If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hi Joe,We're looking for affordable golf in the Nassau area in early April. Any recommendations?Maureen & John PeetGoderich, Ontario, Canada Soak up as much free sun and sand as you can, because "affordable" golf near Nassau is not an option. Nassau/Paradise Island offers only three courses-and no bargains. The best bang for the buck is at Cable Beach Golf Club (242-677-4175, crystalpalacevacations.com), 10 minutes west of downtown Nassau. Devereux Emmet (of Congressional and Garden City fame) designed this layout in 1929, though subsequent revisions have shredded nearly any trace of his work. Nonetheless, this 6,423-yard, par-71 layout remains a sporty, interesting test, even if maintenance can be spotty. It will cost you $180 to play in the morning (the rate shrinks to $130 on May 1), but they do provide a 9-hole rate of $110 if you're just itching to play. Guests of the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort and the Wyndham Nassau Resort, both affiliated with Crystal Palace Casino, can play for $120.
Nassau's two other courses both come with caveats. You must be a guest of the One & Only Ocean Club (888-528-7157, oneandonlyresorts.com) on Paradise Island or nearby Atlantis (888-877-7525, atlantis.com) to play Ocean Club's Tom Weiskopf course. Mind you, this is one of the priciest resorts around, but many feel it's worth the splurge, as evidenced by its Silver Medal showing in GOLF Magazine's 2008 Premier Resorts Awards. Though the Ocean Club is a flattish, low-profile layout, it's superbly groomed and enjoys gorgeous sea views. Here's a tip: Just as at Pinehurst, you may call them the morning of the day you'd like to play and if there is availability, they'll let you on for the same hotel guest rate of $250.
Finally, the island's newest course is Blue Shark (242-362-4546, bluesharkgolf.com), so it's no surprise that Greg Norman is the architect of record. It's also the island's most expensive, at $265, but with its "Shark's Teeth" triangle of holes 10-12, its distinctive "Blue Holes," (natural tubes that lead directly to the ocean) and excellent conditioning and views, this re-do of Joe Lee's old South Ocean Club could be right up your alley. At 30 minutes from downtown Nassau, it's a bit of a hike, but then you might enjoy the solitude. Hello Joe,Every year, I go to the Women's Final Four and try to play golf in the area. Last year, at Tampa, I was able to hit some of your suggestions: World Woods, Innisbrook, etc. Any suggestions for St. Louis this year? Also, is there a golf school you recommend in that area as well?Ie-Chen ChengPalo Alto, CA My first suggestion is to bring a sweater or two. The first week in April in St. Louis features average daytime highs of 62 degrees and lows of 42. At the very least, sleep in and play late. First choice would be Missouri Bluffs (800-939-6760, mobluffs.com; $49-$95), a pristine, hilly, forested 1995 Tom Fazio design 20 miles north of the city in St. Charles.
Next, I might cross the Mississippi River into Waterloo, Illinois, 30 minutes south of St. Louis, for Annbriar (618-939-4653, annbriar.com; $42-$72), a handsome, unspoiled, 16-year-old Michael Hurdzan design that sports a linsky front nine and a wooded back nine.
Greater St. Louis is sprinkled with a half-dozen other worthy tests, but if you're looking to broaden your travel horizons, check out the three nines at Forest Park (314-367-1337, stlouis.missouri.org; $39-$49), situated practically in the urban heart of St. Louis. Though no one will ever use this moniker, it was recently renamed Norman K. Probstein Community Golf Course and Youth Learning Center in Forest Park, after the developer who poured a bunch of money into revitalizing the facilities. The courses date to 1913, but were substantially re-worked not long ago by Stan Gentry of Hale Irwin Design Services into a real treat, with tree-lined holes that ease through a huge city park that houses the zoo, art museum and other civic treasures. Dogwood and Redbud are the Championship nines, but the very walkable Hawthorne is good fun, too. If you want to soak up an experience that's pure St. Louis, play Forest Park.
As for a golf school, go with Heartland Golf Schools (314-453-0705, heartlandgolfschools.com). They're located at Annbriar, and sessions start the last week in March. So, weather permitting, you should have a pleasant golf/basketball doubleheader this spring. Hi Joe,I'm gonna be in the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida area in a couple of weeks. I'm looking for some good tracks to play in the $50-$150 range. I've played PGA National, but it's too expensive unless you're staying at the resort. I wouldn't mind driving anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes out. Any suggestions?William Q.Via email Two nearby tracks (both within 15 minutes) that offer terrific value are the Links at Madison Green (561-784-5225, madisongreengolf.com; $50-$70) and North Palm Beach Country Club (561-691-3420, village-npb.org; $85-$125 through March 29 and $65-$85 March 30-April 30). Madison Green is a John Sanford design that splashes water on nearly every hole and serves up all manner of pot, beach and waste bunkers, the latter composed of sand and coquina shells and peppered with plantings. North Palm Beach is an ancient country club, dating to the 1920s, but a substantial makeover by Jack Nicklaus in 2006 made it much longer and more challenging, notably via the many new lakes and the topsy-turvy greens. Still, several memorable holes along the Intracoastal Waterway will make you forget all about your three-putts.