Archive for May, 2012

Palm Beach Golf Resorts Offer Savings

Palm Beach resorts are offering discount packages, a couple of which involve golf.

- PGA National Resort and Spa is offering summer escape and play package through Sept. 30.
 
Packages start at $79 a night and include unlimited daily golf on the Palmer, Haig, Squire or Estates golf courses, but not the marquee course, the Champion. You also get free replays, golf club storage, unlimited practice range balls and a discount at the David Leadbetter Golf Clinic.
 
The deal also includes daily breakfast in the Citrus Tree restaurant, and access to the Waters of the World mineral pool at the spa.
 
- The Breakers has a special package that involves discounts at its Ocean course. The packages start at $298 per night and include free continental daily breakfast every day, admission to the spa and Oceanview fitness center and unlimited tennis. Also, children eat free off the children's menu when dining with adults and also have access to the Breakers kids' camp.
 
The famed Rees Jones designed course at the resort is not part of the package.

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Sugar Mill Country Club is a Shapely Beauty

Sugar Mill Country Club is one of the best courses in central Florida, a Joe Lee design with flowing contours that are almost sensual in their aesthetic appeal.

I've always been a Joe Lee fan and this piece of art in New Smyrna Beach is one of his best. It's only an hour from Orlando, and compares favorably with the top courses in that international, golfing hot spot.
 
It's a member-owned, private course, so if you get a chance to get a tee time here, take it. One beautiful hole leads into another, and you will most likely not find another course as well-conditioned as this one.
 
It's a 27-hole facility, with excellent practice grounds, which you will need because most of the course is tight, especially off the tee. In fact, your tee ball is vital to your scorecard here, setting up the rest of the hole more so than most other courses. It's accuracy over distance at Sugar Mill.
 
But, why let me blather on? Pictures say it better than words in this case, so enjoy the video.

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Orlando to Host Prestigious Junior Golf Tournament

The International Junior Golf Tour (IJGT), one of the leading competitive circuits for elite golfers in grades 5-12, will host the 17th annual Bridgestone Golf Tournament of Champions May 25-27 at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando.

The field represents 18 U.S. states and 11 countries, and the tournament is a three-day, 54-hole competition for ages 9-19 in three divisions: Boys 15-19, Boys Under-14 and Girls Under-19.
 
Top finishers in each division will receive elite tournament exemptions including the Bobby Chapman Junior Invitational, Callaway Junior World, The Players Amateur and Veritas Junior World. Champions will also receive gifts, a complementary IJGT membership for the 2012-2013 season ($215 value) and full exempt status with the American Junior Golf Association.
 
"The Tournament of Champions is our marquee event and the weekend is full of exciting activities on and off the course," Peter Orrell, CEO of Junior Sports Corporation, owner and operator of the IJGT, said in a press release. “Grand Cypress has been a gracious host for many years and we would also like to thank all of our players, parents and IJGT partners for their support throughout the season."
 
Beyond stroke play, the weekend’s schedule of events includes instructional clinics, college placement seminars and mental training sessions by Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy staff.

The IJGT hosts more than 60 two-and three-day events throughout the U.S. annually and is the only junior golf tour with tournaments every weekend during the September-to-May school year. IJGT members represent 45 U.S. states and 43 countries.

For more information, call 800-792-9143.

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Annika and Friends Video

Check out this video of Annika and Friends at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The event was held May 12-13 and attended by sports figures like Nancy Lopez, Morgan Pressel and NFL star Anthony Munoz.

Organizers say proceeds from the inaugural event will go to the Annika Foundation and a physical education program for children called Spark. The two groups are working together to combat childhood obesity.

 

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Is Cypress Head a Municipal Course or Upscale Private Layout? Hint: It’s Both

Looking for a good, upscale, private course to play in the New Smyrna Beach/Port Orange area?
 
Why not try Cypress Head? Hold the boat, Golf Boy; Cypress Head is a municipal track, you say.
 
True, but it's a private course in an upscale development disguised as a muni. Cypress Head started out as a private facility, but it is now owned by the city of Port Orange, a very unusual origin for a publicly owned course.
 
With a combination like that, you'd think this would be a favorite in the area, and it is. It's an elegant work by the architectural team of Arthur Hills and Mike Dasher, and it plays through deep forest, wetlands and water. Yes, there is plenty of water, on 14 holes in fact, and the course has some other oddities, like back-to-back par-3s and back-to-back par-5s.
 
It can be enjoyed equally by women, because of the forward tees under 4,900 yards, and the brutes, because of the back tees that stretch out to about 6,800 yards.
 
It's a very fun course to play because of the good conditioning – it is managed by Kemper Sports – as well as the challenges that lurk. There are some sneaky water hazards to watch for, and some exceptional risk/reward options. There are also some short, drivable par-4s, and fast, well-contoured greens.

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Golf and Football? Absolutely, with PGA National’s Fantasy Draft Weekend Package

Too bad they didn't have this sort of deal, back when I was, you know, insane.

I'm talking about the NFL fantasy draft. Anybody who's ever done it knows how much fun and obsessive it can be. I dropped out years ago, but PGA National  in Palm Beach Gardens has what sounds like a blast with its Fantasy Draft Weekend package for Aug. 24-25.
 
The package starts at just under $300 a person and for that you get:
 
- Two nights' lodging – excuse me, "deluxe accommodations."
 
- Friday welcome reception and cocktail party.
 
- Saturday golf scramble with boxed lunch.
 
- Live draft war rooms with beer, wings and pizza.
 
You'll also get to interact with a "celebrity draft panel and fantasy football experts," with a Q&A session.
 
No word yet on who the celebrities or experts are.
 
Not a bad idea, throwing together two obsessions like this. PGA National is one of the top, marquee resorts in Florida and host of the PGA Tour's Honda Classic. The well-known resort has 90 holes on five courses, including the Champion, which is one of the best courses in Florida and one of the hardest, if you want to play it from the back tees.
 
For more info, go to pgaresort.com or call 800-533-9386. 

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Play Superb Lost Key Golf Club in Northwest Florida Cheaper

Lost Key Golf Club has a world-class name, doesn't it? It sounds like the course is hidden from the world, tucked away somewhere on some forgotten, Florida key.

Not exactly. Lost Key is on Perdido Key, between downtown Pensacola and Gulf Shores, Ala. The course lays gently on a narrow barrier island with sand dunes as white as the reflecting clouds.
 
It isn't lost – in fact, there are high-rise condos on the increasingly developed island. But, parts of the course still have that wild, barrier island feel, as it flows through natural wetlands.
 
It's a challenging course, with narrow fairways and complex greens. In short, it's a very worthwhile, fun day on the links in a beautiful spot in the semi-wilds of northwest Florida.
 
I like the fact they let locals – permanent, year-round residents of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties play cheaper.
 
The rest of us can still get on this superb course at much lower than the current rack rate of $99. 
 
Through August, green fees are $50 after 2 p.m. and replays are $40, and even after 11 they're only $65. Juniors and military get on even cheaper.
 
Also, don't forget "Player Appreciation Day" Wednesday, May 16. For $49, you get 18 holes with cart, range balls and lunch buffet, taxes included.
 
That's a heckuva deal, and a good time to experience this wonderful course. 
 
Call 850-549-2161 for tee times and more info.

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Hidden Lakes a Raucous Good Time in New Smyrna Beach

Yes, Hidden Lakes deserves its name, but that feature only adds to this excellent, scenic golf course that plays around the Turnbull estuary in New Smyrna Beach.

It's the kind of popular track that has active owners and a raucous men's league that plays about once a week; in short, it's a  blast to play and the clientele there always seems to be having fun.
 
Owners Lee and Kathy Griffin bought the course about nine years ago, and have been tinkering with it and improving upon it ever since. Current plans call for re-configuring some holes and lengthening it to a par-70.
 
The course, with very affordable green fees, is short, but it has some teeth from the back tees, especially some of the long par-3s. The greens are the No. 1 priority for the grounds crew and it shows; they are a joy to putt.
 
The Lloyd Clifton design has a nice, open feel dotted with lakes and fairways lined with palm, pine and oak. 
 
You'll like the "Snake Pit," the fourth hole that borders the estuary – lay up or bomb it!
 
Enjoy the video.

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THE PLAYERS Championship Got You All Fired up? Play These Area Courses!

Most golfers I know get fired up when they watch the big boys on the PGA Tour, especially in person. It makes them want to get out and play, to try and copy those powerful, yet velvety-smooth swings. 

So with THE PLAYERS Championship going on this week, Ponte Vedra Beach and environs will be swarming with bad golfers like me looking for courses to play, in futile attempts to copy our betters.
 
I know the area exceedingly well, since I grew up there, so here are a few recommendations of public courses in the area.
 
- Ponte Vedra Golf and Country Club, located in the Sawgrass community, is accepting outside play these days. It's sort of a stretched, executive course with six par-3s.
 
- St. Johns Golf and Country Club is an upscale course with workingman green fees. This is a very versatile facility; it can play at over 7,000 yards from the back tees – sorry, little fellas, you need permission to play from back there – or can be family-friendly as the forward tees go down to 2,400 yards. The course has excellent greens.
 
- The Golf Club at South Hampton, designed by Jacksonville native Mark McCumber, has been one of my favorites in the area for years. It isn't as critically acclaimed as North Hampton, but I love South Hampton because it's wide open, with room to put the hammer down on almost every hole.
 
- And of course World Golf Village has those two excellent courses, the King and Bear, designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus – a true collaboration in fact, not just in name – and the Slammer and Squire, designed by Bobby Weed with input from "player consultants" and legends Gene Sarazen and Slammin' Sammy Snead. Most golfers prefer the King and Bear, but you won't go wrong with either.

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Superb Miller Course at Turnberry Isle Not Exactly a Pushover

The Miller course is one of two superb, beautifully-groomed courses at Turnberry Isle Miami. The official literature, and many golfers who have played both courses, say it is easier than the other track, the Soffer.

Others are not so sure, like the group I played with recently who pointed out it's easier if you think long par-3s are easy; the Miller has six of them with a couple being well over 200 yards.
 
The Miller is definitely more open than the Soffer, which gives you the sense of being in an enclosed, tropical garden. The Miller is also shorter at around 6,700 yards with a par-70, and of course, more susceptible to the wind.
 
The two layouts have a lot in common as well. Both were originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and both were "re-interpreted" by Ray Floyd.
 
When he "re-interpreted" the Miller, he brought his bulldozer with him, hauling around 700,000 cubic yards of dirt; the result is a course that has some very attractive movement to it, a rarity here in South Florida.
 
The Miller is a very relaxing round; the routing takes you around lovely Lake Julius, named after former pro Julius Boros, who liked to fish in the lake back in the old days.
 
And along the perimeter, on the other side of the fence, you will likely encounter walkers, joggers and mothers pushing their baby strollers, enjoying the beautiful scenery. 
 
Check out the video to see what I mean.

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