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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Doral For The Family

Doral Golf Resort and Spa is an oasis of luxury in the South Florida sun for golfers and their families. Guest rooms and suites are in lodges arrayed near the main clubhouse, and the Spa at Doral can only be described as palatial.

There are loads of activities for the family, too, with Camp Doral offering everything from Arts & Crafts to Volleyball. It’s next to the Blue Lagoon, where the whole family can enjoy the beach-entry pool, 125-foot waterslide, and 20 poolside cabanas with amenities. There are eight restaurants on the property, ranging from the Java Zone coffee counter to Windows On The Green, which serves fresh seafood and American cuisine with South Florida and Caribbean accents. There’s also an unheralded but not to be missed sushi bar, too.

There are five courses at the resort, but the must-play track is the Blue Monster. It reminds me of a mugger in a Brooks Brothers suit--it looks harmless but it will hurt you when you least expect it. The 7,288-yard (from the tips) home of numerous PGA Tour events looks benign on paper. From the blue tees, only four of the par fours are over 400 yards and the longest is 416. The 131 slope isn’t even particularly daunting, so you stand on the first tee expecting to put some good numbers on the scorecard.

The gem of the track is the 18th hole, which played to a PGA Tour-toughest 4.625 stroke average at the 2007 WGC-CA Championship. From the mortal tees, it’s only 414 yards! But when you play it into the wind, it’s more like 474—with water on your left all the way until it cuts almost all the way across the front of the green to drown any hope you may have had of getting home in two. Your trials and tribulations aren’t over when you finally make it to the green, either—Mark Calcavecchia putted right off it into the water last year. It makes you wonder how even Tiger Woods won here three years in a row (2005-2007).

Doral Golf Resort & Spa
(800) 713-6725
Nearest airport: Miami (15 minutes)
Golf package: $594 includes room and breakfast, one round on the Blue Monster with forecaddie for one golfer, and other amenities. Also a one-hour introductory golf clinic at no additional charge.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jim Nantz Recognized by MetGCSA

Congratulations to Jim Nantz, "the voice of the Masters," who has been awarded the John Reid Lifetime Achievement Award by the Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association (MetGCSA). Nantz received the award at the MetGCSA’s Annual Winter Seminar Luncheon at Westchester Country Club in Rye, NY, on January 14, 2009.

Awards committee chairman and past MetGCSA president, Will Heintz says
“Through the years, Jim has been complimentary to grounds crews and superintendents while covering golf tournaments on national television. His impeccable image and reputation, along with his support has helped to promote the professional image of the golf course superintendent, the very premise on which the Reid Award was founded.”

Nantz is the 19th recipient of the John Reid Lifetime Award, which is presented to an individual who promotes the science and art of golf course management and the professional image of the golf course superintendent. John Reid, “The Father of American Golf,” introduced the game to America in 1888, founded Saint Andrew’s Golf Club (America’s oldest enduring golf club) in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, and later assisted in the formation of the United States Golf Association and Metropolitan Golf Association.

Nantz has covered multiple CBS Sports events including NFL football, NCAA basketball, the Winter Olympics and is the anchor for the network’s golf coverage.
“I have always felt that the golf course superintendent is the unsung hero of the sport,” Nantz states. “I am particularly impressed by those who have made golf in the Metropolitan area so special. Here, you deal with all forces of Mother Nature, yet we are blessed with the greatest assemblage of golf courses anywhere in the nation. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who’ve ensured that golf in the Metropolitan area represents the best of the best.”

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Putt-ing at the Ritz

TiburonIt’s hard to say which is more enjoyable at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort at Tiburon in Naples—-the championship-caliber golf courses or the wonderful amenities at the posh hotel. There are two sophisticated Greg Norman-designed courses, both highly playable by golfers at all skill levels, the Rick Smith Golf Academy, and a magnificently-appointed Ritz-Carlton where guests are pampered with premium-class service at every turn as well as goose-down comforters and pillows, Frette linens, marble baths, and Bulgari toiletries in the luxurious rooms.

But golf is why I was there, and it was some of the best I've ever played in the Sunshine State (or anywhere else). The Gold Course is a 7,288-yard gem (from the tips) where they play the Merrill Lynch Shootout during golf’s silly season each December. It offers mostly wide, inviting fairways leading to generous greens, but watch out for the sprawling bunker complexes and/or water on every hole.

TiburonThe Black Course at Tiburon may not host a professional golf event, but it’s the harder—-and better—-course in my book. At 7,005 yards it’s shorter, but the landing areas are considerably tighter. It’s also a more scenic course, with many holes framed beautifully by Spanish-moss-draped live oaks and stands of majestic pines. Even the ball-gobbling waste areas are picturesque in a Southern-Gothic kind of way. The number one handicap hole on the Black Course is the second hole, which looks quite tame on the scorecard at a straightaway 436 yards. Step onto the tee box, though, and you’ll see why it’s rated the hardest hole on the course: your drive has to thread a pine-lined chute the width of a single lane in a bowling alley to find the fairway.

Then there are the accommodations at the Ritz-Carlton. Actually, there are two Ritz properties to choose from in Naples. The beach hotel is a short shuttle from Tiburon so you can catch a few rays on the sand (instead of blasting out of it with a wedge) when you’re ready for a break from golf. There’s also an expansive, exquisite spa there. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort has a small but opulent spa as well, and offers five restaurants, led by the signature dining experience, LemonĂ­a, a Tuscan grill featuring contemporary Italian cuisine in Mediterranean surroundings and an excellent wine list. There’s also Sydney’s Pub at the golf club house, a more down-to-earth place where you can enjoy a cold one while you settle the day’s wagers.

Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort
Nearest airport: Ft. Myers (40 minutes)
Golf package: $949 per night (for two persons double occupancy) includes room and breakfast, and one round of golf for both or two rounds for one golfer.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the