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Deal of the Week: Take some blissful abuse for cheap at Nemacolin Woodlands

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One thing Western Pennsylvania is not short on is rolling forest land. And so, the golf courses there tend to be sprawling, brawny places with big slope ratings and lots of room off the tee. 

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort's Mystic Rock fits the pattern exactly. The home of the former 84 Lumber Classic on the PGA Tour, Pete Dye's layout will make you tired just looking at the scorecard. Tipping out at more than 7,500 yards, it has five par-4s of 460 yards or longer. In the three years it hosted the 84 Lumber Classic, from 2003-2006, they didn't even play it from the full yardage. Folks love birdies.     

Lest that sound too much like a death march, it's a beautiful walk at a beautiful place, and a collection of springtime deals make the punishment even more palatable. Book the Just Fore Four package for any date before May 21 and you get four rounds on Mystic Rock along with lunch at one of the resort's acclaimed restaurants for $440. Book a fifth round and the rate is only $60. The peak season green fee is normally $225.  

The Nemacolin Woodlands Resort sits in the southwestern corner of the state, 70 miles south of Pittsburgh and 36 miles east of Morgantown, W.V. Spreading out over 2,000 acres, it has accommodations ranging from the AAA Five-Diamond Falling Rock hotel to RV hookups. Room rates at Falling Rock start at $509, while a two-bedroom townhouse runs $319 and up. 

If you have friends with an RV, book a space for it at $129 a night and use the savings at the adjacent Lady Luck Casino--which is only open to resort guests and members. 

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Travel

Didn't get into the Pebble Beach Pro-am? Roll with Greg Norman and Richard Branson instead

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If you can fork over $80,000 for a two-person team entry into a pro-am, you probably aren't wondering what it would be like to fly private. 

But playing golf with Greg Norman and partying on Sir Richard Branson's private island might be a different story. 

Branson is hosting the first annual Necker Open Pro-Am Aug. 27-Sept. 1 in two locations. For the full $80,000 entry fee, you and a teammate can play 36 holes over two days with Norman and three other to be determined golf stars at Sea Island Resort in Georgia, then fly privately to Branson's Necker, in the British Virgin Islands, for a four-day, three-night stay at the 74-acre ultra-private oasis. 

On Necker, which is space-limited to 30 people, you'll compete over nine stylized island "holes" around Branson's home, but mostly text everybody in your phone to let them know you've arrived, and who asked to borrow sunscreen while sitting next to you on the veranda. 

If you can't quite cover the $80k, you can still "win" your way to Necker in the 36-hole Sea Island tournament. For $9,750, you can enter your two-person team in the 36-hole qualifier at Sea Island. Record the lowest handicap-adjusted team score and you get 10 tickets in a drawing for one spot in the main event on Necker. Every team that competes will get at least a single "golden ticket," and additional raffle tickets can be purchased for $500 each. 

Get lucky and you could be extending your stay, and getting on a jet with Norman and Branson.

The event was devised as a sister tournament to the Necker Cup Pro-Am tennis tournament held the last three years, which has raised more than $2.5 million for charity. The golf event will benefit the Greg Norman Foundation, Virgin Unite, the National Tennis Foundation and charities related to the other professional golfers who will be in attendance. 

They're still checking to see if Necker's casualty insurance would cover John Daly. But you can dream.  

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Bring the Champion to its knees in Florida

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The weather hasn't even begun to crack yet in the Northeast, but it's still time to start thinking about booking shoulder-season deals in warm weather destinations like Florida.

PGA National Resort & Spa has five world-class courses on its Palm Beach Gardens property--including the fearsome Champion, which has hosted both the Honda Classic and the Ryder Cup. Book the Summer Escape and Play package for trips starting May 22nd and later and you can lock in huge discounts from the prime-time rate.

The package includes lodging in a terrace room, a round on the Palmer, Fazio, Squire or Estates courses, a free replay on those same courses, breakfast and 50 percent off any golf daily golf clinic for rates starting at $89.50 per person. If you do decide to take on the Champ--which famously punched players in the mouth at the 1983 Ryder Cup and 1987 PGA and was freshened last year by Jack Nicklaus--it'll cost you a $75 surcharge. That's small change considering the regular green fee is $379. 

You're probably asking yourself, Just how sweaty will I get in Florida in late May or early June?

Moderately. 

Average highs are in the high 80s, with high humidity -- nothing a cold beer and a cart can't solve. You'll wipe your brow when you're done and remember how much you hated liberating your windshield wipers with an ice pick in February, when the sun hadn't been out for three weeks.

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Have your own spring training in Myrtle Beach

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Major League baseball players spend the month of March getting ready for the rigors of the upcoming season. Just because they're making millions and you aren't doesn't mean they automatically have the right idea--but in this case, they do. 

You could ease your way into the 2015 season waiting for a few 50-degree days in March. Or, you can fly down to Myrtle Beach and do it right, with a four-day, three-night golf-and-stay package at two of South Carolina's premier properties--Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Golf Club. 

With the March Mania package, you get three nights lodging at the True Blue Resort and four rounds at either of the two clubs in any combination for $599 per person. The offer is good from March 15-31--plenty of time to tune up before your Tuesday Night League starts at home. 

The courses are adjacent to each other on Pawley's Island, an easy 20-minute drive south of the Myrtle Beach airport. The Mike Strantz-designed Caledonia is consistently ranked one of the 100 best public courses in America, and was carved from one of largest rice plantations in the antebellum South. The entrance road to the club is lined with the 150-year-old live oaks planted during the plantation's heyday in the late 1700s. Sister course True Blue, also a Strantz design, opened four years later, in 1998, on an old indigo plantation. It's longer and more challenging, with shades of Pinehurst No. 2. It's also been a staple on best-in-state and best-in-the-U.S. lists

Individual green fees for each course are in the $150-$200 range alone, making it worth your while to get out of the bustle of Myrtle Beach proper. You'll still be in range if you just have to get to a Hooters for wings and borderline sexual harassment. 

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Go back in time in Williamsburg

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Colonial Williamsburg is the grandaddy of all theme parks. Organized in the 1920s as a way to preserve and promote the colonial-era structures in one of Virginia's original plantation towns, it is essentially a recreation of 18th century American life, down to the actors who dress the part and perform Washington-era chores. 

It's all very charming and educational, but golfers still want modern agronomy practices--and a comfortable place to sleep. Enter the Kingsmill Resort, which features two championship courses--including the River Course, which hosts the LPGA in May--425 rooms and a completely renovated spa. 

Now, you can book an Unlimited Golf Package, which includes two nights lodging, unlimited golf (as you might expect from the name) on the River and Plantation courses, breakfast and local transportation for rates starting at $448 per person.

The River Course gets most of the attention because of the LPGA visits--off and on for going on 20 years--and its picturesque location alongside the James River. Pete Dye's design won't overpower you at just over 6,300 yards from the blue tees, and the pure greens reward a good putting stroke. Get in before the Kingsmill Championship May 14-17 and you just might see Cristie Kerr practicing. She loves the place, and is a three-time champion. The Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay Plantation Course offers a little more breathing room off the tee, and a tour of some of the historic buildings from Kingsmill's past as a working plantation in the 1700s.  

Off the course, you can visit one of the collection of three-century-old taverns in Colonial Williamsburg offering a selection of dishes George Washington would recognize. George might have more trouble with the drink menu, though. O'Doul's wasn't a thing in the 1760s, when he was serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses.  

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Two hours to paradise in Bermuda

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The Caribbean is lovely this time of year, but it's also at least a three hour flight from the Northeast. Go to Bermuda and you can shave at least an hour off that time in each direction, and sacrifice only a few degrees in temperature in the process. 

Bermuda is never cheap, but if you can pull the trigger before the end of March you can still score some of the best end-of-winter rates before peak season rolls in. It won't be beach weather, but it is ideal for golf--highs in the high 60s and low 70s and lows only two or three degrees cooler. The Fairmont Southampton sits on a prime, pink-sand beach and has arrangements with the two best courses on the Island--Mid Ocean and Port Royal. 

Book the three-night Bermuda Golf Around Getaway and you'll get accommodations in a balcony room, breakfast, rounds at Mid-Ocean, Port Royal and your choice of a third (lesser) course for rates beginning at $749 per person. The green fee at Mid Ocean alone is $250, while Port Royal checks in at $180. You'll also get 50 percent off club rentals, should you decide to leave the sticks at home. 

Mid Ocean was built by Charles Blair McDonald, and it has the pedigree (and private club attitude) to befit its age. President Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met for an informal power summit there in 1953, and, less importantly, Jim Furyk beat Padraig Harrington in the end-of-season major champions' Grand Slam of Golf boondoggle there in 2008. 

Port Royal is on the other side of the island, but is situated on equally good waterfront terrain. Public and owned by the Bermudian government, it is the stronger test of the two. Martin Kaymer won the Grand Slam there last year. 

American, JetBlue and U.S. Airways all fly direct to L.F. Wade International, while Delta flies direct from Boston and Atlanta. None of the flights are longer than two hours and 45 minutes, and they haven't lost a plane in the Triangle for years. 

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Walk in the footsteps of champions in Ojai

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Maybe it's seeing PGA Tour players duke it out over Riviera's twists and turns last week. Or maybe it's just the mid-70s California weather. 

Either way, you can experience the next best thing to playing members-only Riviera -- the same Roaring 20s course architecture and weather, but at the Ojai Inn's beautiful resort course 80 miles northwest of L.A. In March, you can pick from a couple of attractive offers. A twosome can stay and play unlimited golf for $569 per night midweek, or you can simply book at least two nights and get an additional night free. 

Built in 1923 by George Thomas -- the same man who laid out Riviera and L.A. Country Club around the same time -- the Ojai Country Club is 6,200 yards of pure history. In addition to playing host to a handful of Champions Tour events in the late '80s and early '90s, the course has long been a stop for golf and Hollywood royalty. Jimmy Demaret represented the resort in the 1940s and 1950s, and played money games there with Ben Hogan throughout the 1950s.

You can even play two of Thomas' original "lost holes," rediscovered and restored to their original 1923 specifications after being plowed over during World War II, when the U.S Army and Navy took over the property.

The Inn retains all of the charm and seclusion that made it one of the most popular getaways for Hollywood stars in the 1950s. The exteriors look as they did when Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy shot Pat and Mike there in 1952, and you can sit for dinner and California wine outside, overlooking the golf course, at The Oak--one of former president Ronald Reagan's favorite spots. 

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Play gangster style in Hot Springs

Even mobsters need vacations, apparently. 

In the 1920s, Al Capone's destination of choice was Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he had a suite on the fourth floor of the Arlington Hotel and played his golf at Hot Springs Country Club. 

You probably don't want to follow Capone's career path, but you can walk in his footsteps. The circa-1925, twin-towered Arlington Hotel still anchors downtown Hot Springs, and the $390 golf package there offers two nights lodging, full breakfast and a round of golf for two at either of Hot Springs Country Club's layouts. 

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The original course on the property, the Park, opened in 1898. Designed by Willie Park, Jr., it was overhauled by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore in 2001. It has a little more elbow room and flatter lies than the sporty Arlington, a 1927 William Diddle design redone by Crenshaw in his pre-collaboration days. Neither are punishing for shorter hitters -- especially now, when the daytime temperatures bounce between the mid 60s and low 70s. 

No visit to Hot Springs is complete without a walk down Bathhouse Row, adjacent to the Arlington on Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs. The turn-of-the-century buildings were built directly over the natural hot springs for which the town is named, and served as medicinal spas for health tourists -- who have been coming to Hot Springs to "take the waters" since the mid 1800s. 

Of the eight historic bathhouses on the row, the Buckstaff is the last one still operating -- and you can get the same thermal mineral water treatment you would have received when it opened in 1912. For $33, you get a 20-minute whirlpool mineral bath, a trip through a Sitz bath and a high-powered needle shower. A loofah mitt will run you an extra $4.  

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Catch off-season bargains at Pinehurst

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After the freshly old-schooled Pinehurst No. 2's star turn at both the men's and women's U.S. Opens last year, you might be feeling like you want your own crack at it. 

Generally, that'll cost you--to the tune of $420 during peak season. Right now, the North Carolina Sandhills are at their coldest of the year, with daytime highs in the mid-50s. That means you can score a round on No. 2--or one of the other eight other courses at the Pinehurst Resort--for a slightly less-stiff tariff. 

Book the Evergreen Golf or Spa Escape and get a room at The Carolina Hotel, breakfast buffet and either 18 holes or a 50-minute spa treatment for $174 per person per night Sunday through Thursday. To play No 2., where Martin Kaymer and Michelle Wie won on back to back weeks, you need to pay a $150 surcharge, but it's worth every penny to see Donald Ross' masterpiece, brought back to its original sandy ferocity by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. 

There are no bad choices for your other rounds, from the circa-1898 No. 1 (the first one at the resort) to Tom Fazio's No. 4--generally considered to be the second-best of the group. The most fun might be had on No. 3, Donald Ross' sporty 5,800-yard short course. If offers all of the roller coaster greenside challenges as big brother No. 2, but with short iron approaches. 

If you go, reserve one evening for dinner at the Pine Crest Inn, situated in the heart of the town. Ross bought the property in 1921 and owned it until his death. Go casual and sit at the bar in Mr. B's Lounge and take in a century of Ross-centric golf memorabilia, or sit in the dining room and have the signature 22-oz. pork chop. 

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Travel

Deal of the Week: Be a sports junkie in Tampa

Theoretically, golf should be enough to keep you entertained on that three-day golf weekend. But there's a reason Las Vegas is a popular destination. 

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Off-course entertainment matters, and Florida's Innisbrook Resort is betting that its combination of PGA Tour-caliber golf and extracurriculars will entice groups looking for a blended experience. 

Innisbrook's Sportsman's Package offers villa lodging, a daily round on one of the four championship courses on property (including the Copperhead, home of the PGA Tour's Valspar Classic) and a choice of ticket to one of four Tampa-area sporting events -- the NFL Buccaneers, NHL Lighting, the Richard Petty Driving Experience or deep-water fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Rates start at $279 per night, per person.

Chances are you already know which ticket you'd pick. But if you're torn, consider how often you'll get the chance back home to ride along at 180 miles per hour a few feet from the wall and a certain, fiery death. If feels like your stomach is getting stapled to your spine. But in a good way.   



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