Naples’ Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Offers Luxury and Incomparable Convenience

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Want to know one of the definitions of golf vacation bliss? I arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, on a Monday, handed the car keys to the valet and didn’t see another wheel outside of my golf cart until two days and 36 holes later.

Or, in short, I had arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

The Ritz-Carlton name is one of the world’s most reliable for impeccable accommodations and service, but its Golf Resort in Naples ups the ante with immediate access to Greg Norman’s 36-hole masterpiece, Tiburon.

Tiburon’s Black Course was named 17th-best among Florida public courses by Golf Magazine this year, while its Gold Course has a pro pedigree as host of the annual Franklin Templeton Shootout. Both courses are a joy, set in native woods with wall-to-wall pristine turf—there’s no rough, allowing for unique shotmaking opportunities around the greens

You could just about throw a golf ball from the balcony of a golf-view room and hit the 18th hole of the Gold Course, that’s how convenient the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort is. If you’ve taken shuttles from golf resort hotels to their courses or have driven yourself, you’ll appreciate such immediacy to the tee, the practice facilities or the other golf amenities such as the TaylorMade Performance Lab—the only one in Southwest Florida.

When not on the golf course, a large massage and fitness center, or the pool, awaits. If you don’t want to get in the water, at least hang out at the Poolside Grill for lunch. If the kids are in tow, there’s an inviting playground and a children’s program called Eye Wonders on the weekend where children from 5 to 11 can enjoy hands-on activities and science-based experiments (and the parents can then go play more golf).

If you want to explore a little, or take in those warm Gulf waters, the Ritz-Carlton has you covered with its flagship Naples hotel. Complimentary shuttles run down Vanderbilt Beach Road to the beachside hotel all day—shoot over for a meal, a spa treatment or a walk on the beach, the perfect cool-downs from a round of golf.

I didn’t get to explore the beach hotel on this visit—too much golf was on tap in two fast days—but hopefully next time. For this trip, I had everything I wanted in one place.
 

Continue reading Naples’ Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Offers Luxury and Incomparable Convenience »

Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass Welcoming Web.com Tour Pros

One of the guilty pleasures of golf fandom is watching The PLAYERS Championship every May, where the stars of the PGA Tour frequently find their hands full on the tough TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.

But that’s not the only course at in Ponte Vedra Beach that torments pros. This week, TPC Sawgrass’ younger course takes on the (mostly) younger pros of the Web.com Tour.

The Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open is Thursday through Sunday at the Dye’s Valley Course, which poses its own challenges.

Dye’s Valley has water in play on nearly every hole and gnarly Bermuda rough that can eat a ball that’s just inches off the fairway. It’s not uncommon for amateurs playing the course to lose balls despite seeing them enter the rough.

There’s no island-green par 3 but Dye’s Valley features the 227-yard par-3 11th hole, perhaps the hardest one-shotter on either course with water all the way down the right side and behind the green.

Last year’s winner, Gavin Coles, shot 6 under for four rounds. Granted, Dye’s Valley plays to a par 70 for the pros (it’s a par 72 the rest of the year), but it’s rare for winning scores on the tough Web.com Tour to be that high.

Want to see for yourself? Each round of tournament is on Golf Channel from 2-5 p.m. ET.

Continue reading Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass Welcoming Web.com Tour Pros »

Friday deals: A winter special at world-famous TPC Sawgrass

When I’m not playing golf on the road for VISIT FLORIDA, I’m teeing it up at TPC Sawgrass, my home course.

During the winter and spring months I often play with tourists, and in talking to them about their vacations, many will say they’re on a stay-and-play at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa.

It’s the best way to take in the world-famous Stadium Course, home of the PGA Tour's PLAYERS Championship, and anyone itching to get to Ponte Vedra Beach soon may want to jump on TPC Sawgrass’ latest deal.

From Nov. 22-Jan. 31, 2013, TPC Sawgrass has a winter special of two nights at the Sawgrass Marriott and two rounds (on the Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley Course, an underrated gem) that includes 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.

Considering a la carte golf at both courses would total more than $500, this is a great deal. A number of tee times are blocked every day for Sawgrass Marriott guests, so these deals are the best path onto the fairways at TPC Sawgrass.

For more information, call 866-605-3544 or visit TPC.com. Book sooner than later if you’re interested; these packages sell quickly. Maybe I’ll see you on the course.

More deals

MetroWest Golf Club in Orlando, a Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed course, can be played for $35 (cart included) on October weekdays, a savings of $20. Find it by booking through the course's website.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, featuring Naples' first 18-hole golf course and the only resort in town with the golf course on-site, on the beach, has a buy two nights-get one free special from Oct. 21-31. For more information or for reservations, call 800-237-7600 or 239-261-2222 and ask for the “3rd Night Free Promotion.”

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples has a special running through the end of the year at the hotel and on-site Greg Norman-designed Tiburon Golf Club. 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 TaylorMade club rental. For questions, call the Ritz-Carlton’s golf department at 239-254-3340.

World Woods Golf Club, some 60 miles north of Tampa in Brooksville, has deals on villas in 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."

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

Continue reading Friday deals: A winter special at world-famous TPC Sawgrass »

TPC Tampa Bay praised by the pros, for good reason

For two decades, the stars of the Champions Tour have visited TPC Tampa Bay. To a man they say it’s one of the best courses they see all year.

When your golf travels include west-central Florida, you can see what the pros mean.

TPC Tampa Bay is one of the top public tracks in the national TPC network, which of course in Florida is headlined by TPC Sawgrass. Tampa’s course (actually it's in golf-rich Lutz, about 20 miles north of downtown) is designed in the same stadium style, with spectator mounds framing each hole.

To succeed on the par-71 layout (6,898 yards from the tips), you have to leave the mounds to the annual April golf fans. Spend some extra time on the range working out the driver if necessary, because on the course it’s a must-have. Greens are generously sized at more than 6,400 square feet on average, but most are elevated and well-protected, so attacking from the fairway is key.

“Simply put, there is danger all over the golf course and the TPC Tampa Bay is not a venue that you can take lightly,” Champions Tour pro John Cook told PGATOUR.COM earlier this year.

The course winds through residential areas yet is also recognized as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, a certification reserved for courses maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in areas such as wildlife and habitat management. You can see deer, foxes, alligators, storks and other local residents around the wetlands and cypress heads.

On the day I played, the starter warned us not to veer far off the grass to hunt lost balls – and then showed us a photo on his phone of a four-foot snake he killed at his house a mile from the course. Point made.

Three cool holes

  • No. 4, 427-yard par-4: The first big driving test of the round; skirt the water down the right side for the best angle to the green.
  • No. 15, 452-yard par-4: Cook calls this one of the great holes all year on the Champions Tour, a long test that can be a beast into a crosswind. Par is a great score.
  • No. 17, 217-yard par-3: The target is a massive 11,000-square foot green, but the length demands a long iron or hybrid and there’s water along the way.

Continue reading TPC Tampa Bay praised by the pros, for good reason »

World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine to Welcome Ken Venturi

To golf fans of a certain age, Ken Venturi was the voice of weekend afternoons, broadcasting the Masters and other PGA Tour events on CBS for decades.

To older fans, he was a tenacious competitor and 14-time champion on Tour, with no win bigger than the sweltering 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional.

For all of those contributions to the game, Venturi will enter the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine as part of the Class of 2013. Fred Couples was announced last month as another member of the class.

“The last time I had tears in my eyes was when I won the U.S. Open,” Venturi said Monday during a teleconference announcing his induction. “This has been a special day.

“The greatest reward in life is to be remembered and I thank the World Golf Hall of Fame for remembering me.”

Venturi was born in San Francisco and developed his game on the Bay Area’s great public courses. He finished second to Jackie Burke in the 1956 Masters as an amateur, and nearly won at Augusta in 1958 and 1960 (Arnold Palmer won both).

His 1964 U.S. Open win was the stuff of legend. At that time, 36 holes were played on Sunday, and that Sunday outside Washington, D.C., saw temperatures well above 100 degrees with 90 percent-plus humidity. Venturi was suffering after the morning round and a doctor told him he risked death by playing in the afternoon. Venturi defied the doctor, played and won. He was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

That was the last year the U.S. Open played 36 holes on Sunday.

Tickets and travel packages to the 2013 Induction Ceremony will be available on Nov. 1. For more information on the Induction Ceremony and the World Golf Hall of Fame, visit the Hall's website.

Continue reading World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine to Welcome Ken Venturi »

Friday deals: Save on weekday rounds at Orlando’s MetroWest Golf Club

We’re a little biased in saying anytime is a good time for golf in Florida, but October is particularly notable.

Summer’s bite is starting to fade, making golf less of a survival test. Most courses have completed their hot-weather maintenance duties such as aerating greens, so the playing surfaces are in fine shape. Best of all, the peak-season crowds haven’t arrived yet—so, consequently, neither have peak prices.

And in order to fill the October tee sheets, many courses are fast with a deal off those shoulder-season prices. Like MetroWest Golf Club in Orlando.

I played the Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed course in July and wrote about its friendly fairways and location in the heart of town, plus how many visitors play it as a kickoff to an Orlando golf trip. This month it’s an especially good play, with a $35 weekday rate including cart. That rate is a cool $20 off the regular October price.

I learned about the rate through an email blast but also found it by clicking through MetroWest’s website. If you haven’t already, be sure you’re on all your favorite courses’ email lists and like/follow their social media portals—most courses today announce their best deals through those paths.

More deals

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, featuring Naples' first 18-hole golf course and the only resort in town with the golf course on-site, on the beach, has a buy two nights, get one free special from Oct. 21-31. For more information or for reservations, call 800-237-7600 or 239-261-2222 and ask for the “3rd Night Free Promotion.”

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples has a special running through the end of the year at the hotel and on-site Greg Norman-designed Tiburon Golf Club. 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 TaylorMade club rental. For questions, call the Ritz-Carlton’s golf department at 239-254-3340.

World Woods Golf Club, some 60 miles north of Tampa in Brooksville, has deals on villas in 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."

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.

Continue reading Friday deals: Save on weekday rounds at Orlando’s MetroWest Golf Club »

PGA National opens ‘Institute of Performance’ training facility

There can be so much more to finding one’s best golf than by just “digging it out of the dirt,” as the old-school players say.

Today, the training you do without a golf club in your hand is just as important, and golf facilities are learning to cater to customers seeking that kind of help.

PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens has opened a comprehensive "Institute of Performance” training facility to offer advanced methods of sport-specific training, nutritional counseling and education to help athletes achieve full potential.

The Institute will focus on national and collegiate team training, elite players, onsite educational conferences and recreational player improvement. In other words, anyone looking to be a better golfer is welcome.

Davd Donatucci, former director of fitness and performance for the PGA of America, is heading up the Institute. He works with 2010 U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, LPGA champion Stacy Lewis and top Florida high school players.

 “Our goal for the new facility is to not only help the best players in the world reach their highest potential, but anyone who plays the game and wants to improve,” Donatucci said. “Whether training to win the Masters, U.S. Open, LPGA money title or a club championship, we’ll design an ideal regimen for peak performance and success.”

PGA National also hosts a David Leadbetter Academy, Dave Pelz Scoring Game School and a state-of-the-art clubfitting lab. One might say the Institute of Performance is the final piece in building a better player.

Continue reading PGA National opens ‘Institute of Performance’ training facility »

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Grand Golf Resorts of Florida offer “Ballot Busting” rates »