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Golf Getaways

Dew might drip from your shoes, but you don't have to worry about perspiration pouring from your visor.

For Florida golfers looking for relief from the oppressive heat, locations on opposite sides of the nation offer all the golf you can handle plus the opportunity to sleep with the windows open at night _ unless, of course, you need to throw another log on the fire.

And that doesn't count the scenery you'll view in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina or the ocean spray you'll feel at Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula of California.

For those looking for a more affordable trip, Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina is a short plane flight or a full-day's drive away. A trip to Pebble Beach takes a good deal more time and money. Both are worth it.

In the Grandfather Mountain area _ between Blowing Rock, Boone, Linville and Banner Elk _ at least eight golf courses within an hour of each other are available to the public. The towns are located approximately 100 miles from Greensboro, N.C., and about 110 miles from Charlotte.

"You have a very good variety," said Harris Prevost, the vice president of the tourism association known as Grandfather Mountain. "The thing about mountain courses is they're all as different as they can be. Every hole is different at every place. And the scenery is outstanding."

Two courses, Linville Golf Club and Hound Ears Club, require guests to stay at an adjoining lodge. Linville recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and is believed to be the first resort course in the United States.

It was originally built in 1892, then redesigned by noted golf course architect Donald Ross in 1924. The course is 6,800 yards from the back tees, has Ross' trademark crowned greens and the 455-yard, par-4 third hole was rated among the top 100 holes in America by Golf Magazine.

Linville is accessible to guests who stay at the Eseeola Lodge, a four-star inn that has only 28 rooms but a Thursday night seafood buffet that is the talk of the area.

Hound Ears, which got its name from a unique rock formation on the mountain ridge above the club, is a shorter course considered perfect for husband-wife tandems. That doesn't mean it is easy. It measures 6,165 yards and was designed by George Cobb. Located in Blowing Rock, Hound Ears also has a 28-room lodge and is located only 12 miles from Linville Golf Club.

Also in the area is the 111-year-old Green Park Inn. Some of its rooms overlook the Blowing Rock Country Club, built by Ross more than 70 years ago.

Other courses in the area that are open to daily public play include Hanging Rock Golf Club (between Boone and Linville), Mountain Glen Golf Club (in Avery), Mountain Aire Golf Club, Mountain Mitchell Club (near Burnsville), Boone Golf Club and Jefferson Landing, which was designed by PGA Tour pro Larry Nelson. Greens fees at these courses range from $22 to $47, including use of a cart.

Although they are private, Linville Ridge, Grandfather Golf Club and Elk River Club would be worth checking out if you're interested in a membership _ or in getting to know a member who can invite you.

Linville Ridge sits nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, and has the highest golf hole east of the Mississippi River. Grandfather, across the street from Linville, lies among hills and valleys and has been called the most beautiful mountain course in the country. Elk River, located in Banner Elk and designed by Jack Nicklaus, has its own adjacent airstrip.

Here is an added lure: The highest temperature recorded at the top of Grandfather Mountain is 83 degrees. The average summer temperature is 68.

"I like to say that you need to make three adjustments when you come to the mountains," Prevost said.

"First, the air is thinner, so you're going to hit the ball farther. You might have to worry about an extra 20 or 30 yards on your drives. Second, even in the summer, you might need to bring a sweater. It could be a little cool in the morning, but the temperature is refreshing. The third thing is you have to keep your eye on the ball instead of looking at the views.

"There are many temptations, but you have to discipline yourself to tend to your golf game and not smell the roses as you go."

Pebble Beach is certainly the more famous of the two locations, but more difficult to get to and more expensive to play. Within a few miles are four of the best courses in the country:

Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of the 1992 U.S. Open won by Tom Kite and ranked fifth on Golf Digest's list of the 100 best courses in America.

Cypress Point Golf Club, third on Golf Digest's list, but extremely private.

Spyglass Hill, one of the courses used for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AM and ranked 42nd.

The Links at Spanish Bay, a relatively new course, ranked 95th.

Also nearby are Poppy Hills, one of the courses used for the pro-am, and Del Monte Golf Course, oldest course still in operation west of the Mississippi.

Other than Cypress Point _ where nonmembers can play only if with a member, who tend to be VIPs _ the courses are open for public play.

Unfortunately, the price scares many people away. If you are not staying at either of the Pebble Beach properties, green fees are $200 per round at Pebble Beach and $150 at Spyglass and Spanish Bay. If you can find reasonable lodging in nearby Monterey or Carmel, that might be the best way to go, although tee times can't be made until 24 hours in advance.

The other option is to stay at either the Lodge at Pebble Beach or the Lodge at Spanish Bay. Both put you on the grounds of a course and within easy driving distances of the others along scenic 17-Mile Drive. The accommodations are expensive _ at least $250 per night, depending on the time of year _ but staying there gets you a break at the golf courses _ Pebble, $150; Spanish Bay and Spyglass, $100.

Robert Louis Stevenson once called the Monterey Peninsula "the greatest meeting of land and water," and Pebble Beach has become one of golf's treasures.

The site is one of the most famous golf courses in the world. It is host to the annual AT&T tournament, formerly the Bing Crosby Pro-Am; has held a PGA Championship; and three U.S. Opens. Nicklaus won the open there in 1972, Tom Watson in 1982 and Kite last year.

"Pebble Beach is my favorite golf course, period," Nicklaus has said. "It's such a pretty place. The golf course has such good balance to it. It can play very long or very short. It has tremendous variety."

The area is about a two-hour drive from San Francisco, a bit longer if you take the scenic drive on Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast. Non-golfers can enjoy themselves in Monterey and Carmel.

"Because of its location, Pebble Beach is not just a golf destination," said R.J. Harper, the head golf professional at Pebble Beach. "It's one of the most beautiful spots in the world to visit. And people are willing to pay the price.

"Since this is considered one of the top golf courses in the world, with the tradition of the tournament, the great champions it produces, people want to play here."

IF YOU GO

Linville Golf Club requires golfers to stay at its lodge on the property. Rates range from $210 to $250 per night for two people and include breakfast. Golf rates are $42, including cart. (704) 733-4311).

Hound Ears Club also requires golfers to stay at its lodge on the property. Rates range from $240 per night for two people, including breakfast and dinner. Golf is $47, including cart. Hound Ears offers golf packages starting in September that go for $240 for two people, including golf. (704) 963-4321.

Hanging Rock Golf Club, on Sundays-Thursdays, charges $30 including cart, Fridays and Saturdays, $34, including cart. Rates go down after 2 p.m. (704) 963-6565.

Mountain Glen Golf Club, $35.10 including cart. (704) 733-5804.

Mountain Aire Golf Club, $22 including cart, $25 including cart weekends. (919) 877-4716.

Jefferson Landing, $34 including cart, $39 including cart weekends. Jefferson Landing also has a lodge but does not require golfers to stay there to play golf. Rates begin at $65 per person per night and include golf.

Mount Mitchell Club, $38 including cart, $42 including cart weekends. (704) 675-5454.

Boone Golf Club, $30 including cart. (704) 264-8760.

For more information on golf, lodging, dining and special events, call NC High Country Host at (800) 438-7500.

Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay information can be obtained by calling (800) 654-9300.

"Hard by the fields called the Links, the citizens of Edinburgh divert themselves at a game called Golf, in which they use a curious kind of bats, tipped with horn, and small elastic balls of leather, stuffed with feathers, rather less than tennis balls, but of a much harder consistency; this they strike with such force and dexterity from one hole to another that they will fly to an incredible distance."

_ Humphry Clinker, Tobias Smollett, 1771

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