Category: Tampa

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

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February 24, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Grand Caymans, Tampa and Palm Springs

Posted at 3:05 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Worldwoods Dear Joe,
First off, I love reading your articles. I am heading to Tampa to visit a buddy who recently moved. Any recommendations for nice places to play? We are looking to play 36 one day and 18 the following.
Neal Shaughnessy
Chicago, Ill.

The ultimate 36-hole day in Tampa is the Copperhead and Island duo at Innisbrook Resort ( Copperhead has played host to the PGA Tour since 2000 and Island is where Phil Mickelson captured the 1990 NCAA Championship. However, access is only guaranteed if you book a stay.

For purely public putters, take the 50-mile drive north to World Woods (352-796-5500, and revel in one of the greatest golf playgrounds on the planet. Tom Fazio designed both courses here, Pine Barrens (pictured), which checks in at No. 18 in our Top 100 Courses You Can Play, and Rolling Oaks, which rolls out width, hardwoods and hazards that conjure up Augusta National—at least somewhat. Best of all, World Woods’ 36-hole rates form one of golf’s best bargains. In mid-summer, it’s only $94 to play them both, while even in the height of prime time—now—it’s only $178. Toss in a 9-hole executive course and the greatest practice facility in golf, a 22-acre, 4-sided wonder, and you’ve got one superior day of golf.

For one final round near town, tackle the TPC Tampa Bay ($99-$159; 813-949-0090, in Lutz, the popular site of a Champions Tour event since 1992, whose flattish terrain is laced with lakes and wetlands.

One of the best values around is Bardmoor ($60-$90; 727-392-1234,, former home to the PGA/LPGA Mixed Team Championship, where you can walk in fairways once trod by Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples and Tom Kite for $60 after 1 pm.

Hello Joe,
Longtime reader of your articles, first time to ask for your help. Going to the Grand Caymans in two weeks with my clubs and a buddy and was told there isn’t any real golf down there. Since I didn’t set up the trip, I need your help to find some courses, if any, to play. Have you been there and are people steering me wrong?
Jeff Lee
Blue Bell, Pa.

As with so many islands in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is less than grand when it comes to golf. Simply put, it’s a mixed bag. If you crave the novelty of teeing it up amid balmy breezes and eye-catching scenery, Grand Cayman works fine. If you’re seeking quality and quantity—and value, for that matter—go elsewhere.

Start with the North Sound Club ($175; 345-947-4653, in the Governor’s Harbour area. Formerly known as the Links at Safehaven, the island’s only championship course is a 6,605-yard, par-71 1994 Roy Case design that’s flattish, hazard-laced and possessed of sterling sea views. However, conditioning is hit-or-miss, which is little solace for folks forking over $175, and it’s a brute when the wind blows. If you like iguanas, pay the late twilight rate of $55 and play until dark.

Other than the Ritz-Carlton’s private Blue Tip, a handsome Greg Norman 9-holer that’s exclusive to hotel guests, your other golf option is Britannia Golf Club ($65-$150; 345-745-4653,, a one-off from Jack Nicklaus that introduced the world to the concept of the Cayman ball. The idea was to build a short course that could play like a championship test, providing you were using a special ball that only traveled half the distance of a regular ball. It proved to be an idea whose time never arrived.

Today, the course plays as a regulation nine-holer Monday through Saturday, and is converted to an 18-hole executive job on Sunday. Both versions have their merits, specifically challenge and aesthetics, but again, it’s awfully pricey for what you get.

Dear Joe,
I’m going to Palm Springs for a long weekend in February. I am going to get one round of golf in. Where should it be?
Matt Anderson
Chicago, Ill.

Earlier this month, I recommended La Quinta Resort’s Mountain and Dunes courses (, PGA West’s Stadium course ( and Desert Willow’s Firecliff course ( Each is special—but pricey.

If I had to recommend one value course that comes with all of the classic Palm Springs markings, go with Escena ($60-$95; 760-778-2737, This 2005 Nicklaus Design creation is a joy to play from start to finish, with just enough lakes, bunkers and stirring shots to spice the play—plus glorious mountain backdrops throughout—but without too much heavy lifting in terms of forced carries and lost balls.

(Photo: LC Lambrecht)

March 04, 2010

Ask Travelin' Joe: New Orleans, San Diego and South Florida

Posted at 12:15 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
I'm going to New Orleans for a bachelor party with 20 guys and am interested in good courses in the area. Any thoughts?

Mike Ryan
Via email

Don't scoff at a par-62 course: Audubon Park ($30-$40; 504-212-5290, is 4,200 yards of lagoons, moss-drenched oaks, mounds and bunkers. It's close to downtown, next to Tulane University, it's incredibly affordable and best of all — for your purposes — it takes just three hours to play, so you can get back to the Big Easy's other bachelor party attractions.

For a more upscale experience-and bragging rights back home, try the TPC Louisiana ($79-$169; 504-436-8721,, a long, if flattish Pete Dye design that hosts the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic. It's pricey in high season, at $169 from March 5-May 16, but the $89 Twilight rate on weekends will help.

Hey Joe,
It's cold here in Toronto, Ontario, but I'm heading to San Diego, specifically La Jolla, in March with my son and brother-in-law. We definitely want to play Torrey Pines North & South. Anything else you might suggest that's close by? P.S. My son and I are both 12 handicappers. My brother-in-law, well, that's a whole other story altogether!

"Freezing" Frank Valle
Toronto, Canada

Warm up with the Grand Golf Club at Grand Del Mar Resort ($195-$215, 858-314-1930,, a short drive north from La Jolla. The Tom Fazio design weaves in and out of coastal canyons. However, it's not cheap, and you need to stay there to play there.

More accessible, if equally steep, is Aviara ($215-$235, 760-603-6900,, a classy Arnold Palmer design 20 miles to the north in Carlsbad that bursts with flowers, water features and undulating greens.

A less costly alternative is the Crossings at Carlsbad ($90-$120; 760-444-1800, This 2006 Greg Nash design suffers from a funky routing with some odd stops and starts, but also boasts a fistful of drama-filled holes, bridges that span environmental areas and Pacific Ocean views.

Dear Joe,
A buddy and I would like to plan a golf trip to South Florida in late March. We are looking at Tampa/St. Pete or Naples. Can you recommend either location vs. the other, plus courses and hotels?

Tim Herlehy
Burlington, Mass.

Naples is great, but more so if you have private club access. You'll have more options in the Tampa/St. Pete area. For the region's best golf, go with Innisbrook Resort (727-942-2000, in Palm Harbor. Home to the PGA Tour's Transitions event, Innisbrook leads off with the Copperhead course, a layout Ernie Els has called "the best we play in Florida." Its No. 2, the Island, is nearly as strong. It's a watery track dotted with cypress trees that played host to the 1990 NCAA Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. Rack rates start at more than $200 for golf, but most at Innisbrook opt for one of five golf packages that reduce the rates considerably.

The best value in the region — and maybe in all of Florida — is Cheval Golf & Country Club ($35-$45; 813-948-2114,, a private course in Lutz, just north of Tampa that offers outside play for the time being. There's real estate, but it doesn't really intrude, plus water on 17 holes and, since it's a Steve Smyers design, plenty of sand from start to finish.

February 19, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Austin, Sedona and Spring Training

Posted at 11:34 AM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Joe,
Four of us are heading to Austin, Texas in March. We already have a few rounds lined up, but are there any hidden gems that we should look into?

Duncan Norcross
Atlanta, Ga.

Off the beaten path but worth howling about is Wolfdancer (512-308-WOLF,; $165, includes forecaddie) 20 miles southeast of Austin, at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort. Arthur Hills and his lead associate Chris Wilczynski fashioned a unique test over three distinct landforms, from forested ridgelines and rolling prairie land to a valley peppered with trees. The downhill plunge at the par-3 12th, its mountainside green a scary but inviting target, is worth the drive out from the Austin city limits.

Hi Joe,
I'll be traveling down to Sedona, Arizona in February/March and I'll be staying at Seven Canyons. I'll be playing most of my golf there, but are there any other affordable courses that you recommend in that area? I've never been there and I'd like to play a few other courses as well.

John Hoffer
Minneapolis, Minn.

You'll have a tough time breaking away from the tight, if ultra-private Seven Canyons, which overdoses on scenery at every turn. Still, for the spice of variety, check out Sedona Golf Resort (877-733-6630,; $59-$105), a 1989 Gary Panks design with elevation changes, undulating greens, a driveable closing par-4 and an all-world, par-3 10th that's backdropped by red rocks.

Not quite as dramatic, but where the homes are less intrusive is Oakcreek Country Club (928-284-1660,; $79-$99), an early '70s collaboration from Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. In classic Trent Jones style, most of the greens are elevated, and the par-3 4th, which plays straight at a gigantic, reddish rock formation is unforgettable, but a massive tree pruning/removal would really open up some spectacular vistas.

Dear Joe
My dad and I are big Philadelphia Phillies fans and are flying into Tampa, Fla. and driving to Clearwater for a few of their spring training games in March. We were wondering if you had some suggestions for courses for us to try out while we are down there?

Clay Stabert
Via email

Hopefully you perused the March 2009 issue of GOLF Magazine where I recommend a good value for Phillies fans, Bardmoor Golf Club in Largo (727-392-1234,; $65-$90), 15 minutes south of Bright House Field, where the Phills play their Grapefruit League ball.

Nearby, the underrated TPC Tampa Bay (813-949-0090,; $135-$162) in Lutz is a worthy splurge. It hosts the Champions Tour in April, where Tom Watson defends and after 2 p.m., you can tackle its myriad bunkers, lakes and wildly contoured greens for $99.      

February 06, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Tampa and Arizona

Posted at 3:16 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Hey Joe,
Three buddies and I have decided to go to Tampa for our annual golf trip. We've looked at World Woods, Innisbrook and TPC Tampa Bay, but it seems like there's a lot of golf in the area. What other courses would you recommend for a bunch of mid-handicappers?
Mike O' Malley
Chicago, Illinois

You won't go very wrong with those three venues, but there are some alternatives that deliver on value and playability, like Saddlebrook Resort ($100-$145; 813-973-1111, and Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club ($79-$119; 352-588-9200, If you can secure your tee time at Saddlebrook 24 hours in advance, you'll pay just $100 bucks. Lake Jovita's South course sports 200 feet of elevation change, a rarity for Florida. Play after noon for slightly cheaper fees.

Dear Joe,
I'm going to Goodyear, Arizona for Spring Training. I'm looking to play nearby but pay under $100 a round. Any suggestions?

Jerry Ulman
Cleveland, Ohio

Your best bet here is Palm Valley's Palms Course (623-935-2500; It's an Arthur Hills design and a good value at $84. The Lakes is a nifty par-62 Hale Irwin executive track that will run you $49-$58. It's no push-over, despite its length.

Another option is Estrella Mountain Golf Course ($32-$51; 623-932-3714,, a flat, county-owned track that offers desert-mountain vistas and a price tag that can't be beaten.

Photo: The Palms Course at Palm Valley Golf Club in Goodyear, Arizona.
Credit: Communication Links

Ask Travelin' Joe

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


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