Coast of Florida
coast of Florida is often overlooked by those who prefer to take
in the Disney experience or the bright night lights of Miami and
this is a shame. This selection of coastline boasts the sunniest
climate in the world (Clearwater), a big city (Tampa) and several
relaxed and pretty towns (Sarasota, Venice). There are also many
islands scattered down the coast for any lucky individual who happens
to own a boat.
most people who get a fly-drive holiday to Florida avoid this area
and there is a good reason. The only way to get from east coast
to west coast is to take "Alligator Alley", a straight
road completely surrounded by the everglades in which a breakdown
service is in the form of a helicopter.
golf is what I came for and just next to Tampa airport is the
wonderful Innisbrook Resort at Tarpon Springs. There are three
courses here that are all worth playing and represent very different
challenges. The jewel of the resort is the Copperhead course
which has hosted tour events for both sexes and the seniors
and makes a huge effort for wildlife. Armadillos, pheasants,
swans, turtles and other exotic birds grace the links with their
presence and all they ask in return is that you donít drive
like a maniac in the buggy to scare them. The course is undulating
and carves itís way through towering pines, which gives you
a sense that you have left Florida for a few hours.
A course to
be avoided for the beginner at Innisbrook is the Island Course,
which has water on every hole and normally this is not a little
pond by the green.
stop is south into the lovely town of Clearwater and is a little
more affordable than some other resorts of the same quality. The
Belleview Biltmore resort hotel (and most of the town) was built
around the turn of the century and the Victorian charm shines through
in the largest occupied wooden structure on the planet. The course
to play here is the resort course designed by Donald Ross some 75
years ago and has stood the test of time as elegantly as the wooden
hotel. It is vintage Ross with crowned greens, slender bunkers and
a couple of beastly par 3ís.
Ross course is the nearby Dunedin Country Club, which used to be
the PGA Headquarters at one point but is now an affordable municipal
track with a modest budget from the city council.
golfing stop is south once more, only this time it is offshore on
an often forgotten golfing heaven called Lee Island. It is all part
of Lee County, which had 38 golf courses at the last count and is
reached by a bridge just off I-75 which runs from Tampa to Naples.
The serenity here is quite special with every law of the island
keeping away all kinds of pollution, high speed and anything tall.
find turned out to be Beachview Golf Club located on the nearby
Sanibel Island. The course is a wonderful swirl around inlets
and waterways and had the bonus of wide fairways to keep the
provisional balls in the bag for a change. Iíve noticed from
playing courses like this that the golf really doesnít matter
when you start gazing at boats floating by, herons swooping
down to catch fish and water-skiers
their balance when the boat turns. That is unless your doing
much better than you normally ever do, then the golf becomes
A course very
close to this is The Dunes, a Mark McCumber effort that has many
more trees than the last course but still has plenty of lakes to
think about. The clubhouse facilities here are quite wonderful with
tennis, fishing and water-sports all on offer for anybody needing
to kill time while someone is slogging away on the course.
coast of Florida is much quieter than the Orlando area and the east
coast, but still combines the best of both of those to keep up the
attraction. Tampa has Busch Gardens, a theme park that attracts
just as many visitors as any Disney park and the Lee Island area
has exactly the same ambience as any island in the Florida keys.
The weather is wondrous, the golf is stupendous and the sun sets
out at sea on this coast, what more could a stress-riddled westerner
Belleview- (£30-40) 001
813 581 5498
Innisbrook- (£40-100) 001
813 942 2000