Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Golf in Normandy and Western France

A couple of years ago I traveled to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and bask in the wonderful wine, cheese, art and history lifestyle. Unlike most of my travels, I left my golf clubs at home. I wanted to focus on all things related to D-Day.

That said, I was surprised at how many excellent golf courses there are in Normandy and the western part of France. Golf is much more than a recreation afterthought in this region of France with more than 67 options on the course menu.

Uncrowded fairways, spectacular coastal and countryside terrain and a chilled glass of local white wine at the 19th hole are part of the overall golf experience in Western France.

You won't bust your budget, either. You can tee up at one of the top notch courses in the region with green fees ranging from $50 to $150.

Better still, this region of France is easy to reach by train, rental car or ferry. The most convenient ferry to France from the U.K. is Brittany Ferries.

For logistics purposes, the coastal town of Roscoff is in the northwest corner of the region, Paris and Orleans are on its eastern boundary and Bordeaux is situated in the southern quadrant.

Here are some of the high-profile play options in Western France:

Golf National Albatros--Twenty miles west of Paris, this future Ryder Cup site (2018) is built like a TPC layout with spectators in mind. Built in 1990, this tournament tested course has impressive mounding and strategically place water hazards. 

Golf de Granville Bale du Mont St. Michel--Originally laid out in 1912 then redesigned by Harry Colt in 1921, this 18-hole course is regarded as the only true links course in France. Bump and run shots, unpredictable winds and spectacular scenery are part of the overall golf experience at this layout located four miles north of Granville in Normandy. There's also a fun-to-play 9-hole, par 33, links course at the complex.

Golf De la Bretesche--Routed around a magnificent chateau, which golfers see at the start, middle and end of their round, this Henry Cotton design is an exceptional golf experience exuding distinctive western France sophistication. Impeccably maintained to high standards, it features fairways mown in an attractive cross-hatch, chessboard-style. It's located in the town of Missillac.

Saint-Malo Golf Resort--For those seeking a multi-amenity golf resort experience, Saint-Malo near Le Tronchet in Brittany is a great choice. Framed by the Mesnil Forest and bordering Lake Mirloup, this 18-hole course features breathtaking views and well-bunkered greens. More golf is available, too, with an additional 9-hole, par 36 course.

Omaha Beach Golf Club--Comprised of two 18-hole courses, this popular facility offers a variety of golf challenges and scenic views. The "La Mer" overlooks the sea and Port en Bessin, a quaint fishing village. For a parkland experience, the hilly and heavily wooded "Le Manoir" introduces visitors to lush Normandy terrain.

Golf Club Des Ormes--Located between Saint Malo and Mont St Michel, this course, which is situated near a chateau, has ancient trees, small lakes and beautiful flowerbeds and landscaping.

The best golf courses in North West France


Image source: Brittany Ferries presents the best golf courses in Western France.

Monday, April 6, 2015

On Location: Royal Isabela in Puerto Rico


For those who love seaside golf ala Pebble Beach and Teeth of the Dog, Royal Isabela, on Puerto Rico's pristine northwestern coast should definitely be on your must play list.

Similar in jaw-dropping, oceanside beauty, Royal Isabela is different from Pebble and the Teeth because its sits high above the ocean, not at sea level.

Perched 200 feet above the Atlantic Ocean on rugged cliffs, Royal Isabela has some of the best oceanside holes and vistas I've ever seen. 

SETTING & BACKGROUND

Spread out over 420 lush acres, Royal Isabela is the first phase of Costa Isabela, a master-planned 1,800-acre development that encompasses 3.5 miles of Atlantic Oceanfront and nearly five miles of the Guajataca River Basin. Royal Isabela is the vision of two brothers, Puerto Rican natives Charlie and Stanley Pasarell. 

Charlie was instrumental in the development of Hualalai on the Big Island in Hawaii. You might also remember him from his storied tennis career. He was an elite, world-class professional in the 1960's and later founded the pro tour tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California.

Stanley was a tennis player and both of the brothers have a passion for golf. The third partner in the development team is Edwin Perez, president of Puerto Rico Supplies Co., a leading distributor of brand-name goods throughout Puerto Rico.


GOLF

If you can't get enough of playing Royal Isabela, the developers created three additional holes, 21 in total.

The course was designed by the Pasarells and David W. Pfaff. Based in Carmel, California, Pfaff, who passed away recently, was a pioneer in modern golf course architecture. He was an integral part of Pete Dye's design team for many years and was involved in more than 120 golf courses in 31 states and 16 countries.

"He was a wonderfully creative architect and helped us stay true to the natural contour of the land and in keeping the the integrity of the site," Charlie Pasarell told me one sunny afternoon as we gazed out to the ocean on the no. 17 hole tee box. "We moved very little dirt during the construction process to keep the original landscape as natural as possible."

Verdant, lush flora and fauna, spectacular cliff top holes overlooking craggy rock coves and deep blue ocean waters and creatively contoured greens are at the heart of Royal Isbela's appeal. 

Its a tropical links style course with a wide variety of shot options, including bump and run shots, lob shots over protruding mounds and shots over foliage filled canyons framed by ocean waters.

It's a great course for every skill level, too. There are multiple tee boxes on each hole, some have as many as six and Hole 17 has a total of 11 tee settings.

I loved the smooth, true greens. Pasarell, a friend and tennis and golf playing partner of Jack Nicklaus, told me the greens are Mini-Verde, a new Bermuda hybrid grass that the Golden Bear has at his Bear's Club in Jupiter, Florida.

My favorite holes are No. 10, a high-risk, high-reward, dogleg lelft par 5 and the signature hole No. 17, one of the most beautiful and challenging par threes in the world. 

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES

Staying at Royal Isabela is the personification of exclusivity. There are 20 separate luxurious casitas set in private settings surrounded by tropical foliage. Each of the units has 1,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Elegantly appointed, the casitas have rich, dark wood polished floors, ceiling fans, spacious, luxurious bathrooms and a terrace with a dip pool.

Casita amenities, include:

--Two LCD televisions
--Wet bar
--Complimentary high-speed Internet
-- Plush linens and robes
--Shower room
--Beautiful views from terrace
--Gilchrist & Soames bath products

Resort amenities, include:

--Large resort swimming pool
--Tennis courts
--On-site restaurant
--Concierge services
--Daily housekeeping
--In-room dining
--Nightly turndown service
--Golf pro shop

10 Little Things I Liked

1. Sipping Don Q rum at the open-air bar overlooking the 18th green with the beautiful turquoise/blue ocean in the distance.


2. My phenomenal caddie, Galo, who knew every inch of the course and made sure me and my playing partner enjoyed every hole.


3. The steep walk and stairway down to the ocean where a pristine beach with nobody else in sight is a great reward.


4. The Amaretto French Toast and Veggie Frittata I enjoyed for breakfast at the clubhouse restaurant.


5. The hole-by-hole tour I received from developer Charlie Pasarell and conversation I also had with his brother and co-developer, Stanley Pasarell.


6. The seared scallops on a bed of risotto I had one evening at the clubhouse restaurant as I dined al fresco.


7. The dip pool on my terrace at my casita, a great place to take a dip and forget about my double bogeys.


8. Seeing the stars at night. Because of Royal Isabela's discreet, well-planned lighting, you get an amazing dark sky dotted with stars every night.


9. The luxurious, rich wood appointments and amenities in my casita.


10. The easy accessibility to Royal Isabela. It's about 90 minutes from San Juan via major highways.


DINING/LOUNGES

The social epicenter of the resort is La Casa, an elegant, Spanish-Colonial style building with a farm-to-table restaurant, open-air bar and library lounge. With exquisite stone work and beautiful landscaping, it looks as if its been air-dropped in from a luxury ranch estate in Spain.

Restaurant La Casa--The quality here rivals the fantastic golf. Headed by chef Jose Carles Fabregas, the restaurant features dishes created from freshly harvested organic vegetables and fruits from the resort's own farm. With a menu that changes daily, the food is a fusion of local cuisine with European influences. If you love seafood, some of the items offered include lobster pizza, seared scallops on a bed of risotto and fresh grouper baked "Papillote" style in a banana leaf served with coconut risotto. Fabregas talks with local fisherman daily to get the best catches of the day.

Bar at La Casa--This circular outdoor bar is an amazing place to savor a drink before or after dinner drink as well as celebrate a great round of golf. At night, there's nothing better than enjoying a rum drink, inhaling the fragrance of the higuerrillo trees and admiring the starry sky above.

Grill at The Pro Shop--Features paninis, wraps and pizzas in a covered outdoor veranda setting.

THINGS TO DO

Old San Juan--Before or  after your visit to Royal Isabela, don't miss Old San Juan with its narrow streets, boutique shops, centuries old forts and wide range of restaurants featuring everything from native Puerto Rican cuisine to Italian.

Old Town Isabela--Less than a 10 minute drive, this village has an historic church, museum and great beaches.

Watersports--The area is world-class surfing area. Check out Middles Beach. Popular pursuits include kite-surfing, stand-up paddleboard, scuba and snorkeling.

LOCATION

Royal Isabela is located 73 miles northwest of the San Juan International Airport near the town of Isabela. It's situated just off Highway 113. Take the toll road 22 from San Juan, merge onto Highway 2, then turn off to Highway 113.

REAL ESTATE

Royal Isabela is a private club and residential community that has 26 home sites offered for purchase ranging in size from one to one-and-a-half acres featuring views of the cliffs, Atlantic Ocean or golf course. In addition,  Fairway Villas with wood-beamed ceilings, open kitchens and two master suites overlooking the golf course are offered.

GET THE SCOOP

For more information, click to www.royalisabela.com . Phone 1-787-609-5888, Toll Free 1-855-609-5888. Address: 396 Ave Noel Estrada, Isabela, Puerto Rico 00662

Friday, March 6, 2015

On Location: The Abaco Club on Winding Bay


I'm not sure what I like best about the Abaco Club on Winding Bay on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. From the stunning private beach with its brilliant turquoise/blue waters framed by white sand to the lush, seaside, Scottish links style course, there's lots to like about this private, international sporting club and residential community.

If you're interested in serious relaxation, where dressed up means a floral shirt and your best pair of flip-flops, this enclave of tropical luxury is for you.

Spread out on 453 acres with verdant tropical foliage, picture postcard beaches and clear, refreshing waters, the Abaco Club, which bills itself as "Barefoot Luxury", is a wonderland for those looking to de-stress.

I absolutely loved the three days I spent there and I've got the worn out flip flops to prove it.

Good news, too, the Abaco Club is embarking on an impressive multi-million dollar enhancement project that will make it even more appealing to members, new members, potential members and visitors.

Southworth Development, a highly respected international developer and manager of resort communities recently acquired the Abaco Club from Marriott Vacation Worldwide Corporation.

"The Abaco Club has everything money can't buy,"  David Southworth, president and CEO of Southworth Development, told me one evening as we enjoyed cold libations while viewing beautiful Winding Bay from the terrace of The Cliff House, the property's clubhouse.

He continued, "It's a gorgeous setting that people instantly fall in love with."

Discussing the coming attractions elicits even a wider smile from the amiable Southworth, who I first met 13 years ago at the Westin Rio Mar in Puerto Rico.

In the next two years, Southworth plans to build a new marina and boathouse, new beachside, multi-amenity clubhouse and execute a golf course improvement project that includes on-course enhancements and a state-of-the-art golf practice facility.

"We're going to make paradise even better," Southworth says. 

GOLF

I consider the Abaco Club course along with with the Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo and Corales at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic as one of the best seaside golf experiences in the Caribbean or anywhere, for that matter.

Course architects Donald Steel and Tom Mackenzie did a masterful job at the Abaco Club of incorporating Scottish links design features on gently rolling, seaside, tropical terrain.

To see The Golf Travel Guru T.V. video, click HERE

Stretching to 7,123 yards from the championship tees (6,846 yards from the Blues, ,6434 yards from the White, 6,020 yards from the Yellow and 5,395 yards from the Red), the Abaco Club layout features generous landing areas, exceptional green complexes with bump and run opportunities, pot bunkers and a variety of lies on the undulating fairways.

The panoramic ocean views from the elevated tees on holes #4, #17 and #18 are among the best anywhere in the world.

My favorite hole is the 204-yard number 17  (which I played from the 163-yard blue tees). Waves crash in the background as you putt on an undulating green. 

VISIT/MEMBERSHIP 

As a private international sports club, the Abaco Club on Winding Bay offers a variety of membership types (see below). 

For those who want a test run, so to speak, or want to stay and play, that option is available as well. Guests are welcome to stay on the property when they're guests of, or rent homes from Club members. (There's a three visit limit.)

Membership options are:

Resident Golf--offers full use of all facilities

Local Non-Resident Golf (non-Bahamian citizen)--offers full use of facilities

Bahamian Non-Resident Golf (Bahamian citizen)--offers full use of all facilities

International Non-Resident Golf--offers 20 tee times per year, participation in member events and tournaments (space available) and unlimited access to all other facilities

Resident Sports Membership--offers six tee times per year, participation in member events and tournaments (space available) and unlimited access to all other facilities

Resident Social Membership--offers use of dining and beach facilities

A non-refundable initiation fee is required upon signing. Initiation fees range from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on membership category. Annual dues range from $1,800 to $11,500.

For those interested in purchasing a home or lot, the options are:

Estate Lots--One or two acre lots, all with phenomenal ocean views, which range in price from $3 million to $4 million.

Cottages--Plantation-style, single family homes with golf and/or water views. Available in two-to-four-bedroom configurations, the Cottages are semi-customizable with interior design packages featuring island-inspired colors, furnishings and appointments. Approximately, 2,800 square feet, they range in price from $2 million to $3 million.

Cabanas--One-bedroom, vacation-style buildings priced at $375,000.

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES

I stayed in one of the resort's Cabanas, which are stand alone buildings 650 square feet in size. My one-bedroom unit was surrounded by tropical foliage with a view of the first hole fairway. Upon arrival, guests receive a personal golf cart for the length of their stay. It's great for cruising around the property and traveling easily to and from various amenities.

Cabana Amenities, included:

--Large flat screen wall television
--Screened porch
--Luxury furnishings and appointments
--Small kitchen area with refrigerator, sink and coffee maker
--Bathroom with luxury tile flooring and a roomy shower with dual shower heads (above and sidewall)
--Designer toiletries in bathroom
--Plush robes
--Superb high-speed Internet service

Resort Amenities, include:

--Heated Resort-style infinity pool
--European-style spa 
--Fully equipped fitness center
--All-weather tennis courts
--On-site restaurants
--Concierge services

10 Little Things I Liked

1. The private 2-mile sand beach. The best walking beach I've ever experienced.

2. The coconut rum drinks served at Buster's Beach Bar.

3. The quaint, small and friendly pro shop at the golf course.

4. The excellent Internet service in my Cabana.

5. The phenomenal breakfast wraps and coffee I had at Buster's Bar in the mornings.

6. The smiling, friendly members I met during my stay.

7. The awesome, inspiring ocean views from the elevated tee box on the 18th hole.

8. Sitting at Buster's Bar with a Kalick beer watching the sun set.

9. The homemade chocolate chip cookies and tropical punch at the welcome center.

10. Cruising the property on my golf cart with the air blowing through my hair.


 
DINING/LOUNGES

Buster's Beach Bar--Sitting about 20 paces from the water's edge, Buster's has a circular bar with most of the seats strategically arranged so you can fully enjoy the great sunsets.  The menu is loaded with numerous tropical specialties. My favorites: The conch fritters with a Caribbean hot sauce and the Bahama Mama tropical drink (dark rum, light rum, coconut rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and grenadine).

The Cliff House Restaurant--An octagonal shaped, open-air dining venue situated on a cliff overlooking the Winding Bay Beach. Breakfast and gourmet dinners are served.

THINGS TO DO

On-site Beach Activities--You can take full advantage of the club's phenomenal beach. Activities offered include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, wind surfing, Hobie Cats, paddle boards and beach volleyball.

Deep Sea and Bone Fishing Charters--The fishing in the waters surrounding Great Abaco Island is world class. Dolphin, wahoo, tuna and swordfish are abundant just a few miles off shore in the deep waters beyond the reefs.  There's also fantastic bonefishing at the flats of Green Turtle Cay or in the marls of Cherokee.

Diving and Snorkeling--You can easily arrange a charter to explore areas around the smaller islands and cays and explore sunken shipwrecks.

Excursions to Hope Town-This quaint village on the island of Elbow Cay, known for its candy striped lighthouse, is a great day trip where you can enjoy a sailing charter or dine al fresco overlooking the colorful marina. Don't miss the Firefly Bar & Grill where the lobster fritters and coconut/Panko crusted fish filet are just a couple of the many great items on the menu.

Ferry to nearby attractions--Ferry service (Albury's Ferry Service) is available from Marsh Harbour to Hope Town, Man-O-War and Guana Cay.

Pete's Pub & Gallery--Situated about a 10-minute drive from the club, Pete's is a don't miss part of the Abaco experience. With it's sandy floors and t-shirts hanging from the rafters (signed and donated by customers), Pete's is the quintessential island bar. Have a Blaster, their signature drink, and you'll quickly forget about all your worries. The fresh seafood is amazing with delicacies like mango grilled shrimp, coconut cracked conch and lemon pepper wahoo.

LOCATION

The Abaco Club on Winding Bay is situated about a 25-minute drive from the Marsh Harbour International Airport. There are regularly scheduled commercial flights to and from Nassau, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Seasonal flights also operate from Orlando and St. Augustine. Flights from Tampa will be available soon.

GET THE SCOOP

For more information, click to The Abaco Club on Winding Bay. Email is info@TheAbacoClub.com  Phone: 1-242-366-3820.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On Location: Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World


During PGA Merchandise Show week in Orlando, I spent an afternoon playing golf, enjoying lunch at the clubhouse and taking a brief tour of this luxury resort property.

Opened in August 2014, the Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World has been creating lots of buzz, especially among leisure luxury travelers, golfers and business meeting groups.

While Orlando has more than 115,000 hotel rooms, its upscale, luxury offerings are somewhat limited and the Four Seasons is a welcome addition for those who like a 5-star resort experience on and off the fairways.

GOLF

Originally built in 1992 and designed by Tom Fazio in Disney's portfolio of courses (named Osprey Ridge), the resort's Tranquilo Golf Club was re-designed by Fazio as well.  His enhancements included renovating bunkers, expanding and re-positioning landscaping to enhance visibility and airflow and creating a completely new hole.

I liked the course as Osprey Ridge and like it even better as Tranquilo Golf Club. The golf experience encompasses varying elevation changes, some elevated tees, protected wetlands and numerous Southern live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Fazio is one of my favorite designers because he has mastered the technique of making courses enjoyable for all skill levels, not just for power hitters and scratch players.

All the greens have been resurfaced with Tiff Eagle Bermuda grass. The new hole is the par three 16th, which measures 163 yards from the back tee. Interestingly, the course concludes with a 217 yard par three fronted by a large bunkers and a pond to the left.

The 6,901-yard course is a par 71 with four sets of tees to accommodate all skill levels.

"I am very proud of the transformation of the Tranquilo Golf Club golf course," says Tom Fazio. "Since the course opened more than 20 years ago, it has been considered among the best courses in the region, and the recent upgrades and improvements to the course will surely solidify that reputation for many years to come."

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES


Designed in a Spanish Revival architecture style, the hotel has 443 rooms (including 68 suites). The lobby and common areas are luxuriously appointed with beautiful art, flooring and furniture.

The guestrooms feature tasteful soft, elegant colors (beige, teal and orange) with white furnishings. In the evenings, you can view the Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks from your room.

Guestroom amenities include:

--Twice daily housekeeping service
--Hypoallergenic bedding
--Thick terry bathrobes
--Flat screen television
--Device charging station
--Marble mosaic bathroom with deep soaking tub, a separate oversized glass-walled shower, a separate WC and in-mirror T.V.

Resort amenities include:

--Adult-only pool
--Family pool with lazy river
--Full-service spa
--5-acre Explorer Island family playground with rock climbing wall, two water slides, sand volleyball and more
--3 Har-Tru tennis courts
--On-site Tom Fazio designed 18-hole championship course
--37,450 square feet of meeting space

DINING

For those tired of the same ol' hamburgers and wings at the clubhouse grill, the Four Seasons Orlando responds with Plancha, a Cuban American restaurant located at their golf clubhouse.

On my visit, I dined on empanadas, smoked bacon and black bean soup and marinated chicken followed by Tres Leches cake and a chocolate banana torta. My dining companions raved about their selections: The La Plancha burger with chorizo, maduro and smoked gouda cheese and the classic El Cubano grilled sandwich.

A unique touch is the outdoor smoking lounge area where you can enjoy an "apres golf"
cigar.  Better still, you can purchase a Plancha Cigar, which are hand-rolled and made exclusively for Tranquilo Golf Club. They also offer additional cigars from Davidoff, Padron and Romeo Y Julieta from their humidor.

Other dining options, include:

Capa--A 17th floor rooftop steakhouse bar with an open-kitchen and wood-burning grill.

Ravello--Features modern Italian cuisine, including pizza made in a wood-burning oven.

PB&G--A pool bar and grill with smokehouse grilled favorites like pulled pork sandwiches and smoked brisket burgers.

THINGS TO DO

--It's only minutes away from Disney's theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom).
--Downtown Disney with Cirque du Soleil, House of Blues, Planet Hollywood and an AMC 24-screen theater is a five-minute drive.
--Other golf options within a 10 to 15-minute drive are Grand Cypress Resort, Marriott's Grande Pines, Celebration Golf Club, Falcon's Fire and Disney's other courses.
--Luxury shopping at Mall at Millennia is 15-minute drive away.

LOCATION

Four Seasons Orlando is situated in Golden Oak, Disney's new, private, luxury, residential community of upscale, custom homes. Hotel address: 10100 Dream Tree Boulevard, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32836.

GET THE SCOOP

For more information, click to Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World or call 407-313-7777.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Location: Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

It had been more than a decade since I last visited the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, Florida and I'm glad I returned recently.

Always one of Orlando's premier high-profile properties, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress has benefited greatly from a recent property-wide enhancement program that included a new spa, new pool bar, expanded fitness center, additions to its expansive pool complex and refurbishments of its guestrooms and common areas.

"We have spent over $75 million overhauling every inch of the property," says Chris Regan, sales manager/leisure travel for the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. "These improvements have left us with a property that has the feel of a brand new resort."

What hasn't changed is the hotel's always appealing other attributes: Its great location near Walt Disney World and shopping (close to one of the nation's largest upscale outlet malls), excellent golf courses and academy and consistently supberb on-site dining. Better still, you're only minutes away from great attractions like Cirque du Soleil, House of Blues and Rainforest Cafe.

For golfers traveling with other family members who don't know a golf ball from a bowling ball, this resort offers the best of both worlds. You've got world-class golf (and a spa to soothe those aches and pains) as well as an unparalleled swimming pool complex and outdoor recreation menu so kids and spouses can enjoy the day while you're sinking birdie putts, or, uh, making triple bogeys.

GOLF

For Jack Nicklaus design fans, this property is pure nirvana. The Golden Bear fashioned 45 holes of championship golf, which includes a 27-hole Grand Cypress configuration comprised of three nines, the North, South and East and the New Course, a tribute to the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

North, South and East--These superbly maintained nines offer some of Orlando's best golf. All play to par-36 and feature terraced fairways and platform greens. Nicklaus did a fantastic job of framing the fairways and greens with mounds and foliage and the nines are as beautiful as they're challenging. While not totally target golf, you don't have lots of leeway on many fairways for big off-the-tee mistakes.

New Course--It's actually not new--it opened 27 years ago. Nicklaus named it on a whim and the somewhat confusing name stuck. Lending an air of authenticity to the 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, deep pot bunkers (some as deep as 12 feet) with ladders and simple white fences. There are few trees in the interior of the course, however, water comes into play on seven holes. Nicklaus offers golfers lots of room for imagination around the greens with many options to bump and run shots.

Greens of Lake Windsong--An engaging, on-site, par-3 course with holes ranging from 37 to 90 yards.

Grand Cypress Academy of Golf--One of the most innovative instructional facilities in the world, instructors use the science of biomechanics, with video and computer swing analysis and techniques, to help improve performance of golfers of all skill levels. Whether you're a Tour pro who needs a few tweaks or a struggling beginner in need of good fundamentals, this place can accommodate you. It has excellent practice facilities that include a 3-hole academy learning course where you can apply what you've learned without the intimidation you might feel on a regulation course. I highly recommend this facility to improve your game.

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES

The recently refurbished rooms have a sophisticated, airy, ambiance with a wide range of amenities. There are 815 rooms, including 48 suites and 317 kings.

Here are some of the amenities in my room:

--A 37-inch flat-screen TV
--Wi-Fi high-speed Internet access
--Ceiling fan and private balcony
--Temperature controlled cool box for beverages
--A comfortable and well-designed work desk
--An adapter panel for multimedia plug n' play
--Individual air conditioning control
--iHome alarm clock radio

Resort amenities include:

--Half-acre outdoor pool with 12 waterfalls, two whirlpools, waterslide tower pavilion and water jet splash zone
--Hyatt StayFit gym with fitness center
--12 tennis courts (5 lighted)
--Jogging paths and bicycling trails
--Marilyn Monroe Spa
--White-sand beach and water sports on 21-acre Lake Windsong
--65,000 square feet of meeting and function space/45 meeting rooms
--24-hour in-room dining
--Concierge
--FedEx Business Center 
--Hertz car rental on-site
--Multilingual staff
--Babysitting

10 Little Things I Liked

1. The spectacular views from the balcony of my 14th floor room with panoramas of Walt Disney World theme parks and Lake Buena Vista


2. On The Rocks, a new pool bar, where I enjoyed a frosty Stella Artois on a sunny January day.


3. The excellent Internet service in my room.


4. The spacious and comfortable 18-story high lobby where I relaxed with a cup of coffee to check my emails, tweets and posts.


5. Hemingway's Restaurant, which has wonderfully prepared crab cakes and other seafood delicacies.


6. The 9-hole, on-site, pitch and putt course.


7. The beautiful Marilyn Monroe Spa where I enjoyed a relaxation massage.


8. The 12 waterfalls at the half-acre size swimming pool.


9. Friendly and helpful bellmen and front door staff that anticipate your needs.


10. The fabulous lounge at the Regency Club on the 12th floor where you can sip on glass of wine, cocktail or beer inside or on a outside patio and enjoy Disney' fireworks displays in the evening.


MARILYN MONROE SPA


DINING AND LOUNGES

Cascade American Bistro--You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner daily at this restaurant with a two-story atrium and views of Lake Windsong.

Hemingway's--If you love superbly prepared fresh seafood, this is one of the best places to dine in Orlando. My favorite items are the crab cakes, scallops (pictured below) and Alaska style Key Lime pie (best I've ever tasted).

Palm Cafe--This casual dining spot has sandwiches, burgers, salads and snakes with outdoor patio dining.

Hurricane's Lounge--Offering views of the swimming pool and gardens, this popular bar has hand-crafted martinis, tropical blended drinks and an extensive wine list.

Trellises Bar & Lounge--Featuring glass walls, leather banquettes in the open air setting of an 18-story lobby, this is great place enjoy the grandeur of the hotel while drinking a cocktail or glass of wine.

On the Rocks Poolside Lounge--Situated along Lake Windsong with views of the lagoon pool and 1,000-foot beach, the lounge has four 60-inch TVs and shaded seating with misting fans.

LOCATION

Situated near Lake Buena Vista, one mile from Walt Disney World, 5 miles from Sea World Orlando, 18 miles from Orlando International Airport and 2 miles from outlet mall shopping.

GET THE SCOOP

For more information and or reservations, click to Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress or call 407-239-1234.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Top 10 Golf Trip Suggestions for 2015

If you're like the Guru, you can't get enough of legendary, classic golf destinations like St. Andrews, Pinehurst and Pebble Beach.

That said, how about channeling your inner Daniel Boone to become a pioneer seeking new frontiers to tee up.

Here's a list of exciting golf destinations that have emerged as great golf vacation destinations:
Royal County Down

North of Dublin, Ireland--For those who head north of this great city, the rewards are great. Among your must plays should be Royal County Down and Royal Portrush, of course. This region has some of Ireland's best and most natural links courses. Courses that that I highly recommend, include Carne Golf Links, Enniscrone, Ballyliffin, Donegal, Rosapenna and County Sligo. One of the many attributes of this region is you don't have to pile up the miles on the rental car. Most of the courses are situated between 30 and 60 minutes from each other.  Also, don't miss the Bushmills Distillery tour in the charming village of Bushmills.

Cabot Cliffs
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada--First came Cabot Links (ranked 82nd on Golf Magazine's list of Top 100 Courses in the World), and now debuting in July 2015 is its sister layout, Cabot Cliffs. Mike Keiser, developer of Bandon Dunes in Oregon, recruited Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to design Cabot Cliffs, a spectacular golf experience encompassing rolling, coastal dunes, soaring, jagged cliffs and Atlantic Ocean views. In fact, 10 holes are set along the water. Dare I say, some writers are referring to Cabot Cliffs as Canada's answer to Pebble Beach.

St. Endreol Golf Course
South France--One of the Guru's favorite places to visit on planet earth is the French Riviera. Stunning, scenic beaches, superb farm-to-table cuisine enjoyed al fresco at elegant restaurants and bistros, great local wines and a sophisticated, easy going lifestyle are just a few of the many attributes in the South of France. For golfers, there are more than 50 golf courses to play along the 500 mile coastline. Course settings range from links style layouts to ones dominated by pine forests. The preeminent expert at planning and executing golf-oriented getaways to the region is John Wiggins at Chardon Luxury Golf Breaks.

Quivira Golf Club
Los Cabos, Mexico--Known for its phenomenal deep sea fishing where the Sea of Cortez merges with the Pacific Ocean, Los Cabos has evolved in the past two decades as luxury golf destination with a variety of layouts donning designer tags like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Tom Weiskopf and Robert Trent Jones II. The newest places to tee up were designed by two of golf's biggest stars: The Quivira Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus design at an oceanfront community and Tiger Woods' El Cardonal at Diamante.
Argentario Golf Resort & Spa

Tuscany, Italy--The Guru loves this fantastic region of Italy for the same reasons many others do. The combination of world-class wines, incredible cuisine and Medieval hill towns and several great resorts make this a very appealing golf destination. Tuscany, with its rolling hills, rows of poplar trees, vineyards and cities like Florence, Pisa and Siena is one of the most beautiful parts of Europe. Enhancing the attraction for golfers are excellent, luxury resorts with golf such as Argentario Golf Resort & Spa, La Bagnaia Resort and Toscana Resort Castelfalfi. For an expert on the region, click to igolftuscany
Chambers Bay

Seattle, Washington--The spotlight will shine brightly on Seattle in 2015 as Chambers Bay will host this year's U.S. Open. One of America's great municipal golf courses, this Robert Trent Jones II layout is unlike any other muni you've ever played. A walking-only layout, Chambers Bay is a wonderland of fescue grasses, massive sand dunes and wide fairways. Enhancing the overall golf experience are the awesome panoramas of the Puget Sound and snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the distance. Other courses to play in and near Seattle include Salish Cliffs, Gold Mountain and Kayak Point.

Montgomerie Maxx Royal
Belek, Turkey--This dynamic beach town on Turkey's southern coast is part of what is often referred to as the Turkish Riviera. Designers like Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and David Feherty have fashioned courses in the region. The Belek area has 14 golf courses and 50 hotels. Many of its resorts are 5-star quality and operate on an all-inclusive basis. Dense pine forests and Eucalyptus trees add character and challenge to many courses in Belek. Some of the top layouts include Antalya Golf Club, Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Course and the 27-hole complex at Cornelia Diamond Resort.
Royal Isabela

Puerto Rico--I'm amazed that so many golfers overlook Puerto Rico when they're searching for a golf getaway in the Caribbean. The lush island, which is 100 miles long and 40 miles wide, is a U.S. territory so it's easy to navigate. Most residents speak some English, you don't need a passport and the U.S. dollar is the accepted form of currency. In addition to the fantastic El Youngue National Rainforest and numerous opportunities for hiking, paddleboarding and snorkeling, Puerto Rico has 30 golf courses to play. Some of the best places to tee up are Royal Isabela, Trump International Golf Club, Bahia Beach and the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa Ocean and River courses. Better still, it's only a 2 hour and 35 minute flight from Miami and 4 hours from New York City.
Black Butte Ranch

Oregon--While Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, understandably, receives most of the headlines and publicity, this state also has exceptional golf offerings in Bend, Portland and the northern coast. If you love mountain views, head to Bend in the central part of the state. Robert Muir Graves has a couple of outstanding courses in the area--Greens at Redmond and Big Meadow at Black Butte Ranch. Central Oregon is also home to Pronghorn Golf Club and Crosswater Golf Club. The must play in Portland is Pumpkin Ridge.
Twin Warriors

New Mexico--While many golfers seeking a western U.S. golf destination head to Phoenix/Scottsdale, Las Vegas or Palm Springs, New Mexico is a great, value-oriented option. The state has 310 days of sunshine each year and the courses are less crowded and more affordable than other more popular golf destinations. You can't beat the high-desert scenery and mountain peaks framing some courses. There are several great, nationally ranked courses in the Albuquerque area, including Twin Warriors Golf Club, Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club and Championship Golf Club at the University of New Mexico.