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First 12-hole course in Northeast Florida debuts at "The Yards"

In the place of the old Oak Bridge Club, The Yards promises to be "the social epicenter of Ponte Vedra"

Dave Miller never intended to get into the golf business when he made an acquisition of a note from a bank five years ago.

Although the golf course he had inherited -- Oak Bridge Club -- wasn't the go-to playing choice of many area golfers.

"That's a loose use of the word 'played' -- it was a goat track," Miller said of the former iteration.

"I went to the community and said the only option was to take six of the 18 holes -- the part that is adjacent to A1A -- and monetize that. And then take some of the proceeds off the monetization of that roughly 40 acres and pour it back into the golf course here."

Miller was able to do just that: an assisted living facility purchased that property and construction is underway.

But that left him with... a 12-hole golf course?

"They're becoming more and more popular. Tiger Woods has one going up -- Bluejack -- in Houston. There's abbreviated golf experiences across the country. I think you see one at The Cradle at Pinehurst (Georgia), I was just out at Sheep's Ranch at Bandon Dunes -- that's 13 holes," Miller explained. 

"Ours was done out of necessity. Everyone says 'oh it was a stroke of genius!' It really wasn't a stroke of genius!"

Although the idea of a 12-hole course was near-and-dear to Miller's heart:

"When I first endeavored for 12 holes and the community thought we were crazy, my battle cry was: I had a 10-year old daughter and I had an 85-year old father. And I was trying to keep him in the game of golf, and I was trying to get her into the game of golf, and neither one of them had 18 holes in the tank. 

"I think this is kind of that middle ground for young and old.”

And it's proven to be a middle ground for gentlemen and ladies. The Yards has 200 member slots, and of the 85 that have been filled so far, 40-percent of members are women.

“Because the abbreviated yardage – while it’s still about 3,400 yards on the front, this is a place where ladies can come out and not feel intimidated.”

While it is a 12-hole golf course in name, the set-up of The Yards provides plenty of flexibility. It can be modified to play as a 9-hole course; the "backyard" of the Clubhouse (whose restaurant is managed by 3 Palms Grille) is where the final three holes of the 12-hole course are located. That 3-hole loop can be modified to feature six holes in "the backyard" -- appropriately dubbed "The Beer Loop."

Then, there's the "Top Golf" option: a tee box is located right beside the clubhouse patio. Because The Yards' clubhouse (and the accompanying "backyard") can be closed for private events, the entire arena can be turned into a mini-Top Golf. 

Each of the holes feature "DNA" from various parties -- from "The Black Hole" on Hole 5 (akin to the Black Hole at historic, Riviera CC) to a hole partially-designed and inspired by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. Miller credits the PGA Tour for all their guidance with the development and up-keep of The Yards. 

Construction is also underway on a Members Party Barn and twelve pickleball courts.

"We're calling it 'the social epicenter of Ponte Vedra.' But it will really be a place you can come out, hang, get your car washed, bang a couple buckets of balls, take your kid out, and [have a great time]."

At a time when golf, a sport that can be played socially distant, is exploding, Miller believes The Yards will offer golfers of all expertise an opportunity -- for whatever they choose.

“I think we’re gonna pick up a lot of these people getting into the game, holding onto the game, or just want a little more of the game at a little more laxed environment”

For more information on how to become a member or day-rates, visit The Yards' website

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