Two hundred thousand racing fans will zoom to Daytona Beach, Florida, for NASCAR’s biggest race on February 20. Defending champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. heads an elite field of 43 drivers who’ll trade paint in pursuit of the sport’s richest prize. (Junior earned just shy of $1.5 million here last year.) If you’re not a stock-car fan, that weekend might be the pits. But if you happen to love both NASCAR and golf, here’s the green flag.
Friday, Feb. 18th
Halifax Plantation in Ormond Beach is the perfect first stop. Squeezed between Tomoka State Park and Bulow Estate Park just north of Daytona Beach, Halifax opened in 1993. Its old-world feel is evident on the course, where designer Bill Amick adopted a Perry Maxwell meets Donald Ross philosophy, placing bunkers well to the sides of the fairways and leaving almost all of the green fronts open. Case in point: No. 15, a 350-yard par 4 where bunkers flank the landing area and green. Steer clear of them and you’ll be flipping a wedge to birdie range.
|Going to the track?|
|For ticket packages, visit the Daytona 500 website (daytonainternationalspeedway.com) or try the Ticket Company (tickco.com), a broker that has specialized in the 500 since 1991. On Sunday, race day, tickets will be hard to come by, and not just because scalping is illegal in Florida. Try Thursday’s Gatorade 125s for a cheaper alternative.|
After your round, chow down on spiced yellowfin ahi tuna or macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi at the Chart House, a popular haunt for the racing set. Then bed down in style at the Treasure Island Resort, Adam’s Mark Daytona Beach Resort or Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort–each provides prime beach access. If you’re piling in with the whole pit crew, your best bet is the Ocean Walk Resort, where one- and two-bedroom art deco condos with fully equipped kitchens start at $359 per night.
Saturday, Feb. 19th
Manly men need not blush at the thought of playing the home of the LPGA. Both tracks at LPGA International in Daytona Beach present a stern challenge. Start with Rees Jones’s Champions course, a GOLF MAGAZINE Top 10 You Can Play in 1994. With ample landing areas and emphasis on approach shots, the Champions is the battleground for the LPGA Q-School finals each year. The course accommodates the tee-it-high-and-let-it-fly contingent, but 140 bunkers await those who stray. Pay close attention to the hole locations–three-tiered greens make three-putts a common nuisance.
Play your afternoon match on the Champions’ younger sibling, the Legends course by Arthur Hills. Heavily treed and skirting wetlands, the Legends demands more strategy and less brawn than Jones’s course. But its last three holes are backbreakers: a 567-yarder followed by a 434-yard par 4 with a sloping green that repels iron shots and a 414-yard dogleg-left where nothing less than a 250-yard drive gets you a clear shot at the green.
Refuel at Racing’s North Turn in Daytona Beach, a fun stop just off the original north turn of the Ponce Inlet Beach Road Race, Daytona’s first big-time racetrack. If you’re looking to clank frosty mugs with NASCAR’s young guns, check out the club scene along Seabreeze Boulevard.
Sunday, Feb. 20th
Fill your tank before dawn at the Daytona Diner, known for eggs, sausage and biscuits at bargain prices, then head for the hills–Victoria Hills, a Ron Garl-designed stunner in DeLand.The course features about 50 feet of elevation changes and miles of waste bunkers. It shows its teeth early and often, beginning at the 429-yard opener with its Pine Valley-esque waste area accented by a smattering of native grasses and a topsy-turvy fairway that dead-ends at an elevated green guarded by an ominous oak. Buckle up.
The flag drops at the Daytona 500 at high noon, so play fast, then race back to the track. But watch your speed: The last thing you want is a highway patrolman saying, “Who do you think you are, Dale Jr?”