Category: Ask Travelin' Joe


January 14, 2014

Ask Travelin' Joe: Where should I play in Tucson? Savannah? Ponte Vedra Beach?

Posted at 10:03 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

La Paloma Country Club
Courtesy of La Paloma Country Club

 

Hello Joe, I'm headed to Tucson for a few days of Arizona sun and scenery. What courses give the most cacti for the money? -- Lana Neighbor, Ambler, Pa.

You have to stay at the Westin to play its on-site La Paloma Country Club ($59-$179; 520-742-6000, westinlapalomaresort.com), but its three early Jack Nicklaus nines are well worth it. Saguaro cacti frame the fairways, while mountain vistas highlight this target-style spread. In nearby Marana, another Jack Nicklaus Signature design, the Golf Club at Dove Mountain ($79-$199; 520-572-3500, thegolfclubatdovemountain.com), is blanketed with exotic desert flora. The WGC–Accenture Match Play is played on the Saguaro/Tortolita combo, though Jack's favorite of the three nines is Wild Burro. And Ventana Canyon's Mountain and Canyon courses ($59-$169; 520-577-1400, thelodgeatventanacanyon.com) embrace every manner of thorny plant, notably on the Mountain's par-3 third.

The Club at Savannah Harbor
The Club at Savannah Harbor / Dick Durrance

 

Dear Joe, I'm heading to Savannah, Georgia. Know of any gems off the beaten path? -- Sam R. Blair, via e-mail

Sam, maybe it's the shrimp and grits talking, but I think Savannah is one of the most charming cities in the U.S.—and great for golf. Start with The Club at Savannah Harbor ($40-$88; 912-201-2240, theclubatsavannahharbor.com), a dramatic Bob Cupp/Sam Snead design that's hosted the Champions Tour's Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf for the last 11 years. Most memorable is the 447-yard, par-4 sixth, with its green edged by marsh and backdropped by the Talmadge Bridge. The area's top value? A wooded Rees Jones design called Southbridge ($25-$50; 912-651-5455, southbridgegolfclub.com), which turns 25 this year. Meanwhile, the award for easiest access goes to bargain-priced Crosswinds ($34-$53; 912-966-1909, crosswindsgolfclub.com), renowned for its reachable yet watery par-5 closer, and for the club's location five minutes from the airport.

Streamsong Resort
Streamsong Resort / Larry Lambrecht

 

Hey Joe, Are there any quality links-style courses to play here in Florida? -- Bill Jervis, Tampa, Fla.

That's the easiest question I've heard in eons. Streamsong Resort ($110-$235; 863-428-1000, streamsongresort.com) is less than 90 minutes from Tampa and serves up two superior firm-and-fast, dune-splashed tracks that demand thoughtful shotmaking, with an emphasis on the ground game. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's Red is slightly more dramatic than Tom Doak's Blue, though I'm partial to the Blue for how seamlessly it hews to the terrain, and for stunners such as the all-carry par-3 seventh and the drivable par-4 13th. With the mid-January debut of the 216-room Lodge at Streamsong, there's no better time to go.

The Word Golf Village
Courtesy of The Word Golf Village

 

Travelin' Man, I'm playing the Stadium and Valley courses at TPC Sawgrass. Anywhere else I should tee it up in the Ponte Vedra Beach area? -- Mike Smith, via e-mail

Since you don't scrimp, Mike, I'll steer you to the region's trophy tracks. For a fun 36 holes, drive 45 minutes south to St. Augustine. The World Golf Village (904-201-3609, golfwgv.com) has two courses: King & Bear ($79-$169) is the only Arnold Palmer–Jack Nicklaus collaboration in existence, and the Slammer & Squire ($59-$129) is a wonderful Bobby Weed creation, with help from Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. King & Bear's back nine winds through loblolly pines and ancient oaks, while Slammer & Squire sports lagoons, wetlands and a wet-and-wild par-4 closer. My favorite combo of golf and lodging in the area is the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and its Ocean course ($75-$132.50; 888-839-9145, pontevedra.com), a wonderfully renovated treat that trots out cross bunkers, ocean breezes and an island green dating to the 1920s.

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [email protected].

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July 25, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: Where to play in Wyoming, Cleveland, San Diego and the Delaware Shore

Posted at 3:50 PM by Joe Passov

Jacksonhole
Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club offers views even more beautiful than the course itself. (Credit: Dick Durrance)

Dear Joe:
My family and I are heading to Wyoming in August. We'll have time for one round near Jackson Hole. Any thoughts?
—Sam Dostaler, via e-mail

Sam, it's a coin flip between the Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout at Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club ($65-$185; 307-733-3111, jhgtc.com) and the Arnold Palmer—designed Teton Pines ($65-$160; 307-733-1733, tetonpines.com).

Both are fun, flat tests that are slashed by water hazards and boast views of the Tetons. They're pricey, but they do offer savings after 2 p.m. (up to $65 off). With some $15 million in recent renovations, including a new clubhouse, Jackson Hole might get the nod.

If you're all about bargain golf, the region's best value is Star Valley Ranch ($18-$32; 307-883-2669, svrawy.com) in nearby Thayne. From costly to cost-friendly options, it's no wonder they call Wyoming the Equality State.

Hi, Joe:
My wife and I are looking for a nice golf-and-spa resort that's a reasonable drive from Cleveland, Ohio. Ideas?
—Alex Chiu, Tucson, Ariz.

I was born and raised in the great city of Cleveland, but your best bet is to take a mini road trip.

Three hours southeast is Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (724-329-8555, nemacolin.com) in Farmington, Pa., which features a terrific spa and Tour-quality golf.

Pete Dye's Mystic Rock ($85-$159) is a beautiful brute in the Laurel Highlands that used to host the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic.

Nemacolin's Links course ($45-$65) is not as striking, but it's value-priced and hardly a pushover.

Closer to Cleveland is the Inn Walden (888-808-5003, yourwalden.com), Ohio's only AAA 5-Diamond hotel. Situated in the leafy eastern suburb of Aurora, the Inn has a gorgeous spa and a handsome 7,200-yard golf course ($95-$118) redesigned by Craig Schreiner in 2001.

Hey, Joe:
Big buddies trip to San Diego! We want to stay somewhere central, and prefer value courses—with one high-end track thrown in. Your thoughts?
—Dave Baldwin, Helena, Mont.

For buddies trips, I'm partial to La Costa ($185-$240; 800-854-5000, lacosta.com). In spring and summer, the weather is fog-free and near-perfect.

There are two top courses with a great Tour pedigree right on property (Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson all boast multiple wins on the Champions Course), and it's only about a mile off of I-5, making it convenient to get to any of the area's coastal courses. La Costa isn't inexpensive, but packages bring the prices down.

Another option on San Diego's northernmost fringes is Pechanga Resort & Casino (888-732-4264, pechanga.com) in Temecula, which dishes out casino gaming and an Arthur Hills–designed thrill ride called the Journey at Pechanga ($89-$129; 951-770-8210, pechanga.com) next door.

Packages start at $219 per night, and there are plenty of other courses nearby.

Dear Joe:
The family is headed to the Delaware Shore near Rehoboth Beach, and I've got a green light for one—and only one—round. What are your must-plays?
—Brad Schiller, Upper Saddle River, N.J.

For every class of golfer, Baywood Greens ($35-$129; 302-947-9800, baywoodgreens.com) tops my list. It's a strong test from the tips — well-bunkered, with water and wetlands in play — but any handicap will delight in the kaleidoscopic flower arrangements and superb clubhouse.

If you're a serious stick and want a Bear-size challenge, the Jack Nicklaus–designed Bayside Resort ($85-$179; 302-436-3400, golfbayside.com) will satisfy, with many forced carries and stirring views of Assawoman Bay.

And the Rookery South ($35-$70; 302-684-3000, rookerygolf.com) has some standout holes and a friendly price tag, making it a good, wallet-friendly option.

June 25, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: Where to play in Denver, Treetops vs.Turning Stone and more

Posted at 11:23 AM by Joe Passov

Castle-pines
If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [email protected].

Dear Joe: I'm going to Denver in June and have only one day to play. I'm a 20-handicap but would like to play the best course in the area. Cost is not a problem.
—Dean Blank, Twin Falls, Idaho

The Mile High City has lots of value layouts, but if money's no issue, Richie Rich, play the trophy tracks.

Start with The Ridge at Castle Pines North, pictured, ($69-$145; 303-688-4301, theridgecpn.com), which serves up a quality Tom Weiskopf design and Pikes Peak views with Troon Golf service and conditioning. I also like Fossil Trace ($58-$85; 303-277-8750, fossiltrace.com), a Jim Engh creation that features the remnants of brick and sandstone pillars in the fairways and a view of the Coors Brewery from the 13th tee.

Finally, there may be better courses in the Denver area, but none are more memorable than Arrowhead ($70-$140; 303-973-9614, arrowheadcolorado.com), a 41-year-old Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that sits among huge, jagged plumes of red sandstone, most notably at the downhill par-3 13th.

Hi, Joe:
My friends and I are booking our golf trip. It's down to the Treetops Resort in Michigan or Turning Stone in New York. I'm voting for Treetops, but the casino aspect at Turning Stone is enticing. Your thoughts?
—Craig Emuss, Toronto, Ont.

Treetops (866-348-5249, treetops.com) and Turning Stone (800-771-7711, turningstone.com) are both quality options with much in common: Both feature five courses, including outstanding Rick Smith designs. Smith is better known for his teaching prowess than his architectural skill, but his tracks at both spots are superb.

For exciting, dramatic terrain, I'd go with Treetops, where you can play both Smith's Signature course and the Masterpiece, by Robert Trent Jones Sr. If you're a gambling man, Turning Stone's spacious, 24-hour casino has more than 80 table games and is one terrific bet. (Get it? "Bet"? Hellooo ... is this thing on?)

Hey, Joe:
My wife would like to go to Alaska this summer for her 60th. Part of the deal is that I get to play one round of golf just so I can say I played in Alaska. We will be in the Anchorage/Palmer area. Any recommendations?
—John Price, via e-mail

Our wives sound like they're stuck in very similar situations. Good man! I've only played in Fairbanks, but the pick for Anchorage is a toss-up between two decent spreads: Eagleglen at Elmendorf Air Force Base ($67; 907-552-3821, elmendorf-richardson.com/eagleglen) and Anchorage Golf Course ($65; 907-522-3363, anchoragegolfcourse.com).

Eagleglen is a 1973 Robert Trent Jones Jr. design where moose and bald eagle sightings are common and Ship Creek twists through the final five holes. Anchorage GC is also a wildlife haven that provides vistas of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet and Mt. McKinley. Oh, and remember: Half the fun of playing in Alaska are those 10 p.m. tee times!

Dear Joe:
My friends and I — divided between New Jersey and Massachusetts — are planning four days of golf, staying and playing in Rhode Island. Do you have any recommendations in that area?
—Gary Ost, Madison, N.J.

I would choose Foxwoods Resort Casino (860-312-3000, foxwoods.com) in Mashantucket, Conn. It's one hour from Providence, sports excellent gaming, a range of restaurants and a superb Rees Jones design next door at Lake of Isles ($139-$199; 888-475-3746, lakeofisles.com), with golf packages available.

If you want to venture into Rhode Island, make a day trip to Newport National ($65-$150; 401-848-9690, newportnational.com), which is number one on my hit list in the Ocean State.

And for a bargain round, there's Shennecossett ($32-$60; 860-445-0262, shennygolf.com), in Groton, Conn., a Donald Ross–designed beauty that offer views of Long Island Sound.

(Photo: Dick Durrance)

May 26, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: Where to play in Seattle, Myrtle Beach, Philadelphia, Dallas

Posted at 9:07 AM by Joe Passov

Chambers
If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at
[email protected].

Dear Joe:
I'm headed to Washington next month to play Chambers Bay. What other courses in the Seattle/Tacoma area would round out my trip—or should I just play Chambers over and over?
Jack Smith, Orinda, Calif.

I'm a fan of 2015 U.S. Open host Chambers Bay, pictured, ($99-$219; 877-295-4657, chambersbaygolf.com), but with its gargantuan length and sprawling layout on a slope overlooking Puget Sound, the walking-only track is a strenuous hike to do day after day.

Nearby is Salish Cliffs ($59-$99; 360-462-3673, salish-cliffs.com), a gorgeous two-year-old Gene Bates design for the Squaxin Island tribe's Little Creek Casino Resort that features artfully sculpted bunkers and mountain and valley vistas—and they have carts.

And Gold Mountain's Olympic course ($24-$81; 360-415-5432, goldmt.com) in Bremerton is not only a frequent venue for USGA events, it's one of the nation's best bargains.

Hi Joe:
My dad and I have opening-round tickets to the U.S. Open at Merion this year and have time for one round while we're in the Philadelphia area. Where would you recommend playing?
–Todd Gray, Hampton, Va.

The Golf Course at Glen Mills ($50-$95; 610-558-2142, glenmillsgolf.com) is a handsome 1998 Bobby Weed design that emphasizes strategy and scenery, plus superior pace of play.

Due west of downtown in West Chester is the Rees Jones–designed Broad Run Golfer's Club ($40-$75; 610-738-4410, broadrungc.com), which features plenty of water woes in the from of three ponds and Broad Run Creek.

If you like cunning contours and imaginative green configurations, let'er ride at Lederach ($35-$75; 215-513-3034, lederachgolfclub.com), a Kelly Blake Moran offering in the northern suburb of Harleysville.

Hey Joe:
My group is making our fifth trip to Myrtle Beach, and we've played most of the top courses. What are your top three on the Grand Strand?
–Joe Hernandez, Ft. Pierce, Fla.

A power trio of tracks stands out. First up: Caledonia Golf & Fish Club ($110-$200; 843-237-3675, fishclub.com), next to the Waccamaw River. It hooks me with Lowcountry charm and a superior closing hole.

Next is the Dunes Golf & Beach Club ($75-$225; 843-449-5914, thedunesclub.net), an early Robert Trent Jones Sr. masterpiece that tests your approach game, notably on the watery stretch from No. 11 to No. 13.

My surprise bronze medalist is Barefoot Resort's Love course ($65-$185; 866-638-4818, barefootgolf.com). With its plantation-house ruins, Pinehurst-style greens and character, Davis Love III's layout tops those of fellow Barefoot designers Tom Fazio, Pete Dye and Greg Norman.

Dear Joe:
I've got a free day in downtown Dallas, I'm looking for a bargain track, and I'd rather not travel very far. Whaddya got?
–Greg Fuller, Waukesha, Wis.

Greg, can you handle a five-minute drive? Stevens Park ($20-$50; 214-670-7506, stevensparkgolf.com) has been refurbished, and the transformation is remarkable. Dating to the 1920s, the muni has a brand-new appeal, thanks to clever rerouting on a tight, hilly tract by John Colligan and Trey Kemp, the same design team that fixed up San Antonio's legendary Brackenridge Park.

Skyline views and a makes-you-think creek on six holes make Stevens a must-play for Dallas bargain hunters. Tee it up in the morning, then head to Pecan Lodge (pecanlodge.com) for my favorite barbecue in D-Town.

(Photo: USGA/John Mummert)

April 20, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: Using carts in Ireland, best courses at the Jersey Shore and more

Posted at 12:02 PM by Joe Passov
Oldhead

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [email protected].

Dear Joe,
Four of us are planning a trip to Ireland, but two of us will need a cart. Do any top courses there offer riding? Sounds sacrilegious, I know, but we're fighting some injuries.
—John Brady, Boston, Mass.

I feel your pain, John — literally. My knobby knees have limped their way around a few walking-only tracks. Among the Top 100 links that allow carts are The European Club ($136-$272; 011-353-404-47415, theeuropeanclub.com), Portmarnock ($156-$265; 011-353-1-8462-634, portmarnockgolfclub.ie), Waterville ($79-$255; 011-353-66-947-4102, watervillegolflinks.ie) and Old Head ($217-$312; 011-353-21-4778-444, oldhead.com).

One famous inland track that accommodates riding is the K Club ($115-$265; 011-353-1-601-7200, kclub.ie), site of the 2006 Ryder Cup. Battle on, sir. I'd rather use a "buggy" than not play at all.

Hi Joe,
I'm taking the clubs down to the Jersey Shore. Atlantic City Country Club is highly rated, but is it worth the fees? Any other courses you like?
—Hank Jenkins, Norristown, Pa.

Baby, you were born to run … to the Jersey Shore for golf. It's not cheap, but if you're serious about the game and great courses, spend the cash and play Atlantic City Country Club ($65-$225; 609-236-4411, accountryclub.com).

Ranked No. 80 in our Top 100 Courses You Can Play, the AC delivers on service, pace of play and a scenic, historic, 116-year-old course restored by Tom Doak.

Ballamor ($58-$105; 609-601-6220, ballamor.com) in Egg Harbor Township was private until 2010, but its large lakes, vast sand splashes and multitiered greens are now open to all.

And for faux-links fans, Twisted Dune ($50-$99; 609-653-8019, twisteddune.com) is a Garden State must.

Hi Joe,
My husband and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary with a golf weekend. He's a 10-handicap, and I'm a 25. We like lots of course options, fine food and a nice spa. Ideas?
—Mary Haley, Marietta, Ga.

Since you're based in suburban Atlanta, drive 80 minutes east on I-20 to Greensboro and check in to either Reynolds Plantation (800-800-5250, reynoldsplantation.com), which features condo and cottage options, or The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation (706-467-0600, ritzcarlton.com/en/properties/reynoldsplantation).

I've done both, and while the cottage option is wonderful, for a golf/spa/pampering weekend, I vote for the Ritz. All five resort-access courses are worthy, but for sheer, right-outside-your-door convenience, make the Rees Jones—designed Oconee ($245 à la carte rate, packages available) one of your picks. Wide landing areas framed by massive pines and an unforgettable finish along and over 19,000-acre Lake Oconee will make this an anniversary to remember.

Dear Joe,
I'm planning a spring getaway to Arizona, where I can play a lot of golf and my wife can walk to great shopping. Any advice for where to go in your sun-splashed home state?
—Mike Taylor, Lethbridge, Alberta

Mike, good on you and the missus for escaping Canada's arctic blasts, at least for a long weekend. You'll both like the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa ($59-$239; 480-624-1000, kierlandresort.com) in Scottsdale. There are three playable, Scott Miller—designed nines that blend parkland and desert, along with quality mountain views, superb dining (try Deseo for a splurge), excellent spa/workout facilities, and a five-minute stroll to North Scottsdale's best shopping at Kierland Commons, with some 75 retailers.

If she's a single-digit shopper already, she'll be scratch by the end of your trip.

(Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images)

March 26, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: Top picks for Houston and New Orleans, plus a $175,000 golf package

Posted at 1:39 PM by Joe Passov

Redstone640

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [email protected].

The $175,000 Golf Trip

Before we get to this week's questions, I've got to tell you about this $175,000 golf package. If you've got six-figures to burn on a one-of-a-kind golf experience, then do I have the "deal" for you.

Mayakoba, a 128-room, all-suite luxury hotel on Mexico's Riviera Maya near Cancun, is introducing The Ultimate Golf Package, for the 401(K)-wrecking price of $175,000.

Available from Nov. 12-19, 2013, the package runs in conjunction with the PGA Tour's OHL Classic at Mayakoba, which moved this year from its customary February date.

Designed for you and two guests, the package includes a private lesson with Hall of Fame teacher Jim McLean, a round of golf with Hall of Fame golfer Greg Norman at nearby Playa Mujeres (complete with a chopper ride to and from), plus three spots in the Mayakoba Pro-Am.

But wait ... there's more! You'll stay seven nights in the 6,272-square-foot Presidential Lagoon Suite, sit at the VIP table at the pairings party, enjoy inside-the-ropes honorary observer positions during the tournament and a meet-and-greet with the tournament winner -- and plenty of other perks.

Call me old-fashioned -- or spoiled from my years at Golf Magazine -- but does that price tag sound, well, high? Hey, don't get me wrong. I'd love the chance to tee it up with the Shark. Certainly, the pro-am sounds like fun, though the typical going rate to play a PGA Tour event pro-am is around $10,000.

The Rosewood Mayakoba? Awesome hotel. I can reserve a Lagoon Studio Suite with a King bed the week before the tournament for $575 per night. Over seven nights, that's $4,025, rack rate. It's not the Presidential Suite, but it's pretty nice.

Oh, on the final day, they throw you and your pals a private BBQ and tequila tasting on the beach. But 175K? For that sum, I'd need to go home with a solid gold golf bag and a fistful of diamond ball markers.

Dear Joe,
What's your take on Redstone, this week's PGA Tour stop at the Shell Houston Open? Any other Houston courses you recommend?
Howard Irwin -- Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

I haven't yet played Redstone's Tournament course ($125-$175; 281-459-7800, redstonegolfclub.com), the Shell Houston Open venue since 2006, but it's a head-scratcher to me.

David Toms consulted on this Rees Jones design, and while Toms is hardly a bomber, Redstone, at 7,422 yards, is mostly a wide-open, mashers' paradise, albeit one with water all over.

On the one hand, the list of recent champions is impressive: Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim. On the other hand, while Jones's design is eminently fair, it doesn't speak well of the layout itself when the strongest attraction for the pros is that organizers mimic the firm, fast, shaved-down conditions players will face at Augusta National in two weeks.

I won't reserve final judgment until I play it, but from what I see on TV, it's a tough, honest test, but short on memorability.

The precursor to Redstone is Memorial Park Golf Course ($39-$49; 713-559-2000, memorialparkgolf.com), a muni that dates to the 1920s. Situated near downtown Houston, the 7,305-yard layout has long claimed status as one of the longest municipal courses in the U.S., and is a healthy stroll at sea level, even as the terrain is mostly flat.

Wide and wooded, it was designed by legendary Texas architect John Bredemus, who also shaped Colonial in Fort Worth. Its tournament history includes 14 Houston Opens between 1947 and '63, when winners included Hall of Famers Arnold Palmer, Jackie Burke Jr., Cary Middlecoff and Bobby Locke. You'll hardly be wowed by the design itself, but its woody setting, proximity to the city, and affordability are compelling draws.

You also won't find much innovative design at Augusta Pines Golf Club ($62.50-$79.25; 281-290-1910, tour18.com), but you won't mind a bit. This replica-style course with many Augusta National overtures and back-to-back island greens to close the round is great fun, and it clearly appealed to Bernhard Langer, who ripped the course for rounds of 62-65-64 to win a Champions Tour event by eight in 2007. I guarantee you won't score that well, but you'll enjoy it just as much.

Hi Joe,
My husband and I will be in New Orleans for a wine-tasting event this spring. We'll have a free half-day before the event starts and would like to play golf. Do you have a favorite course for $100 or less?
Jo Ortega -- Highland Heights, Ohio

Since you're not only on a budget, but also appear to be somewhat pressed for time, Audubon Park ($35-$45; 504-212-5290, auduboninstitute.org) is the place to play. Condensed in 2001 from a regulation course to a 4,200-yard, par-62 layout by architect Denis Griffiths, this lagoon-filled, oak-dotted, well-bunkered track offers nice variety -- and you can finish in three hours. Edging a popular city park, with holes that abut Tulane and Loyola universities, Audubon Park might be my favorite executive course in the country.

RELATED: The 10 Most Expensive Tee Times


(Photo: Courtesy of Redstone Golf Club)

March 22, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: Undiscovered gems in Phoenix, best San Francisco spas and more

Posted at 11:32 PM by Joe Passov

QuinteroDear Joe:
In April, my buddies and I are heading to Phoenix for our annual golf trip. We've played the Scottsdale trophy courses, so this year we want to add an undiscovered gem that's also a good value, and we'll drive up to an hour. Any ideas?
—Roger McManus, Surrey, B.C.

The Valley of the Sun is full of terrific second-tier tracks that deliver top-tier value. Southern Dunes ($49-$199; 480-367-8949, golfsoutherndunes.com), a Schmidt-Curley creation (with Fred Couples consulting) in Maricopa, 30 minutes south of the Phoenix airport, is a muscular 2002 design with sprawling bunkers, fescue-framed fairways and nary a weak hole. Once private, it's now a public-access amenity of the nearby Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino.

A 45-minute westward haul is Quintero ($75-$225; 928-501-1500, quinterogolf.com), a potent Rees Jones design that stimulates the senses with dramatic climbs and drops and a pristine desert environment (Pictured).

I also enjoy Gold Canyon's Dinosaur Mountain ($49-$199; 480-982-9090, gcgr.com), a Ken Kavanaugh product 50 minutes east of Phoenix in the heart of the Superstition Mountains.

Hi Joe:
My husband and I are looking for a golf resort and spa in the San Francisco area. Do you have a favorite?
—Lois Bauer, Shaker Heights, Ohio

From resorts to crackers, I love anything with "Ritz" in the name. Along with superb service, the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (650-712-7000, ritzcarlton.com/halfmoonbay), 45 minutes south of downtown, has the Ocean Course ($160-$205, 650-726-1800, halfmoonbaygolf.com), a Pebble-like layout along the Pacific.

For a warmer, inland splurge just 90 minutes from San Francisco, try CordeValle, a Rosewood Resort (408-695-4500, cordevalle.com). The hilly, vineyard setting is a sublime backdrop for the property's Robert Trent Jones Jr. design ($195-$225, plus caddie fee), which hosts the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open.

Hey Joe:
What are the "can't-miss" courses in the greater Tampa area? We're eight guys, and we prefer tough courses. Bring it on!
—Ed Schultz, Reading, Pa.

While many quality layouts await on the Gulf side of central Florida, "can't miss" implies something more memorable. Start with Innisbrook's Copperhead ($140-$245; 727-942-2000, innisbrookgolfresort.com). It has unusual (for Florida) elevation changes, towering Carolina-style pines and propped-up greens fortified by sand and water. It's stern but fair. Its watery sibling, the Island, was a strong enough test to host the 1990 NCAA Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. Add two more respectable 18s and a resort that's perfect for buddy trips and you've got an ideal spot.

If you're up for a day trip, drive 90 minutes north to World Woods ($69-$79 for April; $39 twilight); 352-796-5500, worldwoods.com) or 90 minutes east to Streamsong ($115-$225; 863-354-6980, streamsongresort.com), two of the greatest 36-hole public complexes in the country.

Dear Joe:
I'm planning a long weekend getaway with the family. Priorities? Great golf for me and fun distractions for the kids. I'd prefer a half-day drive or less. What say you?
—John Tucker, Greensboro, N.C.

John, I say this: Take thy brood to Williamsburg, Va., roughly a four-hour drive from Greensboro. The Gold course at Colonial Williamsburg's Golden Horseshoe Golf Club ($65-$169; 757-220-7696, colonialwilliamsburg.com), which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013, serves up four simply fantastic par 3s from Robert Trent Jones Sr., while Jones's Spotswood at Golden Horseshoe, a nine-hole, par-31 delight, is a terrific value at $39.

Next door, your kids can experience the unparalleled history experience that is Colonial Williamsburg, amid cobblestone streets, 18th-century taverns, and artisans and character interpreters clothed in period dress.

Minutes away is Kingsmill Resort, which was home to the PGA Tour for more than 20 years. Three excellent courses await, including the Pete Dye–designed River course ($70-$190; 800-832-5665, kingsmill.com). You're also next to Busch Gardens, a 383-acre amusement park with more than 100 rides and attractions.

(Photo: Courtesy of Quintero)

October 24, 2012

Ask Travelin' Joe: Best golf courses at law schools, Dallas, Bermuda and more

Posted at 5:05 PM by Joe Passov

YaleHey Joe,
I'm looking at law schools for next year. Being an avid golfer, I've been basing part of my decision on the quality of the surrounding golf. Are there any schools that maintain, or associate with, exceptional courses that are made available to the student body? Which are the best?
Robby Marcu, Cleveland, Tenn.

I didn't find a lot of playing time during my first two years of law school, but maybe you're a quick study. If you aced your LSATs, I'd pick Stanford for both its terrific weather and otherwise private George Thomas/Billy Bell design that tested the likes of Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie.

More sporty, but with dodgier weather, is the Course at Yale (pictured). For your "safety" schools, consider the ACC. Duke University ($30-$100; 919-681-2288, golf.duke.edu) has a tranquil, wooded, 55-year-old Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that son Rees reworked in the 1990s. I'm also a fan of the University of Wisconsin's newly expanded practice facility and Robert Trent Jones II layout, called University Ridge ($29-$89; 608-845-7700, universityridge.com).

Dear Joe,
I'm tagging along on my wife's work trip to Dallas/Ft. Worth. We're staying at the Omni in Las Colinas. Any course recommendations beyond the TPC in the area? I'd like to stay at or below $100.
Jeremy Arthur, Chicago, Ill.

Spend the extra cash for Old American ($125; 972-370-4653, theoldamericangolfclub.com), 30 minutes north of downtown Dallas. You get a subtle Tripp Davis/Justin Leonard design overlooking Lake Lewisville that dishes out width, strategic bunkering and creative contouring, and free cart, water and snacks.

Next door is The Tribute ($99-$129; 972-370-5465, thetributegc.com), where a cluster of impressively rendered British Isles homage holes can be played for less than $100 during the week.

For serious value, Texas Star ($57-$77; 817-685-7888, texasstargolf.com) is an inspired Keith Foster design 15 minutes west of your hotel.

Hi Joe,
I'm taking a cruise to Bermuda and am interested in playing Port Royal and the Mid Ocean Club. Got any insider info?
Mark Morehead, Fort Myers, Fla.

The C.B. Macdonald–designed Mid Ocean ($280; 441-293-1215, themidoceanclubbermuda.com) is more historic but private, thus tougher to get on. (A good hotel concierge will make an inquiry.)

Port Royal ($110-$180; 441-234-0974, portroyalgolf.bm) is public and is the more scenic course, thanks to holes like the 235-yard par-3 16th, which peers down at the Atlantic Ocean. Port Royal hosts the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, in October, so unless you've won a major in 2012, call ahead.

Dear Joe,
I'm an active-duty army chaplain, and I just moved to Schweinfurt, Germany. Where can I play for reasonable rates?
Chaplain (Maj.) B. Dean Akers, Jr., Schweinfurt, Germany

Former Berlin Amateur champion Wolli Koening tells me that there's one oddity about German golf—you have to be a member of a club to play most anywhere.

So he recommends joining the International Golf Community (igc.de) where 169 euros ($213) get you five rounds, plus club membership.

Try Golf Club Maria Bildhausen (€50-€60; 09766-1601, maria-bildhausen.de), a long, modern test, and Golf Club Bad Kissingen (€70-€80; 0971-3608, gckg.de), a 1910 design from one time Royal County Down professional C.S. Butchart. Schweinfurt is home to the U.S. Army's legendary First Infantry Division, the "Big Red One." I see an ace in your future, Dean.

(Photo: Larry Lambrecht)

April 12, 2012

Ask Travelin' Joe: Scottsdale, Myrtle Beach, Puerto Rico and Pine Needles

Posted at 3:27 PM by Joe Passov

Pronghorn

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [email protected]

Dear Joe,
Seven of us are headed to Scottsdale in May to play all of the top courses—Troon North, TPC, Grayhawk, Boulders and We-Ko-Pa. We've got room for one more course. Any suggestions?
Ray Talley, Medford, Ore.

My hometown is chockablock with second-tier tracks that would be trophy courses most anywhere else. It's tough to pick one, so here are three. Not far from We-Ko-Pa is SunRidge Canyon ($60-$170; 480-837-5100, sunridgegolf.com) in Fountain Hills, which, after a few years of neglect, is on the mend with new ownership. This layout boasts a back nine as rugged and scenic as any in the Valley of the Sun, culminating with a final stretch of challenging holes nicknamed "The Wicked Six."

Gold Canyon's Dinosaur Mountain ($45-$189, 480-982-9090, gcgr.com) is marred by too many houses but redeemed by dramatic holes and views of the Superstition Mountains.

A half hour south of the airport is Southern Dunes ($25-$89; 480-367-8949, golfsoutherndunes.com) in Maricopa. Formerly a private men's club (members included Mark Calcavecchia and Steve Jones), this Schmidt-Curley design in a pristine desert setting has clever bunkering, sizable greens and nary a weak hole.

Dear Joe, I have a dilemma! Sixteen of us are going to Myrtle Beach, where I haven't been in 25 years. We're looking at two packages: Stay at the Legends and play all five courses (Heathland, Moorland, Parkland, Heritage and Oyster Bay), or stay at True Blue and play there, Grand Dunes, Man O' War, Caledonia and TPC Myrtle Beach. Your thoughts?
Stuart Ryan, via e-mail

This is a tough call. You've got a solid lineup of courses at the Legends (800-299-6187, legendsgolf.com). I've played and enjoyed them all. I've also downed a few pints at the resort's charming Ailsa Pub, and even practiced after-hours on its 30-acre lighted range.

Now, if your crew is more into scenery and solitude, the True Blue villas (866-954-8311, fishclub.com), down south on Pawleys Island, is a better bet; plus, the region holds its own for restaurants. However, since you haven't been on the Grand Strand since Reagan was in the White House, play Caledonia. For its marriage of thinking-man's challenge and Low-country allure, Caledonia is my must-play course in Myrtle Beach.

Hi Joe,
My husband and I have been to Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic for golf vacations. My brother-in-law just returned from Puerto Rico and raved about it. Where does Puerto Rico rate with you compared to the others?

Sue Thompson, Bay Village, Ohio

Puerto Rico's golf scene has made huge strides in the past two years. Start with the new lodging component and stunning cliff-top design at Royal Isabela ($150-$250; 787-934-5648, royalisabela.com), which we featured last month.

Next on your list should be eco-minded Bahia Beach ($225-$275; 866-529-3996, bahiabeachpuertorico.com), recently redesigned by Robert Trent Jones II, where a superb St. Regis hotel opened in December 2010.

Jones's newest venture on the island is a sympathetic restoration of the East course at Dorado Beach ($185-$250; 787-626-1001, doradobeach.com), one of his father's true classics. Simply unforgettable are the risk/reward options and Atlantic Ocean views at the Z-shaped, par-5 4th. Lodging is lacking at Dorado right now, but a Ritz-Carlton Reserve boutique hotel is slated to debut late this year.

With a handful of other strong courses (many at bargain rates), a visit to El Yunque Rainforest, and the fine dining to be had in Old San Juan—and no passport needed—you've got a destination that's fast becoming a promised land for golf lovers.

Dear Joe,
My wife and I want to get away to the Southeast this spring for a week's golf vacation, and we want to get her lessons, too. What do you recommend?
Kent Cummings, Nutley, N.J.

Come spring, I'm partial to the Sandhills of North Carolina. With golf lore at just about every inter-section, Pinehurst simply rules. The iconic Pinehurst Resort (855-235-8507, pinehurst.com) offers fine golf instruction and the chance to tangle with the newly restored No. 2.

Yet for your specific needs, I'd pick Pine Needles Resort, next door in Southern Pines (May package rates from $270 and 5-day "Golfari" instruction packages from $2,545; 800-747-7272, pineneedlesmidpines.com). With two Donald Ross courses and one of America's greatest learning programs for women, Pine Needles will get your wife's game razor-sharp in short order.

(Credit: Becky McBride/Pronghorn Golf Club)

March 29, 2012

Ask Travelin' Joe: Alabama, Orlando and Phoenix

Posted at 12:12 PM by Joe Passov

JoeDear Joe,
I’m going to Gulf Shores, Alabama, playing six days, in early April. I’m staying at Kiva Dunes and playing there and Peninsula. What other courses in that area would you recommend?
Terry Holleman
Champaign, Ill.

You wouldn’t suffer with multiple plays at Kiva Dunes, a linksy Jerry Pate design draped over a sandy plot between the Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico—and Peninsula (pictured) stacks up as second best in the region.

However, if you’re a course collector like me, here are three more to try. Best of the trio is Rock Creek ($55-$69; 251-928-4223, rockcreekgolf.com), which rolls through handsome pines, hardwoods and wetlands and is replete with strong par-4s and several risk/reward par-5s.

Next up is TimberCreek ($49-$59; 251-621-9900, golftimbercreek.com), a hilly, forested, 27-holer on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, where the Dogwood/Magnolia combo offers the sternest challenge.

Cotton Creek at Craft Farms ($69-$89; 251-968-7500, craftfarms.com) is one of two Arnold Palmer designs on site. You won’t confuse either one with Bay Hill, but Cotton Creek in particular will entertain with its undulating fairways and numerous bunkers and water hazards.

Dear Joe,
I need your expertise and recommendations for an upcoming golf trip to Orlando. I previously read your Orlando review from March 2009 on Golf.com, but I’m curious if the last several years have altered your must-play list.
Greg Moore
Alexandria, Va.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but fortunately, there’s no need to renew my prescription. Things stand pretty much as they were in 2009. Bay Hill remains king, thanks to the double-barreled aura of Arnie and Tiger, though you still have to stay there to play there.

Grand Cypress continues to impress, with its remarkable variety of golf offerings, from its now vintage Nicklaus “moundy” (80’s-style) original course, to its St. Andrews replica New course to the superior instruction facilities.

I’ll amplify on two surprises: First is Reunion Resort, which has dropped the Ginn name, but is bursting with new vitality, thanks to some TLC (and cash) infused from new owner Salamander Resorts, the same folks who have Innisbrook.

I have to admit I’m a huge fan of the Watson course, formerly known as the Independence, which inspires with intriguing angles and interesting greens, but which is the least dramatic of the three. I’ve picked on Reunion’s Jack Nicklaus design (formerly the Tradition course) for slapping mid- and high-handicappers with too much trouble, but unquestionably, if you’re a good stick, you’ll warm to it.

Finally, Rees Jones’ Waldorf-Astoria layout is a treat. Tranquil, with fewer bells and whistles than many modern designs, it’s simply a wonderful, playable spread graced with massive bunkers and multiple lakes throughout the back nine that offers plenty of golf when the breeze is up. The Waldorf service, conditions and facilities live up to the famous name.

Dear Joe,
I’m going to be in the Phoenix/Mesa area for business and am going to squeeze in one round. I much prefer to walk so I was wondering if there are any nice courses (up to $125 green fee) that allow walking?
Chris Manning
Via email

Right on the money is Longbow ($60-$135; 480-807-5400, longbowgolf.com) in Mesa, a 1997 Ken Kavanaugh design that’s free of housing, but chock full of strategically placed bunkers. A small, if ripple-filled parcel makes for pleasurable walking—just ask Hunter Mahan and Paula Creamer, who have strolled to victories here in the AJGA Heather Farr Classic. It’s $125 to play Monday through Thursday through March, and $90 all week starting April 2.

Ask Travelin' Joe



 

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