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Of Course, We'll Golf, Amelia

Mark Glass - Click to Enlarge
by Mark Glass   

Mark Glass is a journalist trapped in a lawyer's body, balancing his practice with
writing and broadcasting on travel, entertainment and professional sports.  

Before any well-meaning readers rush off to inform my bride I’m playing a round with another woman, let’s establish that this Amelia is an island at the northernmost point of Florida’s Atlantic coast, just outside of Jacksonville. She is a beauty, with a type of regal lineage - named for the daughter of an English king, back when their power over us came from the throne, rather than the exportation of rock bands and TV sitcom concepts. So Amelia poses no threat to my marital bliss, unless this recent visit turns the Missus into a golf widow.

Two things I expected to remain part of my past were school and golf. The former had been largely tedious; the latter, mostly frustrating. So how was I to know  this island beauty would lure me back into both in one weekend? An innocent visit to the Amelia Island Plantation, now threatens my mental health. I knew they had three highly-regarded golf courses; I’d even played one of them about five years ago - my last venture onto the links. What I didn’t know is that Ron Philo’s School of Golf could start me back on the path of believing I could “improve my game”. Therein lies the sandless trap.

I innocently thought this visit to Amelia would be different. I would just enjoy the Plantation’s splendid beachfront accommodations, harmoniously blending with the natural beauty of live oaks and other vegetation which all but obscure the scattered assortment of luxurious villas, suites and conference facilities. The plan called for strolling their three miles of pristine sand, enjoying the incessant pounding of waves; emulating Burt Lancaster’s sojourn from    , among their 23 pools; having some fine meals; and mainly finding a brief, albeit welcome, respite from an atypically cold Midwest winter. Perhaps I’d venture to the charming little village of Fernandina Beach at the north end of the island for a bit of window-shopping. But, nooo! I had to sign up for a lesson with the father-and-son Philos.

My well-meaning parents introduced me to the game, as others inflict piano or dance lessons on their offspring, as a means of developing valuable skills for adulthood. Dad and I achieved a state of  supreme mediocrity. Mom won a bunch of trophies with her maddeningly consistent play - a quality that eluded the males in our family. I’d been content to let it go at that, declaring adult rights of autonomy by switching to tennis. My rationale was its superior aerobic value, and lesser consumption of valuable time. The real reason, I must confess, is the recovery time from each errant shot. After pounding one into the net, you’re ready for the next one in a matter of seconds, rather than trudging into the woods for seemingly endless minutes of search-and rescue.

I had been briefly re-seduced by the allure of scramble tournaments. This is  golf-lite, allowing you to walk away from those recurring duffs, shanks and other klunkers, unless the other three in your team fared even worse. And most such social occasions include omnipresent beverage carts.

On my last visit, Amelia Island Plantation’s Oceanside Links course did provide my favorite golf anecdote. I tell others how I finished four-over, the last time I played 18. After a pause to collect their admiration, I confess that it wasn’t four over par; playing in the early morning at low tide allowed me a net gain of finding four more balls on the course than I lost that day.

Approaching the golf school on this trip, I knew instantly that something would be different. Ron, Sr. had raised Jr. to split his time between the pro tour and teaching. His daughter, Laura Diaz, is thriving on the Circuit; her husband  also teaches in the family biz. They must know something that my folks, and the various pros they enlisted to guide my early efforts, were missing.

Without belaboring the details,  the edge they offer is starting with the logic of the swing, rather than its artistic or athletic aspects. I’d always understood the selection of the club for the distance and lie of the shot. I never had anyone tell me how the club also sets the stage for foot and hand position. Once you know where it goes, your body just has to follow along, so the club can do its job.

Technology has changed golf instruction since the days of my adolescent flailings. Video is valuable for instant feedback on your swing, albeit less so on one’s aging bodily contours.  Ron, Jr., calmly provided constructive pointers on the screen (regarding my swing, not my growing waistline), using his telestrator with precision in drawing  lines of  the club’s path, in relation to the ideal. If only John Madden could learn the same restraint in his NFL post-play analysis scribblings.

The Philos use other devices, like sets of stakes surrounding the student to set parameters for the backswing and follow-through. Or a double bar like a shoe rack with holes at each end for lining putts to learn head position, as well as a straight stroke. But they also employ also low-tech, common sense tools. Ron, Jr., had me stand with my butt against the wall so my backswing would go up, rather than wrap around my shoulders and scuff the siding.

The Philos offer instruction to every skill level, with a variety of packages and individual formats, available through the Resort, or separately. All clinics guarantee a student-teacher ratio of no more than 3-1.  For further information on the Golf School, check For information on Amelia Island Plantation, 1-800-874-6878, or               

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Mark Glass is a Mark Glass is a freelance writer and broadcaster, based in St. Louis, covering travel, entertainment and professional sports for his readers and listeners. Mark was travel editor for "St. Louis Connoisseur", and now have that role for "Life in the Midwest", based in Indianapolis. For the last fifteen years, he's written and broadcast features on travel, entertainment and sports, while maintaining his law practice in the St. Louis area. (More about this writer.)


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