If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [email protected].
My wife and I are 20 to 25 handicap golfers and enjoy all kinds of courses. This winter we are going to spend February and March in Brandon, Florida, near Tampa. What would you recommend in that area that would be good courses and not too expensive. Al Campbell
North Bay, Ontario, Canada
Put it this way: Brandon is no Bandon — but you'll find some quality golf values just the same. The top player-friendly bargain course in the region is Fox Hollow in New Port Richey (727-376-6333, golfthefox.com/hollow; $40-$90). This late vintage Robert Trent Jones Sr. course actually plays plenty tough, with the master's usual assortment of lakes and bunkers, plus forests, creeks and wetlands, but five sets of tees make it playable for most, including the Gold tees, which measure a comfortable 6,018 yards, with a rating of 69. Best of all, it's only $40 after 2 pm, Monday through Thursday, through March 31.
I also like the Bardmoor Golf & Tennis Club (727-392-1234, bardmoorgolf.com; $40-$90) in Largo. Formerly host to the PGA/LPGA Mixed Team Classic (in order words, Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez played here), Bardmoor offers a set of Silver tees that run 5,782 yards, with a slope of 117. Play from noon to 1:30 and it's $75; wait until 1:30 and it's $40.
My buddy Mike and I are planning to head to Scottsdale the first week in February. We are going to stay at the Marriott on site at the TPC courses. We plan on the Stadium course for our "expensive" round. Any suggestions on courses that are reasonably priced but still worth going to? Also, we would like to try and double loop a day or two…what time does the sun set in the desert in February? Jason Devore
Step out of your hotel room door and you'll stub your toe on the TPC Scottsdale's Champions course (480-585-4334, tpc.com/Scottsdale), a sturdy, variety-filled Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish desert course that benefited from a terrific Randy Heckenkemper overhaul in 2007. The course played host to the 2009 Champions Tour Q-School. Green fees are $135.50, with a miniscule replay rate of $41. Give it a go — the first week in February, the sun rises between 7:20 and 7:25 and sets between 6 pm and 6:05.
For another dose of affordable Randy Heckenkemper design work, check out Sanctuary Golf Course at WestWorld (480-502-8200, sanctuarygolf.com; $109-$129), a 10-minute drive from your hotel. This Audubon-certified layout is cramped in spots, but if you came to the desert to play desert golf with mountain views, you'll find it here. Between 11 am and 2 pm, it'll set you back $109.
A half-hour drive is Longbow Golf Club (480-807-5400, longbowgolf.com; $135-$155) in Mesa, a boldly bunkered Ken Kavanaugh design that is annual host of the AJGA Heather Farr event. Paula Creamer won here in 2004, followed in '05 by Inbee Park, who would win the 2008 U.S. Women's Open. Book online and you'll pay $99.
I will be traveling with my wife in the Fort Lauderdale area in January. Can you give us a few recommendations for decent courses in the area that will not break the bank. B. Mihal
Start with Jacaranda Golf Club (954-472-5836, golfjacaranda.com; $79-$124) in Plantation. Its East and West courses are both classic layouts with mature trees, but a recent sprucing on both from architect Bobby Weed has added flavor in the form of strategy and challenge. East is the longer, tougher of the two, but both are worth the freight, especially after 1 pm, when the fee is $79.
Pembroke Lakes Golf Club (954-431-4144, pembrokelakesgolf.com; $55-$70) is a muni owned by the town of Pembroke Pines, but sports enough upscale trappings to make you feel you're at a pricey resort course. It's $55 to play during the week and after 11:30 am on weekends. John Sanford reworked the layout in 2007, and today its coquina shell waste bunkers, paspalum greens and affordable rates puts this one on your must-play list.