Golf with ocean views may be returning to Amelia Island Plantation Resort in northeast Florida

Before it was closed last year, the Ocean Links Course at Amelia Island Plantation had five holes with views of the Atlantic Ocean.

It looks like there might be a golf course with ocean views at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in northeast Florida after all.

In a lawsuit filed by Amelia Island Equity Club against the resort, a Nassau County judge recently ordered the resort to restore the closed Omni Ocean Links Course. Judge Steven Fahlgren ruled that the resort violated an agreement it had to maintain the course and it must restore the course to "the condition that existed on November 12, 2017, by not later than October 31, 2019."

Without warning, the course closed last November when the Omni began bulldozing some of the holes on the course with a plan to turn the Ocean Links Course, which had five holes with ocean views, into a park. The work stopped a few days later when The Amelia Island Equity Club won a temporary injunction against The Omni to prevent any further damage to the golf course

Omni management, according to reports, contended that the Ocean Links Course “denigrated the reputation of the resort as a quality golf destination” and that “maintaining a golf course for less than 1,000 rounds per year of club member play is not sustainable and is not required by the agreement.” In other words, it wasn't getting enough play and wasn't profitable. Instead, the Omni said it was focusing more on the other course at the resort there, the highly regarded Pete Dye-designed Oaks Marsh Course.

And Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts has plenty of other golf interests, too. For example, the Omni will operate the new PGA resort planned in Texas when the PGA of America moves its headquarters to Frisco near Dallas in the next couple of years. The Omni is also an official marketing partner of the PGA Tour. And it's also in the midst of an extensive renovation of its 72-hole Austin golf resort, Omni Barton Creek.

But according to the plaintiff, The Omni agreed to provide and maintain two championship caliber golf courses as part of an agreement when in 2010 the Omni acquired the property out of bankruptcy from the Amelia Island Company.

In the end, according to a story that ran in the Fernandina Beach News-Leader, the judge ruled that the agreement between the Omni and the Club is “unambiguous.”

“The Agreement does not permit Omni to unilaterally close the Ocean Links golf course, but rather requires the Club’s written consent to do so,” according to Fahlgren’s “Final Judgment Granting Permanent Injunction and Specific Performance.”

“When Omni unilaterally closed the Ocean Links golf course, it breached its obligations under the Agreement to the Club and the Club’s Members. Omni destroyed the Ocean Links golf course without notice, and in a manner to accomplish the destruction before the Club had an opportunity to obtain judicial relief.

"Florida law will not permit Omni to benefit from this misconduct," he added, according to the News-Leader report.

The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is planning to appeal the ruling and released this statement: "We are disappointed in the court's final ruling. Our vision continues to be to create a park-like setting for the entire Amelia Island Plantation community to enjoy."

Amelia Island Equity Club’s attorney, Stephen Busey, was quoted in the News-Leader, saying, "Justice has been done. They tried to get away with doing this in the middle of the night. Our case has been proven successful. You can’t profit from wrongdoing."

The Ocean Links Course, while quirky, was one of just a handful of golf courses on the Florida east coast with true views of the Atlantic. Located about an hour from Jacksonville, the Pete Dye-Bobby Weed designed course was just 6,100 yards, but it had some very picturesque holes right around the hotel. Besides Amelia Plantation's Oak Marsh Course, there are four other golf courses on the island -- Fernandina Beach Golf Course, Amelia River Club, Long Point and The Golf Club at Amelia Island at Summer Beach (Ritz-Carlton) .

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
22 Comments
Commented on

My wife and I loved this course so much. I can't believe the Omni would destroy such a beautiful course. It was a bit selling point on our coming to this resort. I hope it comes back.

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Any chance of an update on this story ?

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We use to play all the courses on that island every year in December, January and February, but traveling by air to the USA has stopped us from going to the USA for golf, we now travel to the Caribbean for golf, we always played there up to 2011, and traveling by plane just became to difficult, we had 40 or more in our traveling party annually, in Canada we can’t play all year, we always played in Florida for 3 months, the last time we played that course, all of Florida was under a frost warning in February 2011, we never traveled anywhere in the USA to golf again, flying over top of Florida to the Caribbean is much easier,, so do whatever you like to do to our favourite golf courses on that island,

We are again playing in the Caribbean as we speak,

Thanks for the memories, but good bye!!

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I played the course in 2017 and was looking forward to making the trip and playing it every year. That first look of the ocean sneaks up on you, and is spectacular.
I'm looking forward to returning in 2019.

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"Memberships That Pay" Wherever 'Initiation Fees', be it "Equity" or "non Equity" are treated as, "fully refundable deposited funds" the membership is never exposed to abuses such as we now see happening between Omni / Amelia Island Plantation Resort & its Equitable Members.
Truth be told, in 2007, the membership of AIPR was presented with the philosophy of managing memberships, it declined the services saying, 'that can't be legal'.
A decade, 100 courses & thousands of managed memberships later The Golf Firm / Pin Seeker Members is creating & delivering revenues w/o front-end load to its members. And we'd love to do the same for 'Amelia Island Equity Club'...or, should the club wish a buyer who respects their equity positions we'd appreciate that opportunity.

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Great article

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Nice course, glad to see it may return. Kind of a whacky layout but always a challenge, especially the oceanside holes!

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Hurray for golf. Too many courses closing due to greed.

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Justice prevails!
The Ocean Course is fun and a good test for all golfers.
Looking forward to playing it again in October '19!

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Is this course open to the public or members only?
Thanks.

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1000 rounds was member play only, not including Omni guest or public play. Members of the Amelia Island club have a fully private course (Long Point) which is the primary play venue. However, access to a high-quality semi-private course could be very important to the club to support outings at Long Point, club events, or long-term course maintenance.

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Golf with ocean views may be returning to Amelia Island Plantation Resort in northeast Florida