A couple months back, I received an invitation to experience Florida’s First Coast of Golf first hand coupled with an opportunity to attend the Players Championship. Over the next few days I’m going to write about the experiences so you awesome readership can live vicariously through me. This is the first time I’ve been to anything like this and so far, its pretty amazing.
For those who don’t know, Florida’s First Coast of Golf is a golf destination marketing company that highlights the golf establishments in Amelia Island, Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustie, Clay County and Flagler County. They are a trusted source for golf vacation packages, golf course information and accomodations and provide a shop and compare environment similar to Orbitz and other travel model sites. They presently service 27 golf courses, 19 accomodations and four golf schools all across the north eastern coast of Florida. You can find out more about Florida’s First Coast of Golf on their website, facebook page and twitter.
Additionally, for the trip, the fine folks at Fila Golf sent us some custom logo golf shirts and hats from their 2011 line. So, throughout these posts, I’ll be talking about the gear Fila provided for the trip.
We arrived at our hotel, the Fairfield Inn & Suites in St. Augustine, FL around 11:30am and were cheerfully greeted by the front desk staff, even before they knew I was the world famous Orlando Golf Blogger..
We got checked in without any hassle, went to our double bed room on the second floor and quickly changed into our golf gear. Today, I wore the white Torino hat and the white Americano polo and Don, my marketing wiz, wore the green Torino hat and the orange Americano polo. First comment from Don was, “wow, I love these shirts, they’re so light, it’s like I’m not even wearing a shirt.”
They’re made from 92% recycled polyester and 8% lycra and are very light and comforable. They do have the unfortunate side effect of showing off one’s mid-section “roundness” caused from an excessive consumption of late night sweets like ice cream and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups..
We then headed down stairs and met up with our traveling companion, Blair Howard, who writes the Golf Travel section for About.com. Blair is a very cool dude with many years of writing under his belt.
East Coast Transportation picked us up at noon and delivered us to our first stop, Windsor Parke Golf Club, for a lesson with the 2011 North Florida PGA’s Teacher of the Year, Mary Hafeman and nine holes of golf.
Mary is a former LPGA professional who turned to teaching after a bad car accident and she is very good at her craft. When we arrived, she sat down with us and spent some time getting to know our games and finding out what we wanted to work on. For me, it was chipping and pitching and after only a few swings, she quickly identifed my problem (one of many), which was ball placement in my stance and a severe lack of weight shifting on the follow through.
After only a few minutes, I was hitting some pretty decent chips with a variety of clubs. Her lesson was effective because she kept it simple, making a simple change that is easily recalled on the golf course.
She is very involved with the up and coming young Korean golfers and I spoke with one of her students on the Futures Tour, Irene, who said that Mary Hafeman was the best teacher she’s had. She said that Mary is always positive with her students and really cares about your golf game, like it was her own.
After the lesson, we headed out to the front nine at Windsor Parke and with my newly honed short game, I beat Don and his new grip by one stroke.
Windsor Parke is one of the top 100 golf courses in Florida. It is an Arthur Hills design course featuring sculpted rolling fairways, dramatic elevation changes and strategic bunkering. The most memorable hole, in my mind is the #3 par 3 hole, which has a challenging mound that runs the width of the green. If you land your tee shot on the back of the green, you’re guaranteed atleast a two putt.
The course was in decent shape and had some tricky holes and putting surfaces. I wish we had time to play the back nine because the front was a blast.
After the round, we met up with the FFCG president Dave Reese who took us to a restaruant called Ragtime Tavern at Atlantic Beach. They brew their own beer, which, being a homebrewer was a treat sampling all of their wares. They make a stellar IPA and Stout. For the meal, I chose the Sesame Tuna, which, was outstanding. I haven’t tried their other dishes, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, get the Tuna and thank me later.
At dinner, we also met up with Jaclyn Slaybaugh who is the Director of Tourism for Clay County and her husband Rich and you couldn’t ask for better company during a meal. Oh, and Rich, don’t worry about the shirt, man, happens to the best of us!
Our final stop was a dive bar that Dave frequents called Jakes. As dive bars go, it measured up quite accurately. It was complete with a wall of smoke, cheap beer, cheap pool and a surly bartender.
After a few round there, East Coast Transpo delivered us safely back to our hotel. Sorry again fellas for the later than anticipated pickup.
I’ve gotta say, for a Friday the 13th, it was a pretty awesome one.
Stay tuned for more!