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|The Belleview Biltmore Golf Club was designed by Donald Ross in 1925. (Tim McDonald/WorldGolf.com)|
The Belleview Biltmore Golf Club in Clearwater is a Florida golf course designed in 1925 by Donald Ross and restored to its original spirit in 2001 by Chip Powell. It has relatively low green fees and excellent greens.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - When a golf course designed by Donald Ross is restored, Ross's living proxies often come around to ensure the master would have approved.
Such was the case at the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, which Ross designed back in the Roaring '20s.
Architect Chip Powell had the honors, as well as the help from the Donald Ross Society. The layout was renovated in 2001 at a cost of roughly $2 million and 12 months.
"They completely leveled the golf course," said Golf Operations Manager Steve Yeckinevich. "They took it down to bare earth."
Restoring a Ross gem is always a challenge. The trick is to bring back the architectural integrity of Ross' original design while dragging the course into the here and now and making it challenging to players using modern technology.
Powell did that several ways. The easy part, from an artistic standpoint, was installing a new irrigation system. The bunkers, as they were, had become obsolete, not in play for most players off the tee. In fact, some had been filled in because of maintenance costs.
So, they moved back the existing bunkers to remake them into the obstacles they were intended to be, as well as adding new ones, as Ross originally designed.
They even dug up some trees and moved them to different parts of the course. Of course, the greens have been completely resurfaced with a TifEagle-hybrid Bermuda, and they also re-did all the practice facilities, including the driving range, putting green and short-game area.
The result is a joy to play. You understand you're playing a Donald Ross course, just updated for the modern era.
The golf course is deceptive. It's only 6,614 yards from the back tees, but it also sports many of the Ross characteristics that can get you in trouble, like his crowned greens. The Belleview Biltmore isn't exactly Pinehurst No. 2 when it comes to the difficulty of the greens, but you will have some putts roll off or even back at you if you aren't careful.
As in almost all of Ross' creations, the greens are beautifully contoured, and the club has done an excellent job of keeping them in good condition.
The fairways are mostly tree-lined, and there is water on 14 holes, but this isn't one of those Florida golf courses that threatens to drown you. Much or the water is lateral, and there are only a few forced carries, none melodramatic.
There are a number of good holes, particularly No. 4, a mid-length par 4 that screams for a fade off the tee. All of the par 5s can be reached in two with well-struck tee balls. Be wary, though: Many of the greens drop off to water.
Green fees are in the $75 range.
Officials here are also in the planning stages of renovating the clubhouse, probably next spring, but that won't affect play.
The Beach Place in Madeira Beach is the place you want to be if you want to gaze at the broad expanse of the Gulf of Mexico after your golf game.
The Beach Place, together with Sandy Shores next door, has individually owned and newly furnished condos, from one bedroom up to three. You can lay in bed, turn your head and see the sun setting over the Gulf - the condos are that close to the beach. You can also watch as boats head out to the Gulf through the channel a few hundred yards away.
They're located in Johns Pass, a little village that both tourists and locals like to visit, with all the little shops and restaurants. No need for a car here, just walk across the street.
If you're too lazy to walk or drive, you can catch the beach trolley that runs right past the front doors of the condos. The trolley can take you to Pass-A-Grille to the south or up to Sand Key.
Combined, there are 60 condos overlooking both the Gulf and a swimming pool. The condos have private balconies, fully equipped kitchens and wireless Internet access. There is also a sundeck and beachfront picnic area. Your towel is reserved for you.
December 2, 2008
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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