Course Review: Juliette Falls (FL)

Juliette Falls Course Rankings:

GolfWeek: #18 Florida public

Designer: John Sanford (2008)

Southwest Airlines has a bags-fly-free policy, which includes golf bags, and it was certainly my intention during a recent family dive trip to Florida to take advantage of it.

Staying at a vacation rental home on the Rainbow River in Dunnellon, I was hopeful there would be a nice course or two in the area. With more than 2,000 courses in the state, chances were good there would be something around, but boy was I impressed with what Dunnellon, a town of 1,740 residents, has to offer.

Located just minutes from the house, Juliette Falls was named to Golf Magazine’s top ten new courses in the country list of 2008, and has been ranked as one of GolfWeek’s top eleven courses in Florida for the past three years.

Sprawling over 546 acres of land (including 540 home sites), John Sanford was told to create the best 18 holes the terrain had to offer, and did an exceptional job. With five sets of tees and tips (the “Viking” tees, named for the Viking, LLC development company) that stretch to 7,236 yards (75.4 rating, 143 slope), the track transforms from challenging to damn near impossible.

Adding to the challenge for me, personally, was that I was playing my first rounds with the new Bushnell V3 Tour rangefinder and failed to realize that it was set up for meters instead of yards. I was coming up short constantly, and did not realize that fact until the tenth hole of my second round. Amateur hour – I know.

The natural mounding on Juliette Falls is terrific, with large sand traps and natural hazards that beg to be avoided. The water features are beautiful, and the conditions were much better than I’d expected for March in Florida. Having said that, the only thing I did not love was the low, dormant rough. Being March in Florida, I can’t imagine there is anything that can be done about that.

Juliette Falls has some very memorable holes. Their par threes are exceptional, especially, staged well on two of them by those gorgeous water features.

Everything I have said so far is obviously positive, but this next part just seems crazy… Juliette Falls’ prime time rates are just $48! Yes, while being a course that is rated the eleventh best out of more than 2,000 in the state, Juliette Falls charges $48 or less per round. I had the pleasure of playing with a member there during my second round, Dave, and he was telling me his full golf membership is actually under $4,000 per year. This place is a phenomenal value.

With a busy vacation schedule, I did not have the opportunity to use the course’s ten-acre practice facility, but it looked very nice, as well, including a full driving range, chipping greens, practice bunkers and two putting greens.

The course starts off with a slight left-to-right, uphill par four. Sand traps line the left side of the fairway, as well as that side of the green. A good drive here sets up a great opportunity to start successfully on this two-tiered green.

Hole 1: Par 4 (382/344/334/297/267)
A medium-distance par five, the second drives straight away before a strong right angle to the green area. This is one of the smaller greens on the course, and breaks heavily from front to back beyond the front-left green-side bunker.
Hole 2: Par 5 (530/507/466/450/428)
Hole 2: Par 5 (530/507/466/450/428)
Hole 2: Par 5 (530/507/466/450/428)
The first par three at Juliette Falls is a good one. At 181 yards from the white tees (239 from the Vikings, and 220 from the Platinum tees), a huge wasteland runs along the right side of the green complex. Stay left off the tee here, as anything short and left is sure to run on and toward the middle of the putting surface.
Hole 3: Par 3 (239/220/181/162/126)
A long par four, the fourth hole is a dogleg left that should be hit with a three- or five-wood to find the bend in the fairway. Stay away from the sand that runs the left side of the approach area, as well as the traps right on the soft ascent uphill.
Hole 4: Par 4 (436/425/378/336/285)
With a split fairway around 175 yards, the fifth hole drives to either side of a huge stand-alone tree that separates the left from right side. The right-side fairway leaves a shorter shot in, while the left still allows for a clean lie, if pulled to avoid the treeline right. A podium of a green falls off strongly on the right side, while the left has two traps that are sure to catch anything short that way.
Hole 5: Par 4 (442/397/378/348/314)
The sixth is one of my favorite holes at Juliette Falls. With a sizable carry over water, the fairway runs from right to left and demands less than driver if faded. The second shot is long and uphill, and with huge sand traps residing below the elevated green is nearly impossible to hit in two. The green complex looks miniscule from the fairway, but is actually quite large when reached.
Hole 6: Par 5 (575/530/517/482/404)
Hole 6: Par 5 (575/530/517/482/404)
The seventh is a gorgeous par three. At 164 yards, the entire middle to right side of the green is over water. The left side is more accessible, but flirts with the two traps found on that side.
Hole 7: Par 3 (210/191/164/137/113)
The eighth is one of the signature holes at Juliette Falls, and features a deep quarry beneath the right side of the green area. The tee shot is less than driver to the right-to-left bend, then downhill.
Hole 8: Par 4 (446/424/392/377/326)
Hole 8: Par 4 (446/424/392/377/326)
Hole 8: Par 4 (446/424/392/377/326)
The ninth is a really cool little downhill par four. With tall trees lining the left side of the driving area, I was forced to hit hybrid both times playing it, each time finding the waste area on the right side of the fairway. A large pond fronts the green, leaving a carried wedge to a sprawling, multi-tiered green complex.
Hole 9: Par 4 (355/320/306/278/241)
Hole 9: Par 4 (355/320/306/278/241)
Hole 9: Par 4 (355/320/306/278/241)
With elevated tee boxes behind the clubhouse, the drive on ten is picturesque and to a fairway that eventually runs uphill and left. The tree on the left beyond the pond was a good aiming point for my fade, but left a tough uphill tee shot that had to carry four deep fairway bunkers.

The first time I played Juliette Falls, with my brother-in-law, Geoff, I found the second-to-last of these traps leaving about 30 yards uphill to the green. Catching the shot way too cleanly, I actually hit the top of a tree well past and left of the green, only to carom right and just past the pin. After shooting 42 on my first real nine holes of the season on the right, it was looking like a very promising round, for sure.

Hole 10: Par 4 (407/368/358/319/292)
A short par five, the eleventh has a lot of bite. The tee shot is through woods, and must avoid sand on both sides of the driving zone. Rolling mounds are found throughout the fairway, and can leave some tricky lies. The green complex is beautiful, with a bevy of deep traps on all sides.
Hole 11: Par 5 (520/502/465/450/409)
Hole 11: Par 5 (520/502/465/450/409)
Twelve was probably the toughest hole on the course for me. At 408 yards from the platinum tees, the driving zone is tight and requires precision. This caused me to club down, of course, to avoid hitting the trees on my tee shot’s ascent. A sharp dogleg right climbs uphill to a massive putting surface that is sharply contoured in the front-left.
Hole 12: Par 4 (455/408/382/355/286)
Another tough par three, the thirteenth is all carry for any pin location toward the middle or right side of the green. Surrounded on three sides of the green by water, the only bailout here is short and right.
Hole 13: Par 4 (189/168/147/126/104)
Fourteen was the last hole I played during my second round, and was a great hole to end on. With a bombed drive down the middle of the fairway (this is a bombs-away driving hole), I found myself with 240 in and hit a 5-wood to about ten yards in front of the green. I then over-spun my approach, but holed out from 25 feet for birdie and a very content drive back to the clubhouse.
Hole 14: Par 5 (595/574/526/492/466)
The fifteenth is a beautiful uphill par four, with sand everywhere. Relatively short in distance, hit your most accurate club off the tee to leave a comfortable distance in to this elevated green.
Hole 15: Par 4 (374/338/322/280/242)
Hole 15: Par 4 (374/338/322/280/242)
Sixteen is a fairly straight-forward par three, for Juliette Falls. With no huge water features to avoid, and a distance of 183 yards, the green is fairly accessible albeit narrow and heavily sloped.
Hole 16: Par 3 (208/194/183/158/145)
Seventeen is a tough par four! The fairway is split down the middle by a long waste area, then back downhill before an elevated green complex that is fronted by a massive bunker. This was the straightest drive I had all day, of course, since the right side or left side is good but the center of the fairway is trouble.
Hole 17: Par 4 (415/375/362/327/280)
Hole 17: Par 4 (415/375/362/327/280)
My brother-in-law’s huge tee shot on hole 17
Juliette Falls ends in great fashion, with a straightaway tee shot slightly downhill, then slight turn to the right. Water lines the right side of the green area, which slopes toward the water. One of the best water features on the entire course is found at the end of eighteen, with two huge ponds and cascading waterfall.
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/444/408/373/343)
Hole 18: Par 4 (458/444/408/373/343)
Juliette Falls is a gorgeous and well-maintained golf course, but even more than that it is one of the absolute best values I have found anywhere. If you find yourself in the Dunnellon area, this is a must-play.
Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Dunnellon, FL
Yardage: Viking-7,236, Platinum-6,729, White-6,269, Gold-5,747, Red-5,071
Slope/Rating: Viking-143/75.4, Platinum-139/72.6, White-130/70.4, Gold-124/67.8, Red-123/69.3
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $48

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