Major makeover restores Florida's beachfront Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island resort

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 31, 2012, 5:00 am

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- People love the beautiful beaches, dunes and marshland -- all set against the vast Atlantic Ocean -- on this small barrier island just 50 minutes northwest of the Jacksonville International Airport.

But life indoors at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island can be pretty stimulating, too. A continuous $65-million renovation since 2006 has revitalized this grand beachfront resort, refurbishing all 445 rooms and suites, building a new spa and rebranding the dining scene.

Jim Badenoch remembers how sleepy and secluded this section of Amelia Island was when he bought his home in the Summer Beach community in the late 1980s. The grand openings of the Golf Club of Amelia Island in 1987 and the Ritz in 1991 suddenly put this destination on the map.

'The Ritz was the place that brought notoriety to Amelia Island,' Badenoch recalled. 'Before that, nobody had heard of it.'

There are several other great hotels and resorts on Amelia Island, which extends two miles wide and 13 miles long, but it's the Ritz that sets the standard all others continue to chase.

'This has always been one of the more popular Ritz-Carltons,' noted Jim McManemon, the resort general manager.

A new and improved Ritz-Carlton resort

The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island sits on 26 acres just a short boardwalk across the dunes from a breathtaking beach perfect for swimming or beachcombing for seashells and shark's teeth. This connection to the beach and ocean helps to keep the hotel feeling casual and comfortable.

You're just as likely to see someone in flip flops in the lobby as you are a black tie for a corporate function. There are plenty of places to relax inside and out, from the lobby lounge to the Adirondack chairs surrounding a fire pit outside.

The first phase of this renovation in 2006 really took the property to a whole new level. That's when the resort spiced things up a bit, no pun intended.

Executive Chef Thomas Tolxdorf dreamed up the name 'Salt' to replace the generic-named Ritz-Carlton Grille as the resort's signature dining experience. It was his way of paying tribute to the ocean (and its salt water) that so many guests love. Tolxdorf and his talented team use more than 50 types of salt in their creations, including Himalayan Salt, the purest form on earth. Servers will recommend various flavors to complement any entree. It's the guest's choice to add a little or a lot. The demand for these salts became so great the resort began selling them.

The resort's other menus have also undergone makeovers. The Eight Burger Bar & Sports Lounge, opened in 2010, serves up some mean sliders, heaping nacho plates and local brews. The menu at the Cafe 4750 recently moved away from its Italian roots and has gone coastal. Its farm-to-table initiative delivers more local seafood, such as Atlantic trigger fish, flounder, Mayport shrimp, scallops and grits, and jumbo lump crab cakes. Seasonal vegetables and fruits come from local farms as well as farm-raised, grass-fed beef and lamb. The choices on the breakfast buffet are superb. Just save room for the sticky buns.

Salt also plays a major role at the Ritz-Carlton Spa, built new in 2006. Every treatment starts with a salty foot scrub, a perfect primer to get into that relaxed state of mind. My surrender massage was just what the doctor ordered after golf. The signature treatment is 'heaven in a hammock,' a massage that gives off the feeling of floating. This 2,750-square-foot spa houses a separate steam room, sauna and whirlpool in the men's and women's locker rooms; three relaxation lounges; a private indoor and outdoor pool with Jacuzzi; and a fitness center.

The best part of the room renovations has to be the all-glass, storm-proof, sliding balcony doors. They let the sunshine in, and allow guests to gaze in wonder along the horizon of the beach. All the amenities of a five-star room -- marble bathrooms, threaded bed linens, multiple flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations –- are now in place.

The Golf Club of Amelia Island

Back before the days of bomb and gouge became the standard in professional golf, the Golf Club of Amelia Island was long enough (6,696 yards) and strong enough to host a major event, the 1998 Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf won by the then-PGA Senior Tour team of Charles Coody and Dale Douglass.

Today, this private club -- accessible only through the Ritz -- remains as playable and enjoyable as any resort course anywhere. The greens roll pure, but they’re tough to read.

A career day can be had from the short 6,156-yard blues if guests can stay out of the marshes of the back nine, starting at No. 14. The course, designed by Mark McCumber and Gene Littler, is so roomy and comfortable that losing a ball is more pilot error than architectural cruelty. It’s a joy to play.

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The resort's many programs pay homage to its coastal treasures.

Our group enjoyed s'mores and drinks on the beach after dinner in front of a roaring fire. This experience can be downsized into a romantic setting for two with hot chocolate, blankets, a stargazer's map and telescope. These winter fires are available Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

There are several clay tennis courts on property. Excursions to go deep-sea fishing, horseback riding on the beach, kayaking, sailing and surfing are available. There are new offerings in the Ritz Kids program. Or vacationers can sneak away to tour Cumberland Island, Fernandina Beach or the two state parks, Fort Clinch and Talbot Island.

Guests don't seem to stay away too long. The homey feel of this Ritz tends to pull them back in again.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.