Thursday, December 29, 2011

Don’t Just Dream of a Golf Vacation—Plan One!

I admit, I was dreaming of a white Christmas last week—it’s the one time of year that I actually long for cold weather—but now I’m back to dreaming of sunshine and warmth. And if I were to head down to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach right now, my dream may actually come true. They’re looking at some warm weather the next couple of days, with highs around 70 degrees.

That is simply perfect golf weather, and tempting enough that I’m thinking of calling in sick to work and squeezing in a quick trip to the Gulf. The weather certainly is one enticing reason to visit Gulf Shores & Orange Beach this winter, but it’s not the only reason.

For instance, several Gulf Shores Golf Association golf courses are offering winter rates—there are some excellent deals on golf packages to be found at places like Craft Farms and Gulf Shores Golf Club. And golfers looking to improve their skills might want to attend one of the winter golf clinics being offered at Kiva Dunes every Tuesday and Thursday through January and February. It could be a good way to brush up on those golf skills before spring.

It’s easy enough to plan a golf getaway—just visit the Gulf Shores Golf Association website to start putting together that winter golf vacation.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The New Year is Almost Here, Plan for Spring Golf

Here’s what’s I love about Gulf Shores & Orange Beach: it’s the perfect place to escape to when the weather gets cold, and it provides something to look forward to for when the weather turns warm again.

Next year is only a little more than two weeks away—before we know it, the excitement of the holidays and New Year celebrations will be over, and we’ll be left with an entire winter season to drudge through. To me, this marks the perfect time to start planning the spring golf getaway.

And the Gulf Shores Golf Association website is an excellent place to begin this process. You can browse the nine signature golf courses and variety of accommodations in the area to determine where to play and where to stay, and you can even view sample rates and get a customized quote on a golf vacation package. I’ve also found that the many pictures of the golf courses help me think warm thoughts on cold days.

In the meantime, if you just can’t wait until spring, a winter golf getaway may be in order. “Cold” on the Gulf is quite mild compared to areas further north and makes for some very comfortable golf conditions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Burn Off that Turkey Dinner with Golf

I always mislead myself after Thanksgiving—now that the big meal is over (and the leftovers are eaten) I can get back to a sensible diet and start shedding some holiday pounds. Right?

Not exactly. Now come the home-baked cookies brought in to work by coworkers, and my Mom’s fudge, and the various Christmas treats that catch my eye every time I enter the grocery store. The holiday calorie fest is anything but over.

My solution: play more golf. True, golf isn’t exactly an aerobic activity, especially with the convenience of golf carts. But it’s activity. And it’s outside, which can motivate you to do more activity outside. And there are ways to make it a little more aerobic—I know a lady who would bring her non-golfer husband along and have him drive the cart while she walked to each ball.

If you’re playing golf in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, it’s all the better. Nine signature golf courses provide an abundance of appealing options for golf. Play from the championship tees and you’ll get a course length longer than 7,000 yards at several courses, such as Cotton Creek, Kiva Dunes, Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club, and TimberCreek—that’s a good bit of walking using the above-mentioned method! Plus, the weather this time of year is comfortably mild and perfect for golf—and for staving off that extra holiday weight gain.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Give the Gift of Golf

It’s that time of year again: time to think of the perfect gift for everybody in your contacts list (or the most important ones, anyway). I struggle with this every year—I like for my friends and family to actually enjoy what I get them, not just receive the obligatory I-had-to-get-you-something-so-this-is-what-I-picked gift.

The decision is easy when the person has a strong interest in something—such as golf! If there’s one thing a golfer can’t get enough of, it is (of course) golf. Buy a round of golf at his favorite golf course, or surprise the recipient with a round at a course he’s never played. For new golfers or those simply looking to improve, golf lessons would also make a nice gift.

And if you really want to wow your golfer, you might consider giving a golf vacation package. The Gulf Shores Golf Association website makes the process of booking a golf vacation in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach very easy. You can also check out the area’s nine signature golf courses (several of which offer golf lessons and gift cards) to help you decide which courses your friend/family member/significant other might enjoy most.

I’ll be golfing in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach next spring and could really use some golf lessons (hint-hint to those who know me). Just saying.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cold Weather has Arrived—Time to Plan the Spring Golf Trip

Found out over the weekend that my neighbor is planning a first-time trip to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach in the spring. By planning, I mean he wants to go—this coming spring—but he doesn’t know anything about the area other than what I’ve told him.

So of course he’s now “planning” a golf vacation. Really, that was the first topic of discussion when he told me he wanted to plan a Gulf vacation: the nine signature golf courses in and around Gulf Shores & Orange Beach and how awesome they are. As far as where he should stay, I told him it really depends on what his plans are.

If he wants to keep things pretty simple (just himself, just a quick weekend trip, etc.), a hotel might be the way to go. If he’s going solo for a longer vacation, a one-bedroom condo is another option—all the comforts of home suited to one person. Or maybe he wants to take my suggestion and make it a buddies golf trip, in which case he should go with a multi-room condo or even a beach house. I’m pushing for a Gulf-front beach house with a group of friends (myself included, given all the excellent advice I’ve offered).

Whatever he decides, he’ll have lots of options—everything from “chain” hotels to luxury condos. And no, it’s not too early to plan for spring—it’s the best way to tolerate the dreary cold of winter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Advantages of Group Golf Trips

Sometimes golf is best played alone—like at the end of a bad week when you just need to blow off some steam. Some of my best therapeutic moments have been spent alone on the golf course; some seemingly impossible Monday mornings have been made easier thanks to weekends of solo golf.

But it’s also an excellent group activity, and I’ve had plenty of these experiences too. Ironically, while my job has been the cause of many much-needed solo golf outings, corporate golf outings with people from this same job have resulted in some of the most relaxing and fun experiences on the golf course (and have done much to help ease tensions at work).

Family golf vacations are also fun and a good way to visit with family members you might not get to see very often. I’ve been to several family reunions in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, and golf is always a popular group activity. Buddy trips are another favorite. A few friends, a weekend on the Gulf, and several rounds of golf—you don’t need much more than that.

Whatever type of group golf outing you’re planning, I highly recommend visiting the Gulf Shores Golf Association website, which makes it easy to create a customized group golf package. Just look under “Plan” on the home page, and start planning.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why October in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach is Great for Golf

Even though it’s a “golf getaway,” you likely don’t engage in one for the sole purpose of playing golf the entire time, sunrise to sunset. I consider myself to be a passionate golfer, and while I’m willing to play (and have played) a couple rounds in one day, I’m not going to play golf day in, day out through an entire vacation—I simply must have other activities to do.

This is what makes a golf vacation in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach so appealing: there are many other ways, in addition to golf, to entertain yourself. And October in particular is a good time for Gulf activity, with Thunder on the Gulf, the National Shrimp Festival, and other activities scheduled throughout the month.

You could schedule your vacation to coincide with the four days of Thunder on the Gulf (October 6th to the 9th), play golf on a different course each morning, then head over to the Gulf State Park Pavilion to check out the race boats, teams, and live entertainment. The Shrimp Festival is also a good time for a four-day golf package intertwined with fine art, crafts, live music, and fresh Gulf seafood. Other October events include the 17th Annual Bayfest Music Fest October 7th to 11th, the O.A.R. concert at The Hangout on the 20th, and the Original German Sausage Festival on the 29th.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cooler Weather and (Possibly) a Free Golf Vacation

Had a nice taste of cooler weather this past week, and now I have one thing on my mind: fall golf. There’s nothing better—trading in the shorts for a new pair of stylish golf pants, playing the green on a cool, crisp morning, winning a free golf vacation package worth up to $4,000….

Yes, that last one is a possibility. If you’re planning a fall golf vacation—sometime between now and November 7th, 2011—all you have to do is book with a Gulf Shores Golf Association accommodations partner and you’re automatically entered into a drawing, which will take place on November 15th. The winner receives up to $4,000 in a rebate on his or her golf package.

So when I win this drawing (positive thinking!) I can then put my winnings toward my spring trip to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach. And if I don’t win, I still get to enjoy my fall golf getaway that I’ve budgeted for anyway. It’s a win-win situation. Count me in!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Greens for a New Season

Who’s played on the new greens at Glenlakes Golf Club? Not I—but I plan to this fall. The club reopened on August 16th after resurfacing its greens. My next golf vacation is coming up this fall, and Glenlakes will definitely be on my list of courses to play.

I’m envisioning a refreshing experience when I get down there: cooler weather, fresh, smooth greens, and hiking along some of the Gulf nature trails (a little off-topic, but still an excellent Gulf Shores & Orange Beach fall activity). Playing on new greens can feel like playing on a new course, and I’m looking forward to undertaking this in a whole new season.

Other things going on this fall: the Gulf Coast Golf Expo Tee Off Tournament is taking place on Friday, October 21st at the Gulf Shores Golf Club. The $99 tournament fee includes a cart, lunch, a surprise grab bag, and a two-day VIP ticket to the Gulf Coast Golf Expo.

Fall golf isn’t too far off. Time to start planning the getaway!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What to Do When Golf Isn’t an Option

I learned recently that no matter how well and how far in advance you plan, there’s one factor that can throw a wrench in a golf vacation: the weather. As easy as it was for my buddies and me to plan our golf trip (and the Gulf Shores Golf Association website really does make it easy to put together a golf package), it was just as easy for two days of rain to keep us from two days of golf.

Hey, it happens. The good thing was we were in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach—there were plenty of things to keep us busy during those two rainy days. One of my friends is into art, so we decided to do the museum thing one day. We checked out a few area art museums and galleries, of course, but my favorites were the historic ones—the area has such a rich and fascinating history.

Eating and shopping are good ways to spend rainy days, too, and there are plenty of good choices for either activity. And your condo or hotel will most likely have amenities. Ours had both an indoor pool and an indoor tennis court—we ended up having quite the competitive tennis match one afternoon.

I felt good knowing that our time was nowhere near wasted during those couple days of rain. But we were all glad to finally play golf—the rest of the week was perfect golf weather. I love the Gulf!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Playing Golf from Gulf Shores to South Africa

Kiva Dunes is one of those amazing golf courses that just makes you feel like you’re on top of the world—or at least that’s how I feel whenever I play there. The gorgeous Gulf-side layout and the challenge of the course always make me feel like I’m some big pro golfer playing a big-deal tournament—hey, I can dream, right?

Dream though I may, this fantasy may come true to some extent if I play in the World Golf Championship in Gulf Shores next Saturday, August 6th. The tournament itself meets one aspect of my dream, as it will take place at Kiva Dunes. And besides getting to compete against other golfers from across the country—possibly from around the world—the winner gets to advance to the World Golfers Championship/USA Finals in San Antonio in September. Then the winner in San Antonio will get to travel to South Africa for the World Finals in November to represent “Team USA.”

The tournament is open to amateur golfers with handicaps ranging low to high (there are five handicap flights). The cost is $95 per player—a worthwhile fee for a shot at playing golf in South Africa, in my opinion! More information is available on the Gulf Shores Golf Association website.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Power of Positive Thinking

I am all for positive thinking. It certainly feels better than negative thinking, and it’s played a big role in helping me achieve my goals. Now I have a new, big goal, which will require some big positive thinking: to hit a hole-in-one so I can win a 2011 Jeep Wrangler.

It’s a potential prize if you get a hole-in-one on a certain hole at Cotton Creek at Craft Farms during the upcoming Sixth Annual Charity Golf Tournament to benefit Mary’s Shelter Gulf Coast, which provides shelter for homeless pregnant women. Not only do you get to play golf, eat lunch, participate in a putting contest, and possibly win a new car, but you get to help raise money for a good cause—which is really the best form of positive thinking.

The tournament takes place on August 26th, with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person and include everything mentioned above plus range balls, Mulligans, and prizes. Visit the Gulf Shores Golf Association website for more information.

Maybe if I keep imagining myself getting a hole-in-one—and really work on my drives over the next few weeks—I’ll win that Jeep. For certain, though, I’ll have fun and feel good about myself. See you on the golf course!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Water Hazards: Love Them or Hate Them?

I have a love-hate relationship with water hazards. I love them for the beauty and challenge they add to a golf course, but I hate the effect they have on my game. Because when I play a hole with a water hazard, my ball just seems drawn to it every time.

Ultimately, though, I love water hazards. It’s a great feeling when, on a good golf day, my ball actually sails past those waters and onto the green. If it’s a bad day—well, I make a stop at the clubhouse to buy a package of balls on my way out. But at least I’ve tried, and that’s the important thing—practice makes perfect, right?

And of all the places I could practice, the various courses in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach have some excellent options, especially when it comes to water hazards. Somehow, just being near the Gulf—the ultimate body of water—makes those hazards that much more appealing. I particularly enjoy courses like Kiva Dunes and Lost Key Golf Club, where the Gulf is just off in the distance. The beauty of these courses, water hazards and all, makes the distinction between a good day and a bad day irrelevant.

Check out some of the water hazards yourself—visit the Gulf Shores Golf Association website to view pictures of all nine signature golf courses in the area.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Choosing the Post-Golf Meal

I recently went on a short, solo golf trip and made a discovery: having complete control over where to eat after playing golf is a wonderful thing. If I finish a round and I feel like eating some crab legs by the Gulf, I can do that without having to consult with anyone else.

Usually, when I’m golfing in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, I’m vacationing with at least a couple friends or family members. Agreeing on what to eat can be a challenge. So it was a nice change to play 18 holes and be able to satisfy my appetite exactly as I wanted. I did get those Gulf-side crab legs one day, then the next day I opted for pizza.

But I certainly wouldn’t change my group golf vacations just for the sake of choosing a meal, and if you are vacationing with others, whether it’s a buddies golf trip or a family vacation, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach is an ideal place to be for dining (and, of course, golfing). Seafood, steak dinners, Italian, Mexican, barbecue, and more—it’s all there. Even if you have to compromise with others in your group, you’ll be able to find a restaurant you all enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Long Weekend of Gulf Golf

This time of year, I make it a habit to try to play golf on both Saturday and Sunday mornings—late spring/summer mornings are ideal for golf, plus it’s just good practice. So when Memorial Day comes along, I have to take advantage of the three-day weekend. If you’re like me and you’re in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, you have some decisions to make.

With nine signature golf courses to choose from, you won’t be hurting for great golf. But unless you’re planning to play three courses each day to cover all nine (a tempting thought—maybe one day!), you’re going to have to make some choices.

If you have one or two favorite courses, the choice is easy—spend the weekend on your favorites and enjoy the extra time spent there. Or maybe spend one or two days on the favorite and pick a different one (maybe one you’ve never played) for the last day.

You could also choose according to the course designer—play an Arnold Palmer one day, a Jerry Pate for the next, and then an Earl Stone the last day.

And if you still feel like you’re missing out by not playing all the courses, go ahead and book that full-length golf vacation—give yourself plenty of time to hit the courses you couldn’t get to this weekend! Visit the Gulf Shores Golf Association website for a customized quote on a golf vacation package.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Keeping Cool on the Golf Course

Well, the hot weather seems to have officially rolled around again, which means keeping cool on the golf course will involve more than just deep breaths and restraint from throwing the golf club. Personally, I prefer the weather-related heat to the steam I feel when I can’t seem to avoid the dreaded golf shank. And thankfully, my favorite Gulf Shores golf courses have some excellent—and sometimes creative—ways for golfers to cool down on a hot day.

An old time favorite cool-down method of mine is a nice cold drink at the club bar after a solid round of 18 holes. Some of the clubs have really nice restaurants that are perfect for lunch or dinner with the golf buddies.

But often halfway through a round you’re already in need of a cool-down—how about trying a chilled apple? Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club and Rock Creek offer these at certain tees along their courses. It’s cold, refreshing, and a nice pick-me-up. They also deliver ice-cold towels to golfers.

And going a step further with the ice-cold towels is Cotton Creek at Craft Farms with their mango-scented ice-cold towels. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

And, of course, you can return to your condo or hotel for a cooling dip in the pool. Be sure to visit the Gulf Shores Golf Association website for information on golf packages and accommodations.

Friday, April 29, 2011

May Golf Tournaments and Fundraising

Seems like the theme for May golf is “May I help?” Golfers in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach will get three opportunities in the first couple of weeks in May to both participate in a golf competition and help raise money for good causes.

The first is this Sunday, May 1st, at the Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club. The 18 Holes for Ecuador Golf Tournament and Fundraiser is intended to help a group of student missionaries traveling to Ecuador in June. Their goal is to raise $23,000 to help build a daycare that will provide safety, medical and dental care, and food for children of working parents; the money will also help with travel, housing, and food for the missionaries.

Next is the 12th Annual Benefit Golf Outing for Habitat for Humanity at Craft Farms Cotton Creek on May 6th. Besides contributing to the building of safe and affordable housing for low-income families, you’ll have the fun of competing for prizes for low gross, low net, closest to the pin, and longest drive.

Then on May 13th and 14th is the First Annual Alabama Gulf Coast Christian Academy Golf Tournament at Cypress Bend. On Friday, May 13th is dinner with Nancy Lopez at the Magnolia Court Restaurant. In addition to the tournament, which benefits the Alabama Gulf Coast Christian Academy, golfers also get a continental breakfast, hitting exhibition, golf clinic, and box lunches.

Get that feel-good feeling of being charitable while doing something you enjoy! More information about these tournaments is available on the Gulf Shores Golf Association website.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Weather is Only One Reason to Golf Along the Gulf

I can think of many, many reasons why taking a golf vacation in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach is an excellent idea, but there are two main reasons why this spring is a must.

First, the weather is phenomenal: warm, comfortable golf conditions, and the Gulf breeze just makes it heavenly. If you want to avoid the afternoon sun on the golf course, mornings are comfortably cool but nowhere near cold.

Second, if you book a group golf trip with a Gulf Shores Golf Association accommodations partner and play between now and May 8th, you can enter the latest GSGA sweepstakes. One winner will be randomly selected on May 19th and will receive an Apple iPad 32GB Wi-Fi, an LG 42 LCD HDTV and a Sony PS3 320GB Movie Bundle with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011. To enter, simply fill out a registration card at one of the golf courses you play during your golf getaway. More information is available on the Gulf Shores Golf Association website. Check it out, and book that golf vacation!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Deciding Where to Stay

The changing weather has really inspired me to play more golf. And with this inspiration comes the realization that I need another golf getaway, even if it’s just a quick weekend. So in the midst of planning the big summer golf vacation, I’m also adding in a quick spring trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Luckily, the area is accommodating for various types of vacations—from short and sweet quick trips to lengthy, luxurious getaways. Several “chain” hotels are available and are ideal for shorter stays and trips where your main interest is playing golf and enjoying the beach and other attractions. Condominiums are a good choice for group golf trips—multiple-bedroom condos with a variety of amenities make excellent lodging choices for a group of golf buddies. Or maybe the privacy of a rental beach house would suit your needs better—an ideal setup for family reunions.

I’m thinking that a hotel room for two or three nights in April is exactly what I need to satisfy this spring golf itch. Then I’ll be living it up in a Gulf-front condo this summer. Time to book the golf package!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Golf Tournament for Education

It’s a happy coincidence that the first day of April falls on a Friday. April just might be my most favorite month of the year, and I’m using this as a reason to take the day off and celebrate the start of both the weekend and the month of April. The question is what to do with the day.

If you’re in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach on April 1st, you might want to spend the day lending a hand to education—or rather, swinging a golf club for education. The Golf Tournament for Education is taking place at the Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club on April 1st. For $125 per person ($500 per team), tournament participants get lunch, complimentary beverage cart, two mulligans, a t-shirt, and of course a round of golf on one of the nicest golf courses along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. An awards ceremony with door prizes will follow the tournament.

All net proceeds benefit the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Education Foundation, so you don’t have to feel bad about skipping out on work for a day—it’s for a good cause!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Usefulness of the Internet

Years ago, before any of us had ever heard of the internet, I remember one of my school teachers saying how one day we would be able to do pretty much everything on a computer: go shopping, do research, communicate with other people. I also remember thinking how futuristic it all sounded—and feeling apprehensive at the thought of our lives being so reliant on a computer.

Yet here I sit today, my life on the internet. As uneasy as I may have felt at one time about an online existence, it’s hard to feel too bad about it when I’ve just booked a Gulf Shores golf vacation package with just a few strokes of the keyboard.

The Gulf Shores Golf Association’s website just makes it so easy. First, the site offers an interactive planner that lets you click through to find information on golf courses, lodging, dining, and maps. If you’re interested in a golf package, the website has a sample package rates page—a list of several accommodations and their golf package rates—as well as a page where you can get a customized quote on a golf vacation package based on your specific needs. If you’ve already booked your vacation and are just looking for a place to play golf, you can click on the golf-only tee times link on the homepage, which allows you to search for available tee times according to golf course, day, time of day, and number of golfers.

Now, with the help of my computer, I get to enjoy several rounds of golf on the Gulf—out in the real world.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Golf Variety

One thing that is absolutely necessary in my life is variety. In all facets of my life, from what I eat to what socks I wear, I like to have options to choose from. And my golf vacations are no exception.

This need for variety makes Gulf Shores & Orange Beach a perfect location. Not only are there nine signature golf courses to choose from—each offering its own unique combination of challenge and scenic landscaping—but the accommodations and package options provide plenty of appealing choices and a range of prices. Customizing a golf package to fit individual needs is cinch.

And there are some excellent rates right now. If you visit the sample package rates under “Stay” on the Golf Gulf Shores website, you’ll see some of the rates currently available. There’s still time to get rates as low as $61 per person, per night. It’s a great time of year for a golf vacation!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Another Sweepstakes!

Here’s how I see myself this spring: living it up in a Gulf-front condo and playing golf at some of my favorite golf courses in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach while sporting some new fancy shirts, new shorts, new Air Zoom shoes, a new set of clubs and a new bag.

No, I’m not going on a shopping spree. I’m planning—or hoping—to win the latest Gulf Shores Golf Association sweepstakes. All you have to do to enter is book a golf vacation (minimum two-night stay) for sometime between March 1st and May 8th, 2011. The golf package must be booked no later than February 28th. The winner will be randomly selected on March 4th.

In addition to the items listed above, the winner also gets a hat, belt, glove, two pairs of socks, and a dozen Nike Tour One balls. The new set of clubs includes one VR Tour Driver, one VR Fairway Wood, one VR Hybrid, one set of eight VR Pro Cavity Steel Shaft Irons, two VR-V Rev Wedges, and one Method Putter.

More information is available on the GSGA website.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Physical Activity

One main reason I enjoy golf is I love being outside. I would much rather sit staring at the sky from my back porch than sit staring at the television in my living room. And more than either of these, I would prefer to be doing something active while outside (although staring at the sky is often a relaxing alternative).

This is what makes the Alabama Gulf Coast ideal for people like myself. Not only is the golf excellent—you can hardly beat nine scenic, challenging signature golf courses—but the opportunities for outdoor activities abound. Swimming in the Gulf, walking the beach, and hiking/biking a nature trail supplement a golf vacation nicely. Fishing is another popular option that also works well during a group golf trip—hit the greens one day and fish the Gulf the next.

I also enjoy staying at a condo or hotel with amenities like pools and tennis courts, and there are plenty of these types of accommodations in the area. Visit the Gulf Shores Golf Association website to learn more about area lodging options.