Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Harbour Town Golf Links: When the Lighthouse Beckons

I played Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) a couple of days ago.

I'm still on a golfer's high with images of luxury boats and a candy stripe lighthouse dancing in my mind.

I first played Harbour Town 13 years ago and had a blast playing with my 10-year old son.

Flash forward to this past weekend and this time around my son is a strapping 23-year old who bombs it off the tee and wonders why "Pops" can't keep up with him.

We struck gold with the weather on our latest trip. It was 68 degree beauty in late October.  Our forecaddie, Lee, said it was one of the best days of the year.

Following the round, my son and I celebrated our good fortune a little differently this time. When he was 10, we went with the ice cream with double sprinkles. On this occasion we retired to the clubhouse bar and celebrated our enviable surroundings with a frosty IPA by the Palmetto Brewing Company of Charleston, South Carolina.

Absolutely, don't miss the cozy bar at the Harbour Town clubhouse. With its framed golf pictures and rich furnishings, it provides the ideal atmosphere to discuss the day's round and toast your good luck.


Risking a scolding and impending arrest from the hyperbole police, I view Harbour Town as a course with the elegance of Augusta national, the pine scented ambiance of Pinehurst and the water panorama excitement of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

If you don't believe the hype from yours truly,  PGA TOUR players (in a survey by Golf World) selected Harbour Town Golf Links as their second favorite course right behind Augusta National. Harbour Town hosts the PGA TOUR's RBC Heritage every April.

It's a perfect test for the pros. With tight fairways and small greens, you must control your accuracy and trajectory and be able to work the ball left or right to score well. If you're a weekend hacker or casual player, you must play the correct tees for your skill level or you'll need a calculator to tabulate your score and several sleeves of balls to finish your round.

While Pete Dye (with consultation by Jack Nicklaus) adroitly designed all 18 holes at Harbour Town, I consider the final stretch of holes (number 13 to the lighthouse) among the best anywhere.

No. 14 at Harbour Town Golf Links
Often overlooked by golfers so enamored with the lighthouse and finishing hole are two of the most picturesque and fun-to-play par threes. Number 14 (192 yards from the back tees, 165 yards from the blues and 148 from the whites) incorporates a beautiful pond, a bulkhead framed green, tall pines and moss draped oaks. As you gaze at the setting off the tee, the reflection of the trees off the pond creates a surreal effect.

Number 17 (185 yards from the back tees, 174 from the blues and 152 from the whites) is a scenic gem with an expansive backdrop of the Calibogue Sound. The tee shot, over a lagoon and high grasses, is an adventurous one. A long, narrow bunker skirts the left side of the green and continues up almost to the forward tees and a small, menacing bunker waits to gobble up errant shots right of the green.  Don't wait to take out your camera or phone camera on 18, this beauty deserves a few shots as well.

If you're an avid PGA TOUR fan and watch tournaments regularly on television, you, no doubt, tune in to watch the RBC Heritage. Like Augusta National, you're so familiar with many of the holes at Harbour Town that you feel like you know the course even if you've never played it.

Pete Dye has some marvelous courses around the world at places like Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic and Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, but no Dye hit list would be complete without this Sea Pines Resort gem on Hilton Head Island.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Location: TPC San Antonio/JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa

While some might remember the Alamo and Davey Crockett and the gang, my thoughts go to TPC San Antonio, home to two spectacular golf courses designed by Pete Dye and Greg Norman and the amenity-laden JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.

My memories harken to playing golf in a spectacular hill country setting that makes you feel like you're hundreds of miles from downtown San Antonio. (Downtown is only 18 miles away) Once you get done with golf, the JW Marriott San Antonio was specifically designed with golfers in mind with features like a mammoth sports bar with Texas size televisions, a spacious lobby bar where you can sink into comfy leather chairs and lots of places to lounge outside around a fireplace and discuss the highs and lows of your golf round with a single malt scotch or frosty brew in hand.


The quality of golf at TPC San Antonio is verified by this simple fact: It is only one of three properties in the country to host two PGA TOUR events each year (the other two are TPC Sawgrass and Pebble Beach). The AT&T Oaks Course plays host to the Valero Texas Open and the AT&T Canyons Course is host to the Champions Tour AT&T Championship.

AT&T Oaks course

Designed by Greg Norman and PGA TOUR player consultant Sergio Garcia, the Oaks has a good balance of wide and more narrow tree-lined fairways. Highlights include downhill holes that play into the prevailing wind and uphill holes that play downwind, Champion Bermuda greens and lots of native grasses and plants.

AT&T Canyons Course

Designed by Pete Dye and PGA TOUR player consultant Bruce Lietzke, the Canyons has dramatic elevation changes and a plethora of Hill Country views as well as panoramas of a 750-acre nature preserve. The rugged hills are dotted with oak and cedar trees. The greens are quick and true.


Overlooking the AT&T Oaks Course, the 42,000 square foot clubhouse has outdoor decks with golf course views, full-service men's and women's locker rooms and a hallway dotted with dozens of vintage black and white photos of Texas golf legends and icons.

For dining, the 18 Oaks restaurant at the clubhouse offers prime cuts and traditional steakhouse fare as well as a bountiful Sunday Brunch loaded with gourmet style delicacies.


Tasteful appointments in metals, tooled leather, carved wood and hewn stonework are plentiful in each of the 1,002 rooms and 85 suites at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.

I stayed in a 460 square-foot Deluxe Room, which has a Marriott Revive Bed, 37 inch LCD HDTV, work desk and separate shower and bathtub.

Main hotel amenities:
--Lantana Spa
--Seven dining options
--River Bluff Water Experience with six acres of heated pools, fountains, waterfalls, rivers and poolside lounges
--BMW Experience
--High Velocity Sports Bar
--Crooked Branch Lobby Bar

10 Little Things I liked

1. The comfortable sitting area on the back veranda with views of the fountains, flowers and golf course in the distance. On a cool evening you can enjoy a warm libation around one of the fireplaces.

2. World-class onion rings at the High Velocity sports bar. Order them with a Shiner Bock on draft and you'll have the perfect celebration after a round of golf.

3. Seven fluffy pillows on my king size bed with European style bedding.

4. The tribute to champions hallway at the TPC San Antonio clubhouse that's dotted with vintage photographs of Texas golf icons like Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino.

5. The spacious lobby bar appointed with rich leather furnishings, tall ceilings and towering windows with views of the fountain.

6. The amazing Sunday brunch at 18 Oaks.

7. The test drive BMWs available to guests.

8. The expansive pool area with a winding speed slide.

9. The proximity of the clubhouse and golf courses which are just a few steps from the back of the hotel.

10. Fantastic sunrises you'll see from the balcony of your room.


TPC San Antonio and the JW Marriott San Antonio are located 12 miles from the international airport and 18 miles north of downtown San Antonio.


The experts on Texas golf travel are Texas Bound For Golf, a company that can design packages to JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa as well as destinations like Austin, Dallas, Houston and other areas of the state.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What's New for Golf Vacationers in 2014

If you're sick and tired of the constant drumbeat of gloom and doom economic news, I hope I can remedy that problem for you.

Finally, here's some good news about exciting happenings in the golf travel world in 2014:

Slated to debut early 2014 is a luxury 210-room main lodge at Streamsong Resort in Polk County near Lakeland, Florida. Amenities will include three restaurants and two lounge areas, an indoor pool, outdoor infinity pool, fitness center, full-service spa with multiple treatment rooms, retail shopping, hiking, birding tours, sporting clays and lakefront fishing complex with guides, outfitters and boating equipment. Situated 53 miles from Tampa and 69 miles from Orlando, Streamsong is home to two of golf's more celebrated new courses that opened in 2012. Set on formerly mined land, the courses incorporate hills, dramatic land forms, sweeping sand dunes, ridges and vistas. The two 18-hole courses were designed by Tom Doak and Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup matches, will debut 10 new luxury lodges in 2014, which is part of a planned development of 60 lodges. The large, multi-bedroom log cabins will be named Hunter Lodges. Offering views of the Usk Valley, the lodges will be situated near Celtic Manor's Twenty Ten Ryder Cup course.

The $3.5 billion Baha Mar mega-resort in Nassau's Cable Beach area (Bahamas) will open its 1,000-room casino hotel in December 2014. Opening late this year or early next year is the property's Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Baha Mar.

An 18-hole putting course at Pacific Dunes at Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon is scheduled to open in May 2014. Designed by Tom Doak, the highlights of "The Punchbowl Putting Course" include 15 to 20 feet of elevation change and a 100-foot downhill roller coaster putt.

Expected to open late 2014 is the 444-room Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Set in Disney's ultra-exclusive, luxury master-planned Golden Oaks community near the Tom Fazio designed Osprey Ridge Golf course, the $360 million hotel will be dripping with luxury amenities.

PGA Village Resort in Port St. Lucie, Florida has committed to a course conditioning and enhancement program that will significantly improve the overall golf experience at the resort's four golf courses. Veteran superintendent Dick Gray was hired to raise the quality of maintenance and conditioning to unparalleled levels for 2014 and beyond.

The Trump National Doral Miami (formerly named Doral Golf Resort & Spa) is undergoing a massive $250 million renovation and enhancement program. Slated for completion in fall 2014, the transformation will include refurbishment of guest rooms, extensive renovation of the clubhouse and redesign of the "Blue Monster" by architect Gil Hanse. The new "Blue Monster" is scheduled to be ready by early 2014, just prior to the 2014 World Golf Championship/Cadillac Championship in March.

The Indura Resort and Spa on the northern coast of Honduras is scheduled to open early 2014. One of the highlight amenities is an 18-hole golf course designed by Gary Player and managed by Troon Golf.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Top 10 Golf Party Cities and Towns

After an amazing round of golf, is there anything better than (beer) tapping out at the 19th hole?

Yes, especially when you continue the party away from the course.

Later, when you want to take the celebration to another level, there are certain cities and towns on the planet that have extended menus of places to party. Whether you want an ale, lager, stout, single malt or any other celebratory libation, you can find them at my Top 10 favorite places to party after golf.

Bartender, may I have drum roll please:

1. DUBLIN, IRELAND--Great golf courses like Portnarnock Golf Club, The K Club Palmer Course and Druids Glen will draw you to Dublin and its dizzying line-up of pubs will take your celebration game to unparalleled heights. Whether you want a place to drown your sorrows or dance the night away to traditional Irish music, you don't have to look far. If you're not particular about where to drink, just head to the Temple Bar District and you'll find an ample menu of possibilities to display your "A" game. Here are some suggestions to get you started: The Quays Bar in the Temple Bar District, which has traditional Irish music and dancing: The Porterhouse (pictured), a four-story, fun and and drink palace with balconies and giant copper vats situated at the edge of Temple Bar District and Brazen Head, near the Guinness factory, the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back to 1198.

2. EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND--The most populous city in Scotland, Edinburgh accommodates its citizens with lots of places to play golf and drink. I love the courses in East Lothian like Muirfield, North Berwick, Gullane, Dunbar and Musselburgh. If you don't have a GPS or don't want to mess with chasing down addresses, just head to Edinburgh's Royal Mile, where you'll find lots of places to eat and drink. Some don't miss pubs in Edinburgh are Deacon Brodie's Tavern (pictured), Cafe Royal Circle Bar, The Last Drop, Peartree House and The Brauhaus.

3. ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND--With the Old Course, The Castle Course and other St. Andrews Links Trust courses, Kingsbarns, The Duke's Course and several other great places to tee up, this wonderful village is golf nirvana. Following the obligatory photo-op on the Swilcan Bridge and perhaps a selfie with the ocean crashing in the background at Kingsbarns, it's time to hit the pubs. These are a few of my favorite places to soak up and enjoy St. Andrews' wonderful golf lifestyle: Dunvegan Hotel Lounge Bar, a magnet for Americans who've just played the Old Course; Ma Bell's, a high-energy pub set in the basement of the St. Andrews Golf Hotel; Jigger Inn (pictured), a gathering place for international tourists, locals and caddies adjacent to the Old Course Hotel; Golf Place, a less than a minute walk from the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse and the One Under Gastro Pub at Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, which overlooks the 18th hole of the Old Course.

4. LOS CABOS, MEXICO--There's nothing quite like playing  golf, engaging in some world-class deep sea fishing where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortes and celebrating your fabulous luck with an ice cold Tecate, Pacifico and a shot of Tequila. Popular haunts include The Giggling Marlin, Cabo Wabo (pictured), Happy Ending Cantina, Nowhere Bar and Baja Brewing Company. Among the courses to play in the area are Cabo Real Golf Club, Cabo del Sol and Palmilla Golf Resort.

5. SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA--When you combine abundant sunshine, more than 90 golf courses and a phenomenal beer culture, you've got one of the world's best places to tee up and clink beer glasses after the last putt has fallen. For golf, Torrey Pines, Grand Del Mar Resort and Spa, La Costa Resort & Spa and Rancho Bernardo Inn are great resort choices. You can also venture to Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego, to take tours of the numerous golf manufacturers, like Titleist and Callaway, who have equipment plants there. When it's time for some hops and barley, you should know San Diego has 35 breweries. While Portland, Denver and Chicago are craft beer capitals, San Diego can hold its own against any of them.Heading the list of must drink places, include Hamilton's Tavern, Toronado and O'Briens American Pub.

6. MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN--After playing Whistling Straits and the Irish Course in Kohler (about an hour drive from Milwaukee) and area layouts like Ironwood and Brown Deer, rest assured, this brew-happy city has lots of celebration options such as great bars, german restaurants with exceptional beer and brewery tours where you can immerse yourself in everything beer. When it's time to start partying, head to popular places like Wolski's Tavern (pictured), Foundation Bar and Palm Tavern.

7. ORLANDO, FLORIDA--In southwest Orlando near courses like Bay Hill, Grand Cypress Resort, MetroWest, Walt Disney World and Waldorf Astoria Golf Club, there some excellent places to imbibe after a day on the links. Some of my favorite watering holes are the World of Beer on Dr. Phillips Boulevard, Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant (pictured) at Downtown Disney and Bar Louie on Sand Lake Road. If you love beer and enjoy a frosty one or two after golf, the World of Beer has more than 500 selections.

8. MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA--With more than 100 golf courses and a slew of sports and beach bars, you're never very far from a place to tee up or a bar stool to sit and enjoy a frosty cool one. For those who want a beach view with their drink, try Ocean Annie's Beach Bar (pictured), Oceanfront Bar & Grill and Mango's on the Beach. If you want to catch a game on a big screen, head to Overtime Sports Cafe, Five O'Clock Somewhere and Broadway Louie's. Here's the complete menu of Myrtle Beach golf courses.

9. BANFF, CANADA--After you play the 27 holes of Stanley Thompson designed golf at the Fairmont Banff Springs Resort in Alberta, Canada, I highly suggest taking the five-minute walk into the village of Banff, a popular ski resort town.  Let's face it, skiers have perfected the art of partying away sore muscles and Banff has more than a few places to celebrate your great fortune of being in a stunning mountain setting. Places to party, include St. James Gate Olde Irish Pub, (pictured),  Tommy's Neighbourhood Pub and the Aurora nightclub. Some other don't miss courses to play in the area are Canmore Golf & Curling Club and Silvertip.

10. GULF SHORES, ALABAMA--This Gulf of Mexico beach destination makes the list for two reasons: It has nine golf courses, including prime time layouts like Kiva Dunes, Craft Farms and Lost Key and it has the Flora-Bama Lounge, (pictured) the quintessential party roadhouse.  Located on the Florida-Alabama border it's a combination oyster bar, juke joint and seafood shack. If you really want to party, plan your golf trip in late April when the rollicking Mullet Toss Festival is staged at the Flora-Bama Lounge. During the day at this ultimate beach bar, you can shed the golf duds, slip into your bathing suit, order a frosty longneck and you'll forget all about those shanks, three putts, errant drives into pool screens and exploding bunker shots that fly the green.