Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Vacation is Set

Harry and I spent the first few days last week going back and forth on potential vacation venues. Interestingly enough, Harry strongly considered my dream golf vacation spot, Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast but a few things bothered him about that area.

He really didn't want to gamble on the weather, which he'll ultimately find to be ridiculous because you can never predict what is going to happen in that area even in the dead of summer.

However, the biggest problem he had with a trip out west was the fact that the travel time would be a hindrance. We are tied to the fact that we can only leave on a Wednesday and have to be back by the Sunday and with the huge travel distance, we'd essentially lose about a day and a half just flying from coast to coast. If we had one more day, we could probably make it work but that just isn't possible.

I agree with him on this point, grudgingly, and will have to hope that my friends consider this vacation in the future when we can take a full week off.

For a short time, we also considered the Kiawah area, specifically the Kiawah Island resort. Pricing was quite expensive, however. We may have been able to make it work, especially considering the fact that my head pro was willing to make a call for us to get on a couple private clubs on the island in Cassique and the River Course, two highly-regarded tracks.

In the end, we couldn't shake the Ginn Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida out of our minds. The resort recently was awarded as a Silver Medal winner by Golf Magazine while Golf Digest proclaims the resort as the 60th best in North America.

Pricing was excellent, the two golf courses are both excellent from all accounts, especially the Ocean Course which hosted this weekend's Champions Tour event, the Ginn Championship, which was won by Bernhard Langer earlier today.

That's to say nothing of the accomodations, which are in a word, spectacular.

So we bit the bullet and booked our flight to Daytona and also booked the resort for four nights. Unfortunately, Toast wasn't able to get the needed time off work and had to pass yet again on a great opportunity so it's just Harry and I heading south. I wish we had three or four heading down but we'll still have a great time. I was going to ask some of the guys we golf with at St. Catharines but I doubt any of them could get away on short notice.

So, we decided to book a two bedroom condo and it truly looks incredible.

Each bedroom has a king sized bed and ensuite so I don't have to hear Harris snoring. He also has the chance to have some privacy in case he picks up while we're down there.

Ha! Like that's going to happen!

We also have a full kitchen with appliances and the whole works and a huge living room area that you can see above.

Luxurious, to say the least!

The two golf courses are both well-regarded. As indicated, Jack Nicklaus' Ocean Course hosted the Champions Tour event this week and is rated the 57th best public course in the United States by Golf Digest while Golf Magazine rates it 78th in the same category. From the tips, the course rating is a hefty 77.0 with a 148 slope. See below for a couple photos.

Meanwhile, the Tom Watson-designed Conservatory Course is a 7700+ yard beast that will be hosting the PGA Tour's Ginn sur Mer Classic in late October. If you thought the ratings for the Nicklaus course were high, you've seen nothing yet! Course rating from the tips at the Conservatory? How about 78.4 with a 155 slope.

Holy shit! Needless to say, we won't be playing the tips the whole vacation.

I've included a couple photos of the Conservatory below as well.

I'd love to get to the gulf side and have a chance to play courses like World Woods (Pine Barrens) and perhaps even Black Diamond (Quarry) but it looks like they are both over two hour drives from the resort and we don't plan on renting a car. I wish there was a way we could get over to that side of the state but it just doesn't look feasible. Our resort has four different restaurants onsite and seemingly every amenity, making a car unnecessary.

There is a chance I may try to get us on one of the private clubs close by, as we have an opening on the Friday morning we're in Palm Coast due to a tournament on the Ocean Course. We'll see if any opportunities arise.

We'll also hope for the very remote chance that Toast can figure out a way to keep his clients happy in order to get away for a few days, just so we have an extra guy to help bring the costs down even more.

Whatever happens, it should be a great time!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Florida Golf Vacation on the Horizon?

As previously stated, I opened my big trap too soon and the one good day of weather in March that I deemed worthy of a blog post was followed pretty much by the worst three-week stretch of weather of the season.

We're a couple days into spring and there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground and the temperatures have barely crept above freezing lately. At best, we'll be on the course by mid-April, likely one of the latest openings in the past ten years.

Over breakfast Saturday morning, Harry commented that he's jonesing for a three or four day golf vacation to make up for our poor start to the spring. He has no interest in battling any type of inclimate weather so my desire to go somewhere like Bandon Dunes in Oregon is out.

Florida is more his speed.

I'd love to get away as well and will have to consult my trusty daytimer tomorrow at work to see if I can find a four or five day window to get away. I know my old man is going away shortly and there are a couple other things that might keep me here work-wise. However, I'm PRETTY sure either the third weekend or fourth weekend of April will work. Actually, the fourth weekend might be perfect, assuming we get back in town by the Sunday night - Harry and I have our Ontario Better Ball qualifier at Brantford G&CC on Monday the 28th.

The last time I was in Florida was with Harry, his pal Preston and a family friend of mine, Vito. We stayed at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie for four nights in late April of 2006. I documented a portion of the experience in this blog post but for some reason never got around to completing it. Maybe because I didn't want to relive the experience of losing 8&6 in match play to Harry at the Dye Course, I don't know.

Regardless, I'm a bit bummed at the fact that almost all of the pictures I took during the vacation have been misplaced. You can see that I have currently updated the header with a photo of the great villa we stayed in on our trip. The photo above was one of only two course photos I still have left.

I would imagine that if we went away, PGA Village would be a great possibility as far as a destination goes once again. It is well-regarded, having recently been named the 57th best resort in the USA by Golf Digest magazine, has three solid courses, fantastic accomodations and most importantly, won't break the bank.

I've done a bit of research on some other possible destinations:

PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

PGA National has five courses on site, the most famous of which is the Tom Fazio-designed Champion Course, recently renovated by Jack Nicklaus. The course annually hosts the Honda Classic and is one of the toughest venues on Tour. It has hosted a couple of major tournaments as well - the 1982 PGA Championship and the 1983 Ryder Cup.

It looks a bit pricey and I think that you'd want to look at a golf vacation specialist to see if there are any deals available, as the stock rates on the website look a bit on the expensive side, especially if you want to include a round or two on the Champion Course.

World Woods Golf Resort, Brooksville, FL

Now, this one is kind of interesting just for the quality of one of the two courses on site, the Pine Barrens course. It's ranked as the 39th best public course in the US by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine thinks even better of it, ranking it 80th in the entire US (public or private).

Top-100's are always fun to play and one of the great things is that the golf is very inexpensive (about $70 per round and only $105 to play 36 a day!). However, there are a couple of things that bring it down a notch. First of all, it's in Central Florida (50 minutes outside Tampa) so that might not appeal to us and most importantly, there isn't a hotel onsite. However, accomodations are close by and likely inexpensive as well.

If anything, it's an interesting option...

Other possibilities include:

- Bay Hill in Orlando, site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and winter home of the King himself. The conditioning was AWFUL for last week's PGA event there though and I can only assume that costs will be ridiculous out there.

- Ginn Hammock Beach Resort is in Palm Coast, Florida and has two courses, with the Nicklaus Ocean Course hosting a Champions Tour event every year. In fact, the tournament is this coming weekend so I'm going to have to check out the TV coverage. The PGA Tour is holding the Ginn sur Mer Classic at the Tom Watson-designed course in September.

This place actually looks pretty darned good and it has unlimited golf packages. Harry should check this one out for pricing, as it looks pretty damn solid (two bedroom villas or condos - look incredible, four nights, unlimited golf, about $800 US total, including taxes). It is 90 minutes from Orlando though and might require a flight into Daytona instead. This might be my top choice right now!

Those are just a few of the options available to us. Have any of my readers ever played any of these courses or stayed at the resorts? Are there any courses or resorts that AREN'T listed here that we should check out?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Burnt Toast?

Indeed, it's that time of year once again!

My buddy Toast is celebrating his 14th birthday today. He will spend his big day downing copious amounts of Diet Coke while four-tabling Full Tilt, all the while trying to tell his two good friends (and the only regulars on his blog) that he's "working".

I'm still upset that my invitation to his bar mitzvah last year got lost in the mail.

Check out my
ode to the Toastman one year ago today to see me at the peak of my creative powers.

Mozel tov on the birthday! Is that an appropriate saying for the occasion? I'm just an ignorant, non-practicing Catholic so I'm not sure! Aleikhem Shalom!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I Spoke Too Soon...

This is what I woke up to this morning...

Only five days ago, we were basking in beautiful, spring-like weather with temperatures around 15 degrees celsius. Of course, as Harry so eloquently commented after my last blog post, I jinxed things by writing about the great conditions. The next night, we were blasted with about a foot and a half of the white stuff.

That was just a precursor to last night, where Southern Ontario got blasted with over a foot of snow and it continues to fall as I write. I just was out for almost THREE HOURS shovelling my driveway and my back patio so the dog can do her business.

That's me trying to put on a brave face after the first hour of work outside.

Of course, the dog doesn't even want to step foot outside right now, as it's hailing and snowing sideways.

Here's the finished product:

'Finished' is a relative term though, as I'm quite certain I'll be out there again before bedtime to shovel the other foot of snow that will fall in the next five hours. I'll never open my trap again about the weather...

I just hope that the temperatures DROP so the snow stays light. Now, I'm off to take a well-deserved nap.

For those who read this blog from a warmer climate, thank your lucky stars.

Oh, and I hate all of you who don't have to put up with this junk! ;)

After shovelling another foot or so on Saturday night, we woke up to clear skies this morning and only another 6" or so on the ground.

Now are we done?!?

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Weather Outside is...Delightful!

On Saturday afternoon, I spent over an hour outside shoveling the foot of snow we received the night previous.

I was going to take a picture of the front of my house and attach it to a blog post, saying that the prospect of playing golf in March was highly unlikely.

Two days later, we have gorgeous blue skies and temperatures around 15 degrees celsius.

Canadian weather is unbelievable!

I still think that we'll be lucky to get any golf in this month but I'd never say never...three weeks would be a best case scenario and even then, it will be WET! Oh well...I'll be out there regardless!

I fell off the weight wagon, so to speak, this weekend. I was doing really well at one point but I went out with some buddies for a few beers on Saturday night to celebrate a birthday and then went to Irish Times with Harry before the Sabres/Red Wings game last night in Buffalo.

End result? I still lost some weight...

CURRENT WEIGHT - 185.5 lbs

So I lost 3.6 pounds. Not bad I guess. If I keep the same pace (doubtful), I'll be down to 170 by the beginning of April.