Perfect Drives

Tuesday February 20th, 2007
Cheap gas = Golf Roadtrip!
Danny Hellman

When gas prices soared above $3 per gallon last summer, road trips became about as value- conscious as a first-class plane ride. Now that prices at the pump have dropped, toss your sticks in the trunk and hit the open road on these four perfect drives, each combining great value courses with a trophy- course finale.

SOUTHERN COMFORT
Atlanta, Ga., to Birmingham, Ala., 150 miles
Value Stops:
Silver Lakes in Anniston has the Heartbreaker, Backbreaker and Mindbreaker nines ($40- $55). Then it's Oxmoor Valleyin Birmingham. The Ridge Course ($40-$62) is best but the Short Course is a treat. rtjgolf.com
Grand Finale
Close to Birmingham, Ross Bridge is the newest and most expensive of the Trent Jones Trail. Opt for the 8,200-yard tees and you're looking at road rage. ($75-$110; 205-949- 3085, rtjgolf.com)

HEARTLAND EXPRESS
Chicago, Ill., to Kohler, Wis., 150 miles
Value Stops:
Take I-94 to Thunderhawk ($25-$98; 847-872-4295). In Milwaukee's suburbs see Erin Hills($125-$169; 262-646-3331, erinhills.com) and thrifty Nagawaukee Golf Course($18- $42; 262-367-2153).
Grand Finale:
The Straits Course at Whistling Straits, Pete Dye's bluff-top gem that hosted the 2004 PGA Championship and this year's U.S. Senior Open. ($300; 920-565-6050, destinationkohler.com).

CALIFORNIA DREAM
San Francisco, Calif., to Monterey, Calif., 115 miles
Value Stops:
The Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay ($135-$180; 650- 726-1800) leads to Pasatiempo ($150-$197; 831-459-9155, pasatiempo.com) and then the best value of all: Pacific Grove ($35-$55; 831-648-5777)
Grand Finale:
You'll need a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow: your last stop is Pebble Beach.But where better to make the final putt of a memorable trip? ($450-$480; 831-624-3811, pebblebeach.com).

THE ROAD TO SIN CITY
Los Angeles, Calif., to Las Vegas, Nev.
Value Stops:
Start at the Ike Course at Industry Hills ($62-$119; 626- 810-4653) then cross the desert to Primm Valley ($135-$175; 702-679-5509). Kick start your
Grand Finale
Finales don't get more grand than Shadow Creek,the ultimate desert fantasy. Just make sure you have a good night at the blackjack tables.

DEAR JOE,
I'm a 12 handicap and I will be going to Florida for the first time. Where can I play in the vicinity of Clearwater for less than $150? —Olivier Gelas, Brussels, Belgium

• Trade you information: Are Belgian waffles actually from Belgium? Travelin' Joe has always wondered about that. Anyway, here's mypart ofthe deal: The best course is Pine Barrens at World Woods, an houraway ($110-$140; 352-796-5500, worldwoods.com). Closer to Clearwater try Fox Hollow in New Port Richey ($70-$85; 727- 376-6333, golfthefox.com) or the TPC Tampa Bay in Lutz, a much-admired Champions Tour stop ($79-$105; 813-949- 0090, tpc.com).

HEY JOE,
We are planning a family reunion and we're looking for an upscale resort on the water within an hour of L.A. where there's good golf and a spa. Any thoughts? —Jake Kendall, Encino, Calif.

• Until Pelican Hill emerges from renovation work latert his year, your best bet is the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach (949-234-3200, stregismb.com), which just earned a fifth star from Mobil. It's pricey, but delivers value forthose special occasions and next-dooraccess to the Monarch Beach Golf Links ($110-$225; 949-240-8247), a Trent Jones Jr. treat with memorable seaside holes.

Joe Passov has played more than 1,100 courses in 21 countries. If you need travel directions, zip him an e-mail at askjoe@golfonline.com

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