Sunday, April 29, 2012

Top 10 Most Annoying Slow Play Golfer Types

Hope this drops for a "Snowman".
Let's face it, more than three putts, shanked drives and warm beer at the 19th hole, there's nothing worse in the golf experience than playing behind a bunch of clueless dolts who can somehow turn a four hour round of golf into a 6 hour death march.

These guys take slow play to an art form.

Here are my 10 slow-play player types that annoy the heck out of me and other golfers:

1. Playing Wrong Tees Guy--He's the guy with the 22-handicap that absolutely must play the tips so he "can really get a good look at the course and see how the pros would play it." He typically hits his 210 yard drive on a 450-yard par 4 and takes three more shots to make it to the green.

2. Mr. Mulligan Guy--Whether its "a breakfast ball" or the "two off the first tee" call, Mr. Mulligan always likes to take more than one shot so he can "hit it flush" and get off to a good start. Usually, Mr. Mulligan uses the same approach throughout the course.

3. U.S. Open Qualifying Guy--This is the guy (typically an 18 handicap or above) who must finish out holes by lining up putts for quadruple and quintuple bogeys. He counts every stroke and never picks up because he wants to show his wife back home that his 112 on 18 holes is a legitimate score.

4. Practice Swing Guy--You're standing on the tee and you see this poor slug take 3, 4 or 5 practice swings only to dribble a five iron shot about 50 yards down the fairway. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

5. Pre-shot Routine Guy--He watches the pros and must go through an extensive pre-shot routine so he can hit a couple of hosel rockets before reaching the green.

6. Not Ready Golf Guy--This is my nomination for the most annoying slow play guy. He's clueless about speeding the game up by never carrying more than one club to his ball or being ready to hit immediately after a playing partner strikes his ball. He's usually over at the cart swigging a beer until he hears "Hey Stan, you're up. What the hell are you doing over there?"

 7. Talking Too Much Guy--He can't stop talking about his recent vacation, promotion at work, etc. You see him out on the fairway just blabbing away when it suddenly occurs to him that he might want to interrupt his story and hit the ball.

 8. Crazy Cart Guy--He ventures to one side of the course to search for his ball while his playing partner is stranded on the other side of the fairway with the wrong club or no clubs.

9. Cart Girl Romeo Guy--He's the guy with the receding hairline, huge gut and mustard stained shirt that flirts incessantly with the cart girl. While she meets dozens of other better looking and younger guys every day, this guy knows he's God's gift to cart girls. While he orders a couple of Michelob Ultras (to watch the waistline, of course) he peels through his wallet of bills to show the young lady there might be a little something extra if she listens to his B.S.

10. Scorecard Superstar Guy--His group always, and I mean always, loiters around the 18th green tallying up their scores while you wait out on the fairway. Scorecard Superstar and his group need a calculator to add up all the 7s, 8s and 9s but you can wait, right?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Golf in France is Magnifique

The spectacular Etretat Golf Club in Normandy.

Phenomenal wine, exquisite cuisine, amazing culture and history and golf courses designed by marquee names like Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Gary Player make France an enticing and viable golf destination.

Though France doesn't immediately top the list when thinking of a European golf destination, (Spain and Portugal promote their golf offerings more aggressively), it has all of the necessities for a superb golf-oriented excursion.

France has almost 600 courses, which is more than the rest of continental Europe combined. Equally important is there are only about 300,000 golfers in France resulting in courses that are, for the most part, relatively uncrowded. Visiting golfers are treated respectfully at most French golf clubs and are generally considered members for a day instead of suspicious interlopers like at some snooty European clubs.

The French golf menu is a diverse one ranging from traditional parkland layouts and links courses to dramatic clifftop and mountain courses. The divergent topography has given designers exceptional terrain to fashion courses with high-impact features. You'll be hard pressed to find two courses that look or play the same.

Whether you want to tee up overlooking the French Riviera, along the rugged coast of Normandy, in golf happy Biarritz or Bordeaux, near Paris or other areas of France, rest assured, the settings, food and wine will always be magnifique. 

Omaha Beach Golf Club in Normandy.
Here's a quick glance at some of France's popular golf courses (listed alphabetically):

Etretat Golf Club (Normandy region)--Its famous white cliffs make it one France's most identifiable courses. By all means, bring your camera along when you play this panoramic layout, which has a view from each hole of the ocean.

Evian Masters Golf Club (Rhone-Alpes region)--Situated at the foot of the Alps Mountains on the shores of Lake Geneva, this championship layout hosts the women's Evian Masters. A wonderland of lakes, trees and mountain views, it's one of Europe's most beautiful courses.

Golf de Chantilly (near Paris)--Stunningly beautiful, this wooded 36-hole complex, originally built in 1909, is the quintessential, traditional French golf experience.

Granville (Normandy region)--If you love links golf, this course is for you. The Golf de Granville du Mont St. Michel, originally laid out in 1912 and later redesigned by Harry Colt in 1921, is a 27-hole links golf complex oozing with charm and challenge.

Les Bordes (Loire Valley)--Consistently ranked as one of Europe's best courses, this private, Robert von Hagge layout has an American feel.

Moliet (Biarritz region)--This Robert Trent Jones design is famous for its jagged bunkers and carpet-like fairways.

Morfontaine (Chantilly region)-Annually ranked by many magazines and websites as a Top 50 course in the world, Morfontaine is notoriously private and you'll need to know a member or have a good connection to play this beauty.

Paris International (near Paris)--The only Jack Nicklaus design in France, this undulating parkland layout features high-profile water hazards and island greens. It's only open to non-members in July and August.

Omaha Beach Golf Club (Normandy region)--Located near the beaches where the Americans landed on D-Day, this picturesque layout is a supreme challenge, especially when the wind starts howling.

Seignosse (Biarritz region)--A highly ranked course designed by Robert von Hagge, is a wildly undulating layout dominated by pine and oak trees.

Versailles-Golf International-Albatross (near Paris)--A blend of Scottish links and target golf, this Robert von Hagge design, home to 18 of the last 20 French Opens, will serve as the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.

If you're looking for somebody who thoroughly understands how to combine golf with the French lifestyle,  I'd like to introduce you to Beatrice Martin, managing director of La Haute Couture du Voyage, a boutique style travel agency, with offices in Biarritz, France (+33 689657638) and New York City (917-981-9555) that can help you plan a luxury golf trip  to France. She has programs that incorporate wine appreciation, cooking classes, spa treatments, shopping, historical tours and a variety of other fun and interesting activities away from the fairways.

Here's a sample package to Bordeaux offered by La Haute Couture du Voyage:

*  7 nights accommodation at prestigious chateaux hotels or manors 
*  5 green fees (18 holes)
*  7 days transportation (self drive or with a driver-guide) 
*  daily breakfast
*  5 lunches
*  4 dinners at gourmet restaurants 
*  4 wine tasting visits in some of the famous Grands Crus Classes de Bordeaux 
*  visits to St Emilion medieval village 
*  sightseeing and boat tour in Bassin d’Arcachon and Paris
*  meet and greet at arrival in Bordeaux

Non golfers will enjoy different activities;  Spa treatments, shopping, cooking class, ...
Price starts at 4200 Euro per person/dbl room/ group of 6 minimum (approximately $5,560 U.S. dollars)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On Location: Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Florida

For golf vacationers, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is a logistical godsend.

The golf course and pro shop are about 50 yards from the front door of the hotel. The pool, spa, restaurants, shops and other amenities are steps from the main elevator and the beach and Atlantic Ocean frame the back of the hotel.

Rest assured, you can take long strolls and runs on the hard-packed sands, however the walks in the hotel complex are short and always come with a happy ending.

Like other Ritz-Carlton's around the globe, Amelia Island's version has impeccable service, great food and exceptional amenities.

Situated on 26 acres of sand dunes and sea oats on the well-preserved barrier island about 30 minutes north of the Jacksonville International Airport, the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island offers a beach and golf experience enhanced by world-class service at every turn.

While I could drone on endlessly about the resort's major attributes, like most travel experiences, it's the small things that often make a big impact.

Here are 10 Little Things I Liked About My Stay at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island:

1. The ice cold draft Stella Artois I had at the pool bar as I listened to the poolside singer serenading with Jimmy Buffet, Michael Buble and James Taylor favorites.

2. The Bvlgari shave gel left one evening with my turn down service. What a smooth shave the next morning to start the day.

3. Sitting around the firepits on the beach one evening feasting on s'mores and hot chocolate. 

4. The spectacular panoramic view of the pool area below and Atlantic Ocean beaches from my room balcony.

5. The unique Salt boutique shop with its unbelievable selection of gourmet salts, many that are infused with herbs, citrus and other flavors.

6. Live music and dancing in the large lobby area. There just aren't that many opportunities to dance these days. Great music, great fun.

7. Sitting outside on large, fluffy sofas on a flower-encircled spacious lawn behind the hotel gazing at the Atlantic Ocean as the seabreeze wafts through my hair.

8. The orange juice at the resort's Cafe 4750. Produced with organically grown oranges, it's the best O.J. you'll ever have anywhere. End of story.

9. The "Heaven in a Hammock" massage. My wife got one and she's still talking about it several days later. You simply get comfortable in a hammock and receive the ultimate relaxation massage by a therapist.

10.  Director of golf John Price. Unpretentious, friendly and a true professional, Price sets the tone for a great golf experience for everyone, no matter your skill level.

Golf course review

Designed by Mark McCumber and Gene Littler, the Golf Club of Amelia Island is the quintessential parkland layout dominated by natural woodlands and wetlands. Built in 1987, the course has lots of homes framing its fairways, yet you hardly notice them because the tree growth is mature and dense in some areas.

While the course only measures 6,696 yards from the back tees (relatively short by today's standards), it's no pushover. The slope rating from the tips is 140 so you'll need your "A" game to score well. High-handicappers should play the blues (6,156 yards, slope 128) or whites (5,341 yards, slope 115).

You need to be ready on the first tee because the seven par 4's and 5's on the front have narrow landing areas. If you're spraying the ball, you're in for a long and frustrating front nine. Hit the range and make sure you're hitting straight drives before you head to the first tee. The back nine is wide open with more generous landing areas. Shifting ocean breezes are always a concern and you must put in a little extra time and effort in club selection.

Restaurant reviews

The dining options at Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island are impressive.

Salt, the hotel's gourmet culinary experience, is a truly unique resort restaurant. Salt uses 35 salts harvested globally as foundation salts and infuses flavors for menu items. The salts enhance the flavor of superbly prepared dishes. My dinner included White Asparagus Soup, Seared Alaskan Halibut and Steak and Eggs served on a 250 million year old Himalyan Salt Block. Other popular entrees include Nebraskan Free Range Chicken Breast, Atlantic Halibut and Braised Colorado Lamb.  I enjoyed sprinkling some of the salts on my entrees. Among the salts I tried were the Himalayan Pink, Adriatic Citrus Salt and Mediterranean Black Garlic. My compliments to Chef de Cuisine Richard Laughlin.

Cafe 4750, the resort's versatile all-day restaurant, has a menu that utilizes seasonal ingredients from regional farms and eco-friendly fish purveyors. Among the many items I enjoyed were the fresh squeezed Florida orange juice (the best I've ever tasted), Mayport shrimp and house made pasta and gelato. This restaurant appears to be strongly committed to fresh local ingredients and it results in delicious food bursting with flavor.

When to visit

The high season on Amelia Island is March to June and the low season is January to March. If you want to build your visit around a festival, the most popular events are the Concours d'Elegance, a world-class rare and classic automobile show, in March; Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in May and Amelia Island Jazz Festival in October.

Things to Know

Guest rooms: 444 (37 Club rooms, 43 suites, two Presidential suites and four deluxe Oceanview suites with oversized patios).

Guest room amenities: Private balconies, coastal or direct ocean views, marble baths, 37-inch flat screen television, plush bathrobes, one king or two double beds, 400TC Egyptian Frette 100 percent cotton linens, goose down and non-allergenic foam pillows, generously sized desk with ergonomic leather chair, et. Al.

Restaurants: 4 (Salt, Cafe 4750, Ocean Bar & Grill and Eight Burger Bar and Sports Lounge).

Major resort amenities: 1.5 miles of dune-lined beachfront, 18 hole championship golf courses, on-site tennis facilities, The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Amelia Island, indoor and outdoor heated pools with whirlpool, fitness center, full-service beauty salon, four cocktail lounges (one outdoors and seasonal), retail gift shops and The Ritz Kids program, children's pool and playground.

Other recreation available: Deep-sea and backwater fishing, horseback riding on the beach, kayaking, sailing, surfing, bicycling and couple's beach fires.

Nearby sites and activities: Shopping and dining at Fernandina Beach, a Victorian seaport town on Amelia Island, tours of Cumberland Island and visits to Fort Clinch State Park and Talbot Island State Park.

Telephone: 904-277-1100


Monday, April 23, 2012

Conde Nast "Top 121 Golf Resorts" Poll is Puzzling

I don't want to disparage the readers of Conde Nast Traveler, but they did a sorry job of voting in the "Top 121 Golf Resorts" poll in the April 2012 issue.

Some of their selections are laughable.

In the "Top 20 Foreign Golf Resorts" there's no mention of Gleneagles in Scotland or Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, which are two exceptional resorts that amazingly didn't make the list. Atlantis, Paradise Island (tied for 20th) is a great place to gamble and race down water slides, but, no way I'm going there for golf over Punta Cana Resort, which has two great new courses designed separately by Tom Fazio and P.B. Dye.

Really mystifying is the "Top 20 Florida Golf Resorts", which confusingly leaves out superb multi-golf course resorts like Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Turnberry Isle Miami in Aventura and Reunion Resort in Kissimmee.

Instead, resorts like The Breakers in Palm Beach (No. 2), Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in Lake Buena Vista (No. 7), Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables (No. 9), Gasparilla Inn and Club in Boca Grande (No. 10) and South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island (No. 18) were selected by Conde Nast Traveler readers.

Are you kidding me?

While all of these properties are impressive on many levels, with the exception of The Breakers and Biltmore, they could hardly be considered golf resorts. At the Grand Floridian you must take a van to the nearest Disney course, South Seas Island Resort has an on-site 9-hole executive golf course and the Gasparilla Inn and Club is more likely to attract anglers seeking tarpon rather than golfers.

What's really confusing is the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes (No.11) and JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes (No. 13), which  utilize the same Greg Norman-designed golf course. Unbelievably, they received different ranking numbers on the evaluation of "Course Design and Access". Apparently if you spend the night in the Ritz-Carlton you think more highly of the course (91.3) than if you sleep at the JW Marriott (82.4). The only explanation could be access, right? Well, the JW Marriott is located closer to the clubhouse and practice facilities than the Ritz so I'm not sure how you justify the numbers.

Did the readers spend too much time at the 19th hole before they voted?

While I don't feel qualified to rank courses in other areas of the world (even though I've played many on their lists), I know I can do better on Florida golf resorts. I've authored two books and written numerous articles on the best places to play in Florida.

Excuse me Conde Nast Traveler readers, but I can provide a better list for golfers contemplating a golf getaway to the Sunshine State.

Here's my Top 10 Florida Golf Resorts:

1. Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples
2. Grand Cypress Resort, Orlando
3. PGA National Resort and Spa, Palm Beach Gardens
4. Sandestin Beach and Golf Resort, Destin
5. Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
6. Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
7. Turnberry Isle Resort, Aventura
8. Reunion Resort, Kissimmee
9. Renaissance World Golf Village Resort, St. Augustine
10. Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa, Ponte Vedra Beach

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coming Attractions: 3 Great New Golf Courses

Later this year, three exceptional layouts will take the golf world by storm.

Here's a sneak peek at this terrific trio:

Cabot Links (Nova Scotia, Canada)--Let me introduce you to the world's next phenomenal seaside course. Developed by Mike Keiser, the founder of Bandon Dunes in Oregon, Cabot Links, designed by Canadian Rod Whitman, is a walking-only layout with undulating fairways, swales, deep pot bunkers and fabulous ocean views. (opening June 29, 2012)

Streamsong Resort ( Polk County, Florida) -- Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are working in concert with Renaissance Golf Design (Tom Doak) to create 36 holes of spectacular golf on thoroughly interesting terrain formerly mined as phosphate land. The firms are leveraging their many years of experience to design two distinct yet intersecting courses. Massive sand dunes, dramatic landforms and lakes will dominate the golf experience. (opening fall 2012).

Trump International Golf Links (Aberdeen, Scotland)--Like him or despise him, when Donald Trump builds golf courses everyone takes notice. When he builds one in Scotland the "buzz" is off the charts. (opening summer 2012) Check out this stunning video of Trump International Golf Links 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

5 Golf Resorts With Sizzle in 2012

New La Cana course at Punta Cana Resort
Got the golf travel doldrums?
Do you have those “been there, done that” blues?
Are you looking for an exciting place to play?
Number 15 hole at Machrihanish Dunes
Want something with a little sizzle?
Here are five suggestions by The Golf Travel Guru.
Clubhouse at Albatross Golf Resort
These five golf resorts have been grabbing lots of headlines lately:
(Listed alphabetically)
Albatross Golf Resort (Prague, Czech Republic)—This three-year old course was recently voted No. 1 in the Czech Republic by Golf Digest USA. About a 20-minute drive from downtown Prague, it’s a superb layout maintained to American-style standards set on slightly hilly terrain. If you’re in Prague for business or leisure, play the Albatross, it’ll definitely enhance your stay. Other amenities include a professional training center, David Carter Albatross Golf Academy, a sleek modern clubhouse brimming with amenities and an exceptional restaurant.
Bandon Dunes Resort (Coastal Oregon)—This nirvana of coastal courses is quickly becoming one of America’s must visit golf destinations along with Pinehurst and Pebble Beach.  Not content with four phenomenal layouts set on rugged and wild cliffs high above a stretch of the Pacific Ocean, developer Mike Keiser is debuting Bandon Preserve, a unique 13-hole, par 3 course, next month (May 1st). Designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Bandon Preserve offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean from every hole.
Machrihanish Dunes (Western Scotland)—One of Scotland’s great modern courses, Machrihanish Dunes, a David McLay Kidd design, is a must play for any Scotland visit. The course, set on the Atlantic Ocean, is an environmental wonder as only seven of its 259 acres were altered to create the layout. Enhancing the experience is the Village at Machrihanish Dunes, a seaside golf resort with hotel and cottage accommodations.
Mission Hills-Hainan Island (China)—Selected as “Golf Resort of the Year 2012-Rest of the World Category” by the International Association of Golf Tourism Operators (IAGTO), this sprawling resort has 10 golf courses, all designed by Brian Curley. Among the best are Lava Fields and Blackstone. Hainan Island, often described as China’s Hawaii, has lush foliage and a volcanic region where the resort is situated.
Punta Cana Resort and Club (Dominican Republic)—The latest addition to its superb golf course menu (45 holes) is La Cana, a P.B. Dye design with magnificent oceanfront panoramas. There are fourteen ocean-view holes with four playing right on the water’s edge. Two years ago, Punta Cana grabbed the spotlight with the opening of Corales, a Tom Fazio design the Golf Travel Guru refers to as “The Caribbean Answer to Pebble Beach.” Six oceanfront holes, rocky cliffs, coral reefs and picturesque canyons dominate the experience.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Top 10 Golf Travel Trends 2012

Albatross Golf Resort, Prague, Czech Republic
Travel agents are increasingly popular—The poor, lonely travel agent is coming back. Many golf travelers are overwhelmed by the choices and options available on the Internet and don’t have the time or inclination to travel on the information highway. Golf packaging companies and veteran travel agents can suggest destinations and develop itineraries that include fun and interesting activities beyond golf.
Rising airfare prices—There just aren’t that many major carriers anymore and less competition, soaring fuel prices and fewer flights mean higher ticket prices. Bargains are difficult to find, which means more golfers are opting to stay closer to home and travel by car. Nowadays, golfers will drive up to five hours away for a golf resort vacation if they can save a substantial sum versus airfare.
Earlier bookings—As the recession starts to subside, albeit slowly, golf travelers are showing increasing confidence and booking further in advance than waiting to the last minute, which has been the standard the since the economy hit the skids in 2008.
Couples-oriented trips—Empty nester Baby Boomers-- a demographic that plays lots of golf--are taking more couples golf vacations. Their itineraries include as many shopping excursions, spa sessions and candlelight dining nights as golf rounds.
Multi-generation excursions—Like other segments of the travel market, the multi-generation trend is increasingly popular with golf trips. Grandfathers want to introduce their sons and grandsons to some of the great destinations and courses they’ve played around the world. Multi-generation pilgrimages to golf meccas like St. Andrews and Pinehurst are among the more popular along with the Monterey Peninsula in California, Orlando, Florida, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, San Diego, California and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Sports themed trips—Americans, in particular, are huge sports fans. An increasingly popular trip is to schedule a golf resort visit to coincide with other sports events such as Major League baseball, NFL football or NBA basketball games.  Vacationing golfers play a round or two during the day, and then enjoy a sports event in the evening.
New Europe destinations—Italy and France have increased their golf course inventories in recent years. Golfers are attracted by the new courses and the plethora of off-the-course activities such as gourmet dining, winery tours, cooking schools and other pursuits that aren’t as prevalent in traditional destinations like Scotland and Ireland. Wales is another up and coming destination attracting more golfers following the exposure it received after the 2010 Ryder Cup matches at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport. Eastern Europe destinations like Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Russia have debuted new courses recently and are increasingly popular to golf vacationers.
Italy is becoming a popular golf destination.
Emerging destinations—While Scotland and Ireland are at the top of most lists, well-traveled golfers, who’ve played those destinations numerous times, are seeking other, more adventurous spots.  In South America, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia are entertaining more linksters.  Top destinations in Asia are China, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia.   In the U.S., destinations with high-profile courses like Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon and Kohler, Wisconsin will continue their rise in popularity as will newcomers like Branson, Missouri, Mississippi Gulf Coast (Biloxi and Gulfport) and Gulf Shores, Alabama, which promote golf heavily. Value-priced destinations such as Myrtle Beach, Northern Michigan and San Antonio, Texas are strong because of their course inventories and exceptional golf packages.  Luxury golf destinations like Naples, Florida and Palm Springs, California remain strong. In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are golf-happy destinations with exciting golf courses fashioned by big-name designers. [Below, see the 2012 International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) Award Winners.]
Golf and wellness—Empty nester older golfers are increasingly opting for resorts with spas, fitness centers and nature trails. Many major golf resort spas now offer golf muscle specific massages and invigorating treatments designed to rejuvenate golfers and prepare them for their next round of golf.

The spa has become the new 19th hole.

Fewer new resorts, more renovations—The worldwide recession stunted the growth of new golf courses and resorts being built. Consequently, major resort companies are pumping millions into existing properties to enhance and renovate golf courses, add expansive practice and teaching facilities and amenities such as infinity pools and spas.
2012 IAGTO Golf Travel Awards
Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year-Bulgaria
Golf Destination of the Year-Africa, Indian Ocean and Gulf States—Abu Dhabi
Golf Destination of the Year-Asia and Australia—Pattaya, Thailand
Golf Destination of the Year-Europe—Fife, Scotland
Golf Destination of the Year-Latin America & The Caribbean-Los Cabos, Mexico
Golf Destination of the Year-North America—Palm Springs, California
Golf Resort of the Year-Europe—Fairmont St. Andrews, Scotland
Golf Resort of the Year-North America—Turnberry Isle, Miami, Florida
Golf Resort of the Year-Rest of the World—Mission Hills, Hainan, China

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Best and Worst Golf Announcers, Analysts and Commentators

Nick Faldo-At the top
of his game.
From the bland and downright annoying to informative and fun, golf’s on air personalities entertain and sometimes irritate viewers.

Here’s a review of the best and worst of golf’s more notable announcers, analysts and commentators:
(Listed alphabetically)

Tom Abbott (Golf Channel)--Although he tends to get a bit wordy at times, it doesn't really annoy me because of his melodic English accent. A native of London, England, Abbott likes to incorporate an entertainment flair with his golf telecast performances. Known primarily for his work on the LPGA, he's also been the co-host of the Golf Channel's "Big Break" since 2010 and has been showing up on some PGA Tour telecasts recently.

Paul Azinger (FOX)—“The Zinger” is opinionated and he draws his opinions, analysis and assumptions from a career that included a major championship and captain of a Ryder Cup team. I liked him better when he was teamed with Nick Faldo on ABC, but I still enjoy his game whenever he shows up on golf telecasts.

Ian Baker-Finch (CBS)—“Finchy” as he’s often called on broadcasts, has one of the greatest accents ever.  The Aussie, who also does golf for TNT, is knowledgeable and can certainly turn a phrase. Just like Henry Longhurst and Peter Aliss, I can’t get enough of Finchy’s accent.

Notah Begay (Golf Channel)--He's a buddy of Tiger's going back to their days at Stanford, so Begay is, not surprisingly, a Woods apologist. That said, he offers up some interesting takes on playing between the ropes. Begay's PGA Tour career was disappointing, but with some seasoning and enough T.V. reps he could turn out to be better analyst. Just, please, don't ask this guy any Tiger questions because he'll never bum kick his friend.

Brandel Chamblee (Golf Channel)—He comes off as somewhat of a know-it-all frat boy with his dapper outfits and Prince Valiant haircut, but Chamblee knows golf. He can break down a swing as well as anyone on T.V. and he’s not afraid to criticize golf’s biggest stars.

Jane Crafter (ESPN)--She's the female answer to Ian Baker-Finch with her soothing Aussie accent. A pharmacist before she bean playing professional golf, Crafter may not have a marquee name, but she knows the game and works diligently to explain the nuances to viewers.

Nick Faldo (CBS)—It’s hard to believe Faldo was so mum with the media when he played. Sir Nick can talk endlessly about golf. He seemingly has a well thought out opinion on just about every aspect of the professional game. Faldo is at the top of his broadcasting game because he’s superb at telling the viewer exactly what’s it’s like to play between the ropes.  Nobody gets inside the minds of superstar players like Faldo.

David Feherty (CBS/Golf Channel)—He’s just not that funny. Feherty always seems more interested in desperately trying to come up with zany one-liners than actually analyzing the golf action around him. It’s sad, most of his jokes crash and burn. I cringe every time the announcer says, “Let’s go to Feherty.”

Terry Gannon (Golf Channel)--A smooth talker who typically works on LPGA telecasts, Gannon is one of the best set-up men in the business. No matter who he's working with, Gannon asks pertinent questions to the analyst and moves the coverage along effortlessly.

Dan Hicks (NBC)—He’s a solid announcer that never seems to say anything too offensive or annoying. Hicks does a great job of setting up Johnny Miller and making the broadcast flow effortlessly.

Gary Koch (NBC)--The analyst who coined the phrase, "Better than Most" tends to agree with Johnny Miller too much rather than expressing his own opinion. That said, you can't deny Koch's knowlege of the game as he has was a star junior and college player, middle-of-the-pack guy on the PGA Tour and a Champions Tour player.

Peter Kostis (CBS)—He gets a bit technical on his swing analysis and I’m not a big fan of his interviewing, but Kostis is extremely knowledgeable and adds a lot to a broadcast. A member of Golf Digest’s teaching staff, Kostis has worked with Bernhard Langer, Steve Elkington and Mark Calcavecchia, so he knows the ins and outs of the PGA Tour game.

Rich Lerner (Golf Channel)--A smooth talker, adept at reading a teleprompter and well versed in statistics, Lerner is a thorough professional who rarely makes a mistake. He's very comfortable in front of the camera and never seems to get rattled.

Verne Lundquist (CBS Masters Coverage)—It wouldn’t be the Masters without veteran Verne.  He’s been in a tower at the Masters for 28 years. This guy was born to be a sports announcer. He’s one of those golden voices that’s never annoying or grating, and he always adds to the drama, not detract from it.

Roger Maltbie (NBC)--A former PGA Tour player, ol' "Rodge" is a reliable, venerable, on-the-course reporter who has that comfortable, drinking buddy kind of demeanor that is never irritating. You can easily imagine having a single malt or a pint with Maltbie and listening to his colorful golf stories.

Gary McCord (CBS)—I enjoy McCord, the author of “A Range Ball in a Box of Titleists”. Even though many of his lines seem rehearsed before the broadcast, he’s funny and adds a lot to the production. Too bad, the hierarchy at the Masters doesn’t feel the same way.

Johnny Miller (NBC)—You get the feeling Miller couldn't care less what anybody on Tour thinks of his commentary. That’s what makes Miller so appealing. He’s the antithesis of a butt kisser. I trust his analysis and opinions because the guy had a serious golf game in his day. He knows what he’s talking about and you never know what he’ll say next. The feelings of anticipation and unpredictability when you’re watching a telecast with Miller make him must watch T.V.

Jim Nantz (CBS)—Nobody in the business does it like Jim Nantz. While you can criticize him for being too mushy or overdramatic when talking about the Masters and Augusta National, Nantz is always well prepared and unruffled on the air. He makes few mistakes and doesn’t impose his personality on the viewer. It’s an art to be on the air for so long and not annoy the heck out of people.

Frank Nobilo (Golf Channel)—With his great New Zealand accent and an ability to talk on every aspect of life on the PGA Tour, Nobilo is one of the best golf analysts on television. He’s not afraid to criticize, but always does it fairly with facts to back up his assertions.

Dottie Pepper (CBS)--A two-time major winner, Pepper is excellent at describing the physical and mental intricacies of playing professional golf at the highest level. She's also not afraid to ruffle a few feathers once in a while. If you want a strong opinion, she delivers. Although she's mellowed since her recent return to televised golf last year, who can forget her legendary line calling the 2007 Solheim Cup American team "choking freaking dogs."

Judy Rankin (Golf Channel)--She exudes class and knows both the men's and women's game. In fact, she was the first woman to work full-time on broadcasts of men's events. Rankin know the LPGA better than anybody (after all, she served as the Tour president in 1976-77.  Articulate and knowledgeable, Rankin never gets flustered and always puts the viewer in a good mood.

Tom Rinaldi (ESPN)--I used to like Rinaldi's soft approach and heart-warming human interest pieces and post game interviews. I can't take it anymore, though. Everything he does now has a certain sameness and predictability. He asks the same old and tired three questions: "How do you feel?", "What were you thinking?" and "Why did you cry?" 

Charlie Rymer (Golf Channel)--He sounds a bit like Gomer Pyle's long lost cousin with his syrupy southern accent, but Rymer, a former star at Georgia Tech and a PGA Tour player, has some interesting takes and opinions. He doesn't like to criticize other players much, but that doesn't stop him from providing spot on analysis with a cornpone flair.

Kelly Tilghman (Golf Channel)—A former college player at Duke, Tilghman’s love for the game comes through as a play-by-play announcer. She’s attractive, knowledgeable and an easy listen. What more do you want?

Lanny Wadkins (Golf Channel)--He's back. After a hiatus from golf broadcasting (Wadkins served as lead golf analyst for CBS Sports from 2002-2006), Wadkins is now lead analyst for Golf Channel's Champions Tour coverage. He's perfect for the job since he knows and played with most of the old geezers he's covering. While not as caustic as Johnny Miller in his critiques, Wadkins isn't afraid to express his opinion on questionable strategy, club selection or choking. 

Gary Williams (Golf Channel)-You sometimes wonder if this guy gets paid by the word. He rambles on and on in a rapid pace with so many stats and historical references that your head starts to spin. Williams comes off as a guy that seems a little too enamored with himself and his golf knowledge, which, admittedly is vast and impressive.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Play Golf in Bubba Land

Shark's Tooth Golf Club, Panama City, Florida
Masters Champion Bubba Watson grew up in Florida's panhandle in a small town named Bagdad, about a 20 minute drive from Pensacola.

In what is presumably the greatest high school golf squad ever, Watson teamed with future PGA Tour pros Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum at Milton High School in Santa Rosa County.

The trio honed their games on courses in and around Milton and played junior tournaments at layouts throughout the panhandle.

If these courses are good enough for the 2012 Masters champ, hey, they should be good enough for the rest of us, right?

Utilizing flat terrain dotted with palms, palmetto, pine forests and swamps, designers like Fred Couples, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones and Greg Norman have fashioned some terrific, fun-to-play layouts in the region. If you want to play some of the courses Watson and his pals played, you're in luck, because you can tee up at them for less than $30.

Enhancing the golf experience is the laid back, casual, flip-flops and t-shirt lifestyle in the panhandle. Stretching from Pensacola to Panama City, the region has been dubbed the "Redneck Riviera" and "L.A." (Lower Alabama) because of the large numbers of southerners who drive down for annual beach and golf vacations and spring breaks from places like Birmingham, Dothan and Montgomery.

You can't beat the beaches with their blindingly white sands and emerald green waters, the exceptional deep sea fishing and the lifestyle is unpretentious and fun. This is a place where people guzzle Dr. Pepper, drink generous quantities of PBR (Papst Blue Ribbon) beer and dine on delicacies like smoked mullet, Apalachicola shrimp on the rough, oysters on the half shell and fried pickles.

For more than 30 years I've visited the panhandle to catch some rays, body surf, play golf and gorge on seafood.

Here is some of my "local knowledge":


Milton Area-Try Tanglewood, where you can play 18 holes for $20, Stonebrook ($29) and Moors, a links style layout designed by John B. Lafoy.

Navarre-Club at Hidden Creek, a Ron Garl design.

Gulf Breeze-Tiger Point, a 36-hole complex built alongside the Santa Rosa Sound.

Shalimar-- Shalimar Pointe, a collaboration by Pete Dye and Joe Finger.

Emerald Coast Golf Trail--Check this site out. They offer golf packages that include courses in Navarre, Gulf Breeze and Shalimar.

Destin/Fort Walton Beach--Some of my favorites include Kelly Plantation, a Fred Couples Signature Course, Burnt Pine Golf Club at Sandestin, a Rees Jones design that rates as one of the Golf Travel Guru's Florida favorites and Raven Golf Club Sandestin, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that hosted a PGA Tour Champions Tour event in 2006 and 2007.

Pensacola-- Scenic Hills, a redesign by U.S. Open Champion Jerry Pate, Perdido Bay Golf Club, a former site of the Pensacola Open for 10 years and Lost Key, a great target golf layout with beauty and challenge.

Panama City Beach--Camp Creek, a Tom Fazio design in WaterColor (a personal favorite), Origins in WaterColor, a great, innovative 6-hole layout designed by Davis Love III where you can walk, and Shark's Tooth, a Greg Norman design in Panama City Beach.


Bluewater Bay Resort in Niceville

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin

Wyndham Bay Point Resort in Panama City


{Note: In the following restaurants, which are personal favorites, you can wear your golf clothes or the ultimate Emerald Coast fashion statement, a Guy Harvey t-shirt and Margaritaville flip-flops.}

Boondocks (Panama City Beach)--Located off Highway 79 on the way to Ebro Dog Track, this well hidden place features favorites like fried oyster salad, grilled popcorn shrimp, fried pickles and onion rings.

Donut Hole (Destin)--Phenomenal biscuits and gravy, pancakes and coffee in mugs.

Hunt's Oyster Bar (Panama City)-If you love oysters on the half shell, this long time local favorite in downtown near the marina is a must visit.

Pompano Joe's (Destin)--Sits right on the beach offering entrees like parmesan encrusted flounder and snow crab feast.

Thomas Donut Shack (Panama City Beach)--Homemade donuts fried the old-fashioned way. Caution: No yogurt or granola available.


Deep sea fishing (Destin marinas have lots of charter boats.)

Scuba diving and snorkeling (Some great wrecks to explore along this section of the Gulf of Mexico coast)

Canoeing and kayaking (Blackwater River State Park is a nirvana for canoe and kayak enthusiasts).

Camping (Grayton Beach State Park near Seaside is beachside camping at its finest.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

5 Spectacular Seaside Golf Courses You Can Play

Chances are, you may not have the ways or the means to play the two most celebrated seaside courses in the world, the Old Course in St. Andrews and Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Monterey Peninsula in California. To play the Old Course you first need to win a lottery ballot and Pebble Beach pretty much requires you to secure a home equity loan to pay the hefty greens fees, which are now over $495 (plus a $35 cart fee).

Don't despair, though, I've played some phenomenal seaside layouts that are beautiful, challenging, accessible to the public and a pure joy to play. While none of them have what I deem inexpensive greens fees, all are well worth the rate you pay and you'll receive indelible memories. Click links under pictures and enjoy!

Corales Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Royal Porthcawl, Wales

Kingsbarns, St. Andrews, Scotland

Teeth of the Dog, Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

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5 Reasons I Love to Watch Masters Champion Bubba Watson Play Golf

Bubba Watson, 2012 Masters Champion
1. He's never had a formal golf lesson. He doesn't have a swing guru like just about everybody else on Tour these days. It's a joy to watch Watson practicing on the range as he works the ball 30 or 40 yards in either direction. Better still, there's no swing guru, with arms folded, studying Watson's movements for angles, planes and all the other stuff we hear about ad nauseum when they talk about Tiger, Phil and others.

2. He plays fast. None of this spending endless time analyzing the shot or putt. Watson evaluates the situation, makes a decision and goes for it. A simple strategy that resulted in a Masters green jacket.

3. His stats tell the story. Watson, who's 16th in the world rankings, is number one in Driving Distance (313 yards), Top 10 Finishes (4) and the Money Leader ($3.12 million). My two favorite stats, however, are he's number one in Greens in Regulation From Other Than the Fairway and number one in Average Distance to the Hole after Tee Shot (151.9 yards).

4. He's easy to spot on the golf course. Watson is the only golfer on the PGA Tour playing a pink driver and during Master's week he wore only one style of outfit--all white. I also like the fact he's not a spoiled country club kid. He grew up in the Florida panhandle playing public courses and later started his career at Faulkner State Community College in Alabama before transferring to the University of Georgia.  Even more appealing, he once appeared in a music video with bib overalls and he owns the General Lee, the classic hot rod from the Dukes of Hazzard Show.

5. I love watching anybody-- who during a playoff at Augusta National for a green jacket-- can hit a 52 degree gap wedge through the trees off  pine straw to a slick green more than 150 yards away and land it only 15 yards from the flag.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

5 Reasons Masters 2012 Will Have One of the Best Finishes Ever

1. Phil "The Thrill" Mickelson (-8) is only one shot back. Did you see that phenomenal flop shot on no. 15 yesterday? You just can't take your eyes off Phil because you never know when he'll pull off a shot that no other player on the planet can execute.

2. There are nine players within six shots of the lead and presumably we're in for more lead changes than your average, trade-some-paint and get-out-of-the-way NASCAR race.

3. Besides Phil, the eclectic line-up of contenders include Bubba Watson (-6), with his mammoth drives and ability to work the ball just about anywhere he wants; Louis Oosthuizen (-7), a British Open champion with a flawless swing; Matt Kuchar (-5), currently ranked 18th in the world rankings; Padraig Harrington (-4), a three-time major winner; Hunter Mahan (-4), known for throwing up low 60s scores, and don't forget the leader, Peter Hanson (-9), a steady Swede, who had the round of his life (65) on Saturday.

4. The back nine at Augusta National guarantees a great finish. Phil shot 30 yesterday and reportedly the pins will be in more inviting positions on Sunday.

5. No. 18 always yields drama because of its premium on a precision drive and well-placed approach shot to have an attempt at birdie. Can Phil do it again on the last hole? The entire golf world will be tuned in to find out.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

5 Things You May Not Know About the Masters

1. The green jacket is the universally known symbol for victory at The Masters, but there are other lesser known awards as well. The winner also receives a replica of The Masters permanent trophy and a gold medal. Other awards include a silver medal and silver salver to the runner-up, a crystal vase for each day's low score, a large crystal bowl for a hole-in-one, a pair of crystal goblets for an eagle and a large crystal bowl for a double eagle.

2. Concession prices are lower than any other major American sports event. Even though prices went up about 50 cents this year, you still think you're wandering around in the 1970s when you step up to a concession stand. Sandwiches range in price from $1.50 to $3 and you can get a beer for $3. The Masters' sandwiches include the famous pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken breast, ham and cheese on rye, turkey and cheese on wheat and tuna salad.

3. Former champions have a separate locker room. It has lockers with nameplates of golf icons like Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus and is brimming with memorabilia from past Masters.

4. Architect Alister Mackenzie, designer of Augusta National, died before he ever saw the planted and completed course. Some of Mackenzie's most celebrated designs include Cypress Point on the Monterey Peninsula in California, Royal Melbourne in Australia and Lahinch in Ireland.

5. Many of the the amenities we take for granted at PGA Tour tournaments first appeared at the Masters such as daily pairing sheets, rope galleries and spectator bleachers.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

5 Reasons Why Tiger Woods Will Win the 2012 Masters

1. He's brimming with confidence after winning at Bay Hill in Orlando two weeks ago. Reportedly, Woods was relaxed, smiling and focused during a practice round this Sunday at Augusta National. No doubt, the recent win put him in a good place mentally.

2. He wants to win the Masters and stick it to Hank Haney, whose just released book "The Big Miss" has portrayed Tiger as a self-centered cheapskate who almost destroyed his career by pursuing a fascination with the Navy Seals. Woods probably wants to win a Masters in the face of ex-caddie Steve Williams (who'll be toting the bag for Adam Scott) as well. Remember, he had numerous disparaging things to say about Woods. Last but not least, he'd like to see the look on Masters chairman Billy Payne's face at the green jacket ceremony. Payne publicly admonished Woods in the heat of the scandal.

3. He's overdue. In the last six Masters, Woods has not finished lower than tied for sixth place. He's had a T-2, T-3 and two T-4's. Woods always plays well at Augusta National and this year will be no different.

4. Woods has finally figured out the driver. The wayward drives are no longer part of his repertoire. In fact, he leads the PGA Tour in Total Driving (distance plus accuracy).  He can basically grip it and rip it at Augusta National and almost always have a second shot. Even if he misses a fairway, there's lots of leeway to recover.

5. He ranks first in the PGA Tour's "Par 5 Birdies or Better Leaders".  One of the keys to winning a Masters is making birdies or eagles on the fives and sinking clutch putts on pool table fast greens. If Woods putts like he did at Bay Hill, he'll be wearing another green jacket on Sunday.