SAWGRASS MARRIOTT RESORT, Ponte Vedra, Florida
By Cynthia Kulikov Haddad
Cynthia is a Los Angeles-based writer.
Located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the spectacular 4,800-acre Sawgrass Marriott Resort manages to be many resorts in one without compromising comfort or quality.
The grounds of the resort are truly stunning. Surrounded by 15 acres of lagoons, waterfalls, moss-laden water oaks, giant magnolias and twisted palms, it's no surprise that the hotel is a popular setting for weddings.
The Dramatic Lobby Window
And the resort is world renown for its 99 holes of golf on five championship courses.
It's a family resort: The 350 acres of freshwater lakes and ponds on the property afford great fishing and are perfect for nature hikes, jogging, and long walks.
It's a tennis resort: Since it's the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour International Headquarters, tennis buffs can choose from 17 courts with four different playing surfaces.
It's a beach resort: With the recent acquisition of the beachfront Cabana Club on two-and-one-half miles of private Atlantic coastline, Sawgrass guests can now enjoy all of the amenities to be found beachside.
The 324 water-view guest rooms and 24 suites inside the main hotel are situated around a dramatic 70-foot atrium with skylight, and enjoy the same spectacular view showcased by the lobby's enormous picture-window.
Rooms are spacious, immaculate and tastefully decorated with blond wood furnishings, creamy, textured wallpaper, sofa-beds, golf paintings, and private balconies. The bathrooms are granted ample counter space, adjustable-spray showers in bathtubs, full-length mirrors and well-stocked mini-bars .
On the other side of the lagoon are the Island Green Villas, 80 suites and 80 guest rooms which can be combined to make two-bedroom suites. The villas are more like apartments, with kitchens, living rooms, and deep balconies.
This is the Official Hotel of the Tournament Players Club (TPC) at Sawgrass, home to the PGA Tour and The Players' Championship, and home for professional golfers such as Blaine McAllister, Sandy Lyle and Frank Lickliter. Pro-golfers who use the resort as their home base include Vijah Singh, David Dural, Jim Furyk and Rocco Mediate.
17th Hole, Stadium Course
Besides allowing guests access to the TPC courses which are otherwise private, the resort is perhaps most famous for being the home of the "17th hole," a par-3 island green on the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course that is the most photographed hole in the world and the subject of countless golf-themed paintings. Over 120,000 golf balls are fished out of the lake of hole No. 17 each year.
The other TPC at Sawgrass course is the par-72 Valley Course, with 18 holes designed by Pete Dye and Jerry Pate.
The Sawgrass Country Club Course offers 27 holes in a mix of nines, the Marsh Landing Country Club Course lends a front and back nine, and the par-70 Oak Bridge Club Course completes the 99 holes of golf.
Even though it enjoys size and status, the resort's high standards are evident in the numerous accolades it has received, such as a Gold Medal from Golf Magazine and a rating as the "Number One Golf Resort Value in America" from Money Magazine.
Better Homes and Gardens has included Sawgrass in their "Top 50 Favorite Family Resorts." Children ages three to 12 can join the Grasshopper Gang children's program which has daily supervised activities such as shell jewelry design and "Pizza and Splash" parties. Parents can also enjoy a quiet evening alone by signing up for a "Kid's Night Out." There are also three swimming pools, two kiddie pools, two whirlpools, a children's jungle-gym park There are also three swimming pools, two kiddie pools, two whirlpools, a children's jungle-gym park, biking, miniature golf, horseback riding, a fitness center with steam room, sauna, aerobics and aqua-dynamics, and a spa with an array of facials and massages. Veteran masseuse Muriel Hattori has expertly massaged into putty the muscles of pros and amateurs alike for the last eight years.
Children's Play Area
At the beachfront Cabana Club, Hobie cats, boogie boards, sand volleyball and beach bicycles are available for those who want to do more than just work on their tan, and the shoreline horseback rides are a real treat. The guides are adept at matching people up with the right horse and provide excellent instruction so that even the novice can enjoy a relaxing ride along the coast.
Knowing that guests are bound to work up an appetite with so much activity, the resort has six restaurants and two lounges. The Cabana Club offers sun-lovers three choices: Sharkey's for snacks, The Sea Porch, a casual bar and grill, and on the upper level, Oceanview, for elegant dinners with romantic sunsets in view. After playing the other 99, there are burgers to be had at The 100th Hole, a poolside café overlooking the lagoon's alligators, turtles and ducks. Café on the Green hosts all-day casual dining and choice buffets at breakfast and lunch.
Whole Fish with Ponzu
The mix of pine green walls, mahogany, glass, and oil paintings of famous golf moments render an upscale clubhouse atmosphere to The Augustine Grille. Here one can experiment with eclectic fusion dishes such as Crabcake Porcupine with Saffron Aioli, and Sizzling Whole Fish with Ponzu, or indulge in superb steaks and chops cut from naturally aged Midwestern grain-fed cattle.
For late night entertainment there is Champs, the in-house nightclub, and Cascades, an intimate lounge in the lobby with waterfalls, a panoramic view and live piano music. And if you want a true pina colada, on staff is Ricardo Gracia, the man responsible for creating the original recipe back in 1954.
For the truly ambitious, a day can be spent in nearby St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Founded in 1565, this lovely, historic city is best toured via horse-drawn carriage. Popular sites include the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (also known as Fort Marion), the Presbyterian Church styled after St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy, and the many "living" history museums along the narrow pedestrian streets downtown, which have reenactments of what daily life was like back then.
With a great location, beautiful grounds, status golf, private beach club, fabulous dining and an incredible variety of activities, the Sawgrass Marriott Resort has succeeded in creating a destination experience that offers top value to vacationers and business travelers alike.
All photos ©Cynthia Kulikov Haddad