Friday, February 10, 2012

DoralIf you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at askjoe@golf.com. Dear Joe, Where are the best deals in Miami for the month of February? We are all decent golfers, so we would like to play some nice courses. Thanks! John C. Babylon, N.Y.  
As most of you know, I’m partial to the offerings at Doral, pictured, (305-592-2000, doralresort.com) and Turnberry Isle (305-932-6200, turnberryislemiami.com), but I acknowledge that both are pretty pricey. That said, both properties qualify in the “you get what you pay for” department. There is a wide variety of second-tier courses and lodging options in and around Miami, but they’re all over the map where it comes to packages that jump out.
Perhaps the best place to start is with an outfit called GOLFPAC Travel (888-848-8941, golfpactravel.com), which has been providing package information on Florida properties (and elsewhere) for 35 years. In Miami, they have Doral and Turnberry deals available, as well as Don Shula’s and Hotel Indigo Miami Lakes, two bargain properties that will fit many budgets.
A final option I recommend is The Biltmore (877-311-6903, biltmorehotel.com) in Coral Gables. Awash with classy, Old World elegance, it’s not necessarily prime real estate for buddies trips, but for couples and families, it’s perfect, thanks to its vintage, playable Donald Ross course (restored/renovated by Brian Silva in 2007), its fabled swimming pool and its terrific restaurants.
Still, if you and your pals wind up here, the resort’s Hole-in-One package goes above and beyond, not only offering unlimited golf, range balls and discounted instruction, but also tee time access to Doral and at Crandon Park, the scenic Key Biscayne muni (and former Champions Tour venue) that plays along the water amid vistas of Miami’s high-rises. Hey, Joe, I’m planning on going to Atlanta soon, so is there any way I can play at Augusta National. Thanks very much. Ryan O. Via email No. Take it From Joe Spyglass Hill: America’s Most Underrated CourseThe PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach event takes place this week, renewing everybody’s love affair with one of earth’s most visually compelling championship tests, Pebble Beach. Nothing wrong with Pebble—but those blimp aerials, and Saturday’s celebrity showcase, inevitably overshadow one of the tournament’s co-hosts, Spyglass Hill, which is a shame, because America deserves to see more of Spyglass.
A few years back, I asked the question, “How can a course that invariably gets ranked in the U.S. Top 50 be labeled underrated?” Simple. It’s rarely seen on television and it’s stuck next to Pebble—and next to Cypress Point, for that matter. Critics harp on the schizophrenic nature of the layout and natter on that once you leave the sixth tee, you’re done with the ocean. That may be true—but this is still one great golf course.
Spyglass’ virtues start with one of the scariest opening tee shots in golf. Fog-enshrouded and library quiet, the silence on the first tee is disturbed only by golf balls echoing off the enormous pines that pinch the fairway. Next on this 595-yard, par-5 that veers sharply to the left is a jaw-dropping ocean view from the fairway crest. A short, straight drive won’t work, as the timber will block your second. Even a healthy drive down the middle will leave you an awkward downhill, sidehill lie.
Holes 2 through 5 romp through massive dunes and would be standouts anywhere. Six through 18 are thickly forested and mostly play uphill, making it a grind to walk and tough to score on, but the par 3s are gorgeous and two of the par4s are among the most challenging in golf, the reverse cambered 8th that slopes to the right but doglegs left and the brutal 16th, where merely hitting the green in two is an achievement.
Sure, Spyglass yielded 62s to Phil Mickelson in 2005 and Luke Donald in 2006, but for most of us, it’s just a beautiful brute—and it was flat-out nasty when it opened, back in 1966. It made its PGA Tour debut in the 1967 Bing Crosby Pro-Am, when the host himself crooned an offer to Jack Nicklaus: “I’ll bet you five you can’t shoot under par from the back tees in your first round at Spyglass.” It was unclear whether Bing meant $5.00 or $5,000, but Nicklaus notched a 2-under-par 70 in his practice round and Bing forked over $500 to charity. The Golden Bear stumbled to a 74 when it counted, yet still won the event by five.
In 2012, as always, the AT&T winner will have to conquer Pebble Beach’s closing stretch along the Pacific, but he’ll also have to survive Spyglass before that to capture the crystal.
(Photo: Doral Golf Resort)

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