Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 10 Golf Travel Trends 2015

Golf Casintino in Italy

Golfers love to travel. In fact, more golfers took a domestic trip in 2014 than skiers, tennis players and sailors combined.
To get you ready for 2015, here are 10 trends to assist you in golf travel planning:

1. Emerging Destinations—For those who’ve already played Ireland and Scotland, European destinations like Italy and France are aggressively promoting golf vacations. Trying to entice golfers who are also foodies, Italian and French golf tour operators tout their exceptional cuisine and wine, which visiting golfers can enjoy once the last putt falls for the day. Many new golf courses are popping up in Thailand, China, Korea and Vietnam and they’re also vying strongly for golf vacationers. Australia and New Zealand are popular new frontiers, as well.

2. Bucket-List Courses—As Baby Boomers retire in greater numbers they have more time to pursue courses on their Bucket Lists. At the top of most lists is The Old Course in St. Andrews, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Dornoch (Scotland), Royal County Down (Ireland) and Royal Melbourne (Australia).

3. Going Mobile—An increasing number of online travel bookings will be done with mobile devices. According to the World Travel Market Global Trends Report, nearly 35% of bookings will be mobile oriented by 2018. Look for the Apple Watch and other smartwatches to make a big impact when it goes on sale in 2015. A few airlines, travel companies and hotels have already released smartwatch apps that allow users to book flights, download boarding passes, search for the best holiday deals and act as room keys.

4. History with Modern Amenities—Golf vacationers want to experience history, but not in a musty and dusty environment. Discerning luxury golf travelers want all the modern day techno amenity candy like high-speed Internet service, Ipod docking stations and flat panel televisions as well as spas, fitness centers and luxury linens. Historical hotels such The Breakers in Palm Beach, Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina and The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin and Williamsburg Inn in Virginia have refurbished and upgraded their properties to appeal to the luxury amenity sensitivities of their guests. 

5. Food and Wine Appreciation—Everybody is a “Foodie”. Lots of golfers watch the Food Network as much as they do the Golf Channel.  Off-the-course, golfers are increasingly seeking innovative, chef inspired delicacies, farm-to-table restaurants, healthy and gluten free choices, craft beers and fine wines. Wine goes well with golf, too. Some of the most desirable wine regions with great golf include Cape Town, South Africa, the Bordeaux in southwest France, Napa Valley, California and Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand.

6. Couples Trips—The buddy trip is still popular, but as more couples retire, they'll travel more and increasingly play more golf together. To enhance the golf travel experience, activities like winery tours and cooking classes will be incorporated in itineraries.

7. Alternative Golf Experiences at Resorts—In an effort to attract more Millennials to golf, a growing number of resorts are offering Footgolf. What is it? In Footgolf, the hole on the green is expanded to 21 inches to accommodate a soccer ball, players tally up their score like golf and it only takes about two hours to complete a round. Resorts offering Footgolf include Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County, New Jersey, French Lick Resort in French Lick, Indiana, TreeTops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan and the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa’s Port Royal Golf club.

8. Electronic Golf Hangouts—The latest rage for those who like to swing the sticks away from the golf course is Topgolf, a golf entertainment complex. 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 has locations in Scottsdale, Arizona, Atlanta, Georgia, Chicago, Illinois, Dallas, Austin and Houston in Texas and Alexandria, Virginia.

9. Putting Courses at Resorts—To entertain golfers in-between rounds and give non-golfers an entertaining amenity to participate in the game, resorts are offering 18-hole putting courses laid out like mini golf layouts. Topping the menu of options are the Punchbowl, a 100,000 square-foot putting courses at Bandon Dunes in Oregon designed by Tom Doak; the Thistle Dhu Putting Course at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina; Dunes Putting Course at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Fla.; the Sawtooths Putting Course at Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho; the 30,000 square foot Seaside Putting Course at Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii; and the 350-yard long putting course at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.


10. House Exchange--With easy access to several major Internet sites, more golf travelers will consider house swapping. Retired Baby Boomers can exchange a stay at their primary or vacation home for an abode in a golf rich area. Just bring your clubs, golf clothes and a tootbrush and, voila, you've got a great place to reside temporarily while someone else is staying and watching your house during your extended stay away from home.

Monday, December 1, 2014

TPC at Baha Mar: Brilliant Bahamas Golf Coming in Spring 2015

If you haven't heard of Baha Mar, get ready for one of the world's most amazing gaming resorts. Combining the over-the-top opulence of Las Vegas with a French Riviera flair and Disneyesque style master planning, this resort will redefine luxury in the Bahamas.

The expansive, $3.5 billion resort located on the north shore of New Providence Island near Nassau is slated for a grand opening in Spring 2015. Dubbed the Bahamian Riviera, it will encompass five luxury hotels, a 100,000 square foot casino, a 2,000-seat performing arts center and art gallery, two spas, 40 restaurants and bars, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, designer retail boutiques and 20 acres of landscaped beach and pool experiences.

One of the centerpiece amenities is the TPC at Baha Mar, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, a stunning addition to the TPC Network of courses. The Golden Bear put in a lot of on-site personal attention on this layout to create what should quickly become one of the Caribbean's most desirable places to tee up. 

Arguably, the best professional golfer ever with 18 major championship victories, Nicklaus is also a prolific course architect with more than 380 golf courses in 36 countries and 39 states.

"TPC at Baha Mar truly epitomizes the standard of excellence and tournament-hosting capabilities for which TPC courses are recognized worldwide," says Charlie Zink, PGA TOUR Co-Chief Operating Officer. The TPC Network is comprised of 33 premier private, resort and daily fee golf properties designed by some of golf's most celebrated architects.

Stretching 7,189 yards, the TPC at Baha Mar, the first Caribbean golf course in the TPC Network, will feature two very distinct nines. The front offers several high-profile water features and ocean views and the back nine weaves through a lush inland forest. Tree growth on the layout is spectacular with 15 species of native trees, include protected Mahogany, Silk cotton, Caribbean Pine and Buttonwood, as well as Red and Black Mangroves. There are also more than 70 species of birds and other wildlife on the course.  

After a round, the Royal Blue Clubhouse, designed in a traditional Bahamian style, will feature an open courtyard overlooking the golf course and a bar and grill restaurant serving breakfast and lunch

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

10 Ways To Ruin a Round of Golf

From dew busting and splitting fairways to rolling in 20 footers and draining a few frosty brews after a round, I can't get enough of the golf experience.

There are some things, however, that are extremely bothersome and can easily alter my euphoric state when I'm roaming the fairways.

Here are some happenings that make me madder than warm beer at the 19th hole:

1. Smug and unfriendly pro shop attendants--How many times do I have to deal with the boorish and bored pro shop counter attendant who wishes he, not me, was playing. You know the type: The junior golfer phenom with PGA Tour dreams who washed out on the mini-tours and ended up behind the pro shop counter. He doesn't want to be there and it usually shows with his indifferent attitude.

2. Grumpy starters--This is typically the irritating retired guy who reads the rules off like some Mike Ditka or Bobby Knight wannabe. The guy treats you like a bunch of first graders about to embark on a field trip. Don't do this, don't do this, don't do this....Many of these guys act like you've never been on a golf course.

3. Bad beverage cart service--When my game is going down the dumper and the golf gods are against me,  I occasionally need a sports drink or some swing oil (beer). I've had too many rounds where I see the concession cart on the front nine and then they never show up again when I really need some refreshment. I don't know if it's a logistics thing, understaffing, laziness or what, but it happens all too frequently.

4. Inconsiderate course maintenance people--You've got a great round going and then "mower guy" shows up during your backswing and poof....there goes your tee ball into the trees. Show some consideration "mower guy" and park up on that nearby hill while I'm swinging. 

5. Aerated greens--I love how many courses neglect to tell you about their aerated greens. There's nothing quite like playing 18 holes of bumpy and goofy putts. Then, they have the gall to charge you full-price for a less than perfect product.

6. Limited signage--Is there anything worse than driving around aimlessly trying to find the next hole on a long and winding course. Hey course designers and owners, if you're going to put a few city blocks between greens and tees at least give us some easy-to-read signage. I've been on too many courses where the tiny signs are a joke and you end up with an unwanted tour of the course.

7. Getting a tee time directly behind a large group of boozing dubbers--We've all been there...You get an afternoon tee time behind a group that's totally focused on their pre-paid mulligans and "worst dressed golfer" awards. If you don't have the six hours to play behind one of these groups, I highly suggest you head back to your car, throw your clubs in the trunk, and get the heck out of there.

8. Hackers hitting from the championship tees--Is there anything better than watching Harry Hacker go to the back tees on a 490-yard par 4 and dribble his tee shot barely past the forward tees?  When, oh when, will people (who rarely play) tee up from the correct tees for their skill level?

9. Bad service, tip-happy cart attendants--These are the guys that run up to your cart after a round and say: "Can I clean your clubs, sir?" They proceed to do a half-ass job and are more interested in the green coming from your pocket than the dirt on your clubs.

10. Worthless course rangers--This is the guy who rarely does anything to speed up agonizingly slow players. He simply can't seem to comprehend the concept that a foursome of super slow players is ruining the golf experience for several other foursomes. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Location: The Dunvegan Hotel Golfer's Corner Lounge Bar in St. Andrews, Scotland

The ambience is a unique combination of a traditional Scottish pub, college bar and Texas roadhouse.

I've been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed a pint or two and lunch at the Golfer's Corner Lounge Bar at the Dunvegan Hotel in the village of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Dubbed "The Dunny" by locals, the bar is set just 112 yards from the 18th green of the Old Course, this warm and welcoming pub is a must stop if you're teeing up anywhere in the area.

The owners are Jack and Sheena Willoughby, a married couple who know a little bit about pubs and roadhouses. Jack, a fourth generation Texan from Liberty, Texas, is a former salesman for a Houston drilling equipment company. Sheena hails from Forfar in the county of Angus in Scotland. They acquired the Dunvegan Hotel in 1994.

My most recent visit was during Ryder Cup 2014 week. On the Tuesday before the matches at Gleneagles, I took a train from Edinburgh. 

Following some sightseeing, I sat on the steps overlooking the 18th green and first tee watching the moveable feast of golfers playing the Old Course. If Disney is the "happiest place on earth" for kids, make no mistake, the Old Course is the same for devoted golfers.

A couple of hours later (one can only watch so many bad tee shots on the opening hole and long putts racing by the hole on No. 18 green) I headed to the Dunvegan Hotel for a frosty one.

I sauntered up the bar, took a seat, and ordered a Tenants.

The guy drinking next to me was a caddie at the Old Course.

For the next hour or so, Bruce, a looper for more than three decades at golf's most legendary course, detailed great stories about nervous Americans dribbling tee shots, big tippers and celebrities.

Lots of caddies hang out at "The Dunny" and I learned from the bartender that Bruce was one of their best regulars. In fact, they start pouring his pint the instant they see him walking by the large window on Golf Place street from the Old Course.

THE SCENE

The walls and ceiling are covered with more than 150 prints chronicling the Open Championship and countless photos of celebrity golfers and as well as regular customers who love the place. Among the celebs with pictures on the wall are LPGA star Paula Creamer and basketball coach icon Bobby Knight.


There are also five flat screen televisions positioned strategically so you can watch sports events in between sips.

THE FOOD AND DRINK

The menu is eclectic with local favorites like fish n' chips and steak pie and American classics like chili, nachos, chicken wings and burgers. My favorite is the fish n' chips, which are made from fresh fish that's delivered every morning.

If you've just played golf on a cold, windy, rainy day and you need something warm to lift your spirits, order the bowl of chili, which is prepared in a classic American style.

Whether you sauntered into "The Dunny" to celebrate the greatest round of your life or you want to drown your sorrows after countless three putts, you'll find lots of beers, ales, spirits and more than 50 whiskies to do the job. 

THE VERDICT

There are thousands of pubs in Scotland, but only one "Dunny". The unique background of the owners and their desire to incorporate both Scottish and Texas influences makes this place a must stop on your visit to St. Andrews. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

On Location: Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Arnold Palmer extends a warm and welcoming hand to guests at his Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

 While many of America's exclusive private clubs have rigid guest play policies, Mr Palmer (A.K.A. The King) makes it simple and easy to play the highly rated Bay Hill Golf Club, home to the PGA TOUR's Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.


All you must do to tee up at Bay Hill is stay at Palmer's 70-room lodge. Better still, as a resort guest you essentially become a member during your stay.


"We're different from a standard golf resort in that every guest at the lodge has member privileges during their stay with access to all the various services and amenities our members enjoy every day," says Roy Schindele, director of sales and marketing at
Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge. "You get a distinct feeling of exclusivity you won't find at a golf resort."

The prices aren't bad either. Schindele says Mr. Palmer insists on giving guests the same prices that members pay. For instance, I had a terrific breakfast of French Toast with prime choice bacon for $10 and paid only $4.5o for a glass of Cabernet (Luna, Arnold Palmer 2011). Mrs. Guru opted for Mr. Palmer's Chardonnay for the same price. 


Moreover, there are no annoying resort, parking or Internet fees.


"Our amenities are things to be enjoyed by our guests and members, not profit centers," he says.


Schindele insists what makes the property special beyond the great golf course and Mr. Palmer's input is the tremendous staff.


"We're different because we have so many long-time employees on our staff who are very dedicated and take great pride in representing Mr. Palmer," Schindele says. "It's one of the main reasons we have so many repeat visitors."


If you visit the Club & Lodge from mid-October to April you might even get to meet Mr. Palmer, who is a part-time resident at Bay Hill. Several staff members told me Mr. Palmer retains a strong presence at the club and is approachable and loves to mingle with guests on the course and in the dining rooms and Members Lounge. 

GOLF

Just a few steps from the Lodge are 27 holes of golf comprised of three nines.

Site of the PGA TOUR's Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, the 7,381-yard, par 72  Championship Course (comprised of the Challenger and Champion nines) is a spectacular layout that incorporates beautiful lakes, bold bunkering, elevated tees, sometimes rolling fairways and dogleg holes.

Bay Hill reflects the personality of Palmer, one of the modern era's most daring and aggresive players. The course, which sweeps along the shores of the Butler Chain of Lakes, is long with a good number of tight fairways.

The most talked-about, and fun-to-play holes are the final two. The seventeenth is a 221-yard par-3 with a large green protected by water and treacherous pin positions. One of the best finishing holes on the PGA TOUR, the eighteenth, a 458-yard, par-4 is as picturesque as it is challenging. For birdie, you must hit an accurate mid-iron shot over water to a huge, undulating green bordered by deep bunkers on the left side.

Palmer first encountered the course in 1965 during an exhibition match with Jack Nicklaus. Smitten by Dick Wilson's design and the surrounding terrain, Palmer immediately began pursuing its purchase. He and several associates took over a lease on the property in 1970, exercising a purchase option in 1976. Since then, Palmer has tinkered with the course and made numerous nips and tucks to make it better every year.

The 3,324-yard, par 36 Charger Nine is an enjoyable layout with a great mix of holes. Less crowded than the Championship layout, it's an absolutely joyful place to play a late afternoon nine holes or a leisurely round with a spouse who's just learning the game (like Mrs. Guru). 

For a video view of the Bay Hill Championship Course, click here to Golf Travel Guru T.V.

ACCOMMODATIONS/AMENITIES


The comfortable and cozy lodge has 70 newly renovated guestrooms with private balconies and patios overlooking the golf course and gardens. Every room is situated just a few steps from the clubhouse, golf course, pool, spa and beauty salon. 


Guestroom amenities:


--Plush bedding

--27 inch flat screen T.V. with cable channels
--Work desk
--Complimentary coffee and tea presented in sitting areas a few steps from guestrooms
--Great views from private balconies and patios
--Luxuriously appointed bathrooms


Major amenities and offerings:


--27 holes of golf

--3 restaurants
--2 lounges
--Spa and Salon at Bay Hill
--Fitness center
--Swimming pool
--9,000 square-foot Conference Center
--6 tennis courts
--Marina at Bay Hill





10 Little Things I Liked:


1. The exclusive toiletries that are made for Bay Hill and Latrobe Country Club guests.


2. The amazing, high-quality, prime choice bacon served at the Grill Room for breakfast.


3. The phenomenal vintage pictures of Mr. Palmer and other golf scenes which dot the hallways and common areas in the Lodge and clubhouse.


4. The delicious grilled chicken wrap at the Terrace Cafe overlooking the swimming pool.


5. The traditional and cozy Members Lounge (bar) where resort guests are welcome.


6. The extra large showerheads in the beautifully appointed bathrooms.


7. The large, junior Olympic size swimming pool.


8. The expansive Bay Hill Pro Shop, which has a wide selection of apparel and accessories with the Bay Hill Logo.


9. Every room is located just a few steps from the putting green, pro shop, driving range and the first tee.


10. The location in the Bay Hill Subdivision allows for great walks or jogs throughout the community.


DINING AND LOUNGES


Grill and Classic Rooms--Evoking the ambiance of a friendly and welcoming private club, these dining rooms offer a casually elegant environment with attentive service from long-time employees.


Members Lounge--A relaxing, fireside bar with comfy chairs and sitting areas and drink menu featuring a good selection of single malt whiskeys, traditional cocktails and Arnold Palmer wines.


Bay Window Lounge--The recently renovated lounge, overlooking the putting green and famed Rolex clock, features big screen televisions.


Terrace Cafe--Featuring indoor and alfresco dining, this cafe overlooking the swimming pool has a menu of lighter fare selections and Arnold Palmer wines.


THINGS TO DO


Universal Orlando
--Located about a 5-minute drive from the resort (2.3 miles), the theme park complex is home to various movie-based attractions, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


On-site marina with world-class bass fishing
--Little known to non-residents and lodge guests is the fantastic marina near the resort. You can catch bass, speckled perch, bluegill, catfish and more. Veteran fishing guides are available, too.


Restaurant Row on Sand Road
--Orlando's highest concentration of restaurants are located less than a five-minute drive from Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Among the most popular are locally owned, upscale favorites Chatham's Place and Christini's Ristorante Italian and celebrated chains like Roy's, Seasons 52, Ocean Prime, Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar and Bar Louie.


Shopping at the Mall of Millenia
--About a 10-minute drive from the resort, this expansive mall is Orlando's most upscale with anchor stores like Macy's and Bloomingdale's, specialty stores such as Apple, Kate Spade and Vera Bradley, restaurants like Capital Grille and The Cheesecake Factory and the Blue Martini lounge.


Play golf at a nearby course--Courses within a 15 minute drive include MetroWest, Marriott's Grande Pines, Grand Cypress Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.


LOCATION


Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge is located in a beautifully landscaped residential community in southwest Orlando a few minutes from Universal Orlando Resort. Address: 9000 Bay Hill Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819


GET THE SCOOP


For more information and or reservations, click to Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge or call 407-876-2429.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wonderful Golf in Western France

Vive La Western France!

This engaging part of France, encompassing towns like Cherbourg, St. Malo and Caen is celebrated for attractions like the fabulous Mont Saint-Michel Gothic Abbey, D-Day beaches, spectacular cuisine and great golf.


Better still, playing golf in Western France affords easy access to Paris (only a 2 and a half hour drive from Caen) and the Brittany Ferries has the most convenient cross channel ferries to France with a wide range of crossing points. From the U.K., you can depart from Portsmouth, Plymouth or Poole and travel to Cherbourg, St. Malo, Caen, Le Havre or Roscoff for a direct channel crossing.


You can select the most convenient ferry to France from the UK from speedy fast-craft crossings and relaxing daytime or overnight cruises, with daily sailings on most routes and a choice of departure times to suit you. 


The best golf courses in North West France


Image source: Brittany Ferries presents the best golf courses in Western France.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

On Location: Ryder Cup 2014--What I Like Best

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND--The Guru arrived in Edinburgh on Monday. I took a day trip to St. Andrews on Tuesday to roam the village and shoot some video of the Old Course. The last few days I spent wandering around Edinburgh and stopping in pubs for a pint here and there or attending the Ryder Cup matches in Gleneagles, about a 1 hr and 15 minute bus ride.

Here are some of the things I like best:

Best place to hangout in Edinburgh: The Grassmarket area has lots of pubs, a pedestrian walking area that splits two streets and an amazing view upward to the Castle.

Most annoying Ryder Cup player: The nomination easily goes to Ian Poulter or "Poults" as they call him over here. This guy really hams it up for the cameras and Euro fans. All the screams, fist pumps and chest thumps get really old after awhile. Especially when the U.S.A. is losing.

Best U.S.A. players: Rickie Fowler looks in top form and the rookie duo of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed has delivered big time. I've been very impressed with their calm demeanor and confidence when surrounded by crazed Euro fans. These guys should be great Ryder Cup players for years to come.
(Photo courtesy of PGA TOUR)

Best holes at Gleneagles to watch the action: My favorites were in the stands on No. 11 and 13 and along the ropes by the green on No. 16 and 18.
No. 13 hole

Best Ryder Cup moment: Watching Phil Mickelson sink a two-footer for birdie on the 18th hole to secure a victory with his partner Keegan Bradley on Friday morning over Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.

Best players to watch at Ryder Cup 2014: Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Victor Dubuisson.

Best places at the Ryder Cup Spectator Village: I like the BMW display where you can get a picture taken while holding an American flag; the Standing Man Public Bar, a large saloon with all sorts of whiskey and beers; and the Scotland display, where there was an occasional free whiskey sampling.

Best dressed fans at Ryder Cup 2014: A group of guys from Michigan (clients of Premier Golf) put together a super patriotic outfit with kilts, Scottish hats and stylish vests.



Best pubs in Edinburgh: My favorites near my hotel (Radisson Blu) are Deacon Brodie's on the Royal Mile and Bee Hive Inn in the Grassmarket area.

Best pub in St. Andrews: Love the lounge bar at the Dunvegan Hotel just a half block from the Old Course. I shared a few pints with a couple of caddies on my visit. Wow, did I learn a lot.



Best celebrities I've seen at Ryder Cup 2014: Basketball icon Michael Jordan, former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy, former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann and former Ryder Cup captains Corey Pavin, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam.

Best fish & chips on this trip: Cromars Classic Fish & Chips in St. Andrews

Best park to sit and view the Edinburgh Castle: Princes Street Gardens