We had an hour and a half stopover in Charlotte, North Carolina, ate a crappy airport breakfast and then boarded our flight to Daytona Beach. Once there, Harris waited in line for an eternity to sign for our rental car, a poor-steering Chrysler 300 and then we were on the road to the resort.
I’ve never been to Daytona before and was really surprised to see that the world famous Daytona Speedway was right beside the airport. I’m not a NASCAR fan at all but man, you just have to appreciate the size of this place!
We had a very easy 25 minute drive to Palm Coast. You have to pay a $1.00 toll charge at the Palm Coast Skyway in order to get to the resort and the running joke of the week was that we were just padding Bobby Ginn’s pockets every single time we crossed this bloody thing.
We were directed to the main resort to sign in and grab our keys for our condo at the Yacht Harbor Village, which was about a five minute drive from the main area and sits right on a marina.
Now, we saw pictures of what the place was supposed to look like before we arrived but I’ve found in the past that the rooms never live up to the hype.
Well, this time the accommodations EXCEEDED our expectations.
This place had everything. Beautiful dining room, ceramic tiled flooring, granite countertops in the kitchen, full laundry room behind the kitchen and la piece de resistance was the living room area complete with mounted 42″ Panasonic Plasma television…with Dish Network satellite too.
Oh yeah, the view from the balcony wasn’t too shabby either…
There was one sticky point and that was the rooms. We had a two bedroom condo, with both having ensuite bathrooms and rooms equiped with 32″ Plasmas. Very nice.
One room was modestly-sized, with a queen size bed and a small bathroom with a tub/shower combo.
The other room was just a bit more grand…
This sucker had a king sized bed, couch, chair and table, TWO walk-in closets and a mammoth bathroom with both a jacuzzi tub and a separate standup shower.
Of course, Harry being Harry, he immediately plops his crap down in the big bedroom like he owns the place.
Now, there was no way I was letting this go without a fight – you see, the last time I vacationed with his sorry ass, he took the big bedroom at PGA Village without so much as a whimper from me.
So after some back and forth, he says fine.
“We’ll flip for it”
I call heads, it’s heads and I get THE MASTER BEDROOM! However, I feel guilty and offer him a best two out of three.
“No, you won it fair and square.”
Cool with me! So I’m about to put my stuff in the room and he then shouts out from the main room.
“WAIT A SECOND! We’ll PLAY FOR IT!”
We had a 3:30pm tee time at the Ocean Course, a Jack Nicklaus design that recently hosted the Ginn Championship on the Champions Tour, won by Bernhard Langer.
“Sure, sounds good”, I replied. “Should I start unpacking now?”, I asked, starting with the gamesmanship early.
We quickly changed and headed to the Ocean Course.
We would be playing straight up match play for the room. 18 holes of golf for the ultimate in grand comfort. Oh, it was on baby!
The one thing that’s important to note is that we were playing on quite possibly the windiest day I’ve ever seen on a golf course, with gusts hitting 50mph. It was a three-club wind and I literally felt like I was going to blow over on more than one occasion.
For this round, we settled on playing the Gold tee deck, with the course measuring 6723 yards with a course rating of 74.8 and a slope of 142.
I started my round ominously, hitting my first drive through the fairway left and into the long fescue, necessitating a penalty stroke and a drop. I’d double and lose the hole to Harry’s bogey.
The rest of the front nine went predominantly my way. Harry would double the second and bogey holes 3 (shown below) through 5 while I parred all of them to give me a 3 up lead.
I’d double the par five 6th hole to lose to Harry’s bogey but he’d finish the nine double, double (see below for his predicament on the par three 8th), double to give me a commanding 5 up lead through the first nine.
Harry shot a 49 on the front versus my 42, a score I should have been very happy with, considering the gusty conditions. How gusty, you ask? Well, on the 452 yard par four ninth, we both hit perfect drivers off the tee and perfect hybrid seconds to the green…and still fell short. Uphill to the green and into a three club wind. That’s long.
Things continued to go well on the back. I spanked a monstrous drive on the par five 10th and only had an 8-iron second shot in to the green. I’d have to settle for a par but Harry doubled this one too to give me a 6 up lead.
I’d build on that even further on the shortish par four 11th, making my first real putt of the day from about 20 feet for a birdie and a 7 up lead with 7 to go, putting Harris dormie.
He’d fight me off for a couple holes, as I went double bogey, bogey on 12 and 13 but we both sawed off with bogey sixes on the par five 14th to give me the match 5&4 and the luxurious master bedroom for the entire vacation!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I was pounding it off the tee all vacation long, knocking it by Harris by an average of about 20 yards per hole. This is noteworthy, as Harris is usually much longer than I am.
Needless to say, I let him have it EVERY SINGLE TIME I drove it past him. Which was often…did I mention that already? Well, I did. Ha!
We both started to tire by the time we reached ‘The Bear Claw’, the great four-hole finishing stretch at the Ocean Course. The uphill par four 15th is fantastic. 450 yards from the back with a centre-line bunker in the fairway, making you decide on the tee whether to go left, right or over it.
Well, Harris went into the bunker and from there, you have about 160 yards uphill and into the wind to a green perched WAY above the fairway.
Of course, he was having the kind of day where his ball came up just short then tumbled all the way back down the hill, leaving the following crazy pitch shot back up the ridge.
We’d both make solid bogeys here then headed to the big dogleg left par four 16th just as the winds hit their peak. Being right on the ocean didn’t help matters for us!
I’d stumble home from here, finishing double, bogey, double to shoot an ugly 45 on the back and an 87 overall. Harris shot a 96 and I think we were just glad to make it in alive. The wind was just unbelievable!
We were met at the 18th green by one of the staffers, who washed our clubs after the round for us. By the way, great thing about this resort is that there is a no cash and no tipping policy in effect. Makes things VERY easy and you never have to bring your wallet around all over the place.
I asked him for some restaurant suggestions and he recommended the European Village Resort on Palm Coast Boulevard, saying there were a number of great places to eat in there.
So we headed back to our condo, got showered and changed and headed out for dinner. This place was very cool, built in the piazza style that is very reminiscent of Old Europe. In the middle of the facility were three large screen televisions showing various music concerts from lame acts like Celine Dion and Shania Twain. At least they like Canucks!
There were plenty of food choices but we settled on La Piazza Cafe for our first meal. We were not disappointed! We had a great bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, some calamari and dual orders of veal parm. Just a fantastic meal! We topped it off with a couple bottles of $2.00 Stellas at a nearby bar to complete a very satisfying first day in Florida.
How would day two stack up? We were scheduled to play the unheralded Conservatory Course in the morning, a Tom Watson design that we hadn’t heard much about. This course was about to blow our mind and exceed every expectation we had.
You’ll have to tune in later for part two of this very satisfying vacation!