and The Links Course—commenting on Destin’s geography and offering insights about the layout of each golf course. Kaspriske, Ron. “Travel File : Destin, Fla.” Golf Digest. 1 November 2001.

The coastline of the Florida Panhandle is recognized as one of the oldest deposits of unconsolidated sediments in the world. The distinct absence of feldspars, amphiboles, pyroxenes and carbonate is noticeable, as is the abundance of medium – to fine – grained quartz.

When a geologist tells you this, simply nod your head in agreement. Unless you’re interested in coastal engineering, the scientific explanation for why Northwest Florida beaches are so inviting pales in comparison to rolling out of bed each morning and staring at the powder-white sand in the friendly community of Destin. You don’t need to know how da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa to like it.

Destin, 60 miles east of Pensacola, has been blessed with the type of beachfront property normally associated with places like St. Tropez. Locals refer to the region in less-dramatic terms (it’s either the “Redneck Riviera” or “L.A.,” as in “Lower Alabama”). But all it takes is one look at the sand and the surreal aquamarine hue of the Gulf of Mexico and you won’t mind parking your towel next to a guy named Joe Bob.

Along with being an annual stop for Spring Breakers and a long-term home for ex-military men (four military bases are nearby), Destin has found a niche as an out-of-the way golf destination. It’s on the map, but barely. And for most golfers, that’s just the way it ought to be.

If you want a quick, no-fuss way to visit Destin and play a variety of golf, you never really have to leave this full-service resort. The 72 holes at Sandestin (73 if you count the extra par 3 on the Raven) have a similar playability, but each course has its own personality. Burnt Pine, a Rees Jones course, is the most challenging. Water and marsh come into play on 13 holes, including the 212-yard 14th. And the unspoiled pine forests bordering the fairways will take care of any errant shot that the water doesn’t swallow. The Raven, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., is a fun resort course with wide landing areas off the tee but frustratingly undulated greens. The 604-yard seventh is a fantastic double dogleg cut through tall pines and palmetto bushes.

Even better than the course is its service. Golf pro Jeff Osenkowski’s “member-for-a-day” philosophy ends up making you feel like “big shot for a day.” Instead of course rangers, “player assistants” stop by every few holes and clean your clubs, offer shot advice and hand out – I’m not making this up – chilled, mango-scented towels. Put one of those suckers on your face and who cares how many balls you just dunked in the water.

Baytowne, a Tom Jackson design, used to be 27 holes, but nine of them were cannibalized in the making of the Raven. The remaining 18 are well-manicured and a lot less penal than the Raven and Burnt Pine. (Still, the 464-yard, uphill 13th is a monster.) Finally, The Links, a 1973 Jackson design, is a welcome way to finish off a day of golf. While not overly long, you can’t snooze your way through it, either. The 14th and 15th holes are framed by Choctawhatchee Bay, so it’s easy to get consumed by the view, especially when the occasional porpoise surfaces off shore.