Golf at its best is a peaceful and sublime fusion of nature and sport.

Indeed, typing the phrase “healing power of golf” on Google returns more than 19 million hits.

A small piece of land between A1A and the Atlantic Ocean on Amelia Island is an example of how golf can heal – especially old wounds.

The opening of Little Sandy this week, a 10-hole par three course at the Omni Amelia Island Resort, not only brings another alternative golf facility to the First Coast, but it has ended an acrimonious dispute between the resort and Amelia Island. Equity Club, more than four years after the sudden closure of one of the property’s two 18-hole courses.

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Both sides have moved forward and the beautiful little gem surrounding Red Maple Lake is the Peacemaker.

“The members are very satisfied with the layout by [designer] Beau Welling, the construction of MacCurrach Golf and the Omni’s efforts to put it all together,” said Mike Warfield, President of Amelia Island Club. “For us, as members, we have access to a short, really well-designed course that a lot of private clubs don’t have access to. I think it’s just spectacular.”

Little Sandy architect Beau Welling tees off on the first hole of the 10-hole par-3 course at the Omni Amelia Plantation April 19.

The course, named for its size (less than 30 acres) and its proximity to the vast dunes of Amelia Island, opened on Tuesday, becoming the second alternative to an 18-hole golf course to open on the first coast in two years.

The Yards, which evolved from the former Oak Bridge Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, opened in the fall of 2020 and features a nine-hole and six-hole par-3 course.

The oldest par 3 course in the area is the Palm Valley Golf Club.

The opening of The Yards and now Little Sandy is part of a nationwide trend of golf clubs, resorts and municipalities seeking alternatives to the four- to six-hour 18-hole golf experience which many gamers say is just too exhausting for their free time.

According to the National Golf Foundation, about one-third of new golf courses that opened last year in the United States were par 3 facilities between six and 14 holes.

A golf experience in 60 minutes

Omni Amelia golf manager Jonathan Bridges says two players can cover Little Sandy’s 928 yards in an hour, and groups of six have done it in less than 90 minutes since the soft open .

“They really appreciate it,” Bridges said. “It’s something very different.”

The holes range from the 42-yard ninth hole to the 115-yard first and 10th holes. The course is laid over the remains of numbers 7, 8, 17 and 18 of the old Ocean Links course, which was closed in November 2017 by the resort without giving the equity club sufficient notice, a judge later ruled. of Nassau County.

The 10th green, which is one of three holes with water in play, is more or less in the same position as the par-3 18th green at Ocean Links.

The course cost Omni $3.5 million. There has been no assessment of members of the Amelia Island Club, who have playing privileges at Oak Marsh and the Amelia Island Club in Long Point – the latter of which closed this week for renovations and will reopen in fall.

The 10th green of Little Sandy is almost in the same position as the 18th green of the Ocean Links course at the Omni Amelia Island Resort.

Little Sandy has relatively large greens with dramatic contours, which allow for plenty of pin positions. Players have the possibility on seven of the holes to throw the ball on the green.

Rental sets are available, with a putter, three wedges and a 9 iron, but players can bring their own bag. Walking is mandatory unless a player has a disability.

There’s an 18-hole putting course that Warfield called “a real treat.”

Golfers want more options

Welling, based in Greenville, SC, said like almost anything in recreation, golfers want options that don’t involve a door-to-door experience that eats away much of their day.

“You look at society in general, we have so many options on how to use our time and our lives,” he said. “I grew up in a time when there were only three channels on TV. Today we don’t even watch TV on a TV anymore. We don’t read a paper newspaper. What we see, it’s a golfer’s desire to have options in how they move into golf.”

Welling said increasing par 3 courses will help players improve on golf’s key shots – from 100 yards to the green.

“These types of setups eliminate a lot of shots people have trouble playing and focus on shots they have a chance of succeeding with,” he said.

Little Sandy also has a number of amenities ranging from charming to functional to fun.

Each tee marker has four cup holders, so players can carry their drinks from hole to hole. There is also an umbrella and two lounge chairs at each tee.

The green has half a dozen Adirondack chairs.

Small speakers strategically located near the tees and greens play music. A small pro shop offers rental sets, balls, tees, divot tools and ball markers, as well as a selection of apparel. The course is a short walk from Bob’s Steak and Chop House and other food and drink options in the Resort Shopping Village, so it will be easy to organize 10 holes of golf at Little Sandy around breakfast, lunch or dinner.

And if players run out of ammo, there’s a large gumball machine behind the ninth tee that dispenses pink golf balls.

Little Sandy fits naturally into the family atmosphere of the resort. Welling said he walked onto the course last week and saw a resort guest teaching his young daughter how to putt, with her two toddler brothers doing somersaults on the green.

“I thought, ‘That’s what we’re trying to do here,'” Welling said. “It’s all about family.”

Little Sandy mends her grudges

Little Sandy appears to be an adequate compromise for the closure of Ocean Links, the first design on the First Coast by World Golf Hall of Fame architect Pete Dye, in collaboration with Bobby Weed. Dye also designed Oak Marsh.

The resort closed Ocean Links on November 12, 2017, a day after it was still taking departure times, and began razing the three holes along the ocean – hours after an email was sent to equity club members notifying them of the closure.

At the time, the station claimed the members failed to honor an agreement that called for it to provide 10,000 rides per year at Ocean Links and Oak Marsh, with a minimum of 3,000 at Ocean Links, in addition to resort tours generated by vacationers. .

Little Sandy's first hole offers a bit of everything the property has to offer: sand, water, native grasses and trees.

The Equity Club lawsuit claimed that Omni Amelia Island LLC broke a long-standing agreement to operate two golf courses with a private membership along with resort gaming, dating back to 2010 when Omni purchased the property in part of a bankruptcy case involving the original owners.

The bulldozers started working under the protection of the police. Work was halted two days later under an injunction granted by Judge Steven Fahlgren – who lambasted the station in his decision.

“The agreement does not permit Omni to unilaterally close the Ocean Links golf course, but rather requires the club’s written consent to do so,” Fahlgren wrote. “Omni destroyed the Ocean Links golf course without notice and in such a way as to accomplish the destruction before the club had an opportunity to obtain legal relief. Florida law will not allow Omni to benefit from this mistake.”

Equity Club attorney Steven Busey told The Times-Union at the time: “The sudden closure of the Ocean Links course by the Omni was the product of arrogance, greed and disregard of ‘Omni for contractual obligations.’

Fahlgren commissioned the golf course. The 10 hole par 3 alternative has become the compromise and the harsh language surrounding the closure of Ocean Links is now conciliatory on both sides.

“I’m not going to contrast and compare the situation,” Warfield said. “I can only say this: we are very happy with this course. I can’t speak for all the residents, but I think they look at it and say, ‘wow, that’s appealing… that will Help Home Values. It was a really positive experience.

Theo Schofield, Omni’s general manager, has only been at the Amelia Island Resort for just over a year and thinks there’s real harmony around the opening of Little Sandy. The station held an opening for equity club members last week and is pleased with their response.

“They’re very excited about it,” he said. “I think they’re really excited to have another option to play.”