Friday, April 20, 2018

Celebrate Women's Golf Day at Pinehurst Resort


It's about time women had a great buddy trip and I've discovered a fantastic one that incorporates Women's Golf Day on June 5th.


A couple of friends of mine, Ann Mabry and Barbara Gutstadt, are trip ambassadors for the Women's Golf Day Getaway at Pinehurst Resort June 3-6, 2018. Ann and Barbara are both avid golfers and the most knowledgeable and experienced women in the golf travel industry.

Mabry is the managing director of Premier Golf and Gutstadt is the founder of Women's Golf & Travel Concierge, a division of Premier Golf.

They created the Women's Golf Day Getaway as a way for women to network, celebrate Women's Golf Day and enjoy golf in a luxury resort setting.



"The combination of world-class golf, elegant accommodations and a variety of amenities make this package a great way to honor Women's Golf Day with lots of fun and camaraderie," Mabry says.

We designed this package with lots of golf experiences and also fun activities that encourage bonding and camaraderie, Gutstadt says.

The Pinehurst Women's Golf Day Getaway Package, includes:

Three nights accommodations at the Carolina Hotel or Holly Inn
Breakfast buffet each morning
Welcome and farewell dinner and drinks
Two rounds of golf on Pinehurst Resort golf courses 1, 3 or 5
90-minute golf clinic at Pinehurst Golf Academy (June 4th)
Drive, Chip and Putt contest (June 5th)
All taxes and hotel service charges
Participants will have easy walking access to Pinehurst Village with its boutiques, pubs and restaurants



If you're interested call Ann Mabry at 770-291-5155 (direct line) or Barbara Gutstadt at 844-740-4522. One call does it all with Ann or Barbara. If you're a women golfer who loves to travel and play great courses, they can take care of you with the utmost in knowledge, experience and professionalism.


Barbara Gutstadt
Ann Mabry



Thursday, April 12, 2018

10 Most Ridiculous Golf Course Antics


It's part of the Guru's job description to play lots of golf courses. I've been lucky to play everything from high-end Top 100 courses to no frills munis and nine-hole layouts. Believe me, I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

Some golf courses just don't get it. Here are 10 of the most ridiculous golf course antics I see during my travels:


1. Drill Sergeant Starters


He barely says hello because he's so intent on delivering an 8-minute manifesto on the do's and don'ts on the golf course. In his mind, he's the all-knowing drill sergeant of the fairways and you're the wussy, idiot numbskull teenager just off the bus on the way to basic training. If you really want to get under this guy's skin then forget your receipt. All hell will break loose. You'll be humiliated in front of your group and forced to head back to the pro shop to prove that your not some trespassing loser.

2. Do Nothing Rangers


Hey, I realize many of these rangers are retired guys just trying to get some free golf and get away from the wife for a few hours, but too many of them don't enforce any sort of pace-of-play policy. My gosh, I always seem to get behind the slow poke foursome with guys checking yardage books, lining up putts like its a U.S. Open qualifier and taking 15 practice swings. Then, I see a ranger and I think , "Oh boy, he's gonna really nail these clowns." Nope, not really. Nothing but crickets as "Do Nothing Ranger Guy" whizzes by totally oblivious to the slow play everywhere on the course.

3. $5 Water and $7 Beer


I love it when I'm playing golf on a 98 degree July day in Florida and sweating my coconuts off and along comes the concession cart with their $5 water and $7 beer.  I cough up the fiver because I don't want to be dehydrated and I pay the $7 because my game is trending downward rapidly and I'm desperate for some swing oil.  Yet, when I'm drinking either beverage the only thing I can think of, is: "Wow, what the heck is the profit margin on these drinks?" When I calculate the answer, I really get pissed off at the golf course.


4. Aerated and Poor Quality Greens


Some golf courses protect announcement of their aeration dates with CIA style secrecy. Then they happily charge you full price to putt on ridiculous, bumpy greens that make a round of golf excruciating. Even worse are the bumpy, poorly maintained greens that haven't been aerated. Honestly, I'll take a fairway full of weeds and unkept bunkers if I can putt on well-maintained greens that aren't slow and shaggy.


5. Crazy Mower Guy and Overzealous Maintenance Guy


I understand lots of the course maintenance guys might not play golf, but sometimes their behavior is a bit annoying. For instance, when mower guy (usually wearing a bandana over his nose to fight off the pollen) comes roaring over a hill, pedal to the metal, just as you're in your backswing. Or how about the guys raking fairway bunkers that move in slow motion while you wait on the tee.

6. Terrible Signage and Yardage Markers


Some courses don't want to spend money on signage so you wander around in your cart aimlessly trying to find the next hole. It's annoying and slows down the pace of play. Also, not everyone carries a rangefinder so please at least give us a stake or bush denoting 100 and 150 yards and perhaps the yardages on sprinkler heads. Is that too much to ask? Once again, with limited yardage markers, it slows down play. Sometimes I wonder if they want us out there for five hours so they can sell us overpriced beer and water.


7. Crappy Practice Range


Kudos to golf courses with great practice ranges, but I've been to some (and not just munis, either) where the range is a joke. The beat up range balls look like they've been there since the 1970s, the mats are worn out and slick or the grass on the teeing areas looks like a beat up polo field. I find it a total waste of time to hit balls at a substandard range.

8. Cynical Pro Shop People


These are the guys that are sick and tired of folding shirts and resent the fact they're a scratch golfer and they have to kiss ass to dubbers and hackers who can't crack 100. You meet lots of friendly pro shop people, but be aware of the cynical, bitter guy who washed up on the mini-tours and ended up behind the counter. Sadly, he's come to the realization that shooting par on any pro tour will result in nothing but missed cuts and a quick pipeline to the golf retail industry.

9. Lousy Club Cleaner Guy


Let's face it, we all this annoying drill...These guys want a tip and nothing else matters. They don't give a rat's ass about your clubs and actually cleaning them. Generally, it's a cursory wipe with a grimy, wet towel and this mediocre service is supposed to be worth a few dollars. Their ultimate goal is get green in their pocket, not off your clubs. Yet, we always pay. I've never stiffed a lousy club cleaner guy, but I'm not satisfied with the service very often.

10. No 9-hole Rate


Hey, times have changed. More people (especially millennials and busy business types) don't have the time or inclination to devote four or five hours to a round of golf. We need more courses offering 9 hole rates and perhaps even 6-hole or 12-hole rates. The ideal for people that like to walk and play like the Guru would be offering special 9-hole, walking rates after 3 p.m.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On-Site: England's Golf Coast

Royal Lytham & St Annes 

Most of the golf masses always conjure up images of Scotland when the talk is about golf in the British Isles. While it doesn't have an Old Course, Royal Dornoch or Muirfield, England's Golf Coast in the northwest corner of the country has a phenomenal star-studded line-up.

I recently visited the area for the first time and, I must admit, I should hit myself in the head with a 9-iron for waiting so long. England's Golf Coast courses have served as venues for Open Championships, The Ryder Cup and Walker Cup. The region has hosted the Open Championship--are you ready for this?-- thirty-two times.

Enhancing your visit away from the fairways is a chance to immerse in Beatles memorabilia in Liverpool and perhaps even take in a Premier League soccer match (the season runs from August to May) in Liverpool or Manchester like the Guru did during his early spring visit.

GOLF OVERVIEW


Royal Birkdale Clubhouse

England's Golf Coast is home to 15 golf courses. Some are very recognizable names, others are not. I assure you, though, you'll be playing a quality course no matter where you tee up in this region.  

Here are some brief impressions of the four courses The Guru played:


Royal Lytham & St Annes--I know this is high praise, but this course instantly made my most-favorite-courses-I've-played list. The front-nine is absolutely phenomenal with a great mix of wonderfully designed holes. My favorite hole is the short par 4 8th (I played from the 389 yard green tees). If you push your tee shot to the right, chances are you'll land on the railroad tracks.  You play from an elevated tee to an elevated green guarded on the left by the deepest bunker on the course. From the famous, classically designed clubhouse to the train occasionally whisking by, this is a fantastic golf experience.


Royal Liverpool--Oozing with history at every turn, Royal Liverpool was founded in 1869. Often referred to as "Hoylake", it's the second oldest seaside links course in England. Luckily, The Guru has played the oldest--Royal North Devon. What strikes you immediately is how flat the terrain at Royal Liverpool is with little definition. The further you move away from the clubhouse, the more undulations you'll incur.  My favorite holes are 9 through 12 alongside the shore. I spent an  enjoyable hour wandering through the memorabilia loaded clubhouse. What a treat!. I saw the 2-iron Tiger used almost exclusively off the tee in his 2006 Open Championship victory. The list of Open Championship winners is amazing. It includes Walter Hagen (1924), Bobby Jones (1930), Tiger Woods (2006) and Rory McIlroy (2014). Hoylake has hosted the Open Championship twelve times.


Royal Birkdale--To be sure, you've got to hit fairways at Birkdale to score well. Unless, of course, you're Jordan Spieth, who famously jacked his drive way right onto the practice range on the 13th hole at the 2017 Open Championship. While I was excited to play all of the holes at Birkdale, it was fun to play the 13th to appreciate just how spectacular Spieth's recovery was in the final round of the Open. Overall, Birkdale is a true and fair test of all skill levels. The fairways are routed through flat-bottomed valleys between massive dunes. The day I played, the wind was rather tame. When the wind cranks up, Birkdale gets real tough, real quick. Royal Birkdale has hosted the Open Championship ten times. On a stroll through the Art Deco clubhouse, the photos dotting the walls feature the past Birkdale Open champions. Wow, what a list...Arnold Palmer (1961), Lee Trevino (1971), Johnny Miller (1976), Tom Watson (1983), Mark O'Meara (1998) and Padraig Harrington (2008).


Formby Golf Club--Formby often gets overlooked because of the three Royal courses, but, make no mistake, it's a superb layout. It has a distinctively different look and feel than the Royals. Formby is bordered on three sides by beautiful pine trees. The course is an engaging blend of links golf and inland golf with lots of variety in each hole. No two holes on the course are even remotely alike. I love the stretch of holes between six and ten, which are stunningly photogenic and challenging to play. Formby has a friendly membership and welcoming ambiance on the the course and in the clubhouse. I'm so glad I got to play this under-publicized gem.

Others to play include West Lancashire, Southport & Ainsdale, Hillside, Delamere Forest, Wallasey, Formby Hall and Formby Ladies Course.


ACCOMMODATIONS


Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa

* Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa (Southport)--Located six miles from the center of Southport, this exceptional amenity-rich, 4-star resort has an 18-hole parkland style golf course, nine hole par-3 course, PGA Golf Academy, a luxury spa, a restaurant and bar with golf course views and ample parking. The par-72 Old Course, an established venue on the European Challenge Tour, has fast greens and is routed through beautiful countryside with lots of trees.

* The Vincent (Southport)--A popular hotel with golfers, The Vincent is located only about two miles from Royal Birkdale. It's situated on Southport's main shopping Street (Lord Street). It has a sleek, urban vibe throughout the property with amenities like free Wi-Fi, plush European-style bedding and LCD TV in guest rooms. It also has a 6th floor gym and a chic restaurant with an eclectic menu. Amazingly, I had sushi AND fish and chips one evening at the restaurant the overlooks Lord Street.

* Ramada Plaza Hotel Southport--Set on the waterfront in Southport, this 133-room property has American-style guest rooms loaded with amenities and especially appealing attributes like convenient, covered parking and a superb breakfast buffet perfect for golfers headed out for a full day on the links. The front desk staff is extremely helpful and can guide you to top restaurants and sites in the area.

Hard Days Night Hotel (Liverpool)--If you love The Beatles, this 110-room hotel on North John Street in central Liverpool is for you. Located adjacent to The Carvern Club, where the Beatles rose to fame, the hotel's common areas and guest rooms have specially commissioned Beatles-inspired artwork dotting the walls. 

Malmaison Liverpool--A boutique hotel in the city center with views of the Mersey. The stylishly designed rooms have plush European-style bedding, great bathrooms with power showers, flat screen TV and same-day laundry service.

Bowden Lodge (Southport)--A family-run guest house situated near Lord Street, which is loaded with shops and restaurants. Set in a Victorian family home, the Bowden is charming, clean and centrally located.

*Guru stayed there during my visit.


Where The Beatles Rose To Fame

10 Little Things I Liked

1. If you're a Beatles fan, this region is a must visit. The Fab Four grew up in Liverpool and you can visit places like The Cavern Club where they got their start. There's also a Magical Mystery bus tour and The Beatles Story, the world's largest permanent exhibition of Beatles memorabilia.


2. Great fish and chips can be found anywhere from small shops with takeaway to upscale restaurants that prepare the dish to perfection.


3. The train route that goes directly by the golf courses of Formby, Southport & Ainsdale, Royal Lytham & St Annes and Hillside. It's fun--sometimes you have to wait till the train passes so you don't lose concentration on your shot. 


4. The friendly and helpful golf professionals I met at all four courses I played.


5. The surprisingly great Italian restaurants I found: Trattoria 51 in Southport and Il Forno in Liverpool.


6. Golf knowledgable players that follow proper etiquette and play at a more rapid pace than in the U.S.


7. Rising star Tommy Fleetwood who grew up in the area is celebrated at Formby Hall with the Tommy Fleetwood Lounge, which has walls dotted with pictures of him during various points in his career.


8. The Halfway House at Royal Lytham where I enjoyed a wee nip of Bells Scottish whiskey to warm up.


9. The Winslow Hotel at Goodison Park People's Pub where I hoisted a few pints prior to an Everton match against Brighton. The Blues won 2-0.


10. The full English breakfasts I enjoyed with eggs, bacon, sausages (bangers), grilled tomatoes, beans, hash browns and black pudding.



Goodison Park
LOCATION

England's Golf Coast in northwest England stretches from Lytham in its northern reaches to Liverpool and Wirral in the southern sector. You can fly into either Liverpool John Lennon Airport, about 9 miles from Liverpool city center, or Manchester Airport, which is about 35 miles from Liverpool. By train, London to Liverpool is about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Guru flew into Manchester and rented a car, which was very convenient. The M6 (England's version of the U.S. interstate system) is the main arterial through the area offering easy access to all major destinations.

THE SCOOP

If you want to go, especially for groups of 8 or more, I suggest you get in touch with a couple of very proficient and knowledgeable travel professional friends of mine: Geoff Harris of England's Golf Coast (enquiries@englandsgolfcoast) or Ann Mabry of Atlanta-based Premier Golf (888-439-1831). You can also direct message me on twitter @GuruGolfTravel for any tips. For general information on the area, click www.englandsgolfcoast or call 0174 807800





Friday, March 2, 2018

On Site: Trump National Doral Miami


In the past twenty years, I've visited the resort "formerly known as the Doral Golf Resort and Spa" more than a half dozen times. My most recent visit to the property (now named Trump National Doral Miami) was the first time after the Trump Organization spent more than $250 million modernizing and dramatically enhancing this legendary 800-acre resort.

To say I was blown away by the enhancements would be a vast understatement. Trump National Doral Miami definitely lives up to all the hype. From impeccable landscaping at every glance to common areas in the main building brimming with gold appointments, stunning chandeliers and plush Italian marble, the Trump's have literally created a "new" resort. 


Heck, I hardly even recognize the old place. That's a great thing, believe me.

If you're looking for the quintessential luxury Florida golf experience, Trump National delivers in sense of place, wonderfully maintained golf courses, great food and in numerous other ways.


GOLF

Make no mistake, the golf courses were not an afterthought in the enhancement program. Top notch designer Gil Hanse was brought in to revamp the Blue Monster and provide consultation on the other courses. Hanse is masterful at creating lots of challenge for the best golfers in the world and fun, playable holes for mid-handicapper resort players.

No matter how bad you play on a Hanse course, you don't walk away blaming the designer. If you're honest, like the Guru, you blame your lack of concentration, poor set-up and inconsistent swing.

Trump National Doral has four championship 18-hole golf courses. There's something for every skill level. If you don't have a skill level or you want to take your game to another level, the on-site Rick Smith Golf Performance Center is amazing with its high-tech gadgetry.

Blue Monster--One of my favorite courses to play in Florida, the Blue Monster was enhanced by Gil Hanse in 2014. It's still long, it's still tough, but Hanse requires more than length to score well. He re-evaluated and re-sculpted every hole assuring golfers of great shot angles and lots of high risk, high reward possibilities. One thing Hanse didn't change is the routing of the celebrated 18th hole with water skirting the entire left side. It's arguably, the best individual hole in Florida.

Golden Palm--Gil Hanse and his team put their design magic on this links-style layout that has open vistas, contoured greens, superb green complexes and innovative bunkering. It's named after the predominate tree that dots the course. One of the most intriguing design aspects is the bunkering. Hanse puts some heavy rough behind the back side of many bunkers, which presents a great challenge.

Red Tiger--This is a shotmaker's layout where you need a good strategy on each hole not brute strength off the tee. Fourteen of the holes have some sort of water feature and there are two island greens (No. 6 and No. 14). It's target golf, yes, but not overly penal. If you're having a good ball striking day, you'll do fine.

Silver Fox--If you like water, not necessarily landing in it, you'll enjoy this layout that has the liquid stuff on 16 of the 18 holes. It has a good mix of holes with elevated tee boxes and greens and you'll need to keep your sand wedge accessible because there are some very strategically placed bunkers.


Rick Smith Golf Performance Center

Opened in January 2018, this state-of-the-art instruction facility is headed by Rick Smith, who has tutored the likes of Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus during his long and storied career. I interviewed Rick at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando recently and he's tremendously excited about his facility at Trump National Doral. The affable Smith is a great communicator and he instructs his staff to make the learning process fun and productive. The facility incorporates four indoor hitting bays and a fifth for evaluation and club fitting as well as a practice tee and short game area. The vibe at Rick Smith Golf Performance Center is easy going, helpful and non-intimidating. Whether you're a beginner or professional wanting to take the next step, this is an exceptional facility.

ACCOMMODATIONS


The accommodations encompass 643 total guest rooms, 14 deluxe suites, 27 premier suites, 2 presidential suites and 48 spa suites. The rooms are situated in villa-like lodges. I stayed in the Arnold Palmer lodge and others are named after golf icons like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Gary Player and Sam Snead.



My Deluxe Room (343 square feet) had a balcony overlooking the 18th green of the Blue Monster.  Stylish and elegant, the room has soft, neutral colors, gold appointments, mahogany veneers and walls dotted with vintage photographs of Arnold Palmer.

10 Little Things I Liked

1. The gigantic American Flag positioned behind the 18th green of the Blue Monster golf course.

2. The efficient valet and bellman services at check-in and check-out.

3. My guest room located in the Arnold Palmer Villas building with its amazing collection of vintage photographs of Arnie and his friends.

4. My room's spacious balcony overlooking the Blue Monster. Loved sipping a smooth Cab while watching the golfers finishing on one of the toughest holes anywhere.

5. The plush European bedding and six, yes six, big fluffy pillows.

6. The gold fixtures in my bathroom with granite countertops and marble flooring.

7. The phenomenal Rainfall Shower Head with strong water pressure.

8. The Natura Bisse Diamond Collection bath amenities.

9. The calamari with citrus/habanero sauce and ice cold Corona Light I had at the pool bar on my first day.

10. The Grilled Bacon appetizer at the resort's BLT Prime restaurant. An amazing dish of double cut bacon, parsley, garlic and sherry vinaigrette.



DINING/LOUNGES

BLT Prime--An upscale steakhouse with a phenomenal view of the Blue Monster golf course. I dined here one night and had an exceptional meal. While the Guru generally opts for the biggest steak on the menu, I'm watching the waistline so I opted for the grilled jumbo shrimp in basil oil. It was exceptional. For desert, absolutely, positively, don't miss the peanut butter chocolate mousse with banana ice cream. Amazing!

Champions Bar & Grill--Upscale sports bar with plush leather seats and polished wood appointments. It's a great place for a post round libation. It has an all-day menu and outdoor patio seating. Lots of variety on the menu. You can get anything from a 16 oz. half bone-in ribeye to fish tacos and kale salad.

Palm Grill--Great poolside restaurant with al fresco dining and a menu dotted with specialties like fish tacos, Cuban sandwich, local Cerviche and shrimp Acapulco style.

Marketplace--A convenient, small grab-and-go place with coffee, pastries, sandwiches, wines and other beverages. Need coffee before you hit the links? This should be your preferred stop.

THINGS TO DO NEARBY


CityPlace Doral--Located about five blocks from the resort (about a $5 Uber ride), this one year-old shopping and entertainment complex is perfect for those who want to slip off the resort campus for a night. It has live music on its plaza every Friday and Saturday night and restaurants such as Brimstone Woodfire Grill, Cooper's Hawk Winery/Restaurant and Cabo Flats Cantina & Tequila Bar. There's also a Cinebistro and Kings Bowling Alley.

Miami International Mall--Four miles from the resort, this mall has 140 stores and 22 eateries.

Hialeah Racing & Casino--Situated about 5 miles from Trump National Doral is the historic Hialeah Race Track, which features horse racing, live entertainment and a casino with slots and poker tables.

LOCATION

Set in the town of Doral near the Miami International Airport, 15 miles west of downtown Miami, the resort is located at 4400 NW 87th Avenue, Miami, Florida 33178. 

GET THE SCOOP

For more information click www.trumpnationaldoral.com or call toll-free (800) 71-DORAL (36725)

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