Thursday, February 15, 2018

Exceptional Enhancement at Mission Inn Resort & Club in Central Florida


While just about everybody on the planet seems to have visited Orlando for one reason or another-- whether for a family theme park vacation, convention or sports event-- the lucky ones are those who venture 30 minutes or so northwest to Lake County.

With its rolling hills, pristine lakes and charming towns like Mount Dora, Tavares and Eustis, it's a great place for a reprieve from the bustling and hectic theme park corridor. Don't worry, you can get to Orlando and its theme parks, restaurants and other attractions from here rather quickly via the Florida Turnpike.

For golfers and other travelers who want a nice slice of the Lake County good life, Mission Inn Resort & Club, a family-owned, classic Old Florida Resort located in the town of Howey-in-the-Hills is a superb choice.

Recently, I talked with longtime friend Drew Toth, Mission Inn's director of sales and marketing, about the property's $3.5 million enhancement program completed last month.

"We're really excited about the new look and feel in our guest rooms and other parts of the resort," says Toth. "We've got the perfect blend of a relaxed, classic Florida resort and the latest amenities."

With its distinctive Spanish Colonial style architecture, Mission Inn looks more northern California than central Florida. One of only a few family-owned resorts in the U.S., Mission Inn has been owned by the Beucher family for more than fifty years. The Beuchers throw their heart and soul into the resort and it shows from the friendly, attentive service to the impeccably maintained golf courses to the superb cuisine served in its restaurants.

Mission Inn has two golf courses, three restaurants, two lounges, a poolside bar and a wealth of amenities (see below).

WHAT'S NEW

I've played golf and stayed at Mission Inn several times through the years and I can attest to the decided "new look and feel" of the resort's 176 guest rooms and popular common areas.

Toth and I had our conversation at Nicker's Restaurant at the golf clubhouse, which has been updated with new carpet with earth tone colors. Other areas that received the carpet makeover were the golf pro shop, Club Room and Champions Room.  New carpet, buffet areas and counter tops highlight the enhancements at La Hacienda, the resort's main dining room, and The Grand Ballroom was refurbished.



For the Guru, what really sets apart a historic, classic hotel is the time and attention to detail in refurbishing the guest rooms. I absolutely, positively love what they done with the rooms. The refurbished and enhanced guest rooms at Mission Inn are impressive on many levels.

More than $20,000 was spent on each room highlighted by appointments like an earth tones color scheme of soft beige, brown and white and custom furniture with polished hardwood nightstands, dressers and desks. Ah, but no great hotel is complete without exceptional bedding and the new rooms have Stearns and Foster mattress sets. Other added amenities include new lighting, bath area make-up mirrors and mahagony doors with an innovative key card lock.



Among the amenities in a Mission Inn guest room are:

--Marble and granite bathrooms
--A workspace
--King or two double beds
--Screened balcony with views of golf, tennis or lakes
--High-speed Internet
--Dataport
--Flat screen T.V.
--In-room music/movies service
--Coffeemaker
--Hair dryer
--Gilchrist & Soames bath products

GOLF

To be sure, Mission Inn's two golf courses take full advantage of Lake County's engaging, rolling and un-Florida like terrain.


El Campeon--Originally opened in 1917 and later redesigned by Scotsman Charles E. Clarke in 1926, this legendary layout is one of Florida's finest. Hey, if you don't believe the Guru, Golf Advisor rates it #9 in it's "Top 25 U.S. Courses" and they named it the #1 "Golf Course in Florida" in 2015. El Campeon, with the highest elevation changes in Florida, is the antithesis of the typical flat-as-a-pancake Florida course. Characterized by roller-coaster-like fairways framed with oak and cypress trees and two peninsula greens, one island green, and one island tee, the course has natural hillside contours with tee-to-green elevations up to 85 feet. It's just flat out fun (and challenging) to play El Campeon.


Las Colinas--Designed by Champions Tour player and NBC broadcaster Gary Koch and Lakeland, Florida architect Ron Garl, Las Colinas is a wonderfully scenic way to spend four hours or so. It has spacious, open fairways on most holes, large undulating greens, exceptional bunkering and some sort of water as a hazard or feature on just about every hole.

AMAZING ACTIVITIES

You've got to be the most dedicated coach potato in the world if you can't find find something to do at Mission Inn, which has a dizzying array of activities. Just listing them all is a herculean task:


--8 tennis courts
--Fitness center
--Spa Marbella (6,200 square feet)
--Outdoor pool and hydro-spa
--On-site 55-slip marina for fishing, sailing and boating on Lake Harris
--On-site trap and skeet shooting
--Adventure and scenic bicycling
--Historical and educational eco-adventure trails
--Adventure challenge courses
--Gary Anderson's Schematic Golf Academy
--Bird Golf Academy
--Volleyball on sand courts


OTHER THINGS I LIKE

--The 30,000 square-foot driving range and 10,000 square-foot putting green
--The scenic courtyards on the property and covered walkways that connect the property's guest rooms, restaurants and meeting rooms.
--The Sunday brunches at La Hacienda and the Saturday Night prime rib and seafood buffet at Nicker's
--The margaritas at La Margarita Lounge and frosty beers at Nicker's
--All sorts of event space (indoor and outdoor) for parties, weddings and meetings. (30,000 square feet)
--The tennis center under the direction of Cesar Villarroel
--Easy access to Mount Dora, Tavares, Renninger's Antique Center and the Yalaha German Bakery

THE SCOOP

For more information, click www.MissionInnResort.com or call 800-874-9053





Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5 Reasons To Rent Clubs on Your Next Golf Vacation


Every time I travel with my clubs on an airline I'm always a bit anxious when I place them on the luggage conveyor belt. 

Quite honestly, I never know if they'll end up damaged, temporarily delayed or even get to my destination at all. Most of the time it works out, but I still get a queasy feeling when I turn them over to airline employees who don't give a rat's ass about handling my clubs with care.

That said, I travel with my clubs less and less these days on international trips. Frankly, I don't want to pay for substandard service and care anymore. I've also had some fairly good rounds of golf with rental clubs, too.

Here are my 5 reasons why I choose to rent:


1. Hassle-Free and Time Saving


You don't have to waste time meticulously packing your clubs and lugging them through airports. Better still, you won't have to search endlessly for the oversize luggage carousel to retrieve your clubs or worry about customs rummaging through your bag.


2. Avoid Costly Baggage Fees and Damage To Your Clubs


Some of the airline fees for golf clubs are obscene. Don't these airlines make enough money by saving on their lousy food, measly bags of peanuts and cramped seats. Ever since they discovered how extra fees are an amazingly easy way to gouge their passengers, airlines have no problem charging for just about anything. They practically want you to get a home equity loan just so they'll take your clubs on a flight.


3. Rental Clubs Are Generally Excellent, Quality Clubs


Years ago, rental clubs were typically some dusty set the golf pro brought from his garage for the odd golfer that didn't bring his own clubs. Not anymore. Many of today's golf club rentals are high-quality, premium brands. For instance, Sweet Spot Club Hire in Australia, has premium men's and women's Callaway and TaylorMade sets for all skill levels--from scratch players to newbies.

4. Great Chance to Try Out a Different Set of Clubs

I'm a huge blame-it-on-my-clubs guy, so I'm always open to different sticks. With rentals you can take them for a test drive on 18 holes instead of hitting them into a net off synthetic turf at a golf store. Worse still, is the demo day at your golf course where the sales guy puts on the hard sell like an annoying car salesman. 

5. You Actually Might Play Better


Who knows, your own clubs might be holding you back. Renting clubs is a great way to find out if maybe it's time to shelve the old sticks that have consistently produced double and triple bogeys and lots of heartache. 


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Finally, A Product That Speeds Up Play


The doomsayers are suggesting all sorts of reasons why golf isn't as much fun anymore. 

Some say the courses are too long and difficult. Others point out Millennials have exceptionally short attention spans. And some say the next generation doesn't want to put in the time and effort to learn and play the game correctly. 

Those reasons all have a ring of truth, but, in the Guru's humble opinion, one of the biggest problems (especially with golfers who play frequently) is the pace of play. Nothing, and I mean nothing, ruins a round of golf when the pace of play is agonizingly slow. I can put up with howling winds, pouring rains and even infrequent beer carts, but I absolutely can't stand to play behind tortoise-slow golfers who channel PGA Tour chronic slowpokes like Ben Crane, Jason Day and Kevin Na.

Standing on the tee on every hole before you hit your drive is beyond annoying. Too many golfers mimic the dawdling PGA Tour players. Let's face it, five and six hour rounds are slowly eroding the fun factor in golf.

Luckily, somebody has finally come up with an answer to slow play. His name is Bodo Sieber, the CEO of an innovative company called Tagmarshal.


I met Bodo at the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando and we reconnected at this year's show at a party at Topgolf Orlando. At the '17 Show, Bodo had less than 20 golf courses utilizing his product. Today, he has more than 100 courses using Tagmarshal.

Bodo is passionate about his product and for good reason. It flat out works.




The Tagmarshal system  works like this:

--It uses a series of GPS "tags" the function with both cart and walking courses. You clip it onto one golf bag in a group or it can be installed in carts.

--It has simple-to-use pace analytics, weather data integration, utilization heatmaps and geo-fencing.

Tagmarshal's unique algorithms highlight risk groups allowing courses to provide concise, objective support to head off pace problems before they arise, which reduces average round times and improves the overall pace experience.

The Tagmarshal system has a 15-minute average pace improvement. Some courses improve by as much as 20 minutes. It can also optimize operational efficiencies and add revenue by reducing marshalling costs and by adding capacity and optimizing busy days.

Among the courses using the Tagmarshal system are daily fee layouts such as Erin Hills in Erin Wisconsin; The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina; Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and private courses like the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee; Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois; and East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Erin Hills Golf Club
Sieber recently added Pinehurst Resort courses #2, #4 and #9 to his impressive list of clients.

Thanks again Bodo and Tagmarshal for helping make golf a more pleasurable experience.









Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Golf in Orlando


The Guru is a mild-mannered type, but I get a bit miffed when writers from outside of Florida swoop in to do a review of Orlando golf. I'm figuring they play a few rounds, take some notes, snap a few pics, hoist a couple of brewskis at World of Beer and suddenly they're some kind of experts on golf in O-Town.

Sorry guys and gals, this is the Guru's turf.

Heck, the Guru has lived in Orlando for almost three decades. I know golf in Florida, especially Orlando, and I don't need some carpetbagger to come in and tell me where to tee up. I also know the top golf resorts as well as the best dining and transportation options.

Thanks for letting me get that rant out. Now, here are some of the Guru's best places to play in Orlando:

For Golfaholics
Orange County National

Orange County National (OCN), located about five miles north of Walt Disney World, welcomes all comers. Whether you're a tour player grinding on your game to get better or a novice who just stumbled out of Topgolf and now want to take up the game, OCN has everything you need. The sweeping, 900-acre complex has 36 holes of championship golf, a nine-hole practice and learning course, 42-acre practice range, 22,000 -square-foot putting green, golf academy and 33,000 square-foot clubhouse. There's even an on-site 50-room lodge for golf travelers. 

For Nicklaus, Palmer and Watson Fans
Reunion Resort

Three of golf's most influential icons, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, designed a separate signature course at the Reunion Resort near Kissimmee. The Palmer has dramatic elevation changes up to 50 feet on some holes and six tee locations on each hole. The Nicklaus, a parkland-style design, is a high-risk, high-reward gem. The Watson has fast, firm, wide fairways with a variety of interesting shot angles. All three layouts are wonderfully maintained and highly rated by numerous websites and magazines.

Best 9-hole Experience
Winter Park Golf Club

Set in the heart of the New England style village of Winter Park, 3 miles north of Orlando, this course used to be a rough-around-the-edges muni. Not Anymore. Winter Park GC underwent a terrific enhancement project in 2016 executed by up-and-coming architects Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb. Built more than 100 years ago, the course is thoroughly modern now with strategic bunkering and exceptional green complexes. It's a great little course for those who love walking and you'll absolutely love the fourth hole that doglegs around a cemetery. I enjoy strolling the fairways which are lined with beautiful mature oak trees. You'll definitely feel more of a New England than Florida vibe on this layout.

Bargain Hunter's Special
Winter Pines Golf Club

Affordable greens fees, inexpensive range balls, lots of excellent teaching pros for lessons and a snack bar with very reasonable prices for beer, breakfast and lunch are just some of the lures that make this one of Orlando's most popular golf courses for all skill levels. You'll see everything from tour pros working on their games to college kids with their hats on backwards flailing away on the range. Winter Pines is a short, fun, 18-hole layout that plays to par 67 with some 200-yard par threes and its number one handicap hole, a 400-yard par 4. How cheap is it? Monday through Thursday after 2 p.m. you can play 18 holes for $17 including cart. A large bag of range balls (50) is only $5.00.

Best Kept Secret
Red Tail Golf Club

It's about 35-minutes from the tourism corridor near the town of Sorrento, but it's well worth the drive. You won't recognize the course designer's name (Dave Harman), but, I assure you, this is a fun and interesting course to play. It's a links-style layout with mature oak trees, lush native foliage and lakes as well as a 10-acre practice facility and two practice putting greens. It's surrounded by ranch land and just a few homes so chances are you won't be bouncing any drives off pool screens. If you want to play a "hidden gem", this is it.

Arnie Fans
Bay Hill Golf Club

While Bay Hill is a private club, you receive play privileges if you stay at the 70-room Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge located in southwest Orlando, which is open to the public. It's an amazing experience for Arnold Palmer fans or just any golf fan. Arnie's pictures and memorabilia from his iconic career dot the walls everywhere, from guest rooms to common areas. Just seeing photos of Palmer will remind you of everything great about the game of golf. The course, home to the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational, is a spectacular layout that incorporates beautiful lakes, bold bunkering, elevated tees, sometimes rolling fairways and dogleg holes. Designed by Dick Wilson and Arnold Palmer, the course sweeps along the shores of the Butler Chain of Lakes with a good number of tight fairways.

Best Luxury Resort Experience
Ritz Carlton Golf Club

The Ritz-Carlton brand speaks for itself and you'll even find their exemplary service on the golf course as well. Immaculately maintained, the Greg Norman course is dotted with lakes, wetlands, live oaks and cypress heads. A Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, the course has a natural, park-like ambience making you feel like you're miles not just a couple of hundred yards from the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels. Wide fairways with generous landing areas, no out-of-bounds stakes throughout the course, short roughs and closely mown green complexes encourage a faster pace of play. In addition, there's an optional Caddie Concierge Program. During the winter months, the caddies wear white, Augusta National-style uniforms.

Best Family Golf Resort Experience

Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate

This amenity-loaded resort near Kissimmee has a fantastic master plan with all of the golf elements located directly behind the hotel. You have easy walking access to two championship golf courses, the world headquarters of the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, a par-3 lighted pitch and putt course and a miniature golf course. If you want to introduce your young children to golf this is the place to do it. For golfers seeking a challenge, both of the courses, designed by Greg Norman, are excellent plays, too. The headliner layout is the International, which is reminiscent of the challenging coastal links courses in Australia. The National is a traditional, parklike layout that was carved out from citrus groves, wetlands and natural forest.

Best Course With High-Impact Features
Waldorf-Astoria Golf Club

Visually appealing, this 7,108-yard Rees Jones design set behind the Waldorf-Astoria Orlando hotel is as beautiful as it is challenging. Jones has masterfully utilized the pine and cypress trees and wetland preserve to provide a scenic view on every hole. High-impact features abound on this layout, which has exaggerated mounding on many holes, undulating fairways and artistically styled bunkers with bright white sand and elevated greens.


Best Course For Links Style Golf
New Course at Grand Cypress

If you can't make it to St. Andrews, Scotland, this layout designed by Jack Nicklaus, is the next best thing with its noticeable similarities to the Old Course. A creek that fronts the first green on the New Course is similar to the Swilcan Burn at St. Andrews. The seventeenth hole at New Course resembles St. Andrew' famous Road Hole, and the fifth hole, with its bunkers on the right side of the fairway, is similar to the Principal's Nose and Deacon Sime at St. Andrews. Lending an air of authenticity to New Course are replicas of St. Andrews' stone bridges and walls, a snaking burn (creek), a starter's hut overlooking the first tee, seven double greens, five-foot flag pins, deep pot bunkers (some as deep as 12 feet) with ladders and simple white fences.

Best Places for an After-the-Round Brew

Fiddler's Green, an Irish pub/restaurant in Winter Park

World of Beer, a bar/restaurant with three locations in the Orlando area with dozens of beer selections.

Crooked Can, a craft brewery in downtown Winter Garden.

Best Transportation Options

If you've got a group, Limo Bus Orlando has an excellent fleet to accommodate a variety of your needs, large or small. For those playing golf in or visiting the Miami area, the Miami Limo Bus is a superb choice for restaurant hopping, pub crawls, parties, etc.

Best Luxury Non-Golf Hotels

Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando

Alfond Inn in downtown Winter Park

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Golf Trip Junkie Makes Your Golf Vacation Dreams Come True


Booking a golf vacation looks fairly easy, right?

You hit the web, then start surfing for hotels and tee times and you're well on your way to a dream golf vacation...

Uh, no, not really.

You'll quickly find out the confusing nature of hotel, condo and villa accommodations, the difficulty of finding tee times everyone in your group can agree on, and the annoyance of deciphering the driving distances between courses are just a few of the many details that will get you so frustrated you might want to pick-up a 9-iron and launch it skyward.

Guess what, though, someone has already done all hard the work for you. Why not bypass all the anxiety and frustration by contacting Golf Trip Junkie , a golf vacation company that specializes in personal service with the primary goal of exceeding your expectations. You can either click to visit www.golftripjunkie.com or call them at 877-634-0790.


When you call, you'll most likely talk with the company's founder and president, Sean Petersen, who personally answers the phone.

"It's the first step in our heightened personal service," Petersen says. "I want to find out exactly what the client is looking for in their golf vacation. I use my vast travel experience playing at major golf destinations to design the perfect package for them."

The friendly and golf travel knowledgeable Petersen has played hundreds of golf courses in every major golf destination in the U.S. such as Pinehurst, Pebble Beach and Scottsdale as well as Scotland, Ireland and the Dominican Republic. Some of Petersen's personal favorites include Royal Dornoch and North Berwick in Scotland and We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course (Arizona), Pasatiempo Golf Club (California) and Pinehurst No. 2 in the U.S.


Sean Petersen

"We take care of the details so our clients can relax and not be stressed out worrying about the logistics of the trip," Petersen says. "Our planning and execution process is simple. We offer dedicated hands-on service with obsessive attention to detail from the beginning of the trip till the end through all of the good to any challenges presented along the way. We take absolutely nothing for granted."

You name the golf destination or resort and Golf Trip Junkie can take you there in style. From Palm Springs to Palm Beach and every major golf vacation destination in between, Golf Trip Junkie has the expertise and knowledge to plan and execute a truly memorable experience. Popular U.S. destinations include Pinehurst, Pebble Beach, Destination Kohler, Kiawah Island and Phoenix/Scottsdale to name a few.

Internationally, some of Golf Trip Junkie's more in-demand destinations include Scotland, Ireland and the Dominican Republic. Golf Trip Junkie has access to guaranteed tee times at the Old Course in St. Andrews.



"We can customize our packages to fit the clients individual wants and needs," Petersen says. "Also, even if our access to golf courses and lodging options does not include their destination, we will work to get the best possible price for the client."

For those who want to attend The Masters in Augusta (who doesn't), Golf Trip Junkie has a variety of hotel and private home packages available. Hotel packages include full breakfast, Masters tickets and tournament transfers. To review Masters Packages, click HERE


If your corporate group wants an outing for team bonding, relationship building or customer loyalty appreciation, Petersen and his team are adept at planning the entire itinerary. Golf Trip Junkie has recently coordinated highly successful corporate golf programs in destinations like Pinehurst Resort, Wild Dunes Resort and Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina and Wa-K0-Pa Resort in Arizona.

"With our knowledge and attention to detail, we make it easy for the corporate planner," Petersen says. "We can assist with site selection, accommodations, tee times and so much more to make it stress free for the planner and entire group."



Golf trip planning and execution can actually be a very easy and a non-frustrating experience. That is, of course, if you call Golf Trip Junkie (877-634-0790) or visit the website for quotes at www.golftripjunkie.com

"It just takes one call or click and I'll take it from there," Petersen says. "I'm extremely confident I can deliver the ultimate golf vacation experience."



Thursday, December 7, 2017

Australian Golf Club Rental Company Hits the Sweet Spot


What's worse than shanking a drive deep into the woods or three-putting on an easy, flat green?

I'll tell you what. It's lugging your heavy golf travel bag through a crowded airport, checking the bag in while an attendant rings up your hefty luggage surcharge and then having the airline either damage or lose your clubs with little urgency to return them to you soon.

If you're traveling to Australia to play golf, you should take advantage of The Sweet Spot Club Hire, an innovative club rental company that offers the latest premium brand clubs delivered directly to your hotel or resort.

"We make golf travel hassle-free for golfers visiting Australia," says Luke Santamaria, co-director of The Sweet Spot Club Hire. "Our process is very simple and easy to use."

Here's how it works: You visit their website www.tssclubhire.com, select the dates and specific clubs you want to hire (rent), your clubs will be delivered to your selected hotel, resort or golf course and be the clubs will be waiting for you upon arrival. Clubs can be rented for as little as $20 a day.

"The longer you hire the clubs, the cheaper the rate per day," says Luke Cerra, co-director of The Sweet Spot Club Hire.

In addition, there are multi-set discounts such as 2 to 3 sets (5%), 4 to 6 sets (10%) and more than 7 sets (15%).

Recognizing that golfers have varying skill levels, Sweet Spot offers club sets for high, mid and low-handicappers as well as ladies sets. For instance, a high-handicapper might opt for a Callaway Big Bertha Fusion set while a single-digit player might select the TaylorMade M2 set.

"We're both golfers so we understand the affection for our own personal clubs," Santamaria says. "That's why we've selected top notch, premium brands to offer our clients the next best thing."

Better still, clients can select from steel or graphite shafts and stiff or regular flex.

For your convenience, Sweet Spot also rents umbrellas to protect against rain and the hot Australian sun and sells TaylorMade golf balls.



If you haven't played in Australia, it should be on your list of golfing frontiers to visit. After all, it has 9 of the Top 100 ranked courses in the world.

"We have some absolutely phenomenal golf courses here in Australia," Cerra says. "On your visit, we invite you to use our great service. We believe it will make your golf vacation much more enjoyable in many ways."

Click to The Sweet Spot Club Hire to hire (rent) clubs for your next visit or learn about all the company has to offer.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On Location: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort


For more than 25 years, I've traveled the highways, byways and waterways of Florida. I've devoured conch fritters in America's southernmost city, Key West, and feasted on fresh smoked grouper in the panhandle, so the Guru knows a thing or two about the good life in the Sunshine State.

One of my favorite places to visit is Amelia Island, a 13-mile long barrier island about 35 minutes from Jacksonville. It has a great mix of controlled development and untouched natural surroundings. What I love is you can enjoy a beautiful, walkable beach, numerous bike and nature paths and lots of great resort and public golf, dining and sightseeing without ever leaving the island.


The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, which sits on 1,350 acres, is perfectly positioned oceanside with easy access to the village of Fernandina Beach (about a 15-minute drive).

GOLF

Two of my favorite course architects, Pete Dye and Tom Fazio, have separately designed the two championship layouts accessible to Omni Amelia Island guests.


Oak Marsh--Appropriately named, the course meanders along saltmarsh creeks through moss-draped oaks. A classic Pete Dye design built in 1972, Oak Marsh has several Dye signature features, including long, contoured fairways and bulkheaded greens. Like all Dye courses, Oak Marsh demands accuracy and shot-making ability from its challengers. If you're a spray hitter off the tee, be prepared for the nature walk of your life as you roam the fairway fringes to locate your ball.

Long Point--A Tom Fazio design, this layout takes you on an amazing trek through a well-preserved wilderness area. Dense forests, fifty-foot high sand dunes and marsh and ocean views dominate the experience. Fazio requires you to hit a wide variety of shots, ranging from those over menacing marshlands to those aimed at narrow, tree-lined fairways and oceanside greens surrounded by dunes.

ACCOMMODATIONS


Taking full advantage of its Atlantic Ocean setting, the resort has 404 oceanfront guest rooms and suites with patios and balconies. With an impressive amenity package, the rooms (as all Omni rooms) are, in the Guru's humble opinion, an exceptional value.

Room Amenities include:

--Ocean views from all 4004 guest rooms

--Furnished balcony or patio

--Serta Pillow Top mattress with 330-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets

--Plush terry cloth robes

--Exclusive skin care products

--Coffee maker with premium coffee

--Work desk with lots of outlets and ports

RESORT AMENITIES

--3.5 miles private beach

--Infinity edge adult swimming pool

--10,000-square-foot family-friendly pool with a children's splash par and 2 hot tubs

--23 Har-Tru court tennis complex

--Shopping village with 14 boutiques, deli and market

--Nature center

--Hiking and nature trails

--Fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding and surfing

--Guided Segway tours, bicycles and golf carts

--Horseback riding

--Fully equipped fitness center with a 20-yard lap pool, personal trainers and group classes

--80,000 square feet of versatile indoor and outdoor meeting space

10 Little Things I Liked

1. The friendly southern hospitality you receive throughout the resort.


2. The great veranda and fire pit at the golf clubhouse.


3. The packed hard sands on the beach, which are ideal for sunrise and sunset strolls.


4. Blueberry Margaritas at the pool.


5. Plush, comfortable bedding. I always get a good nights sleep at an Omni property.


6. Fire pits and whirlpools in the pool area.


7. Great balcony overlooking the pool and Atlantic Ocean. A phenomenal place to wind down after a good or bad day on the course.


8. Delicious in-room coffee with the Keurig Coffeemaker.


9. Convenient and prompt tram service throughout the resort.


10. Boutique shopping center near the front of the resort.


DINING/LOUNGES

You don't have to leave the resort premises for great dining. Here's the menu:

--Bob's Steak & Chop House--Prime steaks, great whiskeys and an excellent wine list can be found here.

--Verandah--A contemporary design dining room featuring fresh seafood and varied wine list.

--Oceanside--It's swimsuits, flip-flops and margaritas during the day and later it transforms into an upscale ocean-side dining venue at night where you can hear waves crashing and smell salt air.

--Marsh View Bar & Grill--Features casual fare with stunning panoramas of the marsh and 9th hole of the Oak Marsh Golf Course. (Available only to registered guests and members).

Other options on resort grounds include Falcon's Nest (pub-style menu and build-your-own-burgers), Natural Slice (pizza joint with fresh ingredients and hand tossed dough), Marche Burette (French-style market and deli), Sunrise Cafe (features great breakfast buffet) and Seaglass Lounge (handcrafted cocktails and small plates).

THINGS TO DO NEARBY

--Shopping, dining and entertainment in Fernandina Beach, a walkable fishing village with a quaint downtown area with lots of great restaurants and local shops. I highly recommend the Salty Pelican Bar & Grill on North Front Street. Get a table on the second floor open-air porch and enjoy the superb seafood. No exaggeration alert: At the Salty P I had the best fried shrimp platter ever in my many years of travel.

--Amelia Island is a bicyclers paradise with excellent trails. You can rent bikes, baby trailers, jogging strollers, tandem bikes ant Island hoppers at the resort.

--Visit Fort Clinch State Park where you can explore a Civil War era fort.

--Ride a horse on the beach (Kelly Seahorse Ranch 904-491-5166 or Amelia Island Horseback Riding 90753-1701)

--Take a fishing charter from Fernandina Beach.

LOCATION

It's situated about a 45 minute drive from downtown Jacksonville and 29 miles from Jacksonville International Airport. If you're traveling on I-95 north or south, take exit 373 (Route A1A East) and it's about 17 miles to the resort entrance. Address: 39 Beach Lagoon Road, Amelia Island, Florida 32034

GET THE SCOOP


Call 904-261-6161 or 1-888-444-OMNI. Visit their website by clicking HERE

Monday, November 20, 2017

Top 10 Golf Travel Trends for 2018


Let the good times and dimpled balls roll for golf travel enthusiasts in 2018.

With an American economy revving up with 3 % growth accompanied by meteoric stock market numbers, more people will have a few extra bucks to spend on luxury pursuits like golf vacations in the coming year.

Here are ten golf travel trends the Golf Travel Guru highlights for 2018:

1. Extended Golf Travel Vacations

Referred to as "sojourns" for the baby-boomer generation, these involve two or three month stays in golf rich areas. Typically, these golf travelers rent vacation apartments short-term or utilize services such as Airbnb. Popular locations include Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and Ireland. These longer vacations aren't just for retired boomers, either. Many boomers work as consultants or freelancers and all they need is a reliable wi-fi connection and they can travel and play golf for weeks at a time.

2. Over-The-Top Greens Fees at Iconic Golf Courses

You're going to need the few extra dollars from the robust economy because more and more of the world's most famous courses are charging  past $400 for a round of golf during their high season. If you want to play golf's high-profile layouts, be prepared to shell out some serious coin. Some of the priciest include Pebble Beach Golf Links ($525), TPC Sawgrass--PLAYERS Stadium Course ($495) and Pinehurst No. 2 ($420). 

3. Merging Fitness and Golf 

In addition to great golf, many golf vacationers want top notch wellness facilities at their resort or hotel. Especially attractive to linksters are spas with numerous treatments and services, well-equipped fitness centers, walking and jogging trails, nature paths, yoga and exercise classes. From losing weight and getting in shape to improving mental health, the goal is to improve your life beyond the fairways. 

4. Making Safety and Security a Priority

Savvy travelers are increasingly more cognizant of political turmoil, terrorism, inclement weather patterns and they want to play golf at destinations that are safe and secure. Travel agents and golf tour operators are paying closer attention to political happenings, hurricane seasons and other troubling weather situations in planning vacations. 

5. Exciting New Courses to Play

Several impressive golf courses debuted in 2017. For those seeking new golfing frontiers, the menu is enticing. Heading the list are:  Hogs Head Golf Club in Waterville, Ireland, Streamsong Black in Bowling Green, Florida, Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome Wisconsin, Norman Signature Course in Nayarit, Mexico, Panorama Golf Resort near Praque, Czech Republic and Danzante Bay Golf Club in Mexico.

6. Viva Italia

Italy, the sumptuous oasis of great wine, pasta and gelato, has increased its tee time bookings by 40% in the past three years. The momentum is expected to continue as Italy will host the Ryder Cup for the first time in 2022. Italy has 142 18-hole golf courses and several exceptional golf resorts. The Guru's favorite destination, the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region in the northeast corner of the country, has a good menu of courses like Golf Club Trieste, Golf Club Udine, Golf Club Lignano, Golf Club Grado, Golf & Country Club Castello Di Spessa, Golf Club Castel D'Aviano and Golf Club Tarviso. Other great choices throughout Italy include Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort in Manciano, Argentario Golf Resort & Spa in Monte Argentario and Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa in Ragusa, Sicily. It doesn't get any better than a chilled glass of pinot grigio after a round of golf.

7. Emerging Destinations

For those seeking new golf travel frontiers, countries increasingly bullish on golf as a lure for tourists include South Africa, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Korea, Vietnam, Mauritius, St. Kitts/Nevis and Malaysia.

8. Shipping Your Sticks

An increasing number of golf travelers are opting to ship their golf clubs. Who can blame them? Long baggage security check-in lines, lugging a heavy bag around the airport and searching in vain for the oversized bag drop-off are just some of the reasons traveling with your clubs is a major pain in the posterior. Oh yeah, the airlines could lose your clubs and you're really screwed. It's really not surprising that shipping golf clubs is increasing in popularity. Top companies include Shipsticks.com, Luggageforward.com and Golfbagshipping.com

9. Ryder Cup 2018

The Ryder Cup has evolved into one of the sporting world's (not just golf's) biggest events. Ryder Cup 2018 will put the spotlight on golf in France and attract golf travelers from around the world. The matches will be staged September 28-30 at the Albatross Course of Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, a suburb of southwest Paris.  For those who want to attend, your best bet is to go through an authorized golf travel tour operator. There are a variety of options, including Ryder Cup cruises and various pre- and post-trips to popular French regions like Bordeaux, Normandy and Brittany.

10. Food and Wine Lovers

Golfers love great food and fine wines. Hey, just about everybody is a foodie and wine lover these days. Destinations with superb, interesting cuisine and great wines are becoming even more attractive to golfers who want to enhance their vacation experience. Some of my favorite wine/golf destinations include South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Italy, France and Napa Valley in California. For dining, the Guru particularly likes Australia, which has awesome outdoor (al fresco) dining options and Italy, with its fantastic family-owned trattorias and wine estates.