Friday, February 26, 2016

5 Places to Play Golf While the Dollar is Strong

Remember the great Kool & The Gang song "Celebration"?

Well, it's time to start singing it: "Let's celebrate, it's all right...."

The U.S. dollar has been gaining strength of late and I've got a list of countries where the golf is superb at a very happy price (when you consider the excellent exchange rates).

Here are Five places to consider:

CANADA--The U.S. dollar has been steadily progressing against the Canadian dollar for the past five years so it's a great time to visit up north. Better still, Canadians love to swing the sticks, and I don't just mean hockey sticks. There's great golf all over the country from the picturesque layouts in British Columbia on the west coast to Banff Springs and Jasper Lodge in Alberta to excellent courses in and around Toronto and, the latest rage, Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia.

MEXICO--Bueno, Bueno, Bueno...The U.S. dollar to the Mexican Peso has risen more than 22% in value since February 2015. If you've been thinking about playing golf in Mexico, now is a great time with excellent value. You can tee up in all sorts of settings ranging from the all-inclusives in Cancun and Riviera Maya to Puerto Vallarta and the stunning, ruggedly beautiful courses in Los Cabos where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean.

SOUTH AFRICA--If you enjoy stunningly picturesque golf courses, world class wines, luxury hotels and game lodges and safaris where you can see the Big 5 (elephant, leopard, buffalo, lion and rhino), you'll absolutely love South Africa. Whether you decide to tee up in the Las Vegas-like Sun City area near Johannesburg in the north or the Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in the south, or both, you'll find excellent golf courses and great deals on hotels, dining and wine thanks to the favorable exchange rate.

THAILAND--Since February last year (2015), the U.S. dollar is worth about 10% more against the Thai Baht. Golf in Thailand ranges from the luxury beach/golf resorts in the south to the mountainous surroundings in the north. You can also tee up in Bangkok an Pattaya. In fact, there are more than 60 courses near Bangkok. Thailand has a great golf tradition dating back to 1923 so the sport is well ingrained in the tourism infrastructure. Top courses to play include Ayodhya Links, Amata Spring and Alpine Golf Club.

TURKEY--The U.S. dollar is favorable against the Turkish lira right now. While golfers don't immediately think of Turkey as a golf destination, the country has quietly emerged as a great place to combine a beach/golf excursion. The Turkish Riviera on the country's southern coast has 14 golf courses with designer tags like Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and David Feherty.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

2016 PGA Merchandise Show Product Picks

The Guru has to been to more than 20 PGA Merchandise Shows so I've seen just about every new golf product imaginable. "The Show", staged annually in Orlando, Florida is the greatest display of golf products and services on the planet.

I spent three days wandering the miles of aisles at the Orange County Convention Center  at this year's show in late January. With more than 1,000 companies represented there's a great mix of new and old product offerings.

Here are some of the booths and products I liked:

Premier Golf Travel--I heard lots of buzz at "The Show" about the 2016 Ryder Cup. Excitement abounds that Jordan Spieth and other young guns can help U.S.A. get the Cup back. Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis will be the venue for the 2016 Ryder Cup matches. If you want to go, Premier Golf is the official distributor of Ryder Cup travel packages. I spoke with a couple of their travel experts, Premier Golf President Jim Ward, and international golf travel specialist Ann Mabry. Premier has a great selection of accommodations in their various packages and they can provide you with all sorts of great information on attractions, places to play and dining in the area. C'mon, all together now: "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A..."

Puerto Rico-I spoke with Waleska Lugo, the director of sales/luxury market for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. We talked about the great golf options in areas like San Juan, Dorado Beach, Rio Mar, Bahia Beach and Ponce. There are more than 20 championship golf courses in Puerto Rico. My favorite course in Puerto Rico is Royal Isabela in the northwest corner of the country about 70 minutes from San Juan International Airport. Some of the things I like about Puerto Rico as a golf destination, include: No money exchange. No passport needed. Great airline deals and easy access. Excellent selection of golf courses by top notch designers. Superb cuisine and exceptional restaurant selection in San Juan. Friendly people. Bacardi rum. Rum Punch. Medalla Light Beer. Pina Coladas. El Yunque tropical rain forest...

Sligo Wear--The Guru likes to add a little pizzaz to his wardrobe on the golf course, but I definitely can't go for the in-your-face Loudmouth John Daly look or that over-the-top, orange pumpkin Rickie Fowler fashion statement. Luckily, there's a Montreal, Canada company, Sligo Wear, that makes some great looking, tasteful, colorful golf clothing. "What sets us apart are our bright colors, patterns and design detail," Bernadette Ray, Sligo's Florida sales rep told me at "The Show". "The colors and patterns are dynamic and fun." Sligo offers shirts, shorts, pants, sweaters, wind shirts, wind jackets, belts, hats and other accessories.

Sundog Eyewear--I ran into my long-time friend Hal Quinn (we teed it up in China a few years ago) at the Sundog booth. He introduced me to the company's TrueBlue line of sunglasses. I absolutely love the TrueBlue Laser sunglasses I wear from their Performance Collection.  One of its advantages is they reduce short term eye fatigue by decreasing veiled glare. The TrueBlue lens is the only non-prescription sunglass lens in the world to incorporate both synthesized Melanin and OLP (Ocular Lens Pigment) to provide ultimate eye protection and vision performance. Quinn and I had a great conversation about the damaging impact of blue light on the front and back of the eye. Sundog Eyewear has  been at the forefront of lens technology to combat the negative effects of blue light. For golfers, Sundog also has some great selections in its Athleisure and Athleisure/Polarized collections.

TaylorMade M2 Irons--Introduced at "The Show", these game improvement irons are designed to give golfers greater distance and higher trajectory. Hmm, the Guru could use both of those as well as a major reduction in three putts. What's the secret to these new irons?I was told that club designers positioned the center gravity lower and farther back in the clubhead.
Topgolf--I'm a huge fan of these golf entertainment/nightclub style complexes that feature point-scoring golf games with micro-chipped golf balls, great drinks and fab food like Asian Sesame wings and cinnamon-sugar dusted donut holes. I'm not the only one who loves Topgolf, either. Last year more than 8 million people visited the 24 Topgolfs around the world. At "The Show" Topgolf made two big announcements: They'll soon break ground on Topgolfs in Orlando and Nashville with scheduled openings for early 2017 and they acquired the World Golf Tour, the leading web and mobile golf game.

Voice Caddie--My friend Tommy Glasgow of the Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group introduced me to this great company, which has a slew of high-tech products like a portable launch monitor, Hybrid Golf GPS Watch and Golf GPS Band. One of their reps showed me the VC300 Voice Output Golf GPS, an amazing device that you clip to the bill on your hat or visor. There are 30,000 courses preloaded and it has automatic course and hole recognition. With a simple click, it provides distances from the front, center and back of the green. Better still, it only costs $129.99. 
VPAR--I first used the VPAR golf app at Salish Cliffs Golf Club, an excellent resort course near Tacoma, Washington. Hey, now you can use your paper scorecard as a beer coaster because this special piece of technology keeps your score and a lot more. VPAR allows you to set up your own golf tournaments with friends and follow their scores in real time leaderboards on your phone or to share online. It also has a GPS course planner and tracks performance (or, in my case, lack of performance).