A good round of golf for the average golfer in the Panama City Beach area is getting harder to find. It’s no secret that over the past several years, several golf courses in this area of the Florida Panhandle have shut their doors for good. Ryan Mulvey, General Manager at Bay Point Golf Club has watched the competition diminish significantly. Bay Dunes Golf Course closed in 2016, and Hombre Golf Club closed in 2018.
Bay Point is still going strong, despite closing the Willard Byrd-designed Meadows Course in October 2018 after Michael – a category 5 hurricane – laid much of the course to waste. The club was recently purchased by BP Linx, a company owned by a local Bay Point family. BP Linx purchased both courses and Bar 72, the clubhouse restaurant, but at this time does not have any plans to reopen The Meadows Course. The new ownership is bringing back a lot of events that were successful in the past, including the Bay Point Billfish Open Sportfishing Tournament.
I played both courses about 5 years ago and the one thing I remember about the Meadows was that it still had the original push-up greens from when the course opened in 1973. The Nicklaus Course has been the crown jewel at Bay Point since it opened in 2005. The course was originally designed by Bruce Devlin and opened as Lagoon Legends in 1986. It was renovated by Nicklaus Design in 2005 and in 2018 underwent a greens conversion which involved the full-till process. This process included the original specs of the greens sprigged with Tif-Eagle Bermuda-Grass. Nowadays the greens are a lot more playable with consistent green speeds and receptiveness. All new green-side bunkers on all the holes were also a part of the renovation. It’s no wonder the course has won the Panama City News Herald’s Best of Bay award each year since 2016. They have also hosted numerous regional and local events including the USGA U.S. Open Qualifier in 2016, 2021, and 2022. Bay Point Golf Club was also home for the 2020 Florida State Women’s Golf Matchup Invitational as well as the host of the Lipscomb University’s Lady Bison Classic for three years straight.
The Nicklaus Course is the only Nicklaus Design course in Northwest Florida. Nestled in a 1,100-acre nature preserve, the course can play as short as 4,948 yards (68.8/118) from Tee 4 or be stretched out to 7,053 yards (74.5/137). It’s a great challenge for just about any caliber of golfer. The course is set against the backdrop of St. Andrew’s Bay and carved from the natural terrain of Northwest Florida and winds its way past strands of scrub oaks, pines, and saltwater marshes. Water comes into play on nearly every hole. In addition to fantastic golf holes, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the bay, marsh, and scenic wetlands. The Nicklaus course is well-known throughout the Panhandle for its premium conditioning and risk-reward opportunities.
Having played the course recently, I learned that if you can survive the first five holes and come through them with a decent score, you’ll probably have a good round. The first hole on the Nicklaus Course is a daunting par 4 dogleg right around a lake that plays 362 yards from Tee 2. If you look at it on the Course Map they provide before your round, it looks more like a right turn! Most players are going to play over the water twice, once off the tee and again on your approach shot. The green is slightly elevated with a bunker front right and another left of the green. The green has a false front and is a lot longer than it is wide with some good undulation in it.
The 2nd hole is a very challenging par 3 that plays 173 yards from Tee 2. Play your tee shot over the water into a green that sits at an odd angle. A single bunker guards the front right portion of the green which has some good undulation to it.
The 3rd hole is a 359-yard gentle dogleg left with water to the right off the tee. A good drive will leave a mid-iron slightly uphill into an elevated green with no bunkers around it but a lot of grass mounding. The green is pure Nicklaus with a false front that rises about three feet before leveling out.
The 4th hole gives you the first glimpse of St. Andrews Bay with a great view of the pass that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a dogleg right and finding the middle of the fairway off the tee will leave you a good angle in. A good drive will leave a medium iron into a well-contoured green which is guarded by water on the left and slopes back to front.
Number 5 is the Nicklaus Course’s signature hole. It’s also the #2 handicap, making it the toughest hole on this side, although it’s probably the toughest hole on the course. This par 4 is only 371 yards long but requires tremendous distance control and accuracy both off the tee and on approach. Your tee shot is over water to an island landing area; too far left or right and you’re pulling out a new ball. Then, your approach shot is over more marshland into the green that is a lot wider than it is deep and is surrounded by grass mounds. Push it left or right or hit it short and you’ll be pulling out a 3rd ball!
The shorter daylight hours during the winter months are a great time to experience these holes plus one more! Bay Point offers something called the “Nick Six,” a special rate to play the first six holes of the Nicklaus Course after 3:30 pm. With these holes providing the biggest challenge on the course, many locals and visitors take advantage of the Nick Six! And once they’re hooked, you’ll find them looking for redemption and booking 18-hole rounds for their next available date!
Bay Point is also proud of its practice facility and considers it to be the best in the Panama City Beach area. There’s a full-length fairway where you can hit every club in the bag, a short-game area to warm up your chipping, and a large practice putting green, complete with all the twists and turns you’d expect from the Nicklaus family. The Clubhouse restaurant – Bar 72 – serves up some really good food and is open for breakfast on the weekends, lunch daily, and special event dinners every Thursday night.
A golf membership at Bay Point Golf Club is the best way to take advantage of everything the club has to offer. Bay Point has an active Ladies’ and Men’s Group with regular Member Only Activities throughout the year. They offer Single Golf Memberships, Couples Memberships, and Junior Memberships. These non-equity memberships entitle you to play golf all year long with unlimited play for only a cart fee (or a trail fee if you have your own cart), member guest rates for family and friends, advance tee time bookings, unlimited driving range access (balls included), and discounts in the golf shop and restaurant. For more information, stop by and talk to one of Bay Point’s golf professionals. They’ll be happy to discuss all the great benefits of becoming a member at Bay Point Golf Club! Membership applications are also available on their website, www.baypointgolfclub.com.