Ask Travelin Joe: Tucson, Jacksonville and Savannah
If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hi Joe,Our last golf vacation took us to Carefree, AZ where we played Troon North and Grayhawk, which we really enjoyed. We are planning another 5-day golf vacation this April (3 days of golf is what we're playing). We love desert golf. What and where would you suggest for the same high quality of golf courses? We'd be willing to try another state -- maybe New Mexico. What are your thoughts? My husband and I love reading your articles!Kim & Lyle SomersCanada Thanks for the kind words. In return, I'll give you some straight ones. One day, make sure your desert golf itineraries include the Albuquerque/Santa Fe regions of New Mexico and the St. George, Utah area. However, if you're headed south in early April, the weather in both New Mexico and southwestern Utah can be a little dicey. Instead, try Tucson, Arizona. The saguaro-studded desert terrain, backdropped by the towering Catalina Mountains, makes Tucson golf perhaps the most beautiful high-desert golf experience anywhere. Since you enjoyed Troon North and Grayhawk, two marvelous, if pricey spreads, I recommend Ventana Canyon's two tracks ($120-$195; 520-577-1400, thelodgeatventanacanyon.com), especially the Tom Fazio-designed Mountain course, whose 107-yard, par-3 3rd hole might be most thrilling drop shot in the southwest. I also like Jack Nicklaus' three nines at La Paloma Country Club ($90-$205; 520-742-6000, westinlapalomaresort.com) that are covered in cactus. You'll need to stay at the Westin to play, but it's worth the splurge. Finally, try out the new 27-hole Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain course ($99-$225; 520-572-3500, ritzcarlton.com/dovemountain), site of Geoff Ogilvy's Accenture Match Play win last week. The pros played the Saguaro and Tortolita nines, but designer Jack Nicklaus' favorite is the Wild Burro loop. Dear Joe,I'm going on a trip to Jacksonville, Florida. What courses do you recommend for budget and value?Tony MasseriLong Island, N.Y. Assuming you're skipping the trophy courses -- TPC Sawgrass, Amelia Island Plantation, Ponte Vedra Inn and the World Golf Village -- out of cost considerations, hands down the best value in Jacksonville is Windsor Parke Golf Club (904-223-4653, windsorparke.com). This 1991 Arthur Hills design boasts an array of strategically placed trees, lakes and bunkers and while there may be one too many houses to please purists, the price is right: $55 weekdays for non-residents through May and $70 weekends. Another solid choice, especially if you crave a stern challenge, is The Golf Club at North Hampton (904-548-0000, hamptongolfclubs.com; $75-$85), a 7,171-yard, par-72 Arnold Palmer design situated in Fernandina Beach, a half-hour north of Jacksonville. Hi Joe,I'll be heading down to the Savannah, Georgia area the third week of March with my bride to see the sights and play some golf. She likes playable courses. How's the weather that time of year? Also, any suggestions for eats and lodging?Allen T.Via email First off, the weather should be glorious for you -- spring is just springing up, with daytime highs 66-72 degrees on average. Second, for a golf smorgasbord, don't forget that Hilton Head Island, S.C., is just a 45-minute drive from Savannah. However, if you're going to hang out in Georgia for the week, check out the Westin Savannah Harbor (westinsavannah.com), set along scenic Lowcountry riverbanks. Its Greenbrier Spa is one of the South's best and its Troon-managed Bob Cupp course, the Club at Savannah Harbor (912-201-2240, theclubatsavannahharbor.com), hosts the Champions Tour every year. The Golf or Spa Package starts at $339, while a la carte golf is $135. I think you'll both warm to the Wilmington Island Golf Club (912-897-1612, wilmingtonislandclub.com) a 1927 Donald Ross design that's dotted with mature pines and live oaks and goes for just $69, which includes cart and range balls. It's open to outside play all day Tuesday-Friday and after 12:30 p.m. on the weekend.
For eats, my wife, Betsy, swears by Food Network star Paula Deen's recipes, and her The Lady and Sons restaurant (912-233-2600, ladyandsons.com) is one of the city's most popular. Another great option for down-home cookin' is Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room (912-232-5997, mrswilkes.com) but bring cash as they don't take credit cards. For upscale fare, stick to Elizabeth on 37th (912-236-5547, elizabethon37th.net) and the Olde Pink House (912-232-4286), two Savannah institutions. For value (yet handsome) accommodations in the heart of historic Savannah, I like either of the two Hampton Inn properties.