All 18 holes of architect Tom Doak’s first course design in Mexico opened in late November on a desolate spit of eastern Baja coastline where the rugged hills crash into the Sea of Cortez.
Doak’s layout anchors the 4,000-acre Bahia de los Suenos, a residential and resort project well removed from the population centers of La Paz to the north and Los Cabos to the south. The ambitious project has six miles of coastline, and the course opens and closes along a scenic cove. This is the first course on which Doak has used saltwater-tolerant Paspalum grass.
The course is open for play by prospective property owners and their guests.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – This Atlantic Coast resort town etched itself in the nation’s consciousness on Feb. 21, 1930. That’s when John T. Woodside, a Greenville textile tycoon, opened Ocean Forest Hotel, which sat on a bluff 29 feet above the sea. Locals had never seen anything like it. Ocean Forest had marble stairways, crystal chandeliers and Grecian columns. Myrtle Beach, previously known as a regional resort, suddenly began attracting the glitterati from across the nation. Celebrities would perform on the hotel’s stage, and couples arriving for parties were expected to be dressed in tuxedos and formal gowns.
In its heyday, Ocean Forest was considered perhaps the best hotel between New York and Miami. But it was one of its amenities – Ocean Forest Club, the town’s first golf course – that arguably did more to shape the landscape of what would become the self-described “Golf Capital of the World.” The course was designed by St. Andrews, Scotland, native Robert White.
Its impressive debut aside, Ocean Forest Hotel had a checkered history; Woodside took a beating in the 1929 stock-market crash, and the hotel went through several ownership changes before being razed in 1974. But Ocean Forest Club ...
It’s a modern-day play on a rich Yucatán tradition: A society surveys a vast jungle canopy lapped on several sides by a cobalt blue sea and then has the Mesoamerican equivalent of an Archimedes moment, “Yes, let’s build.”
The Maya are gone, their cities and temples and culture having receded into the landscape. But for a something-from-nothing success story of more current vintage, look no farther than Cancún, which in fewer than 40 years has gone from being a narrow, uninhabited spit of sunbathing-perfect sand to one of the hottest destination spots in Mexico. As in days of old, a popular sport has taken root locally. Golf is hot on the Caribbean end of Mexico. From modest hit-and-giggle beginnings, the play has become solid, attracting the architectural likes of one Shark and one Bear, and a yearly visit by the PGA Tour.
Perhaps the best of the courses arrived courtesy of Greg Norman, who as his playing days waned has morphed from a head-scratching to a head-nodding designer. Playa Mujeres Golf Club, just a tad north of Cancún proper, is a joyous romp through wetlands, dense stands of palm and a couple of passes at the coast. It ...
PINEHURST, N.C. – Despite my decidedly humble upbringing, I’ve always believed that there are certain exquisite pleasures on which one should never scrimp. You don’t go to Peter Luger’s and order salmon; you get the gut-busting prime rib with the jumbo shrimp cocktail starter. You don’t send Russell Stovers during the holidays; you send Godivas. And you don’t play Pinehurst No. 2 for the first time without reserving a veteran caddie like Keith Silva.
In theory, you can take a buggy, as did Christopher, my affable Scottish playing partner, and spend your round running back and forth from the cart path to your ball. (Can we pause for a moment to ponder the irony of the spoiled American choosing to walk while the Scotsman rides?) But then you’d deny yourself the wise counsel and good craic of a skilled looper such as Silva. On the course, and later over sushi at Ten-Ya – a fashionable Village restaurant operated by Pinehurst member Gil Ro – we talked about everything from golf to his youth in Liverpool, England, in the 1960s.
I had arrived in North Carolina a desperate man: I needed a college football fix in the ...
Having spent the better part of my adult life in Los Angeles, I’ve grown accustomed to the marked difference in sports fanaticism here compared with my beloved hometown of Detroit. Win or lose, Motor City maniacs can be relied upon to turn over and incinerate cop cars, bust shop windows and assault anyone wearing the opponent’s colors. Bravo, I say. Put your money where your loud mouth is!
Here on the kicked-back Rest Coast, celebrities sit courtside at pro sporting events and shamelessly chat with their agents, only sporadically glancing at the action. Embarrassing. And since we have no pro football franchise, the annual USC-UCLA football game is as close as we get to a rabid, red-blooded rivalry.
Two days before the 2008 crosstown matchup, stalwart USC frat boys – so-called Trojan Knights – were standing vigil by the lifesize bronze statue of Tommy Trojan, guarding against the expected depredations of crosstown Bruin pranksters. In 1962, determined UCLA reprobates commandeered a helicopter to drop a load of manure on Tommy’s head. And in 1989, USC wastrels returned the favor by dumping hundreds of crickets into UCLA’s Powell Library, then posted signs reading: “Hope you enjoy studying today, Bruins ...
With space at a premium in Los Cabos, developers of resort and residential golf projects have been moving north, up Baja’s eastern and western coastlines. Many of these projects are in their infancy or in slow development, but some are moving forward.
Paraiso del Mar (Golfweek, May 9), a fanciful Arthur Hills design, opened earlier this year on a narrow strip of land across from the capital city of La Paz on Baja’s eastern coastline. That was the city’s first course, but there are more to follow.
Across La Paz Bay, Gary Player is building his first course in Mexico at CostaBaja Resort and Marina, a 550-acre development set in a rocky bowl, at the bottom of which is a 250-slip marina. It’s a difficult site on which to build, but the upside is that 14 holes will have water views, and the property offers easy access to Tecolote and Balandra beaches. The course is scheduled to open in 2010.
Hills also has been commissioned to build two courses in Todos Santos, an artsy enclave on Baja’s Pacific coastline about a 90-minute drive north of Cabo San Lucas.
The most anticipated opening is Tom Doak ...
PUNTA de MITA, Mexico – Like a well-made mole sauce, a visit to Mexico’s central coast is a perfect balance of the sweet and the bitter. Ashen gringos enjoy the best of first-world amenities – golf, spas and lodging – while locals toil in relative poverty, their indomitable spirit as sunny as the neighborly star that sinks cinematically into the Pacific at dusk. Together, the two halves add up to a spicy and compelling whole.
The high-end touristic action that centered around Puerto Vallarta three decades ago has migrated some 40 minutes north to what’s being marketed as the Riviera Nayarit, a subtropical stretch of coastline favored by 345 days of sunshine annually. More specifically, the peninsula called Punta de Mita is home to the golf-bordered Four Seasons and St. Regis Resorts, a gated, 1,500-acre swath of Banderas Bay-side luxury. Sprawling condo developments dot the region, and a pair of Jack Nicklaus Signature courses anchor the turf to the surf.
Between the swine-flu scare and the world’s economic woes, things here are eerily quiet, prompting local hotels to make some unrefusable offers. The Four Seasons will give you a $1,234 credit if you lay up for four nights ...
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico – When the subject of golf architecture is broached, it’s typically along the lines of, “What did you think of that Fazio design?” And to be sure, there’s much to recommend about Tom Fazio’s thrill ride of a layout at Querencia, with its roller-coaster holes, icy-slick greens and sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez.
But Fazio met his architectural match at Querencia in the form of another, lesser-known designer, Arturo Ponce de Leon, who runs the residential community’s design center. He’s the creator of a clubhouse – more accurately described by Querencia’s staff as a “club village” – that’s easily the brick-and-mortar equivalent of Fazio’s layout, which itself is ranked No. 5 on Golfweek’s Best Caribbean & Mexico Courses list.
Ponce de Leon’s work is an utterly fresh take on what a clubhouse should be. Most modern clubhouses are monolithic structures about which developers tout square footage (think quantity) over ambience (think quality). So we’re often left with large, utilitarian buildings where guests pay the green fee and make a beeline to their golf cart.
Ponce de Leon’s design turns that approach on its head. Querencia ...
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico – “Are you writing a story about Los Cabos?”
The earnest young man had gotten wind that a lowly journalist was passing through. He eyed me intently as I navigated past a roomful of timeshare traffickers at SJD Los Cabos International Airport on my way to the rental-car shuttle. I nodded.
“Make sure to tell people it’s the safest place in Mexico,” he said. Wagging his finger for emphasis, he reiterated, “You tell them that.”
The young man needn’t have worried about that. I had arrived at a time when most of the stories about Mexico in the American media concerned drug violence along the border, but that issue is foreign to residents and tourists here. My biggest concern was finding enough time to canvass a good cross-section of the golf courses that line Highway 1 in Los Cabos, the area along the southern tip of Baja California Sur bookended by the towns of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
It quickly became apparent that would be an impossible task. Los Cabos used to be known as “Marlin Alley,” a reference to its world-class sportfishing, but it has developed the critical mass ...
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – With braggadocio worthy of new arrival Rickey Henderson, Cooperstown has dubbed itself “America’s Most Perfect Village.” This begs the question: Are there degrees of perfection?
After a lovely weekend at the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I can assure you this certainly isn’t America’s Least Perfect Village. It’s a strike down the middle.
Golfwise, Cooperstown is a one-course town, and that is the estimable Leatherstocking Golf Course. Like the grand dame Otesaga Resort Hotel to which Leatherstocking belongs, this Devereux Emmet creation is celebrating its centennial in 2009.
History isn’t the only thing on its side. Leatherstocking, ranked fifth among Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in New York, sports a strong batting average: several excellent holes and many fine ones, while the unmemorable few get the runners over. Dating as it does from the dead-ball era, it tips out at just beyond 6,400 yards, emphasizing the short clubs over the big stick.
The cape-style 18th is understandably the most celebrated hole. It begins on a lovely island tee box with a how-much-can-I-cut-off drive across glistening Otsego Lake. A nervy layup precedes a wedge into the handsome ...
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – In the early 1850s, when he was courting investors for the rail line that would turn Atlantic City into a mega-resort, Dr. Jonathan Pitney rhapsodized about the virtues of Absecon Island – its pleasingly temperate seaside climate, its boating, fishing and other sporting activities – all just a short commute from Philadelphia and New York.
For Pitney, sometimes referred to as the “Father of Atlantic City,” it was an easy sale. The city charter was approved in March 1854, and four months later, the Camden and Atlantic Railroad began transporting vacationers to the new retreat.
I couldn’t help but wonder what Pitney would think of his creation as I looked across Lakes Bay at the skyline from the fourth tee of Atlantic City Country Club, ranked No. 1 among Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play in New Jersey. Located in Northfield, a few miles from Pitney’s home, Atlantic City CC opened in 1897, lending it a history almost as rich as the city whose name it bears.
That history is quickly apparent to visitors. The clubhouse walls are filled with memorabilia of the six U.S. Golf Association championships that have been played there. The ...
It was here on the fifth tee at Whiskey Creek Golf Club that I was reminded, yet again, that I’m a damned fool.
Whiskey Creek, just south of Frederick, Md., was the last stop on a trip that I had begun with more than a touch of ambivalence. That seems silly in retrospect. After all, my assignment was to spend a week visiting some of the Mid-Atlantic’s famous Civil War sites and playing five relatively new courses that quickly have become household names for many golfers in the region. I’ve been known to spend weeks shamelessly lobbying for gigs like that. My ambivalence sprung from the fact that I had grown up not far from here, in the rolling farm land north of Baltimore. Over the years, when people learned that fact, they sometimes would stop me in mid-sentence and tell me how lucky I had been to spend my formative years in such an idyllic setting. I’d smile, nod politely and quickly try to change the subject. I was the poster boy for the never-appreciated-what-I-had crowd.
Sure, I still returned occasionally to visit family members, and took pride in much that the region ...
Today, we break an age-old maxim held sacred for generations. For we have discovered that when it comes to golf, what happens in Vegas absolutely should not stay in Vegas. There is quality golf in abundance. So much so that it would be egregious to keep the experience to ourselves.
“There is only one Las Vegas,” said Joe Massanova of TPC at the Canyons. “There is off-the-charts, high-end golf, more affordable golf, desert golf, golf on the Strip, golf that attracts PGA Tour players and resort golf. It’s all over town. As much as anywhere in the country.”
So, listen closely. We’ll tell you what you need to know: the best tracks in town, a little insight into Sin City’s golf culture and a few other tidbits that can help you turn a long weekend in Las Vegas into a surprisingly fine golf trip.
Massanova knows about big-time golf markets. He worked at the TPC of Scottsdale (Ariz.) for 16 years, immersed in a community that is loaded with golf. The difference? Scottsdale long has been a well-known golf mecca. Las Vegas, with so many other baubles with which to entice tourists, is not a ...
Mickey won’t carry your bag, and Goofy won’t wipe down your clubs. You might be in the world of make-believe, but there is nothing imaginary about the quality of golf at Walt Disney World Resort.
This is a collection of 99 holes just a tram ride away from sensory overload, but the golf courses offer serenity. No fireworks. No loop-de-loops. No cartoon characters. Just some real solid golf.
Solid enough, in fact, to draw the PGA Tour every year. When the Tour comes to visit, it holds its tournament on the Palm and Magnolia courses. These layouts have fewer trees and are more gallery-friendly, but the Disney course with the most wildlife, tranquility and personality is Osprey Ridge.
Sometimes, when playing Osprey Ridge, it’s hard to imagine how close you are to all the activity. It’s a Small World, After All.
Since it opened in 1992, Osprey Ridge has extended an ambience of peace. It is parkland golf in what used to be Florida citrus groves, proving once again that Disney is capable of almost any transformation. There are enough pine trees here to make those who live near a Carolina forest feel like they’ve ...
It may not have Isleworth’s aristocratic air or Bay Hill’s brute demeanor, but from the first tee at Dubsdread Golf Course unfolds 341 yards of semi-manicured fairway and some 80 years of Central Florida golf history.
The craggy patch of teeing area is about as close as one can come to sacred golf ground in an area that was little more than a backwater crossroads until well into the 20th century.
Long before Walt Disney laid the groundwork for what has become the Magic Kingdom’s 99 holes of golf and Arnold Palmer set up shop at Bay Hill, Dubsdread – along with several other fellow rustic gems – was the center of Central Florida’s golf universe.
Ben Hogan topped the marquee when the 1947 Orlando Open was played at “Dubs.” Palmer headlined the ’56 Mayfair Inn Open at Mayfair Country Club. Gene Sarazen played in numerous exhibitions at Winter Park Country Club.
“This is not a golf course,” Sarazen once said of Winter Park’s narrow fairways, “it’s more like a shooting gallery.”
Before Arnie and before Walt, citrus was king in Central Florida. The industry attracted wealthy investors from the north and spawned most of the ...