Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tiger Woods To Design New Public Access Course in Branson, Missouri

Bass Pro Shops founder, avid conservationist and golf enthusiast Johnny Morris today announced a collaborative partnership with Tiger Woods and the Payne Stewart family that includes plans to create the first-ever public access golf courses designed by TGR Design, a world-class championship golf course and a family friendly short course at Big Cedar Lodge.

The partnership grew from a vision by Morris to connect more people to nature by growing the game of golf and outdoor recreation with premier golf, angling and shooting experiences. Beyond the championship course, the expansive partnership includes plans for a future Woods-designed par-3 “short course” on Big Cedar property.

Slated to open in 2019 and named in honor of the late Payne Stewart, the new “Payne’s Valley” Golf Course will be the first completed fully public-access course in the world designed by Tiger Woods’ design firm TGR Design.
Being built to showcase the region’s pristine beauty, the championship course will feature a dramatic 19th hole, “The Rock,” that can be used to settle unfinished wagers. The hole was envisioned by nature-loving Morris, and is set in a dramatic geological feature. The challenging but player-friendly walkable course will have a stunning conclusion where golfers will traverse through a natural cavern system to return to the clubhouse after completing the 19th hole.

“I couldn’t be more proud to partner with Johnny Morris to debut my first public-access courses at Big Cedar Lodge,” says Tiger Woods. “Johnny’s incredible passion for connecting people of all ages and walks of life to nature is truly inspiring. Together we’re tremendously excited to create a publicly accessible world-class golf experience in the center of America.”

The friendship between Morris and Woods began on the water 20 years ago.

“Shortly after Tiger won his first Masters Tournament in 1997, Tiger actually ended up buying one of our Bass Tracker fishing boats," says Johnny Morris. "My son and I had the opportunity to deliver his boat and spend the day bass fishing with him… you really get to know a person when you’re able to spend quiet time on the water fishing together. My boy and I were both very impressed by how down to earth and engaging Tiger was, and by how much he loved to fish."

Morris continues, “When we contemplated building another golf course at Big Cedar last year, my son John and I visited Tiger’s new Bluejack National course in Texas and we were both blown away! It is a truly breathtakingly beautiful place very reminiscent of Augusta National. After spending more time with Tiger and his team, it became apparent to us that Tiger is extremely dedicated to applying his worldly knowledge of golf to develop great courses. His aim is to design and build only a select number of courses that are of extraordinarily high standards, with an emphasis on width and playabilitiy creating a fun and enjoyable experience for all. We quickly became excited about Tiger’s design philosophies and the three of us began to dream together about creating a world-class golf course in our stunning Ozark surroundings. We are very proud to align with Tiger to create an unforgettable golf experience that players of all abilities will be able to enjoy again and again.”
The “Payne’s Valley” Course will pay tribute to the legacy of the late Payne Stewart, a friend of both Morris and Woods as well as an Ozarks native who won 11 PGA TOUR events, including three Major championships. Stewart and his father Bill Stewart were instrumental in helping to establish golf in the region and nationally. To further honor Stewart’s legacy, Morris, with the help of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is also creating The Payne Stewart Learning Facility, an extraordinary practice facility that will contain a tribute museum displaying Stewart’s personal trophies, scorecards, apparel, equipment, photos and more.

Morris will also honor Stewart by expanding support to a number of charitable initiatives linked to the course. 2017 marks the third year Big Cedar Lodge will host the American Junior Golf Association for the Bass Pro Shops Payne Stewart Junior Championship. The AJGA is dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The new course will serve as a future home for the event.

Monday, March 27, 2017

10 Astonishing Quotes on the Masters

1. "The greatest natural laxative in the world."—Fuzzy Zoeller commenting on an approaching tee time for the first hole at the Masters.
 2. "We could make the greens so slick we'd have to furnish ice skates on the first tee."-- Hord Hardin, Masters chairman 1980-1991

3. "You don't come to Augusta to find your game. You come here because you've got one."-- Gene Sarazen

4. "Hey, I won three times and I never even got an outhouse."-- Jimmy Demaret said when asked to comment on the bridges at Augusta National named after champions Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen.

5. "I've never been to heaven and thinking back on my life I probably won't get the chance to go. I guess winning the Masters is as close as I'm going to get."-- Fuzzy Zoeller

6. "I always said that if they have a golf course like this in heaven, I want to be the head pro."--Gary Player
7. "The first time I played the Masters, I was so nervous I drank a bottle of rum before I teed off. I shot the happiest 83 of my life." --Chi Chi Rodriguez.
8. "The course is perfection, and it asks perfection.”--Nick Faldo

9. "Because you pray after you play."-- Fuzzy Zoeller on how Amen Corner earned its name.

10. "You start to choke at The Masters when you drive through the front gate."-- Hale Irwin

Thursday, March 9, 2017

5 Fab Things to Do During Masters Week

All the action in Augusta, Georgia during Masters Week is not inside the ropes.

The city comes alive during the week and there are some activities I recommend when you're not roaming the carpet-like fairways at Augusta National. Even if you're one of the unlucky ones who can't even scrounge up a ticket even for a practice round, you can still immerse yourself in all the frivolity and fun that is Masters Week.

Here are some great things to do:

Enjoy Steaks and Frosty Brews at TBonz Steakhouse--It's a popular hangout for players, caddies and golf industry types during Masters Week. The "Godfather of Soul", James Brown, loved TBonz and there's all sorts of J.B. memorabilia around the restaurant. Menu highlights include hand cut steaks (try the Drunken Ribeye with Kentucky Bourbon Sauce or the Black & Bleu Filet topped with broiled bleu cheese crust). The ribs and chicken are pretty darn good, too.

Visit with John Daly in front of Hooters--It's a tradition unlike any other. Every year during Masters Week, John Daly parks his luxury RV in front of the Augusta Hooters on Washington Road. J.D. hasn't played in the Masters since 2006, but he still comes to Augusta every year to hawk everything from t-shirts and head covers to hats and towels. He stands in front of his bus, usually smoking a heater, and chats with fans while he makes sales. If you buy something, large or small, Daly happily takes a picture with you that's worthy of any Instagram or Facebook post.

Party On at Augusta Commons--Scheduled for April 5, 2017 in downtown Augusta at Augusta Commons, ParTee on the Green is a dance party for all ages. The music encompasses beach, soul, pop, jazz, reggae, R&B and funk. The entry fee is only $3 in advance. 

Feast at Champion's Retreat--This ultra-private club offers the "Southern Culinary Experience" to the public with an amazing menu that includes Low Country, New Orleans Cajun and Creole, Carolina Calabash style, Charleston Raw Bar, Texas Dry Rubbed BBQ, Florida and the Keys influences, Mid Georgia BBQ and classic Southern Soul. Beer, wine and liquor included. Enjoy nightly entertainment while smoking cigars and sipping bourbons as you celebrate Masters Week. Thursday-Saturday 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (open seating). Reservations are required. Price is $125 plus tax per person, which includes food, beverages and gratuity. Call Champion's Retreat at 706-854-6977 for reservations.

Dine With the Locals--Two of the most popular local restaurants are The Boll Weevil Cafe near the Riverwalk, where shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, pasta creole and homemade desserts are the draw and Luigi's, a mainstay since 1949 and Ben Crenshaw favorite, which has to-die-for Lasagne and it's legendary Toasted Ravioli with Meat Sauce.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Topgolf Orlando Will Be Phenomenal

Ya gotta love Topgolf, the hugely popular, trendy nightclub/restaurants where everyone hits golf balls with computer microchips to targets, noshes on innovative cuisine and sips on adult beverages-- all while listening to some sweet tunes in a laid-back, sophisticated environment.

I know, I know, there are haters out there who can't put their golf tradition aside and appreciate Topgolf. Yet, those folks really don't know what they're missing.  

Topgolf is a fantastic way to engage in the game even if you don't know a golf club from a tennis racquet.  In a fun and convivial atmosphere it introduces people to the game without all the fear and intimidation factors. Interestingly, nearly 40% of all Topgolf guests describe themselves as "non-golfers."
That said, Topgolf, which currently has 24 locations serving 8 million guests annually, will open an amazing venue in Orlando, Florida in Fall 2017.

Here's what you need to know about Topgolf Orlando:

--The three-level complex will encompass a whopping 65,000 square feet.

--It will be located in a prime location at Convention Way and Universal Boulevard, right across the street from the Orange County Convention Center near International Drive.

--There will be 3,000 square feet of private event space and meeting rooms.

--The 102 climate-controlled hitting bays will host up to six players at one time.

--More than 200 high-definition flat-screen TVs will be situated throughout the complex.

--There will be a full-service restaurant and bar and rooftop terrace and fire pit.

--The drinks and food selections will feature an upscale menu highlighted by specialty drinks like the Tipsy Palmer and Strawberry JalapeƱo Margarita, craft beer selections, wine by the bottle or glass and delicacies like Bacon Mac 'N Cheese Springs Rolls, Pulled Pork Sliders and Char-grilled Steak Flatbread.

See you there...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Location: Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

One of my favorite restaurants in Orlando is Shula's Steakhouse at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel. I recently spent a night at the hotel and had another fabulous dining experience at Coach Shula's restaurant.

I'm thoroughly convinced if you want to visit theme parks, enjoy great dining with a prime location near Disney's golf courses, the Walt Disney World Dolphin is your best choice. It's located within walking distance of Epcot and the Boardwalk Disney entertainment, shopping and dining complex, a few minutes from Disney's golf courses and about a 5 minute drive to Disney Springs, the dynamic entertainment complex formerly known as Downtown Disney.


Once you leave the hotel, you can be on a first tee in minutes. Walt Disney World has three championship layouts, the Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista, and a 9-hole walking course, Oak Trail, that's ideal for beginners, juniors and super seniors.

Disney offers a 4 round "Play Around the World" golf pass that can save golfers up to 30% on a four-round package at their courses. Packages also come with a souvenir "Disney Golf Passport" booklet. All four rounds must be played within 30 days. Call 407-939-4653 or visit www.golfwdw.com for questions or booking.

Another great option is the Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Orlando that's situated adjacent to Golden Oak at Walt Disney World, an uber-luxurious residential community. It's the course formerly named Osprey Ridge. The Original designer Tom Fazio was invited back to re-create the course in a different form and he did an outstanding job.


The hotel has 1,509 rooms. Soft, muted colors of silver, white and blue give the rooms a bright and positive feel. I absolutely love the great shower head and luxury bedding.

Main amenities include:

--Mandara Spa

--3-acre pool complex

--Camp Dolphin

--Complimentary Disney Bus Transportation


5 Little Things I Liked

1. The huge lobby with lots of chairs and couches so you can lounge, read or check social media.

2. Fantastic location that allows you to walk to the Swan Hotel, Epcot and Disney's Boardwalk.

3. The phenomenal BBQ Shrimp we enjoyed as an appetizer at Shula's Steakhouse.

4. The beautifully decorated, refurbished guest room.

5. The view from my 5th floor room of the Swan Hotel and pool complex.


Shula's Steakhouse--One of the highlights of my stay was dining at the oh-so-convenient Shula's, which is located just off the main lobby. For football fans and steak lovers, it's the ultimate dining experience. The entire restaurant celebrates the NFL's only undefeated team, the 17-0, 1972 Miami Dolphins, coached by, of course, Don Shula. The decor of the restaurant is dominated by beautiful polished wood and vintage photographs and memorabilia with familiar Dolphin icons like Larry Csonka, Bob Griese and Earl Morrall. A nice touch, too, is the teal and white football placed on your table detailing the steaks available. Undoubtedly, the star of the restaurant is the beef, which is some of the best on the planet. Shula's gets their Premium Black Angus Beef from the Graham Angus Farm in Albany, Georgia. This quality is absolutely amazing. 
The highlights of our dinner included the BBQ Shrimp, a sumptuous appetizer with large shrimp stuffed with basil, wrapped in Applewood Bacon and coated in a tangy BBQ sauce, grilled asparagus, Potato Gratin with garlic cream reduction topped with Panko Parmesan Crust and our juicy, succulent steaks. I savored every bite of my 20 oz. Kansas City Strip and my wife waved about her Steak Mary Anne, two 5 oz. filets with Cognac-Peppercorn Sauce. We complemented this epic feast with a superb bottle of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon by Arrowood. Here's the MENU.

Todd English's Bluezoo--This sleekly designed restaurant has a hip ambiance with lots of glass accents and aquariums. Celebrity chef Todd English presents a menu featuring entrees like bbq-rubbed swordfish atop risotto and Maine Lobster tossed in a Cantonese-style soy glaze. For dessert, how about a Mai Tai Banana Cream Tart.

There are also various casual and poolside restaurants and lounges.


--Visit Epcot, which is just a 5-minute walk away

--Dine at the various restaurants at the Boardwalk such as Flying Fish, ESPN Club, Trattoria Al Forno and Big River Grille & Brewing Works

--Play Disney's Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course

--Dine at restaurants at Swan Hotel such as il Mulino New York Trattoria and Kimonos.

--Visit other Disney Theme Parks

--Shop and dine at Disney Springs, which is located a 5-minute drive from the Dolphin Hotel


Situated adjacent to Disney's Boardwalk entertainment, dining and hotels complex. 1500 Epcot Resorts Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32830. 

Call 407-934-4000 or click HERE for more information.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Masters Week Golf at Champions Retreat

If you're attending the Masters this year and you're looking for an exceptional place to tee up, I've got a terrific suggestion. In many respects, it's possibly the next best thing to playing Augusta National.

At the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, I spoke with Cameron Wiebe, general manager of Champions Retreat, a phenomenal 27-hole private club located 15 miles northwest of Augusta.
Wiebe said the club, which is exclusively private the rest of the year, accepts tee times from non-members during Masters Week (Monday April 3 to Sunday April 9 this year).

Perhaps you may have heard of the designers of the three separate 9 hole layouts? The gentlemen architects who fashioned the layouts are icons Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, aka The Big 3. Champions Retreat is the only place in the world with nines designed by the former Masters Champions.

Reportedly, Player presented the idea to Arnie and the Golden Bear at the Champions Dinner at Augusta National in 1999. They each selected a parcel of land for their nine and, voila, Champions Retreat was born.

The beautifully conditioned courses, with superb bentgrass greens, are set on rolling landscape dotted with tall pines, old hardwoods and wetlands alongside the Savannah River. 
"Champions Retreat is a pure golf experience," Wiebe said. "It's conveniently just minutes away from Augusta National and you play on wonderfully designed courses in a quiet, scenic setting away from the crowds."

Tee times are for 4 players. Each Masters Week tee time will be accompanied by one (1) forecaddie. The tee time price includes practice facility access, greens fees, forecaddie base fee (required), cart fee, tax, and all you can eat and drink for breakfast and lunch. Selections will include breakfast items, lunch items, snack items, soft drinks, sports drinks, domestic beer and well-liquor drinks. Tee times do not include the forecaddie gratuity.

Tee Time Rates for Champions Retreat Masters Week 2017:

Monday and Tuesday: $2,200

Wednesday--Saturday: $2,500

Sunday: $2,200

Monday, April 10th: Available for private outings.

In addition, there will also be live entertainment and other activities during the week. 

For more information, contact Lauri DeNicolo by email: lauri@championsretreat.net or call 706-854-6966

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2017 PGA Merchandise Show Favorites

Hey dimpled ball fanatics, welcome to golf heaven! The annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando in late January showcases oodles of products and gives golf industry types a chance to schmooze and celebrate the game. Aisles and aisles are lined with booths featuring everything from new drivers and putters to the latest threads and shoes. More than 1,000 companies are represented.

You'll also see lots of golf celebrities wandering the convention center to promote their endorsements and offer advice to attendees. This year the list of golf royalty in attendance included Greg Norman, Johnny Miller, John Daly, Bubba Watson, Annika Sorenstam and Colin Montgomerie.

By many, it's simply referred to as "The Show". More than 40,000 people attend every year and it's not open to the public. You'll have to rely on the Guru to take you down the aisles.

Here are some of my favorite products from the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show:

Vertical Groove Driver-During Show week I attended a demonstration of this new driver. John Daly serves as a global ambassador for the Jupiter, Florida-based company. Daly has the driver in his bag and plays it on tour. The company says the Vertical Groove Driver reduces side spin at impact leading to 40% straighter ball flight on average and increases driving distance. While I'm firmly convinced Daly can pretty much hit a tree branch 300 yards, his demonstration was very impressive. I hit about 10 to 12 drives with the Vertical Groove and I absolutely can confirm I hit the ball straighter.
Tagmarshal--I spoke with company president, Bodo Sieber, about this innovative pace of play management system, which helps reduce average round times and number of slow rounds, reduces the cost of field management, enhances the golf experience and increases ROI. Walking groups attach the small tracking device to one bag in a foursome or its carried by a caddie or installed in a golf cart. The accurate, real-time data is submitted to Tagmarshal's cloud service, which is easily accessible to marshals and management. "Our system results in faster play, the golfers are happier and it increases revenue for the courses," said Sieber.

Nikon Coolshot Golf Laser Rangefinder--Hey, we've all had shaky hands and nerves that hinder the ability to hold a compact rangefinder steady. Nikon has solved the problem with its Optical Vibration Reduction technology.

Callaway Epic Driver--I didn't get the chance to hit one, but this driver was the talk of the Show. Callaway claims their Jailbreak Technology, whatever that means, has resulted in a driver that produces more ball speed across a larger area of the face. This driver, they say, will increase your swing speed. The combination of an aerospace-grade titanium with an ultralight triaxial carbon crown and sole gives the club a  light, well-balanced feel. 

Zero Friction GPS Glove--Forget wandering aimlessly on the fairway searching for yardage markers, this glove cures that problem. Powered by Bluetooth, the small device sits on the glove flap and weighs less than half an ounce. It has more than 35,000 courses programmed worldwide. As you walk up to your shot, the read-out gives you front, center and back yardages to the green.

Topgolf Orlando--Slated to debut in fall 2017, the Orlando version of this phenomenally popular entertainment and dining complex will be "huuuuge". The 65,000 square-foot Topgolf Orlando will feature 100+ climate-controlled hitting bays, full-service restaurant and bars, private event space and meeting rooms, rooftop terrace with fire pit, over 200 HDTVs and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Biion Footwear--You can say goodbye to boring golf shoes with this innovative brand. They've got some amazing designs in a wide variety of colors and styles. Let's face it, if you don't have game at least look good while you're traipsing through the woods and burrowing out of bunkers.
Henrik Stenson Eyewear--Chances are you won't play like this sweet swinging Swede, but you can at least tap into some of his swag with these shades. They offer complete protection from solar radiation, blue light and UV radiation as well as contrast enhancement and sharper clearer vision.

Friday, January 20, 2017

On Location: Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club

For the Guru, the appeal of this classic Naples, Florida resort starts with the easy accessibility of all its major amenities. You can almost reach out and touch the white sand beach and swimming pool from your room balcony and the golf course and spa are located just a few steps from the front door of the main resort building.

I've visited Naples Beach Hotel & Club several times through the years and on my most recent visit last week (January 13-15, 2017) I was blown away by the enhancements throughout the property, especially the golf course, which has undergone an amazing transformation thanks to the Nicklaus Design Company.


If you've played the golf course before, you'll barely recognize the new and decidedly improved version. The Nicklaus Design Company in collaboration with architect John Sanford didn't just renovate the course they essentially recreated it. Sanford's impressive portfolio includes Florida courses Hobe Sound Golf Club, Juliett Falls and Links at Madison.
Re-designed with reconfigured holes, the course has been modernized to stand up to today's equipment and technology. The new par-71 course has five tee settings on each hole playing from 4,800 yards to more than 6,900 yards. Enhancing the total experience is a new practice and teaching range and new golf carts with GPS tracking systems. The entire project cost $9 million and it was money well spent.

"I think those who have played The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club before are in for a pleasant surprise," says Jack Nicklaus. "I believe the golf course has been transformed into a fun, exciting and aesthetically pleasing layout..."
Nicklaus nailed it: I definitely found the course to be lots of fun with a variety of exciting holes and lots of eye candy with beautiful trees, lakes and wonderfully manicured green complexes. Nicklaus and Sanford worked overtime to make sure no two holes even look and play remotely alike.
The new GPS systems are top notch and extremely helpful in getting accurate yardages avoiding hazards, especially for first-time players to the resort. Just as important, they help speed up play.


Set on 125 acres along seven miles of stunning, white sandy beach, Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, a AAA Four-Diamond resort, is comprised of six beachfront buildings and 319 guest rooms and suites.
The guest rooms and suites are appointed with high quality furnishings accented by cheery colors and earth tones that exude a sophisticated tropical feel. Chances are, though, you'll spend lots of time on your balcony or patio, which are superb places to enjoy a bottle of wine while you toast your inspiring surroundings.


--1,000 feet of easily accessible soft white-sand beach and gentle surf ideal for families

--Beachfront pool complex

--Top-notch spa and fitness center 

--Tennis center with six Har-Tru courts

--Retail shops

--Beach umbrella and other rentals

--Complimentary child activity program

--Multiple restaurants and lounges

--34,000 square feet of meeting space

--18-hole golf course
10 Little Things I Liked

1. The wonderful and accommodating Watkins Family. Three generations of the family have owned and operated the resort.

2. Spacious balconies that are ideal for sipping wine and watching amazing sunsets.

3. Convenient self-parking.

4. A great location just minutes from downtown Naples where there's lots of shopping and restaurant choices.

5. The beautiful swimming pool situated a few steps from the beach.

6. The phenomenal blackened grouper sandwich I had after playing golf.

7. The biking, jogging and walking path that conveniently runs in front of the resort.

8. Friendly and helpful golf pro George Willard.

9. The new 300-yard long driving range.

10. The magnificent Banyon trees that dot the golf course.


HB's on the Gulf-Offers fine indoor dining with spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico and sunsets as well as al fresco dining. Highlighting the menu is Garlic Shrimp, Pork Shank Bucatini, Stone Crabs and Scallops with Lobster Risotto.

Sunset Beach Bar & Grill-This aptly named restaurant, which sits a few steps from the beach, is arguably one of the best places in Florida to view a sunset. There's an open-air grill, big round group loungers, traditional chaise lounges and cocktail tables and chairs. On Wednesday thru Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. a solo guitarist performs. Menu highlights include Conch Fritters, Coconut Fried Shrimp and Blackened Grouper Sandwich.

Broadwell's-A restaurant at the Golf Club that serves a bountiful breakfast buffet as well as an a la carte menu with items like Ranchero Cubano, Eggs Benedict and Egg White Frittata.

--Awesome sunset watching every evening at the resort's Sunset Beach Bar & Grill or from your guest room balcony.

--Shopping at nearby fashionable, walkable downtown streets--5th Avenue South and 3rd Street South.

--Shopping at Venetian Village, Waterside Shops, Bayfront and Tin City, which are located within easy driving distance of the resort.

--Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, which is located a few blocks from the resort

--Tours of Corkscrew Swamp, The Botanical Gardens and Conservancy Nature Center.

--Deep sea fishing charters in the Gulf of Mexico.

--Shelling and eco tours

--Viewing a spectacular collection of race, classic and antique cars at Revs Institute of Automotive Research.


Located just a few blocks from downtown Naples at 851 Gulf Shore Boulevard North.


Click to NaplesBeachHotel.com or call 239-261-2222 or 800-237-7600 for reservations or general inquiries.