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Dorado Beach adding a Ritz Reserve

Martin Kaufmann

Renovations to Dorado Beach Resort & Club in Puerto Rico are continuing with the recent announcement that the resort will be home to a new Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

The 130-room property, the first phase of a planned $1.2 billion project, will fill a void left since the 2006 closing of the Hyatt Dorado Beach. Twenty of the Ritz-Reserve rooms will be offered for purchase. The hotel is expected to be open by late 2012.

Dorado Beach, owned since 2007 by the Caribbean Property Group, is a 962-acre resort and residential property with four golf courses and 2.5 miles of beachfront. It is located west of San Juan, on the island’s north shore.

The government of Puerto Rico has thrown its weight behind the project, pledging a $231 million loan for the first phase. That loan is backed by the Government Development Bank, the Tourism Development Fund and several financial firms.

Long-term plans call for construction of a $600 million hotel with 400 rooms, but that financing has not been secured. 

Dorado Beach is one of Puerto Rico’s most historic properties. Laurence Rockefeller opened the resort in 1958 with one course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and it ...

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Minnesota’s top course closes, but then re-opens

Martin Kaufmann

Editor's note: Since the writing of this initial article, Giants Ridge has re-opened despite the budget issues.

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This should be the height of the golf season in Minnesota, but since July 1 golfers haven’t been able to play the top-ranked course in the state.

The two courses at Giants Ridge, a resort in northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range, were forced to close when the state government shut down over a budget impasse. The resort, located about 60 miles north of Duluth, is operated by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, a state economic-development agency. The resort’s privately operated lodging facilities remain open.

Giants Ridge is home to The Quarry, ranked No. 1 on the list of Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in Minnesota. The resort’s other course, The Legend, also is highly regarded and has been ranked among the state’s top 10 in past years. 

Though the region is remote and lightly populated, it’s a popular golf destination because of Giants Ridge and The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, a resort course located nearby in Tower, Minn. The Wilderness is ranked No. 2 in the state and held the No. 1 ranking ...

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Jack tackles chronicle of Pebble with success

Martin Kaufmann

“Let There Be Pebble” arrived as unexpectedly as Shivas Irons showing up on the first tee at Burningbush, ready to share golf’s mystical and metaphysical secrets. In a world where the hype machine needs to be taken in for a tuneup after every 5,000 press releases, Zachary Michael Jack’s chronicling of his year at Pebble Beach, culminating with the 2010 U.S. Open, landed on my desk with precious little fanfare. 

Perhaps we can chalk that up to the modest Midwestern ethos of Jack, a college professor in Illinois, and his publisher. Regardless, I suspect “Let There Be Pebble” won’t fly under the radar for long, this being the writerly equivalent of Tiger Woods’ 15-shot romp at Pebble in 2000.

Jack self-deprecatingly refers to himself as “an Iowa farm boy” or – far more damning – a “golf writer.” (He has the Toyota Echo with 200,000 miles on it to prove it.) Truth is, Jack is simply a writer, and one with unusual gifts; golf just happens to be his genre, albeit one he knows well. Words and metaphors seem to cascade from Jack’s brain in a wondrous display of free association. While his narrative is ...

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5 Things: The ins and outs of Congressional

Bradley S. Klein

BETHESDA, Md. – When following the U.S. Open on screen, whether digitally or visually, here are Five Things to look for about how the course is playing. As strong of a playing surface as Congressional presents, there are some areas that will really test a player’s ability to adjust.

1.) 10th-tee blues: The toughest shot this week will be the opening tee shot on the 10th tee, the 218-yard par-3 across water to a green that is pretty shallow from back to front. With split times and players going off the first and 10th holes, every player will face this daunting opening swing once this week. But pity the morning players who have to face it before their bodies are likely to be fully tuned. We’ll try to track the statistical difference here, but watch for a shot differential between those who play it first and those who play it as their 10th hole.

2.) Toast: If the edges of greens look as though they’ve been through a toaster, the discoloration is real. Something’s going on with these putting surfaces, whose bentgrass surfaces are only 2 years old after yet another rebuild. Maybe it’s the ...

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Saunders earns trip to U.S. Open

Julie Williams

VERO BEACH, Fla. – By the time Sam Saunders putted out on his 37th hole Monday evening – a swift 6-footer for par – the shadows were so long that the gallery assembled on a hill near the 18th green had to be careful not to move so as not to interfere with the fierce playoff taking place below. History was on the line.

Saunders, the 23-year-old grandson of Arnold Palmer, was on the verge of qualifying for his first U.S. Open. After a grueling day of golf in blazing Florida heat at Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Saunders ended regulation tied at 3-under 141 with Andres Echavarria, who just finished his senior year at Florida, and Michael Barbosa, a former Georgia Tech standout.

The three were shuttled back to the 18th tee, a 450-yard par 4 with water running down the left side, and Saunders, under a dramatic stillness, managed an up-and-down par from the back of the green to safely qualify. Barbosa, with bogey, joined him as Joey Lamielle was already safe in the clubhouse after finishing at 4-under 140.

Though hardly a seasoned veteran in this game, Saunders has had his share of experience in both Tour ...

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In Upper Midwest, a golf season in peril

Bradley S. Klein

Souris Valley Golf Course, a popular muni in Minot, N.D., has more water holes than ever. The Souris River that bisects the course has spilled its banks and flooded most of the 18 holes. The course, part of the Minot Park District, might not fully open this season, golf professional Steve Kottsick said.

If so, it likely won’t be alone.

Across the Upper Midwest, where melting snowpacks and record spring rains have forced the evacuation of entire towns, golf courses stand in danger of an abbreviated season – perhaps a total wash-out. The Missouri River Basin imperils courses from eastern Montana across the Dakotas and into western Iowa.

Bully Pulpit Golf Course in Medora, N.D., has closed because of the rising Little Missouri River that ambles through the front nine. In Bismarck, the raging Missouri River has closed Riverwood Golf Course for the year.

Downriver in Pierre, S.D., city muni Hillsview Golf Course is “two-thirds covered with water,” course manager Todd Surdez said. Ironically, the course has no usable irrigation, because the pump house is submerged. Workers haul water by truck to hose elevated greens in an effort to keep them alive. With the Army Corps of ...

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Prairie Club revises operations entering second year

Martin Kaufmann

Paul Schock is one of the most accomplished amateur golfers in South Dakota history. But when it comes to The Prairie Club, the ambitious golf resort project that he developed in the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska, Schock acknowledges that he needed a mulligan.

The Valentine, Neb., resort, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, has some stunning assets, including two distinctive 18-hole courses, a short course, and an elegant lodge near the rim of the Snake River Canyon. Schock and his staff, however, quickly learned last year how difficult it is to run a high-end resort, particularly in a remote location.

“We really stumbled at times with our operations,” Schock said. “One of the strengths of The Prairie Club is that it’s a long way away. But trying to run a five-star resort in such a remote area is really hard. Hiring the right people has been really hard.”

Schock and some of his senior staff tried last year to manage the property from their offices in Sioux Falls, S.D., a four-hour drive from Valentine. That experience convinced him that he needed stronger onsite management. John Harbison, who had been the general manager of two Florida clubs over the ...

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Brazilian resort with Faldo design to begin construction

Buoyed by Rio de Janeiro’s hosting of the 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazil is beginning to realize what many industry observers anticipated would be the dawning of a course-development era.

The Summer Games, which will feature golf competition for the first time since 1904, is expected to spark interest in the sport not only in Brazil, but throughout the region. Hoping to capitalize on that Olympic legacy are new golf facilities such as the Rio de Janeiro International Golf Resort.

Led by the UK’s International Golf & Resort Management Ltd. and Rio-based development company JCN, the development has been approved to start construction just outside Petropolis, Brazil. The $300 million project is planned to feature at least 850 hotel rooms and two 18-hole courses. The first of the layouts will be designed by Nick Faldo in association with Steve Smyers Golf Course Architects.

The developers are touting the project as a pioneering effort in South America, in part, because it also will feature a golf academy designed to teach future golfers of various economic backgrounds. The resort also is hoping to become a tourism magnet, especially with its location approximately 30 miles from Rio de Janeiro’s International Airport.

Developers ...

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Slow play? Not in Angel Park’s Express Lane

Martin Kaufmann

Want to play 18 holes in well under four hours? You need to get in the Express Lane.

That’s the name of a fast-play program being run on Saturday mornings at Angel Park Golf Club, a busy 36-hole facility in Las Vegas. Express Lane players sign a pledge agreeing to play in 3 hours, 45 minutes or less. Angel Park’s staff reserves the right to make groups skip holes or move to the other course if they’re not maintaining the proper pace.

So far that hasn’t been a problem, according to Greg Brockelman, Angel Park’s director of golf. Angel Park, which is managed by OB Sports, started the program in mid-February, and Brockelman said golfers have maintained the 3:45 pace. They’re actually averaging less than 3:30, and the record to date is a foursome that finished in 2:48. The program, he added, “has policed itself.”

“We’re not reprogramming these golfers,” Brockelman said. “They’re generally fast golfers who are gravitating to those tee times because they want to play with other fast golfers.”

When golfers call to schedule Express Lane tee times, they are told that they have to play ...

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Boyne adds Hidden River to its roster

Martin Kaufmann

Boyne Resorts, the large golf-and-ski operator in northern Michigan, has added a ninth course to its golf portfolio.

Boyne will manage Hidden River Golf & Casting Club in Brutus, Mich., about 10 miles east of Boyne Highlands, where four of the company’s 18-hole layouts are located.

Hidden River was designed by Michigan native W. Bruce Matthews III, and opened in 1998. It was acquired in 2007 by Tom and Lisa Foster, who live in Spring Lake, Mich., about a four-hour drive south of the course. The Fosters continue to own the property, but have turned over management of the course and restaurant to Boyne.

Hidden River opened for the 2011 season on April 15, earlier than any other course operated by Boyne. The course, which is included in Boyne’s golf packages, also typically stays open later in the fall season than Boyne’s other courses.

“Hidden River complements the BOYNE golf experience by providing our guests with another premier course to play plus creates greater tee time availability and further increases the value of our golf packages and memberships,” Bernie Friedrich, Boyne Resorts’ vice president of golf, marketing and retail operations, said in a statement.

Visit www.boyne.com.


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French Lick to host U.S. Hickory Open

Martin Kaufmann

Bust out the plus-fours, tam-o’-shanters and Calamity Jane knockoffs. The fourth annual U.S. Hickory Open championship is approaching.

French Lick (Ind.) Resort will host the national championship of the persimmon-and-featherie crowd July 11-13 on its Donald Ross Course. The course, which opened in 1917 and hosted the 1924 PGA Championship won by Walter Hagen, has the sort of history that is well suited for hickory players’ biggest tournament. The layout is just a few years removed from a $4.6 million renovation, part of a $500 million renovation of the 3,000-acre resort.

The U.S. Hickory Open will consist of a practice round July 11, followed by a 36-hole tournament over the next two days. There will be three divisions for competitors: Championship, which will be played from the 6,274-yard white tees; Senior (60-plus), which will be played from the 5,810-yard gold tees; and Ladies, who will play from the 5,008-yard red tees. The overall champion must play from the white tees.

French Lick Resort, located about 100 miles south of Indianapolis, completed a $500 million renovation in 2009. It has 689 rooms in its two hotels – the French Lick Springs Hotel and West ...

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Tullymore launches home trade-in program

Martin Kaufmann

The owners of the Resorts of Tullymore & St. Ives want to make you a deal on a new home. Sound familiar? There’s a twist. The Stanwood, Mich., resort will buy your current home if you buy a home at Tullymore.

Tullymore (www.tullymoregolf.com) adopted the unusual trade-in program this month in an effort to sell about a dozen spec homes, most of which are finished construction. Terry Schieber, CEO of the resort, said a homeowner suggested the trade-in idea, which had been tried about a decade ago on a Detroit construction project.

“We’re trying to jumpstart our economy here at Tullymore,” Schieber said. “We have a strategic plan to do this because of our competitive advantage of not having any debt.”

The program allows for the possibility that a homebuyer could receive more for his existing home than he pays for a new home at Tullymore. For example, the buyer might pay $500,000 for a home at Tullymore, but receive $600,000 for his existing home if that is the property’s value.

He emphasized, however, that this is “not a bailout program” for homeowners whose existing mortgages are underwater.

“We don’t have to make ...

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Talking Stick tackles tough Scottsdale market

Martin Kaufmann

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It was 18 years ago when Robb McCreary first saw plans for a large resort on Indian Bend Road, just outside of the 101 Loop. Those plans called for an 800-room hotel, casino, horse track and arena.

Flash forward to the present day and McCreary, who spent 27 years working for Hyatt and Hilton, now is the director of that resort, which is owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

The plans for Talking Stick Resort changed over time, but the idea for a self-contained, amenity-rich resort ultimately was realized. The 15-story, 497-room hotel towers over 36-hole Talking Stick Golf Club. The casino that used to be housed in tents along Indian Bend Road has been moved into the hotel’s lobby casino.

Just inside the 101 Loop, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, an 11,000-seat baseball stadium with 12 practice fields, opened in late February to serve as the spring home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

The hotel opened last July – not exactly the height of Scottsdale’s tourism season – and gradually has been ramping up business.

“We are not hitting the levels of the established properties as far as occupancy, but we ...

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Price cut spikes demand at Golf Club Scottsdale

Martin Kaufmann

These days, if you’re looking for the best deal in this golf hotbed, you have a lot of options from which to choose given the recessionary effect on home prices, club memberships and green fees.

One of the most intriguing, however, can be found at Golf Club Scottsdale, where the nonrefundable price to get in the door recently dropped to $25,000 ($50,000 refundable). That’s down from $110,000 when the club opened in 2007.

The rate cut has had the desired effect. McIntee said the club added 12 memberships the first month it was in effect, and he said last month was the best February sales period to date.

Golf Club Scottsdale, a highly regarded Jay Morrish design, sits on 290 of the most pristine acres in North Scottsdale, with no homes in sight and some dramatic swings in elevation that afford players striking views of the McDowell Mountains and Four Peaks. It aims to be a club for serious players – somewhat akin to that found at nearby Whisper Rock – with what McIntee describes as a “cowboy casual” culture.

The club initially was a hit, signing up 67 members in its first year of operations. In ...

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Wet or dry, PGA National will play tough for Honda

Alex Miceli

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – It’s the first week on the Florida Swing, which means visiting one of the best courses on the PGA Tour: PGA National.

Since the Honda Classic was moved to the Champions Course five years ago, the beauty of the venue has been the hard and fast conditions of the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. Early this week, hard and fast has been replaced by soft conditions, which has changed the characteristics of the course.

“The golf course is soft, without any question,” Paul Goydos said after his practice round on Tuesday. “What matters is how the course is Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully it will be a little firmer Thursday. We were actually getting mud on our balls on the front side.”

With the warm conditions in South Florida, it was clear that the superintendent needed to put ample amounts of water on the course to allow for the winter overseed to take. While the course will look very green, it also is wetter than usual. With a storm coming Tuesday afternoon, the course will have additional water added to the mix.

One of the by-products of the warm conditions has been intense rough that is ...

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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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