Ever had an establishment located just an hour away from home that’s been on your radar forever, yet you’ve never quite managed to visit? Then you finally pull it off and say, ‘yeah, I really should have done that a long time ago’?
That’s how I felt all day on my first visit to LPGA International in Daytona Beach.
Just 50 miles down I-95 from my home in St. Augustine, LPGA International – easily accessible from anywhere on Florida’s east coast and for travelers exiting the eastern endpoint of I-4 – offers two 18-hole courses and a sprawling practice facility ideal for amateurs or the professionals who frequently pass through. (The LPGA Tour’s headquarters are just down the street from the clubhouse.)
The Jones course (formerly Champions) is the more open of the two layouts, while the Hills course (formerly Legends) is a thinking player’s test through secluded woods. The name changes are nods to the designers, Rees Jones and Arthur Hills.
I played the Hills course on my first visit and learned quickly that some time on the chipping green would have been more prudent than bashing a bucket of range balls. Smallest greens I’ve seen in a long time.
From the 6,594-yard blue tees (the tips are 6,984), the course rating is a stout 73.1, a nod to those small greens and tree-lined fairways. There is some room off the tee, but anything missing the greens will require a deft chip. It’s a physical and mental test that doesn’t let up, especially at the No. 1 handicap finishing hole, which requires a good drive for an angle to a green tucked into a wooded corner with wetlands fronting it. A finishing par is very well-earned.
I saw plenty of couples and a foursome of young women, as LPGA lived up to its billing as one of the top facilities for women. A burger at Malcolm’s inside the clubhouse put an exclamation point on the day, and I took a long look at the Jones course as I walked back to the parking lot.
Should have been here a long time ago. Won’t be long until I get back.