May 31, 2007

Long Weekend

Florida's Palm Coast is sleepy, but its golf will wake you up

A stiff breeze off the Atlantic awaits on the 468-yard ninth at Ocean Hammock.

A stiff breeze off the Atlantic awaits on the 468-yard ninth at Ocean Hammock.

Visitors to the Palm Coast region of Florida won't find much "there" there, to borrow Gertrude Stein's famous phrase. But happily, what this area lacks in night life and cultural diversions, it makes up for in sunny days, memorable golf and a relaxing vacation. The area, which is 30 minutes south of St. Augustine on the east coast, features Ocean Hammock Golf Club ($235 with cart,, a linksy, wind-swept Jack Nicklaus design that starts and ends along the Atlantic Ocean. Opened in 2000 and rated 80th among Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest Public Courses, Ocean Hammock is where Michelle Wie, then 13, won the U.S. Women's Amateur Publinx Championship in 2003. Unless you've got her game, keep in mind that this is one difficult course, with a rating of 77.0 from the 7,201-yard championship tees. Because there's not a lot to do at night, you might as well play more golf. Near Ocean Hammock is a foursome of strong courses, all charging $75 a round ( The best is Grand Haven Golf Club, a private Nicklaus course. Three public courses carry the Grand Club banner: Cypress, Matanzas and Pine. Pine is closed for renovation until 2007.

__ Visit here: __ Historic St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, was founded in 1565. It has a vibrant downtown, with good restaurants and many antiques and crafts stores. Stop by the Oldest House Museum Complex, which includes an art gallery, an ornamental garden and a Spanish Colonial dwelling that dates to the early 1700s.

Eat here: For casual dining, one dependable favorite among locals is JT's Seafood Shack on North Oceanshore Blvd. (386-446-4337). Try the fish tacos. If you're looking for something a little finer, head 10 minutes south to Flagler Beach, where Blue at the Topaz (386-439-4322) combines an eclectic menu with ocean views from its patio.

Stay here: Ocean Hammock Resort (800-654-6538) has a variety of price points, from two-bedroom villas on the Intracoastal Waterway ($179 a night in September) to three-bedroom oceanview condos ($495). Its owners have razed the old Harborside Inn and are rebuilding it as the Palm Coast Resort, scheduled to open in the fall of 2008.

Travel advisory: The closest major airport to the Palm Coast is Jacksonville International (JAX), a little less than 90 minutes away. But when booking a trip, don't rule out Orlando International Airport (MCO). Though the drive is about 15 minutes longer, you will find more and better-priced flights there. Plus, as you might have heard, Orlando has some theme parks.