Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Favorite Golf Resort Amenities

When you travel as much as I do, it's the little things that count. It's the flight attendant that rewards you with an extra bag of peanuts, the bellman who actually brings your bags directly to your room not 30 minutes later and the bartender who eschews the jigger on your Bloody Mary. Any intrepid business traveler knows what I'm talking about.

That said, here are five little things that make a difference to me:

Crunchy Apples

At the 10th tee at Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida, a block or so from the Orange County Convention Center, there’s an inconspicuous container filled with fresh, chilled, crispy, red apples. You can have your hot dog smothered with chili and onions at the turn, I’ll take one of the apples, which are a great pick-me-up. In a close second place are the apples on the front desk at the main hotel at Pinehurst Resort.

Charcoal Chicken Sandwich

The halfway hut at Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico has, what I consider, the best grilled chicken sandwich on the planet. This is not some lame, tasteless piece of poultry prepared on a gas grill. No, here they use real charcoal. Before they grill, the chicken is marinated in concoction of lime juice, onions, green pepper and garlic. It’s served on a crispy Puerto Rican roll. Chase it down with an ice-cold Medalla beer and you’ve got heaven on earth, brother.

Meet Arnie

If you stay at the 70-room Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, there’s a good chance you’ll run into Arnie, especially during the winter months. Palmer can be spotted just about anywhere on the property from the golf course and clubhouse to the dining room and front lobby. Bay Hill is a private club and besides an invitation from a member the only way you can play it is to stay at the lodge.

Steps at St. Andrews

About 50 yards or so away from the 18th green at the Old Course in St. Andrews are steps that lead up to the clubhouse. At the end of the day, there’s no better place to sit and watch golfers finish their rounds. You’ll see everything from Americans just glad to be there to grumpy locals who aren’t so glad to have Americans around. In the distance you can see the Swilcan Bridge and the Old Course Hotel. If nothing else, sit for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths and fully soak up one of golf's great panoramas.

Donald Ross Grill

Oozing with history and once operated by Donald Ross, this is the ideal spot to conclude an early morning round at Pinehurst Resort with a great lunch. Overlooking the world's largest putting green and Putterboy statue, it's ideally situated in the clubhouse complex. Following my favorite lunch, a Maniac Hill Club Sandwich with hickory smoked bacon and Beefsteak tomatoes and a large unsweetened tee (the locals love the sweetened, but it's way too sugary) I exit through the front door, take a right to walk through a hallway dotted with historic photos and proceed to gaze at the Payne Stewart statue just outside the side door by the pro shop.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The World Cup of Golf

With all the recent talk about the Olympic Games including golf in 2016, many golfers have forgotten we already have a worldwide competition. It’s called the World Cup. Several years ago I saw some matches when the World Cup was held at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando and it was a great event with lots of pomp and circumstance. If you'll remember, Fred Couples and Davis Love III used to dominate the World Cup in the 1990s.

Greg Norman recently visited 12-course Mission Hills Golf Club, situated an hour from Hong Kong, and shared his thoughts on the World Cup and golf's bright future in China .Norman -- a two-time Open Champion and Captain of the International squad for the 2009 Presidents Cup -- competed in the 1976 and 1978 World Cups.

 "I remember one of my goals in 1976 was to be the youngest, I believe, and the quickest player to make the Australian World Cup team," says Norman . "I turned professional in October of 1976 and won a tournament that month and the World Cup team was chosen in November to go to Palm Springs in the United States . It was a goal of mine right from the get-go to represent my country."

He continues: "No matter where you go and play as an individual in a tournament you do represent your country. But to actually carry your flag for your country with a partner in the World Cup is an extremely high prize in my mind."

The Omega Mission Hills World Cup will be played for the third straight year on the club's  Olazabal Course, November 26-29. Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Y.E. Yang are among the players scheduled to participate in the event's 55th edition. Featuring 28 two-man teams from nations around the globe, the World Cup is golf's closest approximation to the Olympic Games.

Last year, the Swedish team of Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson shot a sterling 63 in Sunday's alternate shot format to claim a three-stroke victory over Spain .

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finally Some Good News

Hey, this might not equate with the “Cash for Clunkers” deal or the expanded $1 menu at Wendy’s, but at least St. Andrews Links Trust courses aren’t raising their prices.

Green fees for 2010 will stay at 2009 levels.  The high season green free for the Old Course will stay at $211; the new Castle Course  $195; New and Jubilee courses $105; Eden Course $65; Strathtyrum Course $40; and the 9-hole Balgove $19. (Prices quoted are based on Sept. 3rd exchange rate and are subject to fluctuate slightly)

Ready to tee it up in windy ol’ Scotland? You can make tee times at the Trust courses at

Oh yeah, don’t delay, either, the Advanced Reservations process for play on the Old Course and the Castle Courses opened on September 2nd and within 15 minutes more than 800 email applications had been received.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Top 5 Annoying Things About Resort Golf

First let me state I’m not some bitter Andy Rooney type that’s always on the prowl for something negative.  I’m a pretty easy-going guy, but after more than 20 years of playing golf at resorts around the world, I’ve compiled a list of things that annoy me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the chocolates on the pillow, hydrotherapies at the spa, the fresh apples on the counter at check-in and various other resort amenities.

The following, however, is what I don’t like.

1.  Surly Starters—There’s nothing worse than beginning a round in some fabulous setting only to be admonished by some overworked grump who acts like a suspicious border guard.  After a scowl and a lecture about the dozens of things NOT to do, he tells you to have a great day. Sure pal. After listening to the stern speech, I suspect the guy might chase me down if I somehow momentarily forget about the 90-degree rule.

2.  Overpriced Logo Merchandise—What a country! Let me get this straight.  I travel a long distance, pay hundreds sometimes thousands of dollars to stay, play and dine and you reward me with the opportunity to pay $125 for a golf shirt emblazoned with the resort’s logo. Then, I wear my overpriced logo shirt back home and advertise your resort for free to all my friends and family.

3.  Overpriced Golf Balls—Golf balls at resort pro shops have prominently taken their place in the “Ridiculous Pricing Hall of Fame” along with airport hot dogs, beers at the U.S. Open and hotel rooms at the host city during Super Bowl Week. Give us a break please. Chances are we’re going to hit them into all the strategically placed lakes and ponds and you’ll get to resell them.

4.  Sleepy Marshalls—One of the reasons for so much slow play is resorts are afraid to hire marshalls that will actually tell groups slower than pack mules to keep moving.  I know they’re paid to be back-slappers and cheer up golfers, but, puh-lease, get people moving.  I want to get back to the clubhouse for a few libations, not just a nightcap.

5.  The $4 Bottle of Water—I play lots of resort golf in Florida where the temperature in the summer seems to reach microwave oven levels.  Sometimes if you end up playing towards the end of the day, the water jugs on the course tend to be depleted with melted ice.  The water is warm enough to brew tea. What’s the solution? Voila, here comes the cart girl with an 8 oz. bottle of water for $4.  Let’s see, either die from the heat or fork over the 4 bucks. I pay like everybody else.  It doesn’t really bother me until I get home and realize my wife has just returned from Costco with a case of water that cost her $3.99.