Friday, October 29, 2010

Hainan Island: China's Answer to Hawaii

I visited Mission Hills Resort in Shenzhen, China a couple of years ago and was very impressed with the massive, 12-course complex. Now, the Mission Hills developers are expanding their golf offerings on Hainan Island. An island the size of Belgium in the South China Sea, Hainan Island is often called “the Oriental Hawaii.”

Here’s some information I received recently detailing some star-studded happenings on Hainan Island:

The world's biggest celebrities and their golfing counterparts have teed off in the inaugural Mission Hills Star Trophy, at Mission Hills Haikou on Hainan Island , China .

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey were among the Hollywood stars to meet the press today (Thursday) at Asia's leading lifestyle entertainment event, joined by golfers Tseng Yani, the women's world number five, Candy Kung, Zhang Lian-wei, Feng Shanshan, Danny Lee, Rosie Jones and Belen Mozo.

The ground-breaking Star Trophy brings together superstar celebrities and the world's biggest golfing names for the first event of its kind ever played in Asia . In addition to the pro-celebrity team event, the professionals will compete for Asia' s richest individual golfing prize of US$1.28 million.

For Zeta-Jones, the event is a great initiative for golf in China . "As everyone knows, I love golf and have been lucky enough to play in a number of pro-celebrity events around the world. I am sure everyone would agree the time is right to start an event that brings Hollywood and golf together in Asia and to be honest I cannot wait for the action to start."

Grant added: "I am very excited to be in Hainan for the first time. The chance to play golf at such a great new resort and be around some of my golfing heroes is wonderful, as it would be for any who loves the game. This is the closest someone like me can come to playing a professional event, so I have been practising as hard as possible, and hope my team is in contention on Sunday."

Tseng, who is taking a short break from the LPGA Tour to play this week, added: "I did not play very well today (in the Pro-Am), but I will have a new strategy for tomorrow. I am determined to win the inaugural Mission Hills Star Trophy and will use that new approach on the weekend and hope for the best."

Amongst the other announcements today at Mission Hills·Haikou, leading international golf coach Hank Haney announced the launch of the Hank Haney Academy at the new resort, the first of its kind in Asia.

The new academy is a 2,000-square metre state-of-the-art indoor training centre including 10 indoor hitting bays equipped with sophisticated state-of-the-art JC Video swing and SAMS putting analysis equipment, along with 3D motion analysis equipment. It also has designated natural turf practice areas with a comprehensive short game area to help improve every facet of golfers' games.

The Star Trophy field includes celebrities, professionals and selected amateurs, with the amateurs playing with the celebrities and professional golfers today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) in a Pro-Am format.

The weekend play will then be in four-ball stroke play format between 18 teams consisting of a celebrity and a professional, with a 36-hole individual professional event running concurrently on the Blackstone Course. The pro event offers a US$1.28 million first place cheque, the richest individual prize in Asian golf.

The Mission Hills Star Trophy will be beamed to over 150 counties across the world. The TV output will be managed by esteemed broadcaster Terry Jastrow, the veteran sports producer of 68 golf majors and six Olympic Games over his glittering career. Jastrow has won seven Emmy awards and been nominated for 17 times.

The Mission Hills Star Trophy is one of the first major events supporting a government-led initiative to make Hainan a leading international tourism destination in the coming years and reaffirms Mission Hills· Haikou as the world's most memorable golf resort.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Favorite Golf Quotes

Drum roll and clash of cymbals, please!

“A professional will tell you the amount of flex you need in the shaft of your club. The more the flex, the more strength you will need to break the thing over your knees.”—Stephen Baker

“Swinging at daisies is a like playing electric guitar with a tennis racket: if it were that easy, we could all be Jerry Garcia. The ball changes everything.”—Michael Bamberger

“Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air.”—Jack Benny

“I was three over. One over a house, one over a patio, and one over a swimming pool.”—George Brett

“Golf is based on honesty. Where else would you admit to a seven on a par three?”—Jimmy Demaret

“The golf swing is like a suitcase into which we are trying to pack one too many things.”—John Updike

“The harder I practice the luckier I get.”—Gary Player

“Two things that are not long for this world: dogs that chase cars and professional golfers who putt for pars.”—Lee Trevino

“Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.”—Bobby Jones

“Real pressure in golf is playing for $10 when you’ve only got $5 in your pocket.”—Lee Trevino

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ryder Cup Vs. FedEx Cup

As the Ryder Cup (October 1-3, Celtic Manor Resort in Wales) fast approaches, I’m excited as if it were a Major. The Ryder Cup has drama, intensity, team spirit, patriotism, great pressure golf and so much more. Adding sizzle to this year’s version are two colorful captains and Tiger Woods’ participation.

Europe team captain Colin Montgomerie is a controversial figure who tends to put his foot in his mouth quite regularly with spicy quotes, and the fiery American captain Corey Pavin had a recent dust-up with Golf Channel reporter Jim Gray about whether Tiger Woods would be a Captain’s Pick.

Woods, who has struggled on the course since he obliterated a fire hydrant with his Escalade on November 27th, has been lobbying to be one of Pavin’s picks since he didn’t accumulate enough points to make the team. What do you do with a guy who has 14 majors on his resume but now can’t seem to find a fairway or hit eight-foot putts consistently? This is golf’s ultimate reality show with big egos and intrigue.

Everything about the Ryder Cup from the trash talking and national pride to the attractive wives following their husbands around the course to the champagne shower for the victors is fun to watch. The pressure of playing for your country and teammates is sometimes overwhelming and you see some of the best golfers in the world wilt right before your eyes.

In contrast, the FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour’s annual playoffs is not much more exciting than watching Tour pros hit balls at the range. First, find me one person, anyone, even a PGA Tour player, who completely understands the complex points system and who’s eligible and who’s not. I’ve tried to follow this thing since its inception in 2007 and I just can’t seem to get into it. I remember when it was announced in 2005 and how the PGA Tour said it would be like the NASCAR-like points race and provide fantastic golf and playoff intensity. Aside from the big bucks the players stand to win, nothing seems too exciting about the entire series.

Do we really care who wins The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and the Tour Championship? Not really.

Quite frankly, I wish we had the Ryder Cup every year and the FedEx Cup, let’s say, every four years like the World Cup. After all, it’ll take about four years to figure out the goofy points standings.




Monday, August 23, 2010

Just Say "No" to Tiger for Ryder Cup

Do we really need a struggling and befuddled Tiger Woods on this year’s Ryder Cup team?

Hey, Captain Corey, just say “No”.

Realistically, I know this will never happen because television networks and sponsors will put too much pressure on Pavin to add Woods as a Captain’s pick.

Pavin is playing the diplomatic politician card when it comes to Woods’ Ryder Cup participation. Here’s what Captain Corey had to say when asked about the situation recently at a press conference at the PGA Championship:

“I think a couple of things have happened the last couple of weeks. Obviously he played better last week. He's working on some things that seem to be improving his game. So I was obviously pleased to see that happen last week. His comments to the press and the media are very positive. He wants to play and he wants to be on the team. Again, he's high on my list. He's certainly a big consideration, no doubt.

But as I've said before, you know, everybody I'm looking at, and come September 7, I will let you guys know who those four are going to be. But he and a lot of other guys are up on my list, and probably that list will grow in the next three weeks.”

The Euros haven’t been quite as complimentary of Woods lately and are circling him like sharks after some fresh bloody chum. Irish phenom Rory McIllroy first called out Woods, then Luke Donald chimes in and you know Colin Montgomerie (Monty) won’t be far behind. They can’t wait to get a piece of the new Tiger—the one who barely breaks par anymore, can’t hit two fairways in a row and hasn’t hit a 10 footer since his Escalade ran over a fire hydrant.

Remember, too, we didn’t even need Tiger back in 2008 at the Ryder Cup Matches at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Heck, we pasted the Euros 16 ½ to 11 ½ without Tiger. In fact, when Tiger did play previously, the U.S. had losses three successive times.

I’d rather have somebody like Champions Tour star Fred Couples be a Captain’s pick. At least Freddy is at the top of his game right now. Tiger  has too much baggage and he’ll detract from the team concept Pavin is trying to perpetuate. Do we really need the British tabloids attacking Tiger daily while our other lads are trying to sharpen their games for the TwentyTen course at Celtic Manor?

I’m not a Tiger hater, but I really think he should sit out this Ryder Cup and open the spot up for a youngster who would treasure the opportunity.

As I said, that’s not gonna happen. So, get ready for the “American Ryder Cup Team and the Tiger Woods Road Show.” With Euro team members popping off regularly, the British tabs about to join in and the steady murmur of controversy that Tiger woods brings these days, it should be one heckuva Ryder Cup.




Monday, August 16, 2010

Golf in Venice, Italy? Yes, Bravo.

Last month, I spent several days in Venice, Italy. Like most tourists, I strolled the sidewalks lining the canals, sipped wine at a café on San Marco Square, indulged on gelato and watched the passing parade of boats on the Grand Canal.
My biggest discovery in Venice (my third visit) had nothing to do with culinary delights, gondolas or Murano glass. Through a well-informed and connected lady named Tabita Miotto, I found out about the wonderful golf opportunities around Venice and Italy in general.
Miotto is a key principal in Amazing Venice Golf , a marketing coop organization that not only promotes golf in Venice but in other regions of Italy, such as Tuscany, Piedmont, Rome, Apulia, Sicily and Sardinia and the Italian lakes region. If you want to play golf in Italy (which has about 200 golf courses), I highly suggest you consult this site first. They’ll guide you to great golf as well as incorporating other activities such as gastronomic, art and wine tours.
Miotto summarizes the appeal of Italian golf this way: “Sipping a cappuccino in the main piazza, under the Italian sun surrounded by art masterpieces….I have always been used to the Italian sweet life…I was inspired to share these emotions with other people…Italy has excellent courses and I hope you will experience the unique feeling of playing in Italy.”
Designers like Arnold Palmer, Robert Trent Jones and Kyle Phillips (designer of Kingsbarns in St. Andrews) have fashioned courses in Italy.
The Amazing Venice Golf site includes a “Great Deals” section which features package deals and an E-Quote, which allows you to submit your destination, accommodations, golf and other requests resulting in a customized quote.
Back to Venice. The closest golf course to Venice is the Golf Club Venezia, which was built in 1926 and is ranked among the top ten courses in Italy. Thirty minutes away in the picturesque, college town of Padova, there are several options to play, including the Golf Club Montecchia, Golf club Frssanelle and Golf Club Padova.
The Veneto Region, where Venice is located, is diverse topographically and you can enjoy a variety of golf experiences in and around main cities like Venice, Padova, Vicenza, Verona and Treviso as well as layouts in mountain settings in the Dolomite Mountains.
Amazing Venice Golf works with a long list of hotels, resorts and luxury bed and breakfast properties and golf courses. Ms. Miotto arranged for me to stay in the Domus Orsoni, a fabulous luxury boutique bed and breakfast situated next to the Orsoni glass factory, which manufactures glass mosaic with gold leaf. The five rooms and hallways are brimming with works by different Italian artists and the mosaic-tiled bathrooms are phenomenal. Located in the quiet Cannaregio section of Venice, the Domus Orsoni is a great respite after a day of playing golf or traipsing over and around canals.
So, if you’re seeking “la dolce vita” (the sweet life) and an Italian golf experience, go to Amazing Venice Golf and you’ll be sipping cappuccino in sidewalk cafes and playing golf among the olive trees in no time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Sunny Side of Life

I spent the first week of August playing golf at Sun Valley Resort in Ketchum, Idaho. Sun Valley, which just celebrated its 75th winter season, is known as one of the best ski resorts in the world, and it’s definitely distinguishing itself as an exceptional place to play golf from April 1 to October 1.

Here are some of the highlights of my visit:

·     I played the 18-hole Trail Creek course a couple of times and was impressed with the 6,941-yard layout offering fairways framed by tall evergreens and Aspens.  From the middle and resort tees it has generous and fair landing areas and there’s suitable challenge when low-handicappers move to the back tees. The mountain panoramas, open, flower-laden meadows and wildlife at seemingly every turn (I saw deer prancing by on several holes) provide a great way to spend four hours.

·     The new 9-hole White Clouds course is extreme mountain golf at its finest. Some holes feature tee shots from highly perched tee boxes to wide-open fairways down below. The views are stunning. You have 360-degree wrap-around panoramas of the Wood River Valley encompassing world famous ski runs on Baldy Mountain and Dollar Mountain, the Pioneer Mountains, Angel’s Perch, Devil’s Bedstead and the home of Ernest Hemingway. For a vast understatement, Sun Valley Resort owner placed a stone with a plaque on the 5th tee box that reads: “This is not all about golf.” My favorite hole is the 523-yard, par 5, number eight where you smash your drive from an elevated tee into the brilliant blue sky to a spacious valley below.

·     One of the amenities that makes Sun Valley a great family golf destination is the innovative 18-hole Sawtooths Putting Course, which is patterned after the one at St. Andrew’s. Though I actually scored a nine one of the wildly undulating holes, the course is an absolute blast to play.

·     After a round, there’s a great treat waiting for you—Sun Valley’s golf clubhouse, a 59,000 square-foot stone edifice with wrap-around terraces with mountain views and indoor and outdoor fireplaces. The menu goes well beyond your typical, boring clubhouse fare. Here I munched on sweet potato fries and a Mediterranean Lamb Gyro and washed it down with a frosty brew from the tap. I hear the grilled wild salmon sandwich is a good choice as well. For traditionalists, the Kobe Beef Burger, a half-pounder with cheddar, Swiss or bleu cheese will make you forget about all your bogeys, too.

·     I got to see country crooner Garth Brooks in concert (see photos) with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony at the phenomenal new outdoor pavilion. The copper roof structure accented by Italian stone has a superb sound system and seats 1,500. Among the acts that have appeared recently are former Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder, singer/songwriter Peter Cetera, formerly of the band Chicago and violinist Itzhak Perlman. The Sun Valley Symphony performs free concerts at the pavilion throughout the summer.

·     One of the highlights of visiting Sun Valley Resort in the summer is the Olympians on Ice program staged at an outdoor rink directly behind the main lodge. The night I saw the show, Olympic Silver Medalist Sasha Cohen was the featured performer and she headlined a dynamic show.  The shows are staged every Saturday night from late June to early September. I was told many top skaters use the Sun Valley Resort facility as a summer training ground so there’s never a shortage of great skaters for the show.

·     To really get a sense of what the resort has to offer, you’ve got to rent a bike. The on-site bike shop has everything from serious mountain bikes to big tire cruisers. I chose a cruiser and rode into the town of Ketchum about a mile away. A picturesque village peppered with bistros, restaurants, bars and gift shops, Ketchum is laid-back without the pretentiousness of, say, Aspen or Vail.  Celebrities apparently love the understated lifestyle.  Among those with homes in the area are actress Demi Moore, actor Bruce Willis, and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

·     Legend abounds that Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Ketchum off and on later in his life, wrote part of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a room in the Sun Valley Lodge. From the 5th tee on the White Clouds Course you can see Hemingway’s house.

·     The dining at Sun Valley has a little something for everybody. Following a gondola ride up Baldy Mountain, I dined at the legendary Roundhouse (Averell’s), one of the great on-mountain dining places in the world. At The Ram, the resort’s top gourmet restaurant, I had one of the best German cuisine-inspired dishes to ever grace my palette. It consisted of a seasoned piece of pork roasted for eight hours then placed over a bed of spatzle with a course mustard sauce. Absolutely superb. One of my dining partners raved about the oven-roasted Chilean sea bass and the pan-seared prosciutto stuffed breast of free-range chicken is a can’t miss as well. Don’t leave the property without dining at the Trail Creek Cabin, a fixture since 1937 that sits next to a babbling brook and features and outdoor bar with phenomenal mountain views. Locally raised beef, Idaho Trout, baby back ribs and meat loaf are the top menu choices. In the summer, you can take a wagon ride to the cabin for dinner.

·     If you’re looking for a summer or early fall golf getaway where everybody in the family will find an activity to enjoy, I highly recommend Sun Valley Resort. Among the activities available are tennis, hiking and biking, horseback riding, paddle boats, trap, skeet or sporting clays shooting at the gun club, gondola and ski lift rides, fly-fishing, three swimming pools, on-site boutique shopping, wining, dining and shopping in the nearby village of Ketchum, spa, fitness center, ice skating, on-site six lane bowling alley, kid’s program and the list goes on.




Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summertime Golf Excursions

Spanning the globe to find great golf is a never ending pursuit. In the next couple of months I’m traveling to a diverse group of destinations to play some great courses and write about them.

First up is Venice, Italy. Yes, you read that correctly. Not Venice, Florida.  A group named Amazing Venice Golf, a marketing coop, says there are about a dozen courses in close proximity to the canal-only city.  I’ll play and tour courses like the Golf Club of Venezia and Golf Club Montecchia in nearby Padova. I’ve been to many unique golf destinations in my career—Kenya, The Canary Islands, Morocco and China to name a few—but this one should be very special.

Later this month I’ll go to Panama City, Florida, which has exceptional courses like the Greg Norman designed Shark’s Tooth and Tom Fazio designed Camp Creek Golf Club. What saddens me is the anxiety the NW Florida Gulf Coast tourist area is undergoing about the massive oil spill and what the eventual effect it will have on the beaches. Right now, they’ve discovered a few isolated oil balls, but who knows what the future holds especially in the next few months, which is also hurricane season.

In early August, I’ll venture to Sun Valley Resort in Idaho. Everybody knows the area as a great snow skiing destination, but I’ve been told there’s some pretty good golf up there as well. I’m anxious to play the Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed Trail Creek Course, which is a Golf Digest “Top 75 Resort Course in North America” and the 18-hole Sawtooth Putting Course, a 52,000 square-foot nirvana for the flat stick. There’s also a new 9-hole layout called White Clouds, which I’m told, has stunning views of surrounding mountains. I can’t wait. It’ll be a nice reprieve from the sweltering Florida heat.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tiger Woods 2.0 a Big Dud

So far, Tiger Woods’ return to tournament golf has been about as exciting as the movie Caddyshack II and Michael Vick 2.0.

Instead of the swashbuckling Woods that stalked the fairways before his “Cocktail Waitresses Across America Tour”, we’re getting the somber, somewhat bewildered Woods who misses cuts and bails out because of a sore neck.

It seems so long ago that CBS's Jim Nance would wax poetically about “Tiger being on the prowl”. Nance always seemed to notice “the look in Tiger’s eyes”.  Now, the only thing Nance can drone on about is whether Tiger will make the cut. Hey, that super slow mo of Tiger's errant swings off the tee is interesting, too.

On the course, instead of magical shots to win tournaments, Tiger gives a weekly lesson in military golf-left, right, left, right… That seems to be where most of his drives end up.  If I want to see crappy driving like that I can go to my local muni and camp out at the first tee.

Why does Tiger continue to wear his red shirts on Sunday? The intimidation he once exuded is long gone. Heck, it seems like every twentysomething on the PGA Tour, from Rory Mcllroy and Jason Day to Rickie Fowler and Ricky Barnes has shown Woods up lately. Even 16-year old amateur phenom Jordan Speith has grabbed the spotlight from Woods. Tiger might want to switch Sunday colors, perhaps a lavender or chartreuse?

Off-the-course, Woods actually seems to be grateful and accommodating to interviewers like CBS’s Peter Kostis. The grumpy, suspicious Woods after a round is a distant memory.

You gotta wonder, too. What happens if Woods gets his act together and actually wins a tournament?  Most likely his estranged wife and kids won’t rush out to greet him. Sadly, he might be surrounded by his agent Steinie (Mark Steinberg) and perhaps a Las Vegas showgirl.

It’s so sad. Truth is, I’d rather watch Caddyshack II than watch Tiger Woods play golf these days. No, it's not that bad, but I certainly don’t enjoy watching Tiger Woods 2.0.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Top 10 Oceanside Caribbean Golf Courses

A decade or so ago, let’s face it, golf in the Caribbean was a distinct afterthought. With only a few true championship courses, most visitors were more interested in snorkeling the gin clear waters, searching for the best Mojito and maybe parasailing on a whim.

Oh, how things have changed.

New, phenomenal golf courses have been springing up regularly in the Caribbean and many of them capitalize on stunning ocean settings. I’ve traveled to the region several times in the last couple of years and here’s my list of top oceanside courses to play:

Bahia Beach Golf Club (Rio Grande, Puerto Rico)—Designated a Certified Golf Audubon International Signature Sanctuary Course, this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed course weaves along two miles of scenic coastal beach surrounded by patches of coastal forests, within view of El Yunque National Rainforest.

Corales (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)—Opened in April, the oceanside beauty will undoubtedly take its place as one of Caribbean’s best. Dramatic panoramas, ocean cliff-side holes, a rock quarry and lake-front green sites are just a few of the elements that make this Tom Fazio designed gem a memorable, challenging and fun golf experience.

Emerald Reef Golf Course at Sandals Emerald Bay (Great Exuma, Bahamas)—A Greg Norman design that features six signature holes framing the perimeter of Emerald Bay’s peninsula overlooking the Caribbean Sea. An added bonus: the course uses an environmentally friendly seashore paspalum grass, which creates a lush, verdant turf to play on.

Faldo Legacy Course at the Westin Roco Ki Beach & Golf Resort (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)—Nick Faldo is a very underrated golf course designer. He’s got several courses around the world, but this one has to be at the top of his resume. The Legacy winds through a lush mangrove forest and into highlands flanked by rocky cliffs and breathtaking azure Caribbean Sea.

Ocean Club at Paradise Island (Bahamas)—Designed by Tom Weiskopf, the Ocean Club has spectacular oceans views and several seaside greens and tee settings. If you want to know where your “wind game” stands, play this breezy beauty.

Ocean Course at Rio Mar Beach Resort (Rio Grande, Puerto Rico)—Designed by Tom and George Fazio, this venerable layout gets overshadowed somewhat by the resorts’ other course, the River Course, designed by Greg Norman. The Ocean Course with its ocean views, elevated greens and iguanas sunning themselves on several fairways is a Puerto Rican golf experience not to be missed.

Playa Grande (Dominican Republic)—Set high above the ocean it plays along 100-foot bluffs. It has 10 holes that play alongside the ocean. Hilly in spots, the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and opened in 1997.

Punta Espada Golf Club (Cap Cana, Dominican Republic)—Some golf publications are intimating that this Jack Nicklaus signature design is the best course in the Caribbean and Mexico. No doubt, it’s a stunner with 8 holes that play along the sea and fantastic views from just about everywhere on the course.

Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo (La Romana, Dominican Republic)—Perenially ranked as the number one course in the Caribbean by golf publications, this classic Pete Dye designed oceanside gem, with its holes lined by jagged and rugged coral rock, never gets old. It definitely has to be on every golfer’s “Bucket List”.

Tryall Course at the Tryall Club (Montego Bay, Jamaica)-Stretching from the oceanside up into wooded areas and past coconut groves, this classic course has some stunning Caribbean Sea panoramas. They’ve got some great caddies at Tryall as well.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Visit NYC, Play Pound Ridge Golf Club

Is there a bigger hassle in the world than visiting New York City and trying to fit in a round of golf? 

I’ve visited the Big Apple several times on business and leisure and I’ve never played golf. It’s too much of a hassle and I don’t like to miss anything in the City. I’m a sucker for world-class dining, great jazz clubs and just walking the vibrant streets engulfed by the unmatched urban vibe.

That said, I discovered a great opportunity that incorporates luxury accommodations and play on a Pete Dye-designed golf course. Mandarin Oriental, New York and the Pound Ridge Golf Club, located 40 miles north of New York City, have partnered to give golfers a chance to roam the fairways and still enjoy one of the world’s most dynamic cities.

You can make tee times through the hotel’s concierge before the start of your stay or during your time on-site at the 248-roomMandarin Oriental, New York. Guests traveling without a vehicle can make a variety of transportation arrangements through the hotel, from car services and limousines to rental cars.

“Pound Ridge’s location sets up perfectly for golfers who want to play 18 holes of Pete Dye-designed golf, and return to the city for dining and entertainment,” sys Pound Ridge Golf Club owner Ken Wang.

If you don’t take your clubs, don’t fret, Pound Ridge has high-end clubs available for rental including current and next generation Nike equipment. Foot Joy golf shoes are also available for demo. Regular rates for Pound Ridge during the peak season (May 1 through December 1) are $235, $175 (after 3 p.m.) and $125 (after 5 p.m.). Rates for booking 8 days or more in advance are $195, $150 (after 3 p.m.) and $105 (after 5 p.m.) with a 25% deposit required.

Will you get pounded at Pound Ridge?

No. There are five sets of tees on each hole.

Regardless of how you play, this course is wonderful, lush green reprieve from the frenzied urban life in New York City. Pound Ridge is less than 15 minutes from Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut.

Laid out over 172 acres, the course has magnificent cliffs, streams, wooded hills, mounding, wetlands open meadows and expansive green complexes.  The property features some of the highest points in Westchester County, with a number of the tee boxes offering phenomenal vistas of the surrounding countryside.

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Corales Course a Must Play

I just returned from a four-day jaunt to the Dominican Republic. It was my second visit to the “D.R.” and I came away more impressed than ever. My primary reason for the visit was to see and play the new Corales Golf Club Course at the PUNTACANA Resort & Club.

The course has been getting a lot of pre-opening buzz and I went down to see what all the fuss is about. Believe me, this one deserves the buzz. Think Pebble Beach oceanside style holes with Caribbean colors. Set between rocky cliffs, coral reefs and the expansive Caribbean Sea on the eastern shoreline of the country, Corales promises to take its place as one of the world’s great, exciting seaside golf experiences.

Designer Tom Fazio was on hand for the ribbon cutting and he summed up his latest masterpiece this way: “Corales encompasses a dramatic blend of captivating vistas, ocean cliff-side holes, rolling inland terrain and salt-water lakefront green sites, as well as with a memorable mix of variety and strategy. With a variety of short and long holes, holes playing into the breeze as well as downwind and a tremendous mixture of visual elements, playing Corales will be an experience to remember, and is sure to set the new standard of quality golf in the Dominican Republic.”

Here are some brief observations from my round:

  • Six of the 18 eighteen holes are oceanfront, including the final three, which have been dubbed “The Devil’s Elbow”
  • The fairways are gargantuan wide. Because of the prevailing winds, Fazio gives even the most struggling mid-handicappers more than ample landing areas.
  • The entire course (tees, greens and fairways) has the same grass—a plush carpet of Paspalum Supreme.
  • Currently there are no homes on the course. Plans call for a low-density focus with only 124 home sites.
  • The director of golf is highly-respected Jay Overton, who you may know from his many years at Innisbrook Resort near Tampa.
  • Construction on the course started in 2006.
  • My two favorite holes are 17 and 18. When you stand on the green of the par 3 17th you’ll feel a refreshing spray of Caribbean ocean against your back as the waves crash a few feet away. On 18, you hit across turquoise/blue waters from one craggy cliff to another. You can play safe leaving yourself a long second shot or bite off a big chunk resulting in a short wedge to the green.
  • The landscaping by world-renowned Spanish landscape designer Jesus Ibanez is phenomenal.

My advice: If you can play only one course in the Caribbean, make it the Corales.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Masters Musings

Where Will Tiger Play Next?

You won't see Tiger at Quail Hollow, The Players or any other upcoming tournament. Let’s face it, he played in a well protected environment at the Masters with overly polite fans afraid they would have their badges yanked if they got too rowdy. Once the beer guzzling, “You da Man” types, get a hold of Tiger at a regular event, watch out. Can you imagine Tiger at the island hole 17th at TPC Sawgrass at the Players, which is framed by thousands of beer swilling fans (not patrons)? If you think the Florida v. Georgia game is “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party”, you haven’t been around the 16th  and 17th greens at the Players on a hot spring day.

Best Round at The Masters

Like much of the golf universe, I was glad to see Phil Mickelson slip on the Green Jacket at the Masters. Phil played great and that 207 yard, 7-iron, between the trees off pine straw on the 13th hole is a shot for the ages. That said, Tiger’s final round was unbelievable. How can anyone, except Woods, jack one in the bunker, miss a one-footer, hit drives into other fairways all day and still shoot a 69. Almost every other pro would have shot 78.  Regardless of what you think of Tiger and his “Cocktail Waitresses Tour Across America”, the guy is still the greatest golfer on the planet.

Tiger No Longer Untouchable

First, Masters Chairman Billy Payne ties into Tiger and admonishes him about his off-the-course behavior and diminishing role model status, then announcer Jim Nance takes Tiger to task in a post Masters radio interview about Woods’ on-course cussing and general rogue behavior after a bad shot. There used to be a day when nobody, and I mean nobody, ever criticized Tiger. Those days are long gone.

Anthony Kim Will Win the Masters

One player overrun by the Tiger v. Phil morality play and golf tournament was Anthony Kim, who had a stellar Sunday. Kim is a virtual birdie and eagle machine at Augusta National. If he can get his injured thumb back to normal, he’s my early favorite at next year’s Masters.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tiger Won't Make Cut at 2010 Masters

If Tiger Woods makes the cut at the 2010 Masters, he’ll go down as the greatest sexual escapade comebacker since William Jefferson Clinton. The former president was somehow able to compartmentalize and still effectively govern the last few months of his term. Clinton has even evolved into a respected statesman on the world stage despite his, shall we say, checkered past.

I don’t think Woods can pull of a Clintonian-style miracle. With his image shattered--and who knows about his psyche-- from months of non-stop mistress accusations, sensational tabloid and celebrity web-site headlines and intensive rehab, I believe Woods will need to be superhuman to make the cut, much less contend or even win the Masters this year.

While golf media types everywhere drivel on endlessly about how “the Masters is the most controlled environment in sport and is seemingly impenetrable” to drunken unruly fans and sleazy media types, they might be right about the rowdy beer guzzlers, but the tabloids and celebrity websites will, no doubt, go into commando mode to ruffle the feathers of the Green Jacket crowd and Tiger fans everywhere.

First, they’ll find out where Tiger is staying for the week. Then they’ll pay outrageous prices to scalpers to get inside the Augusta National gates, and they’ll slip a few greenbacks to every landscaper, bartender and garbage collector who can feed information on Tiger, his family, entourage, agents and corporate hanger on types.  Moreover, look for all the mistresses to resurface during Masters week to add on a few minutes to their “fifteen minutes of fame”

The 2010 Masters is shaping up to be an epic battle for the ages: The Tabloids versus The Green Jackets. I’m going with the Augusta National types who could teach a couple of things to Homeland Security. However, I think the additional hassles Tiger will face and the fact he hasn’t played competitively since November will make it difficult for him to shoot consistent rounds for four days.

Tiger has often been a slow starter on Thursday and Friday and I don’t think he’ll make it to the weekend.

If Woods proves me wrong and blocks out the craziness,, the National Enquirer and other celebrity news outlets throw at him, then he truly is the greatest golfer who ever walked the planet.

Until then, Jack Nicklaus is the greatest.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Go Fish and Golf

I once saw a sign at a tackle shop in Key Largo, Florida that aptly summed up fishing’s universal appeal. The sign read: The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions of hope.

Hmm, sounds a lot like golf to me.

Both sports require mental flexibility—the ability to adapt to changing conditions and situations. Also, a great golf swing and a perfect cast both involve exceptional timing and coordination.

Many golfers tout fishing as the ultimate escape from the mental rigors of golf.  Golf icons Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus, PGA Tour stars like Davis Love III and David Duval and Champions Tour players Andy Bean and Joey Sindelar are professed anglers.

My favorite place to fish is around Panama City Beach in the Florida panhandle, where you can fish offshore in the gulf, surf fish, pier fish or drop a line in the bay or many of the lakes in the area. If you’re looking for a charter to fish the Gulf of Mexico and the Big Bend area, I recommend Captain Steve Sharp (850-984-5839) in Panacea, Florida, about 30 miles south of Tallahassee. Sharp holds a Coast Guard Master’s license and has been taking charters for 18 years aboard his 30 footer. Quite simply, he knows the water and he knows the weather.

I look at fishing and golf as a sort of “Fusion Getaway”. Mix a little of each in your recreation menu and it makes for a very relaxing way to spend a few days.

Whether you want to do a little angling on a course between rounds, fish lakes and rivers with the help of a guide or go after big game fish on the high seas, rest assured, there’s a golf resort or destination awaiting to accommodate your fishing desires once you stop chasing the white dimpled ball for the day.

Baypoint Marriott Golf Resort & Spa (Panama City, Florida)—It has two excellent championship courses—The Meadows and the Nicklaus Design Course. For anglers, fishing boat rentals are available as well as 23 stocked lakes and a 205-slip marina that accommodates yachts up to 120 feet long. The venerable Bay Point Invitational Billfish Tournament held each July offers the largest purse for billfish in the continental United States. Blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, and dolphin rate as the big catches.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort (Kiawah Island, South Carolina)—What a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts! First, the golf. How about five golf courses with designer tags like Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player? Fishing wise, you’ve got everything from fishing creeks and marshes for redfish, spotted sea trout and flounder to near coastal fishing for tarpon and barracuda to surf fishing.

Melia Cabo Real Beach & Golf Resort (Los Cabos, Mexico)—The golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. meanders through rugged desert terrain and every hole has a spectacular ocean view. In Los Cabos, the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet, creating some of the best marlin fishing in the world. Enough said.

Sandestin Beach Resort (Destin, Florida)—When you get done playing the resort’s 4 championship golf courses (Baytowne, Burnt Pine, Raven and Links), the on-site, 98-slip Baytowne Marina offers opportunities for bay, beach and gulf fishing opportunities.

Sea Island The Cloister & Lodge (Seas Island, Georgia)—In shore you can cruise the marshes in search of trout, redfish, flounder and whiting. Offshore, there’s bottom fishing over an artificial reef for mackerel, cobia, barracuda and sailfish. The Sea Island Yacht Club has six custom boats designed for fishing and touring the Georgia coast.

Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort (Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania)--It has 27 holes of golf including A.W. Tillinghast’s first ever design built in 1911. Fishing is on resort grounds in the Delaware River and encompasses the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The “Big D”, as locals call the river, has seasonal runs of shad and striped bass, along with resident populations of trophy trout, smallmouth bass, walleye and muskellunge.

Sunriver Resort (Bend Oregon) --For fly fishing enthusiasts, this resort is bounded on two sides by the Deschutes River, an outstanding river for brown, rainbow and steelhead trout. Also, there are over 100 lakes and 450 miles of rivers located within one hour of the resort. Golf offerings include three championship layouts and a nine-hole short course.

WaterColor Inn & Resort (Near Destin, Florida)—In addition to having access to great courses like the Tom Fazio designed Camp Creek, Greg Norman designed Shark’s Tooth and Davis Love III’ s innovative Origins 6-hole layout, guests can easily set up fishing expeditions through Old Florida Outfitters, a store adjacent to the hotel that specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle. They’ll set you up with an experienced guide or charter.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Must Play in Tallahassee, Florida

I make several treks to north Florida every year from my home in Orlando. Some of my favorite courses in the panhandle near the beaches include Camp Creek near WaterColor, The Hombre in Panama City Beach and Burnt Pine and Raven at Sandestin Resort in Destin.

Inland, I recommend the SouthWood Golf Club in Tallahassee, an upscale, public-access course designed by PGA Tour player Fred Couples and architect and design partner Gene Bates.

Set on rolling hills framed by large stands of moss-draped oaks, SouthWood has a decidedly Old South flavor. You’ll have to go further south if you want a palm-laden experience. At SouthWood the holes are routed around a wetland area, through thickets of pine and oak and stretches of open meadow.

The golf experience is a pleasurable four-hour walk in the park, so to speak. SouthWood is enrolled in Aubdubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses to ensure that the course helps protect the local environment, conserve natural resources and provide wildlife habitat.

I’m not the only one that thinks SouthWood is a great place to play. A host of top-notch college programs are teeing off Friday through Sunday (March 12-14) for the 2010 Florida State University Seminole Intercollegiate tournament. The teams playing are Arkansas, Baylor, Cincinnati, George Mason, Georgia State, Mercer, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Texas, South Carolina, Troy, Western Carolina and Vanderbilt. Both Florida State and South Carolina are ranked in the top-10 in the nation by Golfweek/Sagarin.

If you get to Tallahassee either on business or pleasure, make sure you play SouthWood. You’ll love it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Finally, Some Good Golf News

Are you sick and tired of nothing but bad news about our lousy economy, golf resorts going into Chapter 11 and everybody bemoaning Tiger Woods’ absence? Surprise. I’ve actually got some good news to report. How about these happenings:

Camilo Villegas

It’s about time a flashy star stepped forward in Tiger’s absence. Villegas’ impressive five-stroke victory at the Honda Classic at PGA National has put the young Colombian back in the spotlight. Known as “Spider-Man” for his contortionist, pretzel-like technique while lining up putts, Villegas has the kind of youthful energy and star power the PGA Tour desperately needs. Let’s face it, even when pre-mistresses Tiger was going strong, the PGA Tour had become somewhat stale because nobody really paid much attention during the many weeks Tiger did not play. Since Tiger typically teed it up less than 20 times a year on the Tour, there were lots of weeks fans just didn’t care. Granted, a non-Tiger Tour has lost a major amount of sizzle, but the PGA Tour will be better off if it develops a larger galaxy of stars like Villegas, Anthony Kim, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and others. I’d love to see Camilo go back-to-back and win this week’s WGC-CA Championship at Doral.

Great Golf Travel Deals

These sorry economic times have rewarded us with some great golf travel deals. For instance, Golfpac Travel is featuring the “Amelia Island Plantation Unlimited Golf Package”, which is good to December 31, 2010. The package costs $386 per golfer (based on 4 persons sharing a resort view three-bedroom villa). Amenities include two nights’ accommodations, unlimited green and cart fees on Ocean Links, Oak Marsh and Amelia River courses and resort service fee and taxes. Daily housekeeping is not included in villa units, but can be added for a fee. For those not familiar with Amelia Island Plantation resort, it’s located 29 miles northeast of the Jacksonville, Florida airport on 1,350 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.

Terrific New Course

There’s a lot of gloom and doom with new golf course construction in the U.S., but there are some excellent new layouts debuting around the globe. One of my favorite new ones is The Black Pearl, a Pete and Perry Dye design on the tropical island of Roatan, 35 miles off the northern coast of Honduras. The centerpiece of the 400-acre Pristine Bay Resort, the course has ocean views on 14 holes and a signature island-green, par-3 11th hole. Play starts oceanside, rises into the island’s rolling foothills and then takes golfers back to the seaside clubhouse. A five-star, 120-room resort hotel and spa is slated to open in February 2011.