When images of Bluejack National last graced the OTL cover in the summer of 2017, we, like many media outlets hailed the resort-style community and its acclaimed Tiger Woods-designed golf course an “Instant Classic” and a “National Treasure.” We know… it isn’t ordinarily the journalist’s job to gush. However, when something in this centuries-old game and frankly-jaded industry defies convention as well as expectations, it’s our prerogative to pontificate right up to the edge of hyperbole.
And, Bluejack proved to be that paradigm destroyer we had heard it was. The golf course, while eliciting worthy visual and strategic comparisons to Augusta National, is a tremendous test of golf while simultaneously providing a fun, engaging round for every level of player. The member amenities are timely and inspirational reimagination of what a country club can mean to a family and its lifestyle as well as the hardcore golf enthusiast. When we last visited, Bluejack National’s recreational hub, The Fort was still under construction but was being described with great promise: visions of media rooms, resort style pools, stocked fishing lakes and a scale replica of Fenway park for kids and whiffle ball games all danced in their heads.
On our return visit in the fall of 2020, we were eager to see how many features in the masterplan became reality. Sure enough, one of the first things you see once you pass the friendliest community entry gate in the land is the Fort in all its technicolor glory. Mini Fenway is there, just as you’d imagined, not far from a 50-yard football field, complete with goal posts, and amenities for basketball, pickle ball and any sport you prefer.
The Water Park is just as festive and replete with waterslides and splashpads as we’d seen in the blueprint. The fishing and canoeing lake was there and we’re told fishing guide Matt Eno can expertly direct you to the trophy-size bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie and other native species in the communities numerous fishing spots. Fire pits and other gathering spots were spaced tastefully around the tranquil, and occasionally raucous, setting.
Indoor amenities at The Fort include walk-up dining, bowling lanes, media and game room as well as Pottery Room.
The brilliance of the plan is that while the recreational opportunities at Bluejack National are numerous, they’re not clustered in one claustrophobic footprint. They’re spaced and sprinkled out through various parts of this deeply forested community. Even at some of the revered major championship host venues I’ve had the fortune to play, you might hear the plunking of tennis balls nearby or distant splashing in a pool.
At Bluejack, space is understated yet abundant luxury and every attraction is in its proper place- even if it’s not where you might have expected it to be. I mean, who would have thought to put a Jerky Shack- modest terminology for the now semi-famous comfort station that smokes fine Texas-style smoke barbeque and made-to-order libations along with house-made jerky- right near the 12th tee of a golf course? Flipping geniuses. That’s who. The 12th is the all-carry par 3 that looks a lot like the 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, so the recently-expanded Jerky Shack turns out to be an ideal place to sit and relax.
“I talk to parents all the time about how it’s probably impossible for their kids to fully appreciate what an extraordinarily special place this is to grow up in and how they’ll look back fondly as they grow into the next generation of adults at Bluejack,” says president and general manager Brett Schoenfield. “I’ve worked in resorts and luxury properties for decades and there’s nothing that compares to the amenities here. It’s a special place and our team works hard to make it special day-in and day-out.”
Real estate has taken off in a huge way in this sprawling forest. The Members Suite section near The Place (home to the golf shop, dining grill and simulator lounge) and The Playgrounds short course is completely built out while Sunday Houses and Cottages are well on their way, too.
Single family homes and estate homes are popping up with impressive architectural features and a handsome, natural use of native wood and stone. The design is an elevated cottage aesthetic that blends seamlessly into the rich pine forest setting.
“The velocity of real estate and membership sales was strong in the beginning of this development and is really soaring now,” says Schoenfield. “We’ve learned that this is an ideal second home destination for families from all over the state and beyond, so the pre-built suites and cottages really move and offer the ultimate lock-and-leave experience that frees them up to enjoy the community and everything it has to offer.”
In an effort to consistently improve the member and resident experience, the Bluejack team has added the Lemon Drop refreshment station near the first tee and the state-of-the-art building at the back of the range called The Shed. This new amenity is a TaylorMade Premier Fitting Studio and also features cutting-edge video analysis cameras and feedback technology by V1 Sports. For Director of Instruction, Rich Barcelo- known throughout the pines as “Cutty”- this upscale teaching and fitting studio has translated to more lessons and more club fittings and a happier clientele. The day we were on property, more than member or staffer regaled us with the story of the 2020 club champion holing his winning putt and immediately shouting for joy “Go see Cutty!”
The members have strong golf IQs and are remarkably well taken care of when it comes to finely-tuned practice and game improvement offerings. In addition to the creation of The Shed, the back-of-range practice area has been reimagined to include a chipping green that closely resembles the greens on the course and teeing areas and bunkers are optimized for true-to-golf practice and learning.
Playing Bluejack National lives up to all the hype. The wide, Zoysia driving corridors fuel confidence and momentum, but quickly you learn that every angle matters on the course and just because you’ve recorded a hit fairway, it’s no guarantee your approach will be easy.
“Everyone has a chance off the tee. It’s interesting that you’ll probably shoot a similar score as you would on another great golf course- say somewhere on the Monterrey Peninsula. The difference is your score would add up from lost balls or tee shots you can’t find out there. Here at Bluejack, you spend strokes trying to negotiate the fantastic green complexes. If you can execute shots well from short-sided positions, you’ll be rewarded. That’s where a lot of fun and the character comes in,” Schoenfield says.
Shot selection matters most on these approaches, Barcelo, who held the course record with 63 before member and PGA TOUR driving-distance leader Cameron Champ carded a 62, adds. “Tiger and Beau Welling have made golf more fun. The intrigue is in the options you have into the green and around the green, not spending your time looking for golf balls. People are way more accepting of 6 or 7 when they feel like the shots were in their control. They chipped it up and it came back down the slope, or they hit a decent ship to the wrong side of the slope and three-putt. All that, versus not being able to carry it 200 yards over lake or not being able to find their ball in native rough right off the fairway adds up to a more enjoyable round,” Barcelo says.
The two nines close similarly, with near drivable par 4s at eight and 17 and brutally long and demanding par 4s to wrap up each nine. Our caddie told us groups spend more time on the diminutive 8th due to the steep fall-off on the right side of the green. “You see as many 8s as you do birdies,” he mused.
“I appreciate the variety in feel and characteristics you find with two distinct sets of nines. The key to a memorable golf course is the ability to sit down after the round and basically draw out the routing and talk about many of the characteristics. That’s the kind of course this is, for sure,” Shoenfield says.
“You need a great, creative wedge game to be successful. Six go pins, six no pins and six pins that are neutral, kind of a dealer’s choice. The green complexes are the golf courses defense to par.”
Bluejack has that hallmark characteristic of all great rounds in that when you reach the 18th tee, you’ve had so much fun and you’ve been so engaged in each shot, you’d swear you’ve only played 13 or 14 holes, that his bliss shouldn’t be fleeting so swiftly. Thankfully, there’s the opportunity for overtime at Bluejack National in the form of the wonderfully-fun 10-hole Playgrounds short course. It’s the perfect way to top off or start your golfing day.
Asked to explain why he thought his namesake television situation comedy has maintained such enduring popularity from its broad fanbase, legendary comedian and Seinfeld co-creator Jerry Seinfeld explained that his writing team and he had created what he’s come to describe as a “Happy Universe.” The notion speaks to why viewers might think they relate better to fictional characters than they do some of their own family members, why we desire to cozy up to the bar at the Regal Beagle, chill out at Central Perk or find ourselves wishing Twin Peaks was a real place. The Bluejack National team has created its own version of a Happy Universe. Once you enter the gates, whatever’s happening outside ceases to exist and you’re in a special kind of world that caters to all your favorite things.
There are four types of memberships at Bluejack National. Golf and Corporate Memberships provide access to all Club Facilities while Lifestyle Membership yield access to all Club Facilities, except for golf. National Memberships provide access to all Club Facilities, and are offered to those who live 200 miles from Bluejack National.
If you’re curious just how happy of universe they’re enjoying at Bluejack National and if you should join in that happiness, you owe it to yourself to check out this one-of-a-kind property. Visit www.BluejackNational.com for more information.
By Carl Mickelson