Updated: Aug 7, 2021
While in Watercolor with family I always try and play at least one round of golf in the Destin to Panama City area of Florida. Only a short drive from New Orleans, about 4&1/2 to 5 hours, it's a great place to enjoy the beaches and have about 10 golf courses to choose from.
This was my first time playing Baytowne Golf Club and with it being a Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort course I figured it would be a good decision. I found a deal rate for around $80 which was about $15 less than their rate for the day. Given this is a resort course I figured this was a great deal and I was in for a great experience.
Before I get into my disappointment for the day let me just say the staff was excellent. I am not just talking about the staff in the golf shop. The staff at the bag drop was friendly and professional. They even asked which way I would like my staff bag on the cart. Something many bag attendants do not even know to ask or which way a bag should be on a cart. Any golf bag should always be set with irons facing out. This staff asked which way I would prefer my bag and is something more golf courses should teach their bag attendant staff. The pro shop staff was very friendly as well. Pointing me in the proper direction, explaining how things are, and even let me know the beverage cart is sometimes slow on this golf course. They recommended grabbing a few drinks to put in the cooler provided on the cart. The girl on the beverage cart was very friendly as well.
I checked the Google review before going to play and they were very mixed. The reviews were mixed as you would expect but they all had "great staff" as a common comment. The big mix was about the conditions with some saying they were great and some saying they were horrible. I guess that is perception to each person.
My disappointment was in three things. I will start with the horrible design of getting through the security gate. It is right at the edge of a roundabout with only room for two cars to not stick out in the roundabout. Once you pull off the main highway there is only room for about 4 cars before the roundabout. When the gate serves as entry to multiple golf courses, a few resort properties, and a community with shopping and other things in the front this made getting through the security gate a near nightmare. There is not enough space for cars to safely pass through the roundabout as traffic builds up there and out into the main highway. It took nearly 20 minutes to get through. Leaving through the same area was no better. There is plenty of space they could have designed this much better.
The second thing was not knowing the driving range would be closed for the day. The staff did a great job telling me when I arrived but prior to that, there was no notice on the Baytowne Golf Club website, their social media pages, or on GolfNow. I will admit I may have missed if there was a notification but had I seen one I would not have attempted to show up to the golf course an hour early.
The final disappointment was with the overall conditions. With the rates and the reputation that Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort has I was expecting so much better. The practice green was pristine with the speed relatively fast. This gave the impression things would be good. Getting on the first tee, however, changed that. The first tee box was missing some grass and not level. Something I could deal with if this was the only one. It wasn't. Many tee boxes throughout the day were either not level. More of an issue was the inconsistency from tee to tee. While some had too much grass on them, other ones had hardly any grass. This was very problematic, especially on the par-three holes. If you teed the ball up at ground level you could have an inch of grass around the ball. If you didn't you had it teed up too high and, either way, it does not make the best opportunity to hit your best shot. The greens were the biggest disappointment with the conditions. Not only were they much slower than the practice green they looked like they recently had a disease, they also had a spongey look, and in some cases, you could see uneven cut lines or tractor marks on them. Also, they were nowhere near as smooth as the practice green was.
The fairways were in decent shape. They were not tight but they were not long either. You had a decent lie and you could put some spin on the ball. Some were soft and I couldn't figure out if it was from recent rain or if they were having issues with their sprinklers. Many sprinklers had water coming from them or in some cases spraying water with very little pressure. This is also something I think maintenance was aware of as I saw them on the back nine dealing with the sprinklers on one hole.
The layout itself is decent. A good mix of holes that will challenge you or give you some birdie opportunities. The course is a par 71 and offers small target size greens with some undulation in them. The course overall has a good bit of elevation changes that you would not expect from the area. The routing however is not friendly to those that would prefer to walk. There were spots between holes that were a 10-minute ride in a golf cart. They say Baytowne is the only course to stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to the Choctawhatchee Bay. Do not let that fool you as you see neither from the golf course but the layout does get near the beaches and stretches northward near the Bay.
Overall the golf course looks neglected compared to its neighbors. Almost as if the owners do not care about this golf course as much as the other ones. Maybe they spend more money on the course they host professional events on. Having played two of their other courses, The Links and Burnt Pine I was expecting so much more here as those two courses were near tour conditions last time I played them.
To conclude I am not saying do not go play Baytowne Golf Club but I am saying is do not spend over $80 to play it when you can play other courses in the area with much better conditions.