It was time for a road trip so off I went traveling northwest from Central Florida along Highway 98 which skirts the villages and towns in the Panhandle. In Florida, we have a name for just about every coastline: The First Coast, Treasure, Gold, Emerald and so on. Then we have the Forgotten Coast, an area southwest of Tallahassee along the Gulf of Mexico spanning Franklin, Gulf and eastern Bay counties. Why is it named the Forgotten Coast? Probably because tourism drove the marketing efforts, and counties with few inhabitants could not afford the advertising dollars to promote their beaches. Well it might be Forgotten to some, but I found beauty in the quaint little towns, sugar white sand beaches on the extraordinary barrier islands and a spectacular golf course sitting right off the coastline, just east of Carrabelle.
St. James Bay Golf Club is a Robert Walker designed gem that will test your mettle and delight your senses. ASGCA member Walker honed his skills at Arnold Palmer Design Company before venturing out on his own in 1986, designing gems such as Regatta Bay in Destin. In 2002 he designed and built St. James Bay Golf Club, an Audubon International Certified Signature Sanctuary. The course is just on the southern edge of Tate’s Hell State Forest and is managed by Kemper Sports Management. The natural setting among small ponds, coastal vegetation and forests provided the perfect palette for Walker to work his magic and complete a remarkably aesthetic golf course. AIthough it is only 6600 yards at a par 72 from the back tees, you better bring your A game to score well. When you stand on the tee, you are confronted by forced carries that are a bit deceptive, with sometimes more than one carry to the hole. Playing with Head Golf Professional Rob Burlison, I was fortunate to get some educated advice as to where to place my tee shot. The carries over the protected vegetation areas and marshes look daunting but are actually between 100 -200 yards with plenty of landing area in the well maintained 419 bermuda fairways. The golf course has a great flow to it and surprisingly a comfortable rolling terrain.Golfers enjoy GPS in the golf carts to give them accurate distances to shoot for. The Tif-eagle greens are mid-size to large, undulating and challenging. A great test of golf in a beautiful environment.
The golf course is the centerpiece of St. James Bay, an amenity rich residential resort and golf community created with nature in mind. Amenities include a tennis complex with pickle ball courts, a fitness center and a community swimming pool. The practice facilities at St. James Bay include a large driving range, a good size practice putting green and separate short game and bunker practice areas. The clubhouse has a well stocked pro shop with friendly and helpful attendants. Head Professional Burlison is available for lessons. The Crooked River Grill is a full service bar and restaurant noted for its warm service, comfortable dining room and tasty menu. There is a full selection of homesites for sale tucked away throughout the community with plenty of privacy and golfviews. For golfing groups, there are 23 condominiums overlooking holes,14, 17 and 18, and four golf villas which can be rented and enjoyed while challenging the golf course. As a resident of St James Bay, you have access to a private bayside park. Recently, ownership at St. James Bay has changed to Lynwood Development and President John Green told me they want to make your experience even more memorable.
St. James is the patron saint of oysterfishing, and what better place to be located than at the home of Florida’s famous oyster beds, Carrabelle and Apalachicola. While visiting the St. James Bay Golf Club, I enjoyed some fresh oysters at a local haunt along Highway 98. Fresh seafood abounds in the many local restaurants. If beaching it is your second love, there is Dog Island, St. George Island, Cape San Blas and Carrabelle Beach nearby to enjoy the sugar white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Tallahassee International Airport is less than an hour away. Interstate 10 plus Highways 90 and 98 give east and west access to the area. I must say St. James Bay was a true find and a golf course I would come back to play. So Go Play! You won’t be disappointed.
For more information visit StJamesBay.com