Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Green Acres: A Tour of Florida Golf, Both Posh and Public

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Green Acres: A Tour of Florida Golf, Both Posh and Public

Article excerpt

FLORIDA SORT OF looks like a golf hole, doesn't it?

If you call the panhandle a tee, and create a green out of Dade County, you'd have one heckuva par 4. The tee shot would play along the Gulf of Mexico on the right, the approach would play across the Okefenokee Swamp to a green in downtown Miami, with the intracoastal canal and Miami Beach night life being the chief hazards.

When you think of Florida golf, it's easy to stereotype it as flat fairways flanked with ponds and fringed with palm trees, with white shell sand in the bunkers. Or you might be thinking of the world famous (make that infamous) 17th hole as the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra. Who doesn't know this devilish par 3, with its island green surrounded by water?

In fact, Florida golf has grown multi-dimensional during the past two decades. You can still find plenty of traditional Florida courses, many of them excellent places to play, some with rolling terrain, lovely water oaks and a sense of the game that is more worldly.

Following are two lists. The first is of five high-quality golf resorts where staying at the resort is usually mandatory. The second is of five public facilities that you may not have heard of but definitely are worth visiting. Some may be a little out of the way, but what's a couple-of-hours drive when you can drive your golf ball on some of the best courses anywhere. Grand Resorts

Doral Golf Resort and Spa: Almost anybody who knows almost anything about golf in Florida knows about Doral, or at least recognizes the name. The Blue Monster Course at Doral has been the host of a PGA Tour event for decades, and the 18th hole is one of the more famous in golf.

Doral, near Miami, is classic old Florida golf. The fairways are flat. Water is everywhere, and there are plenty of palm trees. Yet it still holds a special spot in the heart of golfers. There are four courses, none of them a pushover.

Doral is offering golf packages in the high season on a per-night basis. For $630 per night for a double, you get the Blue Monster Program. Two players get greens fees and cart for the Blue Monster, deluxe room, breakfast, golf clinic, range balls, use of the spa facilities and other amenities. For the three other courses, the price is $455 per night for a double. Also available is the Doral Golf Learning Center with pro Jim McLean. , A three-day, three-night instructional program is $1,940 for a single, $3,280 for a double.

For information, call (305) 591-6620.

Walt Disney World: Jokingly and endearingly, golf at Disney World often has been referred to as Mickey Mouse. It never was, really, and with the opening of two new courses in 1992, it is a pretty high-class affair.

The Bonnet Creek Golf Club at Disney contains two of Florida's finest courses, the Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge and Pete Dye's Eagle Pines.

The Osprey Ridge course is atypical of Florida golf. Fazio had hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth moved to create rolling terrain.

Eagle Pines is a more generous course for the average player and has a bit of the flavor of Pine Valley, the ultra-private New Jersey club. The tees, fairways and many of the greens are islands of grass surrounded by vast waste areas and carpets of pine straw.

In season, the greens fees for all the Disney courses will be $105, with discounts for play late in the day.

For information, call (407) 824-2270.

Innisbrook Hilton Resort: Situated eight miles north of Clearwater and bounded by Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Innisbrook has three golf courses of exceptional quality. The Copperhead course is the site of the JC Penney Mixed Team Classic, featuring pros from the PGA and LPGA tours.

The Copperhead is reminiscent of golf in the North Carolina or Georgia sand hills. There are plenty of pine-lined fairways and changes in elevation. …

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