Straight from the Hip

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

Three golf packages for exquisite tee times.

Putting on the Ritz

Like your golf on the ritzy side? Join The Ritz-Carlton’s Members Club and find your bliss on Tom Fazio’s stunning 18-hole course—one of the nation’s best. Perks abound, including a Caddie Concierge program, access to The Ritz-Carlton’s tony clubhouse, beach club and spa, and a children’s program. With four levels of membership, monthly fees range from $400 to $900. If you’re shy about commitment, try their “Fairways and Greens” package: overnight lodging, breakfast for two and golf, including cart and forecaddie. Prices start at $559 per night for two. The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota (941) 309-2900.

Golfer’s Paradise

With its four championship courses, the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, nestled on 900 wooded acres of rolling hills near Tampa, is the vacation spot of golfers’ happy dreams. The Preferred Golf Package includes 18 holes of golf daily, spacious guest accommodations (the upgrade to a full suite, with full kitchen and living area, is worth it), access to all resort facilities (including 11 Har-Tru tennis courts, six swimming pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center and 60 acres of lakes and nature trails), and a daily golf clinic. Prices start at $299 per person, per night, with a three-night minimum. Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, (800) 456-2000.

Room at the Inn

The Gasparilla Inn & Club has lost none of its old-Florida ambiance since it opened in 1913. This Boca Grande icon has hosted celebrities from Katharine Hepburn to the George H. W. Bush family. Whether enjoying the Pete Dye-designed 18-hole championship course, chatting over afternoon tea or indulging in the first-rate spa and fitness club, you’ll also feel like a celebrity here. Golfing couples will enjoy the Pete Dye Golf Package, which includes accommodations and unlimited golf and cart. Rates range from $430 per couple per night Sunday-Thursday ($513 Friday-Saturday) to $560 per couple per weeknight ($642 on weekends), including breakfast and dinner at the Inn. The Gasparilla Inn & Club, (941) 964-4500.

Golf Gifts

Swinging things for that special golfer.

Stronger, faster, better

Faster ball speed equals drive-crushing distance. TaylorMade's new bullet-shaped burner driver exploits the power of that simple equation. It’s designed for players who, to quote the company, “prefer to bomb it, crush it, thump it and grip-it-and-rip-it.” This sleek driver sports an extra-light, 42-gram grip and a long shaft that stretches the club’s length. Its secret is a little thing called inverted cone design. Simply put, this driver enlarges the “sweet spot” on the clubface, the area transferring the most kinetic energy from the swing to the ball on impact. The result? Faster ball speed, and the addition of an extra eight to 10 yards to an average player's driving average. Approximately $300. Laurel Oak Country Club’s Golf Pro Shop, 2700 Gary Player Blvd., Sarasota (941) 378-3600.

Map it

The ruggedly designed, water-resistant, seriously cool SkyCaddie SG5 GPS system enables golfers to measure a green’s full depth and shape from any angle of approach. It also shows the distances for all targets and hazards on any of SkyGolf’s professionally mapped courses. Did we mention its large color display and 14-hour rechargeable battery? $430. Edwin Watts Golf, 4014 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 922-1006.

Get better with Leadbetter

The David Leadbetter Golf Academy offers a host of programs for adult golfers who are committed to pushing it to the next level. The programs are custom-designed for small groups and led by instructors trained by the world’s premier golf instructor, David Leadbetter. Students sharpen their skills at the IMG Academies Golf & Country Club (formerly El Conquistador) on an 18-hole, 7,000-yard, par 72 golf course. The program also includes video and computer analysis and on-course strategy work. The two-day program (Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) is $1,450. David Leadbetter Golf Academy, 5500 34th St. W., Bradenton (941) 752-2600.

Don’t miss

The 72nd Masters Tournament, April 7-13 at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. For tickets and travel package information, contact TravelMasters, the unsurpassed specialists in upscale sports travel packages. (800) 453-3615; Many hospitable Augusta residents rent their homes during Masters Week through Masters Housing, which is coordinated by the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. (800) 244-4709

The 37th Ryder Cup, Sept. 19-21 at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. For tickets and travel package information, contact Premier Golf, the official travel company of the PGA of America. (866) 260-4409;

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