You wouldn’t think that three properties would make Salamander Hotels and Resorts a big player
in the Florida resort business, but a finer collection of hotels and golf courses would be hard to find
anywhere in the world. With nine wonderful courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Arnold
Palmer and Larry Packard, the golf alone is worth the trip. The accommodations and amenities at
Hammock Beach Resort, Reunion, and Innisbrook are all first rate and provide all the necessities for your
golf trip or family vacation. They definitely live up to their billing as Grand Golf Resorts of Florida.
I was honored to be part of the first-ever group of golfers to play all nine of the courses comprising
the aptly named Legends of Golf Trail in succession over a period of six days. That’s a lot of golf for
someone whose clubs have been collecting cobwebs during the abnormally cold Nashville winter. The
balmy, sun-drenched January weather in Florida took away the option of blaming Mother Nature for my
We started our odyssey at the beautiful Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, right on the Atlantic
Ocean at Palm Coast, Florida. When you cross the bridge onto the barrier island, you enter a world
surrounded by water that provides a really unique feeling of isolation. The visually dominating main
hotel tower is a stunning site, resting on prime beachfront real estate. The resort is massive, so the
looming towers provide a compass point for your stroll down the 2.5 mile beach.
A short shuttle bus ride takes you to the Tom Watson designed Conservatory Course, the first of
our nine round adventure. This course bares its teeth from the very first hole, a long par 4 dogleg right
that requires a drive between traps and waste areas and an approach shot that requires you to take into
consideration which tier the flagstick occupies. At 7776 yards from the tips, the Conservatory is reputed
to be the longest and perhaps most difficult course in Florida. Luckily, there are 12 tee combinations
available, so make your choice carefully, because there is a set of tees that will work for your game.
The beauty of Watson’s design is his way of giving each tee its own set of problems to overcome. The
signature par 3 eighth hole is a prime example. Front tees are only 70 yards from the center of the
green, but can be stretched to 199 yards from the back tee. There is a safety valve to the right side of
the green, but if the pin is on the left side, you will have a difficult uphill two-putt for par. Did I mention
the lake surrounding the green and sand traps guarding the front of the green? Besides the 140 sand
bunkers on the course, there are also a number of extensive waste areas to collect your wayward shots.
The Jack Nicklaus designed Ocean Course features six holes along the Atlantic Ocean, the most of
any course in Florida. Oceanside golf has almost a mythic allure, so this course is popular with golfers
of any skill level. You might not score well here, but you won’t care because you played golf next to
the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly every hole on the course is memorable, but the final four holes which are
referred to as the “Bear Claw” are standouts. As always, attaching a name to a group of holes is not
meant to proclaim: “Welcome to the easiest holes on the course.” On the contrary, “Bear Claw” can
ruin your day if you’re not careful. Hole 15 is long with an approach to a huge, back to front sloping,
elevated green. The short 16th requires you to choose how much of the lake you feel comfortable
carrying. The short par three 17th plays into the prevailing wind from the ocean. The 18th plays over
400 yards even from the white tees and it’s uphill to boot. It’s quite an accomplishment to tame the
With 2.5 miles of Atlantic coast beach, 8 pools, fitness center, 18 hole putting course, tennis, spa,
marina, and a water park; Hammock Beach Resort is certainly one of Florida’s finest resorts. The service
is delivered with a smile and a sincere wish to please. The rooms are beautifully decorated and provide
great views of the ocean, pools, or golf courses. We had a terrific meal at the Atlantic Grill, but there are
three other wonderful eating establishments on property as well as a sushi bar, cigar bar and coffee bar.
From the moment you arrive, the concerned staff will take great care of you. For more information, visit
their website at www.hammockbeach.com.
We next traveled to the Reunion Resort in Orlando to play its three courses by Nicklaus, Palmer,
and Watson. The Nicklaus Signature course is located in the most remote section of the resort; a bird
sanctuary filled with egret, osprey, wild turkey, herons, hawks, eagles and owls. You may also run
into some four-legged visitors such as fox, coyote, deer and armadillos. The parkland style course is
mostly flat, with water coming into play on nine holes. Par is an achievable goal on this Nicklaus course,
however you must make intelligent choices off the tees because landing areas are often small and well
guarded by bunkers or water. I felt the front nine perhaps played shorter than the yardage indicated,
but the reverse seemed to be true on the back nine. Favorite holes were the par three 16th with a long
carry over water to a very shallow green that is well protected by numerous bunkers, and the grueling
par four 14th hole. After a tough placement drive, your long approach must deal with a green that juts
out towards the lake on the left side. Many shots will end up in the large collection area to the right of
the green, making bogie a sad reality.
I believe that Mr. Palmer wants people to have fun when they play his golf courses. That is certainly
evident on the user friendly Palmer Course at Reunion. There are a number of holes with serious
elevation changes and in addition, lots of earth was moved to create elevated tees and greens. The tiff-
eagle greens putted true and fast. The beautiful, short par 4 seventh hole was my favorite. Drivable by
big hitters, most of us will be concerned about the tee shot over water and the well guarded, heavily
bunkered green with serious undulations.
Tom Watson’s creation, on the other hand, is quite penal if you miss your intended line of attack.
He firmly believes that par should be earned, so be prepared to work for it. This course is tighter, with
more trees and waste areas and bunkers that come into play than the other two tracks. There is more
slope on the greens as well. I liked the par four 9th hole because of its visually intimidating tee shot (it’s
easier than it looks) and a two tiered green which can create a lot of havoc on your score. The par five
17th is another hole that looks to have more sand than fairway. Scary stuff. Bring your A game or at
least a good attitude, because you’ll need to control your nerves to score well here.
Reunion is an apt name for this sprawling 2300 acre complex of homes, hotel rooms, and villas
which has a welcoming, community feel whether you come here to live, to vacation, or simply play a
round of golf. Whatever type accommodation you choose, you will find every modern convenience
at your fingertips. While you might like to make use of your state of the art kitchen, the resort has
some terrific dining options. Our dinner at the Forte Grille was mouth watering with the impeccable
service that is the hallmark of the Salamander Resort chain. All of the restaurants on property offer a
unique dining experience; from atop the rooftop at Eleven, to the Clubhouse Grille featuring indoor or
outdoor seating with a view of the golf courses, to the Grande Lobby Sushi Bar and even the restaurant
at the resort’s own extensive water park. With great golf, a lovely boutique spa, tennis, fitness center,
and water park with a lazy river, you can make Reunion your home base from which to visit the nearby
Orlando attractions, or you can just spend all your time at the resort and enjoy being away from the
crowds. If your golf game needs a tune-up, Annika Sorenstam’s Annika Academy is just on the other
side of the driving range. Her staff would be happy to set up a lesson at their superb facility.
Our last stop was the venerable Innisbrook Resort. Opened in 1970, Innisbrook has recently been
completely renovated and now its 550 guest rooms and suites as well as its five restaurants are up-to-
date and ready to welcome you in typical elegant Salamander style.
All four of the resort’s golf courses were designed by Larry Packard. Mr. Packard recently turned
100 years old and he is still going strong. In fact, he lives at Innisbrook and can often be seen regaling
customers with stories at Packard’s Steakhouse. He has designed or reworked over 600 courses in
his storied career and the four courses at Innisbrook are some of his best, especially the PGA Tour
proven Copperhead Course. Copperhead is ranked by Golfweek as Florida’s #3 best course. It is heavily
wooded and there is a always a preferred spot to put your tee shot. Miss that spot by much and you
will have your work cut out to make par. The double dogleg par 5 fourteenth hole requires you to
hit your tee shot to the right center of the fairway in order to have a decent shot to make it past the
second dogleg, thus setting up a reasonable approach to the green. The third hole is another par 5 that
demands that you negotiate a dogleg to the right, with water on both sides of the fairway facing you on
your second shot. This is a memorable course no matter how you are playing.
The other three courses at Innisbrook are gems in their own right. The island Course is every bit
the test that Copperhead is. You are greeted by abundant bunkers ,water hazards and unexpected
elevation changes. The 18th hole is one of the most photographed in all of Florida. At only 6300 yards
from the tips, the North Course may look benign on the scorecard, but don’t be deceived. Accuracy
is of supreme importance and you may need to play the course more than once just to decide on the
proper target for your tee shots. The South Course perhaps gets the least amount of press of the four
courses, but I really enjoyed it for its natural beauty and the abundance of wildlife on the course even
including the big gator sunning himself alongside the 17th hole.
Innisbrook is a convenient 35 miles from the Tampa Airport and within its 900 acres, you’ll find six
pools, a waterpark, nature trail, the stunning new Indaba Spa, tennis courts; and rooms, villas and suites
to meet everyone’s needs. The restaurants are uniformly excellent and offer many health-conscious
entrees for those so inclined. We dined at the Market Salamander Grille and were treated to some fine
seafood choices doled out with generous portions of Salamander service.
Salamander has made it possible for anyone to enjoy the same golf extravaganza that I have
described here. They will even provide a special scorecard that includes two holes from each of the nine
courses on the Legends of Golf Trail. How will you fare? Find out by calling for reservations at (888)
770-6501 or visiting www.grandgolfresorts.com.
By, Dave Finn, Golfinn International, Inc.
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, most seasoned travelers have at one time or another, considered or have escaped to Mexico for a winter getaway – myself included, on more than one occasion. With so many direct flights from major North American cities, not to mention an amazing array of quality accommodations and things to do, the Riviera Maya has become a favorite destination for those of us seeking warmer climes.
Over the last decade I have watched this area transform itself from ‘simply’ another tropical paradise renowned for its turquoise waters and white sandy beaches into a vacation destination that boasts a huge variety of outdoor activities that begs for your participation. The Riviera Maya stretches over 86 miles of shoreline along the eastern Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to just south of Cancun so naturally what first comes to mind is snorkeling or diving on the largest coral reef in North America or exploring ancient Mayan ruins, but many golfers have no idea that the Riviera Maya is also home to a number of world-class golf courses just waiting to be played.
Let’s start with perhaps the most recognizable, El Camaleon Mayakoba the only course in Mexico to host an official PGA Tour event. In late February of 2007, the likeable Fred Funk was triumphant at the inaugural Mayakoba Classic. Unfortunately the event lacked ‘star power’ as the top 64 players were attending the World Golf Championship Match Play but this ‘wrong has been righted.’ Recently the PGA Tour officially announced that the Mayakoba Golf Classic would be moving to its own date in November as part of the start to the 2013-2014 PGA Tour FedEx Cup season.
Gregg Lown, the new Director of Golf at El Camaleon is thrilled with this change in fortune. Lown said “With full Fed Ex Cup Points and a higher purse, the attraction for the top players on the PGA Tour will be even greater. We are looking forward to a great tournament with four full rounds of coverage on The Golf Channel.” Gregg also feels that “the timing of this event is fantastic since it will occur at the time of year when most northerners are planning a winter retreat and now the Riviera Maya will be front and center in their minds.”
Truer words were never spoken for many of us non-pros whose local courses may have gone into hibernation while we are desperately looking for our next fix. Mexico’s advantage is the weather in December, January and February when the temperature in many southern US destinations could be suspect. Here is quick rundown of the courses I’ve recently played just to ‘whet your whistle’ a little more.
El Camaleon opened in the spring of 2006 and certainly lives up to its’ name. Like the lizard capable of changing colors accordingly to blend in with their surroundings, this course celebrates nature at its finest as it delicately winds through the sensitive jungles and mangrove swamps and alongside magnificent ocean vistas. Another amazing feature of this Fairmont managed property is the unique five miles of freshwater natural canals that meander throughout the property shuttling guests to and fro in custom-built mahogany gondolas “lanchas”. No wonder Mayakoba has been dubbed “the Venice of the Yucatan”.
Picking my favorite hole was definitely a challenge but in the end it was a toss-up between the 7th and the 15th. Both are par 3’s, where the prevailing winds, sea spray and soothing waves will leave a lasting impression, regardless of your score. Greg Norman has been quoted as stating “With three distinct landscapes and a commitment to preserving the delicate ecosystem of the Yucatan, there is uniqueness in every hole” and I couldn’t agree more!
Iberostar Paraiso Golf Club is located right next door to Mayakoba, about 30 minutes south of the Cancun International Airport. Carved from an ancient Mayan jungle, every effort has been made to preserve the natural heritage of the property. P.B. Dye’s “DYEabolical” design boasts more crests and swales then the adjacent Caribbean Sea. Dye has also incorporated three natural open “cenotes”- the magical underground caverns or pools that were once the only source of fresh, sweet water in the Yucatan jungle as part of the course layout offering you another glimpse into the past. You might think all this too relaxing but know that the big and very undulating greens, deep sand traps and the waste bunkers that line some of the fairways will test every aspect of your game.
Playa Paraiso’s accolades also include hosting the 2007, 2008 & 2009 Iberostar Riviera Maya Open Canadian Tour event. Next year this club will again be the site of the PGA Tour’s Monday qualifying round so you know you are in for a challenging day here.
Another 15 minutes south is Playacar Spa & Golf Club , the elder statesman of the region. Opened in 1994, this Robert Von Hagge designed 18-hole par 72 is the oldest and tightest course in the Riviera Maya. Surrounded by lakes and lush jungle vegetation it has the highest slope rating at 148 and a layout that stretches to 7,144 yards. Playacar is also the closest course to Playa del Carmen so make sure you enjoy a stroll along the La Quinta Avenida street mall with a smorgasbord of dining establishments, non-stop shopping and more than a bar or two where you can indulge with a cold cerveza while people watching.
Bahia Principe Riviera Maya Golf Club is the southern-most golf course, just minutes north of Tulum. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. course only opened in 2010 but has already become a perennial favorite. The design consists of an 18-hole par 72 championship layout as well as a 9-hole par 3 course with plenty of natural lakes so you can decide how much of the day you want to play! Without a doubt my favorite hole was 15th that spans 190 to 245 yards from terraced tee blocks across a lake to an enormous green. If you are lucky enough to make it over the water then you’re probably in for a long putt.
There is so much to do in and around Tulum that you should consider the morning round your warm-up. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than exploring the most beautiful archaeological site in the Mayan Riviera or the caves at Aktum Chen; unless it was snorkeling in a fresh water cenote.
If everyone in your party is not as ‘avid’ a golfer as you, I can suggest the Grand Coral Golf Riviera Maya, a Nick Price design that opened in 2011 just 5 minutes north Playa del Carmen . Player-friendly, this 18-hole par 71 is by far the most forgiving course in the area with its wide and relatively flat fairways. It’s probably the least photogenic of all the courses, but would easily win a Miss Congeniality contest and it’s perfect for a not too strenuous round.
El Manglar Golf Course is a Jack Nicklaus Design and one of the best collections of par threes you’ll ever play. In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say almost every hole could be a signature hole anywhere else. This par 54 is fun for everyone in the family but will definitely test your short game. Ideal for golfers of any caliber who want to play 18 holes in under three hours. I truly applaud this concept since everyone can learn to enjoy golf in a less intimidating environment and still have plenty of ‘beach time.’
Green fees are not cheap on the ‘Riviera’ but all of the clubs include a power cart and some are all-inclusive with food and drinks provided on the course. Most will even pick you up at your hotel and bring you back after your round. All offer good quality, brand named rental sets, so you might want to consider leaving yours at home.
When I asked Gregg why he moved here he blurted out “Look around you, this is paradise! It took a lot to leave a place like Whistler, but this was an opportunity that I could not pass up.” When I asked him if he was ever concerned about safety his answer was definite. “Absolutely not. There have been incidents in Mexico, but the Riviera Maya has not been one of those places affected. Geographically, Mexico is a very large place…each region has its own personality. The warmth and generosity of the people I have met here is something that I enjoy every day. “
For special promotions and golf travel packages visit www.rivieramaya.com
Mention Myrtle Beach to any group of golfers and you certainly won’t find a consensus of opinion.
Some golfers will begin to salivate at the thought of sun, surf, seafood, and an endless supply of fun
and challenging golf courses. Others will break out in a cold sweat at the thought of traffic jams, chain
restaurants, and an endless supply of mediocre golf courses. The reality is that Myrtle Beach can be all
these things, good and bad. The trick is to plan your trip to accentuate the good aspects and avoid the
I recently discovered an easy way to simplify the planning process for a successful Myrtle Beach
golf trip. Using the website www.mysticalgolf.com, you can put together a package that provides golf
on three of the most interesting courses in town, accommodations that fit your style and budget, all
situated in close proximity with each other so you can spend a minimal amount of time in your car.
Mystical Golf is the brainchild of Claude Pardue. His business mantra is “give the golfer value for his
money.” When economic times were good, he didn’t try to gouge the customer, and when times were
difficult and Myrtle Beach courses were closing at an alarming rate, his customers continued to flock to
his three offerings. Because Pardue continually makes improvements to his courses, golfers feel that he
goes the extra mile in serving them.
All three courses were designed by Dan Maples, and yet they are three of the most distinctively
different courses on the Grand Strand. That really speaks volumes considering that two of the courses,
The Wizard and Man-O-War are located on the same piece of property. Upon entering the grounds of
the Wizard you are greeted with an unusual site. It’s the Wizard’s castle, where you might expect a
scary butler to open the front door with a loud creak, but in reality, inside is a state of the art pro shop
and restaurant. The course is playful rather than fearful, with the best tests being the opening and
closing holes. The par five 1st hole will frustrate slicers, since the dogleg angles to the right around a
large lake. The 421 yard par four 18th hole is surrounded by water on all sides; it’s basically an island
hole. Straight is your only option here. The intervening holes include some interesting mounding and
elevation changes, if not the visual interest of the aforementioned two holes.
Man-O-War is right next door, but you would never know it by the topography. There’s a nautical
theme permeating the course which starts with a clubhouse that could double as a boathouse on a
Louisiana bayou propped up on stilts above the water. While water isn’t actually in play on every hole,
it is certainly in view on every hole. And then there’s the par 4 14 th and par 3 15th holes that make up
what is thought to be the only back-to-back island greens in all of golf! Bunkering is very thoughtfully
conceived. While still a hazard, those sand traps come in handy when they protect your ball from
entering a watery grave.
The Witch is just a few miles south of its sister properties in East Conway, South Carolina. Situated
on a wetlands wildlife preserve, the course is peaceful and serene, a description uncommon for Myrtle
Beach golf. Over four thousand feet of bridges transport you through the bogs where you might
encounter deer, alligators, black bear and all types of water fowl. The course is heavily wooded and
requires thought as well as precision in your shot making. Each hole stands alone framed by woods or
wetlands so you feel like you’re in your own private sanctuary. This is as far from the assembly line, run-
of-the-mill Myrtle Beach course as you can get, and I want to play it again and again.
As I said, the friendly folks at www.mysticalgolf.com will make all your arrangements for you. They
have packages with just golf, condo and golf, or hotel and golf, plus all their stay and play packages
include a free lunch and two beers for each player, and much more. We stayed at the Sea Mist Resort
which is beachfront and only a 15 minute drive to the golf courses. There are countless restaurants and
clubs in the vicinity. We took in the show at the Alabama Theater. It’s a family oriented production
spanning many musical genres. Of course there are too many restaurant, hotel, and entertainment
choices in Myrtle Beach to mention, so I suggest you go to the website www.visitmyrtlebeach.com to
make your choices. Done properly, a Myrtle Beach golf trip is a no-brainer fun time!
Desert Golf – Lots of Reasons to Love Arizona
Article and Photos By Joe McLean, Flagstick Golf Magazine Editorial Assistant
What better warm golf destination with more than 200 golf courses available for play than the arid Sonoran Desert climes with their picturesque mountain vistas. Desert golf by any standard is target golf with the objective of hitting ribbons of green fairways set in vast expanses of desert sand, wild brush and cactus. With cuts to my arms and legs being lessons enough, I’ve learned to not try and retrieve my golf balls from these desert wastelands.
Locals play the wastelands as lateral hazards in order to speed up play and also avoid the potential bites from resident snakes. As one of my regular golf partners has told me numerous times – “Joe, they make thousands of new golf balls every day.” Unless your golf ball rests against a cactus in the desert area, you can usually chip out, BUT always remember as you set out to find your errant golf ball the rattlesnake sign featured prominently in the vicinity of the first tee.
Views on desert golf courses are phenomenal with rock formations having been set in place for millions of years. One has to wonder how these massive rocks have not toppled from their perfect, symmetrical balanced settings. Water hazards are few and far between and usually dry.
Before you set out on your games of desert golf remember to apply sunscreen, wear protective headgear and carry a few bottles of water.
Our first stop on a weekend familiarization tour with Gendron Travel located in Montreal was the Lookout Mountain Golf Course at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort. After a 1:30 arrival at the Phoenix airport, our mid afternoon game of golf was a rush to play as many holes as possible before the sun set at 5:20 pm.
Weaving through rugged mountain terrain bordering the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the Lookout Mountain golf course offers spectacular views of both Lookout Mountain and Piestewa Peak. More prominent than the omnipresent scenery and challenging play were the ever-present rabbits in plentiful numbers foraging for food. Two-legged intruders playing golf don’t seem to bother their grazing patterns. Our lead group was able to play 16 of the available 18 holes before the first of many spectacular Arizona sunsets.
Apart from their magnificent golf course, the Pointe Hilton Tapiatio Cliffs Resort has something for each visitor with their Falls Water Village, a three and a half acre oasis of pools and waterfalls, hiking, biking and rock climbing programs, the Tocaloma Spa & Salon as well as five themed on-property restaurants. After a splendid late evening meal at the Pointe in Tyme Restaurant our group was shuttled to the top of North Mountain for heavenly chocolate desserts at Different Pointe of View. Sitting around the patio fire-pit roasting marshmallows and dipping them in decadent flavours, our group was treated to a panoramic view of the twinkling lights of Phoenix and the surrounding mountains. A tip to the wise – Let the shuttle operators at the resort convey you both up and down North Mountain on your visit.
The Pinnacle Course at Troon North in Scottsdale, designed by Tom Weiskopf, has been ranked as one of the top daily-fee golf courses in the Grand Canyon State along with its sister course The Monument. The Pinnacle Course winds its way through natural ravines and the foothills of the Sonoran desert in the shadows of Pinnacle Peak in the high desert north of Scottsdale. One could spend the day hitting Callaway balls at the full length driving range or putting on the massive putting green featuring severe elevation changes and amazing photo ops. Measuring anywhere from 4883 – 7025 yards from five sets of tees, the Pinnacle course offers dramatic elevation changes interrupted by large granite boulders with shots to tight landing areas and requisite carries over wastelands. A beverage in the Dynamite Grill overlooking the 18th green is a must if only to view the desert surroundings and Pinnacle Peak while listening to tales of woe and others of success on one of the premiere golf courses in the Arizona Desert.
After we freshened up at our Hilton accommodations, we were treated to a light meal and a brief tour of the Phoenix Art Museum.
Checkout came all too early and we were off to The Boulders featuring two Jay Morrish designed, award winning golf courses. Even though it was early morning, the clubhouse area was a picture of orderly chaos with attendants loading carts and marshals holding back anxious golfers waiting for their tee times. When we reached the first tee of the South course, our starter gave the most basic of instructions – “Keep it on the short grass.” As with most golf courses, this instruction was prophetic and wasn’t about to be followed.
My errant tee shot evoked another comment from our starter “That’s a miss but don’t worry, it’s too cold for the snakes to be out.” Dropping at my point of entry to the wasteland, I was looking at one of many spectacular sights that I was to encounter during my game. A double-tiered green protected by bunkers and massive boulders left little room for error. If I was to describe each hole, this narrative would become repetitive. Fortunately my 5 wood approach finished a foot from the cup for an unexpected tap-in par.
Ribboning through the Sonoran desert, each hole was framed by massive Saguaro cacti, mesquite, palo verde trees and 12 million year-old granite boulder formations seemingly precariously balanced and silhouetted against the picture-perfect blue sky. Even though adobe-styled structures could be found throughout the course, a sense of calm and serenity prevailed throughout our round of golf on pristine fairways and generous sized greens. Wildflowers blooming in vivid shades of magenta, gold and lavender as well as desert creatures including a coyote, chuckwalla lizards, deer, jackrabbits, quail and roadrunners only added to our appreciation of our surroundings. A camera is an essential fifteenth club on The Boulders and even if you were to be penalized you would still walk away with some amazing pictures to enhance your memory.
Following a more than satisfying lunch at Bogey’s where golf club grub is brought to a new level, we were given a brief tour of the exclusive resort accommodations available at The Boulders. Whether you are staying at the main lodge or one of the guest casitas, you will find North American crafts and original art on display. Glass skylights and wood-burning fireplaces provide warmth, light and a welcome ambience. The Golden Door Spa provides requisite treatments as well as a work-out area and can arrange other amenities including hot-air ballooning, gliding, mountain and rock climbing, bi-plane flights, horseback rides and desert jeep and Grand Canyon tours.
Our home for our final two nights was the Hyatt Summerfield Suites and after a brief tour, we were off to dinner and cocktails in Old Town Scottsdale where you have to be careful when ordering hot and spicy.
With the dawn of another perfect Arizona day, we were off to the Gold Canyon Golf Resort. Before we played golf, we were given a brief tour of a few of the resort’s unique casitas which offer a variety of amenities including indoor and outdoor spas, suites, wood-burning fireplaces and private patios offering panoramic views of the majestic Superstition Mountains and spectacular desert sunsets.
Featuring the Sidewinder and Dinosaur Mountain award winning courses at the base of the legendary Superstition Mountains, Gold Canyon is located a short drive east of Phoenix and well worth the drive. Our game of golf on the #1 ranked public golf course in Arizona was the perfect way to end our Arizona trip. Dinosaur Mountain with its scenery, dramatic elevation changes, abundant wildlife and exhilarating views made for a final memorable golf experience in the Valley of Sun. After teeing off on the first hole with a green back-dropped by Dinosaur Mountain, anticipation grew as we approached each new hole. We were not disappointed. When you rate courses by the “WOW” factor, Dinosaur Mountain rates in the mid teens. Although we were treated to spectacular views from most of the teeing grounds, a look back on completed holes was even more exhilarating. It would be hard for any rollercoaster ride anywhere in the country to rival our designated route with our cart-paths winding up, over and around Dinosaur Mountain.
Oh yes, the golf was memorable and spectacular with generous landing areas and pristine greens eagerly awaiting the arrival of our golf shots which didn’t seem equal to our surroundings. A cocktail on the Bar & Grill patio was accompanied by our final memorable desert sunset.
My perfectly cooked medium prime rib meal at The Dutchman’s Hide Out was the perfect meal to cap an outstanding golf familiarization trip to the Valley of Sun. On our trip we were treated to magnificent accommodations, restaurants and golf courses and were left to wonder what other treasures the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas of Arizona would have in store. I’m sure there are many as we just scratched the surface on our brief visit. Oh well, now back to the frigid north.
Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau – www.visitphoenix.com
Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau – www.scottsdalecvb.com
Mesa Arizona Convention and Visitors Bureau – www.visitmesa.com
Hyatt Summerfield Suites – www.HyattSummerfieldSuites.com
Lookout Mountain Golf Course – www.pointehilton.com
Troon North Golf Club – www.troonnorthgolf.com
The Boulders – www.TheBoulders.com
Gold Canyon Golf Resort –
Experience America’s Newest Award Winning Golf Destination – French Lick Resort
Situated atop the rolling hills overlooking the Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana is French Lick Resort, one of America’s premier golf destinations. This historic resort is located in the small town of French Lick, where for over two centuries the Pluto Mineral Springs has attracted visitors. (It is also known as the hometown of basketball legend Larry Bird.)
The town has quickly become one of the great golf destinations in the country. Since the early 1900’s, golf has been an integral part of this resort area. Tom Bendelow designed the first course here in 1907 followed by the great Donald Ross ten years later. In 2009, however, Hall of Fame architect, Pete Dye, has designed a visually stunning masterpiece, which has quickly become one of the most highly acclaimed courses in the country.
The Pete Dye course achieved a rare double honor in the industry when the course opened in 2009, as the leading course was selected as America’s best new course by two of the leading golf publications in the country.
The first honor came by Golf Digest Magazine, which selected the new course as “America’s Best New Public Course” followed by GOLF Magazine’s selection of the course as it’s “Best New Course of the Year.” The awards were announced in the annual review of the best new courses of the year published in the January 2010 issues of each magazine.
Recently, this great modern day layout broke through and is now listed among Golf Digest’s prestigious list of America’s 100 Greatest Courses. It was one of just 18 public courses to earn the elite recognition.
“It has been a tremendous honor to be recognized by both Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine over the years,” said Dave Harner, French Lick Resort’s director of golf. These rankings have been a testament to the vision of our late founder Bill Cook, Steve Ferguson, and the legendary Pete Dye who together developed arguably one of the most visually stunning courses in America solidifying French Lick Resort as one of the elite golf resort destinations in the country.”
“As we began the journey, we never imagined that the golf at French Lick would become so highly acclaimed, and recognized both regionally and nationally, in such a short timeframe,” continued Harner.
Bill Cook, the late founder of Cook Group Inc, together with Steve Ferguson, chairman of the board, acquired the historic French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs hotels in 2005 and immediately began restoring the properties including the already popular Donald Ross golf course. They brought in Pete Dye, a native of Indiana, to design and develop the next great “must play” course, which has succeeded in putting French Lick Resort on the map as one of the country’s leading golf destinations.
The Pete Dye Course is regarded as one of the most breathtaking and exciting 18 holes of golf in the country. The course was carefully carved on a dramatic hilltop offering a variety of elevation changes, rugged and dramatic terrain, narrow fairways and challenging bunkers. There are spectacular views from every hole, some that stretch for over 40 miles overlooking the Hoosier National Forest.
Pete Dye believes the course sits on one of the best sites he has ever worked on. “I have spent the past five decades designing golf courses all over the world, including courses on great coastal sites. This project brought great excitement to Alice and me because the course is on arguably the best inland site I have ever worked on.”
Acknowledging the advances in modern equipment, golf balls and player fitness, Dye designed a golf course that stretches over 8,100 yards from the professional tees. However, this new creation welcomes all levels of players. With five sets of tees, yardages begin at 5,100 yards from the forward tees. Most players will probably play from either 6,100 or 6,700 yards.
The new Dye course features many distinct design features, including stretches of holes on each nine that are vintage Dye. The front nine builds excitement from hole to hole and peaks on No. 6. Then it continues to get more visually dramatic as the outward nine finishes back up toward the clubhouse with one of the best views on the course.
The back nine offers the most dramatic stretch of holes from Nos. 11-14. This culminates with one of the course’s signature holes, No. 14. Stretching nearly 600 yards from the back tees, this par five, with a split fairway, escalates from tee to green over a massive grass hollow that will intimidate even the elite players.
The Pete Dye Course is already on the national radar, having hosting the 2010 PGA of America’s Professionals National Championship, the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Championships in 2012, 2013, 2014, Indiana Open in 2012, and will be hosting the LPGA Legends Championships in 2013.
Complementing the new Pete Dye course at French Lick Resort is the historic Donald Ross course, which underwent a $4.6 million restoration project that has brought the course back to Ross’s original plans. The Ross course brings a rich history to the French Lick Resort. The course was site of the 1924 PGA Championship won by the legendary Walter Hagen and hosted other golf greats and celebrities such as Gene Sarazen, Chick Evans, and Bing Crosby.
The Ross course is a parkland gem, which meanders up and down the rolling hills a few miles from the main resort. The wonderful routing of the holes take full advantage of the many elevation points for classic Ross green sites, which are sloped heavily from back to front. It is one of only two public Ross courses in the state of Indiana and considered one of his more challenging designs.
French Lick is now the only resort in the world that combines the classic history of Donald Ross and the modern day design of the legendary Pete Dye. This combination is a spectacular opportunity for golfers to experience two of the best designers who ever shaped beautiful landscapes into golf courses. Visit www.frenchlick.com