Ask Craig Schoninger, director of sales and marketing at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, about what makes the 93-year-old property so special, and you’re likely to get this one-word answer: “Legacy.”
“We have a tremendous legacy,” Schoninger said. “We have an amazing group of employees, many of whom have been here 25, 30 and even 40 years. And we do a lot of legacy business. Families have been coming here since their grandparents brought them 50 years ago. Those children end up getting married here and bringing their children here.”
Located 20 miles from downtown Jacksonville and two hours from Orlando, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and The Lodge & Club Ponte Vedra Beach each bookend a wide, 1.5 mile stretch of beach on the Atlantic Ocean. The sister properties and Ponte Vedra Beach each have grown up together. Ponte Vedra Beach, for example, started out as a pre-World War I mining town called Mineral City.
The town’s name was officially changed to Ponte Vedra – an old Galician name for “old bridge’’ in 1934, – some six years after British golf champion Herbert Bertram Strong built a nine-hole course for the National Lead Company, which owned the land.
The story goes that the National Lead Company wanted a luxury destination that rivaled Sea Island Georgia’s Cloister hotel. Thus, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club was born.
“Ponte Vedra Beach really has grown around the club,” Schoninger said.
And Ponte Vedra Inn & Club has grown into is one of the top resort destinations and private clubs in the Southeast, featuring three swimming pools and more than a dozen dining options.
The majority of its 262 guest rooms open directly to the beach, with easy access to some of the Florida’s best sand; the Lodge and Club (66 guest rooms and suites) has four restaurants; guests of each property have reciprocal access to the other’s amenities; the 30,000-square-foot Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is largest in Northeast Florida. and the Racquet Club at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, features 15 Har-Tru courts and is generally recognized as the top resort tennis facility in Florida.
“The resort and club are all-encompassing,” Schoninger said. “We have so many things to offer. What makes it special is having all of these things together.”
The Ocean and Lagoon golf courses put the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club over the top, particularly with the recent renovation of the Ocean Course. Part of Strong’s original nine-hole layout, the Ocean Course opened as an 18-hole course in 1931. Legendary architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr., renovated it in 1947 and Bobby Weed, a protégé of another legendary architect – Pete Dye – renovated the Ocean Course in 1998.
Weed again did the honors on the course’s 2020 renovation, which include an expanded practice area, updating of the infrastructure and creation of a new hole on the back nine – the par-3, 13th.
The former par-4, 10th hole was eliminated, allowing for the construction of the new 13th hole on the north end of the property. With this change, the Ocean Course, which re-opened in September 2020, now plays 6,718 yards from the tips yards to par of 71.
Weed also has done some enhancement work on the Lagoon Course (6,022 yards, par 70), originally designed by Jones and Joe Lee. Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s second test of golf is the par-70 6,022-yard Lagoon Course. The course is accented by tall pines, palms, and ancient oaks, which form the contour of its narrow fairways. The inspiration for its name, the course’s dominant feature is its lakes and lagoons.
“We’ve seen an increase in (play) and more important, an increase in player satisfaction from members as well as resort guests,’’ since the re-opening of the Ocean Course. “The re-opening also happened to coincide with a time that people began getting outside and playing more golf and tennis. We’ve seen an increase in demand for each, but certainly the Ocean Course has been a key component in driving that demand.”