Oakmarsh was created at Amelia Island by Pete Dye in 1972, around the same time his more famous Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head came on line. This wonderful layout weaves it’s way through winding salt marshes and old oak trees draped with hanging moss has many of the design features as it’s more famous cousin so be prepared for a day of the full Dye challenge. Built in the beginning of his “railroad tie period” many of the water hazards you experience on 14 of the 18 holes are framed with this accent. The native flora and the marsh grasses around the preserved natural wildlife habitats just make this a spectacular visual as well as golfing experience.
The outward nine is set among the heritage oak trees that frame almost every shot you play. Anything off line seems to get swatted by their limbs so you have to play position golf off the tee to have any chance to score well. It begins easily enough with a few routine challenges but when you get to the short par four third you will feel your heartbeat start to pick up rapidly. It is something out of Merion demanding focused execution on both a position tee ball and the approach into a undulating tight green complex. Starting at the sixth you enter the Venician part of the course-holes tightly framed by a series of canals that define the playing lines. Beware on this side that if the wind is blowing the trees may mask it’s effect-so you need to concentrate on your club selection to avoid disappointments.
The inward half is an entirely different tale-the oaks back off but you get the full force of marsh golf and all of it’s exigencies. Ten is a short hole that will have you shaking your head walking off the green if you do not play carefully. When you step on the 12th tee and feel the wind off the marsh on your left you will understand what the rest of the day is all about-trajectory control and proper club selection. It is really from fifteen to the end that will define your day because here you can play well or simply toss the scorecard into the rubbish bin if you are careless.
Standing on back tee on the par three 16th is worth the entire green’s fee. You will swear there are Sirens calling your name across the marsh. The last two holes put a premium on sense over bravery but I must admit the approach shots present a risk reward challenge that may be hard to resist.
These nines are extremely tight-demanding accuracy from the tees and to the greens, but are extremely fair in what he demands of you to score well. You will find each of distinctly different in flavor and trappings. As is the case with most Dye creations there are real obstacles to deal with and a whole lot of deceptions woven in between. He is a master of either suckering you into a gamble that is much more stacked against you than it appears or a bit of bravado that is really more intimidation than real threat. You have to look at each hole carefully for the best line to take for the achievable result-you score will depend on your ability to sort out the strategic choices and consistently make the right one.
On most days play from the Gold tees-the course need that for it’s teeth. If the wind is howling then pocket your manhood and a step up to the blue tees so you will have a chance to enjoy your day. If you are a fan of Pete Dye then this is a course you must add to your scrapbook.
Amelia Island Plantation, Florida
Architect: Pete Dye (1972)
Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Gold 72 6580 72.2 136
Blue 72 6019 69.6 122