Ask Travelin Joe: Hilton Head and San Jose

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at askjoe@golf.com. Dear Travelin' Joe,We have traded our timeshare to Hilton Head during April 18-25. I'd like to get in two rounds while there but don't want to spend our vacation savings to play. Can you recommend three or four public courses that would run around $75 per round?Mike PaysonVia emailWatch out for a massive Hilton Head hangover the week you're in, as the PGA Tour's Verizon Heritage event at Harbour Town ends on the 19th. From start to finish, it's one giant party. Understand, too, that you're visiting during prime time, so genuine bargains are scarce. That said, there's plenty of good golf on- and off-island for under $100. For a true Lowcountry test, set your compass to Old South Golf Links ($80-$95; 843-785-5353, oldsouthgolf.com). This 1991 Clyde Johnston design sports outstanding variety, with some holes that skirt the broad waters of the May River and others that play through live oak forests and next to saltwater lagoons. After 12 p.m., the $80 rate is worth every penny. Hilton Head National ($86-$96; 843-842-5900, golfhiltonheadnational.com) is another solid value. The National and Player nines form the handsome, original 20-year-old Gary Player creation, but the 10-year-old Bobby Weed-designed nine is different -- and equally fun -- with more run-up and shotmaking options.For real savings, check out Eagle's Point Golf Club ($65-$79; 843-757-5900, eaglespointegolf.com), a 1998 Davis Love III product that's tucked into a modest real estate development, but which features a set attractive holes bordered by oaks and pines, plus a collection of sprawling greens guarded by surprisingly large, deep bunkers. It's a good test at a good price.

Dear Joe,We are traveling to San Jose, Calif. next week and would like to get in a couple rounds of golf. Can you please recommend three to four courses that won't break the bank.John GonzalezFairfax Station, Va.Driving in this part of the Bay Area can be nightmarish, so I won't send you too far. Start with Cinnabar Hills ($80-$105; 408-323-5200, cinnabarhills.com), a terrific John Harbottle-designed 27-holer south of the city that might be one of the most underrated tracks in the U.S. All three oak-studded nines are really good, with great, fast greens and plenty of elevation change. Monday through Thursday, you can tee off after 12:30 p.m. for $60.Next up, try Coyote Creek ($65-$102; 408-463-1400, coyotecreekgolf.com), which straddles the 101 Freeway with two Jack Nicklaus layouts. If you're a pretty good stick, you'll howl over the wind- and hazard-laced Tournament course, which boasts a 140 slope from the 7,027-yard tips, with holes that traverse the lower slope of the Diablo Range, but the slightly longer sibling, the Valley course, is more forgiving. Finally, the locals like Santa Teresa Golf Club ($40-$60; 408-225-2650, santateresagolf.com), a pleasant, if undemanding 6,742-yard, par-71 Gene Bates layout-maybe as much for the price tag as for the design itself. Trees and surrounding hills provide the aesthetics and you won't get beat up with lost balls, either.Take It From JoeCall Ahead, FredIn this economy, rapid change is the rule, rather than the exception. Before you travel, phone ahead, so you won't be disappointed by any surprises. For anybody traveling to Tucson, Ariz., hoping to sample the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain course that tested the pros during February's Accenture World Match Play, reconsider, at least until June. The planet's best golfers had apparently never before encountered medium-speed, heavily contoured greens and apparently couldn't draw upon their vast skills to cope with them, so after opening in January, they closed in March for retooling. During a March 28th visit, a sarcastic Jack Nicklaus took the Tour and some players to task about their reaction to the slowness and pitch of the greens, but agreed to fix them. Wild Burro, the nine that Nicklaus considers the prettiest, remains open, but the tournament nines, Saguaro and Tortolita, are under the knife for at least eight weeks.Hilton Head-area visitors who warmed to the 35-minute ferry ride to Daufuskie Island Resort were greeted with glum news two weeks ago when the property laid off its remaining employees and shuttered its doors indefinitely. I was a huge fan of the closing holes at the Melrose course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, which featured unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. The other 15 holes were a mixed bag of handsome Lowcountry scenery and quirky design, but the day trip was memorable and the resort a relaxing treat. I'll keep you posted as to further developments.    

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