Play St. Johns Golf & Country Club- On the Road to the PGA TOUR

Golf writer Andy Reistetter has been tracking the road to the 2010 PGA TOUR.

He was on site at the Nationwide Tour Championship at the Daniel Island Club in Charleston, South Carolina where 25 golden golfers earned their 2010 PGA TOUR cards.

Two weeks ago he was at The Children’s Miracle Network Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort where the Top 125 on the money list were finalized and qualified for the 2010 PGA TOUR.

This week he heads to Bear Lakes CC in West Palm Beach to report on the Finals of Q-School and the Top 25 golfers and ties who will fill out the fields for the 2010 PGA TOUR.

Along the way he enjoys playing the golf courses the pros play in a series he is developing called “The Monday After.” How should an amateur play a golf course set up for professional golfers- from the tips, same hole locations, “The Monday After” the competition concludes.

In this installment he played the St. Johns Golf & Country Club as a guest of General Manager Dan Zimmer.

DSC03677For some of the finalists in this week’s conclusion of Q-School the hopeful road to the PGA TOUR went directly through the St. Johns Golf & Country Club in late October.

Eight golfers are competing next week for a 2010 TOUR card because they advanced through the first stage held right here in our own backyard at the Clyde Johnson designed 7,236 yard gem off County Road 210 in northern St. Augustine.

Keep an eye on Alan Morin, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk, David Lutterus, Jesse Hutchins, Joe Affrunti, Major Manning and Rafael Gomez and see if the guys who played at St. Johns Golf & Country Club make it to the PGA TOUR.

Then go out and play St. Johns’ to test your game versus some of the world’s best professional golfers.

That’s exactly what I did recently and quite frankly the results were as my friends say “keep your day job.”

But I did discover what a great golf course St. Johns G&CC is… especially for ladies.

I played with a lady friend and she really loved the playability and picturesque natural setting of a golf course that gently meanders through open forested land and around lakes and ponds.

DSC00733The routing of the course is world class in that the front nine goes out in a clockwise direction to the south and returns to the clubhouse while the back nine is laid out in a counterclockwise direction.

The bottom line is that you are “lost in nature” never knowing exactly what direction you are heading in. The challenge of gauging the wind direction and its effect through the trees may very well be St. Johns’ hidden hazard.

As host for Q-School for five of the last six years this Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary had my number and the dismal 92 result far exceeded my 7-handicap expectations number wise.

Maybe I was being distracted by my lady friend or maybe the reason for posting such a high score was that I played the tips- the gold tees which are a challenging 74.7 rating and slope of 132.

Before teeing off I had the pleasure of meeting two brothers from Germany enrolled in the onsite world renowned Tom Burnett Golf Academy- 15-year old Willie and 20 year old Fritz Gabor.

With swings that appeared to be like that of new TOUR sensation Rickie Fowler these two golfers inspired by the likes of Martin Kaymer may be the ones who give Tiger Woods the old heave hoe in a few years.

Local PGA TOUR rookie Jeff Klauk who finished No. 71 on the money list this year winning over $1.2 million, Matt Kuchar and Aree Song are graduates of the Burnett Golf Academy.

DSC00749Are you getting the picture here? Tremendous practice facilities, a world class designed golf course always in tip-top shape and a very friendly and accommodating staff that is “always exceeding your expectations” makes you feel like a member even if you play St. Johns only for a day.

For the record it is open for public play.

I started off well with a regulation par on the first hole which is a reasonably short par-4 of 400 yards from the tips.

On the other side of the practice facility is No. 10 which is a similar length par-4 of 407 yards.

Just like TPC Sawgrass home of THE PLAYERS Championship holes Nos. 1 and 10 are similar challenges from a design perspective. Why do golf course architects do that?

They do it so there is no advantage during competitions whether a golfer goes off No.1 or No. 10. Another subtle world class design element of St Johns Golf and Country Club.

I quickly put myself in trouble with an errant drive on the scenic par-5 second hole. Though managing a bogey the beauty of the pond down the right side of No. 2 that goes on to frame the green of the par-3 third hole mesmerized me into a quick feeling of tranquility on the links.

Not the competitive perspective one needs to score on a difficult but fair golf course.

Though the promoted signature hole is likely to be the finishing 18th with an almost island like teeing area and the logoed bridge crossing this golfer thinks No. 4 is competitive in that regard.

Plus it was my only birdie of the day. Go figure that!

No. 4- the shortest par-4 on the golf course at 382 yards brings water into play off the tee on the right hand side. The water encapsulates the right half of the green which has a wooden bulkhead.

With a front right hole location my pitching wedge landed on the backboard behind the flagstick and zippered down past the hole leaving me the makeable 18-footer for birdie.

How exciting!

I am no Ben Crenshaw on the greens and the greens of St. Johns are no Augusta National but let me tell you taking 39 putts, 21 on the back nine is not my style.

Surely I was being distracted by something or someone?

To keep me in the game my lady golfer friend and I decided to engage into a match for the final five holes.

Brilliant or not so brilliant?

I am fortunate and happy to report the match ended in a draw with me winning the last with a 3-putt bogey. The logoed bridge depicted on the scorecard was like a bridge over troubled waters for me.

Though not winning the match it was my pleasure to buy lunch. The Grille Room is in a remarkable clubhouse and overlooks the 9th and 18th green complex.

As I sat there enjoying a tasty lunch and how lucky I was to win the final hole to draw the match to even I recalled coming out last year and watching some Q-School action around the Nos. 9 & 18 greens.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rod Curl the first full-blooded Native American to win a PGA TOUR event when he beat no one other than Jack Nicklaus down the stretch in the 1974 Colonial National Invitation.

His son Jeff advanced through the first round at St. Johns though he did not earn a 2009 TOUR card.

I remembered entering the clubhouse under the large clock as it struck high noon.

Isn’t it time for you to play St. Johns Golf & Country Club and find out where your game stands?

Or better yet take a lady friend and your best golfing buddy or two and enjoy the tranquility of an afternoon out on the links.

Situated equidistant from the hearts of Jacksonville and St. Augustine less than a mile off Interstate 95 its location is convenient whether or not you are on the road to the PGA TOUR.

Good golfing!

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel.

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. See more of Andy’s golf travel on his website Andy’s Golf & Travel Diary. Feel free to e-mail him to