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.