Golf Series: What Golfers Deserve Close to Home In Crestview

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Blackwater Golf ClubBy Barbara Palmgren

Okaloosa County is a diverse place, indeed. I have taught a class for several years for seniors at the Center for Life Long Learning called “The Museum Trail.” We explore each of the nine museums beginning with the Destin Fishing Museum and ending with one farthest north, the Baker Block Museum. I’m amazed that folks living near the coast have never stopped to visit shops and venues in the Crestview and Baker area. When they do, they learn, for the first time, that cotton is grown and agricultural products are part of a sustainable industry for this area.

As I began writing my golf series for our local paper, I followed the same format. I started with the golf courses along the Emerald Coast and now move to a special place at the north end of the county, Blackwater Golf Club.

A short history lesson first. In 1915 the Florida House of Representatives approved the creation of a new county from the existing counties of Santa Rosa and Walton. The county was named after a steamboat called “The Okaloosa,” a Choctaw word meaning black water. The diverse ecosystem of darker river waters in the north end of the county contrast with the emerald green waters and sugar white sands of Destin and Fort Walton Beach. It reminds me of the song, “Black Water” by the Dobbie Brothers. I’ll change a few of the lyrics:

Well, if it rains, I don’t care
Don’t make no difference to me.
Just take my old 9 iron out
Par the hole and get on down.
Gonna make everything all right
Gonna make everything all right
Old black water, keep on rollin’
Crestview moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me?
Keep on shinin’ on me.

I interviewed an old friend, Mykal Bailey, a former assistant pro at Shalimar Pointe Golf Course. Now, assistant general manager and head golf professional at Blackwater Golf Club, Mykal graciously shared information about the course that’s been renovated to become the family friendly destination in the Crestview area. Mykal has local roots, playing baseball at Choctawhatchee High School and then at LBW college in Andalusia. Always a fan of golf, a physical injury ended hope of pursuing baseball after college, but led him to another sport and work in the golf industry.

Always impressed with Mykal at Shalimar Pointe, I can attest that Blackwater Golf Club, formerly Foxwood Country Club, is in good hands. Again, back to a little history. Foxwood Country Club in Crestview was built in 1961 with a golf course, pool and tennis courts. Whatever economic circumstances led to it being closed in 2017, the City of Crestview purchased the property in 2019 and began renovating with plans to reopen in 2021.

Working with Kansas-based Mammoth Sports Construction, repairs included replacing irrigation lines, improving drainage and reshaping and re-sodding the course’s greens. Having visited and played the course when it was Foxwood, I was delighted to view the changes that were made, not only to the course, but also to the clubhouse area as well.
Now partnering with Great Life Golf, a management company, Blackwater Golf Club is a new and exciting venue. If you are not a golfer, there are other opportunities for enjoying sports. A tennis and pickleball court are located next to a large outdoor eating space with welcoming fireplace and a full bar. Inside, the Eagle’s Nest restaurant advertises itself as a “gastro pub like no other.” This warm embrace of the local community is felt by members as well as the public who visit, especially at Sunday Brunch. How do you choose between a classic breakfast and shrimp & grits? Or do I just enjoy delicious eggs benedict?

Focusing on the golf course itself, Blackwater is a Par 72, 18-hole course, with tee box markers denoting the most challenging distances as well as user friendly markers for high handicap players. Ideal for every skill level, public play is welcome along as reasonable membership fees for those who support the game of golf. Mykal’s favorite hole is number 3. A Par 5, with a creek that surrounds it. The club is doing well again, in part due to its unique offering—the “sports bragging rights” of the virtual golf experience, the Blackwater Driving Range.

The Blackwater Driving Range combines golf with a video-game experience that’s fun for all ages. With 14 individual hitting bay stalls with Top Tracer technology, get ready to experience golf in an exciting way. Imagine teeing up, hitting your drive and tracking the golf shot as it travels down the third fairway at Pebble Beach. Yes, your shot is correlated with a famous course you are playing, like Pebble Beach. It’s fantasy golf, of course, but who doesn’t like a little fantasy in their life?

A virtual golf experience like no other for every member of the family, sounds like a great family outing, doesn’t it? And after achieving par on Pebble Beach, one can always be awarded with a signature libation at the clubhouse.

Life is good at the north end of the county.