Trip Dispatch: Stepping back in time at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Pete

By Mike BaileyMarch 24, 2014, 3:44 pm

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Just a week earlier, Babe Ruth's daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, was here, regaling tales of how she would attend dances for young people in the now magnificently restored ballroom at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club. She's 98 years old, still sharp as a tack, according to our historical guide, and a living link to the Golden Age in these parts. Some of the golf courses in the immediate area also share those same traits. The Renaissance Vinoy Golf Club, now private but open to resort guests, can trace its history back to the turn of the previous century, and while it was moved from its original 9-hole location closer to the water (originally designed by Donald Ross), the current Ron Garl redesigned version has come through like a champ.

The same can be said for another classic course, Belview Biltmore Golf Club, less than 10 miles away from the Renaissance Vinoy. Opened in 1925, this Ross gem was known as Pelican Golf Club for most of its existence, but has undergone several ownership changes in the past few years. Last year, it was rescued by the city of Belleair, which has kept the green fees very affordable (less than $50) with maintenance standards well above the price. It's actually located next to 36 holes of more Ross-designed golf at private Belleair Country Club, and if you get the chance to play over there, take it. Those two courses are always in tip top shape and are two of the better courses in the state.

Back at Belleview Biltmore, though, there's no mistaking those Ross greens, but they're not the same old greens. A few years ago, the course was restored to the original Ross specs as a 6,614-yard par 71,and as part of the renovation it got new Tif-Eagle greens, which are in excellent shape and as difficult to putt as always. The course might be little short by today's standards, but the layout is interesting with a variety of holes. Add in those greens and scoring is a challenge.

Vinoy and Biltmore were just two of the courses I checked out as part of a quick, five-course tour while I was in St. Pete. My journey also included Mangrove Bay, one of the busiest and golf-centric munis in the country. Mangrove Bay is St. Pete's only championship municipal layout, but it's solid. At almost 6,800 yards, the course is laid out through 180 acres Florida mangroves, just a few hundred yards from the bay. With water on half the holes and plenty of sand, it will challenge good players and high handicappers alike. It's also in better shape than your typical muni, but the real bonus is the practice facilities and two par 3 courses that are also part of the St. Pete municipal system. Next door is a nifty par 3 course called Cypress Links, which is maintained as well as most daily fees. Best of all, it's perfect for beginners or even advanced players who want to work on their approaches and short game. And a few miles away, the city has another par 3, Twin Creeks, which is actually 18 holes.

And finally, I also went to nearby Largo and checked out checked out Bardmoor Golf & Tennis Club, which once hosted the PGA/LPGA JC Penney Classic. This paspalum course (Tif Eagle greens), opened in 1990 and was renovated by Gary Koch in 2003. It's 7,000 yards from the tips and has plenty of water, so it can certainly be a formidable test for most players.


The public can play Donald Ross-designed Belview Biltmore in St. Pete. 

I had been through St. Pete before, but only on my way to Bradenton or Sarasota, where there's plenty of golf and tennis. St. Pete, in case you’re not familiar, is across Tampa Bay to the west of Tampa. Just north is Clearwater and between the two you'll find unspoiled beaches devoid of most of the spring break traffic, chalked full of great restaurants and a few historic hotels.

One of the best is the Renaissance Vinoy, now operated by Marriott. Opened New Year's Eve 1925 and named after developer Aymer Vinoy Laughler, the grand hotel, originally named Vinoy Park, has been through a lot. In its early years, during Ms. Ruth's time when her famous father spent winters playing golf in the area and training for the New York Yankees upcoming seasons, it was place to be. There were balls and weddings and luxurious dinners and accommodations. The architecture was, and still is, Mediterranean Revival with an elegant, sophisticated décor.

During World War II, the U.S. Army set up camp there, and after a couple of ownership changes, this magnificent resort closed for nearly 20 years until it was restored meticulously in the early '90s.


The waterfront Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg dates back nearly a century. 

Today, the resort, which presides majestically over St. Pete's pristine waterfront offers the modern amenities that seasoned travelers and vacationers expect out of a first-class resort. From well-appointed rooms with views of the ocean, tennis complex or the city to one of the best and liveliest pool decks you'll find anywhere, the Vinoy is a pampered step back in time. My time here was not only spent playing golf, but enjoying fine dining, a tennis lesson, a sailboat excursion into the bay (where we anchored for a quick swim) and exploring the waterfront and downtown attractions.

Those attractions include the The Chihuly Collection and the Dali Museum. To see Dale Chihuly's spectacular collection of glass sculpture is believing. The hurricane-proof Dali Museum not only included an impressive display of Salvador Dali's incredible paintings and drawings but a special Andy Warhol exhibit as well. After the Dali, we strolled through the Saturday farmer's market next to where the Detroit Tigers play their Grapefruit League spring training games.

And there was dining, of course, lots of it, in town and at the hotel. The hotel features several restaurants, including Fred's Steakhouse, which serves some of finest cuts in South Florida. The most memorable, however, was saved for the last, the Sunday brunch at Marchand's a restaurant/bar that not only offers delectable meals with wine and beer pairings, but live entertainment and dancing. Sunday, though, brought items you don't see in a typical brunch. Lobster omelets, crab cakes and your own custom Bloody Marys – and that was only the beginning. No need for lunch or dinner after that.


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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry