For reasons that I cannot explain, all the vertical features and child-like doodle bunker shaping doesn’t bother me as much at Burnt Pine as it does on just about every other Rees Jones course from this time period.
Maybe I’ve just played so much golf in Florida that I’ve come to appreciate how much worse most courses here would look without the heavy-handedness. Or maybe Jones is such a master of mounding that this particular work represents an apotheosis of his particular design aesthetic.
No matter how they look to you, one thing all the humps and bermuda-grass catcher’s mitt green complexes do in fact do is make the course difficult if you don’t have precise control of your approaches. So it can’t be said they don’t have a practical purpose.
Though portions of northwest Florida do have interesting topography and flora, this particular property is nothing to get excited about and therefore the conditioning and presentation of the course are its main selling points (this is Sandestin’s “members course” though resort guests have access to select tee times).
Outside of the big par three 14th that spans a marshy cove of Choctawhatchee Bay there’s not much that’s very memorable, but most of the holes border reserves of attractive pines and hardwoods, and the location on the north end is far enough away from the resort’s massive concentration to give the course a feeling of separation not found elsewhere on property.
Perhaps this is just the right time and place for this kind of exagerated architecture, something I can’t say for Falcon’s Fire in Orlando or most other Jones courses I can think of from the 1990’s. The shape and style of the mounds and bunkering is tacky—it looks like a box of Keith Haring leftovers blew out his window and landed here—but it somehow works. The routing sucks, no surprise given the real estate component, but the holes feel balanced, especially on the out nine, and you’d better strike your ball well to score here.
What can I say—in spite of myself, I kind of like this golf course. (87)
Architect: Rees Jones