Florida, with its year-round warm climate, is a golfer's dream and has the most resorts and package deals for vacationing players, but deals are available all along the East Coast this summer. Here are some of them:
Innisbrook: This year's Preferred Golf program at the 1,000-acre resort near Tarpon Springs is priced at 1992 levels, according to the resort. Prices start at $119 per person, per night, double, to Sept. 15. (There's a two-night minimum, but you get three days of golf.) The four-day packages include accommodations, breakfast daily, 18 holes per day with cart, and daily clinics. Innisbrook boasts 63 holes, including the flagship Copperhead course, a health club and six pools. Call (800) 456-2000.
Turnberry Isle: This luxurious resort on an island between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean north of Miami has a female-golfers-only package through Oct. 1 called the Turnberry Woman. Prices start at $269 per person, based on double occupancy, for two nights. Included are greens fees on one of the two Robert Trent Jones-designed courses, a cart, a one-hour private lesson, access to the spa and a half-hour massage. The resort has 340 rooms and suites and 11 restaurants and lounges. Call (800) 327-7028.
Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island: On the beach near the Florida-Georgia border, the Ritz-Carlton abuts Atlantic sand dunes and the Golf Club of Amelia Island, an 18-hole course designed by Mark McCumber. The Golfing Getaway package is available every day and includes a deluxe room with balcony, 18 holes of golf daily and cart, club storage and a daily stroke clinic. Rates to Oct. 2 are $112 per person, per night, double. The hotel has indoor and outdoor pools and a fitness center. Contact a travel agent for details.
American Express is offering cardholders golf packages at four resorts on Sanibel and Marco islands and in Naples. Packages run from one night's lodging and one round of golf to two nights and four rounds. Call (800) 937-2639 and ask for details on the Smart Season package for Southwest Florida.
A collection of 26 hotels and resorts and 30 golf courses are participating in the recently formed Florida's First Coast of Golf Inc. Packages start at $35 per person and include a minimum of one round of golf; the courses are in five counties stretching south and west from the Atlantic at the Georgia line. For a brochure that includes rates into 1994, call (800) 877-7888 or (904) 798-9106.
Sea Pines Plantation: Jack Nicklaus is responsible for the challenge of the Harbor Links course, which shares the Sea Pines property with the Ocean and the Sea Marsh courses, on Hilton Head Island. The resort's Heritage Classic packages are based on three-night stays and include 18 holes of golf a day, cart, breakfast or lunch daily, complimentary tennis and discounted bicycle rentals. For two golfers staying together the rates start at $772 for both for three nights. Rates are valid to Aug. 21. Call (800) 845-6131.
Embassy Suites Resort Hotel and Golf Center: The all-suites chain's first golf operation, this 268-unit facility is located on Greenville's Verdae Greens course, a 6,757-yard course designed by William C. Byrd. Rooms start at $109 a night, and guests receive a $6 discount on greens fees of $33 on weekdays, $43 on weekends. The resort includes two pools and a sauna. Call (800) 362-2779 or (803) 676-9090.
Kingsmill Resort: Close to Colonial Williamsburg, the Kingsmill Resort is offering a three-day golf-school package for novices. The rates are $455 per person, double, for a three-night stay, three days of instruction, two rounds of golf with cart, unlimited range balls and bag storage. Dates for the school include Aug. 1-4, 15-18 and Sept. 5-8 and 12-15. There are three courses on the resort, which overlooks the James River, plus 15 tennis courts and a Sports Club. For reservations, call (800) 832-5665.
The Homestead: This Hot Springs resort in the Allegheny Mountains has a history of elegance, and about 15,000 acres of space. The resort is offering a two-night package through Nov. 30 priced from $330 to $380 per person, double, that includes two days' unlimited golf, plus a cart for 18 holes per day. An add-on food plan _ $45 per person per day _ covers breakfast and dinner. Call (800) 336-5771.
Ocean City: The Ocean City Golf Association has arranged a number of packages this summer with several hotels and motels. Seven courses in the area are available; customers can play at a different course each day. Prices vary, but most include accommodations, breakfasts and greens fees for 18 holes. Sample rates: At the EconoLodge, the rate through August is $70 per person per night, double, on weekdays, $80 on weekends. At the Atlantic Hotel and Inn in Berlin, a restored 1895 Victorian hotel, rates are $93 per person per day. For details on all packages, call (800) 4-OC-GOLF.
Marriott Seaview Resort: Marriott maintains two splendid 18-hole courses at its spacious location in Absecon, not far from Atlantic City. There's a Bay Course, with seaside views and short pars, and the more demanding Pines course. The hotel is offering golf stays at $308 per night that include a room for two, breakfast, one round of golf for two, cart, use of the golf learning center and driving range, bag storage and club cleaning. Call (800) 228-9290.
The Equinox: In the quaint village of Manchester in southern Vermont, the Equinox is offering a Green Mountain Golf Package for play at the resort's 18-hole Glen-eagles course. Available through Oct. 31, the package features two nights' accommodations, unlimited greens fees, a sleeve of balls, a golf shirt and use of the health spa. The mid-week rate is $264 per person, double; on weekends, rates start at $300. The Equinox course, originally designed by Walter Travis in 1926, was reconstructed last year by golf architect Rees Jones. For nongolfers, the pretty village of Manchester is accessible to nearby fishing, hiking and horseback riding and loads of factory-outlet shopping. The Equinox is at (800) 362-4747.
In Hawaii: The Bay Club Villas at Waikoloa, on the island of Hawaii, is offering a five-night package that begins at $421 per person and includes a two-bedroom suite (accommodating up to four), two rounds of golf daily on either of two courses, a car with unlimited mileage and breakfast daily. One course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, the other by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Moorish. Special air fares are also available. Call (800) 426-6367.
Holiday Inn offers its Best Breaks Golf package at 46 hotels and 88 public and private courses in six states, on both sides of the Mississippi, into the fall. The package includes two nights' accommodations for two persons, breakfasts, two rounds of golf per person and carts. Call (800) 892-7146 for a brochure detailing locations, course lengths, any dress codes.
Golf International Inc. specializes in vacations that include golfing. Sample trips:
Six nights in a chateau in France's Dordogne region, five rounds of golf on four courses, breakfasts and gourmet dinners, plus a rental car; $1,695 per person, based on double occupancy.
A seven-day barge cruise in southern France on either of two itineraries, with golfing on up to five courses, plus all meals. The barges are totally refurbished to accommodate either six or 10 passengers and include private bathrooms plus Jacuzzis.
Rates start at $1,490 per person and $2,766 per person, depending on which ship and time of year; the golf packages are available as late as December.
The company also can book trips that include rounds at nearly 100 courses in the British Isles and France; for a copy of the Complete Golfing Vacation Guide and information on the other trips mentioned above, call (800) 833-1389 or (212) 986-9176.
Canadian Holidays, a major tour operator based in Canada, of
fers golf vacations at dozens of resorts in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Special air fares are available. For a free, 24-page brochure of the packages, call (800) 237-0190.
Three directories of public and private courses and golf resorts:
The 479 Best Public Golf Courses in the United States, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, by Robert McCord, Random House; $20. Includes nearest commercial airport, family attractions and lodgings, and another 1,423 courses recommended as a notch below the best. This work is encyclopedic, e.g., the listing on Innisbrook runs four pages.
International Golf Resort Directory, by Gary Schmidt, Sports Travel Publishing; $39.50, plus $2 for postage if ordered from the publisher at Norwest Center Skyway, 56 E Sixth St., Suite 402, St. Paul, MN 55101. Lists information on more than 500 resorts, most in the United States, plus itineraries for many destinations, and notes many nearby public courses.
Golf Resorts, the Complete Guide, edited by Pamela Lanier, Lanier Publishing International. There are two editions; the one covering the United States costs $14.95, the International guide is $19.95. The work includes a disclaimer that most of the information is provided by the resorts listed and denies responsibility for any errors or out-of-date information.
An intelligent newsletter describing the best- and perhaps least-known courses is Golf Travel. It holds true to the second part of its name: The Guide for Discriminating Golfers. The writing is witty and consumerist, leveling the out-of-date reputations of some hallowed courses, rating even the food and lodgings _ and accepting no advertising. A year's subscription of 12 issues is $67; contact Golf Travel, P.O. Box 3485, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (800) 225-7825.