Category: Florida

February 06, 2014

A Meaner Monster: Donald Trump teams with architect Gil Hanse to make Doral scarier than ever

Posted at 11:21 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

Trump National Doral Miami
A rerouted fairway and added bunkers have enhanced the strategic appeal at the 442-yard, par-4 sixth at Doral in Miami. (Courtesy of Trump National Doral)


What do you say to a beast that's lost its bite? If you're Doral resort owner Donald Trump, that's easy: "You're fired." In the case of the legendary Blue Monster course at Doral, a better phrase might have been, "You're tired."

The Donald announced his solution at a memorable press conference in March 2013, on the eve of the WGC–Cadillac Championship. "They're saying the course is in the best shape [it's been in] in 25 years," he said. "It's a little ironic, because we blow it up on Monday."

Indeed, the Blue Monster, which opened in 1962, was due for a makeover. "Sometimes after 20, 30 years, courses need an update, and this course will benefit from it," said reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose. "It needs to get back to living up to its reputation as the Blue Monster."

Trump agreed, bringing aboard red-hot architect Gil Hanse and associate Jim Wagner to execute his vision. The results are instantly obvious.

Once marshmallow-soft, the par-5 opener has been stretched to nearly 600 yards and features a new pond to the right of the green. The rinky-dink par-3 15th now demands a watery carry to a peninsula green. The par-4 16th remains drivable for big bashers, but a new lake guarding the left side amplifies the risk/reward drama. Hanse wisely left the par-4 18th -- one of the Tour's most dramatic, difficult closers -- virtually unchanged.

In all, liquid peril looms on 14 holes, up from six. Water, water, everywhere. Why so much? To modernize and toughen up a track that dates to the JFK administration. Mission accomplished. With newly sharpened teeth, this Monster is scarier than ever.

Trump National Doral Miami (Blue Monster), Miami, Fla. 7,450 yards, par 72; Green fees: $270-$500; (305) 592-2030;

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February 05, 2014

Can't afford to play the Pebble Pro-Am? Here's five affordable seaside spreads

Posted at 9:33 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

Pacific Grove Golf Links
Pacific Grove Golf Links / Joann Dost



Locals call this 82-year-old muni the "poor man's Pebble Beach" for good reason. Instead of Pebble's $500 green fees, hoofing it weekdays at the walkable layout is $46, $52 on weekends and $25 for twilight. You get two distinct nines: a passable parklander to open, followed by a stirring seaside loop, complete with huge sand dunes, ocean views, coastal breezes and a lighthouse. My favorite is the 513-yard, par-5 12th, which boomerangs to the right around dunes. It's reachable in two, but a rumpled fairway, stern crosswinds and the ocean to the left complicate matters.


Three times the host venue for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, this busy muni doesn't boast the most sophisticated design, yet it proved a worthy test on each occasion. Gusts from the adjacent Pacific, trees that bracket many fairways, and a healthy 6,991 yards from the tips all add up to a serious scoring challenge for any level. What truly elevates Wailua are its wondrous ocean vistas and affordable price tag. It's just $48 for nonresidents to walk during the week, and half that for twilight play. Local seniors and juniors pay less than 10 bucks, all to tackle holes such as the 456-yard, par-4 second, the Pacific churning along the left side; and a pair of into-the-wind, well-bunkered par 3s, the 14th and 17th, both of which face the ocean.

Highland Links Golf Course
Highland Links Golf Course / Larry Lambrecht



This funky 2,753-yard nine-holer on Cape Cod has so many delightful quirks it makes Prestwick look tame. Summer rates will set you back only $35, another $9 to ride. It's a small price to pay for fescue-framed holes that dip into beach canyons. Unforgettable attractions abound. The par-5 second sports a medieval granite tower honoring nineteenth-century singer Jenny Lind. And the par-3 ninth is backdropped by Cape Cod Lighthouse; dating to 1767, it's the oldest lighthouse on the Cape.

LOS VERDES GOLF COURSE, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

A few years back I lambasted this superbly situated muni for my nearly four-hour round -- on the front nine! Since then, the pace remains leisurely but not as glacial. No wonder it's packed; green fees are under $50 every day, even if you're in a cart, with prime-time walkers during the week paying $27 for a course that's a half-hour from LAX. Los Verdes' 6,617 breezy yards prove a sufficient challenge, especially the bluff-top, 441-yard, par-4 fourth. That hole, along with many others, offers sensational views of the Pacific Ocean. Hey, everyone deserves a second chance, right?


In 2009, Raymond Floyd supersized this 1961 Dick Wilson/Joe Lee 18-hole par-3 charmer, making it tougher and more dramatic. As for sheer drama, nature had already taken care of that. Long a popular LPGA Pro-Am venue, nearly half of Palm Beach's holes hug the Atlantic Ocean, while the other half wind along the Intracoastal Waterway. It's a blur of sand, water and wind, but with seasonal prices as low as $20 -- and with Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers Kellie Stenzel and Scott Munroe on-site -- Palm Beach Par-3 belongs on your must-play list.

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January 14, 2014

Ask Travelin' Joe: Where should I play in Tucson? Savannah? Ponte Vedra Beach?

Posted at 10:03 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

La Paloma Country Club
Courtesy of La Paloma Country Club


Hello Joe, I'm headed to Tucson for a few days of Arizona sun and scenery. What courses give the most cacti for the money? -- Lana Neighbor, Ambler, Pa.

You have to stay at the Westin to play its on-site La Paloma Country Club ($59-$179; 520-742-6000,, but its three early Jack Nicklaus nines are well worth it. Saguaro cacti frame the fairways, while mountain vistas highlight this target-style spread. In nearby Marana, another Jack Nicklaus Signature design, the Golf Club at Dove Mountain ($79-$199; 520-572-3500,, is blanketed with exotic desert flora. The WGC–Accenture Match Play is played on the Saguaro/Tortolita combo, though Jack's favorite of the three nines is Wild Burro. And Ventana Canyon's Mountain and Canyon courses ($59-$169; 520-577-1400, embrace every manner of thorny plant, notably on the Mountain's par-3 third.

The Club at Savannah Harbor
The Club at Savannah Harbor / Dick Durrance


Dear Joe, I'm heading to Savannah, Georgia. Know of any gems off the beaten path? -- Sam R. Blair, via e-mail

Sam, maybe it's the shrimp and grits talking, but I think Savannah is one of the most charming cities in the U.S.—and great for golf. Start with The Club at Savannah Harbor ($40-$88; 912-201-2240,, a dramatic Bob Cupp/Sam Snead design that's hosted the Champions Tour's Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf for the last 11 years. Most memorable is the 447-yard, par-4 sixth, with its green edged by marsh and backdropped by the Talmadge Bridge. The area's top value? A wooded Rees Jones design called Southbridge ($25-$50; 912-651-5455,, which turns 25 this year. Meanwhile, the award for easiest access goes to bargain-priced Crosswinds ($34-$53; 912-966-1909,, renowned for its reachable yet watery par-5 closer, and for the club's location five minutes from the airport.

Streamsong Resort
Streamsong Resort / Larry Lambrecht


Hey Joe, Are there any quality links-style courses to play here in Florida? -- Bill Jervis, Tampa, Fla.

That's the easiest question I've heard in eons. Streamsong Resort ($110-$235; 863-428-1000, is less than 90 minutes from Tampa and serves up two superior firm-and-fast, dune-splashed tracks that demand thoughtful shotmaking, with an emphasis on the ground game. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's Red is slightly more dramatic than Tom Doak's Blue, though I'm partial to the Blue for how seamlessly it hews to the terrain, and for stunners such as the all-carry par-3 seventh and the drivable par-4 13th. With the mid-January debut of the 216-room Lodge at Streamsong, there's no better time to go.

The Word Golf Village
Courtesy of The Word Golf Village


Travelin' Man, I'm playing the Stadium and Valley courses at TPC Sawgrass. Anywhere else I should tee it up in the Ponte Vedra Beach area? -- Mike Smith, via e-mail

Since you don't scrimp, Mike, I'll steer you to the region's trophy tracks. For a fun 36 holes, drive 45 minutes south to St. Augustine. The World Golf Village (904-201-3609, has two courses: King & Bear ($79-$169) is the only Arnold Palmer–Jack Nicklaus collaboration in existence, and the Slammer & Squire ($59-$129) is a wonderful Bobby Weed creation, with help from Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. King & Bear's back nine winds through loblolly pines and ancient oaks, while Slammer & Squire sports lagoons, wetlands and a wet-and-wild par-4 closer. My favorite combo of golf and lodging in the area is the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and its Ocean course ($75-$132.50; 888-839-9145,, a wonderfully renovated treat that trots out cross bunkers, ocean breezes and an island green dating to the 1920s.

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

For more news that golfers everywhere are talking about, follow @si_golf on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube video channel.

January 06, 2014

Budget Breaks: Pop the cork on great golf deals in 2014

Posted at 12:10 PM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

Credit: Courtesy of Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf and Spa Resort


SAVE $120: Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club Palm Harbor, Fla.

Don't get snake-bit this winter. Try Innisbrook's Tour-tested Copperhead course -- and its 54 other holes -- with the Classic Golf Package. It includes lodging, one round per golfer per night, $10 retail credit, unlimited practice and fitness facility use, and club storage. January rates start at $458 per room, per night, based on double occupancy. 888-794-8627,

SAVE $105: Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail [Grand National] Opelika, Ala.

Already one of the best deals in golf, Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Trail is an even bigger bargain with its Winter Unlimited Package. Available at all sites except Lakewood and Ross Bridge [with a $10 surcharge for the Judge at Capitol Hill], the package gets you all the golf you can play in January for $75 per day. Price includes cart and unlimited range balls. 800-949-4444,

SAVE $115: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Amelia Island, Fla.

Pete Dye and protégé Bobby Weed crafted 36 holes at Amelia -- including a fistful that skirt the Atlantic Ocean. The Stay and Play Package offers ocean-view lodging and one round at $100 per person -- with a second round, rental clubs and a $40 beverage-cart credit free. January rates start at $319 per room, per night, based on double occupancy. 904-261-6161,

SAVE $105: The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables, Fla.

Its venerable Donald Ross design -- not to mention legendary swimming pool -- made the Biltmore one of Babe Ruth's favorite hangouts. See it yourself with the Hole-in-One Package, which includes lodging, unlimited golf, and practice facility use. January rates start at $589 per night, based on double occupancy. 855-311-6903,

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December 01, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: From One Fine Bay to Another

Posted at 10:49 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

TPC Harding Park
TPC Harding Park / Getty Images


Dear Joe: I'm heading out to San Francisco and I have three days to squeeze in a couple of rounds. What are your recommendations? -- Kyle McKearney, via email

There's iconic TPC Harding Park ($155-$175; 415-664-4690,, the foggy, cypress-lined home of the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship (won by Tiger Woods) and the 2009 Presidents Cup. A heads up: On December 1, after it hosts the Champions Tour's season-ending Schwab Cup, Harding's greens will get a face-lift. This means you'll have 18 temporaries (along with a deep discount on green fees) through March. Until then, Presidio Golf Club ($110-$145; 415-561-4653, is your best option. This hilly challenge is a bear to walk, but it compensates with imposing pines and some fun shotmaking challenges. And be sure to check out Lincoln Park ($38-$55; 415-221-9911, This quaint, 5,146-yard muni is more about the postcard (as in amazing views) than the scorecard, with a dazzling glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge on the par-3 17th.

Redstone Golf Club
Redstone Golf Club / Larry Lambrecht


Yo Joe: I'm heading down to Houston in late November to catch a college football game. Where should I tee it up? -- Jake Davidson, Cincinnati, Ohio

There's nothing like college pigskin in the Lone Star State. After you watch your Cincinnati Bearcats battle the Houston Cougars, check out Redstone's Tournament course ($125-$175; 281-459-7800, in suburban Humble. Host to the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open, this Rees Jones creation is a bomber's paradise. It's long, wide and watery. Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan are among the recent winners. Closer to downtown (and to Rice Stadium, where you'll watch the game), you'll find Memorial Park ($39-$49; 713-559-2000,, a flattish, well-treed, 7,300-yarder that boasts some history of its own -- 14 Houston Opens were contested here between 1947 and 1963, with Arnold Palmer claiming the crown in 1957. It's a score either way, so why not go for two?

Orange Lake Golf Resort
Courtesy of Orange Lake Golf Resort


Hey Joe: My wife and I are older golfers and fairly new to the game. We want to take a vacation, ideally to a moderately priced place with good instruction. Ideas? -- John and Pat Morello, via email

With December closing in faster than a one-horse sleigh, I direct you to the Sunshine State, specifically Orange Lake Golf Resort (407-239-1050, in Kissimmee, just south of Orlando and three miles from Disney. If you're feeling ambitious, there are two championship 18s on-site, as well as a pair of beginner-friendly nines, first-rate practice facilities and excellent instruction (we rank the McCord Golf Academy as one of the 25 Best in the U.S.). With December lodging rates that begin at $99/night, for pure value, this Orange is very sweet.

Dear Travelin' Man: I'm taking the family to Pensacola, Fla. I'd like a break from the beach and plan to hit the links for a day. Any diamonds in the rough under $70? -- Dave Gardner, Louisville, Ky.

Value on the Emerald Coast is as prevalent as the sugary-white beaches. My top pick is Kiva Dunes ($64.50-$92; 251-540-7000, across the border in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It's a superb, linksy Jerry Pate design between Mobile Bay and the Gulf, with afternoon rates of less than $70 in December. Just one catch: It's more than an hour's drive away. If that's too much of a haul, try Tiger Point ($40-$50; 850-932-1333,, 12 miles from Pensacola in Gulf Breeze. Its Jerry Pate-designed East course offers water on 14 holes and views of Santa Rosa Sound. I'm also a fan of Sandestin, about an hour to the east. The Baytowne course ($54-$89; 850-267-8155, charges $54-$74 during the winter and features what passes for an elevation change in the Panhandle, along with kid-friendly tees and rental clubs -- so bring the wee ones and wipe away the guilt.

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

For more news that golfers everywhere are talking about, follow @si_golf on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube video channel.

November 03, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: From Ragin' Cajuns to Mickey Mouse

Posted at 12:40 PM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

Gray Plantation
Gray Plantation, Credit: Aidan Bradley


Dear Joe: I'll be taking a trip to Lake Charles, La., to visit family. I plan on playing at least one day while there. What area courses would you recommend? -- Mike Haig, Chicago, Ill.

I've got two top choices for you in Cajun country, one of my favorite places to play in the USA. First, a value-favorite: Gray Plantation ($35-$59; 337-562-1663, is a handsome, well-treed track that features water, water everywhere. Bring an extra sleeve or two; you can lose ammo on 12 holes, including the tough par-3 sixth, which demands a shot over the Calcasieu Ship Channel to a peninsula green. If you want to roll the dice after rolling the rock, try Tom Fazio's Contraband Bayou at nearby L'Auberge Casino Resort ($39-$109; 337-395-7220, This 7,077-yard par 71 features superb Bermuda greens, Fazio's striking bunkers and eight lakes throughout the layout.

Bulle Rock
Bulle Rock, Credit: Evan Schiller


Hi Joe: I'll be in Annapolis for one day, flying into Baltimore, with time for a quick round. I prefer a quality layout with great conditioning. Where should I play? -- Ed Cadenas, via e-mail

Ed, cracking blue crabs is my first priority when I'm down Chesapeake way, with golf being a (very) close second. Bulle Rock ($79-$130; 888-285-5375, in Havre de Grace is my first choice. True, it's an hour north of the airport, but with a ranking of No. 41 on our 2012-'13 Top 100 Courses You Can Play list, it's worth the journey. Bulle is a true bully (and it's pronounced that way, too). This danger-laden Pete Dye stunner has hosted the LPGA Championship five times, with Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Suzann Pettersen among those hoisting the trophy. Conditioning? It's kept in tournament shape all year round. If you prefer something closer to Baltimore, try Waverly Woods ($54-$84; 410-313-9182, an Arthur Hills course just a 20-minute drive from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Hi Joe: While my kids are at Disney World, I have time for some peace and quiet on the course. I've already played Grand Cypress, a great pick. What's next? -- Luis M. Rivera, via e-mail

I don't blame you for resisting the siren call of the Mouse -- there's plenty of golf to play. I agree with Tiger, who once called the greens at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes ($60-$180; 407-393-4900, some of the best he's ever putted. Although this Greg Norman design is runway wide and flat, it's also truly tranquil, offering just the serenity you're seeking. You might also consider Rees Jones's Waldorf Astoria Golf Club ($50-$170; 407-597-3780, Hewn from pristine woodlands, it's only about three miles from Disney and offers strategic resort golf at its best. Right at the park, consider Disney's Magnolia Course ($104-$165; 407-939-4653, Don't let the hokey, mouse-ear-shaped bunker fool you—for 40 years, this track was tough enough to be a PGA Tour stop. At 7,500 yards, it's hardly child's play.

Sedona Golf Resort
Sedona Golf Resort, Credit: Evan Schiller


Dear Joe: I'm planning a trip to Scottsdale this November, but lots of courses will be overseeding. Any way around that? -- Scott Gentry, Tulsa, Okla.

If they're overseeding, head north over the hills to Sedona. The town has quaint charms that dear old Scottsdale can't match, and at 4,500 feet of elevation, there's no need to overseed; the courses have cool-season grasses. Both Sedona Golf Resort ($69-$99; 928-284-9355, and Oakcreek ($79-$99; 928-284-1660, will dazzle you with red-rock landscapes. Seven Canyons ($100-$150; 928-203-2000, is beautiful, too, but it's only open to guests of Enchantment Resort.

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

For more news that golfers everywhere are talking about, follow @si_golf on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube video channel.

April 20, 2013

Deal of the Month: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Posted at 11:31 AM by Joe Passov

SandestinCall it the Panhandle. Emerald Coast works, too. But let's never again refer to northwest Florida as the Redneck Riviera.

The region's Sandestin Resort is so good, it would fit right in on the French Riviera — only with more T-shirts and fewer tuxes. And that's fine by me, because I'm a huge fan of the marriage of flip-flops ambience and four-star golf, dining and lodging.

Folks who drop by this spring get a bonus. The resort typically punches the greens in late April, but because Sandestin is hosting the NCAA Division III National Championship in May, conditions will remain ideal for another month.

To take advantage, book Sandestin's Swing into Spring Package. Included are three nights at a 2-bedroom unit at the Village of Baytowne Wharf or a 3-bedroom at Bayside, three rounds of golf at the Links, Baytowne and the Raven (a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and former Champions Tour venue), cart, $20 beverage credit and a Nike wedge.

Sandestin's beaches are brilliantly white, and the bunkers aren't bad, either. May rates start at $172 per player, per night, based on quadruple occupancy. 888-801-4388,

(Photo: Courtesy of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort)

February 22, 2013

All in for Innisbrook: Play legendary Copperhead as soon as the Tour pros depart

Posted at 11:38 AM by Joe Passov

InnisbrookErnie Els suffered a crushing defeat last March at the PGA Tour's Transitions (Tampa Bay) Championship when his putter failed him late in the tournament. It had to be doubly agonizing for the Big Easy, given his fondness for the host venue, Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort's Copperhead course.

"This is probably Florida's best golf resort," gushed Els in 2006, adding, "and I personally think the Copperhead layout is the best golf course that the PGA Tour visits in Florida. It has a lot of character, some nice design features and, unlike a lot of courses in the area, it has some significant changes in elevation."

The good news for traveling golfers is that you don't need a Tour card to play Copperhead - at least for the other 51 weeks in the year. Conquering Copperhead is another matter. It helps to have Els-like tempo - and his length off the tee - to cope with the thick rough, glassy greens and splatter pattern of bunkers.

The resort is situated in Palm Harbor on the west coast of Florida, not far from the sponge divers and Greek restaurants of Tarpon Springs and just north of St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Tampa International Airport is roughly 20 miles southeast of the resort. But the topography of Innisbrook seems worlds away.

Innisbrook resembles Carolina mountain golf, yet is blessed with Florida weather, making for a rare and wonderful combination. At times, the acreage is flattish, but on multiple occasions, startling climbs and plunges in elevation occur. This is especially true on Innisbrook's signature course, Copperhead. While Innisbrook boasts four 18-hole tracks, including the Island, where a promising southpaw from Arizona State named Phil Mickelson won the 1990 NCAA Individual title, it's Copperhead that remains the must-play for serious sticks.

Copperhead can spit bogeys back at you with the kind of venom usually reserved for its namesake reptile, thanks to its rolling, pine-framed fairways and a collection of elevated greens that are inevitably fortified by sprawling bunkers. Copperhead is fiercely trapped, but it is never repetitive. Toss in a fistful of handsome, if intimidating, water hazards and you have a course dialed in for ballstrikers. If you're the type of golfer who has trouble getting 5-irons up in the air, find somewhere else to play. Its rigors don't exactly play to the strengths of my game, but that doesn't mean I don't have fun trying. Pars definitely mean something here.

For those who are up to the challenge, take advantage of Innisbrook's Tampa Bay Championship package, where guests have the opportunity to tackle the Copperhead course on the Monday after the tournament ends. You'll literally be following in the footsteps of past champions such as Luke Donald, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen. If you want even more golf, on all nine of Salamander Hotels & Resorts' courses at Innisbrook, Reunion Resort in Orlando and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, check out its Grand Golf Resorts of Florida Legends of Golf Trail package.

All nine of the courses on the Grand Golf Resorts of Florida roster are standouts. Still, I have to leave 100-year-old Larry Packard with the last word on which one is best. Packard is the architect who sculpted Copperhead back in 1972 and remains a champion of its virtues. When I asked him recently about Ernie Els' flattering portrayal of Copperhead, Packard responded, "I think he's right." Are Ernie and Larry correct in their assessment? Try out Copperhead for yourself and weigh in.

(Photo: Courtesy of Innisbrook Resort)

November 04, 2012

Man Weekend 2012: The World Golf Hall of Fame and Palencia Club in St. Augustine, Fla.

Posted at 3:44 PM by Jeff Ritter

Phil-ClubsSometimes the best golf trip isn't new and creative -- it's an old standby.

With that in mind, I flew to St. Augustine, Fla., in early October and met up with six golf-crazed buddies for our fourth annual "Man Weekend" golf trip, and third at Florida's "Ancient City." St. Augustine, of course, is home to the World Golf Hall of Fame, and even if there weren't so many great courses in the area, the Hall alone would be worth the trip.

Before our first tee time, we scoped out the exhibit that honors the Hall's newest high-profile member, Phil Mickelson, who headlined the class of 2012. Among the relics displayed from his storied career are trophies, photos and a couple of miniature clubs -- Mickelson's first sticks. (Appropriately enough, they're both tiny and wooden.)


A highlight of any trip to the Hall is the closing exhibit, the mock "locker room" where members adorn their own locker with any memorabilia they see fit. We all know Phil loves playing team golf, but it turns out those team-room Ping-Pong matches really do mean a lot to Mickelson, as evidenced by the top shelf of his locker [right]. That's where you'll find a Ping-Pong paddle he used to slay his teammates at the 2011 Presidents Cup. And tucked into the top corner of the locker is a photo of Phil hitting a powerful spike against a flailing Zach Johnson. It's a nice touch.

Our weekend's first round kicked off at the Slammer & Squire, one of two courses located on the property at the Hall of Fame. This was our third round at the sturdy, Snead-and-Sarazen-designed track, and every time I play it, I find myself coming away with a new favorite hole. This year I particularly enjoyed the 522-yard par-5 fourth, which has a stream flowing along the right and thick forest left. But if you're a righty who generally tries to play a power-fade (cough, cough), the tee shot sets up perfectly, and if you can keep it on the right side without watering the tee shot, you'll have a great angle to the green with your second. It's a hole that's scenic, makes you think a little and rewards good shots, which is the Slammer in a nutshell.

Of course, with this group of guys, there were many memories (and previous horrible shots) that had to be re-lived. For example, my buddy Brian, the fearless leader of our group, has been known to occasionally struggle with his tee shots. Last year at this event he tried to straighten his tee shots by stuffing his golf bag with "Brush-Ts," for which he was mercilessly ridiculed. In a separate meltdown, he once stormed off the course and spent a few holes sleeping in the group's rental van. These events spawned his Man Weekend nickname, "Brushtee VanNap," which is, as you might expect, a great moniker to leave for restaurant reservations and hotel concierges.

Anyway, this year Brian left the Brush-Ts at home, and we whipped out our iPhones as he nervously tried to beat back the demons late in our round at the Slammer. The results were ... mixed. (Warning: Video contains a quick, mostly incoherent burst of PG-13 language.)

The next day we played our final round of the trip at The Palencia Club, a posh, but not audacious, spot in the heart of St. Augustine. The course is a members-only, Arthur Hills-designed track that opened in 2002, and it meanders seamlessly through trees, marshes and rivers while offering some unique shot-making decisions that no doubt keep members coming back for more.

My favorite hole was the 172-yard, par-3 third, which has a tall live oak slumped over the fairway right smack in front of the green. Turns out the tree was discovered by Hills on one of his site inspections, and he liked the look of the tree so much, he decided to preserve it. Today a small steel pole supports it in case of a storm, but the tree is alive and well, and it creates quite a visual from the tee box. It's not every day you have to hit over a tree on a par 3, you know? Here's a photo, courtesy of the club:


Initiation at Palencia runs $18,000, and dues for folks age 40-72 are $442 per month. Need some bang for those bucks? In addition to exclusive access to the course, Palencia has expansive practice facilities, four restaurants, a wine club, a shoe club, a book club ... you get the idea. It was a fun afternoon, and as someone who does not currently belong to a wine, shoe or book club, it was fun to take in the Palencia experience.

As an added bonus, there was a classic car show right outside the club on the day of our visit. What's more manly than 18 holes of golf followed by an up-close look at some hot rods? (Insert your own book club joke here.) It was a fitting way to close out the trip.

Can't wait to do it again next year.

Stuart Johnson, Mark Phillips, Luke Simpson, Brian Hutcherson, Jose Alea, Kevin Bray, Jeff Ritter

Stuart Johnson, Mark Phillips, Luke Simpson, Brian Hutcherson, Jose Alea, Kevin Bray, Jeff Ritter

April 12, 2012

Deal of the Month: World Golf Hall of Fame Induction

Posted at 2:40 PM by Joe Passov

Hey, Phil phanatics. The 40-time Tour winner is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this May, so here's your chance to see Phil Mickelson immortalized—and to play quality courses, to boot.

Florida's First Coast of Golf ( is a marketing company that represents many Sunshine State properties, such as the Sawgrass Marriott and the World Golf Village. Among its spring offerings is the Hall of Fame Induction Golf & Gala package, which includes one round on the underrated Slammer & Squire course (designed by Bobby Weed to honor Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen), three nights' lodging, VIP seating at the May 7 Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the St. Johns County Convention Center, access to the post-ceremony Gala (Lefty and other Hall of Famers will be there), and admission to the Hall of Fame Museum.

Rates start at $660.50 per person. 888-424-8222,

For more exclusive travel deals and packages, go to iTunes and download Golf Magazine's Front9 app, available for use on the iPad and iPhone.

(Credit: Lawrence Michael Clemmer)

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