Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Florida trip

I'm back. I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Florida, and I played four great courses while I was there.

  • Slammer & Squire at World Golf Village
  • The King and the Bear at World Golf Village
  • Old Palms Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens
  • PGA National Champion course in Palm Beach Gardens
I was trying to decide which was my favorite, but they're all so different, it was a little difficult to come up with a definitive answer.

Slammer & Squire, named for Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, who consulted with course architect Bobby Weed, was a good first stop for me. Wide open fairways, five sets of tee boxes and some pretty neat par 3s, the Slammer & Squire got me off to good start on my trip. The course features plenty of views of the woodlands, and on the back nine, the World Golf Hall of Fame is visible throughout. My score was 97.

The King and the Bear was named for legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, the only course co-designed by these two superstars in the golf world. It's a little more difficult that the Slammer & Squire, thanks to plenty of water hazards. I won't say I had to carry water on every hole, but it seemed that way. My score was 99.

Overall, the World Golf Village was impressive, with impeccable customer service and chilled apples on holes 1 and 10 on both courses. Nice touch.

Old Palms Golf Club is a private course in Palm Beach Gardens. My cousin, Jeff Neal, arranged for a round of golf there. Jeff is the director of golf for the Puntacana Resort and Club in the Dominican Republic.

http://www.puntacana.com/

Old Palms' turf is Paspalum, a eco-friendly grass that has high salinity tolerance, drought resistance and low fertilizer requirements. It's used in a lot of courses in tropical regions. My front nine at Old Palms was pretty good for me - a 46, which included a par on the No. 1 handicap hole, the 525-yard par 5 No. 4, and a chip-in birdie from behind the green on hole 5. We also let Camilo Villegas and his father Fernando play through on No. 9, but not before they stopped off for a quick picture with my group. Pretty cool. But then I imploded on the back nine and ended my round with a 103.

My last round was at PGA National Champion course where they hold the Honda Classic. It was also the first Neal Family Reunion Invitational. The teams:

  • Tas Sipowski and J. Eric Eckard
  • Jeff Neal and Bill Neal
  • Ty Neal and Mark Neal
Tas started us off with a nice start, with birdies on five of the first six holes. I contributed with a net eagle on No. 6, thanks to a par and two strokes with my handicap. On the Bear Trap - holes 15, 16 and 17 - I went par, double-bogey, par. Arguably harder than Amen Corner at Augusta, the Bear Trap confounded many of the best players in the world at the 2008 Honda Classic, netting scores of 356 over par, 102 strokes more than the previous year. Granted, those guys play from the tips, and I was playing from the white tees. But still, par, double-bogey, par is something to write home about.

Tas and I won the event with a team score of 61. Jeff and Bill shot a 64, and Ty and Mark ended with a 70.

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