My first Florida home some 15 years ago was in Citrus County, an area some 90 minutes north of Tampa that drips with old Florida charm. Less hustle and bustle than the bigger cities, plus friendly people and plenty of trees.
Recreation opportunities include swimming with the manatees in Crystal River, the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park and, for golfers, a seemingly disproportionate amount of terrific golf courses for the population.
One of my favorites is El Diablo Golf and Country Club, a Jim Fazio-designed course in Citrus Springs that is a true hidden gem. When it opened nearly two decades ago it drew raves around the state and nationally as a Pine Valley (N.J.) lookalike with elevation and waste areas not seen often in Florida. At 7,045 yards from the back tees with a rating and slope of 75.3/147, El Diablo has hosted plenty of mini-tour events and given pros all they can handle.
Since then, golfers have traveled from Ocala and Orlando and plenty of points in between to tackle El Diablo. But the course isn’t the easiest to find in its remote location, so sometimes a little incentive goes a long way.
How about this: $25 gets a round at El Diablo on weekdays and $28 on weekends in November. Simple as that to play one of central Florida’s hidden gems.
For more information or to book, call 352-465-0986 or visit El Diablo’s website.
The Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has a special deal for Florida residents from now through Feb. 28, 2013 -- $129 room rates (two-night minimum). For reservations or more information, call 850-267-9500 and mention code “FR”, or visit their website.
A good place to start if you're looking for Northeast Florida deals is Florida's First Coast of Golf, a not-for-profit that exists to promote all the great golf from Amelia Island to Palm Coast and all points in between. Bookmark their deals page and check it regularly for a variety of stay-and-plays.
The Players Pass at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, home of two excellent courses in the Champions and Legends, is now on sale for 2013. It offers 25 percent off the "rack" rate anytime, and once you play five rounds the sixth is free. Also included is the GHIN handicap service. The card costs $259 on Jan. 1 but is available for $179 throughout November. For more information, call 386-274-5742.
Bay Point Resort Golf Club in Panama City Beach, with two courses in the Nicklaus and the Meadows, is offering a six-pack special valid through March 31, 2013. Buy six rounds for $239 and play either course with a cart at any time on any day, with a seven-day advance booking window. Two passes per day may be used, so the pack can be shared. For more information or to order, go to baypointgolf.com and click on the Winter Specials tab.
TPC Sawgrass and the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach have a stay-and-play from Nov. 22-Jan. 31, 2013 that includes two nights of accommodations and two rounds (on the Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley Course) plus a free third night at the hotel and a free arrival round (after 2 p.m.) on Dye’s Valley. A TPC Sawgrass welcome gift is included. Rates start at $599 for a standard room, villas are extra and weekend golf surcharges may apply. Guests must arrive before Jan. 28. For more information, call 866-605-3544 or visit TPC.com.
The Renaissance World Golf Village Resort and Beach Club in St. Augustine is offering a coupon book with $500 in savings for visitors through Dec. 30. Discounts can be used at the World Golf Hall of Fame, PGA Tour Golf Academy and Tour Stop store, plus on food, merchandise and club rentals at the King & Bear and Slammer & Squire golf courses. Call 888-740-7020 or visit the resort’s website for more information and special hotel rates for October and November.