Five things you should know about golf in the Destin-Panama City area

By Travel ArticlesFebruary 25, 2013, 5:00 am

DESTIN, Fla. -- If you're considering a golf vacation in Florida, you've probably already considered the Orlando, Miami or even St. Augustine.

But if you're looking for a little different Florida golf experience, you might want to consider the Panama City/Destin area on the northwest coast.

Known as the Emerald Coast, this region of Florida differs from the rest of the state in several important ways. Side benefits include the whitest beaches in America and Southern hospitality and cooking.

The golf scene has come a long way in the last 30 years as well. Here are five things you should know about the golf in the Destin/Panama City area before you go:

Golf scene has exploded

Thirty years ago, there wasn't much golf in the area, just a few private clubs and daily fees. But as the secret of the pristine white beaches and emerald blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico started to spread, visitors started flocking to this lesser known area of Florida.

Now there are high-rise condo units and high-end hotels everywhere, and along long with them, some mighty fine golf courses. In fact, there are dozens of them, ranging from budget to some of the best golf in Florida.

The courses are also designed by some of the bigger names in the business, such as Camp Creek Golf Club(Tom Fazio), Burnt Pine (Rees Jones), The Raven (Robert Trent Jones Jr.), Emerald Bay Golf Club (Bob Cupp) and Bay Point (Jack Nicklaus). And around the courses are plenty of really good restaurants and other things to do.

Winter isn't prime season

Unlike south Florida or even central Florida, winter isn't the high season on the Emerald Coast. It just isn't as warm there, but it doesn't mean it's not a great time to play.

There are plenty of warm days, but there are some cold ones, too. Average highs in January are in the low 60s, but the 70s aren't that uncommon. And because it's not prime season, rates -- both on courses and accommodations -- tend to be a little lower.

In fact, summer is really the prime season, not because of the golf but because of the hordes of families that vacation there. Also, most of the courses don't overseed their fairways or greens, making for better transition into the spring, which along with fall, are really primetime for golf on the northwest coast.

Gotta love the water

Being on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, it's no surprise that the courses have plenty of water, but it isn't the ocean.

For example, at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort's Links Course, it seems like just about every hole is on water of some kind. The predominant body of water in play here is Choctawhatchee Bay.

The ninth hole, a par 5 that crosses hazards three times, gives you plenty of that. And along the way are some of the best views on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Beyond that, however, there are plenty of lakes and marshes on the links. In fact, there's water on 14 holes, not unusual for courses in the area.

Learn to play a knock-down

It may not be Scotland, Ireland or Hawaii, but the Emerald Coast of Florida is seaside golf, which means it's going to be windy most of the time, often very windy.

That means it's a good idea to practice your knock-down shots before your round to keep it out of the wind. Don't have much experience with that shot? Not to worry. Just take an extra club or two and swing easy, but you'll definitely want to get a feel for that before you play.

Of course, when you get a downwind tee shot, you're probably going to want to tee it high and let it fly. There's nothing like hitting it 300 yards when the occasion calls for it.

Book a golf package

If you really want to get the most out of a golf vacation on the Emerald Coast, booking a golf package is probably your best bet, and there's plenty to choose from.

The largest resort is the 2,400-acre Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort, which offers hundreds of rooms ranging from oceanside condos to the magnificent Grand Sandestin Hotel, which features a Southern-inspired architectural design and lushly landscaped gardens. The resort also offers water sports, biking, tennis, hiking, a marina and the Village of Baytowne Wharf, where you'll find restaurants, shops, nightclubs and all sorts of entertainment in a festive atmosphere.

The Water Color Inn and Resort, just a few miles down the coast, is next to where the 'The Truman Show' was filmed. And, yes, the community, with its perfect houses and condos minutes from the beach, looks like something out of the movies. Water Color offers golf at three terrific golf courses, including Camp Creek and the private Shark's Tooth, designed by Greg Norman.

Other resorts include the Seascape Golf, Tennis & Beach Resort in Destin as well as the Wyndham Bay Point Resort in Panama City, which offers 36 holes of championship golf next to St. Andrews Bay and the Grand Lagoon.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''