If you’re on the hunt for an exemplary Florida golfing home, narrow your focus on the northeastern corner of the state. Lovely Nassau County is Florida’s Atlantic Coast gateway. It’s also the home of Amelia National Golf and Country Club, an exclusive, gated community only 10 minutes from salty, golden beaches.
Even better? Amelia National’s 18-hole golf course was designed by one of the titans of course architecture — Tom Fazio. If you’re a golfer, this pedigree likely speaks to you. Read on to discover why his work at Amelia National is such a gem.
Who is This Man?
The 70-something Fazio is a Pennsylvania native whose firm, FAZIO Designs, has designed and produced premier golf courses in 38 U.S. states and seven countries. Even if you don’t know who he is, you should know Fazio is who the good folks at Augusta National Golf Club call when their hallowed-ground course requires attention. He has more courses listed on Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses and on Golfweek’s collection of America’s Best than any other living designer.
He Designs For All Golfers
Per Todd McDonald, head golf professional at Amelia National, all caliber of players can enjoy, and be challenged by, a Tom Fazio course. Its trademarks are wide fairways, generous greens and carefully placed bunkers and other hazards. Sizing and consideration means a Fazio course gives players multiple striking options. Whereas pros automatically go point A to B, the rest of us can find fun and satisfying workarounds.
“There’s not a lot of places where you have to carry the ball to the hole,” McDonald said of Amelia National. “You can chase it to the hole.”
More evidence of Fazio’s attention to detail? Amelia National’s final design is the 21st rendition of the original. Fazio himself played it not long after its 2006 opening. Fred Funk, an eight-time PGA Tour winner and nine-time PGA Champions Tour winner, has played and complimented Amelia National (Funk lives in the Jacksonville, Florida area).
“It’s very playable,” McDonald says. “It’s set up to be a members’ golf course.”
He Works With The Site
And wow, is it lovely. At Amelia National, Fazio and his designers carved the course from northeast Florida’s coastal pine forest, punctuated by giant live oaks and glistening ponds. They eschewed tropical stereotypes, although you’ll spot generous water. Residents’ yards and homes lie mostly at a distance — usually across water — rather than jammed against the rough.
“It’s a 12-month golf course,” McDonald says of the natural setting that elicits comparisons to North Carolina courses.
Nature shows up in other forms, too. McDonald cites a bald eagles’ nest on the property. He also remembers interrupting a parade at the par-4 No. 2 shortly after Amelia National opened.
“There must’ve been a gaggle, or whatever you call it, of wild turkeys walking across the tee box,” he says. “At least eight of them.”
Fazio Courses Are in Demand
Amelia National provided the background for a Transamerica commercial after the Transamerica-sponsored Zach Johnson won the 2007 Masters Tournament. The reason? Amelia National’s layout evokes aspects of Augusta National, the legendary home of the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. Both courses feature pine forests. They also share a few classic design elements.
Since its 2006 debut, Amelia National has hosted 33 United States Golf Association and major tournaments (including U.S. Open local qualifiers and U.S Amateur sectional qualifiers). Three tournaments already are scheduled for 2017 and, per McDonald, Amelia National will have hosted more than 15,000 rounds by the end of 2016.
“The growth is coming,” he says. “And the key for us is to capitalize on it.”
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