Friday, November 15, 2013

Top 10 Golf Travel Trends For 2014

Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria
It used to be father and son trips were all the rage. Now, grandpa and grandma want to get in on the fun. The Baby Boomer demographic is what drove golf to its unparalleled popularity and growth in the 1990s. As a group, Boomers love to play golf and as more of them retire with no job to occupy their time and attention, the prospect of playing golf in an exotic destination with family members is just too great to pass up. In 2013, 40% of families went on a multi-generational vacation. Grandparents travel about 25% more than the average leisure traveler.

More travelers will use smart phones to check-in to hotels and book reservations at restaurants. Mobile apps are essentially replacing the hotel concierge as the first place travelers go to for information and directions. In addition, a selection of great travel apps have hit the market making planning and coordinating trips easier. Some of my favorite trav apps include Four Square, Flight Track Pro, Packing Pro and Onanda Currency Converter. An increasing number of travelers, especially those under 45 years old use mobile devices for online research.

France--Host site of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Versailles near Paris, France is aggressively courting golf tourists with 550 courses, including four rated in Continental Europe's Top 10.

Turkey--The Turkish Riviera on the southern coast takes the world stage with the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final at the Maxx Royal Course in the Belek region. A legitimate golf destination, the Belek area has 14 golf courses with designer tags like Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie and more than 30 four-star and five-star hotels.

Sweden--With 300 golf courses and native golfers like Annika Sorenstam, Henrik Stenson and Anna Nordqvist singing its praises, Sweden has arrived as a golf travel destination. It was recently selected the "Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year 2014" by the International Association of Golf Travel Operators (IAGTO).

Malaysia--It has more than 200 golf courses with several spectacular multi-amenity resorts in mountain, seashore and rain forest settings. Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed courses in Malaysia near its largest cities Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.

Bulgaria--Seemingly out of nowhere, Bulgaria has arrived as a golf destination. The Cape Kaliakra area on the Black Sea Coast is home to three dynamic courses--Lighthouse (Ian Woosnam), BlackSeaRama (Gary Player) and Thracian Cliffs (Gary Player). The inland Sofia destination offers play on Pravets Golf (Peter Harradine), Pirin Golf (Ian Woosnam) and St. Sofia (Paul McGinley)

China--Mission Hills resorts in Shenzhen and Hainan, which encompasses numerous golf courses by big name designers like Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Nick Faldo, dominate the golf tourism scene. China has gone golf crazy and there are are plethora of golf projects in the development stages.

Vietnam--There are 25 golf courses and more than 60 projects at different stages of development in Vietnam. The Danang and Hoi An area has spectacular beaches, a good selection of first class hotels and courses like the Montgomerie Golf Links Vietnam designed by Colin Montgomerie and Danang Golf Club, a Greg Norman design. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) both offer a good selection of courses.

Increasingly, golf travel companies, resorts and coop marketing organizations are announcing package deals on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and other social media. Golf Travel companies, in particular, will put a greater emphasis on interacting with their clients to keep them up-to-date on special packages, trips and events.

6. RYDER CUP 2014
The globally popular event will put the spotlight on Gleneagles Resort in Scotland, the host site. Golf travelers will attend the matches (September 26-28) and play lots of golf in Scotland. Gleneagles is situated 50 miles from Edinburgh and Glasgow and about 70 miles from St. Andrews so world-renowned courses like the Old Course, Carnoustie and Gullane will get lots of play.

This innovative developer has created amazing golf courses that golfers will travel long distances to play. Bandon Dunes on the southern Oregon coast has five courses oozing with "wow" factor. In Canada, Keiser's Cabot Links in Nova Scotia is one of the country's most talked about layouts. Scheduled to open nearby in 2015 is Cabot Cliffs, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design set high on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with a stunning par three similar to No. 16 at Cypress Point. At Bandon Dunes, an 18-hole putting course at Pacific Dunes called "Punchbowl Putting Course"is slated to open May 2014.

Savvy golf travelers are increasingly selecting destinations that include gaming, beach, mountains or theme parks. Gaming destinations with big name entertainment shows such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno/Lake Tahoe and Mississippi's Gulf Coast feature an extensive menu of golf courses and casinos. Popular U.S. seaside destinations include the Monterey Peninsula in California, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, Bandon Dunes, Oregon and San Diego, California. Mountain destinations drawing golfers include the White Mountains region in New Hampshire, western North Carolina, Sun Valley, Idaho and ski towns with golf course in Colorado such as Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail. Popular theme park destinations include Orlando, Florida, San Antonio, Texas, Williamsburg, Virginia, Tampa, Florida and Branson, Missouri.

When will they stop? Apparently, not anytime soon as hotels and airlines have fallen in love with this "additional revenue" producer. Get ready for more annoying service, parking and Internet fees from hotels and luggage and boarding pass fees from airlines.

Ireland is on a roll. The warm and friendly Irish people, a slew of great courses and other enticements continue to make Ireland appealing, especially to golfers who've already played in Scotland. The most popular courses include Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Royal Portrush, Old Head, Tralee, Lahinch, Portmarnock, Doonbeg and Waterville. Tourist sites like the stunning Cliffs of Moher and special events such as the Penn State vs. UCF football game (August 30, 2014) enhance the appeal.

10. CRAMPED AIR TRAVEL As airlines "right size" their aircraft, planes will be fuller with fewer empty seats. When was the last time you stretched out on some empty seats on an international flight? Like, uh, never. Most products improve over time, but airlines seem to be going backward. Some of my pet peeves (which are only getting worse) include: Cramped seating, crowded aisles with clueless passengers trying to stuff oversize carry-on bags into bins and overpriced snacks.

Monday, November 4, 2013

On Location: Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

You can kayak and canoe its 11-mile lagoon system, bike its shady paths and jog on its flat, hard-packed 3-mile beach, but Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) is a golf resort at its core. A sizeable amount of its 2,000 acres is devoted to three championship golf courses.

A wonderland of moss draped oaks, palmetto trees, tall pines and Atlantic Ocean beaches, Palmetto Dunes is an adroitly designed, self-contained, amenity-rich resort that encourages you to quickly get into relax mode.

Golf is the dominant amenity at the resort, but golfers who are also fitness buffs and nature lovers will enjoy the varied recreation offerings.


If you rank Palmetto Dunes' three courses by rounds played, the Robert Trent Jones Course would be number one.

"The Jones Course has the most demand," director of golf Clark Sinclair told me during breakfast at the resort's Big Jim's Restaurant one morning. "but, the Hills and George Fazio are excellent plays as well and they have their own distinct personalities. We take great pride in our course conditioning on all three courses and all offer an exceptional experience. Regardless of the course they choose to play, I don't think they'll be disappointed."

Robert Trent Jones Course--One of Hilton Head Island's most notable courses, this highly ranked gem was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones and later reshaped and restructured by Jones protege Roger Rulewich. The unique design features an amazing lagoon system that comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes. Get your camera out on the par five 10th hole, which has a spectacular backdrop of high dunes speckled with sea oats and the Atlantic Ocean.

Arthur Hills Course--Built on a series of rolling dunes with a fairly constant ocean breeze and water on 10 holes, this layout is challenging, yet playable and enjoyable for mid-handicappers who play the correct set of tees. It plays 6,122 yards from the middle white tees. One of the inspiring features of the overall golf experience is viewing the Historic Leamington Lighthouse, which is located on the course.

George Fazio Course--With its long par fours, this par-70 layout is considered by many as one of the toughest tests on Hilton Head Island and Bluffton. Superbly designed by George Fazio with assistance from his nephew Tom Fazio, this course has innovative bunkering and wonderfully placed water hazards.


One of Palmetto Dunes' great appeals to stay and play golfers are the wide variety of accommodations available. The exceptional rental program features everything from one-bedroom villas to six-bedroom homes.

I stayed in the Queens Grant Villas, which are near the entrance of the resort only a couple of blocks from the Robert Trent Jones clubhouse, General Store and tennis center. Some of the things I liked about my two-bedroom villa were the walk-in shower in the master bedroom, parking space only a few feet from the front door, an outdoor patio with a grill (where Mrs. Guru and I shared a nice chilled bottle of Vinho Verde Portuguese wine one evening after golf), a full-size refrigerator (perfect for storing my Shiner Bock beers) and a fully-equipped kitchen complete with a corkscrew. Other highlights include a community outdoor swimming pool and easy access to bike trails and the beach.

There are a variety of rental villa and home options available with these types of views: Courtyard, golf course, lagoon, marina, near ocean, ocean, oceanfront, pool and resort.


While the golfer in the family is roaming the fairways, spouses and family members who don't play golf have access to a variety of things to do, such as:

Charter deep sea fishing
Inshore fishing
Sport crabbing
Dolphin tours
Nature cruises
Sailing cruises
Bike rentals (on-site)
Private nature tours
Beachfront dining at the Dunes House
Dining at Big Jim's at the Robert Trent Jones Clubhouse
Shopping and dining at Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina (free shuttle bus)
Kayaking and canoeing
Golf academy

10 Little Things I Liked

1. The vaulted ceiling at my Queen's Grant villa.

2. Easy check-in and check-out at the Welcome Center.

3. The General Store near the Robert Trent Jones clubhouse that has just about everything you need.

4. The flat, hard-packed beach that makes it easy to ride a bike, jog or walk.

5. The spectacular, inspiring ocean view from the 10th green on the Robert Trent Jones Course.

6. Clark Sinclair, the affable and helpful director of golf.

7. The excellent tennis center.

8. The resort's location across the street from the Shelter Cove Harbour, a marina, dining and entertainment complex.

9. The beautiful shaded bike trails that weave throughout the property.

10. The Hilton Head Outfitters, the on-site shop where you can conveniently rent bikes, kayaks and canoes at reasonable prices.


Traveling north or south on I-95, take SC Exit 8 onto Highway 278 East. Proceed about 18 miles. After crossing the bridge onto Hilton Head Island, Palmetto Dunes is situated mid-island at mile marker 8. It is best reached by Highway 278 Business (William Hilton Parkway. At the intersection in front of Palmetto Dunes, use the left turn lanes into the resort. The Welcome Center is the first building on the right.

Nearby areas with excellent courses include Bluffton, situated between the Island and I-95 on Highway 278; Beaufort, 25 miles from the Island and Savannah, 31 miles from Hilton Head.

The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is about a one hour drive from Palmetto Dunes (50 miles) and the on-island Hilton Head Airport is six miles from the resort.

Address: 4 Queens Folly Road, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Toll Free: 800-827-3006
Local: 843-785-9100


You can customize a golf package by contacting Palmetto Dunes Resort at their website or by calling 866-380-1778. A golf travel company I highly recommend for Hilton Head Island golf packages is Golfpac Travel in Orlando.