Category: Virginia

February 17, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Punta Cana, St. Simons/Jekyll Island and Virginia Beach

Posted at 3:02 PM by Joe Passov

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Corales Dear Joe,
We're traveling to Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) in February and I was curious to know what courses you would recommend. We haven't made final arrangements yet but will be doing so very shortly. FYI, I play with a handicap of 8, am 54 years old and never play the tips. I appreciate you taking time to respond and your advice is valuable in our decision making.
Gene Jackson
Pittsburgh, Pa.

With any luck, you're staying at the Punta Cana Resort -- or else are clever enough to talk your way onto the development's two courses. The newer of the pair, Corales ($300; 888-442-2262, is a 2010 Tom Fazio creation that's a seaside stunner from any set of tees. Coconut palms, sandy waste areas and a surf-filled finishing stretch to remember make it worth the tariff. Its 10-year-old sister layout, La Cana, is no slouch in the looks and challenge departments, either. However, this P.B. Dye design is more accessible to outside play and can be had for less money as well.

Elsewhere on the east side of the Dominican Republic, you might explore Bavaro (809-686-5797, which despite its short length, is as tough as the namesake Giants tight end was during his playing days. Check in advance for playing conditions, as this recent P.B. Dye redesign of a jungle-strewn, 1991 Juan Manuel Gordillo layout only reopened last month.

Another worthy alternative is Cocotal Golf & Country Club ($91-$121; 809-687-4653,, an 11-year-old 27-holer affiliated with the Sol Melia resorts. It was crafted by top Spanish architect Jose "Pepe" Gancedo, and it may be long on the scorecard, but it isn't terribly demanding, due to its wide fairways and flattish terrain.

Finally, if you can figure out a way to get onto nearby Punta Espada at Cap Cana (809-227-2262,, the jaw-dropping Jack Nicklaus design that hosts the Champions Tour, do so. Its roomy fairways, rugged, yet gorgeous par-3s and never-ending sea views make this an unforgettable experience.

Dear Joe,
My wife is traveling on business to the St. Simons/Jekyll Island region of Georgia in February. I'm planning on traveling along with her to enjoy some golf. Any suggestions on where to play?
Timothy Wood
Scranton, Pa.

Jekyll Island (912-635-2368, boasts the state's largest golf resort, with 63 holes, so if you're craving value and variety, you've come to the right place. Each of the four courses can be played for less than $50 and there are enough distinctions between the layouts to merit at least one time around. That said, none of the four courses (Pine Lakes, Indian Mound, Oleander and the nine-hole Great Dunes) are must-plays. They lack modern-day length from the tips and are maintained the way you'd imagine state park courses would be. However, they're all scenic, undisturbed by homes and are pretty enjoyable for a vacation round. Pine Lakes is my pick if you're going to do one, but for a terrific time travel trip, check out the 1926 Walter Travis-designed Great Dunes. It's funky, ancient fun.

Perhaps the best course in the region, outside of the private tracks at Sea Island, is the King and Prince Beach Golf Resort ($79-$115; 912-634-0255, Formerly known as the Hampton Club, this sporty 6,462-yard, par-72 course was renovated by Billy Fuller in 2009 and features a handful of memorable holes, notably the 561-yard, par-5 3rd, which has marsh down the entire left side and a lake on the right side near the green and the 391-yard par-4 13th, which hopscotches the marsh via islands of turf.

Dear Joe,
I am in Connecticut and the snow, cold and snow days are driving me batty. I cannot wait until March's trip to Myrtle Beach. I need golf now. I can do a long weekend during mid-February (3 nights). I can fly there with frequent flyer miles. I need a 55-degree location with the cheapest stay and play available. Please don't send me to Australia -- I don't have that many miles!
David Williams

OK -- Australia's out. That leaves us with, well, dozens of destinations that still fit your bill. I'm not sure why you'd settle for 55 degrees, when you can have 70 or so, plus affordable golf in places such as Tucson, Arizona and a half-dozen pockets in Florida. Still, if you're looking for inexpensive lodging and golf bargains at quality courses, at a locale that's not terribly far from home, I'll suggest Virginia, specifically Virginia Beach.

In a couple of days, the average daytime high will be right at that magic 55-degree number and the course list is surprisingly strong. You can play two of the finest courses in the mid-Atlantic, the Nicklaus and Palmer courses at Bay Creek ($50-$110; 757-331-8620, for $50 after 1 p.m. and can find heaven at Rees Jones' Hell Point ($29-$69; 757-721-3400, for less than $30 after noon.

For general information on where to stay and play in Virginia, check out the new Virginia Golf Trail ( which pulls together the best values in golf, lodging, restaurants, wineries and cultural attractions. Oh, yes, and bring a sweater. It's still February.

(Photo: Evan Schiller)

May 27, 2010

Ask Travelin' Joe: Hampstead, N.C. and Cleveland

Posted at 12:57 PM by Joe Passov

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

Hi Joe,
I have a foursome that is going down to Hampstead, N.C. (between Topsail Island and Wilmington). We have a free place to stay and are looking for three to four courses to play in that area that are challenging but will not break the bank. Any suggestions?

Dwayne L. Young
Uniontown, Ohio

Nice time of year to crawl along the Carolina coast. Start with Wilmington Municipal ($22-$35; 910-791-0558,, a ridiculously affordable, well-bunkered 1926 Donald Ross design that was handsomely restored by Clyde Johnston.

In Hampstead itself, Topsail Greens ($18-$35; 910-270-2883, is a solid choice for value, convenience and its island-green 17th.

Twenty miles up the road, in Sneads Ferry is North Shore Country Club ($30-$78; 910-327-2410,, a sturdy 6,866-yard track with views of the Intracoastal Waterway. The lake-guarded 225-yard, par-3 17th and 456-yard, par-4 18th that demands two water carries, form an attractive, if rugged finish.

Finally for a splurge, check out the Cape Fear National ($110; 910-383-3283,, a brand new Tim Cate design in the Brunswick Forest development of Wilmington. You find all the modern bells and whistles here - bold bunkering, wetlands carries and contoured greens-wrapped up in a tranquil package.

Dear Joe,
I'm headed back to Cleveland, Ohio for a wedding in June and have time to play one round. Any good publics to recommend?

Lorna Cavanaugh
Tucson, Ariz.

Happy occasions are great, especially in Cleveland, where the masses are still mourning the Cavaliers. For the perfect break from the family, my pick is Fowler's Mill ($42-$69; 440-729-7569, in Chesterland, an excellent early Pete Dye design, circa 1972. Twenty-seven wooded, attractive holes await, but go with the Lake/River combination if you can. I managed to ace the 211-yard 3rd hole in 1996 (playing 192 that day) but the city's greatest scorecard wrecker comes one hole later, at the 461-yard, par-4 4th, which arcs to the right around a huge lake. A piece of wedding cake, catch a Tribe game and a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and you've got a quality trip.

Just Back From: Primland Resort, Meadows of Dan Virginia
The Highland Course at Primland Resort popped into our 2008 Top 100 Courses You Can Play at No. 62 and it's easy to see why. Stunning, pristine Blue Ridge Mountain aesthetics are only part of the story. Firm, fast fairways and greens, dramatic elevation changes and compelling strategic options complete the picture on this Donald Steel design.

Another plus: In the past two years, they've cleared trees to open up more vistas of the gorge known as the Pinnacles of Dan as well as of distant peaks. I do have two knocks: First, it's an unrelenting spread, with thick rough and steep fall-offs responsible for a daunting middle tee slope of 139 - it's worse for ladies, a stratospheric 147 from the front tees. Second, its mountaintop location makes it prone to fog and mist.

That said, if you have to hole up inside for awhile, the new 26-room Lodge at Primland is a great place to do it. The regular rooms are stellar, but the Pinnacles Suite is one of the top hotel rooms in all of golf. The two-level setup features a pair of sofas downstairs, one facing a large HD flatscreen, the other looking out at the 10th fairway and the densely treed mountains beyond. You reach the bedroom via a spiral staircase.

Once upstairs, the silo-shaped shower features a stone floor, tile walls and three different kind of shower heads.

You want more cool stuff? Automatic shades control the 270-degree viewing prospects from 11 windows, both upstairs and down. Gourmet dining at Elements, a new spa and outdoorsy fun such as Sporting Clay Shooting, Horseback riding and ATV romps are part of the unusual offerings. So is the 4th-floor telescope room, where the roof opens to the sky and an astronomer on-site will explain what you're gazing at.

Primland is pretty remote - more than an hour from Greensboro on country roads - but I'll recommend it for a unique, pampering getaway and a memorable course., 866-960-7746; golf packages from $400 per person per night.

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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