I can I hear my father's voice in the distance: "Swing through the ball. Keep your head down." It's been about a year since I've stepped foot on a golf course, and although he's miles away from the first tee of LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort's 18-hole course in Naples, Florida, I can't shake those basic skills my doting dad has drilled into my head.
Those reminders don't seem to help, however, during this girls' getaway. Maybe I'm rusty or distracted by the postcard-worthy landscape that surrounds me. Lush greens, perfectly manicured plants and trees, and crystal-clear lakes line the 6,907-yard course.
I whiff on my first few swings before finally making contact — yet, the ball dribbles just a few feet in front of me. My friend looks like she's ready to join the LPGA. She's decked out in a golf skirt, glove and shoes. After a few practice swings, she crushes her Titleist Pro V1X ball a few 100 yards.
Whether it's out of pity or because she's on vacation too, she suggests doing a scramble. So that's how we spend the next several holes: each starting off from the tee box and then playing from the best spot.
After a while, a trend develops: She does better off the tee, we both tend to struggle in the fairway (I blame those sneaky water features on 14 of the 18 holes that are like a endless pit for golf balls), while I excel on the green.
To celebrate our minor victories on the links, we score dinner reservations at Baleen, the 64-acre resort's waterfront restaurant. With gorgeous views of the pink- and orange-swirled sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, we dine on the seafood-centric dishes such as gulf catch ceviche, Florida Keys yellowtail snapper and broiled lobster risotto. It's all a great reward for such a hard day's work.
We wake up early the next morning intent on a little more hard work — a long walk along the sandy white beaches of Vanderbilt Bay. We make it all the way to nearby Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park before heading back to our rooms to change into our swimsuits.
It's time to treat ourselves, and we know just the place. We race outside and grab lounge chairs around one of the four cascading waterfall pools and beckon a poolside butler for a round of tropical drinks.
Within minutes, our margaritas and daiquiris appear. We kick back, soak up the sun and sip on our frothy drinks all afternoon. Besides an occasional dip in the water, we don't move a muscle. It's fantastic to be waited on hand and foot. While I feel a little guilty, I shrug it off — who's keeping score?
Work on your game at Pine Hills Golf Club. Built in 1957, this 18-hole course in Hinckley may look simple, but the hilly terrain proves tricky. Pappy Paddock's 6,748-yard layout offers elevated greens, undulating fairways and plenty of other challenges — including No. 18. It may be a par 4, but you'll have to get past the lake first. 433 W. 130th St., Hinckley, 330-225-4477, golfpinehills.net