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AFC East: Miami Provides the Golf In Football's Best Division

By Shawn Nicholls, Contributor

NEW YORK CITY, NY – It seemed, on the exterior at least, that the point of the reorganization in the NFL was to get teams within the same geographical region into the same division, and move out the ones that did not belong. And for the most part, it was a success. However, nothing is ever perfect, and the one glaring error is that Miami managed to remain in the AFC East with the other cold weather, New England teams, instead of migrating to another division, say perhaps, the AFC South.

But, grumbling aside, one of the two good things about the league's obvious incompetence is that minus the dome dwelling Dolts, the division that is also the most hotly contested and the one that always goes right down to the wire, is still intact. So football fans, prepare. The other good thing is that Miami helps make the AFC East a more attractive golfing division than it would be without the country's southern most hotbed.

So, let the trash talking and helmet crunching of the AFC East begin as we unveil how the four cities stack up against one another on the other green turf.

1. Miami

While buckets of snow and sloppy fields make for exciting football, they create for less than enticing golf. So when Miami's counterparts in the division close up their golf courses for winter hibernation, the always toasty city will still be thriving.

You won't get far in the home of the Dolphins without hearing about the team's undefeated season of 1972, nor will you get very far without hearing about the conductor of that steam engine. So you might as well get right to it and stop into Don Shula's Hotel and Golf Club. With 205 rooms and a championship course, and even a lighted executive course, Shula's resort may be the perfect place to retire after an afternoon game.

The two courses at the Miami National Golf Club are worth the time on a Saturday afternoon, as is Doral Golf Resort & Spa, home to the infamous blue monster and a PGA tour stop.

2. New England

The Patriots may have a hard time repeating as Super Bowl champions, but the one thing that will remain constant is the quality and quantity of golf courses in Foxboro and the greater Boston area.

Sticking close to the newly renamed Gillette Stadium, the Foxboro Country Club is a fine choice, and although not the finest of the offerings in the area, it will more than suffice when your golf craving starts kicking in.

The real gem in all of the New England area, and one to definitely check out before the blanket of snow hits in late fall, is Stow Acres Country Club. Roughly 45 minutes outside of Boston, the club's North Course was recently named the best public course in the state by Golf Digest and hosted the 70th U.S. Amateur Championship. The 7,000-yard track winds through beautiful pine trees and golfers will encounter a piece of the property's eight ponds all the way around.

And the South Course isn't too shabby either.

3. New York

While the Jets are New York's by name, the Testaverde-led team calls New Jersey home. And away from the turnpike, with the jokes about its inhabitants aside, Jersey is one of the more aesthetically pleasing of the northern states. Add in a few great golf courses, and it is an all around great travel destination early in the fall. (The Super Bowl champs come to town on September 15, so start planning.)

A good choice and a way to remain within sight of Manhattan is the New York Country Club. A Steven Kay design, the clubhouse at this championship track sits at such an elevation that golfers can enjoy a view of the city's skyline as they sip on a cold beer and contemplate the just-finished round.

A little further away, but still only an hour away from New York City, SkyView Golf Club is a baby, having only opened its tees in 2000. It has already been touted as one of New Jersey's top twenty public courses.

4. Buffalo

Alas, the home of unfulfilled Super Bowl dreams, embarrassing moments, and a whole lot of snow.

Golf in Buffalo is not easily found, at least good golf, that is. In fact, it may be in the best interest of mobile enthusiasts to hop over to Canada for a day of international golf. Or maybe just skip the golf if it is too cold and go to Niagara Falls.

A local favorite is the Cazenovia Golf Club. Seymour Dunn designed the first nine holes in 1920, and another nine was added in 1969 by Hal Purdy. Not the poshest of courses, but it is cheap and a fun way to spend a late evening in early fall, before the snow comes and the course closes up for the winter.

Projected Order of Finish

1. Miami - This was a close call. Really, any of the teams in the division has a shot at the title, and it may very well go down to the wire, again. With the addition of Ricky Williams and another year under the belt of Jay Fiedler, the Fins should be ready to take that next step and move past the first round of the playoffs. But, you never know in the East.

2. New York Jets - The big question mark in the Jets' camp is the quarterback position. If Testaverde some how manages to remain healthy, New York should do well and will challenge Miami. If he falls victim to the injury bug yet again, and ex-Marshall standout Chad Pennington takes over the reigns, it's good night New York.

3. New England - Like I said, it's really to close to call, so we'll give the Patriots a tie with the Jets. Granted, they are the defending champs, but a few bounces and a few calls and the Patriots were watching the horrible Super Bowl commercials like everyone else.

4. Buffalo - The Bills were just not that good last year, and although they've pulled a disgruntled Drew Bledsoe away from New England, Buffalo may still be a year or two away from getting back to the playoffs and blowing it.

Shawn Nicholls, Contributor

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