Hammock Beach Golf Resort: ‘Excellence made easy’ with threesome of Nicklaus, Watson and Salamander
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Hammock Beach Golf Resort: ‘Excellence made easy’ with threesome of Nicklaus, Watson and Salamander

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course at Florida’s Hammock Beach Golf Resort (Photo courtesy of Hammock Beach)

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I like hammocks and I like beaches. I couldn’t fathom a way the two components wouldn’t blend into the most idyllic of Floridian resorts. After all, you have an oceanfront property the size of a small country, 36 holes of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson golf, a huge outdoor water park and nearly enough sleeping capacity to accommodate you and all your friends … and all their friends …. and maybe even all their friends’ friends.

Gotta be a no-brainer, right? Travel & Leisure thought so, designating Hammock Beach the No. 1 resort in Florida (and the No. 5 Best Family Hotel in America). But I don’t like to base my articles on the opinions of marketing experts; I’d much rather depend on the opinions of my kids.

Hammock Beach is a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort and, as a dad, I believe Salamander sets the bar for all other family-focused resort properties in Florida — and also offers “mini cities” at Reunion Resort in Orlando and Innsbrook in the Tampa vicinity, with another property, The Henderson, opening in Destin. I refer to them as mini cities because they feel cut off from the madness beyond the walls and gates. They feel secluded in even the most dynamic of larger metro areas. It’s a sensation that I love, and I’m certainly not alone. Salamander properties cater professionally to vacationing families like my own by offering safe, fun, expansive landscapes for kids to explore, a plethora of amenities to entertain and diverse lodging and dining options — all with the comforts of home on the road.



You’re unlikely to spend much time indoors at Hammock Beach. But the time you are inside, particularly the hours in your room or villa, will be spacious, comfortably luxurious and — best of all — splendidly scenic. All rooms feature panoramic balconies with views of ocean, golf or the intercoastal waterway. Choose from the Ocean and Tower Suites to the two-room Villas, The Lodge or on-site Vacation Rentals. (Obviously, the higher the room, the better the view.) The room-by-room amenities vary based on your wants and needs, yet all lodging options are mere footsteps from the Spa, Water Park, restaurants and beach.

I can tell you the bread is fantastic at the Atlantic Grille — the only oceanfront restaurant on the Palm Coast. My family went through four baskets before devouring a “Catch of the Day” dinner on the veranda at sunset — a simply stunning setting. We also spent some time at Captain’s BBQ down the street and the resort’s Ocean Bar & Café, a remarkable social hub on its own, dwarfed and engulfed by six acres of multi-level pools.

It’s the quality family time at a quality family place that we’ll long remember. That and getting whipped by my son on Hammock’s real-grass putting course. It’s difficult to gauge the right line on putts when he keeps ricocheting balls off the rocks into holes. But luck is sometimes the name of the game in golf.

And golf is always the name of the game at Hammock Beach. Golf designed by such legends as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Jack’s on-site member-guest Ocean Course is a stalwart in the annual state rankings with six different holes that feature the Atlantic as backdrop — even if it’s mostly an auditory one. Trust me, you know it’s there. And while the ocean setting definitely adds to the beauty, it can also dramatically affect the degree of difficulty. Breezy conditions can make the course feel several hundred yards longer, which in turn also makes the hazards that much more hazardous. Keep that in mind. Nicklaus is masterful at making the elements the game — and the course plays you as much as you play the course. The Ocean Course has 11 holes with water in play, nearly a hundred coquina sand bunkers and a sweet (and thrilling) four-hole closing stretch dubbed “The Bear Claw.”

Tom Watson’s Conservatory Course doesn’t need the wind to make it tough or lengthy — it’s already ranked the longest and hardest course in Florida. But pick the length you’re “qualified” to play at the Conservatory and you’ll all but eliminate the intimidation factor (there’s seven sets of tee boxes to choose from). It also doesn’t need the ocean for dramatic effect — the course is a mile inland from the resort (eight miles by car, courtesy of the river and canals). Personally, I would venture this is the most underrated course in the state — only turning 10 years old in 2016 — and yet it’s the rare course I would play every single day forever if given the opportunity. With 150 acres of atypical elevation changes, dramatically wavy greens, waterfalls and 80 acres of manmade lakes, the surrounding beauty is as abundant as the on-course thrills. The Conservatory is loaded with bunkers, risk-reward shots, trees, gators and other wildlife — plus an island green and infinite photographic moments. It is a visual powerhouse with a massive glass-domed clubhouse and a remarkable treat to play for all members and resort guests.

Hammock Beach is the perfect combination of a place we’d always stay and a course I’d always play — a truly rare combination. And if Hammock Beach happens to be your first Salamander Hotels & Resorts experience, trust that it will make you want to visit all their other properties. But more than anything, it will give you plenty of memorable reasons to return to this one.

Where It’s At: 200 Ocean Crest Drive, Palm Coast. 81.8 miles south of the Jacksonville International Airport and 102.1 miles from the Orlando airport.

Ideal Stay & Play: 2-3 nights. 36 holes of golf. One round on each course: Ocean and Conservatory.

What It’s About: Hammock Beach is all about Salamander’s family focus. The waterpark is worth a day’s stay on its own. The beach another. The golf too.

Family Finds: Kayaking, fishing and manatee watching at Captain’s BBQ on the Matanzas River, plus beach exploration. Daytona Beach and Daytona International Speedway (34 miles). Kennedy Space Center and Canaveral National Seashore (93 miles).

Local Food & Drinks: (High End) 386, (Family) Bruno’s Pizza, (Casual) Burrito 101, (Hot Spot) Captain’s BBQ.

Day GolfGetaway: 41.4 miles to the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, featuring the only course in the world co-designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and another by Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Bobby Weed.

Eric N Hart is the GolfGetaways Course Ratings Editor for GolfNewsNet.com and freelance golf journalist writing for multiple regional and national publications — and specializes in exploring the world with his wife and children in tow. This story is part of his ongoing series exploring Family Fun Golf Resorts in Florida.

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About the author

Eric N. Hart

Eric N. Hart

Eric Hart (aka MobileGolfer) is an award-winning travel and leisure writer for Golf News Net and the owner of Stays + Plays Travel Agency in the Midwest. Eric has stayed at 250-plus resorts and hotels around the world and played 500-plus golf courses. He has worked with 16 tourism agencies and written more than 1,100 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 info[at]staysandplays.com