Thursday, December 6, 2018

Florida Winter Trip


Just returned from my semi-annual trip to Florida.  This trip was noteworthy because I played my 1500th golf course and I was also privileged to see the new holes at Augusta Country Club on the drive down.  The weather was ideal and the golf was fun as always.

I was very honored to be invited to a small gathering at Augusta Country Club to see the two new holes they recently built along with the other recent renovations to the course.  The tee time was in the afternoon so I made the most of the morning by playing another Donald Ross design in Augusta, Forest Hills Golf Club.
13th(left) and 15(right) greens
16th Hole
After a fun morning round at Forest Hills I made the three mile drive to Augusta for a wonderful afternoon of golf.  For those of you who don't know, the renovation of Augusta Country Club was brought about because they sold the property where the old 8th and 9th holes were to Augusta National.  ACC brought in the architect that did their most recent restoration, Brian Silva, to design the new holes.  The club also took the opportunity to re-grass the entire course in Zoysia, remove hundreds of trees, and renovate the bunkers.  The results are spectacular.  The new holes are great and the tree removal has opened up many vistas including a view of the clubhouse of their famous neighbors.
3rd Hole

Recent tree removal has resulted in a view of the clubhouse at Augusta National

New 8th Hole

New 9th Hole
The second day of the trip had a Donald Ross theme.  The morning started with a round at Bacon Park Golf Course in Savannah, Georgia.  A Ross course recently restored by Richard Mandell.
4th Hole

11th Hole
A quick round at Bacon Park and a three and a half hour drive brought me to The University of Florida in Gainesville for an afternoon round at the Donald Ross designed Mark Bostick golf course.  I was pleasantly surprised by this course, not knowing very much about it.  Excellent routing and a very cool short par three, #11.
2nd Hole

4th Hole

11th Hole
Day three of the trip brought golf in the St. Petersburg area.  First up was a round at Bardmoor Golf & Tennis Club.  Originally designed by Bill Diddel, the course was renovated by Gary Koch in 2001.  The club is the former host of the JC Penny Classic, a team event that saw PGA Tour Players teaming with LPGA players.  Tiger Woods played with Kelli Kuehne in the event in the late nineties.
8th Hole

13th Hole
The day continued with a round at St. Petersburg Country Club designed by Herbert Strong.  Formerly Lakewood Country Club, this 1924 course has a routing that has remained intact over the years.  Having played several Strong courses, I was somewhat underwhelmed by this course.  The features Strong is known for, bold greens and bunkers, were nowhere to be seen on this course.  The course is still very good but I was hoping for something more.
2nd Hole

6th Hole

17th Hole
We had several hours of daylight left after our round so we made our way back to Lakeland for a sunset nine hole walk at the William Flynn designed Cleveland Heights Golf Course.  Cleveland Heights has roughly fourteen holes left from the original Flynn design and because of current drainage work, those holes can be played in order right now.  Normally this 27 hole course mixes in nine holes designed by Ron Garl.  We played the Flynn back nine.  Cleveland Heights is one of those courses with enormous potential if given a proper restoration.
10th Hole
Sunrise is my favorite time to play golf so a sunrise round to begin day four at the Red course at Streamsong Resort was pretty much my version of heaven.  The Red was designed by Coore & Crenshaw and has benefited from some recent in-house work by their amazing superintendent and his staff.
5th Hole

16th Hole
After a perfect morning at Streamsong we headed to the Orlando area for my 1500th golf course, Isleworth Golf & Country Club.  Home to many PGA & LPGA Professionals including most famously Tiger Woods until an unfortunate incident with a fire hydrant (still there).  Isleworth is the highest rated course in the state of Florida I had yet to play so it seemed like an appropriate course for #1500.  The course was originally designed by Arnold Palmer but a recent renovation by Steve Smyers has made the course much more difficult.
2nd Hole

6th Hole

18th Hole
The fifth day of my Florida adventure saw 54 holes of golf that began at Hawk's Landing Golf Club in Orlando. Part of the World Marriott Orlando, this course was renovated by Bob Cupp in the 90's.
4th Hole

6th Hole

11th(left) and 12th(right) Holes
A short drive through some Disney property brought us to our second course of the day, Tranquilo Golf Club.  Renovated by Tom Fazio in the last few years, Tranquilo used to be the Osprey Ridge course at Disney World before it was bought by Four Seasons and renovated by its original designer.
3rd Hole

8th Hole

17th Hole
The last course we played on day five was a favorite of my buddy, the Mike Dasher designed Highlands Reserve Golf Club in Davenport.  While not having the budget of the more high profile courses, Dasher managed to cram a ton of interesting architecture into a very unremarkable piece of property.
3rd Hole

5th Hole
On the final day of my trip I played a quick early morning round at Palatka Golf Course to break up the drive home.  This Donald Ross designed gem packs a big punch for such a short and tight golf course.  As usual the routing and greens are the stars.  This course is a great option if you are looking for a fun course to play not far off I-95.
3rd Hole
13th Hole
So that concludes another wonderful visit to the Sunshine state.  I am already starting to think about courses I want to play when I return in March.  There are still a handful of Ross courses in the state I have yet to play and plenty of courses in South Florida that I haven't seen.
Flags from 12 of the 13 courses I played on the trip

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