One thousand one hundred twenty. That’s how many golfers can realistically complete an 18-hole round at Sandestin Resort in ONE 12-hour day. Let’s say you’re not great at math. I’ll break it down for you.
That’s a shipload of golfers.
When you consider that the lowest average monthly temperature around Destin, Fla., is 50 degrees, and the highest is 90 degrees, it makes sense that these numbers aren’t an aberration. November through February the place is full of flocking “snowbirds.” Shoulder seasons bring the rest of the country. The locals, they’re always here. Suffice to say, enough people know the quality of golf and life experiences they’ll get at Sandestin Resort that if you haven’t been here you should seriously be looking it up on your computer or mobile device right now!
Unless you don’t like being close to the beach. Unless you’re one of those people with an unnatural resistance to white sand, crystal blue water, lodging balconies with billion-mile views (rough estimate) and more good-looking people in swimsuits than not-good-looking people in business suits.
Maybe the idea of a miniature New Orleans-like setting of diverse eateries, shops and activities on a private boardwalk in the middle of the resort doesn’t sound interesting to you. I guess it’s possible there are people who wouldn’t appreciate this setting, golfers who wouldn’t enjoy four very different golf courses in four very different environments, and kids who don’t like mini-golf or wouldn’t care to try out zip-lines, ropes courses, bungee jumping and rock-wall climbing at the Adventure Zone. You can’t pick your relatives, but if you’re friends with someone I’ve just described, it’s time to dump them and run … to Sandestin.
Welcome to the lively Village of Baytowne Wharf. It’s where seemingly the entire resort population gathers at night. With 20 restaurants on property, and most of them in the Wharf vicinity, there’s no shortage of aromatic magnetism, no way you’re keeping all that cash in your wallet, no chance of escape without some form of dessert.
Sandestin Resort is a luxury rental property showcasing beachside, lakeside, village and bayside accommodations of all shapes, views and sizes. It’s hard to top the beachside suites with those sweet-blue-yonder views, just footsteps from that stunning white sand. I’d stay in the Westwinds tower every day if I could … as high up as they can get me. With the pools and hot tubs and The Beach House Restaurant next door, there is no better place to absorb the end-of-day rays (except for maybe Hammerhead’s on the bay).
There’s no numerical way to determine the most popular golf course at Sandestin. They pretty much all get equal play. That said, everyone knows no two courses are created equal. There can’t be two best courses in the world or two bests in a state any more than there can be two best courses at a resort.
Sandestin’s Raven may very well get the most national acclaim, but that only serves to increase the degree to which I think Burnt Pine is underrated. There are not 20 public courses in Florida better than Burnt Pine. Maybe not even 12. With Camp Creek no longer public, Burnt Pine easily secures my vote for best Panhandle public-access playground. Those multi-tiered greens are wild and fun. It’s a course where pin position is actually very relevant, if only to serve as a constant reminder of where you should have been. Burnt Pine has design diversity in spades, with five great holes on the front and eight more on the back. There’s far more bang than you pay bucks—always a rewarding factor in a golf experience. (The par-3 14th may even be a Top 10 Florida golf hole.)
Raven is also fun, though with more of a community course vibe. In other words… there are more houses. It still has exceptional holes on each nine and plenty of water scattered throughout. It also has an island green hole. The resort’s marketing director told me to transport myself to TPC Sawgrass for that specific tee shot. Design differences aside, that was the last thing I wanted to do. I had no intention of putting two in the drink on this hole too. I escaped No. 6 with par, but they don’t engrave that on your bag tag here. And they won’t put it on your Sawgrass tag either. (They put “LOL” on mine.)
Tom Jackson’s Links Course runs along the Choctawhatchee Bay. It’s shorter, tighter and more hazardous than the other courses. It can be the easiest course to score on, or the hardest if the wind is up—when the exposure to the elements is almost certain to expose the holes in your game. I put four balls in the water on just one hole—which still happened to be my favorite hole—the signature bayside 14th. There are two three-hole stretches on this course that make it a “should play”—7, 8, 9 and 14, 15, 16. Note to (your)self: Watch your speed driving to/from this course. Those patrol cars are NOT there for show.
Tom Jackson’s other Sandestin showcase—Baytowne Golf Club—takes you all over the resort. It shows you every type of land, lodging, golf hole and hazard in its routing. There are some that consider Baytowne’s 14th hole the best hole at the entire resort. I am not of that mindset. There are many courses like this one in Florida. And while most of them may not be maintained as well as this one, I can break Sandestin’s courses down like this: I would play Burnt Pine (weekly), Raven (monthly), Links (annually) and Baytowne (once).
Destin is one of America’s hottest family vacation spots, and Sandestin Resorts just might be the coolest place there.
Where It’s At: 9300 Emerald Coast Parkway / Destin. Wedged perfectly between the massive Choctawhatchee Bay and even bigger Gulf of Mexico. 57.6 miles east of Pensacola. 45.4 miles northwest of Panama City. While here you need to spend some time exploring 30A. ( www.30a.com )
Ideal Getaway: 2-3 days. 72 holes of golf on Sandestin’s four championship courses.
What It’s About: Pristine beaches, warm water, tons of sun, gorgeous sunsets, dolphin watching, and your choice of spacious, beachfront lodging.
Family Focus: Baytowne Wharf is a definite hotspot. Beaches, pools, arcades, games, ice cream, candy, desserts and adventure galore.
Local Food & Drinks: (High End) Marina Café or for a “special” meal try the Beach Walk at Henderson Park Inn (Social) Picolo Restaurant & The Red Bar (Casual) Buffalo Jack’s Legendary Wings & Pizza (Hot Spot) US Post Office in Seaside. Trust me. Or go to Bud & Alley’s
Day Golf Getaway: Can’t imagine 72 holes of golf being insufficient, but Kelly Plantation and Regatta Bay provide great local back-ups if necessary.