If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at email@example.com.
My wife and I are doing a New York City vacation in late June. We're set for all the touristy stuff-Broadway shows, museums, Central Park-but it's my vacation, too. I want to get out for one round of golf. I'm an 8 handicap and would like to play one nice course that's convenient to the city. Suggestions? Gordy Allen
For tourists, golf in the city is all about minimizing the hassle factor. Bethpage Black? Fuhgettaboutit. The most conveniently situated top public course is Pound Ridge Golf Club ($95-$235; 914-764-5771, poundridgegolf.com), about 40 miles from Manhattan. This 2008 Pete and Perry Dye design epitomizes the "brutal but beautiful" creations that are a family hallmark. Its 7,171 yards feature all of the classic Westchester County hallmarks, from lovely wooded, rolling terrain to multiple exposed rock outcroppings. It also includes all of the Dyes' usual handiwork, from pot bunkers to sharp-edged hazards to smallish, maddeningly contoured greens. You'll need to load up on extra spheres: wetlands, fescue mounds and a few frighteningly narrow fairways can send scores soaring. However, spectacular touches abound, notably at the 159-yard, par-3, all carry over wetland, to an incredibly wide, shallow green, backdropped by a gigantic rock outcropping.
It's not cheap, at $235, but then what is cheap in the Big Apple? If you've clever enough to make an advanced tee time (8 days out), it's $195. Play after 3 pm with an advanced reservation and it's $150. Two major Manhattan hotels offer special arrangements to play Pound Ridge. The five-star Mandarin Oriental's Best-in-Class Alignment allows guests to make tee times through the hotel's concierge and will set up car service to get you there. The New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square offers a similar service, including discounts on transportation. It's not like the hassle factor of a premium public golf experience -- or the expense -- disappears entirely, but Pound Ridge eases the burden considerably.
I read your advice all the time in GOLF Magazine. I love your suggestions. I am going to be in Ft. Lauderdale in June and was after a challenging round of golf. I look forward to your response. SPC Grady W. Duebbe
Happy to help, Specialist. For pure challenge on quality layouts, you've got two options. First up is the region's top bargain, the Championship course at Colony West ($25.88-$49.98; 954-726-8430, golfcolonywest.com). Situated in Tamarac, just to the northwest, Colony West is a flat but grueling 7,312-yard march that opens with a 601-yard par-5 and doesn't let up. The 452-yard, par-4 12th, with its T-bone water hazard, is a brute. It's $25.88 to play during the week or after noon on weekends.
For an upgrade in conditioning and variety -- and price as well -- head to the Club at Emerald Hills ($54-$79) in Hollywood, seven miles south of the Ft. Lauderdale airport. As with Colony West, this is a 40-year-old Devlin/von Hagge design and its back tee rating and slope, 76.1/145, reflects its nastiness. The fearsome 18th, a 651-yard par-5 with water left and OB right is a beat-down from start to finish. Even during the week, its $54-$64 price tag is a bit of a splurge for a steamy summer day, but they get $175 during high season, so relatively speaking, it's not all bad.(Photo: No. 4 at Pound Ridge)