Archive for November, 2012

Slammin’ Sam Beer Makes Florida Debut at World Golf Village

Isn’t it about time we talked about beer in this space?

Many of us partake in a brew on the course or at the 19th hole, but rarely is there a golf tie-in to the beer itself. It’s just … beer.

Not anymore. Now, you can drink in honor of a World Golf Hall of Famer.

The Slammin’ Sam Beer Company has created a craft-brewed premium American lager in honor of 82-time PGA Tour winner Sam Snead, one of the game’s most respected gentlemen and champions.

Appropriately, Slammin’ Sam is making its Florida debut at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, home of the Hall of Fame and two terrific golf courses, the Slammer & Squire and King & Bear.

“It’s only fitting that a beer honoring Mr. Snead would make its Florida debut at a facility to which he has such lasting ties,” said James Hahn, general manager of the two courses. “Our members and guests already are enjoying it while challenging a course he helped design.”

This isn’t just an average pour with a famous name – those tend to fizzle out in short order. Slammin’ Sam is made in Wisconsin by Stevens Point Brewery from a proprietary recipe developed by a master brewer.

If you’re not visiting St. Augustine, no problem – Slammin’ Sam is marching across North America to various restaurants, bars and grocery stores.

We can all enjoy beer named after the great Snead. Now if we could just replicate his golf swing …

Have you tried Slammin’ Sam? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

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LPGA Q-School Finals at LPGA International in Daytona Beach

While many of us are enjoying this time of year in Florida for recreational golf, professionals on major American tours come through here to fight for their livelihoods.

In the last few weeks, early qualifying stages of PGA Tour qualifying school (q-school) have been contested at several locations around Florida, while the 50-and-over Champions Tour held its q-school final at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs.

This week it’s the LPGA’s turn, as its q-school final is contested at LPGA International in Daytona Beach. Aspiring LPGA pros will play five rounds, and the course is closed to the public from Nov. 26-Dec. 2 to account for tournament rounds and practice.

Admission is free, and it’s a great way to see true pressure-packed golf up close. It is one thing to attend a regular Tour event and watch players grind to win, quite another to watch them playing for their lives. Players who don’t advance from q-school end up on minitours or in “real” jobs, biding their time to hopefully try again next year.

The golf itself isn’t always pretty; there are many stories about players missing a spot on a Tour with a last-hole bogey or worse. To see agony and ecstasy side-by-side, just hang out by the scoreboards as numbers come in on the last day. But others flourish under the pressure, shooting some great scores despite the adversity.

Check it out if you’re near Daytona Beach this week.

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Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach Wins Prestigious Award

Everyone knows that TPC Sawgrass is among the very best places to play golf in Florida, with iconic holes known the world over.

Did you know that the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa is equally acclaimed?

The Ponte Vedra Beach resort was recently named U.S. Golf Resort of the year by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, the global trade organization for the golf tourism industry.

David Rees, president of Florida’s First Coast of Golf, accepted the award on behalf of Sawgrass Marriott at a ceremony in Portugal.

If your main destination for a Northeast Florida golf getaway is the two courses at TPC Sawgrass, the Sawgrass Marriott is the best home base—a number of early tee times are reserved most days solely for resort guests. The golf-savvy staff at the resort can help book those tee times plus others at Sawgrass Country Club, Marsh Landing, Ponte Vedra Golf and Country Club, Palencia Country Club and the two courses at World Golf Village.

“Sawgrass is a one-of-a-kind destination for those with a passion for the game,” general manager Tom Manno said. “We are especially lucky to be able to provide our guests with the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of past champions including K.J. Choi and Tiger Woods.”

The Sawgrass Marriott is the host hotel for THE PLAYERS Championship every May, and a number of PGA Tour pros stay in the resort’s 506 plush rooms, 24 suites and 80 villa suites. If it’s good enough for the pros, you can be sure the Sawgrass Marriott is perfect for your golf vacation.

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Rick Smith Golf Academy Relocates to Bonita Springs’ Raptor Bay

Teaching academies at golf courses are better than ever, with bigger and better facilities being built and filled with the latest technology and equipment to study and improve swings.

What separates one from another today is the name on the door, and Bonita SpringsRaptor Bay Golf Club just put its golf academy on the map with a high-profile addition.

Rick Smith, known for his work with Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and many other PGA Tour stars, relocated his Rick Smith Golf Academy to Raptor Bay. The Raymond Floyd-designed course is affiliated with the excellent Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and operated by WCI Communities.

Smith’s operation was previously based at Tiburon in Naples.

“I felt as though it was extremely important to keep my academy in the greater Naples area,” Smith said. “The combination of fantastic, loyal students from the local community, corporate support and tourists from all over the world has allowed us to build an extremely successful operation in Naples over the past 12 years.”

The Rick Smith Golf Academy offers multiple-day instructional schools, individual lessons, clinics and junior camps. For more information or to schedule a session, call Raptor Bay at 239-390-4600.

Continue reading Rick Smith Golf Academy Relocates to Bonita Springs’ Raptor Bay »

Citrus County’s El Diablo Delivers Crazy-Low November Rates

My first Florida home some 15 years ago was in Citrus County, an area some 90 minutes north of Tampa that drips with old Florida charm. Less hustle and bustle than the bigger cities, plus friendly people and plenty of trees.

Recreation opportunities include swimming with the manatees in Crystal River, the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park and, for golfers, a seemingly disproportionate amount of terrific golf courses for the population.

One of my favorites is El Diablo Golf and Country Club, a Jim Fazio-designed course in Citrus Springs that is a true hidden gem. When it opened nearly two decades ago it drew raves around the state and nationally as a Pine Valley (N.J.) lookalike with elevation and waste areas not seen often in Florida. At 7,045 yards from the back tees with a rating and slope of 75.3/147, El Diablo has hosted plenty of mini-tour events and given pros all they can handle.

Since then, golfers have traveled from Ocala and Orlando and plenty of points in between to tackle El Diablo. But the course isn’t the easiest to find in its remote location, so sometimes a little incentive goes a long way.

How about this: $25 gets a round at El Diablo on weekdays and $28 on weekends in November. Simple as that to play one of central Florida’s hidden gems.

For more information or to book, call 352-465-0986 or visit El Diablo’s website.

More deals

The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has a special deal for Florida residents from now through Feb. 28, 2013 — $129 room rates (two-night minimum). For reservations or more information, call 850-267-9500 and mention code “FR”, or visit their website.

A good place to start if you're looking for Northeast Florida deals is Florida's First Coast of Golf, a not-for-profit that exists to promote all the great golf from Amelia Island to Palm Coast and all points in between. Bookmark their deals page and check it regularly for a variety of stay-and-plays.

The Players Pass at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, home of two excellent courses in the Champions and Legends, is now on sale for 2013. It offers 25 percent off the "rack" rate anytime, and once you play five rounds the sixth is free. Also included is the GHIN handicap service. The card costs $259 on Jan. 1 but is available for $179 throughout November. For more information, call 386-274-5742.

Bay Point Resort Golf Club in Panama City Beach, with two courses in the Nicklaus and the Meadows, is offering a six-pack special valid through March 31, 2013. Buy six rounds for $239 and play either course with a cart at any time on any day, with a seven-day advance booking window. Two passes per day may be used, so the pack can be shared. For more information or to order, go to baypointgolf.com and click on the Winter Specials tab.

TPC Sawgrass and the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach have a stay-and-play from Nov. 22-Jan. 31, 2013 that includes two nights of accommodations and two rounds (on the Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley Course) plus a free third night at the hotel and a free arrival round (after 2 p.m.) on Dye’s Valley. A TPC Sawgrass welcome gift is included. Rates start at $599 for a standard room, villas are extra and weekend golf surcharges may apply. Guests must arrive before Jan. 28. For more information, call 866-605-3544 or visit TPC.com.

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.

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

Continue reading Citrus County’s El Diablo Delivers Crazy-Low November Rates »

PGA National Resort Holds South Florida Putting Championship

If you put in more time on the putting green than the driving range, prefer the flatstick to the big stick and fear no five-footers, PGA National Resort & Spa has a competition you’ll want to check out.

The Palm Beach Gardens mega-resort is turning its main putting green into a putting course for its first South Florida Putting Championship, on Saturday, Dec. 15.

The event is open to amateurs of any age and guarantees 36 holes for the $50 entry fee, which includes gifts, prizes and lunch at the Resort’s new Bar91. A 36-hole stroke play qualifier will be held in the morning starting at 8:30 a.m., and the top eight in each age group (groups include juniors and masters) will return after lunch for a match-play final at 1:30 p.m.

I’ve seen putting contests elsewhere in Florida, such as on the putting course at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, and they’re proving to be very popular. If putting is the strength of your game, why not give it a shot? And if it’s not, well, the pros have a saying about hanging around good putters: It rubs off on you.

For more information or to enter, contact PGA National golf travel consultant Chris Carle at chris.carle@pgaresort.com.

Continue reading PGA National Resort Holds South Florida Putting Championship »

PGA National Resort holding South Florida Putting Championship

If you put in more time on the putting green than the driving range, prefer the flatstick to the big stick and fear no five-footers, PGA National Resort & Spa has a competition you’ll want to check out.

The Palm Beach Gardens megaresort is turning its main putting green into a putting course for its first South Florida Putting Championship, on Saturday, Dec. 15.

The event is open to amateurs of any age and guarantees 36 holes for the $50 entry fee, which includes gifts, prizes and lunch at the Resort’s new Bar91. A 36-hole stroke play qualifier will be held in the morning starting at 8:30 a.m., and the top eight in each age group (groups include juniors and masters) will return after lunch for a match-play final at 1:30 p.m.

I’ve seen putting contests elsewhere in Florida, such as on the putting course at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, and they’re proving to be very popular. If putting is the strength of your game, why not give it a shot? And if it’s not, well, the pros have a saying about hanging around good putters. It rubs off on you.

For more information or to enter, contact PGA National golf travel consultant Chris Carle at chris.carle@pgaresort.com .

Continue reading PGA National Resort holding South Florida Putting Championship »

St. Johns Golf and Country Club Is a Walk in the Woods of St. Augustine

I have a resident’s bias when touting St. Augustine as a great golf destination, though the facts are my best defense.

Nearly every fan of the game knows that the World Golf Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, flanked by two great golf courses. Just up Highway A1A from St. Augustine is Ponte Vedra Beach, home of the PGA Tour and world-famous TPC Sawgrass. Also in the neighborhood is the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club.

But those aren’t just the only options for teeing it up, of course. Away from the resorts are some fantastic stand-alone tracks, and one of the first that comes to my mind is St. Johns Golf and Country Club.

Just off I-95 between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, SJGCC (not to be confused with St. John's Golf Club, also in St. Johns County but farther south in Elkton) is a woodsy track designed by Clyde Johnston. It’s a quality test of golf without being the doctorate exam that is TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course – though both courses have hosted PGA Tour competition.

St. Johns has been a frequent host of qualifiers in the PGA Tour’s “Q-school,” the annual sweatfest where players compete for their professional livelihoods. Players in that event take on St. Johns at its full yardage of 7,236.

On a recent visit, some friends and I played the 6,801-yard blue tees, which was more than enough on a cool, breezy morning. The majority of the holes seemed to play into the wind and the fast, sloping greens demanded full concentration.

At the 18th hole we imagined past Q-schools and pros needing a birdie to perhaps continue their golf dreams. We were glad we didn’t have as much at stake, as just one man in our foursome managed par. But it was a fine time nonetheless at one of St. Augustine’s best courses for the money.

Three cool holes

No. 4, 382-yard par 4:
A fairway wood or hybrid is the play if you’re up a tee or two; I hit driver and had a 100-yard approach off a downhill lie over water. That didn’t work out so well.

No. 13, 194-yard par 3: Take an extra club or even two to carry the water on this tough one-shotter to a two-tiered green.

No. 18, 462-yard par 4:
The No. 2 handicap has water all the way up the left and in front of the green and woods right. Yet a drive down the middle can find bunkers.

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Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa Has a Deal for Floridians

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Looking to get away for a long weekend or just a change of scenery? If you’re a Florida resident, the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has a special deal just for you.

From now through Feb. 28, 2013, Florida residents can stay at Northwest Florida’s largest full-service beachfront resort for just $129 per night (two-night minimum). As we always say here, saving on a room means more money for golf, and it doesn’t get much better than the four championship courses right next door at Sandestin. The Raven course was ranked No. 13 on a recent Golf Magazine list of Florida's top 30 public courses.

The Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort also has a full-service spa, many family recreation options and Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, a fabulous dinner spot. As for the sugar-white beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, emerald-green waters and fabulous sunsets, those are free.

For reservations or more information, call 850-267-9500 and mention code “FR”, or visit their website.

More deals

A good place to start if you're looking for Northeast Florida deals is Florida's First Coast of Golf, a not-for-profit that exists to promote all the great golf from Amelia Island to Palm Coast and all points in between. Bookmark their deals page and check it regularly for a variety of stay-and-plays.

The Players Pass at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, home of two excellent courses in the Champions and Legends, is now on sale for 2013. It offers 25 percent off the "rack" rate anytime, and once you play five rounds the sixth is free. Also included is the GHIN handicap service. The card costs $259 on Jan. 1 but is available for $179 throughout November. For more information, call 386-274-5742.

Bay Point Resort Golf Club in Panama City Beach, with two courses in the Nicklaus and the Meadows, is offering a six-pack special valid through March 31, 2013. Buy six rounds for $239 and play either course with a cart at any time on any day, with a seven-day advance booking window. Two passes per day may be used, so the pack can be shared. For more information or to order, go to baypointgolf.com and click on the Winter Specials tab.

TPC Sawgrass and the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach have a stay-and-play from Nov. 22-Jan. 31, 2013 that includes two nights of accommodations and two rounds (on the Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley Course) plus a free third night at the hotel and a free arrival round (after 2 p.m.) on Dye’s Valley. A TPC Sawgrass welcome gift is included. Rates start at $599 for a standard room, villas are extra and weekend golf surcharges may apply. Guests must arrive before Jan. 28. For more information, call 866-605-3544 or visit TPC.com.

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.

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

Continue reading Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa Has a Deal for Floridians »

Photo: Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Club House, Orlando

The Club House at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando features a relaxing view of the golf course.

Continue reading Photo: Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Club House, Orlando »