One of our Dallas friends called and invited us to join them for a week at their condo in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. It took us two seconds to decide to escape the 100 degree heat and head to Florida for a fun vacation in Santa Rosa. Over the seven days we played four outstanding golf courses, left some money on the blackjack table, rode bikes, enjoyed daily happy hours, listened to some good music, and ate and drank way too much!
We loaded the Jeep with beer, swimming suits, koozies, golf clubs, shorts and tee shirts, and our bikes and headed to our first stop in Baton Rouge for golf. We left a few days after all of the flooding started in Louisiana and over the next couple of days some of what we learned was that over 40,000 homes were flooded and only one in eight residents have flood insurance; over 60,000 people were left homeless; there were over 30,000 rescues; the Red Cross said it was the worst disaster since hurricane Sandy; and unfortunately 11 people died. The Cajun Navy was formed from Louisiana folks who volunteered their boats and in time to rescue thousands of flood victims. All of the hotels were booked with flood victims and flood workers, but we lucked out and got the last room in Gonzales about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge.
On our drive in we saw rivers way above their normal banks, several side road closures (we had to go 25 miles out of our way to find a road to let us turn around), several spots along the freeway where water was just a few feet from the edge of the road, and lots of debris from the raging flood waters. We also heard several sad ("we lost everything we had and now have no home, no possessions, no car, and can't get to my job!") as well as heartening stories ("we're alive thanks to the Cajun Navy and ready to start over again") from some of the flood victims who were staying at our hotel. We talked to and heard stories from a Geico insurance adjuster who told us that 99% of their customer's cars (over 5000) were totaled and that it would be virtually impossible to get a rental. The adjuster from SERVPRO, a restoration company, had similar horrific stories. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Louisiana flood victims and a big thanks to all the flood volunteers who provided boats for rescues, food and drink, shelter, and other services. See this video from NBC Nightly News.
With all of the nearby flooding we were shocked to find that The Island Golf Club in Plaquemine, about 13 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, was still open for golf. The Island Golf Club had gotten 13 inches of rain a couple days earlier and it was cart path only with some standing puddles of water on very wet fairways. If that wasn't enough, The Island plays around two Bayous and has water that can come into play on 17 of 18 holes. My shoes were soaked and all of my golf balls were muddy as were my clubs and towel, but we had fun playing this course that's part of Louisiana's Audubon Golf Trail. Here is a link to our review of The Island.
We were planning on playing Carter Plantation in Hammond (about 50 miles east of Baton Rouge) on the way home but when I called to confirm our tee time 7 days after the flood, I was told that the course and club house were still flooded and the person I talked to told me she had gotten to the club house that day by boat!
When we got to Santa Rosa Beach we met our friends at Local Catch Bar & Grill (a local's upscale seafood shack pairing simple fish dishes and booze with live music and a woodsy ambiance) for happy hour, a great band, dominos, and some appetizers. A fun start to our Florida vacation. Happy hour, music, drinks and appetizers quickly became a part of our daily routine. We enjoyed bars on the beach, beside a pond with lily pads and a rubber alligator, along or over looking 30A (the main road through Santa Rosa Beach), and at the Emerald Bay Wharf overlooking the bay and yacht harbor.
We sampled everything from Hurricanes to Pina Coladas to Bloody Marys and Margaritas and what seemed like hundreds of local craft beers with very interesting names like: Wild Night Honey Cream Ale, Big Nose IPA, Julio's Weizen, Cream & Sugar Please Stout, Crank IPA, Tourist Trappe, Dragonfruit Passion Fruit, Miami Madness, and Florida Cracker - just to name drop a few!
And of course before and after a day of golf and exploring the Santa Rosa Beach area we had to devour a hearty daily dose of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We sampled everything from Eggs Benedict to hot dogs on the golf course to giant burgers, excellent fish dishes and shrimp poor boys, pizza, raw oysters, fettuccine alfredo, shrimp and grits, and more. Needless to say I piled on several extra pounds which I'm now struggling to get rid of.
Between eating and drinking, bike rides, dips in the pool, some souvenir shopping, walks on the beach, 20 minutes in the exercise room, and lots of games of dominos we did find time to play three outstanding golf courses. First up was Emerald Bay Golf Club in Destin which consumed 6 of my golf balls thanks to some tight fairways, a small hangover, and wetlands. Next up was Windswept Dunes which is a very unique course with long natural sand/waste bunkers, sand dunes up to 20 feet tall, and massive rolling fairways - I liked this course so much I left them 8 of my golf balls. Last up was Regatta Bay Golf & Yacht Club - a beautiful course (rated as one of the Top 15 in Florida) with great conditions except for all the divots I created and all the sand that I left with in my hair, ears, and pockets - which was enough to create a sandbox for the grandkids. Regatta Bay is home to several risk reward shot making opportunities and I seemed to take all the risk and I guess the reward was that the course got to keep several more of my golf balls. The above links will take you to our reviews of each course.
All too soon it was time to say good bye and I noticed that I had a little bit harder time squeezing into the Jeep and the mileage significantly decreased on the way home thanks to my having gained several pounds.
The 12 hour trip home wasn't the most pleasant - first, it's depressing having to end a fun vacation and drive home, besides that the trip was horrible:
But all the fun we had in Santa Rosa Beach was worth the long drive home.