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|The Arthur Hills-designed Legends Course at LPGA International will challenge every phase of your game. (Courtesy photo)|
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- To most people, Daytona Beach is known for fast cars, loud motorcycles and Spring Break.
About an hour's drive south of Ponte Vedra Beach and an hour's drive from Orlando, Daytona Beach is a town that knows how to put on a party. And, even though the Spring Break crowd has subsided recently, there's still no lack of things to do at a place that still calls itself "The World's Most Famous Beach."
That might be stretching it, but it's also a town that is pretty calm unless it's springtime. Daytona Beach is actually a great golf destination if you avoid the spring clamor. Once you get past Daytona Speedweeks in January, then Bike Week and Spring Break (a few die-hards still make their way to Daytona), it turns calm and has some of the best golf in the state of Florida.
Daytona Beach also offers some of the toughest finishing holes on Florida's east coast. Here are some of the courses that can dash a scorecard with tough -- but picturesque and challenging -- closing holes:
The Rees Jones-designed Champions Course at LPGA International packs a punch coming down the stretch. Keeping it straight and keeping it dry is the key to closing out a round with your scorecard intact.
No. 16 is a 525-yard par 5 that plays a lot longer since the winds blow from the left on each of the final three holes. Only the biggest bombers can reach it in two, and there's an elevated green to make the long approach even more difficult.
"It plays a lot more like 570 yards," said Head Professional Mike Burgess said.
The 17th is a long, 203-yard par 3, but, again, with the wind, it plays longer and -- depending on the wind -- club selection varies from day to day. It requires a full carry over water with a very small bail out area around the three-tiered green.
The closer is a 454-yard par 4 that Burgess said is a risk-reward hole. It is a par 5 for the LPGA qualifying school, which hosts the opening and final rounds of Q-School. There's water everywhere, and Burgess described the green as an "elephant graveyard," with a huge mound in the middle that funnels errant approach shots away from the hole.
Burgess said at LPGA International, the Legends Course is the more difficult of the two, and that's saying a lot. Both courses are tough, but Burgess said Legends has the hardest final three holes he has played.
No. 16 is a 567-yard par 5 with water on the right and pot bunkers all over the fairway. The water makes the drive tight, and Burgess said it is simply not reachable in two.
No. 17 looks benign, but it really isn't. It is dead straight, but there are woods to the left and large mounds to the right all the way down. The green is deep, but an errant tee shot can make for a large number. There's no water, but that doesn't make it easier.
Legends' closing hole is a 414-yard par 4 with a 90-degree dogleg left and an approach shot that leads to a postage-stamp green. Unless you can cut the dogleg, it's at least three shots to get to the undulating green that is surrounded by environmental areas. That means play it safe or you will be sorry.
With water on 15 of 18 holes, The Club at Pelican Bay's South Course may make you want to bring a few extra sleeves.
The course itself is set up for every skill of golfer, but it is especially tough from the tips. No. 16 plays straight with water on the right and out-of-bounds on the left. Keep it in line off the tee, and there's a chance for birdie. No. 17 is a 205-yard par 3 with water on the right and OB on the left. Missing the green off the tee is almost certainly a penalty.
The course closes with a 374-yard, par-4 dogleg left. Trying to cut too much off the dogleg might lead to OB. Hit the right tee shot, and there's an easy approach to a large green surrounded by bunkers.
At The Club at Pelican Bay, the North Course is the most daunting. No. 16 is the signature hole for the entire complex. It's a 175-yard par 3 with a carry over water from an elevated tee.
"Most of our greens are tiny," Assistant Golf Professional Steve Francis said. "This might be the smallest."
Next comes a 524-yard par 5 that is an easy birdie hole for long hitters who can go about 300 yards off the tee. No. 17 is reachable and straight with no water, so it's a great hole to prepare for the tough 18th, which plays to 395 yards with water all the way down the left and deep rough on the right.
December 17, 2012
Jeff Berlinicke is a golf writer based in Tampa, Fla. He writes for multiple publications including the Tampa Tribune, Golf Fitness Magazine, and the Associated Press. He has also received multiple honors from the Florida Press Association.
Finding a golf course to play in the Sarasota/Bradenton area 45 miles south of Tampa is easy. World-ranked beaches, European-style boutique shopping and al fresco dining, and a fantastic circus museum are just a few of the choices available for off-course entertainment.
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