Archive for August, 2012

Friday Deals: Honoring our military over Labor Day Weekend

Going against the grain a little today in the Friday Deals, but this twist is worth your time—not to mention a great way to spend Labor Day weekend.

If you’re looking to play golf, do it in conjunction with the sixth annual Patriot Golf Day. It’s actually an entire weekend, from today through Labor Day, with golfers nationwide asked donate a minimum of $1 for the Folds of Honor Foundation, a terrific outfit that provides scholarships for children and spouses of military killed or disabled while serving.

In other words, a deal for our heroes.

More than 400 Florida golf courses and off-course golf stores are recognizing Patriot Golf Day in a variety of ways, check this list for a facility near you—or one down the road that you’ve been wanting to play.

Call ahead and ask what Patriot Golf Day specials are available. A quick search of my social media channels this morning turned up a 100 percent match of donations at the World Golf Hall of Fame box office in St. Augustine. Valencia Golf and Country Club in Naples is also matching 100 percent of donations, plus free greens fees for all active and retired military. And that’s just two places out of hundreds.

PGA Professional Dan Rooney, a former F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, is the founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation. Major Rooney has served three tours in Iraq.

“We have lost so many soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice. America can come together in the spirit of golf and have a dramatic impact,” Rooney said. “We have an opportunity to make a difference for the families who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

More deals

Turnberry Isle Miami has a package for a full weekend of game-sharpening, led by PGA Teacher of the Year Gary Knapp, running every weekend through Sept. 30. Priced at $880 for two guests, the deal includes eight hours of instruction over two days and two rounds of golf on the resort's two 18-hole courses. Accommodations are available with nightly rates starting at $119. For more information, call 305-933-6929 or visit their website.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort: Free night with purchase of two consecutive nights. Call 866-657-7271 and mention code "FREE3."

Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami has a package starting at $119 per person (double occupancy) that includes rounds on the Red, Gold or Jim McLean Signature Course plus unlimited replay rounds (with cart fees), an introductory golf clinic from the Jim McLean Golf School and more. Deal runs through Oct. 7, then goes to $219 from Oct. 8 to Dec. 21. Course upgrades to the TPC Blue Monster or Great White Course are available for a surcharge. For more information or to book, call 800-71-DORAL or visit their website.

Through the end of the year, the Renaissance World Golf Village Resort and Beach Club is offering a Stay and Play package including a round of golf and privileges at the private Serenata Beach Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, with complimentary shuttle transportation. Free shuttles are also available to and from historic downtown St. Augustine. The package starts at $184 per room, per night for one golfer and $259 per room, per night for two golfers. Call 888-740-7020 or visit the resort’s website.

Perdido Key is offering up to $200 in American Express gift cards for visitors through Sept. 30, register at its “You Play” website before Sept. 10. Lost Key Golf Club and Perdido Bay Golf Club are ready and waiting for you.

Continue reading Friday Deals: Honoring our military over Labor Day Weekend »

The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach, a Florida ‘bucket list’ destination

A golf friend of mine from the office rarely comments on my social media posts but couldn’t resist the other day.

“The rest of us are working and you’re playing a bucket list course,” he tweeted.

Yeah, that pretty much sums up The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort.

Jack Nicklaus’ course at the Palm Coast hideaway – No. 75 in Golf Magazine’s most recent top 100 U.S. public course list – has six holes on the Atlantic Ocean, more than any other track in Florida, and playing them is a sublime experience that every golfer should experience twice.

(Yes, twice. If you’re like me you’ll be shooting pictures and being mesmerized by the crashing waves on your first tour of The Ocean Course; a second round is required to try to post a score.)

The course has all the great design touches you’d want – undulating greens, strategically placed bunkers (three holes on the back side have bunkers in the middle of the fairways), some risk/reward options. But The Ocean Course’s genius is in the routing.

While warming up on the range the ocean beckons close behind you, then the first seven holes play through developed areas. A long cart ride from the seventh green gets the heart racing and on the par-3 eighth tee you have arrived at the first of the six ocean holes. Take it all in.

The back nine is similar, going away from the ocean on the first several holes before building to a flourish at “The Bear Claw,” a finishing foursome of oceanfront holes. That’s two nines that build drama to a close on the Atlantic. Perfect.

Three cool holes

No. 9, 468-yard par 4: One of two ocean holes to play parallel to the Atlantic the entire way, and the No. 1 handicap hole. Tough uphill approach especially with a strong wind.

No. 15, 450-yard par-4: The opener to “The Bear Claw” demands a good tee shot and then, on the uphill second, you feel like your target is at the edge of the Earth. Which it is, in a sense.

No. 18, 466-yard par-4: The mirror-image to the ninth is the No. 2 handicap hole but can play completely different depending on how the wind switches in the two hours since you played the ninth.

Continue reading The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach, a Florida ‘bucket list’ destination »

Enhancements announced for acclaimed Black Diamond Ranch

Twenty-five years ago, golf course architecture reached a new frontier at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, where Tom Fazio routed a layout through an abandoned limestone quarry.

Even if you haven’t played the Quarry Course – one of three on the property along with the Ranch Course and nine-hole Highlands Course – you have likely seen the pictures of the dramatic holes on the back nine that play in and out of the limestone hollows. If you have played it, you'll never forget the experience.

Golf Digest has ranked the Quarry Course as one of America’s top 100 for the last 20 years and Golfweek deemed it as Florida’s best residential course and sixth-best in the nation.

Now, Black Diamond is taking steps to ensure its next 25 years are just as memorable.

Escalante Golf, Black Diamond’s owner and operator, has unveiled a multi-million dollar masterplan for the Citrus County golf community located some 75 miles north of Tampa. (The club is private but limited stay-and-play packages are available to the public.)

The masterplan includes a clubhouse redesign, numerous golf course enhancements including lengthening the tracks and reconstructing all 208 bunkers, and new residential products and memberships.

“Our goal is to build on Black Diamond’s world-class reputation to ensure the club’s long-term sustainability and exclusivity,” Escalante Golf president David McDonald said. “The comprehensive masterplan demonstrates a continuing commitment to our existing members, and is a point of pride and emphasis in attracting new members and residents who share our vision and values.”

Continue reading Enhancements announced for acclaimed Black Diamond Ranch »

Friday deals: A weekend golf tuneup at Turnberry Isle Miami

If you’re in the market for a full weekend of game-sharpening, Turnberry Isle Miami has an exclusive experience celebrating August's National Golf Month.

Led by PGA Teacher of the Year and Gary Knapp, weekend golf schools are available every Saturday and Sunday through September 30.

"Each clinic begins with an evaluation of each player's drive, short game, sand play, putting and swing sequence, which enables me to create a customized weekend golf program," Knapp said. "Players will also be videotaped during instruction and receive an opportunity to review their form and fine tune specific game techniques."

Priced at $880 for two guests, the Golf Month promotion includes eight hours of instruction over two days and two rounds of golf on the resort's two 18-hole courses, the Miller Course and the Soffer Course. Don’t be intimidated by that sticker price—if you haven’t taken lessons before, that’s a great rate for an acclaimed PGA teacher. And as mentioned, there’s two rounds of golf on top of that.

Accommodations at Turnberry Isle’s fantastic resort are available with nightly rates starting at $119. For more information or to book, call 305-933-6929 or visit their website.

More deals

For the rest of August, PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens resort has great deals for active and retired military, police and firefighters, including a fantastic $40 (plus tax) golf offer for any of its courses including the Champion, home to the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic. Call 800-863-2819.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort: Free night with purchase of two consecutive nights. Call 866-657-7271 and mention code "FREE3."

Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami has a package starting at $119 per person (double occupancy) that includes rounds on the Red, Gold or Jim McLean Signature Course plus unlimited replay rounds (with cart fees), an introductory golf clinic from the Jim McLean Golf School and more. Deal runs through Oct. 7, then goes to $219 from Oct. 8 to Dec. 21. Course upgrades to the TPC Blue Monster or Great White Course are available for a surcharge. For more information or to book, call 800-71-DORAL or visit their website.

Through the end of the year, the Renaissance World Golf Village Resort and Beach Club is offering a Stay and Play package including a round of golf and privileges at the private Serenata Beach Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, with complimentary shuttle transportation. Free shuttles are also available to and from historic downtown St. Augustine. The package starts at $184 per room, per night for one golfer and $259 per room, per night for two golfers. Call 888-740-7020 or visit the resort’s website.

Perdido Key is offering up to $200 in American Express gift cards for visitors through Sept. 30, register at its “You Play” website before Sept. 10. Lost Key Golf Club and Perdido Bay Golf Club are ready and waiting for you.

Continue reading Friday deals: A weekend golf tuneup at Turnberry Isle Miami »

Innisbrook gets into RNC spirit with renaming of Copperhead holes

With the Republican National Convention less than a week away, businesses all over Tampa Bay are hanging out the red, white and blue or whatever else it takes to attract traffic and cash from the thousands of visitors.

Golf courses are doing their part, eagerly awaiting a late-summer surge in business that doesn’t come all the time. At Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, that means renaming the 18 holes of its famed Copperhead Course in honor of the 18 Republican presidents.

So for convention week, here’s the scorecard at Copperhead. (Feel free to also use this list to quiz your political-junkie friends.):

1. Abraham Lincoln (in office from 1861-65)
2. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77)
3. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81)
4. James A. Garfield (1881)
5. Chester A. Arthur (1881-85)
6. Benjamin Harrison (1889-93)
7. William McKinley (1897-1901)
8. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09)
9. William Howard Taft (1909-13)
10. Warren G. Harding (1921-23)
11. Calvin Coolidge (1923-29)
12. Herbert Hoover (1929-33)
13. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61)
14. Richard Nixon (1969-74)
15. Gerald R. Ford (1974-77)
16. Ronald Reagan (1981-89)
17. George H. W. Bush (1989-93)
18. George W. Bush (2001-09)

The first hole at Copperhead is a par 5 that’s demanding but fair – a little like Lincoln, eh? Wonder how Chester Arthur would feel about his name on the No. 1 handicap hole, a monster 605-yard par-5. The last three holes at Copperhead are known as the “snakepit,” not exactly the political label one would want—but that’s where Reagan, Bush and Bush are.

Got any more twists or quips for this Republican 18? Tell us on our Facebook or Twitter page.

Continue reading Innisbrook gets into RNC spirit with renaming of Copperhead holes »

More Tampa Bay-area golf options for the adventurous types

Last week in this space we discussed a few of the more popular golf courses around Tampa Bay, in honor of the masses descending on the area later this month for the Republican National Convention.

The golf options don’t nearly stop there, however. The “bay area” can be stretched as far south as Bradenton, as far north as Brooksville and almost as far as Lakeland to the east, depending on who you’re talking to, and some 200 courses are within those boundaries.

Here’s just a few more for any adventurous types looking to wander from downtown Tampa.

Dunedin Golf Club – An original Donald Ross design from 1927 and the former home of the PGA of America. Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson and other legends walked these grounds, refurbished a few years ago to restore Ross’ vision.

Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club – Take the scenic Pinellas Bayway toward St. Pete Beach and you’ll hit the Isla Del Sol community, which includes a course open to the public in the summer. Course can get tight in spots but has great bay views.

Lansbrook Golf Club – While Innisbrook Resort is Palm Harbor’s golf mecca, this course (some four miles east as the crow flies across Lake Tarpon) is a less-expensive alternative with plenty of bite including water on 16 holes.

Plantation Palms Golf Club – This Land O'Lakes course has seen plenty of development around it since its 2002 construction, but the golf itself is still a good test with a lot of variety.

River Strand Golf and Country Club – Venture less than an hour from downtown Tampa into Manatee County and one of the first golf stops is this 27-hole Arthur Hills track set in the wetlands of the Manatee River.

Continue reading More Tampa Bay-area golf options for the adventurous types »

TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course endures as Florida’s toughest test

One of Pete Dye’s creations is at the center of the golf world this week, with the PGA Championship visiting his Kiawah Island Ocean Course in South Carolina.

Many PGA Tour pros are seeing the course for the first time and have told reporters it reminds them of another Dye signature – the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Named last week as Florida’s best public course and seventh-best in the U.S. by Golf Magazine, the Stadium Course has endured for three decades as one of golf’s sternest tests. You know how it treats the pros if you watch The Players Championship every spring.

For amateurs, the Stadium Course is a test everyone should take just once.

I play the course a few times every summer, living and working in the Ponte Vedra Beach/St. Augustine area, and it’s great fun to watch newcomers’ reaction to the place. Last summer, one friend visiting from out of town looked at me on the practice range 20 minutes before our tee time with sheer panic on his face.

“I’m shaking. I can’t get a ball in the air,” he said.

That’s the reputation of the Stadium Course, and well-earned. Dye’s place keeps you on your toes at every turn, with a mixture of different holes and no two consecutive ones playing in the same direction. The finishing stretch is well-documented but a round can go south just as quickly at the last three holes of the front nine, which feature the No. 1-handicap par 4, the course’s longest par 3 and a three-shot par 5 with the course’s smallest green.

From the blue tees (the Players’ gold tees are rarely put out for daily play, though most try the 17th hole from that spot anyway), the yardage is a reasonable 6,661 but the course rating is 73.9 and slope is 146. That’s as hard as you’ll find anywhere at that length.

Three cool holes (besides 16-17-18)

  • No. 2, 507-yard par-5: The best chance to reach a par-5 in two is here, though plenty of mounding surrounds the green to turn birdies into bogeys.
  • No. 8, 195-yard par-3: Put aside 17 and give this par 3 your full attention, and your straightest ball flight. The pros have to, playing it at 237 yards.
  • No. 12, 332-yard par-4: Not intimidating on the scorecard but the second shot is intimidatingly blind, with a devilish little pot bunker in front.

Continue reading TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course endures as Florida’s toughest test »

TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course endures as Florida’s toughest test

One of Pete Dye’s creations is at the center of the golf world this week, with the PGA Championship visiting his Kiawah Island Ocean Course in South Carolina.

Many PGA Tour pros are seeing the course for the first time and have told reporters it reminds them of another Dye signature – the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Named last week as Florida’s best public course and seventh-best in the U.S. by Golf Magazine, the Stadium Course has endured for three decades as one of golf’s sternest tests. You know how it treats the pros if you watch The Players Championship every spring.

For amateurs, the Stadium Course is a test everyone should take just once.

I play the course a few times every summer, living and working in the Ponte Vedra Beach/St. Augustine area, and it’s great fun to watch newcomers’ reaction to the place. Last summer, one friend visiting from out of town looked at me on the practice range 20 minutes before our tee time with sheer panic on his face.

“I’m shaking. I can’t get a ball in the air,” he said.

That’s the reputation of the Stadium Course, and well-earned. Dye’s place keeps you on your toes at every turn, with a mixture of different holes and no two consecutive ones playing in the same direction. The finishing stretch is well-documented but a round can go south just as quickly at the last three holes of the front nine, which feature the No. 1-handicap par 4, the course’s longest par 3 and a three-shot par 5 with the course’s smallest green.

From the blue tees (the Players’ gold tees are rarely put out for daily play, though most try the 17th hole from that spot anyway), the yardage is a reasonable 6,661 but the course rating is 73.9 and slope is 146. That’s as hard as you’ll find anywhere at that length.

Three cool holes (besides 16-17-18)

  • No. 2, 507-yard par-5: The best chance to reach a par-5 in two is here, though plenty of mounding surrounds the green to turn birdies into bogeys.
  • No. 8, 195-yard par-3: Put aside 17 and give this par 3 your full attention, and your straightest ball flight. The pros have to, playing it at 237 yards.
  • No. 12, 332-yard par-4: Not intimidating on the scorecard but the second shot is intimidatingly blind, with a devilish little pot bunker in front.

Continue reading TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course endures as Florida’s toughest test »

Golf Digest’s ‘Most Fun Courses’ feature fine Florida representatives

This has been a good week for celebrating the best courses in golf. First, Golf Magazine and golf.com released their Top 100 Courses You Can Play and their state-by-state best, featuring 30 Florida tracks.

Now, in the September issue of Golf Digest just hitting newsstands, there’s a list of the ‘Most Fun Courses’ in America.

One Florida course is prominent in both lists – World Woods’ Pine Barrens. The Brooksville track was named 19th-best in the U.S. and second-best in Florida, for its sandy, tree-lined, peaceful-yet-challenging golf experience. It made the ‘Fun’ list for the same attributes and how it’s not ‘brute’ golf – like the No. 1 Florida course, TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium, where water is a near-constant danger and the slope rating from the back tees is the USGA maximum.

Throw in a round on the Rolling Oaks course or even a few hours on the sprawling practice facility (including a three-hole practice course), and World Woods is an entire day or two of golf heaven.

There are no torture tests on the ‘Fun’ list – instead there are gems like the Palm Beach Par 3 Course, “golf on the Gulfstream for the hoi polloi,” Golf Digest says. Perhaps, but at $22 for a walking green fee it’s also golf for anyone.

Three more Florida courses made the private ‘Fun’ list – Mountain Lake in Lake Wales, Indian Creek Country Club in Miami Beach and The Everglades Course in Palm Beach.

What makes your Fun list? Tell us on our Facebook page.

Continue reading Golf Digest’s ‘Most Fun Courses’ feature fine Florida representatives »

Golf Digest’s ‘Most Fun Courses’ feature fine Florida representatives

This has been a good week for celebrating the best courses in golf. First, Golf Magazine and golf.com released their Top 100 Courses You Can Play and their state-by-state best, featuring 30 Florida tracks.

Now, in the September issue of Golf Digest just hitting newsstands, there’s a list of the ‘Most Fun Courses’ in America.

One Florida course is prominent in both lists – World Woods’ Pine Barrens. The Brooksville track was named 19th-best in the U.S. and second-best in Florida, for its sandy, tree-lined, peaceful-yet-challenging golf experience. It made the ‘Fun’ list for the same attributes and how it’s not ‘brute’ golf – like the No. 1 Florida course, TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium, where water is a near-constant danger and the slope rating from the back tees is the USGA maximum.

Throw in a round on the Rolling Oaks course or even a few hours on the sprawling practice facility (including a three-hole practice course), and World Woods is an entire day or two of golf heaven.

There are no torture tests on the ‘Fun’ list – instead there are gems like the Palm Beach Par 3 Course, “golf on the Gulfstream for the hoi polloi,” Golf Digest says. Perhaps, but at $22 for a walking green fee it’s also golf for anyone.

Three more Florida courses made the private ‘Fun’ list – Mountain Lake in Lake Wales, Indian Creek Country Club in Miami Beach and The Everglades Course in Palm Beach.

What makes your Fun list? Tell us on our Facebook page.

Continue reading Golf Digest’s ‘Most Fun Courses’ feature fine Florida representatives »