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HOT SHOTS - AMERICA'S TOP WARM-WEATHER COURSES
 
(2017 - Fall Issue)

Writer: IAN CRUICKSHANK



I've always been directionally challenged, which is why my wife is the navigator. However, she wasn't on this trip to Florida so I decided to rent a GPS.

I never did figure it out and that’s why within 20 minutes I was lost on a succession of dusty farm roads that were leading me farther from the interstate and the ocean.

TAMPA TEE OFF

Fortunately, the Tampa area is sprinkled with good golf courses and you are never far from a quality layout. After a friendly woman at a roadside fruit stand used a pen and paper to draw me a map, within 10 minutes I was at the Saddlebrook Resort. Saddlebrook is a famous tennis resort with 45 courts, however it is also home to two very fine golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer.

Other top golfing stops in the Tampa area include World Woods Golf Club and the Innisbrook Resort, which sports four golf courses and an annual PGA Tour event. The most intriguing group of courses are at the Streamsong Resort, which were built on shaggy, reclaimed phosphate mining land. Streamsong is adding a third course in fall 2017.

SUNNY SAN DIEGO 

When American meteorologists vote on which city has the best weather in the United States, San Diego is inevitably at the top of the list. It combines long sunny days and moderate temperatures with little rain and snow. Even better, San Diego boasts more than 90 golf courses within an  hour’s drive of the city. The best known is Torrey Pines, a city-owned facility that zigzags along big shouldered bluffs that rise above the Pacific Ocean. Torrey Pines is home to two golf courses that annually co-host a PGA event in January and has also been home to the US Open. Tiger Woods won the Open here in a playoff in 2008.

Another municipal layout worth playing is Balboa Park. Located in downtown San Diego, the course only stretches about 6,300 yards from the tips but is a fun ride with stunning views of the city skyscrapers and glimpses of Coronado Beach, considered one of America’s top stretches of sand. The legendary Sam Snead holds the course record and the course winds through Balboa Park, which is often referred to as the Smithsonian of the West for its concentration of cultural institutions including 15 museums.

If you have a taste for the grape, try the Temecula Creek Inn, which is tucked next to the mountains, about an hour’s drive from San Diego, Orange County and Palm Springs. The Inn is home to 27 holes of golf but is also in the centre of Southern California wine country where more than 30 wineries are located and most are open to the public.

BAMA BOUND

The late Robert Trent Jones may be the most influential golf course architect of all time. He is credited with laying out over 500 golf courses around the globe and his two sons are major players in the golf world. The architect’s largest legacy though may be the Robert Trent Jones Trail that curls through Alabama, making the state one of America’s top golf destinations. The state-owned trail now includes 468 holes of golf, spread over 26 golf courses on 11 different sites and includes eight resorts. The locations range from Muscle Shoals in the north, not far from the Tennessee border, to Lakewood in the south, a short drive to Florida. Besides hosting top pro events, the trail also features lots of fun events including tournaments for couples and fathers and sons. There is even an event for lovers of craft beer.

MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI

After giving us a spirited pep talk, Jesse, our starter at The Preserve Golf Club in Vancleave, Mississippi, looked down the fairway and then in an accent that was soaked in molasses, said, “Okay Bubba, I think you’re good to go.” Now I’ve been called many things in my time but never Bubba and I kind of liked it. There is a friendliness and inclusiveness about the name that matched the warm Mississippi sun. We spent most of the week around Biloxi, enjoying the beaches, casinos and good golf courses. Favourites included the Grand Bear, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, and Fallen Oaks by Tom Fazio.

DESERT GLORY

The Valley of the Sun (made up mostly by Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa) is sprinkled with over 200 desert courses. My favourite in the area is the Boulders Resort & Spa in Carefree. The two Jay Morrish-designed courses are lined with brown boulders the size of bungalows, each balanced on top of each other, as if some prehistoric giant had been tinkering with a Stone-Age Lego set.

While the golf in the Valley is terrific, it is also loaded with other big-league fun, especially in Scottsdale. Each March, 15 major league teams have spring training in the area. Scottsdale also features more than 600 restaurants and a weekly ArtWalk where local galleries along Main Street extend their hours and show off work by some of the southwest’s top artists.

While in Arizona, don’t forget about Tucson, which is only a two-hour drive south of Phoenix. It is home to some terrific layouts including the Mountain Course at the Lodge at Ventana Canyon. Its third hole boasts one of the most photographed greens in America. The short par 3 is wedged into a seam of unforgiving rock and crosses a canyon spiked with cacti. From the front tee, you can peer out to the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Sonoran Desert. On a good day, you can see all the way to Mexico.

Travel Planner

For more information on top warm-weather golf courses in the United States and stay-and-play packages, try the following sites:

ALABAMA:

Robert Trent Jones Trail: rtjgolf.com

ARIZONA:

Scottsdale Tourism: experiencescottsdale.com

The Boulders Resort & Spa: theboulders.com

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon: thelodgeatventanacanyon.com

BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI AREA:

Fallen Oak: beaurivage.com

Grand Bear: grandbeargolfcourse.com

The Preserve: preservegc.com

SAN DIEGO AREA:

Balboa Park: balboapark.org/recreation/golf-course

Temecula Creek Inn: temeculacreekinn.com

Torrey Pines: torreypinesgolfcourse.com

TAMPA AREA:

Innisbrook Resort: innisbrookgolfresort.com

Saddlebrook Resort: saddlebrook.com

Streamsong Resort: streamsongresort.com

World Woods: worldwoods.com

 
 
 
 
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