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Greens and Gridirons: Georgia, UGA Golf Course

Bill Zimmerman

ATHENS, Ga. – Anyone crafting a college town for a novel or motion picture might be tempted to add layers and eccentricities until it almost becomes too much of a good thing.

They might, in short, craft a place that looks a lot like Athens, where, on fall weekends, thousands of rabid Bulldogs fans and Georgia alums join 34,000 students in a city where the rich football tradition – defined by the phrase “Between the hedges” – is complemented by a thriving music and foodie scene.

I arrived two days before the game to find a predictable sea of partisans clad in red and black, but with a comforting mix of orange, indicating that my alma mater, Clemson, soon would arrive to rekindle an old rivalry.

The Georgia Club in nearby Statham seemed a good place to kick off the festivities. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown, the club plays up the college atmosphere; on the way to the classic Southern-style clubhouse, visitors pass the “Dawgwood Ballroom” before arriving at the bag drop. The three nines are named for the school’s colors: Red, Black and Silver. The Georgia Club, ranked No. 11 among Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in ...

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Walters Golf counters desert-golf feel of Vegas

Bill Zimmerman

Las Vegas excels in replicating other parts of the world – with Venice, New York, Paris and other famous settings emulated by the city's casino resorts.

The theme also applies to golf. Two such examples are Bali Hai, which brings the feel of Indonesia to the south end of the Strip, and Royal Links, which draws upon the feel of Scottish Links golf.

Built by sports-betting syndicate co-founder Bill Walters, Bali Hai's South Pacific setting includes seven lakes, bunkering that simulates beaches and foliage that helps provide a stark contrast to the stereotypical desert-golf experience.

"This will be a fun course … You'll know you've been tested, but it won't beat you to death," course co-designer Brian Curley says via the Bali Hai website. And the location on the Strip is hard to beat, with views of nearby casinos from fairways.

Royal Links, on the other hand, offers mountain views in its location removed from the fast-paced heart of Vegas' casino resorts. Its style of play, however, hearkens to the British Isles.

With replica holes of St. Andrews' Road Hole and Royal Troon's Postage Stamp part of its layout, the Dye International design ranks No. 14 ...

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Gridiron neighbors: Redskins, Bulle Rock GC

Brentley Romine

Each week this football season, we'll take a look at some great layouts listed among Golfweek's Best Courses You Can Play and located near the biggest games on the gridiron.

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Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Monday, 8:30 p.m. EDT

On the field: The Redskins have taken the past six regular-season games between these two teams, although the Seahawks enter this game as significant favorites. Washington is still without its star QB Robert Griffin III, so Kirk Cousins will get another start. Seattle is strong on both sides of the ball and is led by QB Russell Wilson.

On the tee: You can start with the top-ranked course among Golfweek's Best Courses You Can Play in Maryland – Bulle Rock Golf Course, which is located in Havre de Grace, Md., a little more than an hour from FedEx Field. If you want something a little closer, third-ranked Presidential Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, Md., is less than a 20-minute drive.

Have time for another? Then check out Whiskey Creek in Ijamsville, Md., ranked fourth and a little more than an hour away.

Changing states, Laurel Hill in Lorton, Va., ranked seventh among Golfweek's Best Courses You ...

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Gridiron neighbors: Jets, Bethpage Black

Brentley Romine

Each week this football season, we'll take a look at some great layouts listed among Golfweek's Best Courses You Can Play and located near the biggest games on the gridiron.

Chicago Bears at New York Jets

Monday, 8:30 p.m. EDT

On the field: Each team enters this contest at 1-1 on the season, although Chicago is coming off of an impressive comeback victory over San Francisco. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's top two receivers, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, are banged up, and running back Matt Forte is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry. The Jets are giving up an average of just 53 yards on the ground, too, so if one or both of Marshall and Jeffrey can't go, Chicago could struggle to score. Jets quarterback Geno Smith hasn't been great, but running back Chris Ivory has stepped up big for the Jets through two weeks. Like Chicago, New York's receiving corps is banged up – wideout Eric Decker left the Jets' Week 2 game with a hamstring injury and is questionable to play this week.

On the tee: Bethpage State Park's Black course comes in at No. 1 among Golfweek ...

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Gridiron neighbors: Kansas State, Colbert Hills

Bill Zimmerman

Each week this football season, we'll take a look at some great layouts listed among Golfweek's Best Courses You Can Play and located near the biggest games on the gridiron.

No. 5 Auburn at No. 20 Kansas State

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EDT

ON THE FIELD: Last year's title-game challenger to national champion Florida State, Auburn brings SEC swagger and talent to Big 12 title contender Kansas State. Each offense boasts the ability to put up big numbers, led by quarterbacks Nick Marshall of the Tigers and Jake Waters of the Wildcats. Few Thursday-night road games are easy, and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's challenge is to outthink counterpart Bill Snyder – whose name adorns the stadium.

ON THE TEE: On campus in Manhattan, the Colbert Hills course ranks No. 2 on Golfweek's Best You Can Play in Kansas. Other options are between a 1- and 2-hour drive each: No. 1 Firekeeper in Mayetta and No. 3 Sand Creek Station in Newton.

Honorable mention

No. 22 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State: Some will argue it's the marquee game of the week, perhaps heightened by Seminoles QB and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston's half-game ...

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Resorts: No. 2, Valley reopen; Bay Hill hires super

Martin Kaufmann

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Pinehurst No. 2 has reopened after converting its greens from Bentgrass to Ultradwarf Bermudagrass, a grass that is expected to provide better playing conditions during the summer.

No. 2 was shut down in June, after hosting the men’s and women’s U.S. Opens on consecutive weeks. Since 2012, Pinehurst Resort has converted four of its nine courses to Bermudagrass greens. The change was made to Pinehurst No. 1 in 2012, and to No. 3 and No. 8 in 2013.

“Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass is a great option for the North Carolina climate,” said Bob Farren, director of grounds and golf course maintenance at Pinehurst. “We’ve already seen great results on our other courses in terms of sustaining firm greens with a smooth, fast and consistent roll, and can’t wait for members and guests to have the same experience on Pinehurst No. 2.”

Visit pinehurst.com.

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Dye’s Valley Course is preparing to reopen following a seven-month renovation project. The course will host the Web.com Tour Championship on Thursday-Sunday, then open for public play Sept. 23.

The renovations to the course – the first work done on the Valley ...

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South African tourism's 'quality and value is incredible'

Martin Kaufmann

Cape Town, South Africa – Maura Nolan describes her childhood in Fish Hoek, a village south of Cape Town, South Africa, in the most idyllic terms. “It was the most spectacular place in the world to grow up,” Nolan says.

It’s easy to see why she says that. Nolan, founder of Connecticut-based Safari Golf Tours (www.safarigolftours.com), recently led two dozen Golfweek course raters on a two-week tour of South Africa. Early in the trip, she took a few of us to Fish Hoek, which sits on False Bay, a focal point of her formative years. “I could swim before I could walk,” she says. Our day in Fish Hoek ended with a memorable dinner at Harbour House Restaurant, where we washed down fresh crayfish and prawns with the local Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc, as waves periodically crashed against the second-story window behind our table.

Nolan has been operating tours to major golf destinations, such as the British Isles and Spain, since settling in the United States in the 1980s. But it’s clear she takes special delight in introducing visitors to her homeland.

I asked Nolan to talk about South Africa’s growing appeal to tourists.

When did ...

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American pro becomes South African pitchman

Martin Kaufmann

St. Francis Bay, South Africa – How did an Iowan working in Texas become one of the biggest promoters of South African golf?

In 1991, Jeff Clause left The Hills CC in Austin, Texas, to take on a three-year assignment as the first director of golf at Fancourt, the South African resort that hosted the 2003 Presidents Cup.

“I didn’t hesitate,” Clause recalls. “I was 34 or 35 years old, and thought, what’s three years in South Africa? Well, three years became 23 years.”

After Fancourt, he spent eight years as director of golf at Pezula Championship Course in Knysna, then continued east along the Garden Route to St. Francis Links, where he has served as CEO and director of golf since 2006.

Along with two dozen Golfweek course raters, I met Clause at St. Francis Links during a recent two-week tour of South Africa. The course, located on the southern coastline about 50 miles west of Port Elizabeth, sits on huge, rolling dunes. Holes are cut through the fynbos – the native coastal shrub – and defined by rugged bunkering and greens that sit naturally in the sandy mounds. It’s a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, but very different from ...

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Pinehurst Resort on verge of acquiring National GC

Martin Kaufmann

Pinehurst Resort is on the verge of acquiring National Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus signature design.

In a March 14 email to members, Jay Biggs, the resort’s senior vice president of golf and club operations, said the plan is to combine National’s membership with that of Pinehurst No. 7, creating a new membership category. In his letter, Biggs said the acquisition would provide members with access to National’s pool and tennis facilities at no extra cost.

“With access to nine courses and all of the other incredible facilities, programming and events, this new club concept presents a member experience and value to rival any in the world,” Biggs wrote.

The acquisition is pending a 70-day due-diligence period before the deal is finalized. In his letter, Biggs said once the sale is completed, National’s clubhouse will be renovated and its course conditions will be upgraded. Biggs said the resort also would consider the “possibility of a more direct access road between the two clubs, which sit on opposite sides of U.S. 15 North.

“I hope you, as Pinehurst members, appreciate this opportunity to add yet another great course to the Pinehurst family,” Biggs wrote to members ...

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Camelback's Ambiente: Out with old, in with bold

Martin Kaufmann

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Seven years ago I visited Camelback Golf Club with a colleague and played what was then known as the Indian Bend course. Given the club’s affiliation with the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, a Four Diamond property that has one of the strongest reputations in resort-rich Scottsdale, the round on Indian Bend was a deflating experience. I don’t remember much about that course, other than this: It was flat, featureless and needed a serious tree-management program.

A couple of weeks ago I returned to Camelback GC for the first time since 2006. I was there to see the new Ambiente course, which sat on the land previously occupied by Indian Bend.

When Rob Bartley, Camelback’s director of golf, asked me about my memories of Indian Bend, I grasped for a measure of diplomacy. I told Bartley that the course had “underwhelmed me” and that I recalled it being “nondescript.”

That amused Bartley. It turns out he had a similar view of Indian Bend and had been pushing hard since his arrival at Camelback eight years ago to renovate the course.

“We had one really good golf course in Padre, and were woefully behind ...

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This summer, golf fans will get rare look at elite Hamptons clubs

Adam Schupak

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- This tony hamlet sits on the south shore of eastern Long Island, along what is known as the South Fork. It is the epicenter of the greatest collection of classically styled courses in the United States. Imagine if God had placed the Old Course, Turnberry, Dornoch and Muirfield within five miles of one another. That would provide some sense of what this part of Long Island is like.

Yet other than the occasional U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, the courses along the South Fork are little more than phantoms to most of the golf populace. Golfers might have heard stories about Shinnecock or National Golf Links or Maidstone or Sebonack or others. They might have seen them ranked highly in Golfweek and other publications. But that’s usually the extent of it. Visiting these courses typically is reserved for the monied set, many of whom escape from New York City.

Starting this week, however, the golf world will get a rare look inside two of the best South Fork clubs – Sebonack Golf Club and National Golf Links of America, Shinnecock’s neighbors along Great Peconic Bay. Sebonack, ranked No. 7 on Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses ...

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One shot. $1 million. Are you up to the challenge?

Nick Masuda

Oh, nothing like Old Tom Morris -- or a dead ringer in this case -- to provide an interesting wake-up call on a Tuesday morning of Open Championship week.

And you might want to have a listen on what Morris has to say.

Machrihanish Dunes, No. 41 in our latest Golfweek's Best GB&I Modern Rankings, is holding a promotion featuring Morris that allows anyone that plays the course between now and Oct. 15 to be entered into a drawing that will bring back four players for a shot at making a hole-in-one on the 167-yard, par-3 14th hole.

The prize? A cool $1 million -- or as the course is calling it, the Mach Dunes Million. Yep, one tee ball could change your life. Think you could twist the wife's arm and make this into a instant vacation?

Morris and a secret video crew already crashed the course to surprise 20 golfers for an impromptu opportunity to win the bevy of greenbacks, with a couple of tee balls flirting with the hole. (Don't worry, the course is covered by insurance, so the $1 million isn't coming out of its pockets)

Yes, you must book a tee time or ...

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Bulldog's blog: Playing Renaissance Club

Alex Miceli

Senior writer Alex Miceli, affectionately known as the Bulldog, will be in England and Scotland for nearly a month and will be keeping you updated with his latest tidbits in a daily blog for Golfweek. Here is his July 16 installment . . .

• • •

Bulldog's blog, July 8: A worthy trip to Tain

Bulldog's blog, July 9: Royal Dornoch builds on rich history

Bulldog's blog, July 10: A day at Castle Stuart with Paul McGinley

Bulldog's blog, July 11: An impressive day at Trump Scotland

Bulldog's blog, July 13: A walk with ghosts, greats at St. Andrews

Bulldog's blog, July 14: Historic Muirfield buzzing early

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GULLANE, Scotland –- I’ve mentioned a couple of times one of the benefits of coming to the UK, especially Scotland, is that is doesn’t get dark until after 10:00 p.m.

Well I took full advantage of that on Monday night and made a stop at Gullane Golf Club for a quick 18 on the Number 2 course.

Gullane’s claim to fame is that the three courses -- Nos.1, 2 and 3 -- play on and around Gullane Hill. And it is a pretty big hill.

So with windy conditions ...

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Bulldog's blog: A walk with ghosts at St. Andrews

Alex Miceli

Senior writer Alex Miceli, affectionately known as the Bulldog, will be in England and Scotland for nearly a month and will be keeping you updated with his latest tidbits in a daily blog for Golfweek. Here is his July 13 installment . . .

• • •

Bulldog's blog, July 8: A worthy trip to Tain

Bulldog's blog, July 9: Royal Dornoch builds on rich history

Bulldog's blog, July 10: A day at Castle Stuart with Paul McGinley

Bulldog's blog, July 11: An impressive day at Trump Scotland

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Spending time at the "Home of Golf" is one of the game's best experiences.

No other sport allows a fan to walk the same fairways as the giants of the game, walk the streets that Old Tom Morris and Bobby Jones strolled and enjoy the town that has been so important to the growth of the game.

So welcome to St. Andrews, and if you haven’t been here before, you absolutely must make the trip.

Now that my visitor-bureau speech for Fife and St. Andrews is done, let me tell you about the last couple of days in the "Home of Golf."

But first, an aside from my trip ...

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Bulldog's blog: An impressive day at Trump Scotland

Alex Miceli

Senior writer Alex Miceli, affectionately known as the Bulldog, will be in England and Scotland for nearly a month and will be keeping you updated with his latest tidbits in a daily blog for Golfweek. Here is his July 11 installment . . .

• • •

Bulldog's blog, July 8: A worthy trip to Tain

Bulldog's blog, July 9: Royal Dornoch builds on rich history

Bulldog's blog, July 10: A day at Castle Stuart with Paul McGinley

• • •

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – With the Scottish Open in my rearview mirror, I drove from Nairn to Aberdeen on the A96. It’s about a two-hour drive to the oil capital of Scotland.

Just north of Aberdeen is both Murcar and, of course, Royal Aberdeen in the Bridge of Don region, two classic links courses.

I’ve been to Royal Aberdeen many times, but two were to cover events: the Senior British Open in 2005 when Tom Watson beat Ireland’s Des Smyth in a playoff and then the 2011 Walker Cup when the U.S. didn’t play very well and got beat, 14-12.

That U.S. roster was pretty solid and included Peter Uihlein, Russell Henley, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth. It's still ...

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VIDEO: $1 million hole-in-one contest

Machrihanish Dunes will reward four random golfers with a shot at $1 million on its par-3 14th hole.