Thursday, May 31, 2012

Top 10 Finest Golf Vacation Destinations

Alisa Course at Turnberry Resort, a Guru favorite

Golf top 10 lists are a lot like broken tees. You can choose to use them or casually toss them in the nearest trash bin.

My Top 10 Finest Golf Vacation Destination list is different.

No, I don’t have an army of number crunchers sitting in cubicles studiously placing rankings on access, playability and other factors or decidedly uninformed and clueless magazine readers to determine my list.

I have a novel concept. I actually visited the destinations I ranked. 

Yes my list is subjective. It’s meant to be.

If I see you at the first tee of any of the following, you know life is fine:

1. St.Andrews, Scotland-While the experience is dominated by the Old Course, there is so much more to this historic village on the east coast of Fife in Scotland. Beyond the seven courses of the St. Andrews Links, there are phenomenal layouts like Kingsbarns, one of my favorite seaside courses in the world, the two championship layouts at Fairmont St. Andrews Resort and the Old Course Hotel's Duke's Course. Away from the courses, don't miss landmarks include the Tom Morris Golf Shop, Rusacks Hotel, Dunvegan Pub, Quarto Bookshop and the University of St. Andrews.

2. Pinehurst,North Carolina-America's answer to St. Andrews is Pinehurst Village, a wonderful place peppered with golf courses, quiet country lanes framed by large shade trees and manicured lawns. Beyond the classic Pinehurst Resort, home to Pinehurst No. 2 and seven other courses, the area has more than 40 courses to play. Here, golf doesn't play second fiddle to casinos, theme parks or shopping malls. In Pinehurst, everybody loves the game and talks "golf". Tommy Armour put it best when he said: "The man who doesn't feel emotionally stirred when he golfs at Pinehurst beneath those clear blue skies with the pine fragrance in his nostrils is one who should be ruled out of golf for life."

3. Ayrshire,Scotland-Home to my favorite golf resort, Turnberry, this part of Scotland also boasts Royal Troon, Old Prestwick and Western Gailes. One of my finest golf experiences ever was playing the Alisa Course at Turnberry, one of the game's great historical and picturesque courses. If you're looking for golf vacation nirvana, you'll find it at Turnberry.

4. Monterey Peninsula, California-Pebble Beach Golf Links (PBGL) obviously dominates the golf scene here, but there is so much more to a golf getaway in this postcard beautiful slice of northern California. There are 25 golf courses in Monterey County (17 public) and while they might not have the dramatic settings of PBGL, they're still top notch plays. Some of my favorite value plays are Pacific Grove Golf Links and the Bayonet and Black Horse courses on Monterey Bay.

5. PuntaCana, Dominican Republic-If I could only play one Caribbean course the rest of my life, it would be Corales, a seaside gem designed by Tom Fazio at Punta Cana. Six of the 18 holes are oceanfront. It's a wonderland of stunning panoramas, ocean cliff-side holes, rolling inland terrain, a rock quarry and saltwater lakefront green sites. There are also a couple of playable P.B. Dye courses at the massive resort complex, which has its own international airport allowing easy in-and-out access.

6. Canadian Rockies-Jaw dropping mountain panoramas, abundant wildlife and refreshing air without a trace of humidity enhance the experience. The phenomenal course list includes Kananaskis, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Fairmont Banff Springs, Stewart Creek, Silvertip and Canmore.

7. BandonDunes, Oregon-Can't make it to Scotland. Bandon Dunes is the next best thing in the U.S. Stretching along Oregon coastline with rolling sand dunes and shaggy beach grasses, this collection of seaside links golf experiences should be on every golfer's (especially those who like to walk and play) bucket list. The offerings include four stunning 18-hole courses and the new, innovative 13-hole short course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

8. Orlando,Florida-There are more than 125 golf courses within a 45-minute radius of downtown Orlando with designer tags like Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones and Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Sr. O-town has a great selection of resort and daily fee courses as well as economically priced Old School public layouts. Let's face it, you can play one of Orlando's top courses for less than you'd pay for a one-day ticket at a theme park.

9. LosCabos, Mexico-Set at the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, this resort area at the southernmost tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula incorporates courses with designer tags by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and others as well as one of the world's great deep sea fishing areas, especially for those after marlin and swordfish.

10. Algarve,Portugal-There's absolutely nothing better than enjoying a glass of chilled Portugese white wine on a clubhouse veranda overlooking the ocean after a day of golf on one of the Algarve's thirty golf courses. My favorite courses include San Lorenzo Golf club at Quinta do Lago, Royal Course at Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura's Old Course. One of the world's great par threes is the oceanside 16th on the Royal at Vale do Lobo, which demands a 225-yard shot over three spectacular cliffs.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Location: Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas

When I need some serious down time to recover after a trying day on a resort golf course, there are three distinct activities that always seem to work wonders: 

1. Enjoy a frosty brew at the 19th hole. 

2. Luxuriate with a massage at the spa.

3. Get on an inner tube and float down a lazy river at the resort swim complex.

Fortunately, on my recent visit to the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa  in Austin, Texas, all three of the above are possible.

On separate occasions I enjoyed an ice cold Shiner Bock on draft at the resort clubhouse, relaxed with a Colorado River Stone Massage at the resort's Spa Django and cruised down the lazy river at the resort's Crooked River water park pool area.

My golf game was hit and miss at Lost Pines (mostly miss) but I definitely brought my "A" game after my round each day.

What to expect

Lost Pines bills itself as "The luxurious Texas wilderness escape."

Simply put, it delivers on its promise.

You get the immediate sense you're in for some serious luxury escapism when you drive the three mile entrance road to the hotel, which is dubbed "The Decompression Chamber." Framed by yellow, blue, violet and red wildflowers and dense foliage, the drive puts you in a relaxed state of mind before you ever check in.

The Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa is situated about 13 miles from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and some 20 miles from downtown Austin. While you're only thirty minutes from all of Austin's legendary nightlife and live music bars, you feel like your hundreds of miles away at the resort.

Situated on 405 acres of tree dotted and wildflower laced terrain along the banks of the Colorado River, the resort adjoins the 1,100-acre McKinney Roughs Nature Park.

The 492-room hotel has luxury amenities like a full-service spa, 18-hole championship golf course (Wolfdancer Golf Club), fine dining room, expansive water park pool complex and retail shops.

If you're looking for a "soft adventure luxury experience", you'll find everything you need at Lost Pines. Everything from archery, ziplining, kayaking and rock climbing to horseback riding, hiking, rafting and biking are on the recreation menu along with tennis and jogging.

Better still, after a long day of the activity of your choice, you return to a luxurious room with plush European style bedding, bathrobes, complimentary designer toiletries, an HD flat screen television and other amenities.

Here's my Top 10 random thoughts and observations of things I liked on  my visit:

1. Tony, the friendly and helpful starter who puts you in good mood before ever stick the first peg in the ground.
2. The brightly colored wild flowers that frame many of the tee boxes and fairways making it an enjoyable way to spend four or five hours no matter how you're playing.
3. The fire pits, where you can sit around and ponder your enviable surroundings.
4.  Great sunrises.
5. The amiable, unpretentious staff that delivers reliable Texas-friendly hospitality.
6. The phenomenal grilled pork chop I had at Firewheel Cafe that was sauteed in brown sugar and glazed with housemade BQ sauce.
7. The toe tapping Texas swing music emanating from the speakers on the clubhouse veranda and at the driving range. Let's face it, "Asleep at the Wheel" always puts you in a good mood.
8. The huge portions in the Major Neighbors Grill at the clubhouse. I think I must've eaten the largest club sandwich in the world after my round on my second day.
9. The Amaretto scented ice towels the golf course ambassador hands you to cool down.
10. The rocking chairs on the veranda clubhouse, which do wonders to help you de-stress and forget about the outside world. Once you sit in one, you won't want to leave.

Golf course review

Marketers prone to hyperbole typically boast their golf course has no two holes that are alike.

At Los Pines' Wolfdancer Golf Club it's actually true.

Designers Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates masterfully created 18 different tests of skill  on the 7,205 yard layout that offers three distinct terrains: undulating prairie land, a densely wooded ridgeline and a river valley peppered with native pecan trees.

For example, the par threes range from the 155 yard No. 12, the signature hole, to the 233 yard No. 4. I could play No. 12 eighteen times in a row and enjoy every minute of it. You hit a sand wedge or pitching wedge from an exaggerated elevated tee to a kidney shaped green framed by a huge tree and wildflowers on the left and a greenside bunker on the right. Watching my ball soar through the blue Texas sky to land about ten feet from the hole made the trip worthwhile.

My favorite hole based on design and playability, not the snowman on my scorecard, is number three, a mammoth par five that plays 603 yards from the black (championship) tees, 581 yards from the blues, 556 yards from the whites and 518 yards from the greens.  From an elevated tee, it seems like there are more bunkers than green grass in the landing area. Hills and his designers put lots of thought into where to strategically place the bunkers to make the hole thoroughly challenging.

When you're on the tee you can hardly count all the fairway bunkers. Interestingly, when you walk off the green and look back down the fairway, the bunkers have disappeared. Hills designed them that way.

From the black tees, Wolfdancer has a 137 slope rating. The blue tees measure 6,836 yards with a 130 slope rating and the white tees, ideal for most weekend golfers, measures 6,314 yards with a 128 slope rating.

There are no homes on the course and a few holes on the back nine weave past the resort's tennis courts and swimming pool, but the rest of the time you get a sense of isolation and seclusion amid  inspiring Texas wilderness.

Beyond the course, the practice area is exceptional. Situated away from the clubhouse in a somewhat secluded area, it has 10 target greens, short game area with two chipping greens and bunkers and practice putting green.

Spa overview

The 18,000 square-foot Django Spa is named after gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. It's full-service in every way with an extensive menu of massages, wraps, scrubs, facials and other treatments. I had the Colorado River Rock Massage, which is 90 minutes of pure relaxation pleasure. If you want to forget double bogeys and shanked five irons, this treatment will do the trick.

Dining overview

For a resort its size, Lost Pines has an impressive list of dining options.The line-up includes Stories, a gourmet room offering patio seating; Firewheel Cafe, a casual restaurant designed to please everybody from discerning diners to to kids who just want something good to eat and Old Buck's Place, a poolside grill and bar.  As a golfer, I obviously had my lunches at Major Neighbor's Grill at the clubhouse. The two items I ordered on successive days, the Cobb Salad and Club Sandwich, were excellent clubhouse fare.

Service overview

You'll get a generous helping of folksy Texas hospitality at Lost Pines, which has a well-trained staff. The golf course cart guys, starter and ambassadors, in particular, do a great job of making you feel welcome. As a first-time resort guest, I sometimes wander aimlessly searching for the range or the first tee. At Wolfdancer, the staff is always one step ahead of you making sure you always know where you're going and making you feel like a member for a day rather than a resort interloper. At the hotel, the service is a comfortable combination of excellent corporate training and Texas friendliness.

Local knowledge

--There are 54 golf courses within an hour's drive of the resort.

--Phenomenal barbecue is everywhere in the Austin area. I highly recommend Bennie's, a small family owned place with outdoor dining that's located about 5 minutes from Lost Pines. Try the combo platter with sausage and sliced beef. Yes, there really is a Bennie. And yes, it's real good. I still have the sauce stains on my golf shirt to prove it. In town, a couple of the many great barbecue places are Franklin Barbecue on East 11th Street and Rudy's on Research Boulevard.

--Check out the historical sights in the nearby town of Bastrop, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and bills itself as "The Most Historic Small Town in Texas."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 10 Most Irritating Golfer Guys

Golf is a fun and challenging game unless, of course, you're stuck playing with one of these guys:

1. Ball retriever guy--This guy is out to find Pro V's. If there's lots of water on the course, get ready, because this entrepreneur of the links is going to pull out the ol' fifteenth club and try to make some big money. He's after high-end balls that cost nearly $50 a dozen.

2. Hacker/Duffer that gives unsolicited lessons guy--He's always off balance, hacks at the ball like a lumberjack and can't find a fairway. Amazingly, though, he channels David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon to explain the golf swing to you. His vast knowledge is never asked for, however, he thinks you're just too polite to ask. Even with your suspect swing, you can beat the guy, but that doesn't seem to matter to this wannabe golf swing guru.

3. Doesn't give a damn about the course guy--Divot repair tool. What's that? This insensitive boor never replaces divots, fixes ball marks or rakes traps. The same guy usually parks his cart on the fringe of the green, disregards the 90 degree rule when nobody's looking and flips his cigarette and cigar butts on the tee. 

4. Cell phone/social media guy--This annoying gent is always closing a business deal, yapping with his wife or making dinner reservations on his phone while trying to play golf. He's adept at chipping and putting with his phone up to his ear. He never bothers to put the phone on "silent" and takes important calls while others are hitting shots. Social media guy is always taking pictures to post on his Facebook page and tweeting to his peeps about the attractive cart girls.

5. Cart girl pick-up guy--This always-on-the-prowl Romeo can't resist laying on the charm with the cart girl. Master of cheezy pick-up lines, he usually delivers gems like this: Excuse me, but I think I dropped something...My Jaw! Or the never successful: Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again? Cart girl pick-up guy always strikes out at nightclubs, but for some reason he thinks his overplayed schtick will work on the golf course.

6. Can't remember score guy--After every hole, this guy starts replaying the hole by counting up all of his strokes. He never, and I mean never, just recites his score. It's always: "Let's see, I had one in the water, two in the bunker and three putts."Hmm, put me down for a par.

7. Boozer guy--He never plays golf without a little extra rocket fuel. Boozer guy always has to have a drink nearby. He never leaves his beer or cocktail in the cart. Rather, he takes it with him to every shot and carefully and methodically places it down near the ball before he hits. After an errant shot off a pool screen or a roof top, boozer guy takes a big swig, smiles widely and says, "Where the hell is the bartender, I mean cart girl. I'm running out of booze and I can't hit straight without it."

8. Out-of-control temper guy--Typically this is a high-handicapper who plays about four times a year and hits a couple of buckets at the range every six months or so. For some reason, he thinks he should be striping it like the pros. When he doesn't, he throws clubs toward the golf cart, violently pitches balls into lakes after missed putts, kicks empty beer cans and cusses incessantly. 

9. Lazy cart guy-He never walks. Ever. If you have to drive the cart a few yards away to hit your ball, he'll always wait to you return, because, well, walking a few steps on the golf course is just too taxing. When he gets in the cart on the first tee, rest assured, he's not getting out unless he's hitting a shot a few feet away or retrieving a brewski from the beverage cart. Lazy guy has never walked a golf course in his life and has no intention of ever doing so.

10. Cheater guy--Master of the foot wedge, deep bunker grenade shot, and others, cheater guy doesn't know how to count every stroke or play the ball as it lies. His classic line: "Hey, put me down for a ..." Yeah, but what about those two in the water? Doesn't matter with cheater guy, he has a number in mind that he wants to shoot and, darn it, he's going to shoot that score by any means possible. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Golf Channel's "The Big Break--Atlantis" is Pure Reality

I like Golf Channel's current series of "The Big Break-Atlantis."

What a concept.

You recruit a bunch of attractive young ladies, who can play golf better than 99 percent of the viewers, and put them at a phenomenal resort destination like Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

The producers of the show are very shrewd by giving us less golf and more social interaction between the participants such as whispered criticisms, back stabbing and disbelieving looks that make all those Housewives of New Jersey, Orange County and Atlanta shows so popular.

In fact, the opening scene of The Big Break-Atlantis starts out on the beach, not the golf course. One by one the girls are strolling down the sands in shorts and halter tops till they see a sign that suggests they proceed up to a nearby green for a putting challenge. Each participant receives a set number of points for sinking either a one, three or five foot putt. To add suspense, the girls must find the bottom of the cup in their sandy bare feet with a strong wind blowing through their hair.

Those wily producers know this is what makes good television. Endless shots of young ladies hitting nine-irons into greens will not keep viewers tuning in every week.

Beautiful ladies strolling on the beach with a backdrop of emerald green waters and sandy beaches is a can't miss, especially with all of The Golf Channel's middle-aged male viewers, which is my demographic.

If you're not familiar with "The Big Break" concept it's a competition between aspiring pros for a shot at playing in an LPGA event and winning a bunch of great prizes. In addition to the tournament exemption, the prizes include an endorsement contract from Adams Golf, which includes an additional $10,000 in cash, a $10,000 shopping spree from Dick's Sporting Goods, a $10,000 car-rental credit from Avis Car Rental, full exempt status and all entry fees waived for a Symetra Tour season (a developmental professional tour) and an all-expense paid return trip for two to Atlantis.

There are twelve competitors ranging in age from 19 to 31.  All of the participants have skills honed in junior tournaments and later on college teams. These girls have game, but, for whatever reason they've not gotten, er, the big break to make it on the LPGA. Participating in the show certainly can't hurt. LPGA players Ryann O'Toole and Kristy McPherson were previous competitors in The Big Break.

The Big Break show concept pits golfers against each other in a variety of challenges that test their physical skills and mental acumen. I've watched the show numerous times and I never pay close enough attention to the scoring system, but who cares. It's just great television if you like reality shows.

One contestant is eliminated each week during the 11-part series, with the last player standing awarded the winner. Nineteen year old Megan Hardin of Lake Arrowhead, California was eliminated after the first show.

The contestants aren't the only phenomenally photogenic stars.

Aside from Augusta National and Pebble Beach Golf Links, I've never seen a golf course look so good on television. The Tom Weiskopf-designed Ocean Club Golf Course is drop dead gorgeous with its verdant fairways, flowers and ocean framed greens and tees.

Other producers must like the good looking Ocean Club course, too. Among the high-profile tournaments staged at this lush oceanside golf paradise are the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational and the Michael Douglas and Friends Golf Tournament.

Who's my pick to win?

My choice is Zakiya Randall, a sassy and confident 20-year old from Atlanta, Georgia. She seems to have the mental fortitude that's typically needed to win these reality show competitions.

Tune into "The Big Break-Atlantis".

You can't beat the scenery.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Turn Out the Lights Tigermania

Has the Tigermania train finally pulled into the station?

While most of the media (including me) are still enamored with the power of Tiger, my guess is more and more fans are tiring of all things Tiger.

Let's face it, Woods still moves the needle for television viewers and if you put his name in a headline, you're sure to get lots of clicks on the Web.

You clicked on this column, didn't you?

That said, as a fan I'm weary of seeing Woods as the main storyline before every tournament he's scheduled to play.

The same old scene is getting real tired and played.

Here's how it goes:

Tiger does his obligatory pre-tournament press conference (with the exception, of course, of a couple of weeks ago when he did that silly Internet Q and A with lame, softball questions by fans).

Anyway, the main question is always the same: Tiger, you've been working with Sean Foley for quite some time now, how is your game progressing?

Tiger's pat answer: "Uh, I'm getting close, very close".

Oh really.

Other than that victory earlier this year at Bay Hill, all we get from Tiger is a bunch of excuses about the putts not falling, reverting back to his old swing, blah, blah, blah...

Tiger, why not tell the truth?

Your brain is still scrambled from the Escalade escapade, the ensuing divorce and the huge amounts of energy and angst it took to fight off TMZ, The National Enquirer and other tabloid journalism outlets. Moreover, you still have doubts that come with any swing change and these young bucks are harder than heck to beat.

Even if Tiger returns to form, the twenty somethings like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson and others like Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan are much more difficult to beat than the opponents he faced during his fabulous run to 14 majors.

The current crop of young contenders aren't shooting 74 in final rounds like Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els to make your victories easier and Phil Mickelson is not the easy mark in majors like he was earlier in his career.

We saw the future of how fascinating and exciting the PGA Tour can be without Woods, who missed the cut, with the playoff between Rory and Rickie (D.A. Points, too) at Quail Hollow. These are two immensely dynamic players who could give us years of great golf.  They're full of energy and flair, especially Fowler with those fluorescent golf shirts, Ringo Starr haircut and wispy, jazz musician mustache. C'mon Rickie, bring out the beret, please.

I want to see more of Rory and Rickie and less of Tiger.

There will never be anything like Tigermania in golf again. It was great to witness Tiger in his prime and winning majors by double digit stroke margins.

Those days are just distant memories now. It's sad, but every train eventually pulls into the station.

Goodbye Tigermania.

Hello Rory and Rickie mania.

Friday, May 4, 2012

THE PLAYERS--The Best PGA Tour Tournament to Watch

The world famous no. 17 island hole at TPC Sawgrass Stadium.
It has the best field in golf. Head to the range before tee times and you'll see Top 50 players lined up like a Who's Who in professional golf reception line.

Taking The Masters and Augusta National out of the conversation, my favorite tournament to watch in person is THE PLAYERS at the TPC Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This year's event takes place next week May 7-13. Among those in the field are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Webb Simpson....and the list goes on.

Phil Mickelson in celebration mode.
There's some serious money on the line at THE PLAYERS, which has a total purse of $9.5 million and a winner's check for $1,710,000.

While star players are everywhere (except Bubba this year), it's the TPC Stadium course and its unique features that make the tournament a great experience for spectators.

For players, it's the ultimate four hour exam that quickly identifies the contenders from the pretenders. Narrow fairways with tiny target areas, immense strategically placed waste bunkers, railroad tie barriers, grassy mounds and knolls and pool table-fast greens are just some of the elements players must deal with on the Pete Dye designed 7,215-yard, par 72 layout.

For spectators, many fairways are framed by high, banked slopes upon which crowds can sit. There are also bowl-shaped natural grass amphitheaters around many greens where you can watch putts break wildly in either direction.

Where to Sit and Watch

One of the best spots to sit is between the 16th green and 17th tee box. If you're close enough to the ropes you can see the player's facial expressions and anxious body language as they slowly walk the 100 yards to tee up at no. 17 and it's famous island green.

It's called the "Lonliest Walk in Golf".

Here's what Brandt Snedeker has to say about the walk: "I wish it was a lot shorter. It's very nerve-wracking. You're thinking about the shot the whole time. It's a very daunting shot. It looks easy on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it's hard on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There's no way to fake it in there."

If you can't secure a position there, sit on the hill flanking the left side of the lake overlooking the 17th green. It's a great place to watch tee shots to the island green and you can scurry over to the 18th tee box to watch one of the most harrowing and demanding tee shots on the PGA Tour. A lake frames the entire left side from tee to green on the 462-yard par 4. Even if you keep your tee shot right, there's not much space for a safe landing.

Sit on the hill overlooking no. 17 and watch the drama unfold.
What's ironic is most spectators think the tournament is decided on the flashy, in-your-face, no. 17, but no. 18 is often in the mix on deciding the winner.

Before any round, make sure you spend a little time hanging around the range and practice putting greens. The practice facilities at the TPC Sawgrass are among the best in the world and its sheer joy to sit and watch the best players in the world go through their practice routines.

What's New in 2012

--This year, THE PLAYERS Closing Ceremonies will be held on the Lower Clubhouse Lawn, where THE PLAYERS Trophy will be on display all week, allowing fans to encircle the stage and get close to the new champion (and 2011 champion K.J. Choi, who will award the trophy).  The 2012 winner will also sign a limited number of commemorative PLAYERS pin flags to distribute to some of the lucky fans in attendance.

--Better still for moms, the 2012 winner will draw the winning ticket for THE PLAYERS Mother's Day Car Giveaway at the end of Closing Ceremonies. Mothers, 18 and older, can register all week in the Stadium Village (where the Toyota Camry Hybrid will be on display), but they must be present for the drawing during Closing Ceremonies to win.

--Wine & Dine on 9 will offer spectators the chance to enjoy gourmet food and wine, including "small plates" offered by Matthew Medure, one of Northeast Florida's most renowned chefs. Located in a cool, shady area to the left of No. 9 fairway, Wine & Dine on 9 will also feature BERINGER'S expanded portfolio of varietals and will offer tournament-goers the opportunity to watch the action at the par-five 9th in style.

--The Oasis, located between No. 9 and No. 18 tees, will expand on what has been a popular concession area in years past. The Oasis will still feature a concession area, but fans will also find an open-air tent providing a shaded area to cool off. The venue will also include the NOLET'S Silver Lounge, an enclosed, air-conditioned tent open to all fans age 21 and over offering a range of spirits, including Ketel One flavors and NOLET Silver Gin, for purchase.

--The Kid Zone by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children's Hospital will offer parents a family-friendly area to entertain their kids while on-site at the tournament. Activities available at the Kid Zone include a putt-putt course, face painting, temporary tattoos, bag toss games and much more. Located at the end of the Nicklaus Gate walkway behind No. 17 tee, the Kid Zone will also have a misting tent where fans can cool off, as well as a concession area with televisions so adults can still follow the action while their kids play.

This phenomenal video will definitely get you in the mood for this year's THE PLAYERS. Watch it and I guarantee you'll be ready to watch the tournament in person or on television.
Hang around the clubhouse and visit the range.

THE PLAYERS Ticket Information

For ticket information, go to

Play It 

After the tournament, if you've got the juices flowing and you want to stay and play at TPC Sawgrass, here's a link for golf packages:

Good luck on the'll need it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Scotland's Machrihanish Dunes A Must Play and Stay

Hole No. 6
A visually stunning and challenging links course on the Kintyre Peninsula on the extreme west coast of Scotland, Machrihanish Dunes, designed by David Mclay Kidd, has been a hit with golfers and course ranking wonks since it debuted in May 2009.

Kidd amazingly altered only seven of the 259 acres on which the course sits and the routing of the course's tees and greens were dictated, much like the days of Old Tom Morris, by the lay of the land.

Quite simply, if you're looking for a modern day links experiences that compares favorably with Kingsbarns in St. Andrews, I recommend Machrihanish Dunes.

Better still, the Machrihanish Dunes experience is getting even better.

Hole No. 14
On May 12, 2012 in Campbeltown, about 5 miles from Machrihanish Village, The Royal Hotel will make its debut providing golfers with a luxurious accommodations option. The fully restored 23-room property will feature guestrooms with harbor views, the Black Sheep Lounge and Harborview Grille. Accommodations already available on-site for Machrihanish Dunes players include the 22-room Ugadale Hotel and the eight Ugadale Cottages, which overlook the Atlantic Ocean and the opening hole.

For a wee nip after the round, The Old Clubhouse Pub is a few steps away from the Ugadale Cottages.

Back to the course. Kidd's masterful design is an environmentally sensitive wonder. Almost no heavy machinery was used in the course's construction and shaping was only done on the greens and tees. No chemicals or irrigation on used on the fairways. Mowing? Black Hebridean Sheep are used in the off-season to help keep fescue grasses in check.

Luxury golf tour operators bullish on Machrihanish Dunes include Haversham and Baker and PerryGolf.
Hole No. 16


Location: The Village at Machrihanish Dunes, Machrihanish, Argyll, Scotland, PA28 6PT
Machrihanish Golf Cottage

Air Access: You fly directly into Campbeltown Airport via connections from Glasgow and Prestwick. There are  flights daily from Glasgow with a 25 minute flight time.

Land Access: Machrihanish Village is a three-hour drive from Glasgow.

Developer: David Southworth and Joe Deitch, partners and owners of Southworth Development. A highly respected company based in Newton, Massachusetts, Southworth Development's other properties include Meredith Bay in New Hampshire, Renaissance in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Creighton Farms in Alie, Virginia and PGA Village-The Bahamas.



Phone: +44 01586 810000