Monday, December 22, 2014

New and Improved Golf Courses for 2015

Trump Golf Links Ferry Point, Bronx, NY (photo: courtesy
Do you want to broaden your horizons and tee up at some different courses in 2015?

Of course you do...

In elf-like fashion, the Guru has been working diligently this holiday season to compile a list of new and recently improved and renovated layouts. It's his gift to every travel-loving golfer out there in cyberspace.

So, thoroughly clean out your bag for the New Year, stock up on your ball inventory and prepare yourself to play some of these gems in 2015 and beyond:

Cabot Cliffs (Nova Scotia, Canada)--This magnificent Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw layout on Cape Breton Island will be the most talked about course in 2015. Expected to open in July, Cabot Cliffs will be the sister course to Cabot Links, a phenomenal golf complex developed by Mike Keiser, who brought us Bandon Dunes in Oregon. Cabot Cliffs will be a moveable feast of rolling sand dunes and soaring cliffs. The front nine is routed through low lying dunes around wetlands and back nine features cliffs up to 100 feet high. My nomination for the most dramatic hole is the par 3 16th, which requires a tee shot over ocean to a green rimmed by jagged cliffs.

Cape Wickham (King Island, Australia)--Set on an island off the southern Coast of Australia, Cape Wickham, scheduled to open in 2015, is being designed by American golf architect Mike DeVries, who's known for his work in northern Michigan (Greywalls and Kingsley Club). Predicted to be one of Australia's top ten courses, Cape Wickham will have eight holes framed by ocean as well as five others rimming the tee or green.

Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)--Following a 7-month enhancement program in 2014, the course improved its overall playing conditions with a new irrigation system, reconstruction of all green, tee and green-side bunker complexes, replacement of fairway turf and the expansion of the drainage network. Opened in 1987, the course was designed by Pete Dye in collaboration with Bobby Weed and PGA TOUR player Jerry Pate.

El Cardonal (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico)--Opened in December (2014), this is a Tiger Woods design at Diamonte, a residential resort. The course is routed on a stunning piece of land with views of the Pacific Ocean and Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in the distance and arroyous, native dunes, cacti and mature vegetation.

Ford Plantation Golf Club (Richmond Hill, Georgia)--Pete Dye and Tim Liddy essentially bulldozed a course Dye designed and built in the mid-1980's to create Ford Plantation Golf Club. The new layout near Savannah has a parkland-like front nine with several dogleg holes, lakes and Spanish moss dripping from trees and a back nine with no trees and a links-style feel.

Full Cry at Keswick Hall (Charlottsville, Virginia)--Iconic course designer Pete Dye, who brought us gems like the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island and the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, recently debuted Full Cry, a new layout at Keswick Hall Golf Club/Resort. Interestingly, the course was routed atop a former Arnold Palmer design. Set on beautiful rolling terrain, the course has creeks, forests and open areas.

Gamble Sands (Brewster, Washington)--Known for his great work at Bandon Dunes in Oregon, architect David McLay Kidd's newest design is Gamble Sands in Brewster, which is about a three hour drive east of Seattle. Built on a giant sand ridge about 1,000 feet high, the course rewards players with spectacular panoramas of the Cascade Mountains and Columbia River. Large, wide fairways and flat greens make the course thoroughly playable for all skill levels. True to its name, though, there's lots of sand to contend with at Gamble Sands. The public-accessible course is slated to open a small lodge by 2016.

Poppy Hills (Pebble Beach, California)--If you love the Monterey Peninsula, you'll be glad to know the Poppy Hills Golf Club, a scenic, affordably priced Robert Trent Jones Jr. design owned by the Northern California Golf Association, recently received an extensive makeover with new greens and other design enhancements.

Quivira Golf Club (Los Cabos, Mexico)--Jack Nicklaus designs have been synonomous with Los Cabos golf. The Golden Bear's latest masterpiece is Quivira Golf Club, a stunner with 350-feet of elevation change in the rolling desert foothills about 10 miles from downtown Cabo San Lucas. Sheer granite cliffs, massive windswept dunes, arroyos and mountains dominate the golf experience. A Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, it has jaw-dropping vistas of the Pacific Ocean.

Rams Hill Golf Club (Borrego Springs, California)--Set in the center of the Anza Borrego State Park, this new Tom Fazio design is sculpted from desert hillside and encircled by mountains. Post card beautiful, the course has numerous elevation changes and all sorts of water features like streams, waterfalls and lakes. Rams Hills is located about a 90-minute drive from San Diego and a 60-minute drive from Palm Desert. The long term plans are to take the club private, so you might want to play this gem sooner rather than later.

TPC Baha Mar (Nassau, Bahamas)--Opening in Spring 2015 at the luxurious, $3.5 billion Baha Mar mega-resort is the TPC Baha Mar, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course design. Stretching 7,189 yards, the TPC at Baha Mar, the first Caribbean golf course in the TPC Network, will feature two very distinct nines. The front offers several high-profile water features and ocean views and the back nine weaves through a lush inland forest. Tree growth on the layout is spectacular with 15 species of native trees, include protected Mahogany, Silk cotton, Caribbean Pine and Buttonwood, as well as Red and Black Mangroves. There are also more than 70 species of birds and other wildlife on the course. 

TPC Cartagena at Karibana (Cartagena, Colombia)--Opened in October 2014, this Nicklaus design is par of the TPC Network of golf courses. The front nine has a natural forest and six lakes and the back nine runs along as magnificent oceanfront.

TPC Scottsdale (Arizona)--Home to the popular and sometimes raucous PGA TOUR's Waste Management Phoenix Open, this high-profile layout reopened in November following an extensive renovation by original architect Tom Weiskopf.

Trump Golf Links Ferry Point (Bronx, New York)--Scheduled to open in 2015, this Jack Nicklaus Signature Design in collaboration with architect John Sanford, will feature stunning views of the Manhattan skyline from most of the 18 holes. Other amenities include a $10 million clubhouse and practice facility with lights for nighttime use. Open to the public, the Irish links-style layout will be nearly treeless with tall native grasses and dunes and tee boxes that rise as high as 55 feet above the fairway.

Trump International Ireland Hotel & Golf Links (Doonbeg, Ireland)--Recently purchased by Donald Trump, this luxury resort (formerly known as The Lodge at Doonbeg) has embarked on an extensive enhancement program. Situated on lush farmland and framed by the Atlantic Ocean, the Greg Norman designed course opened in 2002. Trump has promised to elevate the courses profile and enhance the overall playing experience.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 10 Golf Travel Trends 2015

Golf Casintino in Italy

Golfers love to travel. In fact, more golfers took a domestic trip in 2014 than skiers, tennis players and sailors combined.
To get you ready for 2015, here are 10 trends to assist you in golf travel planning:

1. Emerging Destinations—For those who’ve already played Ireland and Scotland, European destinations like Italy and France are aggressively promoting golf vacations. Trying to entice golfers who are also foodies, Italian and French golf tour operators tout their exceptional cuisine and wine, which visiting golfers can enjoy once the last putt falls for the day. Many new golf courses are popping up in Thailand, China, Korea and Vietnam and they’re also vying strongly for golf vacationers. Australia and New Zealand are popular new frontiers, as well.

2. Bucket-List Courses—As Baby Boomers retire in greater numbers they have more time to pursue courses on their Bucket Lists. At the top of most lists is The Old Course in St. Andrews, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Dornoch (Scotland), Royal County Down (Ireland) and Royal Melbourne (Australia).

3. Going Mobile—An increasing number of online travel bookings will be done with mobile devices. According to the World Travel Market Global Trends Report, nearly 35% of bookings will be mobile oriented by 2018. Look for the Apple Watch and other smartwatches to make a big impact when it goes on sale in 2015. A few airlines, travel companies and hotels have already released smartwatch apps that allow users to book flights, download boarding passes, search for the best holiday deals and act as room keys.

4. History with Modern Amenities—Golf vacationers want to experience history, but not in a musty and dusty environment. Discerning luxury golf travelers want all the modern day techno amenity candy like high-speed Internet service, Ipod docking stations and flat panel televisions as well as spas, fitness centers and luxury linens. Historical hotels such The Breakers in Palm Beach, Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina and The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin and Williamsburg Inn in Virginia have refurbished and upgraded their properties to appeal to the luxury amenity sensitivities of their guests. 

5. Food and Wine Appreciation—Everybody is a “Foodie”. Lots of golfers watch the Food Network as much as they do the Golf Channel.  Off-the-course, golfers are increasingly seeking innovative, chef inspired delicacies, farm-to-table restaurants, healthy and gluten free choices, craft beers and fine wines. Wine goes well with golf, too. Some of the most desirable wine regions with great golf include Cape Town, South Africa, the Bordeaux in southwest France, Napa Valley, California and Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand.

6. Couples Trips—The buddy trip is still popular, but as more couples retire, they'll travel more and increasingly play more golf together. To enhance the golf travel experience, activities like winery tours and cooking classes will be incorporated in itineraries.

7. Alternative Golf Experiences at Resorts—In an effort to attract more Millennials to golf, a growing number of resorts are offering Footgolf. What is it? In Footgolf, the hole on the green is expanded to 21 inches to accommodate a soccer ball, players tally up their score like golf and it only takes about two hours to complete a round. Resorts offering Footgolf include Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County, New Jersey, French Lick Resort in French Lick, Indiana, TreeTops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan and the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa’s Port Royal Golf club.

8. Electronic Golf Hangouts—The latest rage for those who like to swing the sticks away from the golf course is Topgolf, a golf entertainment complex. In a plush sports bar style environment, players hit a golf ball containing a personalized microchip into a series of targets ranging from 20 to 240 yards away. Topgolf has locations in Scottsdale, Arizona, Atlanta, Georgia, Chicago, Illinois, Dallas, Austin and Houston in Texas and Alexandria, Virginia.

9. Putting Courses at Resorts—To entertain golfers in-between rounds and give non-golfers an entertaining amenity to participate in the game, resorts are offering 18-hole putting courses laid out like mini golf layouts. Topping the menu of options are the Punchbowl, a 100,000 square-foot putting courses at Bandon Dunes in Oregon designed by Tom Doak; the Thistle Dhu Putting Course at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina; Dunes Putting Course at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Fla.; the Sawtooths Putting Course at Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho; the 30,000 square foot Seaside Putting Course at Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii; and the 350-yard long putting course at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

10. House Exchange--With easy access to several major Internet sites, more golf travelers will consider house swapping. Retired Baby Boomers can exchange a stay at their primary or vacation home for an abode in a golf rich area. Just bring your clubs, golf clothes and a tootbrush and, voila, you've got a great place to reside temporarily while someone else is staying and watching your house during your extended stay away from home.

Monday, December 1, 2014

TPC at Baha Mar: Brilliant Bahamas Golf Coming in Spring 2015

If you haven't heard of Baha Mar, get ready for one of the world's most amazing gaming resorts. Combining the over-the-top opulence of Las Vegas with a French Riviera flair and Disneyesque style master planning, this resort will redefine luxury in the Bahamas.

The expansive, $3.5 billion resort located on the north shore of New Providence Island near Nassau is slated for a grand opening in Spring 2015. Dubbed the Bahamian Riviera, it will encompass five luxury hotels, a 100,000 square foot casino, a 2,000-seat performing arts center and art gallery, two spas, 40 restaurants and bars, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, designer retail boutiques and 20 acres of landscaped beach and pool experiences.

One of the centerpiece amenities is the TPC at Baha Mar, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, a stunning addition to the TPC Network of courses. The Golden Bear put in a lot of on-site personal attention on this layout to create what should quickly become one of the Caribbean's most desirable places to tee up. 

Arguably, the best professional golfer ever with 18 major championship victories, Nicklaus is also a prolific course architect with more than 380 golf courses in 36 countries and 39 states.

"TPC at Baha Mar truly epitomizes the standard of excellence and tournament-hosting capabilities for which TPC courses are recognized worldwide," says Charlie Zink, PGA TOUR Co-Chief Operating Officer. The TPC Network is comprised of 33 premier private, resort and daily fee golf properties designed by some of golf's most celebrated architects.

Stretching 7,189 yards, the TPC at Baha Mar, the first Caribbean golf course in the TPC Network, will feature two very distinct nines. The front offers several high-profile water features and ocean views and the back nine weaves through a lush inland forest. Tree growth on the layout is spectacular with 15 species of native trees, include protected Mahogany, Silk cotton, Caribbean Pine and Buttonwood, as well as Red and Black Mangroves. There are also more than 70 species of birds and other wildlife on the course.  

After a round, the Royal Blue Clubhouse, designed in a traditional Bahamian style, will feature an open courtyard overlooking the golf course and a bar and grill restaurant serving breakfast and lunch