Archive for July, 2012

Let the debate begin: Golf Magazine’s top 30 Florida public courses

Part of the fun of playing great golf courses is seeing how they measure up. Who doesn’t enjoy saying they once played the top-ranked course in the state? How much fun is it to tell friends your next golf trip will feature three courses in the top 10?

Last week, Golf Magazine published its biennial “Top 100 courses you can play” in the U.S., as well as offshoot lists for every state. Florida’s got so many great tracks that the panelists offered a top 30.

So, what do you think of the list? Tough to argue the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass for the top spot, though the isolated splendor of World Woods’ Pine Barrens course (No. 2), the views of the Ocean Course at Hammock Beach (No. 4) and the pure shotmaking demands of Innisbrook’s Copperhead (No. 5) are among the other worthy candidates.

One interesting part of the top 30 is that there are four “pairs” of courses under one property. TPC Sawgrass has the Stadium and Dye’s Valley (No. 26), nearby Hammock Beach has the Ocean and Tom Watson's Conservatory (No. 18).

In Orlando, Reunion Resort has a pair on the list, the Watson-designed Independence course (No. 8) and Arnold Palmer’s Legacy (No. 28). World Woods’ two great tracks are both in the top 10, with Rolling Oaks checking it at No. 9.

There are no new courses on the list, though that could change with the next list in 2014 once Streamsong Resort opens near Fort Meade.

Share your thoughts about the list on our Facebook page, and let the debate begin.

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Continue reading Let the debate begin: Golf Magazine’s top 30 Florida public courses »

Let the debate begin: Golf Magazine’s top 30 Florida public courses

Part of the fun of playing great golf courses is seeing how they measure up. Who doesn’t enjoy saying they once played the top-ranked course in the state? How much fun is it to tell friends your next golf trip will feature three courses in the top 10?

Last week, Golf Magazine published its biennial “Top 100 courses you can play” in the U.S., as well as offshoot lists for every state. Florida’s got so many great tracks that the panelists offered a top 30.

So, what do you think of the list? Tough to argue the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass for the top spot, though the isolated splendor of World Woods’ Pine Barrens course (No. 2), the views of the Ocean Course at Hammock Beach (No. 4) and the pure shotmaking demands of Innisbrook’s Copperhead (No. 5) are among the other worthy candidates.

One interesting part of the top 30 is that there are four “pairs” of courses under one property. TPC Sawgrass has the Stadium and Dye’s Valley (No. 26), nearby Hammock Beach has the Ocean and Tom Watson's Conservatory (No. 18).

In Orlando, Reunion Resort has a pair on the list, the Watson-designed Independence course (No. 8) and Arnold Palmer’s Legacy (No. 28). World Woods’ two great tracks are both in the top 10, with Rolling Oaks checking it at No. 9.

There are no new courses on the list, though that could change with the next list in 2014 once Streamsong Resort opens near Fort Meade.

Share your thoughts about the list on our Facebook page, and let the debate begin.

Continue reading Let the debate begin: Golf Magazine’s top 30 Florida public courses »

Mini golf as playable art? Yes, at the Boca Raton Museum of Art

There’s more to miniature golf than faux pirate ships, windmills, tunnels or other clichés of the vacation pastime.

As it turns out, mini golf can be fine art. Who knew?

Through Oct. 14, the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Mizner Park is featuring a fully playable mini golf course, with holes designed by artists from across the U.S. including Florida.

This exhibition shows that golf art isn’t limited to paintings or Pete Dye. A diversity of materials (one hole is made out of recycled pallets) and imagination (another hole is played inside an enormous hole cup) is on full display, with every hole completely playable. Check out some of the pictures here to get a sense of the creativity.

Clubs and balls are provided by the museum.

The Boca Raton Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (open until 8 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month) and from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends.
 

Continue reading Mini golf as playable art? Yes, at the Boca Raton Museum of Art »

Country Club at Lake City worth a detour off the interstate

If I-75 is part of your travels in Florida, you have driven right past The Country Club at Lake City.

Between a childhood full of Florida vacations (coming from Atlanta), then trips from my old Tampa Bay-area home to points north, it's entirely possible I've passed the previously named Southern Oaks Golf Club 50 times, if not more.

I always noticed the course (off the east side of the road) and how it offered some nice elevation for Florida. This week it was good to finally see it up close.

Lake City’s hometown club, designed by the late, great Willard Byrd, offers tree-lined fairways, well-kept and receptive greens and that aforementioned elevation. It's worth the stop if you’re en route almost anywhere in the state, located about five miles south of the busy I-75/I-10 interchange.

Summer rains took a toll on a few holes on the front side, but the back nine remains intact including the highway-visible holes. From the tee on the par-5 16th, you can enjoy some serious hang time with the driver, then two holes later you climb the same hill to finish the round.

Golf in Florida is a final stop for so many vacationers, the destination rather than the journey. But if you’ve ever passed The Country Club at Lake City and have wondered about the course, pull off and check it out. It’s worth a few hours’ detour.

Three cool holes

  • No. 7, 175-yard par 3: An uphill one-shotter, take an extra club and aim for the center of the green.
  • No. 16, 581-yard par 5: Tee it up, aim at I-75 and let it fly. Most enjoyable tee shot on the course.
  • No. 18, 396-yard par 4: Try to reach the corner of the dogleg off the tee, then fire uphill to the final green.

Continue reading Country Club at Lake City worth a detour off the interstate »

Cypress Head celebrates 20 years as Volusia County’s best

Imagine a milestone party for a young adult where everyone shows up – the people who brought it into the world, who nurtured it during the formative years, who still care today.

An event last week at The Golf Club at Cypress Head was a little like that, a 20th anniversary party where seemingly one-fourth of Port Orange turned out.

The city’s mayor, community leaders and other dignitaries showed up to celebrate a course whose origins date to 1987, when a group of Port Orange residents asked the city council about getting a golf course in town. Five years later in 1992, the residents' dream became official – a fun, playable Arthur Hills Design course executed by architect Mike Dasher (he, too, was at the 20th anniversary party).

Volusia County residents already know how good the course is, Cypress Head regularly wins best-in-county awards from local media. But outsiders would be wise to check it out too, given its reasonable rates (no more than $38 through Oct. 31) and friendly layout.

Cypress Head is in a residential area, but the houses don’t crowd the fairways. There’s plenty of water, but forced carries loom only for players choosing the harder tees. And in a unique twist, the 17th and 18th holes are par 5s.

“We decided, it’s a public course, give a guy a chance to make a birdie or two, he’ll come back for more,” Dasher said.

Port Orange residents have come back for 20 years, and they’re happy to show off the place to outsiders.

Three cool holes

  • No. 2, 522-yard par 5: The No. 1 handicap hole comes early, requiring a tight drive and an accurate lay-up.
  • No. 6, 197-yard par 3: The first of consecutive par 3s is tight off the tee to a green sloping left and protected by a bunker on the left.
  • No. 18, 498-yard par 5: The second of consecutive par 5s is a great birdie chance if you favor the left side off the tee. Leave happy.

Continue reading Cypress Head celebrates 20 years as Volusia County’s best »

Play in the ‘World’s Largest Golf Outing,’ for a good cause

If you’re free to tee it up on Monday, Aug. 13, there’s a golf outing worth your time – and you’re a winner no matter how you play.

Billy Casper Golf is hosting the “World’s Largest Golf Outing” at more than 100 courses across 27 states to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, an outstanding organization that helps our wounded soldiers when they come home.

In the WLGO, four-man teams play for prizes on the course, testing their golf in a scramble format, and prizes off the course, testing their fundraising skills. More than $100,000 has been raised already by teams signing up and enlisting sponsors.

Last year, more than 2,000 players at 80 courses took part in the WLGO, and both figures will be surpassed this year. Tournament organizers say the outing will go into the Guinness Book of World Records as, truly, the World’s Largest.

Florida has 11 courses participating from Lynn Haven to Palm Beach Gardens and many points in between. Fees vary by course; call the pro shop for more details or visit the tournament website at www.worldslargestgolfouting.com. Here’s the Florida courses:

Emerald Greens Golf Resort
, Tampa
Sanctuary Ridge Golf Course, Clermont
Dunedin Stirling Golf Links, Dunedin
Fernandina Beach Golf Club, Fernandina Beach
Magnolia Point Golf & CC, Green Cove Springs
Bent Creek Golf Course, Jacksonville
Panama Country Club, Lynn Haven
Eastpointe Country Club, Palm Beach Gardens
St. Johns Golf & CC, St. Augustine
Southwood Golf Club, Tallahassee
The Claw at USF, Tampa

Continue reading Play in the ‘World’s Largest Golf Outing,’ for a good cause »

Admire Mystic Dunes’ trademark bunkers — but only from afar

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The other day we reviewed the enjoyable Mystic Dunes Golf Club and sang its praises as a must-play in Orlando, just a couple miles away from Walt Disney World.

You’ll enjoy the two unique nines, offering sand dunes on one and tree-lined fairways on the other, and especially admire the “whiskey-barrel” bunkers throughout the course.

Note the word “admire,” not “sample.”

Mystic Dunes’ most memorable features are best enjoyed while walking past them, maybe even with a camera in hand. But these bunkers, with faces of vertically-aligned railroad ties as high as eight feet (resembling a portion of a giant whiskey barrel dropped into the ground), are an absolute must-avoid if you want your scorecard intact.

“Not quite your hell bunker, but definitely you’re going to be hitting backwards out of it if you’re anywhere toward the front of the bunker,” Mystic Dunes assistant pro Nick Slattery said.

The faces are slightly angled away from the bunker to allow any skulled shots a chance to ricochet above a player’s head rather than right back at them. Slattery could tell you a few tales.

One time, a player trying to carry the bunker with his drive on the par-4 sixth hole came up a few yards short and his ball plugged firmly between two of the wood pieces. He had to take an unplayable lie, drop into the bunker, and play out backwards.

Good stories but far better heard, not experienced.

THE TIP

It is possible to get out of the bunker and toward the hole, with the ball lying back enough from the wall. But don't get cute.

“It sounds repetitive, but keeping your head down is most important,” Slattery said. “People tend to look up on every shot, but especially on a bunker shot where you’ve got to hit it up high. The longer you keep your head and back down, the higher up the ball is going to come off the clubface. I just tell people, don’t get greedy, you would rather get out of the bunker and towards the hole then all the way to the hole.”

Continue reading Admire Mystic Dunes’ trademark bunkers — but only from afar »

Near Orlando’s attractions, Mystic Dunes is an attraction itself

One can picture how some visitors to Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club likely use the Gary Koch-designed course right outside their villas’ front doors.

During a vacation centered around all of Walt Disney World’s offerings, just four miles up the road, a round of golf is a relaxing day off from the park crowds.

But after 18 holes, the script changes. Play Mystic Dunes once and the trip itinerary demands another look – how do you finagle one more round?

Mystic Dunes earns the highest compliment one can give a course, the desire to play it again. Since being taken over by Diamond Resorts a year ago, capital improvements have been made all over the resort but especially at the course, helping it regain a position as one of Orlando’s must-plays.

A new superintendent is helping the course play friendlier (think sod instead of vegetation alongside several fairways), but anyone looking to score still must earn it on Mystic Dunes’ trademark roller-coaster greens.

The course has two distinct halves, with holes 1-10 featuring the dunes and the rest offering a tree-lined challenge. Distinctive “whiskey barrel” bunkers dot several holes and must be seen to be believed (we’ll revisit those later this week). And don’t be surprised to see a critter or two, like the baby turtle that crossed our path coming off the seventh hole.

You’ll see a little bit of everything at Mystic Dunes. And then you’ll want to figure out a way to see it all again.

Three cool holes

  • No. 5, 496-yard par-5: Was a brutal par-4 just two months ago, now far more inviting as a birdie/eagle hole.
  • No. 11, 508-yard par-4: Mystic Dunes’ No. 1 handicap hole and the introduction to the tree-lined part of the course. Be straight off the tee or else.
  • No. 13, 344-yard par-4: Four signature “whiskey barrel” bunkers are far better to admire from a distance than to play out of.

Continue reading Near Orlando’s attractions, Mystic Dunes is an attraction itself »

Three questions with top-50 teacher Kellie Stenzel

Golf Digest’s biennial survey of the best women teachers in the game was released this month, with nine of the top 50 teachers working in Florida.

I caught up with one recently, Kellie Stenzel. At No. 24 on the list (and rising from the last survey, according to Golf Digest), Stenzel splits her time between Long Island, N.Y., and her own Kellie Stenzel Golf Academy at Palm Beach Country Club and Palm Beach Par 3 course.

Stenzel played at Furman University in South Carolina and on professional tours around the world before becoming a full-time teacher.

Q: You’re one of several teachers who work in New York and South Florida. Outside of weather, what’s the difference in terms of golf?

A: The courses are surprisingly different. Like the length of the grass — you get a lot of tight lies in fairways in Florida, and very little rough. You can bump-and-run a lot more, putt from the edge of green. In New York, you have to be very good hitting little pitch shots, getting out of buried lies around the green. And there’s not as many tree-lined fairways here (in Florida).

Q: For vacationers who come here, what’s the biggest adjustment to Florida golf (again, heat aside)?

A: Getting used to seeing a lot of water. I remember, growing up in upstate New York, we didn’t have a lot of water. Then you get to Florida and there’s giant lakes and ponds that you have to get over. It can be intimidating. You have to learn to look past the water, know where you want to go. Your first inclination is to look right at it, you have to get past that. It’s still golf, it’s not that different.

Q: What’s one go-to shot every good player should have down here?

A: The bump-and-run from off the green, where you’re really making a putting motion from a chipping setup. It’s really never a big stroke, so you’re never going to get into a problem. If you’re farther back, take a less-lofted club. I’m pretty conservative, what I like to see is the person hitting a club that even if they miss it, it still goes close to a pin. Even if you’re not perfect, it doesn’t show up on the scorecard.

Continue reading Three questions with top-50 teacher Kellie Stenzel »

MetroWest a good kickoff to an Orlando golf getaway

There’s an art to booking a golf vacation, beyond the travel logistics and accommodations. You have to create a rhythm to your rounds.

Fresh off the plane or out of the car, don’t play the toughest track on your list. Those two dozen balls you packed need to last, along with your patience. Ease into the vacation with a round where you can hit a loose shot here and there without severe penalty, where there’s a challenge but not a mental grind.

In Orlando, start the golf vacation at MetroWest.

Many online trip reviewers and MetroWest’s own staff play up the fact that this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design (one of just two in the greater Orlando area) is exceedingly generous off the tee, perfect for those first swings on vacation.

Add in some nice elevation changes for Central Florida and solid greenside bunkering and the course is a good test, especially from the 7,051-yard gold tees (par 72). It’s just not one that will wear you out before your golf trip picks up steam.

MetroWest advertises itself as 2.5 miles north of Universal Studios; let the record show it’s also three miles from world-class shopping at the Mall at Millenia. While I played golf recently, my wife and daughter shopped. Winners, all of us.

Three cool holes:

  • No. 9, 405-yard par 4: The course’s most challenging tee shot; the hole bends left around water to the green in front of the clubhouse. PGA Tour long-baller John Daly cut it all off once, driving the green.
  • No. 14, 562-yard par 5: Your second shot is sharply downhill to a green with water on the left and behind. The Orlando skyline is visible beyond the hole.
  • No. 17, 226-yard par 3: The longest par 3 flies over water and a creek to a well-protected green.

Continue reading MetroWest a good kickoff to an Orlando golf getaway »