Florida Golf Guide

Florida’s WaterColor Inn: A treasure chest to be discovered


Other than bra sizes I’d never heard of 30A, and my wife tells me even that barely counts as a “size.” I’ll take her word on that. However minimal that measurement may actually be on humans, it’s anything but small in Florida. In fact, their 30A is massive.

30A is a road in northwest Florida—along the Gulf Coast to be specific. It’s a road that stretches from Inlet Beach at the southern end to nearly Sandestin Resort on the north end. 30A is “just a road” as much as Gisele or Hannah Davis are “just girls.” That road has over 980,000 Facebook fans and over 490,000 Instagram hashtag posts.

30A—the road—has become an international brand, with over 1.2 million of its blue circle sunshine stickers distributed globally, making it perennially one of the 30 biggest travel brands in the world. (Bigger than Travelocity, Trip Advisor and Orbitz.) 30A is about real estate, beer, concerts, golf, fishing and hotels, and there is no more noteworthy golf or hotel enterprise on all of 30A than the WaterColor Inn & Resort—northwest Florida’s only AAA Four Diamond Hotel.

The WaterColor Inn could very well be the most heavily booked lodge on the entire Gulf Shore—the toughest overnight ticket I’ve ever tried to secure. In the past two years I’ve made three trips through Destin in three different months and haven’t yet found an available room there, instead having to “settle” for their fabulous vacation rentals at WaterSound Beach. Yes, I got more space. Yes, I got a private beach. (Do NOT walk on the dunes, even where there are NOT signs, or an angry man will yell at you from his sixth floor balcony!) Yes, WaterSound was great… but I’ve always wanted to stay at the Inn. (That dream lives on!)

Staying at the WaterColor Inn is now your only way to play Tom Fazio’s Camp Creek, my vote for best course on the Panhandle. It’s also your only way to play Greg Norman’s Shark Tooth. The key there: “Don’t pet the snakes.” Nuts… and I was going to.

Camp Creek used to be public, and it should have been considered a top six or seven public Florida course, but the Panhandle doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves for great golf. So when CC went private a couple years back under Troon Prive’s awesome umbrella, not many people realized just how much they’d be missing. But the public’s loss is absolutely the WaterColor guest’s gain. I can’t stress enough the significant value that exclusive access now adds to an overnight golf package at The WaterColor Inn.

Playing Camp Creek is a unique experience for Florida. It feels like desert golf, like Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, or Grayhawk in Arizona. The elevation changes for a relatively flat piece of land are rather extreme, and the playing conditions may be THE best in state. Shark’s Tooth is tougher and is all coastal Florida in feel, with some pretty cool dramatic views of Florida’s largest dune lake—Lake Powell (and a lot of snakes).

Those two gems are just down the road from the resort. On-site, the WaterColor guest can tackle Davis Love III’s six-hole Origins Golf Club, which alternatively can double as a ten-hole par-3 course with varied tee boxes and greens AND triple as a FootGolf course—a combination of golf and soccer you really have to try.

If you’ve been to 30A, you’re lucky. If you’ve stayed at the WaterColor Inn, you’re even luckier. In either case you probably know about Seaside, one of America’s coolest small towns, with a town square full of cool shops and food trucks. You might know about Bud and Alley’s (food and sunset views) and the Red Bar’s late night scene (and Sunday Brunch). You might know that the best stretch of beach runs from Seaside past the WaterColor Inn to Grayton Beach.

30A is 28.5 miles long, and for all its amenities and beauty is the most family friendly stretch of land on the entire Gulf Shore… and WaterColor Inn’s 500 acres may be the most family friendly part of 30A. Take that for what it’s worth from someone who wasn’t paid in any way to say it. (Yet!)

Where It’s At: 34 Goldenrod Circle / Santa Rosa Beach. In the heart of 30-A.

Ideal Stay & Play: 2-3 nights. Play Camp Creek twice if you can, Shark Tooth, and the awesome “little” Origins Course at the WaterColor.

What It’s About: Summer 9 months a year. Hard to beat any aspect of WaterColor Inn’s natural amenities and location on fabulous 30A.

Family Focus: Some of Florida’s best beaches, pools, treats, shops, activities, food… this place is all family all the time.

Local Food & Drinks: (High End) Café Thirty-A in Santa Rosa Beach (Social) Bud & Alley’s / The Red Bar in Seaside (Casual) Stinky’s Fish Camp in Santa Rosa Beach (Hot Spot) Seaside’s Town Square

Day GolfGetaway: Head up to Sandestin Resort and play Burnt Pine.

About the author

Eric N. Hart

Eric N. Hart

Eric Hart (aka MobileGolfer) is GolfTripX.com’s Associate Editor for Golf & Travel and owner of Stays + Plays Travel Agency in the Midwest. Eric has stayed at 275-plus resorts and hotels around the world and played 600-plus golf courses. He has worked with 17 tourism agencies and written more than 1,200 articles for 14 regional, national and international golf, family and travel publications since he began in 2007. With a passion for promoting both golf and family travel, Eric routinely hits the road with his son and/or the full family (wife and four kids).

Reach Eric by email at staysandplays(at)gmail.com