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Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club near Jacksonville, Florida: A thinking man's course

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club, southwest of Jacksonville, demands a pause for complex calculations at every tee.

Designer Mark McCumber didn't hold anything back when it came to mounds, drop-offs, water and bunkers on this 27-hole course -- and that's just the fairways. The greens pose their own problems. All are severely sloped and quick. You're the billy goat and the green is the side of the mountain. They are that sloped.

One nine is closed until early July 2011, but the 18 that are open are more than enough to test your mettle.

Holes you'll remember include the second and third on the White Course, both with unexpected elevated tees. The second, a par 3, lays forests at the foot of the large tilted green. If your ball bounds into there, it won't be a pretty extraction. Conversely, if your ball is above the hole, good luck getting it to stop before it flies off the front.

The third hole is a dramatic par 4 that requires your drive to land -- and stop -- just so, or else it will trickle over a steep hill and into gnarly Bermuda rough. From there, another precise shot is needed down to an amply bunkered green 15 feet below.

No. 9 on Magnolia Point's White Course is another elevated tee down to a fairway interrupted by a marsh carry that beckons you to try to clear it with your second shot. The wiser play might be to lay up. Another wrinkle on the hole is a grassy pit right in front of the green. You know that gobbles up a good number of par chances.

Throughout the golf course there are ponds either at tees to suck in slices or near greens with the approaches tilting toward them. There are no free passes on this course. Each hole has an obstacle.

No. 4 on the Blue Course is an interesting par 4 with a green that rises above your head fronted by some fearsome bunkers and turf traps. The par 3s on the nine both include substantial drops to the greens. Calculating distance is a bit of a challenge, but fun.

The Blue Course concludes with a feisty par 4 with a sharp drop-off left and a ridge on the right of the narrow fairway. There are similar problems at the green, with a recessed bunker left and a mound right. It might be best to leave the driver in the bag on this one and approach gently from the right.

Magnolia Point is a course that you'll never master and you'll never want to stop trying. The length from the tips, no matter what combination of nines you play, is less than 7,000 yards and the front tees play less than 5,000. There are five tees from which to choose, three of them rated for women.

It's not a course that lends itself to walkers, but it's scenic where the houses play second fiddle to the course.

Off the course, the regal clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts enhance the country club atmosphere. Inside, jacketed staff provides excellent service in the dining room overlooking the course.

Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club is a classy facility with a formidable course. You won't be bored.

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