Thursday, December 11, 2008

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at Dear Joe,I'm headed to Palm Beach for a visit with the in-laws over Christmas. What's the absolute best bargain down there-and I'm looking for a good test of golf, not a par-3 or executive course.Dave LyonEvanston, Ill. For that part of the Sunshine State, my default mechanism for value is always pegged 45 minutes north of the Palm Beaches, at PGA Golf Club (800-800-GOLF,, in Port St. Lucie. I'm partial to the Wanamaker, by a dimple's width over the Ryder -- both are Tom Fazio designs that max out at $70 on the weekend through December 25th, but the low-profile Pete Dye course there for the same price might be best of the bunch. If you're sticking closer to the family -- and that's your call -- go with North Palm Beach Country Club (561-691-3433,, a Jack Nicklaus redesign right on U.S. 1 and the Intracoastal that boasts heavily contoured greens, a watery finish and fees under $100 through January 11th. Hi Joe,My Oklahoma State Cowboys are bound for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego and I'm following along. A few of us want to tee it up. We all know about Torrey Pines -- and the fight for tee times -- but are there any hidden gems out there? It's a Christmas present, so I've got one trophy course in the budget.Bill BanksOklahoma City, Okla. Locals do special occasion golf at Maderas Golf Club (888-712-1746,, $170-$210) a few miles inland (and out of the fog belt) from La Jolla and downtown San Diego. Johnny Miller was a celebrity design consultant, and it would help to hit irons the way Miller did in his prime to succeed at this hilly, drama-filled layout that's criss-crossed by creeks and canyons. Some point to a few design quirks -- well, I do, anyway -- but no matter how you feel about the layout, at least the tranquil setting, flawless conditioning and superior clubhouse and service make you feel like you got your money's worth from what's unquestionably a pricey round. Dear Joe,I want to do a south-of-the-border sunshine run after the New Year. I'd like to tee it up at a big-time track, but my wife is more inclined to the spa and eco activities. Have you got a destination that will work for both of us?Greg LaytonDenver, Colo. My first thought was the Fairmont Mayakoba (800-540-6088, and I believe my instincts were right, because they're offering something called the Sweet Deal Package that will have you both meeting up for dinner in good spirits. You get unlimited golf on a PGA Tour course, called El Camaleon, which demands straight hitting (Fred Funk and Brian Gay have won the past two years) on a Greg Norman design that blends jungle holes with seaside tests. Several holes feature limestone canals cutting through them, while the par-5 opener sports a cavern in the middle of the fairway. She gets spa deals and a boat tour with an ecology expert. Rates start at $459, four-night minimum.

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