Ask Travelin’ Joe: San Jose, Coeur d’Alene and New York
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I just found out I need to be in San Jose for a conference and want to make the most of it and go out early and play a round. I’ve never golfed in California, so any course will be new. Pebble Beach is out of the budget as far as stay and play, so what other course in the vicinity is the MUST visit? Would it be Poppy Hills?
Poppy Hills (831-625-2035, poppyhillsgolf.com) has been much maligned over the years, notably by Johnny Miller, who compared it to “Rosanne Barr replacing Bo Derek” when it took over Cypress Point’s spot in the AT&T National Pro-Am rotation. Personally, I think Poppy’s design is a tad underrated, yet it’s certainly not underpriced, at $200 for non-members to walk, another $18 to ride. As beautiful as it is tucked into the pine forests of Pebble Beach, it suffers from a lack of ocean views as well.
If you can’t handle the freight at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill or Spanish Bay, I’d recommend the Bayonet/Blackhorse courses ($95-$160; 831-899-7271, bayonetblackhorse.com) in Seaside. Bayonet, a former Nationwide Tour site, is the slightly tougher of the two—and it’s a brute—but a recent redesign has it sporting spectacular bunkering and hugely improved greens and fairways. Blackhorse is the slightly more scenic of the two, with stunning long views of Monterey Bay and isn’t all that much easier than its sibling.
For pure fun amid muni-style conditions, consider a go at Pacific Grove Golf Links ($42-$65; 831-648-5775, pggolflinks.com), which dishes out a pleasant if forgettable parkland front nine, followed by nine charmers on the back, complete with ocean views, giant dunes and a lighthouse.
I’m going to Coeur d’Alene this summer with my wife’s family, and we have a foursome that would like to do some golfing. We figure the Resort course (floating green and all) is a must, but we don’t know where else to go. Any ideas on two to three other courses worth playing in that area?
Having just returned from playing the Coeur d’Alene Resort course ($150-$220; 208-667-4653, cdaresort.com), I can tell you that the park-like conditions are superb, the lake, pine tree and geranium scenery is off-the-charts beautiful and the boat ride out to the island green is extra-sweet after your tee shot has found the putting surface.
However, don’t miss the Circling Raven Golf Club ($65-$95; 800-523-2464, cdacasino.com), a 2003 Gene Bates design in nearby Worley that jumped into GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 You Can Play in 2008 and moved up to No. 92 in 2010. It may not have a floating island green, but this bird has everything else, including wetlands, grasslands and Ponderosa pines, plus unparalleled solitude, disturbed only by the stray moose or elk. Notable is Circling Raven’s set of par-3s, with holes that range from 192 yards to 253.
A low-priced alternative is StoneRidge ($26-$49; 208-437-4653, stoneridgeidaho.com) in Blanchard, just north of Coeur d’Alene, a 30-year-old layout that was redesigned in 2001. However, if you’re willing to drive 40 minutes back to Spokane, check out Indian Canyon ($27-$43; 509-747-5353, spokanegolf.org), a venerable muni near the airport that oozes character. Twice since 1930 it has hosted the USGA Public Links Championship. Don’t let the back tee length of 6,255 yards fool you: Hilly lies are the rule, and pine trees and undulating greens will keep the big bombers at bay.
For the past three years, I have visited my brother in northern Wisconsin for a week of non-stop golf. This year, he will be flying out to New York for five days of the same. While I have played a few of the courses in the area, your help in finding the best would be great. My brother is flying into Binghamton and I live in Ithaca, so any course from Syracuse to Binghamton is game. Our budget would be in the $30-$50 range, but we could stretch the budget for the right courses.
Ithaca, New York
You’re surrounded by the some of the greatest bargain courses in the Tri-State area, so let the games begin. Start with the Trophy Course of the region, En-Joie Country Club ($35-$59; 607-785-1661, enjoiegolf.com) in Endicott, which held the PGA Tour’s B.C. Open from 1971 to 2005. Past champions include Major winners Fred Couples, John Daly and Craig Stadler.
The best course—and best value—you can play is the Links at Hiawatha Landing ($42-$75; 607-687-6952, hiawathalinks.com), a Brian Silva/Mark Mungeam creation in Apalachin, just west of Binghamton that sports golden fescues framing the fairways, in the spirit of Britain’s greatest links. At 7,104 yards, and water in play on seven holes, it’s all the golf you want, and you can walk it for $53 or less on any day.
Nearly as good is the Conklin Players Club ($42-$65; 607-775-3042, conklinplayers.com) in Conklin, just south of Binghamton, and barely north of the Pennsylvania border. Ranked No. 12 in all of New York for public-access courses, Conklin is a 19-year-old, 6,772-yard track carpeted wall-to-wall in bentgrass. The island-green, 143-yard, par-3 10th is the layout’s signature hole, but of the other 17, there’s not a bad one in the bunch.