As it enters its fourth season of operation, The Prairie Club is trying to attract more golfers to the Nebraska Sandhills by delivering more value. Early indications are that the changes at the club have been well received by golfers.
The Valentine, Neb., resort, which reopens for the 2013 season on May 16, has cut its early-week stay-and-play rates 20 percent. The price of a two-day, one-night stay dropped to $399 from $499. In addition, members' weekday lodging rates were slashed to $125 from $190. The moves reversed 2012 price increases.
The Prairie Club, home to two highly rated 18-hole layouts and a 10-hole short course, also has instituted a policy that could prove more popular than the price cuts: unlimited golf every day.
Response to the new policies has been strong. Paul Schock, founder of The Prairie Club, said 3,600 room-nights already have been booked this year, four times as many compared to the same point in 2012. Last year the club booked a total of only 4,400 room-nights.
"It finally feels like we're going to have that breakthrough year in terms of revenues and making money," Schock said.
The club has made other changes. It ...
SEWANEE, Tenn. – As a retired Episcopal minister, King Oehmig has spent a lifetime delivering a message of salvation.
So when he talks about what architect Gil Hanse’s renovation of the University of the South’s golf course will mean to this 1,500-student liberal-arts school on Monteagle Mountain, Oehmig (pronounced EM-ig) takes on an air of a revivalist.
“It has turned out to be an incredible revamp,” said Oehmig, who earned a doctorate in divinity from the school popularly known as Sewanee after having played golf at Virginia in 1969-73. “It’s one of the great stories not only in golf but in American golf.”
Golf historians might blanch at such fire-and-brimstone praise of an out-of-the-way nine-holer. But Sewanee dreamed big with this renovation, which will open to alumni for a June 7-8 tournament before welcoming public play June 9.
“Sewanee is such a unique fit,” Oehmig said. “It’s like Oxford in Appalachia, kind of out in the middle of nowhere.”
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Nature and religion have nurtured students at the University of the South since the school’s 1857 founding by the Episcopal Church. The 13,000-acre campus, dotted with buildings of locally mined sandstone, serves as a living ...
DORNOCH, Scotland -- Todd Warnock fell hard for Royal Dornoch Golf Club the first time he visited.
"It's just so magical, so lyrical," he said. "It's a thinking-man's golf course."
Over the years, Warnock, a former managing director of investment banking at Credit Suisse First Boston, would return, sometimes alone, to Dornoch. He'd spend his days playing the great Scottish Highlands links, then retreat to his room in The Royal Golf Hotel, just left of the first fairway, to read and write.
About six years ago, he got curious about an old Georgian house on Golf Road, just behind Royal Dornoch's clubhouse and less than 100 yards from the first tee. He now owns that house, which dates to 1843, and is almost finished what appears to be a magnificent renovation, converting it into an eight-bedroom hotel.
The Links House at Royal Dornoch is scheduled to open June 1, and the American tour operators with whom I toured the property were generally wowed by what they saw.
"It's going to be something unique and special," said Debbie Bussey of Absolutely Golf & Travel. John Murray of Golf Travel Etc. predicted "it is going to be easily ...
MACHRIHANISH, Scotland – The path to Machrihanish Golf Club is about to get a little easier, and that hopefully will make one of golf's greatest old links more accessible to golf travelers.
A new ferry service will be launched May 23, connecting Ardrossan, a town 15 miles north of Troon, to Campbeltown, the small port city located five miles from Machrihanish on the Kintyre Peninsula, near the southwest tip of Scotland. The ferries will travel across the Firth of Clyde, stopping briefly at the Isle of Arran.
Machrihanish long has suffered from the great product-dubious location quandary. I've visited Machrihanish twice over the past seven years, and each of my rounds there were among the most exhilarating golf experiences I've ever had. Golf architecture buffs might quibble about the design, but the seaside setting and history – Old Tom Morris turned the original course into an 18-hole layout – trump those concerns in my mind. It has never been an Open venue, but it is a bucket-list golf experience.
The issue has been finding a way to get golfers, particularly monied Americans visitors, to the Mull of Kintyre.
Last month I played at Machrihanish with representatives of the North American ...
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Lyle Anderson is back in the development game.
Anderson, the man who shaped much of modern-day Scottsdale, Ariz., only to lose control of much of his real estate empire in 2008, plans to break ground next month on Sierra Reserve, a 223-acre development next to the Golf Club Scottsdale.
The plans call for up to 250 custom homes, ranging from 3,000 to 6,100 square feet, with most priced between $1.5 million and $2.5 million.
“There seems to be a pretty good market here in Phoenix for that price range,” Anderson said.
The first phase of construction calls for 129 homes. All homes in Sierra Reserve will be single level, set on lots ranging from one-third to one-quarter acre. Anderson plans to simplify the customization process with a variety of architectural styles and 19 adaptable floor plans.
Buyers also will have an option to purchase memberships at Golf Club Scottsdale. Nonrefundable golf memberships are $25,000; refundable memberships are $50,000.
The centerpiece of Sierra Reserve will be a 15,000-square-foot Spanish-Mediterranean amenities compound called The Villa, a gathering place for residents ...
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- A while back, ESPN anchor Mike Tirico was calling an NFL game from San Diego when he became swept up in an apparent moment of euphoria as he considered his surroundings. “Why doesn’t everybody live here?” Tirico blurted out in a spontaneous expression of affection for the scenic, famously temperate region. Who hasn’t had a similar experience, particularly when cruising the Pacific Coast Highway through beach towns such as Del Mar and Dana Point on yet another sun-drenched afternoon?
The answer to Tirico’s question, as Phil Mickelson surely could explain, is that it costs so blasted much. Over the past two decades, The Wall Street Journal reported last year, roughly 4 million more residents have left the state than have moved there. California, here I come? Well, not so much.
But if you can’t live there, perhaps that only serves to make the occasional visits toSouthern California all the more appealing.The dependable daily forecast – sunny and 75 degrees – is ideal for vacations, but wouldn’t waking up in Pleasantville 300-plus days per year get a bit tedious? No? OK, perhaps not. But for those of us who muddle through in the real world ...
CARLSBAD, Calif. - Sunrise is still 50 minutes away when Dave Ortley pulls off of Interstate 5 North onto Cristianitos Road and parks his VW Jetta TDI SportWagen along the side of the road. The clock on the dashboard reads 6:04. In a few hours, he will be at Oakley’s offices in Foothill Ranch, where he runs the company’s golf footwear and accessories divisions.
Several mornings each week, he arrives here before daylight to surf the famous Southern California beach known as Trestles, the northernmost break in San Diego County.
“It’s 40 degrees,” Ortley says, pointing to the dashboard.
A cold snap has descended on Southern California, but foul weather has never discouraged Ortley, who describes himself as “a scratch surfer and a 6 on the golf course.” Growing up in Bay Head, N.J., Ortley sometimes would slather his face in Vaseline and wear a 5 mm wetsuit so he could surf the cold Atlantic. When a hurricane was approaching, Ortley and his surf buddies would drive to Florida, then chase the storm back up the coast, the offshore winds creating the glassy water and big barrels that surfers crave.
“There’s Hempy,” he says.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- College football has plenty of rivalries of such intensity that they have martial overtones.
There’s the Civil War.
The Border War.
The Holy War.
And those “wars” don’t even include America’s greatest college rivalry, between the true warriors from Army and Navy. Yet the folks in these parts can make an argument that the annual “Duel in the Desert,” the in-state fracas between Arizona and Arizona State, is as storied as any other rivalry. The winner receives the Territorial Cup, first awarded in 1899, in what is billed as the longest-running trophy rivalry in the nation.
For your correspondent’s purely selfish reasons, it doesn’t hurt that the UA-ASU football game alternates between two cities that are synonymous with great desert golf. The regular-season finale in Tucson seemed an ideal time to become better acquainted with local institutions such as Ventana Canyon and Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain.
The latter, in the northern suburb of Marana, opened in December 2009, and two months later hosted the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
After that tournament, architect Jack Nicklaus returned to tone down the unruly greens. Still, no one would describe the elevated, wavy surfaces as tame, and the ...
FORT MEADE, Fla. – They built it and they came, 300 golf fans, media, folks associated with the owner/developer, Mosaic Co., along with architecture junkies who will go anywhere to see the latest creations of designers Tom Doak, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
Streamsong, 85 miles southwest of Orlando, is the third time their courses sit side-by-side but the first occasion in which they worked simultaneously. Their previous efforts at Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Barnbougle in Tasmania, Australia, were built in succession. At Streamsong, they worked hand-in-hand converting a reclaimed phosphate mining field into 36 holes of stunning golf. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw did the resort’s Red Course. Tom Doak did the Blue. It’s a demonstration project of ecologically sound land reclamation as well as a compelling example of what traditional, walkable golf looks like. This in a state saturated with cart-laden courses, real-estate golf and forced carries over ponds.
At an opening press conference Jan. 26, Coore said that three years ago, when and his design partner, Crenshaw, were first approached about the project, they were reluctant to build in a state that didn’t seem to need another golf course. But they were enamored ...
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, talked with Golfweek about golf tourism, plans for the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, the opening of Trump International Golf Links, and the recent announcement that the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will become the first regular European Tour event to air on network television in the United States.
GW: What percentage of your business from North America consists of golfers?
Cantlay: Roughly a quarter of Americans coming over play golf at some point. We have more courses per (capita) than anywhere else in the world. There are 560 golf courses, and 100 (are) tournament courses that I could send anyone out to without a moment’s hesitation.
GW: Do you feel as though the new Trump course near Aberdeen is going to open up a new region to golf travelers?
Cantlay: I think that’s right. The last time I was in Aberdeen speaking to a group of visitors, I said, ‘Welcome to golf city.' It’s wall-to-wall golf courses. And as you go inland, you hit another texture of clubs altogether. So, yeah, I think Mr. Trump’s course is a welcome addition to the portfolio and creates a gem in the northeast ...
PHOENIX -- Bill Johnston chuckles when he tells about the time he was the 36-hole leader of the 1958 Tucson Open. He was standing on the first tee when Stan Leonard made a practice swing and whacked Johnston’s left elbow. It swelled, Johnston shot 75 and eventually tied for 11th. The next week, Johnston won his lone PGA Tour title, the Texas Open
Invitational. He beams with pride when recounting his victory. Yet his fondest memories? They belong to the Phoenix Open.
“I always made sure I got to that one,” he said. “When I got a chance to move to Phoenix, I was never disappointed.”
What’s not to like? Perpetual sunshine gives way to the warm backdrop of a Technicolor Sonoran sunset. Pointy triangles rise abruptly from the flat desert like the pyramids forming a jagged skyline. These towering Arizona landmarks are known by distinctive names such as Camelback Mountain, which is, well, shaped like a camel’s back.
Johnston, 87, fell hard for the desert while playing in the Phoenix Open. He competed there 11 times before making the Valley of the Sun his home. He remembers his first qualifier
at Arizona Country Club as if it ...
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
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BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Went here last week looking for natural beauty and came away with crazy numbers. That can happen, even in paradise, when you go to something called a Golfweek Raters Retreat.
One attendee played 388 18-hole rounds in 2012. Another has played in more than 100 countries. Another has played more than 3,000 different courses.
Believe I’m tired just typing those numbers.
It would be something of an understatement to say these people are into golf. They are junkies who go to extremes to play yet another round or visit another remote destination.
Golfweek has about 700 people who rate golf courses for our various top-100 and top-whatever lists. Almost 20 times a year, some 15 to 24 of them attend rater retreats held at interesting courses, some outside the United States.
And the junkie factor is high even though the sample is low.
Such was the case here, where the group of about 15 played two scenic, good courses: Royal St. Kitts Golf Club and the Four Seasons Resort Nevis. The rounds weren’t just rounds of golf for some of ...
LECANTO, Fla. – Black Diamond Ranch, a residential community located 75 miles north of Tampa, has begun renovations to its clubhouse and 45 Tom Fazio-designed golf holes.
The changes are being overseen by Escalante Golf, which acquired the property in March 2011.
Interior renovations already have begun on the clubhouse’s dining facilities, boardrooms, patios, floors and furniture. Those changes are based on design work done by Club Design Associates.
Separately, golf architect David Whelchel is overseeing the redesign and reconstruction of the courses’ 208 bunkers and practice facilities using the Better Billy Bunker Method. This type of bunker construction – developed by Billy Fuller, former superintendent of Augusta National – incorporates a layer of gravel to enhance drainage. Whelchel also is going to look for ways to lengthen the courses.
While Black Diamond Ranch is a private club, it has begun to offer stay-and-play packages that start at $399 for two rounds of golf and an overnight stay at one of its homes.
Notable – The Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island, S.C., is building a 16,000-square-foot clubhouse for its Heron Point and Ocean golf courses. . . . The Golden Bear Golf Club in Windermere, Fla., has reopened following ...
INGONISH BEACH, Nova Scotia -- Canadian golf architect Ian Andrew recently recalled playing golf here at Highlands Links as a child.
“It used to be in phenomenal shape – dry as a bone, it was dusty brown, but it had the full sun,” Andrew said. When he returned in 2003, he said, “I couldn’t even recognize the place.” Trees were wildly overgrown, creating major turf problems.
Since 2009, Andrew has been addressing those issues through a gradual, but extensive, restoration. That includes the planned removal of 10 acres of trees; seven acres already have been removed, allowing the turf to get more exposure to the sun while also opening up views to the Atlantic Ocean.
“You used to be able to see the ocean on 14 holes, and when I started, you couldn’t even see the ocean on the fifth hole, which is pretty remarkable when you consider how close that is,” said Andrew, who also is nearing completion of a thorough bunker restoration.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Highlands Links is regarded by Canadians as a national treasure. It was designed by Stanley Thompson, an iconic figure in Canadian golf, and consistently has ranked among ...
As you’ll see this week at the U.S. Open, the hardest part of playing Olympic-Lake Course is keeping the ball in play. You’re constantly fighting the terrain and watching the ball roll out the “wrong way.”
Olympic Club has buried plenty of great champions.
In 1955, Ben Hogan fell apart down the stretch and eventually lost in a playoff to an unknown Iowa practice-range pro named Jack Fleck.
In 1966, Arnold Palmer squandered a seven-shot lead down the final nine and tied Billy Casper, who won the next day in a playoff. Scott Simpson was a surprise winner over Tom Watson in 1987 at Olympic. And in 1998, a future Hall-of-Famer lost his lead at Olympic as 54-hole leader Payne Stewart could not hold off Lee Janzen.
Maybe it’s too much to attribute all of that fate to Olympic’s design. But at a course where the ball can do some strange things, even the game’s best players struggle to maintain control and will find their best efforts thwarted by frustrating bounces. As Watson says of Olympic, “there are a lot of tee balls you’re hitting into fairway slopes. . . . If you’re cutting the ...