Thursday, November 17, 2016

Top 10 Golf Travel Trends for 2017

South Africa
Ladies and gentlemen, start your packing!

I'm predicting 2017 will be a great golf travel year. Last week (November 14-18), the U.S. dollar was at its highest rate in 14 years so American travelers will, no doubt, take advantage of this promising turn of events. Plus, golf travel is easier than ever to plan with new technologies no matter where you are in the world.

Here are the Golf Travel Guru's top 10 travel trends for 2017:

1. Combo Golf Trips--While the buddy/friends trip to Scotland and Ireland will continue its seemingly never ending popularity, golf travelers taking couples or multi-generation trips are increasingly opting for packages that can include everything from wine and whiskey tastings to safaris and luxury cruises. An itinerary packed with 18 to 36 holes a day is still appealing to golf fanatics, however, casual golfers who love to travel and play are enhancing trips with varied activities in between rounds. In addition, planning a golf vacation around a major event like the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Presidents Cup or Major like the Open Championship, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and The Masters is becoming more prevalent.

2. Luxury Golf Cruises--Various golf travel companies are highlighting luxury cruising as the main source of travel to play great golf courses. For instance, Premier Golf is offering an 11-night excursion aboard the the $450 million Regent Seven Seas Explorer, the most expensive luxury liner ever built. The uber-luxurious ship will make stops in golf capitals like Edinburgh, Scotland, Liverpool, England and Dublin and Cork in Ireland. On the play list are world class layouts like Royal County Down and the European Club.

3. Year of The Grape--If you like wine and golf like I do, ya gotta wonder what took destinations so long to put them together in packages. Countries that are heavily promoting incorporating wine experiences like tours and tastings with golf are Australia, South Africa, Italy, France, New Zealand and the U.S. (Napa Valley and Sonoma in California and Oregon). In the past year I've been to Napa/Sonoma, Italy and South Africa and I can fully attest that superb wines and great golf are an excellent pairing. 

4. New Destinations--While I'm probably missing a few, my list of emerging golf destinations includes Bulgaria, Turkey, Sweden, Vietnam, Italy, Malaysia and China. 

5. Pacific Rim Appeal--After obligatory visits to Scotland and Ireland have been made and new frontiers beckon, the Pacific Rim is an increasingly popular option. Destinations like New Zealand and Australia offer scenic and challenging courses as well as great wines and countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Korea and China have lately become very bullish on golf.

6. New Booking Technology--It's getting much easier to book a golf vacation with just a few clicks on your own. Golf Voyager, an Ireland-based company, recently debuted a platform to book fully customizable golf packages in real time with immediate confirmation. The easy-to-use, do-it-yourself design combines golf, hotel and transportation options into packages that can be altered to fit your specific needs with confirmed pricing immediately at check-out. I believe you'll start seeing their widget on on many tourism bureau sites. They offer great rates and Golf Voyager is very simple and user-friendly. The software is up and running for Spain and Portugal and will be followed by Ireland, U.K., U.S.A. and other destinations.

7. Social Media Arrives--Social media is increasingly a huge influencer in golf travel decisions. Instead of a flashy ad or video, travelers are investigating how their peers evaluate particular airlines, hotels and golf courses. More travelers or relying on user-generated reviews at sites like TripAdvisor, GolfAdvisor, Oyster and Yelp to make their decisions. Moreover, travelers are influenced by posts and remarks on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest and Google Plus.

8. The Masters--The popularity of the Masters increases every year and more people want to immerse among the azaleas and pines even if it just means a practice round day. Trust me, whether you attend a Tuesday or Wednesday practice day or the entire tournament week, it's  a phenomenal, memorable golf experience. From "The Big Oak Tree' and green and white umbrellas on the patio behind the clubhouse to the amazingly inexpensive 1970s concession prices, there's nothing in the golf universe quite like Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters tournament. Some of the companies offering Masters packages that I recommend include Georgia Sports and Premier Golf Travel.

9. Alternative Accommodations--Multi-amenity golf resorts are still the most desired accommodations, however, experienced, intrepid travelers are increasingly considering private vacation homes and Airbnb as other options, especially for extended stays. Now, it's easier than ever to book a private home, room in a home or an apartment. 

10.Bucket List Adventures--While greens fee prices keep climbing, bucket list courses like Pebble Beach and The Old Course at St. Andrews are actually increasing in popularity. In the U.S., topping the list are Pinehurst, Bandon Dunes, TPC THE PLAYERS Sawgrass, Whistling Straits, Bethpage Black, Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club and Streamsong Resort. Internationally, courses like Royal Troon and Muirfield in Scotland, Royal County Down and Ballybunion in Ireland, Royal St. George in England, Valderrama in Spain, Fancourt Links in South Africa, Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Royal Melbourne in Australia, Banff Springs and Cabot Links in Canada and Vale do Lobo in Portugal are Bucket List favorites.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

UPDATE on Streamsong Resort's Upcoming Black Course

Streamsong Black No. 7 (Photo by Larry Lambrecht)
When golfers find out the Guru resides in Central Florida, one of the more frequent questions I get is about the much anticipated new Black Course at Streamsong Resort near Lakeland.

After some intrepid research, here are my answers to that question:

* The Black Course is slated to debut in Fall 2017. It's currently in the grow-in mode.

* It's designed by Gil Hanse, whose impressive resume includes the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, which received rave reviews, as well as Castle Stuart in Inverness, Scotland and The Vineyard Club in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Streamsong Black No. 15 (Photo by Larry Lambrecht)
* Upon completion of The Black, Streamsong Resort will be the only resort in the world with courses designed by Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse.

* Hanse was essentially given a blank canvas to design The Black. He got his pick of land spanning more than 800 acres and selected a 250-acre parcel dominated by a long sand ridge and natural elevation changes.

* The Black is set about a mile from the clubhouse that serves the Streamsong Red and Blue Courses and will be somewhat isolated on the southeast portion of the property.

* The Black is set on rolling terrain with abundant sand, native grasses and panoramas similar to those of Sand Belt courses in Australia.
Streamsong Black No. 5 (Photo by Ben Hillard)
* The Black Course will play to par 73.

* Tee time reservations for The Black became available this month (October, 2016) with  packages available.

* Streamsong officials foresee The Black hosting large Amateur events.

* The resort plans to add a second practice facility, clubhouse and restaurant to serve guests playing Streamsong Black.

Streamsong Resort, situated 27 miles south of Lakeland between Orlando and Tampa, is a multi-amenity resort with championship golf, a 216-room lodge with a spa, infinity pool and casual and fine dining restaurants and activities like bass fishing, sporting clays, tennis and nature trails.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

U.S.A. WILL WIN Ryder Cup 2016

Yeah, I'm going to say it:

The U.S.A. team will win Ryder Cup 2016 at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

Yes, you have my permission to call me delusional, a big-time homer or maybe even an idiot (it won't be the first time) for making this bold prediction.

In the tradition of historic successful predictions made by Joe Namath in the 1969 Super Bowl and Mark Messier in the 1994 N.H.L playoffs, I believe our boys in red, white and blue will bring the Ryder Cup back to American soil.

I can already hear the naysayers out there on the Internet Highway: The Guru's had one too many single-malts, all of the cumulative jet lag has rattled his smallish brain or he's just, well, an idiot.

The Guru understands your skepticism. After all, the Euros have won six out of the last seven and four straight Ryder Cups.

That said, here are my reasons the U.S.A. will be spraying champagne on the final day after the singles matches:

NO IAN POULTER--Due to a foot injury, "Poults" will not be a playing member of the European team, although he'll be a vice captain. Poulter has been the heart and soul of the Euro team with his passion and commitment to Ryder Cup. He rallied his troops at Gleneagles in 2014 with spirited play and timely shots and he was the key player in the amazing European comeback at Medinah in 2012, where he was the top points scorer from either side. Just as impressive is Poulter's incredible run of five birdies in a row to close out his Saturday four ball match with Rory McIlroy against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson when Europe was trailing 10-4 and seemingly dead in the water. That match pretty much started the miracle comeback.

PATRICK REED IS IN-YOUR-FACE--The pugnacious, irascible Reed is the type of take-no-prisoners player the U.S.A. team has been missing. His famous finger-to-the-lips "shooshing" of the crowd after sinking a putt at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2014 is the stuff of legend now. Reed went 3-0-1 at Gleneagles and never once backed down to the crowd or opposing players. Nobody on the American team played better than Reed at Gleneagles. The U.S.A. finally has someone as defiant and passionate as Ballesteros and Poulter and Reed should make a big difference at Hazeltine National.

TEAM U.S.A.WILL FINALLY SINK PUTTS WHEN THEY COUNT--In many ways, Ryder Cup matches evolve into putting contests. The Euros have sunk them in timely moments and the U.S.A. has not. I predict that will change in 2016. This year the U.S.A. is bringing some serious flatsticks to the moss. The U.S.A. team has six players in the top 30 in the PGA Tour's Putting Average (through the weekend ending 9/19/16): Jordan Spieth (T1), Dustin Johnson (3), Phil Mickelson (5), Brooks Koepka (T16), Matt Kuchar (T16) and Brandt Snedeker (26). The top European player is Rory McIlroy at T31, which is where U.S.A Captain's Pick J.B. Holmes is also slotted. I certainly comprehend that several of the European players don't play a full PGA Tour schedule, but the numbers are still impressive for the U.S.A. The putts are gonna drop this year and propel the U.S.A. to victory.

Friday, September 16, 2016

What's New at Golf Resorts

Sand Valley Resort
Another Keiser Beauty

Mike Keiser, the creator/developer of Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Cabot Links in Canada, opened Sand Valley Golf Resort in central Wisconsin on September 1, 2016. Located near the tourist town of Wisconsin Dells, about a two-hour drive north of Madison, the Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design promises to offer Bandon Dunes quality and excitement. Visually stunning, the course is natural looking with exposed sand dunes, ridges and valleys. The front nine is hilly, the back nine plays through valleys and the fescue turf makes it play firm and fast. The 1,700-acre Sand Valley Resort, near the small town of Rome, has a 40-room lodge.

New Davis Love III Design at Sea Pines Resort

Slated to open October 3rd at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island is Love III's newest design, Atlantic Dunes. A 5-time winner of the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage Classic on Hilton Head, DLIII knows the island well. Replacing the former Ocean Course at the resort, Atlantic Dunes promises to be very playable for all skill levels with generous landing areas off the tee and huge waste areas. Got a feeling the "Grip It and Rip It" crowd are going to enjoy this one from long hitter DLIII.

The Deuce at Pinehurst Resort

Recently opened is The Deuce, a bar and restaurant overlooking the 18th green of the famed No. 2 course. Featuring a bar with large custom-made windows that open up onto the veranda, the setting is an ideal place to watch all the exciting happenings on the finishing hole. The Deuce serves lunch every day and appetizers throughout the afternoon and evening. An eclectic men features unique items like Crab Hushpuppy Beignets and Loaded Tater Tots. The bar offers a variety of cocktails and local craft beers.

Coming Attractions in Branson, Missouri

Two new courses are set to open in 2017 at this popular, live entertainment capital in the Show-Me state. The Ridge Course, an 18-hole championship layout, is being designed by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and a family-friendly, 12-hole course designed by Gary Player will focus on newcomers to the game and novice players.

New Gil Hanse Course

Hanse, who got rave reviews for his design of the Olympics 2016 course in Rio, is designing Streamsong Black at Streamsong Resort in central Florida. Scheduled to open in Fall 2017, the course will be the third at this resort near Lakeland.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

10 Emerging Millennials Golf and Travel Trends

Remember Tiger Woods? While golf's injured supernova has been sitting on the sidelines, Millennials like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson have moved to the forefront of the game signaling an upcoming seismic shift in the sport on and off the course.

Millennials, who range in age 16 to 34 years of age, are just beginning to make their impact on golf and travel. If you're involved in either one of these industries, or both, I highly suggest you start preparing for the onslaught of the Snapchat and smoothies generation. There are 79 million of them in the U.S. and they spend $600 billion dollars a year. In five years, the oldest of the generation will be pushing 40.

Here are 10 top Millennial trends important to the golf and travel industries:

1. Social Media is an amazing Millennial influencer--Whether it's viewing a dramatic picture on Instagram or reading a favorable tweet about a hotel or golf course on Twitter, Millennials are heavily influenced by reviews and comments on social media. Quite simply, if you want to reach Millennials and impact their golf and travel decisions, a strong presence on social media is absolutely imperative. 
 It's estimated that 75% of Millennials post while they're on vacation. If you want to reach Millennials, you can forget about old school paper brochures, newspaper travel articles and cheesy magazine ads. 

2. Why Millennials travel--Millennials love to travel with a purpose. They want to experience new cultures, cuisine and activities. Moreover, they want to visit interesting destinations where they can post pictures that get lots of attention and "likes". Millennial golfers want to play on courses that are both challenging and photogenic so their buddies back home can see what they're missing via social media.

3. Millennial golf trends--While the Baby Boomers cry was "Let's Play 36!", Millennials are more prone to saying "Let's Play Golf in Many Different Ways." Increasingly popular are playing nine holes or less, pay-by-hole, night golf and golf simulator competitions. Many Millennial golfers don't want to be locked into the traditional 18-hole golf experience. A hugely popular
 off-site golf activity, Topgolf entertainment complexes appeal to tech-addicted Millennials with point-scored electronic golf games that anyone, regardless of skill level, can play. In a plush sports-bar-style environment, players hit a golf ball containing a personalized microchip into a series of targets ranging from 20 to 240 yards away. Topgolf, which has an upscale food and beverage menu and can host group events, has locations that include Scottsdale, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Houston and Austin, Texas, and Alexandria, Va. A new, expansive Topgolf is under construction in Orlando, Florida.

4. What Millennials LIKE at resorts and hotels--There are an increasing number of hotel chains such as Aloft, W, Kimpton and Hyatt Centric that cater directly to Millennial needs.  Millennials desire large spacious lobbies where they can spread out and lounge with their electronic devices, coffee bars, lounges with big selections of craft beers, sports bars teeming with large screen televisions, lawn games like corn hole and bocce ball, a large number of charging stations in the lobby and hotel common areas, outdoor lounging spaces with comfy chairs, couches and connectivity and healthy food choices.

5. What Millennials don't like at resorts and hotels--They DISLIKE hotels that charge for Wifi, don't have mobile check-in and don't have texting communication with guests. Millennials also could care less about a mini-bar, pillow chocolates, old school coffee makers, overpriced room service, iPod docking stations and a newspaper in front of the door.

6. How Millennials select destinations, hotels and restaurants--This is HUGE. Traditional advertisements aren't nearly as effective with Millennials. Millennials rely on each other's opinions on social media to make travel decisions. Instead of a flashy ad or video, Millennials are more likely to access user-generated recommendations on popular review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Airbnb and Oyster to help make their travel decisions.

7. New Millennial amenities at golf resorts--The traditional golf cart is evolving to appeal to Millennials. In Scottsdale, Ariz., the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa offers specially designed Segways to ride and transport clubs on their golf courses. Resorts such as Tetherow in Bend, Ore., Boyne Highlands in Michigan and Princeville at Hanalei on the island of Lanai in Hawaii feature Golfboards, an easy-to-ride electric board equipped to carry clubs that allows golfers to surf the fairways and feels similar to snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. Millennials love food trucks and you'll increasingly see them at resorts. The PGA National Resort in Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and Ocean Reef Club and Resort in the Florida Keys now have food trucks.

8. Popular Millennial golf and sports activities at resorts--It's becoming increasingly clear that Millennials will consume the game of golf much differently than Boomers. Fitness is an integral part of the Millennial lifestyle so it's not surprising that pursuits like Footgolf, a hybrid game of soccer and golf on the course, has caught on.  Resorts like Crystal Springs in New Jersey, French Lick Resort in Indiana and TreeTops Resort in Michigan offer Footgolf. You also see an increasing number of Millennials jogging on golf cart paths early in the morning before the course opens.

9. Millennials love to validate their experiences on social media-The "If you didn't post it, it didn't happen" generation love to tell their friends and family about their travel experiences on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare and other platforms.

10. Millennials want more connectivity everywhere--It's a no brainer that hotels better have great connectivity, but Millennials also want to be connected on the golf course, too. While many Boomers find it annoying, Millennials don't want to turn off their cell phones on the golf course. Some golf resorts are responding with charging stations on golf carts, increased Wifi access and golf apps. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You Must Play Mexico!

Mexico is a popular spring break haven and an all-inclusive resort capital where the rum runners and margaritas never stop flowing. However, it's often overlooked as a great golf destination.

Golf vacationers are missing a lot. Courses with designer tags like Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Tom Weiskopf, Tiger Woods and Rees Jones dot the terrain in the main vacation areas and you're never far away from a swim-up bar, spa,  beach or marina.

Most golfers gravitate to the major tourist destinations along the coast such as Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta/Nayarit, Los Cabos in Baja, Acapulco and Mazatlan. The diverse settings range from the spectacular beaches on the Riviera Maya to the desert overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez in Los Cabos to the lush tropical jungle in Puerto Vallarta

"Mexico golf is still relatively unknown to most golfers, but they're making great progress," says Dave Simmonds, president of Mexigolf, a full-service golf travel company specializing in customized golf packages to Mexico. "Top golf architects have designed courses in the past twenty years, the weather is excellent for golf and Mexico is fairly inexpensive for first class lodging and phenomenal food and drinks."

Simmonds has decades of experience playing golf and planning golf-centric excursions to Mexico. He's lived in Mexico and played in every part of the country. He knows the resorts, hotels, courses, culture and cuisine better than anyone I've ever met.

"I enjoy telling people all I know about Mexico and what it has to offer," Simmonds says.

He continues, "Mexico has an amazing, rich culture, a diverse and beautiful landscape with some of the best prices in the world. The proximity to the U.S. makes it an easy transition for a getaway when you can catch a plane in the morning and tee it up later that afternoon."

If you want to play Mexico, visit his site Mexigolf and enter some basic information about your trip. Dave quickly replies and assists you in making the planning and coordination process easy and hassle-free.

"Working with clients I find out the courses they want to play, the make-up of the group and what they like to do when they're not playing golf," Simmonds says. "Adventure/eco travel is huge in Mexico and there are many opportunities to participate when not on the course, from zip-lining and day trips to scuba and deep sea fishing."

Now is a great time to play golf in Mexico. 

Simmonds says Mexico tourism took a big hit during the worldwide recession in 2008 and it had to improve it's infrastructure to compete for the travel dollar. 

"Mexico's resorts, hotels, golf courses and restaurants have greatly improved in the past five years and it offers a tremendous travel value," he says. "Safety for guests is a high priority, the people are very friendly and accommodating and they truly live up to their reputation as 'The Amigo Country'."

There are more than 225 golf courses in Mexico. Highlighting the menu are layouts like Cabo del Sol Ocean Course in Cabo, a Jack Nicklaus design framed by craggy rock outcropping and a stunning shoreline;  El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba on Riviera Maya, a Greg Norman masterpiece that weaves with mangrove jungles, limestone canals and    magnificent oceanfront stretches; and the Vista Vallarta Club de in Puerto Vallarta, home to two 18-hole championship layouts by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf.

Simmonds says he can customize a trip for any age group.

"It doesn't matter if you're a Baby Boomer, Millennial or Generation X  or whether you want to play 36 holes or 18 holes a day, we'll customize the trip to have a full balance of golf and fun activities in between," he says. "Every group has different needs and desires and I design each package individually."

It's time to tee up in Mexico and a quick click to Mexigolf is the best way to start your journey to this fun-filled golf destination. You can also email Dave Simmonds at or call him at 858-699-0613

Thursday, August 11, 2016

5 Great Adventure Travel Golf Destinations

Are you looking for new golf vacation frontiers?

Here are five destinations where the golf road is a little less traveled. Places where you'll find superb golf and activities and attractions that'll enhance your visit and create lasting memories: 

South Africa--Situated at the tip of the African continent, South Africa has the perfect blend of luxury, soft adventure, championship golf courses, the finest wines in the Southern Hemisphere and the opportunity to see the Big Five (elephant, leopard, buffalo, lion and rhino) in the their natural habitat on safari. You'll test your skills on fairways where Zebras are likely to roam alongside or tee off from cliffs offering stunning panoramas. Accommodations in South Africa encompass beautiful lodges, boutique hotels and upscale, amenity-rich resorts. For wine lovers, South Africa has been producing wine for more than 350 years and has some of the most picturesque wineries on the planet.

New Zealand--Active volcanoes, spectacular glaciers, rugged mountains, gorgeous beaches, vast plains and lush forests make New Zealand a photogenic paradise. World-class golf architects like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Doak andRobert Trent Jones Jr. have capitalized on New Zealand's amazing topography by designing courses at incredible, awe-inspiring locations. Set near either snow capped mountains or isolated coastal stretches, these courses, provide inspirational natural backdrops with breathtaking scenery. Better still, the courses are uncrowded and fun-to-play. To compliment your golf excursion, New Zealand has tours of its fabulous wineries in 12 wine regions and other activities like whale watching, helicopter tours, scenic train trips and boat cruises, diving, surfing and tours of "The Lord of the Rings" film locations.

Canada--From the dramatic Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links courses in Nova Scotia (created by Bandon Dunes developer Mike Keiser) to Western Canada's courses set against backdrops of soaring mountains and lush pine forests, this country has lots to offer golfers. While golf is often overshadowed by hockey and winter sports, the spring, summer and early fall are great times to tee up. You can stay and play at legendary resorts like the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, which is styled after a Scottish Baronial castle, and Jasper Lodge, an iconic luxury mountain resort on the shores of Lac Beauvert.

Australia--Aussies absolutely love golf. It's the country's number one participant sport. For golf vacationers, the combination of world-class golf, fine wines, unique cuisine, beautiful coastlines, a relaxed lifestyle and a welcoming, golf knowledgeable citizenry makes Australia a fantastic choice, especially for couples. There are more than 1,800 courses to choose from in Australia. The best courses are in a small area of Melbourne known as the Sand Belt, where legendary layouts like Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Commonwealth are located.  Wine tours are popular with more than 60 wine regions. Australia has an outstanding outdoor dining lifestyle so you'll enjoy some of the world's best food and wine amid magnificent surroundings.

Italy--One of the great ways to "work-off" all the sumptuous pastas and delicious wines in Italy is to play golf. There are more than 250 golf courses in the country. Most of the courses are located in the Lake District north of Milan, in the Tuscany region around Florence and near Rome. Italy has become bullish on golf and attracting golf vacationers in recent years. It will host the Ryder Cup matches in 2022 at Marco Simone Golf Club near Rome.