Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Location: Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

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

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

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

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

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

GOLF

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

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

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

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

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

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES

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

Here are some of the amenities in my room:

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

Resort amenities include:

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

10 Little Things I Liked

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


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


3. The excellent Internet service in my room.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


MARILYN MONROE SPA


DINING AND LOUNGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOCATION

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

GET THE SCOOP

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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Top 10 Golf Trip Suggestions for 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year From The Guru

What a great year!

Thank-you to all my followers and website/social media friends.

Happy New Year to all and I hope everyone has a healthy and prosperous 2015.

See you on the first tee somewhere in the world...