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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 . . .
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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 ...
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 . . .
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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 ...
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 . . .
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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 ...
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 8 installment . . .
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INVERNESS, Scotland - I’ve never come to the U.K. the week before the Open Championship, at least not to cover a tournament, but this week I start my month in Britain covering the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
The last time I covered an event this far north was the Walker Cup at Nairn in 1999 when the U.S. got smoked in Sunday singles, 7-1, and lost the cup, 15-9.
Those teams had a few headliners - Matt Kuchar for the U.S. with Paul Casey and Luke Donald for GB&I foremost among them.
Which means Casey is returning to a place where he has had success - on the heels of having had success in Ireland two weeks ago.
Arriving in Edinburgh on Sunday morning, I decided to drive up to Inverness, using the movie "Skyfall," the recent James Bond sequel, as my guide.
Bond went up the A82; I decided to take a different route through ...
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 ...
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Machrihanish Dunes will reward four random golfers with a shot at $1 million on its par-3 14th hole.