Location: Jacksonville, Fla.
Course architect: Donald Ross
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
Champion — 6,468 | 70.3 / 125
Regular — 6,153 | 68.8 / 121
Forward — 5,558 | 71.0 / 122
Saturday morning green fee: $ (Under $50)
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: Yes (after 3 p.m. on weekends and holidays)
Starter: Hyde Park knows how to play up its strengths, the biggest being the course's history. It’s a Donald Ross course with typically small greens, ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and a tight layout that makes exceptional use of the land. Back in the 1940s and '50s, before this area became known for the Players Championship, Hyde Park was the tournament venue that drew professionals to Jacksonville. LPGA Hall-of-Famer Mickey Wright got her first professional win there in 1956, and Ben Hogan famously made 11 on the par-3 sixth in the 1947 Jacksonville Open (a sign on the back of the sixth tee commemorates that unfortunate event).
Play because ...: The word I got before playing Hyde Park was that I would enjoy it for the demand on shot-making. By the time I was finished with 18 holes, I had used every single club in my bag. I thought more about bending shots around trees or playing a specific shot off the tee during that round than any round in recent memory. (Note: If you play a draw, Hyde Park is going to set up very nicely.)
If you’re into thinking your way through a round, you’ll enjoy this place. There isn’t a great variety of yardages to play from because there’s such a big jump from the forward tees to the regular tees, but I was pleased to find that the course was very manageable from 6,100 yards, even for someone not known for her distance.
Takeaway: If you’re looking for a pristine and manicured resort course, then consider spending your Saturday somewhere else. The greens were very small and patchy in places, and some areas of the fairways were straight mud. But when I was driving home from the golf course and mentally replaying my round in my head, I could still easily picture many of the holes. I still could days later, in fact. Hyde Park is a stiff challenge at a great value, and it won’t eat up your afternoon. I played 18 holes as a single in two hours and 40 minutes, and I wasn’t the only one on the course.
THE RATINGS [1 to 10 scale; 10 being the highest]
Pro shop: 5.0
Pace of play: 10.0
THE COURSE | Scorecard
Best par 3: No. 6 (151 | 132 | 120 yards). I’ll be honest in admitting that the Hogan story influenced this decision. Playing the hole, I just couldn’t fathom how he could make 11 — it seemed so short, shady and friendly. The hole called for a very accurate middle iron into a miniscule green that slanted left toward a body of water so small I wouldn’t even call it a pond. I loved the way No. 6 fit cozily into the middle of the front nine (I could see six other holes while standing on the tee box) without feeling crammed in as an afterthought.
Best par 4: No. 7 (377 | 367 | 357 yards). This was the hardest category for me to choose a favorite, which says a lot for Hyde Park. One mark of a good course in my book is when the par 4s aren’t monotonous — for me that means not having to hit 5-wood into every green. The seventh hole ultimately gets the award because it forced a shot I had never tried: 160 yards with a 25-yard draw around a clump of trees blocking another tiny green. Trying to manufacture that with a 7-wood while a foursome watched from the eighth tee and a straggler drifted over from the first tee to play a ball out of my fairway actually gave me an adrenaline rush. It was at this point that I realized how fun it would be to play an actual match here.
Best par 5: No. 14 (480 | 465 | 427 yards). This hole serves as a nice bridge to a series of closing holes that feature shaded, rolling hills. The tee shot is wide open, but then you’ve got a decision to make. A well-struck fairway wood will carry the ditch that lies at the bottom of the hill, but you’ll have a significant up-slope to the green. On the other hand, laying up with an easy wedge will leave a middle-iron to another tiny green. As I said, you’ve got to think your way around this course.