Monday, August 26, 2013

Ryder Cup 2014: How To Make it to Gleneagles

I know, I know, it's too early to start thinking about the Ryder Cup, right?

Uh, no, not really.

It's just a year away and if you want to be there, you better start planning now or you might end up spending the night in a pup tent with a flashlight on the beach instead of an amenity-laden room with European linens and designer toiletries.

Afterall, some major hotels are already declaring themselves full for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

To assist in your research and planning process, here's the scoop:

The Site

Gleneagles is a stately upscale hotel set in an 850-acre resort complex amid beautiful countryside in Perthshire, Scotland near the village of Auchterarder. Opened in 1924, the main hotel building was designed in the style of a French chateau. Today, the hotel has 232 guestrooms and 26 suites.

Through the 1920s and 1930s the hotel became the venue for those in high society and for wealthy Americans. Gleneagles closed during World War II and reopened in 1947.

It's a beloved respite for sportsman who can participate in pursuits like shooting, fishing, falconry, equestrian and off-road driving at the resort.

Golf at Gleneagles encompasses three 18-hole championship courses--The King's and Queen's by James Braid, a five-time winner of The Open Championship and the PGA Centenary, a Jack Nicklaus design.

The Ryder Cup Course

Opened in 1993, the PGA Centenary Course takes full advantage of the stunning Perthshire countryside. Nicklaus masterfully routed the course to make every hole visually appealing and challenging. Like other great Nicklaus' courses, the Golden Bear uses his signature features such as huge undulating greens, bold in-your-face bunkering and several high risk/high reward holes to create drama and anxiety for players.
PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles Resort

There are no breather holes on this layout, which is the longest inland golf course in Scotland. Only two holes incorporate water. Nicklaus demands pinpoint accurate approach shots on the PGA Centenary. I played there five years ago and I can attest you don't want to come up short on approach shots or your score will soar. Mr. Nicklaus did a creative job of placing a lot of trouble in front of the greens. For those who consistently under club, you're in for a long day.

From the back tees, the PGA Centenary plays to 7,296 yards, par 72 with a 145 slope. All of the holes have unusual names. Some of my favorites include, No. 4-Gowden Beastie, No. 9-Crock O'Moss and No. 13-Wimplin' Wyne.

Three Ryder Cup '14 Strategies

1. Use a golf travel company that can package accommodations, tickets, transportation and golf as well as give advice on sightseeing, shopping and dining. I highly recommend Atlanta, Georgia-based Premier Golf, which is licensed by the PGA of America as the official distributor of Ryder Cup Travel packages in North America.  Premier Golf's special Ryder Cup 2014 page 
has a comprehensive list of packages at differing price points and hotels.
Among the hotels featured are The Balmoral Edinburgh, Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh, Fairmont St. Andrews, Dalmahoy, A Marriott Hotel and Country Club, Radisson Blu in Edinburgh, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Dundee, Malmaison Dundee and Carlton Hotel Edinburgh.

2. Arrange your own trip if you're Internet savvy and have lots of patience. I suggest clicking the Visit Scotland site, which is loaded with information about things to do, hotels and resorts and dining. For those who want to use St Andrews as a sort of convenient base camp (it's about a 70-minute drive from Gleneagles), the Visit St Andrews site is also an excellent user-friendly site. There are a wide variety of accommodations such as boutique hotels, mom and pop B & B's and chain hotels in major cities.

3. Rent a home in places like Stirling, Perth and Edinburgh, which all offer easy access to Gleneagles. To research, Glengolf2014, which helps in the private home renting process, is a good place to start.

Directions and Nearby Sights

Edinburgh and Glasgow airports are less than 50 miles away from Gleneagles. Great North Eastern Railway services stop at Gleneagles, which is on the London to Inverness line.

Here are the distances from Gleneagles to other major courses:

St Andrews Old
Dukes Course
Western Gailes
Glasgow Gailes
Royal Troon
Royal Aberdeen
50 min
1 hour

70 min
70 min
70 min
75 min
80 min
90 min
90 min
1 hour, 40 min
1 hour, 40 min
2 hours

Must see sights near Gleneagles:

Drummond Castle at Crieff (pictured)
Scone Palace
Blair Castle
Stirling Castle
Elcho Castle
Dunblane Cathedral
National Wallace Monument (Braveheart)
Famous Grouse Experience
Tullibardine Distillery

The Town of Auchterarder

Gleneagles is located just outside the village of Aucherarder. Home to 4,000 residents, it's laid out with a long main street (1.5 mile High Street) giving it the nickname of the Lang Toon (meaning long town). For some excellent fish and chips and fried chicken takeaway, try the Top Shop on High Street. 

Why You Should Go

The politically correct answer is because you want to see one of the world's great sports events in person where you can witness passionate players and fans in a dynamic, pulsating spectator environment. Not so politically correct is those darn Euros came back on us in Chicago and it's about time we won the cup back on "their soil".

Scotland is a fascinating place to play golf. Better still, if you can play on some great courses while you're there attending the Ryder Cup to cheer on the Americans (or Europeans, if you so desire), well, as they say, "it doesn't get any better than that" for a golf traveler.

I can't wait till 2014 when chants of "U.S.A.", "U.S.A.", "U.S.A" and "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole" will blast through the Perthshire countryside.

Review: Golf Money iOS App

Wagering money on the golf course makes the game a lot more fun and interesting, right?

Absolutely, and betting on the golf course is almost as old as the game itself.

Keeping track of different bets and results has always been a difficult task. Fact is, scribbling numbers on the back of a scorecard or relying on a certain player to remember everything is a recipe for confusion.

Let’s face it, if you win fair and square you want an accurate accounting of your winnings. There’s nothing worse than wagering with a person who conveniently forgets he or she lost money to you on the course and you misplaced the scorecard and so you have no proof.

You can say goodbye to all the difficulties in golf wagering with Golf Money, the new app for iPhone and iPod Touch I recently discovered that allows you to accurately track golf related winnings and, of course, those dreaded losses.

Easy To Use

Golf Money is so easy to use, chances are, you’ll call your buddies up for some golf action right after you download.

To get started, you simply enter the names of the competitors and their handicaps and the hole handicaps for the course you’re playing on.

Now you’re ready to make your wager. Whether you’re playing for Nassau or points, Golf Money automatically calculates payoffs each time you input scores.

Everybody always knows where he or she stands in the competition with Golf Money.


Golf Money has four modules that make it unbelievably easy to keep track of every aspect of the golf gaming experience, which allows you to thoroughly focus on your game and not who’s winning or  losing.

--Friends-This is the initial module where you list your opponents, partners or team members. Think of it as sort of an electronic line-up card.
--My Bets-This module essentially operates like a digital scorecard. As long you input the correct player handicaps and hole handicaps, it keeps accurate accounting of all bets.
--Reports-If you love golf stats, you’ll enjoy this module which helps you see how successful, or, sadly, unsuccessful, you’ve been wagering against a particular player at a specific course.
--My Totals-Everybody who puts a little money action on the golf course wants to know where they stand and this module does that for you. Here, you can review a timeline of your recent golf wager outings, see your total wins and losses and evaluate how you’re doing in the short or long term.

The Verdict

This is a must-have app for golf gambling enthusiasts. Why carry around a stubby golf pencil and rumpled scorecard to keep track of the gaming proceedings, when Golf Money executes the difficult math calculations and record keeping for you.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Top 10 Historic U.S. Golf Resorts

As an honors student in the unofficial School of Advanced Golf History Studies, I love staying and playing at America's great historic golf resorts and hotels.

Make no mistake, though, I'm not into musty and dusty properties. I don't care if Ben Hogan or Ben Franklin slept there, if it's a glorified dump with little but a recognizeable name, well, I don't want to stay there.

I prefer fully refurbished and rejuvenated hotels with all the modern day techno amenity candy like high-speed Internet service, Ipod docking stations and flat panel televisions. I also enjoy spas, fitness centers and luxury linens.

Bravo to the historical properties that have dutifully maintained their historic architecture, integrity and ambiance. 

Here are 10 of my favorites: 
Pinehurst Resort

1. Pinehurst Resort (Pinehurst, North Carolina)--The Golf Travel Guru loves Pinehurst Resort. I've been there five times and I'd like to make it six. Built in the 1890s, it drenches visitors in history.  Stroll down one of the hallways in the The Carolina  and you're surrounded by vintage photos of every major golfer who ever teed it up, from Snead and Hogan to Nicklaus and Palmer to Woods and Mickelson. At The Carolina, you immerse in a simpler time with rocking chairs on wide verandahs, afternoon tea and delicious apples in a bowl at the front desk. Embellishing the historical ambiance is Pinehurst Village, a National Historic Landmark District, behind the main hotel. For golfers, there are eight championship golf courses, including No. 2, a Donald Ross masterpiece that will host the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in June 2014. My favorite hangout is the Donald Ross Grill at the clubhouse, which oozes with history and class.
The American Club

2. The American Club (Kohler, Wisconsin)--Posh accommodations, a spectacular spa, award-winning restaurants and four championship golf courses dominate the luxury "Pure Americana" experience at this Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond hotel. Founded in 1918 by former Kohler Co. President Walter J. Kohler, Sr., the American Club's hallways are brimming with display antiques from the town's amazing history. For golfers, four world-class Pete Dye designed courses are available for play highlighted by Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. Enhancing the experience is the magnificent Kohler Waters Spa and a 500-acre private nature preserve.
The Greenbrier

3. The Greenbrier (White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia)--The quintessential American historic golf resort, The Greenbrier has been a luxury resort option since it opened in 1778. Surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, the massive white hotel is a timeless treasure overflowing with tradition, class and elegance. Every imaginable recreation is possible at The Greenbrier, including a bowling alley and casino. For golfers, the Old White TPC, home to The Greenbrier PGA Tour event, a C.B. Macdonald design, is a wonderland of tree-framed fairways and spectacular mountain views. Golf is huge part of The Greenbrier's personality as evidenced by Tom Watson serving as the resort's Golf Professional Emeritus.

The Broadmoor
4. The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, Colorado)--Built by European artisans in 1917, this resort takes full advantage of its setting near Pikes Peak. Along with great service, cuisine and amenities like 25 boutique shops and a fitness facility, guests can also enjoy an art collection that features work from American masters like Remington, Miller and Moran. The luxuriously appointed guestrooms feature either mountain or lake views. Golf on The Broadmoor's 54 holes is a moveable feast of stunning mountain panoramas, lush, verdant, tree-lined fairways and adroitly planned holes by Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Nicklaus Design.

Sea Island Resort
5. Sea Island Resort (Sea Island, Georgia)--Located in the Golden Isles string of islands (St. Simons and Jekyll are nearby), Sea Island Resort is a bastion of Southern gentility that's been around since 1928 when it opened The Cloister, it's signature hotel. Since then it has added other luxury accommodations choices such as ocean villas, beach club rooms and the ultra-posh The Lodge. Remindful of an English country manor, the 40-room Lodge, which has an impressive entryway framed by large antebellum oaks, is the ultimate luxury retreat after a day on the links. Golf at Sea Island Resort features three 18-hole championship layouts incorporating marsh, forest and ocean views.

6. Gasparilla Inn & Club (Boca Grande, Florida)--I discovered this gem several years ago while on a fishing trip not a golf excursion to southwest Florida.  It's located near one of the best Tarpon fishing holes in the world so keep that in mind if you like sport fishing. The Gasparilla Inn & Club welcomed its first guests in 1913. Simple, yet elegant the wooden frame inn with a white-pillared entrance and Victorian-style gable roofs evokes a genuine Old Florida feel. Guests at the inn can play a Pete Dye designed 18-hole golf course and have access to a private beach and beach club.

West Baden Spring Hotel
7. West Baden Springs Hotel (French Lick, Indiana)-- When it opened in 1902, the West Baden Springs Hotel, with the world’s largest dome, was dubbed “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”  Since then, the innovative structure at the French Lick Resort has operated as a luxury hotel, seminary college, performing arts college and resort hotel. Situated in the French Lick Resort in southern Indiana, the hotel has returned to its roots as a luxury property. In May 2007, West Baden Springs Hotel completed a massive makeover and redevelopment of the hotel placing special emphasis on high-tech amenities that would enhance the experience for guests. When it's time to tee up, the impressive menu encompasses 54 holes of golf: The Pete Dye Course, Donald Ross Course and the Valley Links by Tom Bendelow.

Williamsburg Inn
8. Williamsburg Inn (Williamsburg, Virginia)--Dripping with luxurious appointments at every turn, the 62-room Williamsburg Inn in Colonial Williamsburg has hosted royalty, heads of state, celebrities and golfers who relish the elegant atmosphere and easy access to the historic area and golf at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club. The spacious guestrooms at the inn average 500 square feet with English-style furnishings and marble bathrooms. The Golden Horseshoe Club has 45 holes of golf designed by Rees Jones and Robert Trent Jones Sr.

Rennaissance Vinoy Resort
9. Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club (St. Petersburg, Florida)--Set in downtown St. Petersburg overlooking Tampa Bay, this salmon-colored hotel built in 1925 is the personification of Old School elegance. A sweeping front verandah ushers guests into the luxurious lobby, evoking the ambiance of an elegant Mediterranean resort with its original glazed, quarry-tile floor and stenciled cypress beams, Italian front desk and reproductions of 1920s chandeliers. The Vinoy Resort's Ron Garl-designed course weaves through a small residential area on nearby Snell Isle.

10. Grove Park Inn (Ashville, North Carolina)--A magnificent structure sitting on the side of Sunset Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Grove Park Inn opened in 1891. The guestrooms are unique with original solid oak Arts and Crafts-style furnishings by Stickley and Roycroft as well as leather chairs and elegant bedding. The mountain view rooms, not surprisingly, are the most popular as they offer inspiring vistas. The Grove Park also has one of the world's great spas, an expansive $44 million, 40,000 square-foot palace of pampering featuring a wide variety of treatments and services. Built in 1899 by Donald Ross, the resort's on-site course served as a PGA Tour stop from 1933 through 1951. Throughout a round, golfers never lose sight of the stunning granite hotel overlooking the tree-lined fairways and winding streams. The course is dotted with sycamore, oak and willow trees and the well-maintained layout features Bermuda grass fairways and bent grass greens.

Grove Park Inn

To find more information on other historic hotels I suggest clicking to the website of Historic Hotels of America.

Monday, August 5, 2013