LAS VEGAS -- Spend enough time in this oasis of a town and you’ll end up thinking it’s for real.
Or so it seems – which is pretty good for a faux city that has erased the line between nature and culture, between artifice and substance.
A round at Wynn Golf Club, just off the Las Vegas strip, should be enough to convince anyone that given unlimited imagination, money and nerve, you basically can create something out of nothing. In this case, a Tom Fazio layout, ranked No. 16 on Golfweek’s Best Casino Courses list, that’s good enough to draw 17,000 rounds per year at a green fee that runs $300 to $500, depending upon the season, plus caddie. If that seems expensive, and it is, my advice is to just go elsewhere. There are plenty of other places to play golf in Las Vegas – but none that evokes quite the creative sensibility that animates life and death along the Vegas Strip. Out here, anything is possible and acceptable. The recipe for this city is not that complicated. Take the uncompromising ambition of Howard Roark, the barely fictional architect in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” pump him ...
SONOMA, Calif. -- Spend enough time in wine country, popping corks and playing courses, and you come to learn this difference between grapes and golfers: the former like to struggle, the latter don’t.
Just ask Ehren Jordan, an acclaimed winemaker who carries a 10 index and produces, among other prestigious labels, some of California’s finest pinot noir.
When he’s in the field, Jordan favors vines that battle for survival; their fight in stingy soil gives rise to complex fruit. But on the links, he sees no point in suffering, even when his game is rusty, as it was on a recent autumn afternoon.
“Golf is never a hardship for me,” Jordan said, having just flubbed his chip shot on a short par 3. “No matter how the round goes, I’m just thrilled to be on the course.”
The day was hot and still, as it often is in the middle of crush season, and sunlight speckled the grounds of Northwood Golf Club, a historic nine-hole layout in Sonoma County, roughly 90 minutes north of San Francisco but five minutes from two vineyards where Jordan harvests grapes for Failla Wines, the winery he runs with his wife, Anne-Marie ...
VALENTINE, Neb. -- Three hundred sparsely populated miles separate this north-central Nebraska town from Omaha, but for Sherman Bixby, an investment counselor who had made the drive to host some clients at The Prairie Club, the distance seemed even greater.
“It’s a whole different world up here,” Bixby said.
That’s clearly a good thing. Having just feasted on a Nebraska-bred filet and bacon-wrapped scallops, Bixby was relaxing at dusk on the deck just off the Canyon Room restaurant, holding a glass of red wine and wearing the beatific look that one might find on a man who had just stuck his approach across the Snake River Canyon on the 18th hole of the Pines Course for a closing birdie.
“When you get done with a day of golf and sit out on the veranda, there’s absolutely no sound,” Bixby said. “It’s absolutely fantastic. I’m not from a big city, but you can’t get away from sound.” So Bixby savors his regular visits to this part of the Nebraska Sandhills. “It’s an experience that I keep coming back to because it’s so soothing,” he said.
The nighttime sky over Valentine is almost as famous ...
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- Here’s a textbook case of how not to do a golf trip: 8 days, 11 courses, four hotels, 700 miles. I always tell people not to cram too much into a golf trip. But what do you skip when canvassing Ireland’s northern coastline?
In our case, not much. Irish Links Tours & Travel had arranged an aggressive itinerary for our group of 24 Golfweek course raters.
Shortly after arriving in Dublin, we were whisked to Enniscrone Golf Club, where we warmed ourselves in the modest clubhouse on the island’s far northwest corner. It quickly became apparent that we were going to get the full Irish golf experience, starting with horizontal rain as we made our way through the towering sand dunes along Killala Bay.
That proved a tame introduction compared with our subsequent visit to Carne Golf Links, which, like Enniscrone, was designed by Irish legend Eddie Hackett.
Everything about this place, on the northwest shoulder of Ireland, was more remote and extreme. The dunes had more kick to them, and the wind howled at 40 mph, making it difficult to walk, much less stand upright, and rendering our pull carts useless. Someday I’d ...
Whistler, British Columbia – If you must know, the city of Whistler – best known for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics – was given its onomatopoetic name by prospectors some 100 years ago upon hearing the shrill shrieks of the western hoary marmot living in the nearby rocks. Formerly called London Mountain because of its heavy fog and rain, the city was renamed for the noisy ground squirrel to make it sound more user-friendly.
The ruse worked. Nowadays, Whistler is a top-drawer, four-season resort destination, especially for thrill jockeys who like hurtling downhill at breakneck speeds on skis or mountain bikes. For those of us who think a downhill lie is plenty vertiginous, there also is some splendid, impossibly scenic golf to be played here.
After a winding, two-hour drive from Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, one arrives at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a 550-room property at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. Rooms look out on Whistler Village, a tidy assemblage of dining, shopping and galleries just steps from the hotel. You like snowscapes, they got snowscapes.
Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, a 6,635-yard, par-72 track (No. 30 on Golfweek’s Best Modern Courses in Canada ...
BANFF, Alberta – Steven Young, the director of golf at Banff Springs, sometimes likes to greet playing partners wearing a sportcoat, plus-fours and spiffy purple-and-black saddle shoes. His weapons of choice on such occasions are hickory clubs and gutta percha balls. He’s a gregarious and gracious host – that is, if you don’t mind getting waxed by a guy playing equipment that Ben Hogan would have considered primitive.
Young’s attire might seem like an anachronism at some of the newer courses here in the Canadian Rockies. But it works at Banff, a classic Stanley Thompson design.
OK, let’s stop for a moment to acknowledge the redundancy in the preceding sentence. Canadians regard every Thompson design as a classic.
I wish I had a sleeve of Titleists for every time I’ve heard a Canadian start a conversation by asking, “Are you familiar with Stanley Thompson?” What then follows is a recitation of his genius, as manifested on courses ranging from Highlands Links in Nova Scotia, on to St. George’s in Ontario, to Banff and Jasper Park here in Alberta and Capilano in British Columbia. They’ll also remind their American guests that Thompson mentored Robert Trent Jones ...
VAIL, Colo. - Alice Plain arrives on the first tee at Vail Golf Club dressed in a pullover, vest and waterproof pants, a look more appropriate for a day of skiing than an afternoon on the links. On this unseasonably cold autumn day, locals are buzzing about the first weather advisory of the season. Snow, albeit unlikely to stick, was forecast for above 10,000 feet.
Plain, the director of golf at the municipal course located at the base of the Gore Mountain Range, epitomizes the golfing, skiing, outdoor-loving breed of local found in the breathtaking Vail Valley. Options for outdoor sport are as limitless here as vistas of the surrounding Rockies. Strike up a conversation with just about any cart attendant or assistant pro, and you’re likely to hear about a second life as a ski instructor or member of a mountain patrol.
Throughout the round, Plain pointed out popular ice-climbing cliffsides, threw in stories of her own outdoor adventures (such as the mountain biking trip that ended in an air evacuation a year ago) and grumbled about her game. The lean blonde played college golf at Oklahoma State from 1987 to ’90, and course marshals know her to ...
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Maybe it’s all of the tranquil images associated with Harbour Town Golf Links – the candy cane-striped lighthouse, the yachts bobbing gently in the harbor behind the 18th green, the almost invariably sun-splashed April days, the whimsical tartan sportcoat that’s awarded to the RBC Heritage champion – that ultimately prove so confounding.
All of those visuals are pleasant and welcoming, particularly for the first-time visitor who has been savoring them on television for years. It’s where we’re told the pros go to decompress following the Masters. So why shouldn’t we amateurs expect the same?
You figure you’ll arrive at The Sea Pines Resort, maybe stop by the Quarterdeck at the base of the lighthouse, wash down a big bowl of gumbo with a couple of Palmetto Pale Ales, perhaps get invited to a private party on one of the yachts, eventually make the short walk back to your room, then wake up the next morning and enjoy a relaxing round at Harbour Town, ranked No. 2 among Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in golf-rich South Carolina.
Then, sometime during the round – maybe as early as No. 1, when you ...
MAUI, Hawaii - The legendary Greek traveling salesman Odysseus was really a bit of a whiner, wasn’t he? Compared to his supposedly perilous travails at sea – Circe’s lethal singing, an irascible Cyclops – my recent trip to Maui was a veritable tropical Trojan War: a grueling week’s worth of wind-whipped morning golf, capped by small doses of afternoon sun and sand, and washed down with umbrella-festooned cocktails and flapping-fresh local seafood.
Cue the violins – but please, no more ukulele music.
Truth be told, it takes a road-raging, L.A.-based, Type-A madman like me a good week to adapt to the mellower rhythms of Hawaii. Highway speed limits are tamped down to accommodate the paucity of streetlights; there are no self-checkout lanes in the supermarket; and nobody’s in a particular hurry to bring you the meal you ordered an hour ago. Get used to it, bruddah – it’s Maui, not Miami. And that’s a good thing, all in all.
After having been thoroughly seduced by the bucolic north shore of Kaua’i several times, and stunned senseless by the beauty of the Big Island’s black lava fields, I must admit my first impression of Maui was ...
I’m not sure at what moment it actually hit me. Maybe it was during my relaxing walk around the Donald Ross design at the iconic Biltmore Hotel. Or on the short ferry ride to ritzy Fisher Island. Perhaps it was while playing a round with three Europeans at The Westin Diplomat. It may even have been as I strolled past a Michael Jackson impersonator moon-walking to the blaring boom-box strains of “Billie Jean” on a raucous night – is there any other kind? – in South Beach.
Regardless, at some point the thought occurred to me: Miami is unlike any other golf destination in the country. The courses alone are not the most highly ranked, although stay-and-play staples such as Doral Golf Resort & Spa and Turnberry Isle are strong anchors for the region. But any golf vacation here inevitably is subsumed by an eclectic fusion of culture, history and cuisine that produces an unabashed cosmopolitan flair like no other in America.
On this trip, my objective was to explore some of the region’s lesser-known retreats. My quest began with the seven-minute ferry ride from Miami Beach to Fisher Island, an ultra-private enclave between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic whose luxurious ...
LOS CABOS, Mexico – Jorge Carrera was appointed CEO of Querencia, a private golf club and residential community here, in July 2004, just as real estate sales were hitting their peak. Querencia benefited greatly from that, in part because of the quality of its golf course, which was designed by Tom Fazio and is ranked No. 2 on the list of Golfweek’s Best Courses of the Caribbean and Mexico.
More recently Carrera has had to navigate Querencia through recessionary times, which have forced the community to delay development of a second golf course that Gil Hanse has been selected to design. Long term, however, he remains upbeat about prospects for Querencia and the Los Cabos region.
Carrera recently talked with Golfweek about real estate and tourism in Los Cabos.
• • •
Golfweek: What is your assessment of the real estate market here?
Carrera: We had three wonderful years – 2005, ’06 and ’07 were magnificent years. We more than doubled the membership from when we acquired it. We were able to design and build the clubhouse, design and build the infrastructure, utilities, and fiber-optic throughout the whole development for communications, put some product in places like the condominiums and the villas that were ...
In the popular imagination, Myrtle Beach is about golf, golf and more golf, with a side of chicken wings, downed by some draft beers. It’s an idea more than a locale. To go to Myrtle Beach, as I did, with the notion of having an upscale vacation with a strong sense of place would seem to many a fool’s errand: Ordering sushi at McDonald’s. I’m here to tell you that it can be done and done well.
A friend’s wedding in Supply, N.C., an hour northeast, was the genesis of my high-minded notion, a reminder that every place, even one whose only seeming purpose is to satisfy gluttonous golfers’ cravings, has a daily life, too. My flight down on Spirit Airlines from New York reinforced the idea. The two strangers next to me – a boyish 36-year-old and a grandmotherly type – struck up a conversation. The man was a soldier, a father of three and, yes, a grandfather. He was going to Myrtle Beach to meet for the first time his online girlfriend of two months. I doubt he was traveling with clubs.
My wife and I made North Myrtle Beach our base of operations ...
When Paul Schock got the idea a few years ago to build a large golf resort in the wild, remote Sand Hills of north-central Nebraska, he found inspiration for the project in a visit to a large golf resort built on the wild, remote Oregon coastline.
Bandon Dunes Resort has inspired thousands of golfers since its first course opened in 1999. Schock drew a different sort of inspiration from his visit. Like Mike Keiser, owner of Bandon Dunes, Schock had procured a stunning piece of land; his Nebraska property had large sand dunes abutting the Snake River Canyon. The only obvious downside was the location, far removed from any population center. But Schock left Bandon, Ore., more convinced than ever that he should move ahead with construction of The Prairie Club, which opened in 2010 in Valentine, Neb.
“I probably talked to 35 people when I was there, and literally every single person got there the same way I did,” Schock recently recalled. “They found their way to Portland and then they drove to Bandon. It was part of the adventure . . .
“Being remote is obviously our biggest challenge, but the whole feeling of being away from everything also is a ...
Given the state of the economy, golf and otherwise, any course opening or restoration is a perilous endeavor. Thank goodness there are still (a few) intrepid operators out there. Here are writer Evan Rothman’s five newcomers to watch for in 2012.
Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
It’s a pretty safe assumption that Cabot Links already ranks as the world’s greatest 10-hole course, having welcomed golfers to its abbreviated layout since July. By summer 2012, when the remaining eight holes are scheduled to open, Cabot Links, which bills itself as “Canada’s True Links Golf Course,” might very well be known as its country’s finest course, period.
This is authentic, majestic, links golf, elegantly and inventively designed by Canadian Rod Whitman on a dramatic oceanfront setting that rivals Bandon Dunes not only for remoteness but also beauty. (Bandon Dunes’ developer, Mike Keiser, played a role here and wouldn’t argue the point.) Walking only. A caddie corps at the ready. A charming town, Inverness, adjacent. Cabot Links promises to be the Great White North’s next must-play destination.
$100 (estimated and subject to change); cabotlinks.com
Streamsong Resort, Golf & Spa
Polk County, Fla.
If the third ...
I’ve seen the future of resort golf in China, and it looks like a modern-day American resort on steroids. Really powerful steroids.
Forget, for a moment, the 10 courses at Mission Hills Hainan on Hainan Island. The resort boasts a lazy river and an aquatic theme park, a vast collection of shopping and fine dining, and therapeutic mineral springs at Asia’s largest spa. Oh, did I mention Pulse, the Las Vegas-style disco and bar inside a faux volcano? “Why not call it ‘Eruption’?” one helpful wag suggested.
There is something oddly wrong or charmingly comforting – I still can’t decide – about flying halfway around the world and feeling as though I could be at a Ritz-Carlton in Hawaii if I didn’t know any better. And yet here I am in China, the world’s largest communist country, and Bob Marley’s revolutionary lullaby “Get Up, Stand Up,” is playing in the lobby of Mission Hills Hainan’s five-star hotel.
Can this really be?
Should you need further confirmation that the China of Comrade Mao is history, take my 20-year-old female caddie, Mai, who is wearing silver earrings shaped as money bags that look like they could double ...