Friday, August 21, 2015

On Location: Little Creek Casino Resort/Salish Cliffs Golf Club

Through the years I've visited my fair share of casino resorts.

I've thrown some bones on the craps table, sat bleary eyed and near busted at the blackjack table and played the slots for hours just praying for three sevens, three cherries or three anything...

Luckily, too, I've visited casino resorts with golf courses.

I recently stayed at the Squaxin Island Tribe's 190-room Little creek Casino Resort/Salish Cliffs Golf Club near Olympia, Washington and I think I've discovered the resort that has something for just about everyone--and I mean everyone.

In addition to the Salish Cliffs Golf Club (keep reading to find out more about this gem), the resort has smoking and non-smoking casino areas, an on-site RV park, a cigar lounge, a seafood bar, an espresso bar and and an events center with boxing events and big name concerts featuring the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Yes and Toto.

GOLF


"Look around at this beauty in every direction and you'll know why I come to work with a smile on my face every day," Salish Cliffs head professional David Kass told me as we stood on the exaggerated elevated tee on the stunningly beautiful and wildly fun No. 3 par three. It plays 291-yard from the championship tees and 250-yards from the Players tee, where most weekend golfers play.


After playing the course, I most assuredly agree with Kass. It's picturesque and photogenic. Better still, the 
bent grass greens are excellent and the overall maintenance at the course is exemplary.


Salish Cliffs
, a Top 10 Casino Course by Golfweek Magazine, is designed by Gene Bates, who is also known for his work at Bayonet and Blackhorse in Seaside, California, Canyons Golf Club in Park City, Utah and Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee.


Stretching 7,269 yards from the championship tees, the course plays to 6,766 yards and 6,312 yards for mid-handicappers.


With radically changing elevations and 360-degree views of Kamilche Valley, the course has a distinctive character with a great selection of uphill and downhill holes. It serves its purpose well as a resort course with fair landing areas off the tee for all skill levels.


Many of the holes are framed by thick fescue and you definitely want to stay in the short grass if you want to score well. If you spend most of your time chopping out of the tall stuff, trust me, you'll want to destroy your scorecard before the cart attendants get a good look at it.


After the round, the classy, log house style clubhouse has an excellent dining room and a second floor veranda with great views. I suggest ordering the Flat Iron Steak Sandwich for lunch or the Fish and Chips (Halibut) and the Country Scramble for breakfast.


An interesting fact about Salish Cliffs is that it's the world's first Salmon Safe Certified Golf Course.


ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES


Each room has either one California King or two queen beds with European-style bedding and lots of pillows. Rooms are decorated with modern artwork and appointed with dark wood furnishings. In addition, there is a Spa Room with a 2-person jetted spa tub and California King-sized bed and two-room Spa Suite as well as ADA compliant rooms.

Standard Room amenities, include:


32" Television

High-speed internet access
In-room coffee pot
Ice bucket
Iron and ironing board
Alarm Clock
Hair Dryer

10 Little Things I Liked


1. The plush leather couches in the lobby.


2. The 8-person "Cadillac" golf cart that transports you from the hotel to the golf course.


3. The interesting and creative art work that dots the walls of the hotel common areas.


4. The totem poles that stand in front of the clubhouse at the golf course.


5.  The beautiful landscaping and brightly colored flowers on the property that put you in a great mood.


6. David Kass, the amiable and helpful head golf professional at Salish Cliffs G.C.


7. The indoor pool and oversized hot tub.


8. The cigar selection (over 70 brands) at Skookum Cigar & Wine Lounge at the hotel.


9. The fresh oysters, clams and salmon at the seafood bar.


10.The espresso and wine bar in the lobby of the hotel.

 

DINING/LOUNGES


Creekside Buffet
--Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it offers everything from fresh local seafood to premium steaks and a wide range of other entrees, salads and desserts.


Island Grille
--A gourmet dining room with corn-fed, hand-cut steaks, seafood and chops prepared by a top notch culinary team. The menu is dotted with delicacies like Prociutto Wrapped Prawns, Dungeness Crab Casserole and a 12 ounce Delmonico Ribeye Steak.


Squaxim Island Seafood Bar
--A classic seafood bar in a horseshoe configuration, it has a fresh selection of seafood from the Pacific Northwest such as salmon, oysters and clams.


Starlight Lounge
--Located just off the casino floor, this full-service restaurant and bar has Happy Hour drink specials from noon to 3 p.m. and free live entertainment and dancing.


Skookum Spirit Cigar Lounge
-The ultimate for cigar lovers, this smartly appointed lounge has a well-stocked humidor with over 70 brands of premium cigars, live music on Friday and Saturday and a wine tasting on Wednesday.


Water's Edge Cafe
--Offering burgers, sandwiches and salads, it's a great place to grab a quick bite in between gaming or playing golf.



THINGS TO DO

Skookum Creek Event Center
--This 1,800-seat facility hosts concerts, big events, trade shows, boxing events and other events. It has two full-service cocktail bars and private skybox seating. Among the big name stars that have appeared recently are Trace Adkins, Dwight Yoakam and the bands Toto and Yes.


Gaming
--The full-service casino offers poker rooms, blackjack, slots, bingo, keno, pull tabs and other games. Sporting a newly remodeled gaming floor, the casino has smoking and non-smoking sections.


Side Trips--The southern end of the Olympic National Forest is nearby and a drive up route 3 towards Bremerton takes you through many small historic fishing towns. The town of Shelton has an interesting old town area that's walkable.


Seven Inlets Spa--The on-site, full-service spa has massage, organic facials, body treatments, saunas, Eucalyptus Steam Rooms and a Meditation Room

LOCATION


Situated in Shelton, Washington off Highway 101 about a 20-minute drive from downtown Olympia. Address: 91 West State Route 108, Shelton, Washington 98584.

GET THE SCOOP


For information or reservations, call 800-667-7711 or click to their website at Little Creek Casino Resort.  For more golf information, call 360-462-3673 or click to Salish Cliffs Golf Club.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

5 Things I Hate About Air Travel

I love to travel. I’ve traveled internationally since I was a kid and I’ve pretty much seen it all.

As the Golf Travel Guru, not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time in airports and jets.

As we all know, the air travel experience has gotten progressively worse over the past few years...

In the past few months, I’ve flown from Orlando to Venice, Italy, Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, Cancun, Mexico, Seattle, Washington and Panama City, Florida. During my flights, I took a few minutes to make some notes on the air travel experience.

Here are some of the things that drive the Golf Travel Guru crazy:

1. Extremely Overpriced Food At Airports—Apparently it’s legal at airports to sell hot dogs for $9 and beer for $8.  That’s what I paid on a recent trip. What did I get for this royal sum? A hot dog that contained more salt than a person needs in a week with a stale bun that made sawdust look appetizing. My craft beer was a forgettable concoction that tasted like a can of Natural Light that was left on a porch in Florida on a hot July day.

2. Clueless Overhead Luggage Passengers—I mean what does it take to walk down the aisle of a plane and quickly place your carry-on bag in the overhead bin.  Oh nooooooo, these people have to languish in the aisle contemplating, I guess, "the meaning of life" while 50 other passengers wait patiently in line behind them. Here’s some advice: Put your damn bag in the bin, or just step out of the aisle and let everybody go by. P.S.: Don’t have some oversize bag that takes assistance from three flight attendants to stuff it in the bin.

3. Zone Busters—When the call over the intercom says “All passengers in zone 1 can board.”, it never fails that Mr. and Mrs. Zone 4 is up there ready to board. Puhleese, look at your boarding pass and enter the plane when your zone is called. It’s really not that difficult, is it?

4. Clueless Cell Phone Users—On airport concourses, I always seem to get behind the dimwit on his phone wandering aimlessly back and forth while a pack of people can’t pass the inconsiderate dolt. He or she is scrolling through social media posts or talking to the poor sap that has to pick them up from the airport. Regardless, just show some consideration for other passengers who can’t wait to get OUT of the airport.


5. Off-Site Parking—You practically need a home equity loan to afford near-terminal parking these days. Consequently, like millions of others, I park at a satellite lot. When I arrive after a flight, I typically wait sometimes up to a half hour till the transport van shows up. Are there any on-time van drivers anymore?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tips On Taking a Caddie

"How 'bout a wee nip, my new friend?" inquired the ruddy faced caddie as he pulled up his sweater to reveal a flask of whisky to the American at the first tee of a world famous links course in Scotland.

Thanks to a frosty, late-November ocean breeze, the American was chilled with cold, stiff fingers that felt as flexible as popsicle sticks. He politely declined the offer. Not because he didn't need or want a liquid heater. Rather, he'd never utilized a caddie and didn't really know if bartender was one of the services he should expect.


In this age of sprawling, unwalkable layouts, golf cart-only courses, GPS systems and elaborate course guide software, a dwindling number of American golfers have ever played golf with a caddie. Often, many participate in the experience for the first time when they travel to the British Isles on a dream trip to golf's original playing grounds.


Luckily, Americans still have access to caddies at high-end resorts that have kept the service alive. Among the high profile courses that offer caddies are Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, Streamsong Resort in Florida, TPC The Players Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida, Harbour Town Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula in California.
(At the end of this post, see a list of other U.S. places where caddies are available.)

Golfers who venture to England, Scotland or Ireland can still acquire the services of a good, knowledgeable caddie. Yet, even there, Americans shouldn't be blinded by the romanticized notion of the all-knowing, wisecracking caddie so often stereotyped in golf literature. Major courses such as the Old Course in St. Andrews, Trump Turnberry and Gleneagles have strong caddie programs as do several other major courses in Scotland and Ireland.

Other popular resort locales that offer caddies are Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Two places where I had superb caddie experiences are Royal Isabela in northwest Puerto Rico and Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.

Unfortunately, in certain places around the world, some amateur caddies offer little more assistance than toting your bag and assuming the role as a personal cheerleader.

"A solid, professional caddie who knows his trade can make a difference of at least two shots in a round to a scratch golfer and more to higher handicap golfers," a veteran Old Course caddie once told me while we enjoyed frosty pints at the Dunvegan bar in St. Andrews. "Carrying the bag is probably the least important thing a caddie does."

Here is the appropriate behavior you should expect from a competent caddie:

* Prior to the start of a round, the caddie should clean clubs if needed and count clubs.

* A well-informed caddie should know the local rules of the layout and be familiar with the course designer. A thorough understanding of the history of the course is also helpful.

* A caddie should rake bunkers, replace divots and tend the pin.

* A caddie should not offer advice to a players until asked. He should never say, "I think." The only time a caddie should volunteer information is when reporting yardage to the green.

* If caddying for the first time with the golfers, the caddie should be able to club correctly after 4 or 5 holes.

* A caddie shold get to the ball first and study the shot before the player arrives--the lie, turf, wind and target. He should form an opinion quickly in the event the player requests advice.

From a player's viewpoint, a caddie is not a servant. The relationship between a player and a caddie is a subtle partnership where the ultimate goal is to maximize performance.

As a player, if you display poor golf etiquette, a futile skill level with little dedication to the game or boorish behavior, you can generally expect sarcastic responses, especially from veteran caddies in Scotland.

Finally, what about that wee nip? Should you indulge?

It's definitely a personal choice. Just like guys who knock down a six-pack of brewskis during a round--some can handle it, some can't.

On a recent visit to Scotland, one of my caddies summed it up best when he said: "If your golf game is so bad that you must take a drink before a round, it's predictable your consumption will greatly increase after the 18the hole."

Now, that's great advice you can only get from a caddie.

Other courses and resorts with caddie programs, include:

Bandon Dunes (Oregon)
Bethpage Black (New York)
The Broadmoor (Colorado)
Cabot Links (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Cordevalle Resort (California)
Erin Hills (Wisconsin)
Madden's on Gull Lake (Minnesota)
Nemacolin Resort (Pennsylvania)
Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort (South Carolina)
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando (Florida)
Whistling Straits (Wisconsin)
Chambers Bay Golf Club (Washington)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fun Things to Do in St. Andrews, Scotland

One of the great things about playing golf in St. Andrews is the wonderful, quaint village lifestyle. Beyond the phenomenal golf courses, there's a wealth of great activities to enjoy.

To extend your golf enjoyment away from the fairways, here are five activities to enhance your experience:


British Golf Museum-Conveniently located a 5-minute walk from the town center and across the street from The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, this well organized, recently renovated museum will immerse you in the history of golf. There are thousands of items detailing more than 500 years of history with exhibitions, hands on activities and extracts from the R&A’s film archive. You’ll see clubs, balls, clothing, trophies, medals, films, photographs, artwork and books on display. 
Himalayas Putting Course—Home to the St. Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club since 1867, this roller coaster-like course, adjacent to the Old Course, allows you to practice uphill, downhill and sidehill putts. All you need is a putter and a willingness to have fun. The course is open from April to the end of September (7 days a week) and there is a slight fee with discounts for senior citizens and under 16s.
Tom Morris Golf Shop—Originally opened in 1866, the Tom Morris Golf Shop, facing the Old Course, is the oldest golf shop in the world. In addition to a wide selection of golf clothing, there’s a display area that celebrates the shop’s namesake, Tom Morris, the legendary four-time Open champion who is widely regarded as the father of the modern game. Among the items on display are his original workbench where he made golf clubs and balls, his locker where he stored his clubs and the fireplace he used to heat and shape gutta percha balls.
Official Old Course Walking Tour—Staged from early April to late September, the 50-minute guided tour of the Old Course is the next best thing to playing the celebrated course. Walks are scheduled for everyday of the week except Monday during July and August. Tours start at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at. Longer tours start at 10 a.m.
Jigger Inn-It’s one of golf’s most famous 19th holes. Set adjacent to the Old Course Hotel in an historic building that dates back to the 1850s, this traditional Scottish pub is brimming with golf memorabilia. It’s a great place to grab a pint and sit near an open-hearth fire and listen to golf stories from other patrons or spin a few yourself. When it’s time to dine, a golfer’s favorite is the Jigger Burger with Mull Cheddar, Ayshire Bacon and Fries.

Monday, June 8, 2015

5 Affordable (Cheap) Golf Vacations

What's better than smashing a fairway wood over a large lake to a tiny green and then sinking a 20 footer for eagle?

How about saving hundreds of dollars on your next golf vacation. With some intrepid research on the Web, there are lots of great golf deals to a wide array of destinations these days.


In my travels, I've found several that are a bit easier on the wallet.


Here are my top 5:

 
New Mexico--Golfers usually race through New Mexico to visit golf meccas like Las Vegas or Scottsdale. For those who bother to stop, you'll find uncrowded and affordable courses in dramatic mountain and high desert settings with affordable green fees. The "Golf on the Santa Fe Trail" marketing alliance features eight golf courses along a 100-mile swatch of the Rio Grande River Valley with green fees starting at $52 on weekdays and $65 on weekends. All of the courses are high quality layouts that are situated within a two-hour drive of each other. Some of the more noted courses on the Santa Fe Golf Trail include Black Mesa Club, Paa-Ko Ridge and Twin Warriors.
 
Ireland--While Scotland dominates most golfer's international destination wish list, Ireland is a slightly cheaper alternative. It has affordable flights through Air Lingus to Shannon and Dublin, a wide range of pubs and restaurants with agreeable prices and a superb menu of courses. Green fees are typically around 1/3 less in the shoulder season in Ireland (April and October) and you tend to get a little more bang for your buck with the exchange rate. (Scotland has the pound and Ireland the Euro). If you've already crossed St. Andrews and Scotland off your bucket list, I definitely suggest playing golf in Ireland. Better still, the friendly and accommodating people in Ireland will thoroughly enhance your experience on and off the course and that's all free.
 
Orlando, Florida--The theme parks will shake you down for admission tickets in the $100 range, but you won't get skewered on green fees in Orlando. There are more than 125 courses within a 45-mile radius of downtown Orlando. Some of my best value favorites include Red Tail, Eagle Dunes, Eagle Creek and Highlands Reserve. Green fees drop as much as 60% during June, July and August. You'll find great deals at Golfnow and Golfpac Travel, a highly respected Orlando-based golf packager, has some exceptional Orlando area golf travel packages.

Puerto Rico--One of my favorite places to play golf in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is often overshadowed by Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. While the green fees in Puerto Rico aren't necessarily all that much cheaper than their competition, flights to the island (city of San Juan) are plentiful from a variety of destinations and you can generally find some great deals. Moreover, Puerto Rico has a great menu of 20 courses in various beautiful settings. 


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina--If you want lots of bang for your golf buck, you still can't beat this place where the competition is fierce with more than 85 golf courses vying for your presence. You receive excellent value for your money, too, with more than 50 Myrtle Beach area courses with a 4-star designation from Golf Digest. Allegiant, the budget happy airline with rock bottom fares, has non-stop flights to Myrtle Beach from destinations like Orlando, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Akron. The money-saving continues at the variety of restaurants, shopping complexes and amusement parks that compete with each other with all sorts of deals and coupons. The best place to start in your package planning is the highly efficient Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday site, which easily guides you in creating a money-saving package.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Are You Ready For Fox Sports and the U.S. Open?

Don't worry, you won't see John Madden coming out of retirement and bellowing "Boom!" and "Bam!" every time someone launches a 350-yard drive or sinks a 30 footer.

Better still, you won't see Jimmy, Howie, Terry, Michael and Curt breaking down video of the world's best golfers.

No, Fox Sports has assembled an eclectic cast headed by Joe Buck, Greg Norman, Holly Sonders and others to bring you the 2015 U.S. Open on television and digital platforms.

Here's a review of the Fox Sports golf line-up:

Joe Buck--I like Buck as a baseball announcer. He's right up there on my favorite list alongside Vin Scully of the Dodgers and Jon Miller of the Giants. Buck is excellent with Troy Aikman on Fox's NFL telecasts, too. That said, he's got a long way to go to equal the excellence of CBS's Jim Nantz and NBC's Dan Hicks. These two silky smooth talking announcers sound like they came out of the womb announcing golf. I know he'll be broadcasting some warm-up events, but the 2015 U.S.Open might just be the biggest challenge of Buck's career. How he sets up Norman and addresses the nuances of the game of golf, will go a long way in determining his ultimate success.

Greg Norman--I've interviewed Norman twice and he's a terrific story teller. I hope he can bring the same color and detail to his presentation on Fox. My concern is Norman has so many other things going on in his life such as clothing, wine and turf businesses that he might not have enough time to fully prepare. My guess is Norman will attack this challenge just like everything else he does and do an admirable job. It's unrealistic to think, however, that he can be on the same footing initially with Johnny Miller, who is synonymous with the U.S. Open.

Holly Sonders--We really haven't seen much of the curvaceous Sonders on Fox Sports golf since she left The Golf Channel last July. Articulate and well-informed about golf, Sonders, a former collegiate player at Michigan State, is knowledgeable and always prepared. She lights up the television screen. Wow, was there anything better than watching her swing a golf club on Golf Academy Live on The Golf Channel. It was about the only time I ever paid attention to whatever swing tips they were doling out.


Filling out the starting line-up for the U.S. Open coverage is former PGA Tour pros Brad Faxon and Steve Flesch as on-course analysts, two-time U.S. Women's Open champion Julie Inkster as on on-course reporter, 1995 U.S. Open champ Corey Pavin as a studio analyst, Irish journalist Shane O'Donoghue as host and former USGA executive David Fay as a rules analyst.

In what appears to be a cast of thousands, others who will participate in the coverage, include Tom Weiskopf, LPGA notables Natalie Gulbis and Morgan Pressel, and venerable Fox broadcasters like Tim Brando, Curt Menefee, Charles Davis and Joel Klatt.

Still others on the Fox Sports Golf coverage team are Shane Bacon, Mark Brooks, Robert Damron, Jay Delsing, Debbie Doniger, Gil Hanse, Buddy Marucci, Scott McCarron, Ned Michaels, Eoghan O'Connell, Joe Ogilvie and EA Tischler.

Fox Sports plans to televise more than 32 hours of the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. In total, it will air more than 300 hours of golf, including other U.S.G.A. championships and amateur events during the late spring and early summer

I'll watch to see if the Buck/Norman team can perform under pressure. After years, of superb coverage by NBC, it'll be interesting to see if Fox is up to the task. 

To be sure, they certainly have an impressive line-up of on-air talent.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Golf in Italy and The World Expo

NOTE: "I love everything about Italy--the history, great food, friendly people and, yes, its golf courses. Below is a guest post by my good friend Bjorn Jingberger, president of Golf Holiday Italy, a golf travel professional who partners with Italy's best golf clubs and resorts to offer fantastic golf packages. Bjorn is highlighting some of his top golf packages in conjunction with the World Expo in Milan, Italy. Enjoy the post and click to his free e-brochure to check out some great packages. Ciao!"--The Golf Travel Guru.
The World Expo in Milan, Italy is running between May and October 2015. It’s a fantastic opportunity to book a golf break, play a few rounds on selected top golf courses, enjoy world-class food and wine and visit Milan and the Expo, which has many things to do, enjoy and experience. Download this free e-brochure for great ideas and inspiration for your next golf break in Italy and read on for more details.

From May to October, Milan, organizer and host of the 2015 Universal Exhibition, becomes a global showcase where 140 countries and some leading international organizations will showcase the best of their technologies. The spectacular show offers a concrete answer to a vital need: guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the planet and its equilibrium.

On its 1m square meter exhibition area, Expo 2015 will tell everyone out about the worlds best dishes with tasting opportunities, while displaying the best of the agri-food and gastronomic traditions of each of the exhibitor countries.

Outside the exhibition area, located in Rho, a few miles west of centre Milan, the entire city will play an active role with thousands of cultural and recreational events organized throughout the city, such as the largest exhibition so far of Leonardo da Vinci with works of the Renaissance icon borrowed from Italian and international museums.

For more excitement, visit the magnificent gothic Duomo Cathedral, or purchase opera tickets for an event at the famous La Scala theater, or attend one of the more than 140 spectacles during the six-month expo. If you’re a shopping enthusiast, Milan, as a global fashion capital, is near paradise. From the best in value-for-money dining and phenomenal fashions, you’ll find it in the magnificent city of Milan. Football fans will get their treat as well, as both AC Milan and Inter play at home in the city.

To enjoy the Milan good life, don’t forget to stop by CaffĂ© Camparino, just next to the Duomo, for an aperitif. The bar opened in 1915 by Gaspare Campari, the inventor of…well you know what!

 Golf
Why not combine a visit to the Expo with a few days of golf? Northern Italy is home to around 80% of the country’s golf clubs. Discover excellent golf packages, specifically designed to satisfy most interests and tastes, which are available in a free e-brochure you can access here GREAT GOLF PACKAGES IN ITALY

For those who prefer to remain in and enjoy the Milan area there are a couple of golf breaks very close to the centre of the city. Or, in less than an hours drive north you can reach both Lake Como and Lake Maggiore with its breathtaking views and picturesque villages.

Heading east, consider a golf weekend in Franciacorta, the wine region, famous for its white sparkling wine, as well as at the beautiful Lake Garda where a few rounds of golf can be combined with a visit to an Amarone producing vineyard. Alternatively, continuing further east, north of Venice, there’s an interesting golf break combining golf and visits to local coffee and grappa producers.

Golf Holiday Italy acts as a marketplace enabling golf clubs, resorts and golf hotels to reach out to the international golf community.  Through our website, our social media channels and selected media partners, Italian golf structures have access to a cost efficient and easy-to-use platform to market themselves to an international client base.