I am heading to Naples, Florida in March. Right now, living in Ohio, any place in the world with sun looks good. What courses would you recommend? We typically play both courses at Tiburon, but I’d like to add a third or fourth. — Dennis Schiraldi, Columbus, Ohio
Naples is one of those funky pockets that exist — and maybe the only one in Florida — where there is a glut of good golf available, but little that is public-access. For what meager offerings there are, Tiburon indeed tops the list, and the only guarantee of getting aboard there is to book a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort Naples, a 2008 GOLF Magazine Gold Medal resort.
Beyond that, you might try Lely Resort (239-793-2600, lely-resort.com), which stays pretty low key, because its trio of courses is tied to a residential development, but two of the three are open for public play. Lely’s Flamingo Island, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, is the tougher of the two, as it’s tighter, with more water. Lee Trevino’s Mustang course is longer, but friendlier to the spray hitter. Both courses are $165 through the end of March, $121 after noon, then shrink to $103/$74 beginning in April.
Finally, for a taste of classic, lush, but flat Florida, check out the region’s oldest layout at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club (239-261-2222, naplesbeachhotel.com), where rates for outside play range from $110 to $145 through April 8.
I am going on a quick, 4-day trip in March to Hollywood, Florida, staying at the Westin Diplomat. Any suggestions for area courses? I am a 1-handicap who enjoys playing nice courses, but with an emphasis on value for the cost. — Shawn Farrell, Via email
Splurge and play once at your hotel’s course, the Diplomat Country Club (954-883-4000, diplomatresort.com), a watery 50-year-old track that was reworked by Joe Lee in 2000, boosting its slope from the tips to 136. If you can wait until 2:00 p.m., the rate is $89. Before that, it’ll cost you $169, or $179 on the weekend.
The best public course nearby, especially for a guy with your skill, is the Club at Emerald Hills (954-962-7888, theclubatemeraldhills.com), which will set you back $150-$175 through March, but during the week, you’ll pay $125 after noon and $75 at 3:00 p.m. This 40-year-old Devlin/von Hagge design is a lake-filled 7,335-yard brute that boasts a slope of 146.
If you like sand, don’t miss Heron Bay Golf Club (954-796-2000, heronbaygolfclub.net; $85-$120), which played host to the PGA Tour as a TPC facility from 1997 through 2002. The flattish design is hardly memorable, but for conditioning, service and a test of golf, one with 92 big bunkers, it’s a solid value.
I am heading to Tucson in March and I am looking to play a memorable desert-style course, yet, at the same time, I want to make like an Old West bandit on the price. I don’t mind walking in the afternoon heat, either. Any suggestions? — Mike Pigott, State College, Pennsylvania
High season in Tucson lasts for three months — and you’ve picked absolute prime time to search for bargains. Seeing as you’re from Joe-Pa country, however, I’ve got a soft spot for you, so here are your best bets.
Arizona National Golf Club (520-749-3636, arizonanationalgolfclub.com) charges $175 bucks to play Friday through Sunday, $145 Monday through Thursday, but you can reserve a tee time up to a week in advance any day after 1:00 p.m. for $85 — and that includes a cart. This 1996 Robert Trent Jones II design is all the desert golf you could want, with its rolling, cactus-studded terrain and memorable mountain vistas. The elevated tee shots at the par-3 4th, the par-5 11th and the par-5 18th will linger long in memory, especially at the 18th, where you can see clear to Mexico. The home course for the University of Arizona golf team, Arizona National witnessed a stirring duel between Stanford’s Tiger Woods and Arizona’s Ted Purdy back in 1996, with Purdy winning out.
If $85 is still too pricey for you, the Tucson city courses (tucsoncitygolf.com) offer tremendous value (under $50 for non-residents), including Randolph North, which played host to the PGA Tour for a few years and Dell Urich, a Ken Kavanaugh redesign that hosted the LPGA in 2003 and 2004.