If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dear Joe, First off, I love reading your articles. I am heading to Tampa to visit a buddy who recently moved. Any recommendations for nice places to play? We are looking to play 36 one day and 18 the following. Neal Shaughnessy Chicago, Ill. The ultimate 36-hole day in Tampa is the Copperhead and Island duo at Innisbrook Resort (innisbrookgolfresort.com). Copperhead has played host to the PGA Tour since 2000 and Island is where Phil Mickelson captured the 1990 NCAA Championship. However, access is only guaranteed if you book a stay.
For purely public putters, take the 50-mile drive north to World Woods (352-796-5500, worldwoods.com) and revel in one of the greatest golf playgrounds on the planet. Tom Fazio designed both courses here, Pine Barrens (pictured), which checks in at No. 18 in our Top 100 Courses You Can Play, and Rolling Oaks, which rolls out width, hardwoods and hazards that conjure up Augusta National—at least somewhat. Best of all, World Woods’ 36-hole rates form one of golf’s best bargains. In mid-summer, it’s only $94 to play them both, while even in the height of prime time—now—it’s only $178. Toss in a 9-hole executive course and the greatest practice facility in golf, a 22-acre, 4-sided wonder, and you’ve got one superior day of golf.
For one final round near town, tackle the TPC Tampa Bay ($99-$159; 813-949-0090, tpctampabay.com) in Lutz, the popular site of a Champions Tour event since 1992, whose flattish terrain is laced with lakes and wetlands.
One of the best values around is Bardmoor ($60-$90; 727-392-1234, bardmoorgolf.com), former home to the PGA/LPGA Mixed Team Championship, where you can walk in fairways once trod by Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples and Tom Kite for $60 after 1 pm. Hello Joe, Longtime reader of your articles, first time to ask for your help. Going to the Grand Caymans in two weeks with my clubs and a buddy and was told there isn’t any real golf down there. Since I didn’t set up the trip, I need your help to find some courses, if any, to play. Have you been there and are people steering me wrong? Jeff Lee Blue Bell, Pa. As with so many islands in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is less than grand when it comes to golf. Simply put, it’s a mixed bag. If you crave the novelty of teeing it up amid balmy breezes and eye-catching scenery, Grand Cayman works fine. If you’re seeking quality and quantity—and value, for that matter—go elsewhere.
Start with the North Sound Club ($175; 345-947-4653, northsoundclub.com) in the Governor’s Harbour area. Formerly known as the Links at Safehaven, the island’s only championship course is a 6,605-yard, par-71 1994 Roy Case design that’s flattish, hazard-laced and possessed of sterling sea views. However, conditioning is hit-or-miss, which is little solace for folks forking over $175, and it’s a brute when the wind blows. If you like iguanas, pay the late twilight rate of $55 and play until dark.
Other than the Ritz-Carlton’s private Blue Tip, a handsome Greg Norman 9-holer that’s exclusive to hotel guests, your other golf option is Britannia Golf Club ($65-$150; 345-745-4653, britannia-golf.com), a one-off from Jack Nicklaus that introduced the world to the concept of the Cayman ball. The idea was to build a short course that could play like a championship test, providing you were using a special ball that only traveled half the distance of a regular ball. It proved to be an idea whose time never arrived.
Today, the course plays as a regulation nine-holer Monday through Saturday, and is converted to an 18-hole executive job on Sunday. Both versions have their merits, specifically challenge and aesthetics, but again, it’s awfully pricey for what you get. Dear Joe, I’m going to Palm Springs for a long weekend in February. I am going to get one round of golf in. Where should it be? Matt Anderson Chicago, Ill. Earlier this month, I recommended La Quinta Resort’s Mountain and Dunes courses (laquintaresort.com), PGA West’s Stadium course (pgawest.com) and Desert Willow’s Firecliff course (desertwillow.com). Each is special—but pricey.
If I had to recommend one value course that comes with all of the classic Palm Springs markings, go with Escena ($60-$95; 760-778-2737, escenagolf.com). This 2005 Nicklaus Design creation is a joy to play from start to finish, with just enough lakes, bunkers and stirring shots to spice the play—plus glorious mountain backdrops throughout—but without too much heavy lifting in terms of forced carries and lost balls.
(Photo: LC Lambrecht)