If I had to call a course my "home course", Hammock Creek in Palm City would likely be my choice. The club sponsored my weekly golf radio show for several years, and I enjoyed a round at the course several times a month for quite some time. I know the course almost as well as the back of my hand.
About four years ago, Ray Finch purchased the course. He spent the next year or so using his knowledge and experience to complete many upgrades to the course and facilities.
One of his first upgrades was to put asphalt and curbing in the parking lot and bag drop areas. The curbing may not sound like much, but it helped tremendously with traffic flow and drainage, and really set off the new landscaping around the clubhouse and cart barn.
This past summer Hammock Creek closed from early June until just this past week. Finch's desire was to upgrade the greens with new Tiff Eagle grass, improve drainage on and around the greens and drop a few more tweaks here and there around the course.
Hammock Creek, located within a mile of Florida's Turnpike and also I-95, originally opened in 1995. The course was the first designed by the father-son team of Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II and quickly became one of the finest daily fee courses in the area. It was also home to the Golden Bear Tour, hosted many mini tours, U.S. Open Qualifying, and even hosted the Taste of Martin County.
Those who have played Hammock Creek know it for its expansive fairways, large greens, variety of holes and friendly staff. The course is also tops with many lady golfers as it features few forced carries and greens complexes that allow for many different shots around the green.
The course also features the Visage GPS yardage system on every cart, allowing for easier club selection and hole management. There are even tips on how to play each hole. If you're hungry, you can also order some food to pick up at the turn or have waiting when you finish your round. The staff can even use the system to alert you to approaching storms or respond to a lost club or emergency.
One impressive thing that I learned is that the entire staff has returned from the summer hiatus. The same smiling, friendly faces that have been a staple at Hammock Creek are there again awaiting your return. For me it was like seeing old friends and it immediately put me in a great mood.
On the course, golfers who have played here before will find just a few changes other than the new and impressively improved greens. The most obvious is the newly paved cart paths. From the first tee all the way to the 18th green, the paths have been fixed and repaved. It's a nice smooth ride the whole way around. The other changes come from clearing out or thinning palmettos, knocking down tall grass and previously un-kept areas to keep golfers from having a blind tee shot.
The area behind the third green is one such place. Used to be if you hit your approach long, the ball would tumble across the cart path and simply disappear in tall weeds and palmettos. That area has been cleaned out and you now have a good 10 feet for your ball to settle.
The areas directly in front of the fifth and seventh tees have also been cleaned up and knocked down, allowing golfers an unimpeded view of the fairway. The cart path on number five, no longer backtracks toward the fairway before heading over to the sixth tee, making for a safer environment when the group behind you is ready to hit their second shots.
Hammock Creek has five sets of tees playing from just over 5,000- yards up to 7,119- yards. The course is usually set up to play hard and fast, giving your drives some extra distance. There is also plenty of room to hit driver on almost every hole. There are few nasty bunkers to avoid, but most won't ruin your day should you find them.
Finally, what you've been waiting to hear about: the greens. They are, to put it mildly, wonderful. Every putt I hit rolled smoothly and predictably. They are firm and fast, and should only get better as they mature. The design of each appears to be almost exactly as it was before. No strange bumps or false fronts have been slipped in on us. It truly is like going back home.
For more information, visit www.hammockcreekgolfclub.com or call (772) 220-2599 and speak to any of the club's friendly staff.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at email@example.com.