Salamander’s Legends of Golf Trail

Posted in A Couple of Travelers, Golf Writers Column by on April 16th, 2014

Blaze the Legends of Golf Trail over The Salamander Collection of nine courses at three Grand Golf Resorts of SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAFlorida, so named for the tour greats who have played them and their legendary designers. The Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast is an impressive start with a palatial entrance and Tom Watson’s Conservatory Course at 7776 yards from the tips but with twelve tee box combinations to accommodate all players. We were warned that the bunkers are “so deep you may need ropes to get in and out.” Number 13’s waste bunker is shaped like a tuning fork, from tee to green. Hit the rough Bermuda edge and the music sounds like a horror flick, but then the melody of birds and whistling wind through pines and oaks soothes the soul. It’s not elementary dear Watson, but a Grand course indeed.  Jack Nicklaus’ Ocean Course with famed finishing holes, labeled “The Bear Claw” has a long grand finale par 4 along the Atlantic Ocean. Gauge the wind and pick your weapon for the uphill battle.  The crescendo of crashing waves peak at the clubhouse.  IMG_0610Stroll down the rare stretch of pristine white sand where turtles hatch and starfish sparkle between kokimo rocks as surfers await their perfect wave.  Watch from the Atlantic Grill nibbling Tuna Tartare and lobster on sticks. You won’t want to leave Hammock Beach’s balcony views, and friendly staff but just 90 minutes away is the center point of the Legends of Golf Trail.

The Reunion Resort & Club in Orlando draws amateurs and pros worldwide to practice or play. Encountering LPGA winner Julieta Granada with her caddy Mama Rosa was a sweet reunion for us, having won a Pro-Am together. At Annika’s Academy, sister Charlotta, Annika or a hand picked team member, delivers life-changing health, fitness and swing clinics. When golf ready, the Nicklaus Course is a nature center tracking through dense floral marsh over long wooden bridges. Eighteen is tough. All but the forward tees must carry a SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAvast wetland. On the foggy Palmer Course we learned that blind golf is an adaptive hearing game. Ears tune to the ball’s “thud” landing on the green, clunk of a tree connection or splash in the water. Hole seven was a lovely sight as the fog lifted on the drivable par 4, an eagle opportunity. The Watson Course could be titled “Where the Fern Grows,” as it climbs on pin oaks laced with Spanish moss. Number nine is a narrow strip of fairway lined with “now you see them, now you don’t bunkers on both sides. Face them to the green and look back, they are gone, an architectural Reunion 9feat. This course returns to the castle-like Wyndham Grand Resort where villas are a place to call home. Head to the Bar at Eleven with a rooftop pool – a great place to lay out after play or finish the day with a cocktail watching Disney’s fireworks. The Forte has a gourmet flare for fine dining while the Grande Lobby Bar delivers reasonably priced sushi or American bar food at a visible spot for more friendly reunions.

Innisbrook Golf Resort is another 90 minutes away for the final four on the Trail, all aviary courses. On the North Course, a gust of wind fans the lower feathers, like a ballerina’s tutu on a dancing snowy egret stalking its prey. The South Course begins with a symphony of Ospreys calling one another – hunter and sentinel as more of the flock tune in. Their namesake, Osprey Sports Bar is a perfect 19th hole, with fire pits and flat innisbrook aviaryscreen TVs on the patio. The Island Course with more water as suspected is home to cranes and waterfowl of all denominations. The Turnberry Pub offers gallery access to the scenic course with terrific food while Packard’s Steakhouse is the place to go for the finest cuts of beef or seafood.

While the Legends courses may be played in any order, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook gives new meaning to the “Grand finale.”   A March PGA Tour stop, “The Snake Pit” holes named Snake PitMoccasin, Rattlesnake, and Copperhead, pose a deadly threat for poorly played shots.

All of the Grand Golf Resorts of Florida are top-notch accommodations with water parks, spas, great restaurant choices and superb golf play, making The Legends of Golf Trail one for the bucket list. Business brilliance meets fine golf in Central Florida’s most natural settings by the iconic Salamander founder, Sheila Johnson.  www.slamanderhotels.comSAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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