Friday, February 24, 2017

Topgolf Orlando Will Be Phenomenal

Ya gotta love Topgolf, the hugely popular, trendy nightclub/restaurants where everyone hits golf balls with computer microchips to targets, noshes on innovative cuisine and sips on adult beverages-- all while listening to some sweet tunes in a laid-back, sophisticated environment.

I know, I know, there are haters out there who can't put their golf tradition aside and appreciate Topgolf. Yet, those folks really don't know what they're missing.  

Topgolf is a fantastic way to engage in the game even if you don't know a golf club from a tennis racquet.  In a fun and convivial atmosphere it introduces people to the game without all the fear and intimidation factors. Interestingly, nearly 40% of all Topgolf guests describe themselves as "non-golfers."
That said, Topgolf, which currently has 24 locations serving 8 million guests annually, will open an amazing venue in Orlando, Florida in Fall 2017.

Here's what you need to know about Topgolf Orlando:

--The three-level complex will encompass a whopping 65,000 square feet.

--It will be located in a prime location at Convention Way and Universal Boulevard, right across the street from the Orange County Convention Center near International Drive.

--There will be 3,000 square feet of private event space and meeting rooms.

--The 102 climate-controlled hitting bays will host up to six players at one time.

--More than 200 high-definition flat-screen TVs will be situated throughout the complex.

--There will be a full-service restaurant and bar and rooftop terrace and fire pit.

--The drinks and food selections will feature an upscale menu highlighted by specialty drinks like the Tipsy Palmer and Strawberry JalapeƱo Margarita, craft beer selections, wine by the bottle or glass and delicacies like Bacon Mac 'N Cheese Springs Rolls, Pulled Pork Sliders and Char-grilled Steak Flatbread.

See you there...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Location: Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

One of my favorite restaurants in Orlando is Shula's Steakhouse at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel. I recently spent a night at the hotel and had another fabulous dining experience at Coach Shula's restaurant.

I'm thoroughly convinced if you want to visit theme parks, enjoy great dining with a prime location near Disney's golf courses, the Walt Disney World Dolphin is your best choice. It's located within walking distance of Epcot and the Boardwalk Disney entertainment, shopping and dining complex, a few minutes from Disney's golf courses and about a 5 minute drive to Disney Springs, the dynamic entertainment complex formerly known as Downtown Disney.


Once you leave the hotel, you can be on a first tee in minutes. Walt Disney World has three championship layouts, the Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista, and a 9-hole walking course, Oak Trail, that's ideal for beginners, juniors and super seniors.

Disney offers a 4 round "Play Around the World" golf pass that can save golfers up to 30% on a four-round package at their courses. Packages also come with a souvenir "Disney Golf Passport" booklet. All four rounds must be played within 30 days. Call 407-939-4653 or visit for questions or booking.

Another great option is the Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Orlando that's situated adjacent to Golden Oak at Walt Disney World, an uber-luxurious residential community. It's the course formerly named Osprey Ridge. The Original designer Tom Fazio was invited back to re-create the course in a different form and he did an outstanding job.


The hotel has 1,509 rooms. Soft, muted colors of silver, white and blue give the rooms a bright and positive feel. I absolutely love the great shower head and luxury bedding.

Main amenities include:

--Mandara Spa

--3-acre pool complex

--Camp Dolphin

--Complimentary Disney Bus Transportation


5 Little Things I Liked

1. The huge lobby with lots of chairs and couches so you can lounge, read or check social media.

2. Fantastic location that allows you to walk to the Swan Hotel, Epcot and Disney's Boardwalk.

3. The phenomenal BBQ Shrimp we enjoyed as an appetizer at Shula's Steakhouse.

4. The beautifully decorated, refurbished guest room.

5. The view from my 5th floor room of the Swan Hotel and pool complex.


Shula's Steakhouse--One of the highlights of my stay was dining at the oh-so-convenient Shula's, which is located just off the main lobby. For football fans and steak lovers, it's the ultimate dining experience. The entire restaurant celebrates the NFL's only undefeated team, the 17-0, 1972 Miami Dolphins, coached by, of course, Don Shula. The decor of the restaurant is dominated by beautiful polished wood and vintage photographs and memorabilia with familiar Dolphin icons like Larry Csonka, Bob Griese and Earl Morrall. A nice touch, too, is the teal and white football placed on your table detailing the steaks available. Undoubtedly, the star of the restaurant is the beef, which is some of the best on the planet. Shula's gets their Premium Black Angus Beef from the Graham Angus Farm in Albany, Georgia. This quality is absolutely amazing. 
The highlights of our dinner included the BBQ Shrimp, a sumptuous appetizer with large shrimp stuffed with basil, wrapped in Applewood Bacon and coated in a tangy BBQ sauce, grilled asparagus, Potato Gratin with garlic cream reduction topped with Panko Parmesan Crust and our juicy, succulent steaks. I savored every bite of my 20 oz. Kansas City Strip and my wife waved about her Steak Mary Anne, two 5 oz. filets with Cognac-Peppercorn Sauce. We complemented this epic feast with a superb bottle of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon by Arrowood. Here's the MENU.

Todd English's Bluezoo--This sleekly designed restaurant has a hip ambiance with lots of glass accents and aquariums. Celebrity chef Todd English presents a menu featuring entrees like bbq-rubbed swordfish atop risotto and Maine Lobster tossed in a Cantonese-style soy glaze. For dessert, how about a Mai Tai Banana Cream Tart.

There are also various casual and poolside restaurants and lounges.


--Visit Epcot, which is just a 5-minute walk away

--Dine at the various restaurants at the Boardwalk such as Flying Fish, ESPN Club, Trattoria Al Forno and Big River Grille & Brewing Works

--Play Disney's Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course

--Dine at restaurants at Swan Hotel such as il Mulino New York Trattoria and Kimonos.

--Visit other Disney Theme Parks

--Shop and dine at Disney Springs, which is located a 5-minute drive from the Dolphin Hotel


Situated adjacent to Disney's Boardwalk entertainment, dining and hotels complex. 1500 Epcot Resorts Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32830. 

Call 407-934-4000 or click HERE for more information.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Masters Week Golf at Champions Retreat

If you're attending the Masters this year and you're looking for an exceptional place to tee up, I've got a terrific suggestion. In many respects, it's possibly the next best thing to playing Augusta National.

At the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, I spoke with Cameron Wiebe, general manager of Champions Retreat, a phenomenal 27-hole private club located 15 miles northwest of Augusta.
Wiebe said the club, which is exclusively private the rest of the year, accepts tee times from non-members during Masters Week (Monday April 3 to Sunday April 9 this year).

Perhaps you may have heard of the designers of the three separate 9 hole layouts? The gentlemen architects who fashioned the layouts are icons Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, aka The Big 3. Champions Retreat is the only place in the world with nines designed by the former Masters Champions.

Reportedly, Player presented the idea to Arnie and the Golden Bear at the Champions Dinner at Augusta National in 1999. They each selected a parcel of land for their nine and, voila, Champions Retreat was born.

The beautifully conditioned courses, with superb bentgrass greens, are set on rolling landscape dotted with tall pines, old hardwoods and wetlands alongside the Savannah River. 
"Champions Retreat is a pure golf experience," Wiebe said. "It's conveniently just minutes away from Augusta National and you play on wonderfully designed courses in a quiet, scenic setting away from the crowds."

Tee times are for 4 players. Each Masters Week tee time will be accompanied by one (1) forecaddie. The tee time price includes practice facility access, greens fees, forecaddie base fee (required), cart fee, tax, and all you can eat and drink for breakfast and lunch. Selections will include breakfast items, lunch items, snack items, soft drinks, sports drinks, domestic beer and well-liquor drinks. Tee times do not include the forecaddie gratuity.

Tee Time Rates for Champions Retreat Masters Week 2017:

Monday and Tuesday: $2,200

Wednesday--Saturday: $2,500

Sunday: $2,200

Monday, April 10th: Available for private outings.

In addition, there will also be live entertainment and other activities during the week. 

For more information, contact Lauri DeNicolo by email: or call 706-854-6966

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2017 PGA Merchandise Show Favorites

Hey dimpled ball fanatics, welcome to golf heaven! The annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando in late January showcases oodles of products and gives golf industry types a chance to schmooze and celebrate the game. Aisles and aisles are lined with booths featuring everything from new drivers and putters to the latest threads and shoes. More than 1,000 companies are represented.

You'll also see lots of golf celebrities wandering the convention center to promote their endorsements and offer advice to attendees. This year the list of golf royalty in attendance included Greg Norman, Johnny Miller, John Daly, Bubba Watson, Annika Sorenstam and Colin Montgomerie.

By many, it's simply referred to as "The Show". More than 40,000 people attend every year and it's not open to the public. You'll have to rely on the Guru to take you down the aisles.

Here are some of my favorite products from the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show:

Vertical Groove Driver-During Show week I attended a demonstration of this new driver. John Daly serves as a global ambassador for the Jupiter, Florida-based company. Daly has the driver in his bag and plays it on tour. The company says the Vertical Groove Driver reduces side spin at impact leading to 40% straighter ball flight on average and increases driving distance. While I'm firmly convinced Daly can pretty much hit a tree branch 300 yards, his demonstration was very impressive. I hit about 10 to 12 drives with the Vertical Groove and I absolutely can confirm I hit the ball straighter.
Tagmarshal--I spoke with company president, Bodo Sieber, about this innovative pace of play management system, which helps reduce average round times and number of slow rounds, reduces the cost of field management, enhances the golf experience and increases ROI. Walking groups attach the small tracking device to one bag in a foursome or its carried by a caddie or installed in a golf cart. The accurate, real-time data is submitted to Tagmarshal's cloud service, which is easily accessible to marshals and management. "Our system results in faster play, the golfers are happier and it increases revenue for the courses," said Sieber.

Nikon Coolshot Golf Laser Rangefinder--Hey, we've all had shaky hands and nerves that hinder the ability to hold a compact rangefinder steady. Nikon has solved the problem with its Optical Vibration Reduction technology.

Callaway Epic Driver--I didn't get the chance to hit one, but this driver was the talk of the Show. Callaway claims their Jailbreak Technology, whatever that means, has resulted in a driver that produces more ball speed across a larger area of the face. This driver, they say, will increase your swing speed. The combination of an aerospace-grade titanium with an ultralight triaxial carbon crown and sole gives the club a  light, well-balanced feel. 

Zero Friction GPS Glove--Forget wandering aimlessly on the fairway searching for yardage markers, this glove cures that problem. Powered by Bluetooth, the small device sits on the glove flap and weighs less than half an ounce. It has more than 35,000 courses programmed worldwide. As you walk up to your shot, the read-out gives you front, center and back yardages to the green.

Topgolf Orlando--Slated to debut in fall 2017, the Orlando version of this phenomenally popular entertainment and dining complex will be "huuuuge". The 65,000 square-foot Topgolf Orlando will feature 100+ climate-controlled hitting bays, full-service restaurant and bars, private event space and meeting rooms, rooftop terrace with fire pit, over 200 HDTVs and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Biion Footwear--You can say goodbye to boring golf shoes with this innovative brand. They've got some amazing designs in a wide variety of colors and styles. Let's face it, if you don't have game at least look good while you're traipsing through the woods and burrowing out of bunkers.
Henrik Stenson Eyewear--Chances are you won't play like this sweet swinging Swede, but you can at least tap into some of his swag with these shades. They offer complete protection from solar radiation, blue light and UV radiation as well as contrast enhancement and sharper clearer vision.