Archive for September, 2012

Florida’s First Coast of Golf unveils enhanced site with info, deals

The problem is a fantastic one to have, but is nonetheless still an issue for the Florida golf vacationer—how do you figure out where to play in a state so saturated with great courses?

Northeast Florida is a particularly diverse golf destination, with bucket-list tracks like the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and The Ocean Course at Hammock Beach alongside more value-priced public courses like the Champions Club at Julington Creek and the Golf Club at Fleming Island.

Florida's First Coast of Golf can help you navigate through those options and much more. Its new, enhanced web site  is a comprehensive resource with everything from course information to complete trips that can be booked with a few clicks.

"Northeast Florida is a golfer's paradise, and this new site is the digital gateway," said David Reese, President of Florida's First Coast of Golf, Inc.  "Now golfers can quickly and easily research everything from courses and schools, to restaurants and resorts, then use our straightforward booking engine to put together the perfect golf getaway."

The site, also compatible with mobile and tablet platforms, organizes Northeast Florida golf into five distinct destinations—Amelia Island, Jacksonville & The Beaches, Ponte Vedra, St. Augustine, Clay County and Flagler County. Each area on the site features video, photos, detailed course information plus dining and lodging options and even details on other attractions besides golf.

One search I made on the site revealed a fall package with three nights at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village in St. Augustine with three rounds Thurs.-Sat. at St. Johns Golf and Country Club, King & Bear and The Golf Club at South Hampton—the latter two with prime 8 a.m. tee times. There was even an option to add Jacksonville Jaguars tickets.

Some 30 golf courses have partnered with Florida’s First Coast of Golf, and as an area resident I can tell you there’s not a slouch in the group. Check out the site and let them guide your next Northeast Florida getaway.

What courses are you looking to play in Northeast Florida? Where have you played already? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Couples named to World Golf Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013

Two of Fred Couples’ biggest wins were Players Championships at Ponte Vedra Beach’s famed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in 1984 and 1996.

Next year, in a sense, he’ll be coming back for good.

Couples, who also won the 1992 Masters and was the first American ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, was named this week as the first member of the Class of 2013 in the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum in St. Augustine.

The Hall of Fame is about 25 miles southwest of TPC Sawgrass. This year’s class included Peter Alliss, golf writer Dan Jenkins and Couples’ contemporary on the PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson.

“Obviously to see Phil Mickelson become a Hall of Famer was truly fun, and now it will be my turn next May during the TPC week,” Couples said.

“But for everyone who votes for this thing, I'd like to say I fooled you, but it's been a long career, 31 years of playing.”

Over his career, few players have been as universally loved as Couples. He swings unhurriedly, yet "Boom Boom" was one of the longest players in his PGA Tour prime and is now the same on the Champions Tour. He has an easygoing demeanor to match the swing, and men and women equally have followed him in droves over those 31 years.

Couples will be inducted on May 6, 2013, and have a display of artifacts of his choosing; what might he lend to the Hall of Fame? In addition to his 15 PGA Tour wins, he played on five U.S. Ryder Cup teams and four Presidents Cup teams and captained two victorious Presidents Cup teams. He attended the University of Houston with Blaine McCallister, who went on to play on Tour, and Jim Nantz, who went on to become a CBS sportscaster.

Looking forward to seeing Freddie in the Hall of Fame? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Grand Golf Resorts of Florida offer “Ballot Busting” rates

A popular sale tactic for hotels and resorts are “flash” sales, where excellent discounts are available for a very limited time. But if you snooze, you lose.

Salamander Hotels and Resorts, owners of the Grand Golf Resorts of Florida trio of Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast and Reunion Resort in Orlando, are offering a twist on the theme with “Ballot Busting” rates that allow some flexibility in decision-making—but the early birds still get the best deal.

The dates and rates—based on the fact that Sept. 17 is 50 days from the general election and Florida is likely to play is a big part—are as follows:

  • Monday, Sept. 17 (50 days until the election) – 50 percent savings for 50 hours, starting at 8 a.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 2 (35 days until the election) – 35 percent savings for 35 hours, starting at 8 a.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 17 (20 days until the election) – 20 percent savings for 20 hours, starting at 8 a.m.

Rates are discounted from a standard rate and include villa accommodations. A two-night minimum stay is required. Taxes are not included while additional restrictions may apply. Travel is valid from the date of purchase until Dec. 30, 2012.

Of course, saving money on accommodations means more money for golf, and Grand Golf Resorts offer some of the state’s very best courses. Of the top 30 public courses in Florida according to Golf Magazine, each resort has a course in the top eight.

Hammock Beach’s calling card for golf is the picturesque Ocean Course, with six holes on the Atlantic, Reunion Resort is the only place on Earth where Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson signature courses are all in one spot, and Innisbrook’s Copperhead course is one of the best on the PGA Tour.

I can attest to Hammock Beach’s rooms, having stayed recently. The remnants of Hurricane Isaac kept me in the room more than I’d have liked, but that just meant soaking up more views of the ocean from my ninth-floor suite.

Have you played any of the Grand Golf Resorts courses? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Friday deals: Golf and luxury at the Ritz-Carlton Naples

Looking to get down to Naples for a top-rated golf experience? That doesn’t have to mean top dollar.

The highly acclaimed Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples has a “Golf FORE You” special running through the end of the year, featuring the world-class hotel and on-site Tiburon Golf Club, designed by Greg Norman.

Packages start at $239 per night and include accommodations, one round at Tiburon including cart, club storage and tax, unlimited same-day golf (through Oct. 31) and complimentary club rental.

Some avid golfers might shun the thought of rental clubs, but for more casual players or just those that want to avoid the hassle of lugging their bag (and paying for it on a flight), renting is a good option. Actually, make that a great option at Tiburon, where the clubs are new-model TaylorMades and rentals include Adidas shoes, two sleeves of balls and a glove.

Given the rack rate for golf at Tiburon ($75 this month, $95 in October, $150 from Nov 1-Dec. 25) and the room rates at the Ritz-Carlton ($199-$299, sometimes more), this deal is plenty worthwhile. Not to mention readers of Travel and Leisure and U.S. News voted the resort No. 9 on a list of the top 50 resorts of the U.S. and Canada.

For questions, call the Ritz-Carlton’s golf department at 239-254-3340.

More deals

World Woods Golf Club, some 60 miles north of Tampa in Brooksville, has deals on villas in September and October starting at $79 per person, based on quad occupancy between Sunday and Wednesday nights. The two-day, one-night golf package includes two rounds, range balls and a package lunch. A full non-refundable payment is due at the time of booking. Call Susan Burkel at 352-796-5500 ext. 22 to make reservations.

The Renaissance World Golf Village Resort and Beach Club in St. Augustine is offering a coupon book with $500 in savings for visitors through Dec. 30. Discounts can be used at the World Golf Hall of Fame, PGA Tour Golf Academy and Tour Stop store, plus on food, merchandise and club rentals at the King & Bear and Slammer & Squire golf courses. Call 888-740-7020 or visit the resort’s website for more information and special hotel rates for October and November.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is offering "The Raven Experience" featuring two rounds of golf including one on its acclaimed Raven course. Among the extras in the package are free day-of-play replay rounds. Packages start at $165 per person, per night, through Oct. 31. Call 855-240-3515 and mention code "DM4GLF."

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.

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.

What's your next golf getaway? Tell us on our Facebook page or drop a line on Twitter.

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Get a look at a refreshed PGA National with a 72-hour Flash sale deal

If you haven’t visited PGA National Resort & Spa yet, or if it’s been a while since your last stop in Palm Beach Gardens, consider this a prime time to go.

The Resort, home to five golf courses including the Champion Course (annual host of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic) is fresh off a $100 million revitalization. That’s not a misprint – $100 million.

Virtually every corner of the resort was improved, from guest rooms to the clubhouse to the spa and the health and racquet club. Among the additions with contemporary touches are a zero-entry pool, trendy iBAR and a new signature restaurant, Ironwood Steak and Seafood.

Golf also enjoyed a refurbishing, as the redesigned Fazio Course opens Nov. 1. That’s the Haig Course to those who have visited before, a Tom and George Fazio design that was the first course to open at the resort.

PGA National invites you to check it all out with a very inviting deal. For 72 hours from 7 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, to Friday, Sept. 14, rooms are available for 25 percent off in a special "Flash" sale.

The deal applies to stays from now through Jan. 17, 2013.

 “Our three-day flash sale is a perfect opportunity to book a dream vacation and enjoy the stunning reveal of our multi-million dollar renovation,” said Joel Paige, vice president and managing director. “The exciting changes we’ve made position PGA National ahead of the pack and create one of the world’s truly exceptional resort experiences.”

The offer can’t be combined with packages and other offers and is valid for new reservations only. To book, call 855-692-8771 in that 72-hour window. For more information visit the resort's website.

Heading down there to check it out? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or drop a line on Twitter

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Mixing golf with your favorite Florida football team

How great is it to have football back? OK, so football weather hasn’t quite returned yet, but for all fans of the Gators, Seminoles, Hurricanes, et al, early September is one of the best times of the year.

If your fan routine includes going to the games and tailgating, are you making an entire weekend out of it? Bringing the clubs? Here’s some options for game-weekend football, listed by team.

Central Florida Knights: One of the closest courses to Bright House Networks Stadium is Twin Rivers in Oviedo, a semi-private course designed by Oviedo native Joe Lee.

Florida Gators: If you don’t have a connection to the Mark Bostick Golf Course on campus, Ironwood is the next closest option. The Gainesville municipal course had $1.3 million in renovations in 2010 and is just northeast of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida State Seminoles/FAMU Rattlers: Any trip to Tallahassee is enhanced by a run to Southwood Golf Club, No. 25 on Golf Magazine’s recent list of Florida’s best public courses.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Windsor Parke Golf Club is an easy dash to or from EverBank Field, an Arthur Hills design midway between Jacksonville and the beaches.

Miami Dolphins/Miami Hurricanes: Legendary coach Don Shula’s name graces a hotel and golf club in Miami Lakes near Sun Life Stadium. The Senator Golf Course opened in 1962, eight years before Shula's tenure began with the Dolphins.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers/South Florida Bulls: Take the Veterans’ Expressway north of Raymond James Stadium to find plenty of golf options. Picturesque Westchase Golf Club is one of the better courses and priced right.
 

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Friday deals: A virtual free-room deal at World Woods

Anyone who has ever visited World Woods Golf Club can tell you it’s a bit remote, some 60 miles north of Tampa.

That's blissful from a golf standpoint, but from an overnight standpoint it can be a little arduous. There are no hotels on the property (amen) and the nearest ones are a ways away in Homosassa Springs or Brooksville.

World Woods has recognized that in recent years by offering villas six miles from the club’s front door and putting together some great packages.

There’s one right now for September and October starting at $79 per person, based on quad occupancy between Sunday and Wednesday nights . The two-day, one-night golf package includes two rounds, range balls and a package lunch. A full non-refundable payment is due at the time of booking.

How good a deal is this? Weekday rounds this time of year at World Woods are $40, so you’re basically getting a free room and lunch.

Call Susan Burkel at 352-796-5500 ext. 22 to make reservations.

More deals

Atlantis Country Club in Atlantis (south of West Palm Beach) has reopened after a close for renovations and is offering a $29 rate every day through Sept. 16. The rate is $25 after 2 p.m. Call the club at 561-968-1300.

The Renaissance World Golf Village Resort and Beach Club is offering a coupon book with $500 in savings for visitors through Dec. 30. Discounts can be used at the World Golf Hall of Fame, PGA Tour Golf Academy and Tour Stop store, plus on food, merchandise and club rentals at the King & Bear and Slammer & Squire golf courses. Call 888-740-7020 or visit the resort’s website for more information and special hotel rates for October and November.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort is offering "The Raven Experience" featuring two rounds of golf including one on its acclaimed Raven course. Among the extras in the package are free day-of-play replay rounds. Packages start at $165 per person, per night, through Oct. 31. Call 855-240-3515 and mention code "DM4GLF."

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.

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.

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.

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Grande Pines Golf Club a welcome stop off Orlando’s International Drive

There’s nothing quite like International Drive in Orlando. With the countless restaurants, hotels, gift shops and mini-golf palaces, it’s basically the Vegas Strip for the family vacation crowd.

I have traversed I-Drive for years and it’s still a little much for me, whether I’m alone or with fellow Schwarbs. If I have to be there, it’s a huge plus to find an oasis just off of it.

Grande Pines Golf Club
is one of those spots.

Located off I-Drive just south of Sea World, the Marriott Golf property is very much in the heart of the hardcore vacation area, yet doesn’t feel like it when you’re standing on the tee picking a target.

Designed by Steve Smyers and Nick Faldo, Grande Pines is an agreeable resort course from the 6,070-yard gold tees and a solid test from the 7,012-yard tips—perfect for families or groups of varying abilities.

Marriott Golf—which also manages Orlando's Hawk’s Landing and MetroWest and Kissimmee’s Falcon’s Fire, among other Florida properties—offers smart pricing options for visitors including three- and seven-day memberships. Kids play free after 3 p.m. any day of the year with a paid adult.

Three cool holes

  • No. 6, 429-yard par 4: Stay right the whole way to the green protected by water on the left. Don’t give patrons on the patio across the lake a reason to laugh at any water balls.
  • No. 10, 385-yard par 4: Don’t need a long tee shot but the second shot must be Faldo-like precise to an elevated green guarded by bunkers.
  • No. 17, 186-yard par 3: Sea World’s Sky Tower rises from the trees behind the green; don’t go right of the far-right hole location if it’s there. Trust me.

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PGA Tour pro Erik Compton offers his Miami hotspots

In a recent issue of Golf World magazine, PGA Tour professional Erik Compton walked readers through his hometown of Miami.

Compton was born in Miami in 1979 and is a true South Florida guy, a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan now living in Coral Gables. He worked his way up to golf’s highest level in large part while honing his game around Miami courses, and offered a few suggestions to visitors.

Melreese Country Club/International Links Miami—Adjacent to Miami International Airport, Compton touted this course as a spot to hit a few balls during a layoff. 

Biltmore Hotel—The course at this iconic Coral Gables property is a 1925 original Donald Ross design; Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Babe Ruth played there.

Miami Beach Golf Club
—Built in 1923, the property got a complete renovation a decade ago and now holds its own among the best in this crowded golf market.

Crandon Park Golf Course—Compton puts the Key Biscayne course in his all-time top 5, thanks in part to its longtime pedigree as host of the Champions Tour.
 

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