Friday, November 13, 2015

On Location: Atlantic City, New Jersey


Mark Twain could have easily described Atlantic City when he famously said: "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
All you seem to hear these days is how Atlantic City is down and it can't get up.
Not true.
I played some excellent golf courses, hit the slots, hoisted a few at the Original Irish Pub, had a shot of Tequila at the Tropicana's taco and tequila bar, strolled the Boardwalk, feasted on a funnel cake and gorged myself on some of the best Italian food and seafood I've enjoyed in all of my global travels.
Atlantic City is much more than mega-casinos and the Boardwalk and tourism officials are working diligently to expand its appeal.
After spending a few days there, rest assured, golf vacationers, especially buddy trippers, will find "AC" very accommodating on many levels.
Once you put the clubs away for the day, there are few destinations that can match the off-the-course entertainment that encompasses 24-hour casino gaming, big name shows, comedy clubs, pub crawls, eclectic dining and deep sea fishing.

There are 20 courses within 25 minutes of the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. The menu features lots of diversity, too. On my visit, I played a couple of classic, tree-laden layouts, a links style course and a replica holes course. 
Word is, they started swinging the sticks in the area way back in 1890s so golf is an integral part of the overall Atlantic City experience.
Better still, Atlantic City offers reasonably priced golf packages. The average cost is about $375 per person for a 3 day/2 night stay with three rounds of golf. Casino accommodations typically run around $475 and value-oriented hotels are approximately $275 for the package.
Here's where I played:

Atlantic City Country Club--Dripping with tradition at every turn, this historic club was founded in 1897. Playable and picturesque, I see why this has been ranked the #1 Public Golf Course in New Jersey by several publications and websites. The beautiful views of the Atlantic City skyline, superb course conditions and classic clubhouse grill and locker room are at the heart of this course's appeal. It received a makeover and modernization treatment by designer Tom Doak in 1999.

McCullough's Emerald Golf Links--This course plays much longer than its 6,535 yards from the back tees. It's an Irish-Scottish golf experience with lots of grass mounds, bump and run opportunities and tricky winds. It's a true replica course as the hole designs are inspired by famed courses like St. Andrews Old Course, Carnoustie, Prestwick, Gleaneagles and Turnberry. It has water on five holes, a three-acre waste bunker, an island fairway and 100-foot elevation changes. My favorite hole is number 7, a 464-yard par four, which is dedicated to architect Alister Mackenzie.  It's the hole with the humongous waste bunker facing you off the tee.

Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club--A fixture on the Atlantic City golf scene since 1915, this 36-hole complex offers two different golf experiences. The Bay Course, home to the LPGA's ShopRite Classic, is a Donald Ross/Hugh Wilson design that runs along Reeds Bay and has a Scottish feel. The Pines is a traditional parkland-style layout.

Twisted Dune--You could air drop this course into Scotland and it would easily blend in. If you love Scottish links golf, this American version is the closest thing to being there. The wind, bump and run shots and undulating fairways make it fun and challenging.

In conversation with local, well connected golf tourism officials, other play suggestions include Ron Jaworski's Blue Heron Pines, Shoregate GC and Galloway GC.

7 Little Things I Liked

1. The free Wi-Fi you can access while walking outside on the Boardwalk.
2. The funnel cakes on the Boardwalk. The best in the world. Period.
3. The affable and all around great guy, Mike Charlton, who is a Greater Atlantic City Golf Association member, owner of and knows everything about Atlantic City golf vacations.
4. The Turtle Nine Putting Course at Seaview Hotel & Golf Club.
5.  The amazing vintage photographs of Yankee greats like Dimaggio and Berra hanging on the walls at The Original Irish Pub.

6. The traditional clubhouse at Atlantic City Country Club that has lockers for swimmer Michael Phelps, PGA Tour star Hale Irwin and other notables

7. The amazing bowl of homemade white bean soup I had at Twisted Dune.

I stayed at Tropicana Casino Resort. It's a great place for golfers in Atlantic City. It's located directly on the Boardwalk and has a 24-hour casino, 25 restaurants including Carmine's and Chickie's, Pete's Sports Bar and Crab House and Hooters, lots of bars and nightclubs, concert showroom, IMAX theater, spas, swimming pools and shops.

Atlantic City has a good mix of casino hotels as well as reasonably priced chain offerings like Ramada, Comfort Inn and Days Hotel, which are offered in golf packages.

You can get everything from fantastic funnel cakes to phenomenal seafood in Atlantic City. There's a terrific blend of old and new restaurants with some that have been around for decades and others inspired by celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsey and Guy Fieri.
On my visit, I dined at some of Atlantic City's most heralded traditional restaurants. 
Angelo's Fairmont Tavern--Known as "Little Italy By the Sea", this cozy restaurant has been serving home style Italian fare for more than 80 years. Forget all these chains, this place is the real thing. Owned by the Mancuso family since 1935, this traditional Italian restaurant has a wood bar, pictures of Sinatra on the wall and huge portions. If you want to celebrate a round of golf and truly immerse in the Atlantic City lifestyle, eat at Angelo's. The menu is dotted with classic favorites. I had the sauteed mussels in red sauce, fried calamari and lasagne with a meatball. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
Dock's Oyster House--Opened in 1897, this classic seafood restaurant is an absolute don't miss in Atlantic City. Let's face it, you don't stay open that long unless the food is great-- and, believe me, it's phenomenal. The dining experience encompasses white tablecloths, professional veteran waiters and a comprehensive menu of spectacular seafood specialties and prime steaks. I had Oysters Rockefeller, Potato Crusted Flounder and the Apple Crisp topped with vanilla gelato. This is the best seafood restaurant I've ever dined at. Period. End of Story.
Original Irish Pub--With walls dotted with vintage black and white sports photos, friendly service and prices that look like they haven't changed since the 1980s, this is a great place to gather after a full day of golf. For lunch, you can get a hamburger for $4.00, turkey sandwich for $4.50 and grilled chicken sandwich for $6.50. There's also an excellent selection of beers at reasonable prices. Chances are, you'll meet and see Cathy Burke, the wonderful long-time owner, who greets every customer with a smile and good cheer. Better still, it's open 24 hours.
Other exceptional places that are popular with golfers, include Carmine's, Capriccio, Cuba Libre, Chef Vola's, Il Mullino N.Y., Gallagher's Steak House and Landshark Bar & Grill. For a quick bite, don't miss the legendary White House Subs, a local mainstay since 1946.

Stroll the Boardwalk--Running about 4.5 miles, this wide wooden walkway dates back to 1870. Updated and safe, it has complimentary Wi-Fi and is lined with casinos, nightclubs, restaurants and saltwater taffy shops.
Casino Gaming--The biggest names in gaming are represented in Atlantic City. Wanna throw some bones or play black or red? The top casinos are Borgata, Ceasars, Harrah's Tropicana, Bally's Wild West, Trump Taj Mahal, Resort Casino and Golden Nugget.
Big Name Entertainment Shows--The casino showrooms feature lots of major entertainment acts such as Jerry Seinfeld, Toby Keith, REO Speedwagon and Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson to name a few.
Deep Sea Fishing--If you can't win at the tables or slots, there's some excellent deep sea fishing charter options in Atlantic City and nearby Ocean City and Point Pleasant. The big catches are Striped Bass, Bluefish, Tuna, Mahi and Marlin.
Outlet Mall Shopping--The Tanger Outlets near The Boardwalk is an open-air mall spanning three city blocks with 109-stores, including Columbia Sportswear, Timberland and Kenneth Cole.
Bass Pro Shop--Opened in April 2015, this expansive, wilderness-themed store has been a huge hit in Atlantic City. Overflowing with fishing and hunting gear and outdoor apparel, the store also has a 13,000 gallon aquarium and pistol range.
Steel Pier--This iconic amusement park pier stretches 1,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. It has 25 rides, an arcade and food outlets.  

Atlantic City is situated 96 miles south of New York City. Philadelphia International Airport is 65 miles from Atlantic City. Fifteen minutes from the Atlantic City Boardwalk is the Atlantic City International Airport, which is serviced by Spirit Airlines, Air Canada and Choice Aire. Other distances to Atlantic City: (Harrisburg, Pa-155 miles, Hartford, CT--226 miles and Boston, MA-326 miles).

Visit DoAC, which is a great place for general information upcoming shows, accommodations and restaurants. For golf package information, call 844-475-2922 or click to PlayACGolf.

For those who wants lots of party opportunities after golf, I suggest clicking to Atlantic City Golf After Dark. Devoted casino gamers that want "Golf 'n Gamble" packages can click to Golf and Gamble or call 877-946-5318. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

On Location: Branson, Missouri

Buffalo Ridge GC

Sitting in Billy Gail's Cafe in Branson with a hubcap-size blueberry pancake, two eggs over-easy and a steaming hot cup of coffee, I was thoroughly convinced this was the ultimate pre-game meal before hitting the first tee at the Tom Fazio designed Buffalo Ridge course.

Ah yes, I was totally immersed in the "Branson Good Life"-- an enviable lifestyle highlighted by live entertainment shows, phenomenal fishing, exciting and challenging golf, down home dining and stunning lake views.

Branson has evolved in the past few years by expanding its golf, shopping, dining and RV offerings.

Better still, Branson will get even better in the coming years with a $100 million downtown revitalization program and new golf courses under construction.

Top of the Rock Par 3

The Branson area has eight golf courses and four other golf opportunities. Listed below are the courses I played on my visit.

According to Lynn Berry of Explore Branson, late spring and summer are popular times for golf.

"Fall is a spectacular time of the year for golf when the leaves change color and the temperatures are  moderate with many Indian Summer days," says Berry.

She's excited about Branson's golf offerings and says the white dimpled ball menu will expand.

Expected to open by late 2017 are a new Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw designed championship layout and a 12-hole family-oriented course by Gary Player.

Branson Hills Golf Club--The name might be a bit confusing. This course recently changed its name from the Payne Stewart Golf club. Highly regarded, it was voted the No. 1 golf course in Missouri by Golfweek 2012-2015. Managed by Troon Golf and superbly maintained, the course incorporates elevated tees, dramatic drops tee to green, wooded areas, natural rock outcroppings, waterfalls and creeks. It was designed by Chuck Smith with consultation from PGA Tour pro Bobby Clampett.

Buffalo Ridge Golf Course--I love Tom Fazio courses and Buffalo Ridge quickly became one of my favorites not withstanding the double bogeys dotting my scorecard. From the interesting approach shots, engaging water features and all-out-fun downhill tee shots to the buffalo grazing on nearby land, the experience is top notch.

Ledgestone Country Club--A beautiful setting where you get the full force of the photogenic Ozark surroundings. I love the grasses--Bentgrass greens and Zoysia fairways. There are dramatic elevations from tee to green, 48 bunkers and water in play on 11 holes.

Top of the Rock--I've teed up at hundreds of courses around the world, but this is the absolute best par three I've ever played. The first Jack Nicklaus Signature par three ever built, the course debuted in 1996. It's part of the PGA Champions Tour Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf Tournament. The park-like setting has native grasses and trees and beautiful wildflowers everywhere. There's also a 70,000 square-foot putting complex designed by Tom Watson and an Arnold Palmer designed practice facility.

Thousand Hills Golf Club--Near the 76 Strip and the live music shows, this resort course is a 4 1/2 hour excursion through rolling fairways, hardwood forests, rock formations and streams.

10 Little Things I Liked

1. Seeing the "Million Dollar Quartet", a broadway style show about Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis

2. Dining at Arnie's Barn at Top of the Rock, which has Ozarks cuisine with a Mexican flair and pictures of Arnold Palmer dotting the walls. I had the "Dos Equis Battered Cod Tacos" for lunch...scrumptious.

3. The affordable ticket prices for the live shows in Branson. The top ticket price is $55 and the average is around $38.

4. Some of the amazing panoramas possible at the elevated tee boxes at the courses.

5. The Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail at Top of the Rock, where you can enjoy a cocktail, beer or wine in the middle of the tour. Cheers!

6. The genuine down home midwestern warmth and friendliness from everybody I met.

7. The absolutely amazing country style breakfasts I enjoyed at several locally owned restaurants.

8. The walkability of downtown and Branson Landing.

9. The phenomenal Kansas City Strip steak topped with peppercorn sauce accompanied by cheese noodles and asparagus I had at Level 2 Steakhouse.

10. Strolling the aisles of Dick's 5 & 10 in downtown Branson, a throwback general store (opened in 1961) with more than 70,000 items.


I stayed in the golf villas (4-bedroom) at Branson Hills Golf Club, which had a well-designed floor plan for golfers with a television in each of the four rooms, a comfortable and beautifully appointed common living room, a fully-equipped kitchen and easy access to on-site golf. Other options include a 2-bedroom villa and 3-bedroom and Studio Condo at Eagle Bunker Condos.

Branson is appealing to golfers on all sorts of budgets. There's a dizzying array of places to stay (16,500 units total) such as golf resorts, chain hotels, family-owned motels, cabins, condos and private vacation rental homes in a variety of price categories.

In addition to the villas, Branson Hills also has a Hampton Inn on property. Other popular places for golfers include, Thousand Hills Hotel and Golf Resort, Big Cedar Lodge, Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa, Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing and Hilton Branson Convention Center.


I enjoyed some great food on my visit and I've the got the expanding waistline to prove it. The Guru rarely eats a big breakfast at home, so when I'm on the road I gravitate to great diners with country style breakfasts. At the risk of exaggeration, Branson has some of the best breakfast places in America.

Billy Gail's--This down home eatry set at a former gas station location is country breakfast nirvana. Hubcap-size pancakes, French Cakes (a French Toast/pancakes combination), steak and eggs and friendly service are the draw.

Clocker's--If you love biscuits and gravy and hash browns cooked in a frying pan, you'll love this  restaurant in downtown Branson, which is popular with the locals.

Arnie's Barn--Overlooking the Top of the Rock golf course, this unique restaurant was named in honor of Arnold Palmer. The 150-year old barn was transported, plank by plank, from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Palmer's hometown and reassembled at Top of the Rock. The walls are dotted with golf memorabilia and the menu features "Mexican cuisine with an Ozark flair". I had the Dos Equis Battered Cod Tacos with Lime Aioli, spicy Chipotle salsa and cilantro slaw. (Best fish tacos I've ever had.)

Level 2 Steakhouse--Located at the Hilton Branson Convention Center hotel, this upscale restaurant has a big city ambiance. It's a superb fine dining experience with 28 day corn fed Midwest beef, fresh seafood flown in from Hawaii, locally grown produce and a 1600 degree Infrared Oven. A nice touch is the five different steak knives you can select from to cut your steak.

Other places I heard great things about are Farmhouse Restaurant (chicken fried steak), Little Mo's (BBQ) and White River Fish Company (catfish and alligator).


--Live entertainment shows at popular theaters like the Oak Ridge Boys Theatre, Welk Resort Theatre and Mickey Gilley Theatre.
--Silver Dollar City theme park
--Dinner theatres like Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show and Branson's Murder Mystery Dinner Show
--Shopping at Branson Landing
 --Starting each day with a country style breakfast
--Fishing with or without a guide on Lake Taneycomo and Table Rock Lake
--Hiking nature trails such as the scenic Table Rock Lakeshore Trail (2.2 miles)
--Stone Hill Winery and Lindwedel Wine Garden
--Copper Run Distillery
--Shopping at Dick's 5 & 10 in downtown Branson
--Spas (there are 10 spas in the Branson area)
--Branson Scenic Railway
--Showboat Branson Belle
--Branson Auto Museum


--There are 100 shows a week with more than 57,000 total seats
--1,000 acres of shoreline on three lakes
--More than 200 restaurants
--Population of Branson is 10,520


Branson is located 52 miles south of Springfield-Branson National Airport in the southwest part of the state. Driving distance from major cities is: Springfield, Missouri--43 mi., Kansas City, Missouri--211 mi., St. Louis, Missouri--251 mi., Omaha, Nebraska--401 mi., Dallas, Texas--413 mi., Nashville--432 mi. and Chicago--546 mi.


For more information, click to Explore Branson or call 417-334-4084/1-800-296-0463

Monday, September 14, 2015

On Location: Chambers Bay

The good, bad and ugly...As the controversial choice for the 2015 U.S. Open, we've heard it all about this public course in Washington State.

I decided to head to the Pacific Northwest and play this course that burst into international prominence in June.


Laid out along the shores of the Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains in the distance, Chambers Bay is stunningly attractive. Huge sand dunes, spacious verdant green fairways framed by tall grasses and the blue waters of the Sound make the course one of the most visually appealing and photogenic I've ever played. Designer Robert Trent Jones II went to great lengths to create a Scottish links style golf experience in this special setting.

It feels more like a British Open venue than a U.S. Open site with its dunes, waste areas and mounds and slopes around the greens. When you add in unpredictable weather and winds and occasional click-clacking trains rolling by, it seems more British Isles than Washington State isles.


Measuring from 5,100 to 7,585 yards, the par 72 layout plays fast and firm. Every blade of grass on the course is fescue--on the tees, greens, fairways and rough.

The speedy turf allows you to hit the ball low and run it up the fairways and you can bump and run shots on most holes. For mid to high-handicappers the most difficult part of your round will be hitting wedges from 60 yards in with extremely tight lies.

While the elevations provide challenging holes and amazing views, they also can have an adverse effect on your round if you get fatigued from walking the undulating terrain. It's almost an eight mile walk with some steep climbs and elevation changes. If you're out of shape and used to riding around in a cart, Chambers Bay will definitely test you physically. Rented push carts and taking a caddie can help remedy that problem.

The super sized greens with exagerrated humps, hollows and backboards can easily destroy your round (with three and four putts) even if you're having a great ball striking day.

I played Chambers Bay on a hot and sultry July day just a few weeks after the U.S. Open. The greens were, for the most part, bumpy and inconsistent on that day. I was truly surprised and disappointed. I was informed "the reasons for the questionable greens were the unseasonably warm weather combined with the stress associated with the extreme agronomic practices required to prepare for the U.S. Open. " Their staff is working diligently to correct the problem and hopefully they'll have the greens in top shape before you visit.

Chambers Bay is not a cheap place to play (See rates below) so I suggest calling to inquire about the greens before you book your tee time. 

10 Little Things I Liked

1. Caddie program--It has a solid group of experienced and knowledgeable caddies. If you're playing Chambers Bay for the first-time (and possibly your only time), I highly recommend taking a caddie. You'll save a few strokes and they'll make the experience more enjoyable by giving correct target lines and yardages to the flag.

2. View from Chambers Bay Grill--Sit on the veranda for lunch and you'll be rewarded with a stunning panorama of the golf course and the Puget Sound in the distance.

3. Trains-Train tracks border the golf holes similar to Prestwick and Royal Adelaide. It's inspiring and exhilerating when a train chugs by as you stand on a tee or green.

4. No housing--You don't have to worry about hitting pool screens or bouncing balls off of roofs as there are no homes on the wide open course.

5. Public walking trail--A nice touch, a walking trail winds through the course allowing non-golfers to enjoy the site and it's views. The trail is similar to the one at the Old Course in St. Andrews.

6. No cart paths--A walking-only course, Chambers Bay has no golf carts, thus, no need for unsightly cart paths.

7. Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich--A sumptuous lunch time favorite, which I enjoyed, has a breaded chicken patty with lettuce, green chili, melted pepper jack cheese and sweet corn aioli on a ciabatta roll.

8. Concrete remnants from the gravel mine--The course is built on a former sand and gravel mine site and you can see "ruins" from the era, which were not destroyed.

9. Fescue grass--To enhance the British Isles type experience, the entire course is planted with fescue grass.

10. Friendly staff--The staff is very unpretentious and helpful whether you're in the grill, pro shop or on the first tee.


Just like it's expensive to romance a supermodel, the drop dead gorgeous Chambers Bay is no cheap date either. From July to September it costs a non-resident $275 and active or retired military $169 to play a round. In October, non-residents can play for $175 and active or retired military can play for $109.


Situated on 950 acres along the shores of the Puget Sound in University Place, Washington about 60 minutes from downtown Seattle, 40 minutes from Sea-Tac International Airport and 20 minutes from downtown Tacoma.


For more information about the course and tee times, click to Chambers Bay Golf or call 877-295-4657.

A special package offering is "The Championship Experience", which includes play on Chambers Bay, The Home Course, Gold Mountain and accommodations at Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma. Visit The Championship Experience or call 253-591-4142 for more information.

Monday, August 31, 2015

10 Most Obnoxious Golf Guys

Golf is a difficult game to play and it's made even tougher when you run into one of these guys:

1. Mulligan Guy--You've seen him in all his glory at the charity pro-am. No, this charitable chum can't just lay down a $20 bill and buy a couple of Mullies a side. He's throwing down some serious coin to buy multiple Mulligans so he and his buddies can take extra whacks to erase errant tee shots, shanked seven irons and duffed pitches. Better still, after all the do-overs, his group walks away with the first place trophy and Mulligan Guy is the celebrated hero.

2. Gambler Guy--He can't play without a little on the side and loves wagering on the links more than Philly Mick or MJ. Gambler Guy knows seemingly every way in the world to wager on the golf course. Nassau, Skins Game, Round Robin, Bingo Bango Bongo....and he wants to play it. If you reject any of these offers, he still wants to bet you. How about a tenski on whether you hit the fairway? or  Maybe 20 bones on hitting a six-footer for birdie. This guy will wager on anything.

3. Grouchy starter Guy--He's the old grubber who has the personality traits of Bobby Knight, Bill Belechick and Donald Trump. He reads all the rules and do's and don'ts with  the compassion of a pissed off  Marine drill instructor, so it's difficult to relax and hit a good drive on the first hole. Lighten up starter guy, it's just golf...

4. Party Guy-Instead of heading to the bowling alley to knock down some pins and brewskis, this guy loves to play golf and ride around in his cart drunk. Early morning tee time? Noooooo problem. This loveable lug usually hits the Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers first (for breakfast), because he typically has a rule of "no beers till after 11:00 a.m". Then, it's a hops and barley fest to the 18th hole. Mr. Party Guy can't recall what he shot for the round, but he knows exactly how many drinks and beers he consumed. The saddest part of the saga is he stumbles out of the golf cart only to get into his car and drive home-- a DUI just waiting to happen.

5. Scorecard Guy--He has to write it all down--the good, bad and ugly. He loves to scratch down a snowman for you when you start circling the drain. No matter how bad you're crashing and burning, he absolutely, positively must know what score you made on a hole. He also gets great joy in leaving the scorecard in the cart (with all of your doubles and triples), so the attendants at the clubhouse can laugh their asses off while they clean your clubs.

6. Bored Assistant Pro Guy--Typically, it's a washed up junior golfer who had a some good rounds on the AJGA, played  college golf and never won more than a few hundred bucks on the mini-tours. He's angry his pro golf career didn't pan out and you, Mr. Customer Golfer, are going to receive a great big dose of his bitterness. He hates you for playing golf while he's stuck behind the counter ringing up greens fees and folding golf shirts.

7. Ball Hunting Guy--When this guy sees a hole with lots of lateral hazards and forested OB, he gets really excited. His rationale: "Geez, it's like hunting for Easter eggs. I can't believe how many Pro V's I'm going to find." Forget the scorecard, this frugal linkster judges his round by how many premium golf balls he finds and stuffs in his bag during a round. Next stop for this budding entrepreneur is Craigslist where his "Like New golf balls" ad will bring in the big dollars.

8. Always Late for Tee Time Guy--This is the guy that texts or calls and says he's only a few minutes away and then shows up 30 minutes late. He's never at the first tee on time... never. Even when you tell him the tee time is 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, he still manages to be late.

9. Masters Logo Guy--His outfit screams, "I went to the Masters and you losers can't even get tickets to the practice rounds." He's got the obligatory matching hat and shirt with the simple but very identifiable logo, and, of course, the golf towel, divot repair tool and other accessories. The real serious Masters Logo Guy has saved the wrapper from his pimento cheese sandwich which he had while roaming the grounds of the Augusta National Golf Club.

10. Prepping For the Champions Tour Guy--If you see a guy in his late 40s and he's got  game, please don't encourage him by saying: "Hey, you ought to make a run at the Champions Tour." Champions Tour Guy just can't seem to enjoy a round of golf because he knows the clock is ticking and he's grinding so hard. He dreams of taking down Langer, Couples and Lehman one day.  Right now, giving beatdowns to 12-handicappers will do just fine till he makes it on Tour.

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.


"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.


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.



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.


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.

--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


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


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.