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Golf Club at South Hampton in St. Augustine: Truly a family affair

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The Golf Club at South Hampton had always been a popular track in the northeast Florida area, but now with new owners, better conditioning and a family atmosphere, play is picking up even more.

In March, DWA Golf bought the 6,552-yard golf course and clubhouse from Crescent Resources. DWA Golf is a family business headed up by founder Wally DiStefano. His sons, Derek and Willy DiStefano, are PGA Professionals and managing partners, and Derek came over from Golf Club at North Hampton in Yulee to get things rolling.

'We really try to create a family atmosphere here,' said Derek DiStefano.

Indeed, from the time you check in to the starter, everyone seems to know your name (kind of like 'Cheers'). And the golf course is pretty friendly as well.

With wide fairways and only forced carries for the low handicap players, this Mark McCumber design really is a golf course for all abilities. There are seven sets of tees, including a burgundy set designed for juniors that plays only 2,846 yards.

There are 16 lakes and more than 60 bunkers on the course, so it's not devoid of trouble. There are also plenty of tree-lined fairways, doglegs and quick, large, undulating greens.

On the par-4 18th, for example, players on the back two sets of tees will have to carry wetlands to the fairway that doglegs left. Move up, though, and you've got a straight shot, free to hit the ball on the ground if you like.

It's like that on 16 as well, but for the most part, the landing areas are so big that you have to be pretty wild off the tee not to find a suitable lie for your second shot.

If you do play it from the back, though, expect plenty of challenge. There are two par 3s more than 200 yards and some three-shot par 3s (for most players), such as the 571-yard 17th. The tee calls for a shot left of a large lake, then the hole doglegs around a tree-lined fairway to a raised and sloping green. Par is a good score.

The clubhouse for this semi-private club has an inviting bar and grill, with a good selection of bottled beer and drafts and excellent food. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and draws from golfers and non-golfers alike.

The Golf Club at South Hampton golf shop is also well stocked, and the staff is very friendly and helpful.

The club features a grass range and putting greens. Lessons are available from the professional staff.

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