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Experiencing golden moments in Southern California

Martin Kaufmann

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 ...

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Along the shores of Pacific, golf's brightest unwind on surfboards

Martin Kaufmann

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.

Gregg ...

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UA-ASU rivalry is heated, but the golf is just plain hot

Martin Kaufmann

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 ...

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Streamsong opener: Crenshaw, Doak and Coore, side-by-side

Bradley S. Klein

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 ...

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Q&A: Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland

Martin Kaufmann

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 ...

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Arizona golf: A 'little slice of heaven'

Adam Schupak

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 ...

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Have sticks, will travel: These guys are crazy about golf

Jeff Rude

Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

• • •

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 ...

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Renovations under way at Black Diamond Ranch

Martin Kaufmann

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.

Visit blackdiamondranch.com.

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 ...

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Highlands Links getting a thorough makeover

Martin Kaufmann

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 ...

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U.S. Open: Hole-by-hole analysis of Olympic Club

Bradley S. Klein

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 ...

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Renovations put best face on Kauai golf

Martin Kaufmann

The June 1 issue of Golfweek includes a story on a visit I made to Kauai in April. That was my first time in Kauai, and what I found striking about the island is how much it had to offer, particularly for golfers. 

Given Kauai’s size – it’s the fourth-largest of the Hawaiian islands – I’d feel comfortable recommending at least seven courses, all of which are located on the eastern half of the island. As I noted in the story for the magazine, Wailua Municipal has hosted three Amateur Public Links championships, and yet it sometimes get overlooked despite its convenient location just north of Lihue Airport.

The Kauai experience has benefited from money, and lots of it. Over the past five years, most of the courses and major resorts have undergone seven- and eight-figure renovations. So I felt as though I was catching Kauai at an opportune time.

In cleaning out my notebook, I came across some material on the golf courses that I didn’t have space to include in the print version, but thought was worth passing along here.

Makai and Prince golf clubs– These neighboring North Shore courses used to have the same ownership ...

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First Links: A new starting point

Placing the uninitiated golfer on the first tee of a course stretching 7,000 yards or more makes as much sense as letting a newly licensed driver on a German autobahn.

But that’s exactly how our sport welcomes beginners who still are trying to get their swings in gear.

As if it weren’t difficult enough to sort countless swing thoughts or avoid ball-sucking hazards, new golfers often clog open fairways, unleashing the wrath of frustrated players waiting behind them.

It’s little wonder the game isn’t growing.

But the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the PGA of America have proposed a fix for the problem, a plan to create what is obviously missing: Bunny slopes – or golf’s version of them.

Raising awareness in the golf industry of the need for beginner facilities – staples at virtually every ski resort – is the mission of First Links, a new grant program designed to help existing course owners add such amenities to their properties.

“What we really need is something in between going to a driving range and stepping up to a championship golf course,” said John LaFay, president of the ASGCA Foundation.

Hoping to join an industry-wide ...

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Kaufmann: Florida governor's recycled idea belongs in the trash

Martin Kaufmann

Why is it that some of the worst ideas get recycled more often than cheap plastic?

A year ago, Florida Gov. Rick Scott threw his weight behind a ridiculous proposal for a Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail, which would have put the state on the hook to build as many as five courses in state parks. It was difficult to identify a single redeeming element in that boneheaded legislation. It ignored the fact that Florida’s golf course market already is plainly oversaturated. The legislation envisioned a no-bid contract for Nicklaus. And the idea of building in state parks promised to provide one of those rare instances when the environmental lobby could stomp its feet and scream, yet actually seem reasonable.

So when the legislation was yanked in March 2011, we Floridians assumed we wouldn’t hear anything more about such folly. Ah, but apparently I’m getting naive in my old age.

In a recent interview with my colleague Alex Miceli, Scott said he continues to “look at programs to add more golf courses around the state with a variety of well-named golfers.” Scott added, “I tell people all the time, If you can show a return for state taxpayers ...

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The scenic route north to Jasper

Martin Kaufmann

JASPER, Alberta – Icefields Parkway is a 144-mile road that parallels the Continental Divide, connecting the Canadian national parks in Banff and Jasper. The road’s evocative name – its pedestrian moniker is Highway 93 – is fitting, but only hints at the sights in store on one of Canada’s most scenic drives.

Driving northwest out of Banff, drivers pick up the parkway near Lake Louise. Even on a drizzly July day, hundreds of visitors are drawn to the serene emerald lake, which is situated in a mountainous cove and set against the Mount Victoria Glacier. Tourists hike, they canoe, they shop or dine in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – anything to be near the lake.

The parkway draws its name from the Columbia Icefield, and some visitors like to pile into giant snowcoaches for a 90-minute ride across the Athabasca Glacier, the tongue of which hangs off the mountain within walking distance of the road.

Jasper, upon finally arriving, is best viewed from the Tramway, which sits on the southern edge of town and rises 3,200 feet up Whistlers Mountain, to 7,472 at the upper station. From there, ambitious souls can scramble another 400 feet or so up to ...

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Analysis: In Rio, a false start amid all the games

Bradley S. Klein

Nobody thought getting Rio de Janeiro ready for the 2016 Olympic Games would be easy, least of all for golf.

After a closely-watched public bid to award design of the proposed championship venue went to American course architect Gil Hanse last month, Rio 2016, the committee responsible for building the course (and other sports venues), has yet to move forward. It doesn’t own the land that has been identified as the course site, and the committee can’t persuade the city to come up with the money to acquire the land and build the course.

The 220-acre site in the Barra district southwest of downtown Rio and near the proposed Olympic Village is intended not only to serve as venue for the 2016 golf competition, the first in the Olympics in more than 100 years, but is planned as a public-access “legacy” course to help promote golf development in a city with no other daily-fee course. The city doesn’t own the land and has been forced to negotiate with the title holder, entrepreneur Pasquale Mauro.

The city is reluctant to seize the land by eminent domain. It would prove too politically sensitive to claim private land for such ...

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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.

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