Monday, July 14, 2014

On Location: The Breakers Palm Beach

Intrepid travelers are, no doubt, familiar with the well documented images of The Breakers Palm Beach Resort in Florida. From its stately, immaculately landscaped entranceway to its historical lobby and courtyard and opulent galas and parties at the Venetian Ballroom, The Breakers oozes timeless luxury and sophistication.

Once you arrive on property, however, you quickly realize the resort, which opened in 1926, has admirably evolved into a modern, amenity-laden complex with every convenience and service imaginable. Highlighting The Breakers' spectacular offerings are its hip and happening HMF Palm Beach lobby bar, an expansive, beautifully appointed room and its magnificent pool complex, one of the world's finest, with five swimming pools, a private beach, four whirlpool spas, restaurants and 25 luxury beach bungalows.

Built by Standard Oil icon and Florida development pioneer Henry Morrison Flager, The Breakers is set on 140 acres of some of the most expensive beachfront property in the world. You're drenched in European luxury ambiance at every turn. The Florentine fountain in front of the Italian Renaissance-style hotel is similar to the one in Boboli Gardens in Florence. The main lobby was inspired by the Great Hall of the Palazzo Carega in Genoa.

GOLF

There are two 18-hole courses on The Breakers golf menu:

Ocean Course--Situated at the resort, the Ocean Course was originally laid out in 1896. It was wonderfully revitalized and enhanced by Brian Silva, a Boston-based golf architect who specializes in restoration projects. Silva transformed the layout from a relatively flat track into a magnificent, mounded, modern-day resort course by reshaping, recontouring and regrassing the entire course. The 6,167-yard, fun-to-play course has left to right and right to left holes that make you strategize and think your way around the layout. Enhancing its character are mature palms, tropical flowers and lakes. While the total yardage length is not imposing, it's a great shotmaker's course. You'll need an adequate sand game, too, with the 88 bunkers dotting the course. The turf is top notch with TifEagle Bermuda grass from tee to green.

Breakers West--Located ten miles from the resort and accessible via the resort's complimentary transportation, this layout set in an upscale residential community was originally designed by Willard Byrd and artfully redesigned by Rees Jones in a neo-classic style. Stretching to 7,100 yards, the Breakers West has generous landing areas off the tee, high-profile features, phenomenal bunkering and lush landscaping.


ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES

There are 540 guest rooms, including 68 suites. Thanks to an $80 million enhancement program that redesigned and reburbished the rooms and suites a couple of years ago, the accommodations are fresh and exciting with engaging contemporary color schemes.

Some of the highlights of my room included:

--Plush Euro-style bedding with luxury linens
--Large flat screen television and DVD/CD player
--The Breakers private-label toiletries
--Lush, comfortable bathrobes
--Marble bathrooms with separate shower and tub
--Step-out balcony with inspiring view
--Excellent in-room WiFi and high-speed Internet Service
--A practical and comfortable work desk
--Several outlets to accommodate electronic devices
--In-room safe
--Beautiful wall art 

Here's a partial list of the resort amenities:

--Full-service oceanfront spa
--World-Class pool complex with five swimming pools
--Two fitness centers and new fitness studio for classes and private instruction
--John Webster Golf Academy
--10 lighted Har-Tru tennis courts with resident pro
--24-hour in-room dining
--Family entertainment center with toddlers' playroom, arcade, craft area, movie room, video game room and outdoor sports court and playground
--Coconut Crew kids program
--Snorkeling, scuba diving, catamaran cruises and other water sports
--Half-mile private beach
--Historic Bicycle Tour of Palm Beach
--Banana Boat rides
--Historic Hotel Tour
--70,000 square feet of inddor and outdoor event space encompassing four ballrooms, meeting rooms, courtyards, beachfront and poolside venues.

10 Little Things I Liked:

1. The pan seared scallops I had at The Seafood Bar--The best I've had anywhere, anytime.

2. Convenient check-in. When the line became too long at the main desk, they seamlessly guided me to the concierge desk for a warm welcome and quick and easy check-in.

3. The phenomenal property tour (available to all guests) by 97-year old Jim Ponce, who once served as the resort's assistant manager and began working at The Breakers in 1951. He provides fascinating stories about the history of the hotel and Palm Beach.

4. The spectacular panorama of the Atlantic Ocean when you walk out the back door of the hotel with the sandy beach below.

5. The exceptional organic coffee served at all of the resort's restaurants and its gift shop.

6. The single malt whiskey I enjoyed at the luxurious and comfortable surroundings in HMF, the phenomenal lobby bar with an outstanding tapas style menu.

7. The key lime pie I enjoyed at The Seafood Bar and Flagler Steakhouse. (I had it twice because it's just so darn delicious).

8. The tremendous service I got from Chris and Michael at The Circle for breakfast and from Jason at Flagler Steakhouse.

9. The designer toiletries in my guest room, which came in larger than normal containers.

10. The tapas-sized gourmet meatball dish (Nonna's Meatball and Gravy) I devoured at HMF.


DINING

The Breakers has eight restaurants and eight bars.

 

HMF--A one-of-a-kind lobby bar/restaurant that blends the classic "Palm Beach cocktail culture" ambiance with a fresh, hip vibe. The menu is loaded with tapas size servings of exceptional dishes and, of course, a wide variety of cocktails and wines. Some of the amazing items I enjoyed include the Warm Onion and Reggiano Dip, Wood Roasted Sea Bass and Chicken Albondigas Tacos.

The Seafood Bar--Offering an exceptional view of the Atlantic Ocean, this unique restaurant has an aquarium bar and vaulted, open-beam ceilings. Absolutely, positively, you must enjoy the Seared Scallops (served on a bed of Florida corn and Pearl Couscous) and Key Lime Pie.

Flagler Steakhouse--Located on the second floor of The Breakers Golf and Tennis Clubhouse, this classic steakhouse with black and white photos of Frank Sinatra and other legends dotting the walls leading to the entrance, has a comfortable, clubby feel. Highlighting the menu is the Dry Aged Tomahawk Rib Chop, Steak Au Poivre with Brandied Cream Sauce and Sweet Corn and Lobster Chowder.

The Circle--Breakfast is served in this historic circular room, which has an intricate, hand-painted ceiling and beautiful ocean views.

The Italian Restaurant--A family-friendly restaurant with fresh pastas, grilled specialties and pizzas baked in a brick oven.

Echo--Located a few minutes from The Breakers in Palm Beach, this impressive restaurant features four distinct cuisines from Asia--China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Beach Club--A perfect place for alfresco dining for breakfast and lunch that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and pool complex.

The Ocean Grill--A beachside bar and grill with views of the pool, beach and 10th green of The Ocean Golf Course.

The Surf Break--An ideal, open-air setting at the pool complex where you can enjoy a cocktail, frozen drink or ice cold beer.


ON-SITE SHOPPING

There are 11 boutiques for convenient shopping at the resort:

Lily Pulitzer at The Breakers--Tropical resortwear by the noted designer

Match at The Breakers--Resort footwear

Absolutely Suitable--Designer swimwear

Coconut Crew--Designer fashions for youngsters

Guerlain--Beauty care products

Mix at The Breakers--Jewelry and accesories

Ralph Lauren--Selection of fashions from the American designer

Signature Shop--Private label clothing with The Breakers logo

The Breakers News and Gourmet--Resort gift shop with everything from fresh coffee and newspapers to elegant gifts and souvenirs

The Sports Pro Shop-Sports oriented merchandise

Beach Shop--Beach items from sunscreen to toys and flip flops


THINGS TO DO

Here are some entertainment and recreation suggestions if you decide to venture from the resort:

--Shopping on Worth Avenue, the ritzy district a few minutes from the resort which has every major designer shop imaginable from Louis Vuitton to Gucci to Cartier. Worth Avenue is Palm Beach's answer to Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive.

--Shopping at CityPlace in downtown West Palm Beach, the open-air, Italian inspired, upscale shopping complex with over 100 stores and restaurants.

--During March, spring training baseball in nearby Jupiter at Roger Dean Stadium where the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins play games.

--The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, the fascinating 73-room mansion of the wealthy founder of The Breakers, who played and influential role in making Florida accessible to the masses.

--Deep sea fishing. You can secure a charter boat at Sailfish Marina in West Palm Beach and be fishing for catches like wahoo, dolphin and sailfish in less than thirty minutes. 

--For some nighttime revelry, head to Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach, about a 10 minute drive from The Breakers, where you'll find nightclubs, live music, restaurants and historical landmarks. Some popular spots include Bar Louie and Duffy's Sports Bar & Grill.

HOW TO GET THERE


The Breakers Palm Beach is located at One South County Road, Palm Beach 33480 about seven miles from Palm Beach International Airport. If you're driving, exit on Okeechobee Boulevard from I-95 and head east about nine miles and travel over the Intracoastal Bridge to South County Road.

GET THE SCOOP


For more information on the resort, go to www.thebreakers.com. To check on rates and availability call (888) 273-2537 or (561) 655-6611

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Location: Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

You don't find many golf resorts where you can walk out the front door of the hotel to find all sorts of restaurants, shops and museums.

The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is situated in a fantastic waterfront location in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida and across the street from a marina. On my visit, I absolutely loved parking my car and never driving it again during my stay.  When I wasn't enjoying  the resort, I simply walked a block or so out the front door of the hotel to Beach Drive and, voila, there were numerous dining and entertainment possibilities. 

Opened in 1925, the massive salmon-colored, Mediterranean Revival style hotel overlooking Tampa Bay is one Florida's historical treasures. With its original glazed, quarry tile floor, stenciled cypress beams and reproductions of 1920s chandeliers, it immerses visitors in a luxurious "Old Florida" ambiance accented with today's high-tech necessities.

Better still, the lobby was refurbished a couple of years ago and it has an elegant atmosphere with modern art pieces, a library with a fireplace, lobby bar, cafe and social gathering areas.

GOLF

The 6,626 yard, par 71 Vinoy Golf Course weaves through a beautiful, tree-laden residential neighborhood on Snell Isle, a five minute drive from the hotel (complimentary transportation is provided). 

Originally designed by Donald Ross in the 1920s, the course was redesigned and modernized by Lakeland, Florida architect Ron Garl. The meticulously landscaped homes are hardly noticeable as the fairways are framed by mature tree growth and shrubs. Highlights include nine lakes, two double greens and spectacular landscaping and vegetation, including Live Oaks, Pines and more than a dozen varieties of palms from around the world. A certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, the course is a haven for a variety of wildlife.

Make no mistake, this is not a course that will have low-handicappers shaking in their golf shoes. However, it's a superb resort course that is thoroughly playable and enjoyable for a wide variety of skill levels.

The toughest holes are seven, eight and nine, then sixteen, seventeen and eighteen, so golfers have the opportunity to score well early on the front and back nines. Garl designed the course so golfers can build confidence early, since they'll need it later.

My favorite hole is the number nine, a 465-yard, par 4. The number one handicap holes, it has two lakes left and five bunkers lining the right side of the fairway. It takes a gutsy approach shot to a 9,000 square foot green that slopes hard toward the lakes. If you birdie this hole, consider yourself very lucky and celebrate with a cool libation at the clubhouse.

The clubhouse is among the most unique I've ever visited. It is an ornate collection of Spanish and Moorish influences with features like minarets, arches and domes.

The staff at Vinoy Golf Course is exceptional.  While they have a strong membership program, they don't treat resort guests as intruders. In fact, resort players are rewarded with the same high level of service every member receives.
 

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES


The seven-floor hotel has 347 guest rooms and 14 suites. The rooms are spacious with luxury, Euro-style bedding with down comforters, custom duvets and rich linens, flat-panel televisions, work desk and in-room coffee service.

Major amenities and offerings:


--Large resort swimming pool with waterfall
--On-site marina
--Fitness center
--Day spa and salon
--Valet and self-parking
--Complimentary Wi-Fi throughout lobby area
--Tennis complex
--Multiple dining and lounging choices
--Nearby walking trail
--Coffee shop featuring Illy Coffee
--Large front veranda with comfortable couches and rocking chairs
--Full-service business center
--55,000 square feet of meeting space
--Sailing opportunities


10 Little Things I Like:


1. The view from my room which included the skyline of downtown St. Petersburg and the Vinoy Marina.


2. The expansive front porch were I sat in a rocking chair each morning and checked my emails and social media.


3. The friendly staff at the Golf Club who made you feel extremely welcome as a resort guest while taking care of their members.


4. Walking the North Bay Trail, a walking trail along the bay located across the street from the hotel, which affords great opportunities for sunrise and sunset watching.


5. The "Jumpin' Jameson" (Jameson whiskey and ginger ale on the rocks) I had at the lobby bar.


6. The history wall at the far end of the lobby that highlights the hotel's amazing past through vintage photographs.


7. Sitting under the waterfall at the swimming pool.


8. The frosty glass of Stella Artois I enjoyed one afternoon at at Alfrescos restaurant overlooking the swimming pool.


9.The amazing Scallops and Basil Linguini I had at Vinoy's Marchand's Bar & Grill restaurant one evening.


10. The very helpful Navigator (concierge) that assisted me finding out great things to do in downtown St. Petersburg.



DINING


There are six dining and lounge options at Vinoy Renaissance, including:

Alfresco--Casual restaurant where you can dine inside or on a terrace overlooking the pool. There's a Happy Hour daily from 5 to 7 p.m. and the lunch menu has a great selection of wraps, sandwiches, burgers and salads.

Veranda Cafe--Located in the lobby, this convenient cafe has Italian coffee by illy as well as salads, sandwiches, snacks and baked goods.

Marchand's Bar & Grill--This stunning 1920s gourmet room is Vinoy's signature restaurant. It has leaded arched windows that overlook the marina and a menu dotted with specialties like grilled scallops, Florida Lobster and watermelon and arugula salad.

Fred's Steakhouse--Only open for dinner and cocktails on Friday and Saturday evenings, this classic steakhouse has the feel of a plush private club with leather seats and polished hardwood appointments.

Clubhouse Restaurant at the Vinoy Golf Club--Excellent golf course views enhance this restaurant experience at lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served on Saturdays and Sundays.

Promenade Lobby Bar-After a round, this is a great place enjoy a celebratory cocktail or beer. You can sit indoors surrounded by fine art and contemporary furniture or outdoors in comfortable chairs and couches with a fire pit.

THINGS TO DO


There's lots to do in downtown St. Petersburg. Across the street from the hotel is Beach Drive, which is brimming with hip restaurants, pubs and specialty shops.  Beach Drive has a distinct Euro vibe with lots of outdoor dining possibilities and Happy Hours.

Other entertainment options include:


--Attending a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game at Tropicana Field

--Visiting the Salvador Dali Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Chihuly Collection Museum and Florida Holocaust Museum
--Enjoy nearby award winning beaches at Fort De Soto Park and Caladesi State Park
--Walk or run the North Bay Trail starting near the hotel entrance
--Attend a Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer game at Al Lang Stadium


HOW TO GET THERE


The resort is located in downtown St. Petersburg (501 5th Avenue NE, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701) about 15 minutes from St. Pete Beach and 25 minutes from Tampa International Airport. 

GET THE SCOOP

 For information or reservations, call 727-894-1000 or go to the resort's website

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

5 Top Father's Day Golf Travel Gifts

Father's Day is coming soon (Sunday June 15th--the same day as the final round of the U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort) and you can enhance the special day for pops by getting him a great gift this year.

After all, he's most likely the guy who introduced you to golf and golf travel.

The Guru has scoured the websites and catalogues to find 5 fantastic gift possibilities for the golf traveling dadster:

Bluff Works Travel Pants
So, you love to travel, but you just don't like rummaging through the closet in your hotel for an iron. Have I got a great travel pant for you. Bluff Works are the ultimate, wrinkle-free, low maintenance pant that you can wear just about anywhere and look good. Whether its the golf course, a bike ride or a business meeting, these versatile, light-weight pants are super comfortable and fashionable. Machine washable and quick-drying, Bluffs are made of a unique, breathable polyester fabric. When you're on the road, you can wear them multiple times without washing. They're available in light khaki, charcoal, velvet brown and classic gray colors. My favorite feature is the zipped front internal security pocket large enough to hold your passport. $93

Bushnell Neo XS Golf GPS Rangefinder Watch
Pre-loaded with 33,000 courses in more than 30 countries around the word, the Bushnell Neo XS Golf GPS Rangefinder Watch allows you to play three rounds between charges. Top features are hazard/layup distances (up to 4 a hole), a shot distance calculator and no membership or download fee. $199.99







Game Golf Digital Tracking System
If you really want to know where your game stands, this unique technological wonder will provide a wealth of stats to let you know if you're a pretender or contender. Just attach the Game Golf Digital Tracking System to your waist and it'll track your scores, stats and trends. It'll give you accurate information on club distance, fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts per hole and a lot more. Better still, it's compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. $249 


Golf Travel Flask

 For those who desire some swing juice to calm the nerves or a liquid warm up on a frosty day, the 8 oz. Golf Travel Flask will help enhance any round of golf. Top features include an oil tanned leather case, two snap-off brass ball markers, four tee holders and a brass divot repair tool. Single malt scotch is NOT included--you'll have to furnish your own favorite swing juice. $38.59








Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf

I don't care how many baskets of balls you hit, if you don't have the correct fundamentals you're not going to get much better. My favorite golf swing book is a simple 127-page paperback book written by Ben Hogan with Herbert Warren Wind. If your dad only reads one book on the golf swing, make it this timeless classic. Packed with drawings and logical, easy-to-read instruction, the book starts with descriptions on the grip followed by stance and posture, the first part of the swing, the second part of the swing and a summary and review. Best of all, Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf  will cost you less than a large bucket of balls. $7.91

Friday, May 9, 2014

10 Most Annoying Golf Travelers on International Trips

I've been lucky to have taken numerous golf excursions around the world and I'm a fairly easy going guy. I do my best, however, to avoid fellow travelers who are world-class whiners and complainers.

Unfortunately, there always seems to be one or two grumps who just can't seem to fully appreciate different cultures, customs, cuisine and golf courses.

Oh no... these champion complainers must voice their vitriolic opinions on just about everything.

Here is my list of the top 10 most annoying golf travelers on international trips:


1. Downgrades authentic links courses in Scotland and Ireland compared to U.S. courses--Most of the courses in the British Isles are naturally beautiful, stay true to the local terrain and don't possess the well-manicured look of U.S. courses. There's always one wise guy that starts referring to these layouts as goat ranches, donkey pastures or some other derogatory term. Enough already, Mr. golf course expert, it's like comparing apples and oranges. Enjoy the links golf experience while you're there and keep your mean, cynical comments to yourself.

2. Complains about dogs and hikers on Scottish courses--Get over it, dogs and hikers are welcome on most golf courses in Scotland. You'll see people walking their dogs and some golfers accompanied by the family pooch and hikers, who enjoy soaking up the scenery at a beautiful golf course. If it really bothers you to see Fido roaming the paths alongside the fairways, you either don't appreciate Man's Best Friend or you don't know a darn thing about golf in Scotland.

3. Refuses to follow local customs and clubhouse rules--This is the insensitive lout  constantly wearing his hat and athletic shoes around the clubhouse even though there are signs everywhere detailing appropriate clubhouse behavior. Typically, the group leader informs everyone of proper behavior and dress before entering the clubhouse, but there's always one person who just can't seem to adapt and follow rules.

4. Complains because golf carts aren't available--"What the *#@%, do we really have to walk these courses, I can't play without a cart," says Mr. Lard Ass, who hasn't walked on a golf course like, well, ever. In many parts of the world, golf carts are a luxury not a necessity and generally reserved for disabled golfers. Golf courses in the British Isles are best enjoyed by walking. Some major resorts have golf carts, but, for the most part, walking is an enjoyable part of the golf experience at most courses.

5. Overpacks with the largest luggage in the group and requires assistance in carrying--We all want wardrobe choices on a golf trip, but this person packs for an 8-day golf trip like they're going around the world in 80 days. Stacks of bricks and gold bars don't weigh as much as this person's suitcase. You practically need a forklift to move this overstuffed bag from the bus to the lobby of the hotel. To be sure, the same person always has a jammed golf bag that's difficult to lug around as well.

6. Grouses because the breakfasts are different from those in the U.S.--The full Scottish breakfast arrives and the sight of a half tomato, baked beans and Black Pudding sets this golfer off.  He quickly tells everybody at the table that he cannot begin his day this way during the week long trip. The insufferable windbag then delivers a speech about all the great American breakfasts at his favorite places back in the States like Denny's, IHOP and Perkins.

7. Constantly boozes on planes, trains, automobiles and vans--Hey, everyone who imbibes enjoys a smooth single malt or ale, especially on a visit to Scotland and Ireland. This person, however, can't limit drinking to pubs, restaurants and clubhouses. Oh no, this boozer is the first to start pounding them down on the plane and brings his own supply of plastic cups and a hidden leg flask so he can knock down a shot or two on the van or rental car on the way to the golf course.

8. Brags incessantly about all the Top 100 courses he or she has played--This is the golfer whose entire wardrobe (hats, visors, sweaters and shirts) consists of logo merchandise from the most celebrated courses in the world. Beware, too, if this boorish individual has already played one of the courses on your itinerary. He will assume the position of self-appointed expert and furnish more advice than you'll ever want or need.

9. Obsessively uses a smart phone to post on social media--Can you just put away the freakin' phone for a little while? We know you're important and successful and people can't live without your witty social media repartee, but, puhleeeeeeese, give us a break and wait till you get back to the hotel before you dive into your email, posting and tweeting world.

10. Takes a photo of seemingly everything--Mr. Photographer absolutely must take a picture of every golf hole on the trip and just about everything else so he can entertain his family into boredom when he returns stateside.  I love foursome and group pictures as much as the next person, but please tone it down with all the pictures, will ya.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On Location: Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa

If you love playing golf, followed by luxuriating at a spa, floating in a swimming pool or sipping a cool libation while watching a stunning sunset, this resort on Marco Island in southwest Florida was designed specifically for you.

Set on a 3 1/2 miles stretch of blindingly white sands and turquoise waters, the Marco Island Marriott is a superb way to enjoy a beach, golf and spa getaway.

The resort lifestyle at Marco Island Marriott encompasses two superb championship golf courses, eight dining and lounge options, two swimming pools, a 24,000 square foot spa, tennis courts and an expansive beach with watersports galore.

On my visit, I had one of my best sunset viewing experiences ever, witnessed a couple of alligators sunning themselves at the Hammock Bay golf course and relaxed on my balcony with a glass of red wine celebrating the Gulf of Mexico panorama in front of me. If you want the Marco Island la dolce vita (Italian for the sweet life), this resort provides it with great style and a high service level. 
 
GOLF

Marco Island Marriott's golf menu features two well-designed, exceptionally maintained courses that provide a private club style experience for resort guests. Both of the courses are located a few miles from the main resort complex, but they're well worth the short drive or shuttle. Hammock Bay is located 5.8 miles from the resort and The Rookery is 7.3 miles away. Regular shuttle service is provided to both courses.

Hammock Bay Golf & Country Club--Designed by PGA Tour player Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, this 6,985-yard, par 72 layout (6,003 yards from the member tees) is a very player friendly experience with wide landing areas on most holes and eight different tee placements. If you're a mid-handicapper or only play a few times a year, play this course if you can only play one of the two at the resort. Hammock Bay is scenic with mild undulations and fairways framed by palms and Live Oak trees. Recognized as a "Gold Certified Signature Sanctuary Course" by Audubon International, you'll see wonderfully preserved natural areas, lots of birds and, perhaps, an alligator sunning himself by a lake shoreline.

The Rookery--A wonderland of carpet-like fairways, palm and pine forests, lagoons and cypress wetlands, this Robert J. Cupp Jr. designed 7,180 yard, par 72 layout (6,202 yards from the members tee) is testy and drop dead gorgeous. A certified Audubon Sanctuary, The Rookery is beautifully maintained. Fifteen holes incorporate water in some form and a thoughtful strategy is imperative on every hole to score well. If you're a low-handicapper, aspiring professional or mid-handicapper who wants to ramp up the challenge, The Rookery will definitely determine if you're a contender or pretender.

All the golf carts at both locations are equipped with the Caddy Tronic GPS Systems, which feature a complete touch screen with views of the entire hole and a green view, a detailed fly over of each hole and interactive scorecard.

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES

More than 95% of the 727 guestrooms have views of the Gulf of Mexico. A typical guestroom measures 402 square feet and there are also a variety of suites (62). Marco Island Marriott has a 4 Diamond rating by AAA and a Green Lodging Designation certificate in the Florida Green Lodging Program.

All rooms feature private balconies and terraces. Amenities include luxury bedding, high speed internet access, remote control color flat screen TV with cable service and in room pay movies, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, coffee maker, refrigerator, safe and mini-bar.

Major amenities and offerings:

--Two championship golf courses
--4-court tennis complex (Red Har-Tru Hydrogrid Clay Courts)
--White sand beach steps away from the swimming pool
--Beach chair/umbrella rentals and Beach Chickee Huts
--2 swimming pools and whirlpool/cabanas
--Children's wading pool and playground
--On-site boutique shopping
--Spa with 24 treatment rooms
--Fitness Center
--Rentals for sailboats, catamarans, aquabikes and kayaks
--Paddleboard rentals
--Parasailing
--Beach volleyball and basketball 
--Bicycle rental and tours
--Waverunner tours of the Everglades 
--Offshore and back country fishing tours
--Sailing and shelling tour
--Dolphin watch tour
--Beach BBQ on weekends 
--Sunset entertainment
--60,000 square feet of business event and meeting space
--Hertz car rental counter on-site 
--Valet parking
--Self parking
--In-room dining

10 Little Things I Like

1. The amazing sunsets you can enjoy from Quinn's on the Beach, 400 Pazzi's or the balcony of your room; and the fire dancer performance on the beach.


2. The large palm trees planted in the swimming pool.


3. Cafe San Marco, which serves illy coffee, the Italian coffee that's one of my favorites.


4. The awesome beach and pool panoramas from the balcony of my room.


5. The oh-so-crispy and delicious coconut shrimp at Quinn's on the Beach.


6. The Hummus Platter I enjoyed at 400 Pazzi's overlooking the beach.


7. The outstanding sushi bar at Korals, a great bar adjacent to the lobby.


8. The chilled mango scented towels that are passed out unannounced at the swimming pool in the middle of the day.


9. The walkable beach where you can collect all sorts of sea shells.


10. The resort's two golf courses, which are beautiful, well designed and provide a private club experience without pretentiousness.


DINING

Cafe San Marco--Serves illy coffee. Great place to grab your morning espresso or coffee before you head out to the course.

Quinn's on the Beach--Great coconut shrimp, burgers and island fare at this casual dining restaurant where the sunsets are phenomenal accompanied by live nightly entertainment.

Korals--A great bar adjacent to the main lobby. It has an excellent sushi bar, cocktails and appetizers.

Kurrents--The resort's gourmet room features fresh seafood, prime steaks and live nightly entertainment.

Tropiks--A family-oriented restaurant that serves a breakfast buffet daily.

400 Pazzi's--Features al fresco dining overlooking the beach and swimming pool with a Mediterranean inspired menu with pasta, brick oven pizzas, flatbreads, salads and sandwiches. It's convenient if you're spending the day at the pool or beach because you quickly order at the counter and a server delivers your selections to your table.

Tiki Bar & Grill--A pool-side bar with light fare and full bar.

The Rookery Grill--An upscale restaurant located at The Rookery Golf Club.

Hammock Bay Restaurant--It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (Friday and Saturday only).   

HOW TO GET THERE

Marco Island is situated 18 miles south of downtown Naples, Florida. Southwest Florida International Airport is located 45 miles from Marco Island Marriott Resort. Major airlines serving the airport, include Air Canada, American/American Eagle, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, Spirit and US Airways. 

By automobile, heading south on Interstate-75, take exit 101 onto County Highway-951/Collier Boulevard, which leads to the resort (about 15 minutes). The address is 400 South Collier Boulevard, Marco Island, FL 34145

GET THE SCOOP 

To find out more about the resort, click to Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf, Club & Spa. For reservations, call 1-800-GET-HERE. For golf packages, click to Golfpac Travel.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

5 Reasons Why The Masters is Bigger Than Tiger Woods

When Tiger announced his bad back would keep him out of the 2014 Masters, you would of thought some media members wanted to cancel the whole thing and just tee it up next year.

Not so fast, my friends. Like most fans, I can't celebrate my spring without a healthy dose of azaleas, Magnolia Lane and the dulcet tones of Jim Nantz waxing poetically about this golf nirvana.

Let's face it, Tiger is a huge draw, but this is the Masters. It's the most important golf tournament on the planet and even Tiger has to take a backseat to this celebration of the game in the Georgia pines.

Here are 5 reasons why the 2014 Masters is bigger than Tiger:

1. The Masters is Never Boring
Whether it's Bubba hitting an impossible hook shot off pine straw in a playoff in 2012 or Phil pulling off some straw magic through the pines on the 13th hole in 2010, the Masters inspires golfers and brings out their best. Oh, Tiger's hit some great shots (the unbelievable chip shot at the 16th in 2005), but just about everybody in the field gets the adrenaline flowing so you never know what miraculous feat you're going to witness. For instance, Louis Oosthuizen's double eagle shot from 260 yards out on hole number two in 2012 is one of my favorites.

2. The Masters Celebrates Golf History and Family
The Masters is timeless and absolutely none of the traditions change without Tiger's presence. They were there before Tiger played his first Masters in 1995 and they'll be there long after he stops playing the PGA Tour. Treasured traditions like the ceremonial honorary starters, the family-oriented par three tournament with the players' small children wearing mini-size caddie outfits and the Champions Dinner on Tuesday of Masters Week are cherished by every golf fan.

3. Lefthanders, Not Tiger, Grab the Spotlight and Have An Advantage
The design of Augusta National favors southpaws, not Tiger. Woods doesn't bomb it off the tee like he used to and the design of some holes call for approach shots more receptive to lefthanders. In fact, in the past 11 years, five of the winners have been lefties-- Phil Mickelson is a three-time Masters champion (2004, 2006, 2010), Bubba Watson (2012) and Mike Weir (2003).

4. The 2014 Masters Has Other Great Story Lines
While Tiger winning the Masters with a creaky back would've have been the ultimate story, this year's Masters has no shortage of interesting story lines. Among the more intriguing are: Craig Stadler and son, Kevin Stadler, as the only father and son to play in the same Masters; Aussie Adam Scott tries to repeat and if he succeeds, he'll ascend to the No. 1 golfer in the world; 23 first-timers in the 2014 Masters; following the ever-confident Patrick Reed, a three-time PGA Tour winner this year, to see if he can capture a major; and watching Rory pursue the Green Jacket.

5. It's the Masters, Enough Said
No corporate signage. No goofballs yelling "in the hole" on the tee boxes at par fives. No rip-off concessions prices. No goofy trophies... The Masters is different and we like it that way. It's the most popular golf tournament in the world. Make no mistake, Tiger has added a lot to Masters lore, but the tournament doesn't need him. He needs the Masters every spring, just like the rest of us.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About Playing Golf in Tampa, Florida

Almost forgotten in the mad rush to play more celebrated Florida destinations like Orlando, Naples and Ponte Vedra Beach is Tampa, the dynamic city by the bay on the state's west coast.

There are nearly 100 golf courses in Tampa and you can tee it up 365 days a year.

I recently wrote a series of articles on Tampa for The Golf Channel's GolfAdvisor site.

Check out my articles and discover everything you need to know about Tampa golf:

A Beginner's Guide to Golf in Tampa/St. Petersburg

Play Tampa Bay's Most Scenic Golf Courses

Tampa's Tournament Tested Golf Courses

Tampa's Best Golf Resorts

Tampa's Most Unique Golf Courses