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. 

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.


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
--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.


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).   


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


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