Ask Travelin' Joe: New Orleans, San Diego and South Florida

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at askjoe@golf.com.

Dear Joe,
I'm going to New Orleans for a bachelor party with 20 guys and am interested in good courses in the area. Any thoughts?
Mike Ryan
Via email

Don't scoff at a par-62 course: Audubon Park ($30-$40; 504-212-5290, auduboninstitute.org) is 4,200 yards of lagoons, moss-drenched oaks, mounds and bunkers. It's close to downtown, next to Tulane University, it's incredibly affordable and best of all — for your purposes — it takes just three hours to play, so you can get back to the Big Easy's other bachelor party attractions.

For a more upscale experience-and bragging rights back home, try the TPC Louisiana ($79-$169; 504-436-8721, tpc.com), a long, if flattish Pete Dye design that hosts the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic. It's pricey in high season, at $169 from March 5-May 16, but the $89 Twilight rate on weekends will help.

Hey Joe,
It's cold here in Toronto, Ontario, but I'm heading to San Diego, specifically La Jolla, in March with my son and brother-in-law. We definitely want to play Torrey Pines North & South. Anything else you might suggest that's close by? P.S. My son and I are both 12 handicappers. My brother-in-law, well, that's a whole other story altogether!
"Freezing" Frank Valle
Toronto, Canada

Warm up with the Grand Golf Club at Grand Del Mar Resort ($195-$215, 858-314-1930, thegranddelmar.com), a short drive north from La Jolla. The Tom Fazio design weaves in and out of coastal canyons. However, it's not cheap, and you need to stay there to play there.
More accessible, if equally steep, is Aviara ($215-$235, 760-603-6900, fourseasons.com/aviara), a classy Arnold Palmer design 20 miles to the north in Carlsbad that bursts with flowers, water features and undulating greens.

A less costly alternative is the Crossings at Carlsbad ($90-$120; 760-444-1800, thecrossingsatcarlsbad.com). This 2006 Greg Nash design suffers from a funky routing with some odd stops and starts, but also boasts a fistful of drama-filled holes, bridges that span environmental areas and Pacific Ocean views.

Dear Joe,
A buddy and I would like to plan a golf trip to South Florida in late March. We are looking at Tampa/St. Pete or Naples. Can you recommend either location vs. the other, plus courses and hotels?
Tim Herlehy
Burlington, Mass.

Naples is great, but more so if you have private club access. You'll have more options in the Tampa/St. Pete area. For the region's best golf, go with Innisbrook Resort (727-942-2000, innisbrookgolfresort.com) in Palm Harbor. Home to the PGA Tour's Transitions event, Innisbrook leads off with the Copperhead course, a layout Ernie Els has called "the best we play in Florida." Its No. 2, the Island, is nearly as strong. It's a watery track dotted with cypress trees that played host to the 1990 NCAA Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. Rack rates start at more than $200 for golf, but most at Innisbrook opt for one of five golf packages that reduce the rates considerably.

The best value in the region — and maybe in all of Florida — is Cheval Golf & Country Club ($35-$45; 813-948-2114, chevalgolfandcountryclub.com), a private course in Lutz, just north of Tampa that offers outside play for the time being. There's real estate, but it doesn't really intrude, plus water on 17 holes and, since it's a Steve Smyers design, plenty of sand from start to finish.

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