Earlier this summer, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced the 2007 Tour schedule. It was a moment many golf fans were anticipating, as the details of the long-awaited FedEx Cup, a NASCAR-like season-long point race, were revealed.
The schedule is dramatically different than what we're accustomed to, at times. The Ford Championship at Doral will be called the WGC-CA Championships, the Chrysler Classic normally held in Tucson in October will move to March with a new name, Tampa Bay Championship, and even the Bay Hill Invitational underwent some altering, taking on the moniker of its legendary host, Arnold Palmer.
Amid all this reshuffling and renaming, one constant remains. The PGA Tour (not to mention the LPGA and Champions' Tours) play at some excellent, accessible venues.
Of course, location and timing contribute to the abundance of tour events in the Sunshine State. Most tourneys are played in winter and spring, thereby avoiding the steamy summers and early autumn hurricane season. Another factor is that each tour has its headquarters here, making scheduling and course selection more convenient.
Still, we believe the greatest feature of these courses is that anyone can play them. It's always a great feeling to turn on the TV and see holes that you've brought to their knees. (It's even better if you can brag that you trumped a pro on one of them.) So if you're planning to vacation in Florida this fall or winter, stop by one of these tracks and break it in before the pros get their chance.
PGA Tour Stops
Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando The Tournament: Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard Defending Champion: Rod Pampling (274, 14-under) 2007 Dates: March 12-18 (888) 422-9445 | www.bayhill.com | www.bayhillinvitational.com
Did you know? Bay Hill has been Palmer's winter home since 1976. Three nines make up Bay Hill Golf Course with the Challenger and Champion hosting Arnie's annual tournament. The Dick Wilson-designed tracks have been slightly altered over the years by Palmer and his design partner, Ed Seay.
PGA National Resort And Spa, Palm Beach Gardens The Tournament: The Honda Classic Defending Champion: Luke Donald (276, 12-under at Mirasol) 2007 Dates: February 26-March 4 (800) 633-9150 | www.pga-resorts.com | www.hondaclassic.com
Did you know? PGA National is home to the PGA of America. Five courses make PGA National one of the country's largest golf resorts. The Champion course, designed by Tom Fazio, plays to 7,022 yards and, in addition to hosting next year's Honda, hosted the 1983 Ryder Cup.
Doral Golf Resort And Spa, Miami The Tournament: WGC-CA Championships (formerly Ford Championship) Defending Champion: Tiger Woods (268, 20-under) 2007 Dates: March 19-25 (800) 713-6725 | www.doralgolf.com | www.worldgolfchampionships.com
Did you know? Tiger has averaged 3.69 strokes per hole his last two years at Doral. Doral, one of the premier destinations in the country, boasts five championship golf courses, including the fierce Blue Monster (scheduled to reopen September 17 after a $1.4 million renovation).Westin Innisbrook Resort, Tampa Bay The Tournament: Tampa Bay Championship (formerly Chrysler Classic) Defending Champion: As of press time, the tourney hasn't been played. 2007 Dates: March 5-11 (800) 456-2000 | www.innisbrookgolfresort.com | www.pgatour.com/tournaments
Did you know? Curtis Strange once said, "I could play this course [the Copperhead] for the rest of my life." The Copperhead Course is beloved by PGA Tour pros and visitors alike, because it isn't a typical flat, Floridian layout. E. Lawrence Packard's design took advantage of the area's 70-foot elevation changes. Packard also designed the resort's other courses.
LPGA Tour Stops
Did you know? Tom Watson's Independence Course is his first Florida design. Palmer, Watson and Nicklaus have built courses at this resort just 20 miles from Orlando. One nine from the Palmer and Watson combined to make the composite course used at last year's Ginn Open. Nicklaus' course is set to open later this year.
Champions Tour Stops
The Raven at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Destin The Tournament: The Boeing Championship Defending Champion: Bobby Wadkins (203, 10-under) 2007 Dates: May 7-13 (800) 622-1038 | www.sandestin.com | www.theboeingchampionship.com
Did you know? Wadkins, who never won on the PGA Tour, has won three times on the Champions Tour. The Sandestin Resort near Pensacola has four courses, including Robert Trent Jones, Jr.'s Raven Course. Opened in 2000, it was rated Best New Course in Florida. Routed through pine trees, wetlands and marshes, it features large bunkers reminiscent of legendary architect, Alistair MacKenzie.
Did you know? Pate's 2006 win was his first since 1982. Designed by Bobby Weed, this stadium-style course stretches from 5,036 to 6,898 yards. It opened in 1991 and is routed around natural wetlands, cypress heads and numerous ponds and lagoons.GREENLIGHT Specials
Bay Hill Club and Lodge The Bay Hill Golf Package features an overnight stay in a Lodge room, breakfast daily, one round of golf per person per day, cart and complimentary practice balls. Single occupancy: $495; double occupancy: $705, from October 1-December 31. (888) 4-BAYHILL | www.bayhill.com
Doral Golf Resort and Spa The Blue Monster Package includes a three-night stay at a Garden View Room at the Resort, full American buffet breakfast, 54 holes of golf, plus free replays on the Gold, Red or Silver courses, unlimited use of the driving range and one introductory golf clinic. Single occupancy: $391; double occupancy: $572, per night starting October 1. (800) 71-DORAL | www.doralgolf.com
PGA National Resort and Spa The Platinum Golf Package includes deluxe resort accommodations with private balcony or terrace, full American breakfast daily, unlimited golf per person per night of stay and access to the Health & Racquet Club. $315 per night, October 1-December 31. (800) 633-9150 | www.pga-resorts.com
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort The Stay and Play Golf Package includes two night's accommodations, one round of golf per day, golf cart fee, unlimited use of practice facility and complimentary range balls. Rates begin at $200 per person. There are four championship courses on site. (800) 622-1038 | www.sandestin.com
Westin Innisbrook Golf Resort The Preferred Package features a spacious guest room, full breakfast, 18 holes of golf daily (includes one round on the Copperhead), cart, daily one-hour golf clinic and unlimited use of practice facilities. There's a three-night minimum stay. Single occupancy: $259; double occupancy: $339 through January 17, 2007. (800) 456-2000 | www.innisbrookgolfresort.com