Juliette Falls in Dunnellon, FL gets its name from an early settlement town founded back in 1845. It’s set on an old phosphate mine site and was one of the first English-speaking communities in Florida’s Marion County.
The Juliette Falls Golf & Spa Community boasts 540 golf home sites on 546 acres; 136 acres of which are part of a nature preserve. The nature preserve offers residents some great recreational opportunities, with 5 miles of trails that are perfect for walkers, bikers, and hikers. Most homes are concrete block with stucco and floor plans that range from 3 to 6 bedrooms and 1,500 to over 7,000 square feet. Garbage collection, satellite TV, high-speed Internet, and lawn maintenance are all included in the monthly HOA fees.
I’ve always been amazed by how a golf course designer is able to stare at a massive piece of property and decide what goes where, but that’s exactly what John Sanford and his team did. Their overall focus was to be gentle on the environment and Sanford was able to take a portion of the 546 acres of equestrian land on the outskirts of Ocala and carve out a sensational parkland-style golf course with an abundance of pine and oak trees, palmetto forests, sand traps, and beautiful, lush fairways.
Many of the property’s large, mature oak trees remained and were used to frame holes. Sanford was able to use the gently rolling terrain and incorporate several appealing waste bunkers and dotted them with wire grasses and a variety of shrubbery. Shortly after Sanford created this golfing masterpiece in Dunnellon, FL, Golfing Magazine named it one of the “Top 10 New Courses You Can Play.” The course was also ranked #4 by WorldGolf.com in their “Best Under-Publicized Golf Courses in Florida” list In 2016.
Shortly after the PGA Show this past January, I made my way up to Dunnellon to play at Juliette Falls Golf Club with a couple of my wife’s friends, Deb and Pat. Deb grew up in California and is a very accomplished and fairly intense golfer. Currently, she is the Women’s Club Champion and Senior Women’s Club Champion at her home course in North Tampa. Pat is also a good golfer and doesn’t take the game nearly as seriously. Plain and simple, she has fun.
From the back tees, Juliette Falls plays 7,236 yards with a course rating of 75.4 and a slope of 143. The White Tees will give most golfers all they can handle from 6,269 yards (70.4/130) and still allow them to leave with some dignity. Ladies will have an enjoyable time playing the Red Tees (5,071/69.3/123). Five sets of tee boxes make Juliette Falls fun and challenging for all golfers who choose to play from the set of tees that best suits their game.
As we made our way around the course, Deb saw some remarkable similarities to courses she’s played in North Carolina and California. For starters, as you pull into the golf course, the parking lot is surrounded by pine trees and the staff is quite welcoming; the bag drop area reminded her of Tobacco Road Golf Club in Sanford, NC, on the outskirts of the Village of Pinehurst, as did several holes on the back nine with their pine straw-lined cart paths that wind around the rustic mountain and Tudor cottage homes. The waterfalls, with their unique natural rock design and surrounding vegetation, reminded her of courses in Palm Springs.
There are several interesting holes on the golf course. The par 3, 147-yard 13th hole is aptly dubbed “The Falls,’ and is the course’s signature hole. According to the scorecard, it’s the shortest – and easiest – hole on the course. Water guards the left side of the green and wraps all the way around the back. The green is long, narrow, and well-undulated. If you miss that par putt, look at the waterfall behind the green and you’ll forget all about your score.
The par 5, 6th hole, “Reflection Lake,” plays 517 yards and is the first hole where water comes into play. For most, the water really isn’t an obstacle and requires only a short carry to get past it behind. Playing down the right side of the fairway off the tee takes the long waste bunker on the left out of play. Then, playing your layup shot across the fairway to the left side sets up the best angle for an approach into the green. Your approach shot is uphill to an elevated green that can be hard to hold. With all the roll in the green, a two-putt is good. Chipping back from over the green is rarely a good thing!
Your round at Juliette Falls concludes with Viking Challenge,” a 408-yard, par 4 that plays slightly downhill and takes two well-struck shots to reach the green in regulation. If the distance is a little more than you can handle in two shots, playing down the left side of the fairway will take the water on the right side of the green out of play. The sand on the left and water on the right make this the most challenging hole on the back nine.
In addition to one of Florida’s top public golf courses, Juliette Falls has some of the best practice facilities. Their 10-acre practice facility makes practice fun and you can stay from dawn until dusk. The practice facility includes a state-of-the-art turf range with multiple target greens and bunkers. Directly behind the driving range is a short game area complete with a practice bunker and a huge, undulating putting green that helps prepare you for what you’re about to encounter.
The clubhouse features a pro shop with logoed apparel from a variety of top-name manufacturers as well as some wild designs from up-and-coming apparel companies! If hunger gets the better of you, the kitchen serves up some great sandwiches and burgers, just don’t ask for a side of fries! Juliette Falls has gone the healthier route and deep-sixed their deep fryers. Healthier sides include potato salad, coleslaw, and kettle-cooked potato chips. Juliette Falls also offers specialty dinners twice a month: Prime Rib on the first Friday and a “Chef’s Specialty” Dinner Menu on the 3rd Friday of each month. The bar has several beers on tap and serves all of your favorite mixed drinks.
Juliette Falls draws players from a couple of large markets; it’s about an hour north of Orlando and less than 2 hours from Tampa. As a resident, you’ll find that Juliette Falls is more about a lifestyle than about a place to live or a place to play golf. And, while the community and clubhouse suggest a more laid-back feel, the course is anything but. Pick the tees that best suit your handicap and you’re guaranteed a fun – and challenging – round. The course is well-manicured, and the greens roll true. Most holes have plenty of room off the tee, setting up what Juliette Falls is all about – the second shot. For more information on becoming a resident or to book your next round, give them a call at (352) 522-0309 or visit them online at www.juliettefalls.com.