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USGA appeals to S.F. mayor to save Sharp Park

Bradley S. Klein

The U.S. Golf Association has weighed in on the public debate about San Francisco’s Sharp Park Golf Course and come to the support of the beleaguered municipal layout.

In a letter to San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, a copy of which was obtained by Golfweek, USGA executive director Mike Davis expresses concern over the effects of a Board of Supervisors resolution passed Dec. 13 that likely would lead to “the demise of one of America’s most precious public golf courses.”

The letter goes on to urge the mayor “to consider appropriate actions that would allow continuation of the honored tradition of affordable, accessible and environmental-friendly public golf at Sharp Park.”

While the letter does not actually call for Lee to veto the Board of Supervisors’ recent vote, the possibility of an executive veto now looms as a distinct possibility to override the measure that passed by a 6-5 vote.

Davis’ letter does address the historic nature of the golf course – a design by Alister Mackenzie to whom Davis refers as “the Frank Lloyd Wright of golf.” The five-paragraph letter goes on to laud the golf course as “a living breathing, functioning San Francisco landmark."

Sharp Park ...

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Diamante raises the bar in Cabo

Martin Kaufmann

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico – Three years ago, during my first visit to Mexico’s Los Cabos, I jumped on an ATV and drove across enormous dunes to see the planned site for two Jack Nicklaus golf courses. The site for the still-stalled Quivira development, which sits high above the point where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, remains perhaps the most spectacular setting I’ve ever seen for a proposed course. 

From that hillside, another course was visible just to the west. It appeared to be nearly completed, but was sitting dormant. No workers were in sight, and certainly no golfers. 

Work on the Diamante Dunes Course and the entire 1,500-acre development had been halted after Lehman Brothers, a key source of financing, crashed and burned in September 2008. I assumed the project was dead in the water, but fortunately, I was wrong. The Dunes Course has been open since October 2009, and I finally got a chance to see it up close on Dec. 10. 

First impression: Even in the crowded Cabo golf market, Diamante stands out as a special experience. Part of that stems from the fact that it’s the lone Cabo course located ...

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Finalists selected for Olympic course design

Bradley S. Klein

Competitive bidding for plum course-design assignments is nothing new for golf architects.

But it’s fair to say that the industry never has seen a bigger project pursued by so many distinguished teams as is the case now with golf’s return to the Olympics for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

What began as an open call for qualified designers that drew more than two dozen applications has been narrowed to an elite eight: Tom Doak, Gil Hanse, Martin Hawtree, Robert Trent Jones II, Gary Player and the design teams of Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam; Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa; and Peter Thomson and Ross Perrett.

The applicants signed confidentially agreements. As a condition of the project, the three-man team representing 2016 Rio Olympics has set a fee of $300,000 – a fraction of the normal design rate most of these architects receive. The big prize here will be the prestige of having designed a showpiece for the global game.

The site itself is an undistinguished, virtually flat, land-locked parcel on the far southwest side of Rio de Janeiro near the planned Olympic Village. Technical specifications, as well as budgets, environmental issues and timeline, will be shared ...

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Marco Island acquires Hammock Bay GC

Martin Kaufmann

Earlier this year, I made my first visit to the Marco Island Marriott in southwest Florida, and it turned out to be one of my “top finds” of 2011. Now comes news that the Marriott has acquired Hammock Bay Golf Course to complement The Rookery at Marco, its existing course.

The courses are located off-site – The Rookery is nine miles inland, Hammock Bay six miles away – and will alternate daily between members-only play and member-and-guest play. Green fees will range from $79 to $179, depending on the season. 

Hammock Bay is a 7,080-yard layout designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy. It should be a good addition to an already-impressive resort.

A few years ago, a friend urged me to visit Marco Island to see the Gulf-front Marriott and The Rookery. Once I visited, I could understand his enthusiasm for the property. 

The Marco Island Marriott is simply fabulous – one of the best oceanfront resorts I’ve seen in Florida. The resort went through a $225 million renovation that was completed in 2007 and was billed as the largest capital investment ever to an existing Marriott property. What you’re left with is considerable: 727 exceedingly comfortable rooms, 10 ...

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Dorado East emerges from renovations

Martin Kaufmann

DORADO, Puerto Rico – The East Course at Dorado Beach arguably is the most historic course in the Caribbean, and for decades was considered one of the best. 

It was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. as part of a seaside resort developed by Laurance Rockefeller’s RockResorts brand. Eight Champions Tour events and the 1964 World Cup of Golf have been played on the East Course. 

When I first visited Dorado Beach in April 2008, however, both the resort and its East Course looked tired. The property’s old Hyatt hotel was an eyesore waiting to be demolished, and the East Course and much of the resort needed extensive landscaping to clear out overgrown trees and foliage so that residents and guests could enjoy the chief attraction: the Atlantic Ocean. 

In July 2010, the resort announced an ambitious redevelopment project, thanks largely to backing from the government’s Tourism Development Fund. The heavy equipment churning away behind construction fencing is evidence that the $342 million first phase is well underway. The most tangible sign of progress is the East Course, which reopened in late October following renovations by the firm run by Robert Trent Jones Jr., whose memories of the ...

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Salamander expands Florida reach by adding 2 resorts

Martin Kaufmann

Sheila C. Johnson is the latest hospitality executive to try to profit from one of Bobby Ginn’s numerous failures.

Salamander Hotels & Resorts, the Middleburg, Va., hospitality company that Johnson founded in 2005, will assume management of Reunion Resort near Orlando, Fla., and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, on Florida’s northeast coast. Salamander also has taken an ownership stake in the resorts, according to Prem Devadas, the company’s president.

The resorts are owned by Lubert-Adler, L.P., a real estate equity firm. They originally were developed by Ginn, whose resort business grew quickly during the real estate boom and collapsed just as abruptly.

Devadas wouldn’t disclose the size of Salamander’s investment in Reunion and Hammock Beach, but said, “It is significantly enough that it aligns our interests (with the existing ownership’s), which is very different from a typical management (contract).”

Johnson and Devadas made the announcement at Reunion, in an event that was more pep rally than press conference. They were joined by Annika Sorenstam, whose golf academy is based at Reunion.

Along with Innisbrook Golf Resort, which Johnson acquired in 2007, Reunion and Hammock Beach give Salamander three major golf resorts along the ...

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Destination: Zanesville? It's an arranged marriage

Steve Harmon

ZANESVILLE, Ohio – When avid golfers envision a vacation spot, they’ve likely got Bandon Dunes, Pinehurst or one of the many Sunbelt destinations in mind.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever considered Zanesville, Ohio.

Didn’t think so.

Truckers running freight from Columbus east to Pittsburgh know this stop on I-70 as the last city of any size before cornfields give way to the Appalachian foothills. Golfers are starting to identify this crossroads of east-central Ohio as a weigh station of another kind.

Longaberger Golf Club, minutes north in Nashport, and EagleSticks Golf Club in Zanesville have forged a coalition among competitors. Longaberger, the perennial champion in the Golfweek’s Best Ohio rankings, and EagleSticks, an annual contender, have bucked the economic headwinds of recent years. Sure, business is off a bit – in the single-digit percentages – but it could be much worse. Their partnership is a big reason why it isn’t.

It’s sort of like a two-man scramble team: one bomber (Longaberger) paired with a precision player (EagleSticks).

“We went together and created a win-win,” said Danny Ackerman, Longaberger’s general manager and head professional.

EagleSticks, an efficiently routed Michael Hurdzan design on a cozy 135-acre tract ...

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Orender to lead women’s initiatives for ‘Golf 2.0’

PGA of America executives want to “reset” the golf industry.

In other words, they’re launching an all-out effort to fix golf’s ills and intend to make the game more affordable, more inviting and less time consuming.

Considering the steady decline in participation and economic challenges that are causing consumers to re-prioritize how they spend their discretionary dollars, the PGA’s push is long overdue. Campaigns to grow the game are nothing new, but this initiative is accompanied, finally, with a sense of urgency that ultimately may differentiate it from previous efforts.

Says Allen Wronowski, PGA president: “Golf 2.0 is one of the most important initiatives that the PGA and the entire industry has undertaken.”

Golf 2.0, as the PGA calls its strategic plan, aims to strengthen “core golfers,” re-engage “lapsed” players and recruit new ones. With the help of the Boston Consulting Group, the PGA has identified nine consumer groups and plans to design tailored programs to attract each to the game. And when it comes to inviting women, the PGA has turned to a familiar ally: Donna Orender, a former PGA Tour executive and more recently, president of the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Orender ...

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Scottsdale schedules new amateur tournament

Martin Kaufmann

Waste Management and the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau have created the Waste Management Scottsdale Open, a three-round amateur tournament that will be held prior to the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The tournament will be played Jan. 13-15 on three courses:

• Round 1: Best-ball format on Troon North’s Monument Course 

• Round 2: Best-ball format on Grayhawk’s Raptor Course

• Round 3: Combined team score format on the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course.

The final round at TPC Scottsdale will be played under conditions similar to those PGA Tour players will experience three weeks later at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. 

The format is a two-person team event with gross score, net score and senior (55 years old) net score divisions. Trophies will be awarded to the top three players in each division.

The cost to enter is $895 per player. That includes three rounds, gift package, pairings party and awards ceremony. 

The host courses are offering reduced rates Jan. 10-12 for players who want to schedule practice rounds. 

Visit www.scottsdaleopengolf.com


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Storms batter courses from south to north

Bradley S. Klein

“Didn’t there used to be a bunker there?”

Golf course architect Brian Silva knows The Quechee (Vt.) Club extremely well. He’s been working there on and off for 15 years, and just rebuilt nine greens on the Highland Course last fall. But as he surveyed by foot the storm-ravaged 36-hole facility during the Labor Day weekend, he found himself continually asking superintendent Ken Lallier about features of the layout that literally had disappeared. Even after five days of cleanup, there was silt everywhere, bridges ripped out, irrigation pipe protruding and huge gashes in what had been putting greens, fairways and tees.

 Silva described the damage as “the worst I have seen in my 30 years as an architect. And we’re just talking about the golf course. What happened to parts of the state and to whole towns was far worse.”

With Hurricane Irene making landfall the previous weekend, Aug. 27-28, golf courses along the Eastern Seaboard from Cape Hatteras, N.C.  to Cape Cod, Mass., prepared for the combined fury of relentless winds, heavy rains and tidal surges. By Sunday, as the storm approached New England, Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm. But rains continued ...

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PerryGolf launches East Coast cruises

Martin Kaufmann

Imagine playing a round of golf at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, then boarding a luxurious 104-foot yacht with a few of your closest friends and cruising down the coast to Hilton Head to play Harbour Town. Sort of makes the winding drive down U.S. 17 seem passé by comparison.

Tour operator PerryGolf is launching just such a service this fall as part of a new partnership with McMillen Yachts Inc. The golf cruises are being offered during McMillen’s shoulder seasons – late October to early December, and mid-April to early June. 

PerryGolf, best known for taking golf groups to play the world’s trophy courses, has been operating golf cruises in Europe for several years. Its partnership with McMillen Yachts is its entree into the U.S. cruising market.

“We feel strongly that’s it’s one of those unique experiences that no one is really doing,” said Gordon Dalgleish, president of PerryGolf.

Dalgleish emphasizes that itineraries are flexible and can be tailored for small golf groups. A tentative five-day, four-night itinerary, posted on PerryGolf’s website (www.perrygolf.com), suggests a trip that begins in Charleston, with golf at the Ocean Course, Harbour Town and May ...

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Did you know: Erin Hills Golf Course

ERIN, Wis. – For a course that is only 5 years old, Erin Hills understandably wouldn't yield many historical anecdotes. However, the site of the U.S. Amateur still offers some interesting facts, despite its relative youth. After scouring the course in search of interesting facts and stories, here’s what I came up with:

During a course renovation in 2009, the grounds crew laid out 24 1/2 miles of sod.

The caddie barn is, in fact, a barn. Original owner Bob Lang was driving through Iowa when he stumbled upon a random barn. He had to have it, so he bought the building and had it disassembled to be trucked back to Wisconsin.

This week, spectators are parking on an open piece of land on the golf course, then being shuttled to the course. Before the land was used for a parking lot, it was home to four houses. Erin Hills did not want any houses on the golf course, so one by one they were purchased and moved off of the property. Through the spring of 2009, the director of golf resided in the last house that remained. In the fall of 2009, new owner Andrew Ziegler ...

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Boxgroove promotes new private-club model

Martin Kaufmann

When he was a member of Jefferson Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008, McRedmond Morelli noticed something that offended his business sensibilities: an abundance of unused tee times. This is hardly unusual. Nationwide, Morelli found, 62 percent of private-club tee times go unused.

From that observation, a business was born. In 2009 Morelli launched Boxgroove.com, a web-based vehicle for golfers to schedule rounds at hundreds of private clubs. In theory, golfers could do that already by asking their home-club pro to arrange reciprocal rounds with other clubs. But, Morelli said, "That's like calling your travel agent to schedule a flight. Nobody does that anymore."

Boxgroove's appeal to private clubs is not only incremental revenues, but a marketing vehicle to increase membership. Brian Jorgenson, director of golf at Nashville Golf and Athletic Club, said he viewed Boxgroove as "a no-brainer" because it's a free, low-maintenance means of advertising his club to Nashville residents and visitors.

Boxgroove has signed 395 affiliated clubs and almost 6,000 golfers in 43 states and three countries. Nearly 40,000 tee times have been booked through the service. Unlike tee-time services, Boxgroove does not discount; its software is free to courses ...

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Klein: Focus on caddies is unparalleled

Bradley S. Klein

What a week for caddies on the PGA Tour. Anyone who thought that bag toters (like baseball umpires) did their jobs the best when nobody noticed them would have been caught off guard by a flurry of news reports.

The big story, of course, was snarly Steve Williams getting sacked after 12 spectacularly successful years of clearing the way for Tiger Woods. Seems the issue was loyalty. In a rare faux pas, it seems Williams got antsy sitting around waiting for his man to heal and went out to work for Adam Scott without securing proper clearances.

Considerable speculation ensued as to who would succeed Williams.

British bookies even established a betting line on the several candidates. In the end - or perhaps only in the interim - Woods opted for his longtime friend, Bryon Bell, who has exactly three tournaments under his belt. Nominally, Bell is head of Woods’ golf course design operation, though the workload there is moribund of late.

In any case, there’s only one person who will be scrutinized more carefully than Bell this week for his on-course performance at the Wold Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio: That’s Tiger Woods himself ...

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Indiana launches Pete Dye Golf Trail

Martin Kaufmann

Add Pete Dye to the list of architects who have had golf trails named in their honor.

Dye’s home state of Indiana has begun marketing the Pete Dye Golf Trail, a collection of seven of the architects’ design. The trail stretches from Culver in northern Indiana to French Lick, about 100 miles south of Indianapolis. The idea is similar to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama and Jack Nicklaus' Bear Trace courses in Tennessee.

Indiana is home to more Dye-designed courses than any other state. The 85-year-old Dye, a longtime resident of the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, picked the seven courses that make up the trail.

Moving from north to south, the trail courses are: 

• Mystic Hills (Culver), which has starkly different nines thanks to the sandy terrain on which the front side was built;

• The Kampen Course (West Lafayette), Purdue’s home course and host to 2008 NCAA Men’s Championship and 2003 NCAA Women’s Championship;

• Plum Creek (Carmel), which hosted the 2003 State Open;

• The Fort (Indianapolis), located on the site of a former U.S. Army post that is now a state park;

• Brickyard Crossing (Indianapolis), a former Champions Tour site with four ...

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