Category: Scottsdale


November 03, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: From Ragin' Cajuns to Mickey Mouse

Posted at 12:40 PM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

Gray Plantation
Gray Plantation, Credit: Aidan Bradley

 

Dear Joe: I'll be taking a trip to Lake Charles, La., to visit family. I plan on playing at least one day while there. What area courses would you recommend? -- Mike Haig, Chicago, Ill.

I've got two top choices for you in Cajun country, one of my favorite places to play in the USA. First, a value-favorite: Gray Plantation ($35-$59; 337-562-1663, graywoodllc.com) is a handsome, well-treed track that features water, water everywhere. Bring an extra sleeve or two; you can lose ammo on 12 holes, including the tough par-3 sixth, which demands a shot over the Calcasieu Ship Channel to a peninsula green. If you want to roll the dice after rolling the rock, try Tom Fazio's Contraband Bayou at nearby L'Auberge Casino Resort ($39-$109; 337-395-7220, llakecharles.com). This 7,077-yard par 71 features superb Bermuda greens, Fazio's striking bunkers and eight lakes throughout the layout.

Bulle Rock
Bulle Rock, Credit: Evan Schiller

 

Hi Joe: I'll be in Annapolis for one day, flying into Baltimore, with time for a quick round. I prefer a quality layout with great conditioning. Where should I play? -- Ed Cadenas, via e-mail

Ed, cracking blue crabs is my first priority when I'm down Chesapeake way, with golf being a (very) close second. Bulle Rock ($79-$130; 888-285-5375, bullerock.com) in Havre de Grace is my first choice. True, it's an hour north of the airport, but with a ranking of No. 41 on our 2012-'13 Top 100 Courses You Can Play list, it's worth the journey. Bulle is a true bully (and it's pronounced that way, too). This danger-laden Pete Dye stunner has hosted the LPGA Championship five times, with Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Suzann Pettersen among those hoisting the trophy. Conditioning? It's kept in tournament shape all year round. If you prefer something closer to Baltimore, try Waverly Woods ($54-$84; 410-313-9182, waverlywoods.com) an Arthur Hills course just a 20-minute drive from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Hi Joe: While my kids are at Disney World, I have time for some peace and quiet on the course. I've already played Grand Cypress, a great pick. What's next? -- Luis M. Rivera, via e-mail

I don't blame you for resisting the siren call of the Mouse -- there's plenty of golf to play. I agree with Tiger, who once called the greens at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes ($60-$180; 407-393-4900, grandelakes.com) some of the best he's ever putted. Although this Greg Norman design is runway wide and flat, it's also truly tranquil, offering just the serenity you're seeking. You might also consider Rees Jones's Waldorf Astoria Golf Club ($50-$170; 407-597-3780, waldorfastoriaorlando.com). Hewn from pristine woodlands, it's only about three miles from Disney and offers strategic resort golf at its best. Right at the park, consider Disney's Magnolia Course ($104-$165; 407-939-4653, disneyworldgolf.com). Don't let the hokey, mouse-ear-shaped bunker fool you—for 40 years, this track was tough enough to be a PGA Tour stop. At 7,500 yards, it's hardly child's play.

Sedona Golf Resort
Sedona Golf Resort, Credit: Evan Schiller

 

Dear Joe: I'm planning a trip to Scottsdale this November, but lots of courses will be overseeding. Any way around that? -- Scott Gentry, Tulsa, Okla.

If they're overseeding, head north over the hills to Sedona. The town has quaint charms that dear old Scottsdale can't match, and at 4,500 feet of elevation, there's no need to overseed; the courses have cool-season grasses. Both Sedona Golf Resort ($69-$99; 928-284-9355, sedonagolfresort.com) and Oakcreek ($79-$99; 928-284-1660, oakcreekcountryclub.com) will dazzle you with red-rock landscapes. Seven Canyons ($100-$150; 928-203-2000, sevencanyons.com) is beautiful, too, but it's only open to guests of Enchantment Resort.

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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March 23, 2013

Premier Resort Close-Up: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Posted at 12:01 PM by Joe Passov

Scottsdale
Home to the raucous Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a soothing oasis the rest of the year, with flexibility its strongest suit. Large enough to accommodate conventioneers, it has all the amenities a family could want, with North Scottsdale's fine shopping nearby.

Of course, legendary golf offerings are what elevate this property to Silver Medal status, making it great for buddy trips, too. The Fairmont is so close to the action on the par-3 4th and par-4 5th at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium course that the holes could practically get splashed by the resort's swimming complex.

The biggest splash of all, though, is reserved for the Stadium's closing stretch, which includes the rowdiest hole in golf. The par-3 16th is sandwiched between two of the PGA Tour's top risk/reward holes—the island green par-5 15th and the drivable par-4 17th.

Toss in the resort's solid second track (the Champions), the fabled Willow Stream spa, and a slew of outstanding restaurants — notably Arizona's top-rated Mexican fare at La Hacienda — and you can have a Phoenix Open–size celebration (well, almost) during your stay.

480-585-4848, fairmont.com/scottsdale, April rates from $360.

(Photo: Evan Schiller)

February 05, 2013

Worth Your Money: Grayhawk Golf Club, the Southwest's coolest course

Posted at 5:06 PM by Golf.com
Sure, you'd love to while away a week in Pebble Beach or St. Andrews, but maybe it's not in your budget. These days you might be looking for destinations that make sense for both your game and your wallet. That in mind, we've started a weekly feature on Golf.com called "Worth Your Money," where Golf Magazine's travel editors recommend a destination that combines great golf and great value. This week, we check out Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

THE DESTINATION: GRAYHAWK GOLF CLUB, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.

Grayhawk_8_raptor
The eighth hole at the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club.

More PGA Tour pros may hang out at ultra-private Whisper Rock, but Grayhawk remains the coolest option for visiting amateurs in Scottsdale, both for the golf and atmosphere. Rock music still drifts out onto the driving range from speakers inside fake boulders, and multiple on-site food venues will fill you up quickly. Grayhawk’s Talon course, ranked seventh in Golf Magazine’s Best Public Courses in Arizona, is the older (by a year) layout and has the more unique par 3s, while the Raptor course, designed by Tom Fazio, hosted a PGA Tour event from 2007-09. Which one to play? Both. Especially since booking 36 holes at a time can save you up to $130 from now until the end of March. grayhawkgolf.com, 480-502-1800

WHERE TO STAY

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: This sprawling resort next door to TPC Scottsdale has a full range of first-class amenities, from dining (La Hacienda or Bourbon Steak) and nightlife (the Plaza Bar) to relaxation (Willow Stream Spa). Between Feb. 1 and April 30, you can book the “25th Anniversary Summer Early Special” and receive a $125 discount room rate and $25 food/beverage credit for stays between Memorial Day Monday through Labor Day Monday (special rate code is 2U8EBR). $169-$499, scottsdaleprincess.com, 480-585-4848

Westin Kierland Resort & Spa: A short walk outside the back door of this 12-story resort are 27 holes; air-cooling misters in the carts and on the range; and an expansive practice facility, featuring the academy of Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mike LaBauve. The resort’s Unlimited Golf package for two (including accommodations) costs $449 per night through March 31; $349 April 1 - May 23; and $179 May 24 – Sept. 9. kierlandresort.com, 480-624-1000.

WHERE TO EAT

Isabella’s: With views of the 10th and 18th holes on Grayhawk’s Talon Course (and the adjacent practice area), this casual dining spot opened last fall. Perfect spot for post-round drink, plus an Italian-themed menu. 480-502-3100, grayhawkgolf.com

Brat Haus: Located on the southern edge of Old Town Scottsdale, this newcomer is for meat lovers who like to wash down tasty brats, burgers and Belgian fries with craft beers in an outdoor setting. 480-947-4006, brathausaz.com

June 03, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Park City, Utah; Orlando and Scottsdale in late June

Posted at 12:10 AM by Joe Passov

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

Grayhawk_talon_372x248 Dear Joe,
What courses are still going to be in good shape in greater Scottsdale in late June?
M. Kneck
Via email

Courses in the hot box that is Scottsdale in late June are generally in surprisingly good shape. The Bermuda that came in during the spring is good-looking and plays great. The wilting comes as the nights get hotter and when the monsoons arrive in mid- to late July. Golf in Arizona can be hellish for some at that time of year, but for others, it’s heaven, thanks to the bargain basement prices at five-star properties. Here are a few suggestions:

I have to tip my hat the TPC Scottsdale (480-585-4334, tpc.com/Scottsdale) for some innovative marketing. Start with their 36-hole Summer Special, good for the month of June, where $99 will get you a morning round over the recently re-designed Champions course and an afternoon romp on the famous Stadium, home to the rowdiest galleries in golf every January when the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open stops by. If you can’t stand the heat—well, that much heat—you can sign up for a $120 deal where you have five days to play both courses.

I’m also a fan of Grayhawk’s (480-502-1800, grayhawkgolf.com) Penguin promotion, where $55 gets you golf at one of two Tour-tested courses, cart, practice balls and lunch or dinner at Phil’s Grill, Quill Creek Café or on the course. The Tom Fazio-designed Raptor has a superb finish, but the Graham-Panks-designed Talon is equally memorable.

Finally, for a short, one-hour road trip that delivers you into the kind of Wild West you remember from John Wayne movies, try Rancho de los Caballeros (928-684-5484, ranchodeloscaballeros.com) in Wickenburg. It’s just $49 for golf, cart and lunch and the rollicking ride through the desert will test both clubs and camera. Horseback riding gets equal billing with the golf at this wonderful small resort, so saddle up and enjoy.

Dear Joe,
My wife and I are headed to Park City, Utah in June. Where should I play? The only price restriction is that it cannot cost more than the two massages that my wife is getting. Thanks for your input.
Ethan
Winston-Salem, N.C.

The miniscule price for great golf in the Park City area will loosen up those neck and back muscles for certain. For your splurge, tee it up at Victory Ranch ($150; 435-735-5030, victoryranchclub.com), a 7,599-yard, 2009 Rees Jones creation that is a wall-to-wall thrill ride from start to finish. Opened as a private club, Victory Ranch’s real estate and private memberships faced a tough economy out of the blocks, so recently, they’ve moved to a “club guest” program, where members for a day can pay the green fee and play.

New manager OB Sports has smoothed out the rough edges and has it in tip-top shape, the better to enjoy this mostly treeless mountain track that meanders atop rock ridges, plunges through canyons and serves up panoramas of the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains, streams and the Jordanelle Reservoir. Is it worth one and a half Franklins? Yes, if you want scenic overload and shotmaking memories for a lifetime.

Almost tragically, the vast majority of Park City golf is strictly private. Among the superb set-ups are Promontory, Glenwild, Red Ledges and Talisker at Tuhaye. Nevertheless, you’re in luck. Within 11 miles of Park City are four of the best public bargains in the U.S., the Lake and Mountain courses at Wasatch Mountain State Park (435-654-0532, stateparks.utah.gov) and Soldier Hollow's (435-654-7442, soldierhollow.com) two tracks, the Gold and Silver. Each is only $40 to play and that includes the cart. In particular, the Gene Bates-designed Gold at Soldier Hollow, which plays host to the USGA’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 2012, is a stunner at 7,598 elevated yards, with incredible views of Heber Valley and Mt. Timpanogos.

Dear Joe,
In June, I will be in Orlando, Florida for a week. What do you suggest for a 15-year-old with a 15 handicap? $20-$60 is my price range.
Andrew A.
Texas

Florida golf prices are at lowest ebb during summer, so go be a 15-year-old and play all day! Start with Falcon’s Fire (407-239-5445, falconsfire.com), a totally fun, Marriott-managed, Rees Jones design that was refurbished in 2010. Mounds, water hazards (memorably at the banana-shaped, 379-yard, par-4 13th) and fast, intriguingly contoured greens are highlights. Best of all, Falcon Fire’s Junior (16-and under) rate is a smokin’ $35.

A second reasonably priced favorite in O-Town is MetroWest ($49-$59; 407-299-1099, metrowestgolf.com), another Marriott Golf property, which sits just minutes from Universal Studios Orlando. There’s something about this 1984 Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that just agrees with me, from the Master’s familiar hazard-guarded, elevated greens, to the unusual rolling (for Florida) terrain to, well, the price tag.

Finally, you can’t be a kid in Orlando and not pay your respects to Mickey, so let’s get you over to Disney World (407-939-4653, Disneyworld.disney.go.com/golf) for a summer golf buffet. During June, all four of Disney’s championship tests are $59 to play between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and $49 after 3. As a 15-handicap, you’ve definitely got enough game to handle the Magnolia, which hosts the final round of a PGA Tour event every year. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have both won here, but Magnolia is best known for its watery finish and for its bunker at the par-3 6th, shaped in the image of Mickey Mouse’s ears.

Many contend that the Palm is every bit as good—or better—than Magnolia, while I’m of the opinion that the Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge is best of the bunch. However, if you’re playing alone, call ahead for walking policies. Most courses aren’t in the habit of renting golf carts to 15-year-olds.

For a pure muni experience where you can walk and pretty much wear what you want, try Dubsdread ($25-$61; 407-246-2551, historicaldubsdread.com), a former Tour site that dates to 1924. Juniors (17 and under) pay $16 to walk during the week, $20 on the weekend and another $8 bucks for a cart—but you’ve got to show a valid driver’s license to get one. Try a $6 pullcart instead.

April 28, 2011

Ask Travelin' Joe: Hilton Head, Scottsdale and The Greenbrier

Posted at 1:04 PM by Joe Passov

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

Seapines Hi Joe,
We subscribe to GOLF Magazine and we have a book called "Golf's Best New Destinations" by Brian McCallen. After looking through that book, I was surprised not to see a course in South Carolina! We are planning a trip in June (hubby, wife, 11-year-old, 3-year-old, 1-year-old and a grandparent). We assumed South Carolina would be the best place in the U.S. to go for an awesome family resort, great beach, amenities, and of course amazing golf! We recently moved from SoCal and are in Ohio now. We figured somewhere on the East Coast would be best to avoid long flights and time changes withy the kids. Can you recommend a destination for us? Thank you!
Christina Mavrakis
Via email

Wow — a lot to cover! First, I have Brian McCallen's excellent book in my own collection. In Brian's defense, he devoted the text to new and emerging destinations, rather than established venues. I would lump South Carolina's prime three golf destinations, Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head as "established," rather than new.

A fistful of quality golf and family retreats await as you work your way down the coast. Charleston is one of my favorite cities, and its golf resort offerings, from Kiawah to Wild Dunes, are marvelous — and very family-friendly. That said, I might wait until the kids are a wee bit older so that you can all appreciate the historical, cultural and culinary charms for which Charleston is famous.

As destinations go for families and serious golfers, it's impossible to beat Myrtle Beach for quality and value. There's something for every taste and price range along the Grand Strand — and it's closest to Ohio, so you'll save on travel time as well.

That said, many prefer the more low-key atmosphere of Hilton Head Island. I'm really fond of two plantation resorts, Palmetto Dunes (866-380-1778, palmettodunes.com) and Sea Pines (866-561-8802, seapines.com). As a kid, I vacationed at Sea Pines with my parents, little brother and two little sisters, and we were all smitten. As an adult, I've enjoyed both properties immensely. Both Palmetto Dunes and Sea Pines feature villas which are perfect for your brood, but traditional hotels are available, too. You can understand why the PGA Tour pros are so fond of Sea Pines, where they play the Heritage event. Sea Pines is safe, clean and quiet (except for the rockin' Quarterdeck next to the iconic lighthouse), with terrific beaches, restaurants and family activities from bicycling to horseback riding. Toss in one of the most beautiful, well-respected courses on Tour, Harbour Town, and Sea Pines soars. Palmetto Dunes boasts an all-star lineup as well, including its Robert Trent Jones course, which features one of Hilton Head's only oceanfront holes, as well as a set of kids' tees measuring a sensible 2,625 yards.

Dear Joe,
Eight of us are headed out to Scottsdale this year for our annual Memorial Day Weekend Golf Trip (we usually head to Myrtle). Four days, six rounds. We were thinking the following lineup: Troon North Pinnacle, Grayhawk Talon & Raptor, Southern Dunes and We-Ko-Pa Cholla & Saguaro. Thoughts?
John Creed
Via email

Sensational slate! Bring plenty of sunscreen.

Hi Joe,
I want to say I love your column in GOLF Magazine. My question to you is regarding the Greenbrier Resort. If I have two rounds to play, which of the three courses would you recommend to play? Thanks!
Eli Hassif
Rockville, MD

Take the service and amenities of Manhattan's finest hotels, blend them with equal parts of historic West Virginia and rural mountain charm, then toss in a remarkable golf complex and you have The Greenbrier (800-453-4858, greenbrier.com). Kudos to native son Jim Justice for bringing back The Greenbrier to the Platinum status it deserves among American resorts.

Without question, start with the Old White course. Newly re-branded as The Old White TPC, this C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor classic was restored to its 1914 roots by Lester George in 2006, and proved a retro hit for the PGA Tour in 2010, when Stuart Appleby captured the Greenbrier Classic. From the elevated tee at the 1st, to the tranquil, wooded terrain that greets you thereafter, it's a round of pure pleasure, with many holes patterned after legendary British designs. The Old White TPC may lack modern drama, but it's good fun no matter what your skill level.

Your second choice depends on your playing ability. If you can comfortably handle forced carries on approaches to the greens, definitely do the Greenbrier course. This 1977 Jack Nicklaus redesign played host to the 1979 Ryder Cup and the 1994 Solheim Cup. Narrow, tree-lined fairways and greens perched above the fairway, often protected by bunkers or water, characterize this short layout that seems to play much longer.

If the hard, but handsome Greenbrier course sounds like too much golf to take on, sample the underrated third track at the resort, called the Meadows. Crafted by Dick Wilson in the early 1960s, then redesigned by Bob Cupp in 1999, the Meadows measures a sturdy 6,795 yards from the tips, but is only sloped at 129, with more width and fewer hazards than the other two layouts. Still, it's a legitimate entry in the Greenbrier golf family and starts and finishes at the same clubhouse that serves the other two courses. Meadows lacks the excitement and tournament pedigree of the Old White TPC and Greenbrier spreads, but if your goal is for a relaxing round with lost balls at a minimum, the Meadows is as soothing as it sounds.

(Photo: The Sea Pines Resort)

 

January 20, 2011

A sampling of Scottsdale's top courses (and wildlife)

Posted at 3:27 PM by Gary Van Sickle

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Add killer bees to the list of occupational hazards for golf writers.

Superstition_mtn All right, I'm no bee expert, so I can't swear these were killer bees, but they looked and acted the way I'd always imagined killer bees would. It happened at Southern Dunes, a pretty good golf course in Maricopa, Ariz., in the wide open spaces south of Phoenix, on the other side of South Mountain. I was playing in the Xona Media Classic, an annual event in which media types tee it up in a tournament whose real purpose is to showcase the golf courses. Like I needed an excuse to visit Scottsdale to golf and stay at Xona Resort Suites, a sweet spot nestled next to the TPC at Scottsdale and the ultra-swank Fairmont Princess hotel? I'm an admitted golf course junkie, having played more than 1,000 so far.

It was early on the back nine and I had just teed off. I was staring the ball down when somebody in my foursome said urgently, "Step back, Gary — move back here!" I was playing with Sports Illustrated colleague John Garrity, Milwaukee radio host Chuck Garbedian and Ocotillo Golf Club's Mark Gurnow.

Continue reading "A sampling of Scottsdale's top courses (and wildlife)" »

January 14, 2011

John Garrity: Courses I Need to Play

Posted at 10:41 AM by Golf.com

Garrity-mobile-home-golf-course-2 By John Garrity

Inspired by "Travelin' Joe" Passov, I've been trying to come up with my own wish list of "Courses I Need to Play." The fact that I'm having trouble finding 10 testifies to how lucky I've been over the years. I've played Mollymook. I've played Formby Ladies. I teed it up in the inaugural event at Medicine Hole. If my current bout with tendinitis were to end my golfing days, I'd have no cause for complaint.

But Joe is right, there are courses - Cypress Point and Pine Valley come to mind - so enticing that you would pay to play them. One of those courses, for me, is the Indian Army 9-Hole Golf Course outside Leh, Ladakh, on the Tibetan plateau. I stumbled upon Indian Army 25 years ago while covering a polo match in Leh. The course was a bit outside town on a dusty road that crossed a moonscape of boulders and rubble punctuated with Buddhist burial markers. A barbed wire fence and gun placements emphasized that it was a private course, but I couldn't help but stare longingly at the crooked bamboo flagsticks impaled on gravel greens next to coffee-can holes. Not a blade of grass on the property, but, as Gary Player often said, "It's the finest course of its kind I've ever seen."

Garrity mobile home golf course Even higher on my list, maybe at No. 1, is the Fort Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course in Fort Meade, Fla. (My photo is above, and an aerial view is at right, courtesy of Google Maps.) Fort Meade has finished dead last among the world's courses in every respectable course rating scheme, a record not likely to be broken. On the other hand, it is the best 9-hole, par-3, clay-greens course in the South. I've walked Ft. Meade on a couple of occasions, taking in the surrounding banyan trees and fire-ant sand hills, but I've never gotten the opportunity to play. Just once I'd like to stride up that final fairway with a club in my hand, crossing in front of the tee boxes for the previous eight holes and stepping onto the profoundly round and flat ninth green, at the foot of the municipal water treatment plant.

Another not-to-miss track that I have toured without playing is the new Machrihanish Dunes course in Machrihanish, Scotland. While not exactly the black sheep of the Kintyre Peninsula, the Dunes course does have black sheep on the property, their job being to keep the marram grass on the dunes to a playable length. At 79 pounds per round in peak season, Machrihanish Dunes is the priciest layout on my must-play list, but I'll claw back some of that by neglecting to leave any money in the honesty boxes of my other choices.

I'm also pining for the Papa Westray Golf Course in the Orkney Isles of Scotland. Although panned by one critic as "worse than Ronaldsay," Papa Westray provides tourists with the opportunity to experience the world's shortest scheduled flight, a less than two minute hop from Kirkwall. But first I have to experience the Lost City Golf Course of Sun City, South Africa -- if only to play the famous 13th hole, which is fronted by a stone pit full of hissing crocodiles.

But that's only five courses, isn't it? (Seven, if I poach Cape Kidnappers and Hirono from Joe's list.)

Well, I've got time to work on my list after dark - of which I've seen plenty this week, having found my way to Askernish Old in the daylight-challenged Outer Hebrides. (I'll post my reflections on the world's best golf course on my Top 50 blog.) If you see Travelin' Joe, ask him if he's played Fort Meade.

John Garrity on Golf.com | John Garrity's Top 50 Blog

June 01, 2010

Praise for the new King of Fife justified

Posted at 4:59 PM by Chad Conine

Chad Conine is a sportswriter from Texas who spent the summer in Scotland and the town of St. Andrews. He chronicled his golf adventures before this year's British Open, held at the Old Course July 15-18.

I read this joke somewhere on the Internet a few days ago:

Q — How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A — Probably some number you've never even heard of. Kingsview

While this particular joke isn't any funnier than any other in the "light bulb" genre, it did ring true for me. Back in Texas, I have more than a few hipster friends. These are people whom I can tell are inwardly rolling their eyes at me when I say I'm going to see U2 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium because they'd much rather take the cool route and see, say, Fleet Foxes at a club in Austin. Most of the time we peacefully coexist, though there was a rather heated argument last December when I had all I could take while discussing the many "best of the decade" album lists that were coming out at the time.

However, I'm starting to sympathize a little more with my hipster friends, because it seems I'm sort of becoming a Scottish golf hipster.

The pub where I hang out here in St. Andrews is populated by golf tourists, mostly Americans, who come through the door all aglow about the golf they played that day or the golf they're looking forward to the next day. And since it's an ever-changing population, my two most-often-asked questions are "Where did you play today?" and "Where are you playing tomorrow?" Most of the time the answer to at least one, if not both of the questions, is The Old Course or Kingsbarns. This causes me to inwardly roll my eyes and wonder to myself "Why not Crail? Or Scotscraig? Or Ladybank? Or Lundin Links? Or Elie?" or any of the less beaten tracks in the Kingdom of Fife.

The Old Course is understandable. The Old Course is The Beatles. But, and this is simply because the current version of Kingsbarns is just 10 years old, the constant adoration of such a new course is kind of like everyone I meet telling me their favorite singer is the latest American Idol winner.

But that's just the golf hipster in me.

Sometimes I have to put the need to be esoteric aside and realize, once again, that things like golf courses which become hugely popular are more often than not hugely popular because they're just that darn good.

That's the truth about Kingsbarns, anyway.

Because I planned to stay in St. Andrews for a little more than four months, I put playing Kingsbarns on the back burner while I sunk in my roots elsewhere and got to know some of the courses that not everyone gets a chance to play when they're here. But last Friday I met Mercer Baggs of The Golf Channel at The Dunvegan, the aforementioned pub, and I was anxious to chat with a fellow media type for the first time since I left Texas almost two months ago. He said he was playing Kingsbarns on Sunday and I knew the time had come to head up the road and see the new kid on the block.

Kingsbarns was the first course my dad and I played on our initial venture to Scotland in 2004. I remember it was spectacular, but I've also come to understand that just because a golf course is spectacular doesn't mean it's always that much fun to play. But Kingsbarns doesn't fall into this trap.

The par-5 12th hole and the par-3 15th — interchangeably Kingsbarns' signature holes — are brilliant but far from impossible. They're challenging but fair, as is the entire course. Kingsbarns has its quirks here and there, like the bowl at the back of the 6th green, but it doesn't sacrifice playability for them.

Add to that the customer service at Kingsbarns, which is exemplary — though, that's kind of the norm here in Scotland — and an elegant-yet-comfortable clubhouse make Kingsbarns well worth the 165-pound green fee. After all, an American has already paid at least a grand to fly here, so why start pinching pennies on golf.

So I'm going to try to subdue my inner golf hipster. U2 sells out football stadiums for a reason and Kingsbarns attracts tourists like flies for a reason.

(Photo: The locker room window at Kingsbarns offers either a pregame or postgame view of a spectacular course.)

January 21, 2010

Ask Travelin Joe: Brandon, Florida, Scottsdale and Fort Lauderdale

Posted at 3:09 PM by Joe Passov

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

Dear Joe,
My wife and I are 20 to 25 handicap golfers and enjoy all kinds of courses. This winter we are going to spend February and March in Brandon, Florida, near Tampa. What would you recommend in that area that would be good courses and not too expensive.

Al Campbell
North Bay, Ontario, Canada

Put it this way: Brandon is no Bandon — but you'll find some quality golf values just the same. The top player-friendly bargain course in the region is Fox Hollow in New Port Richey (727-376-6333, golfthefox.com/hollow; $40-$90). This late vintage Robert Trent Jones Sr. course actually plays plenty tough, with the master's usual assortment of lakes and bunkers, plus forests, creeks and wetlands, but five sets of tees make it playable for most, including the Gold tees, which measure a comfortable 6,018 yards, with a rating of 69. Best of all, it's only $40 after 2 pm, Monday through Thursday, through March 31.

I also like the Bardmoor Golf & Tennis Club (727-392-1234, bardmoorgolf.com; $40-$90) in Largo. Formerly host to the PGA/LPGA Mixed Team Classic (in order words, Arnold Palmer and Nancy Lopez played here), Bardmoor offers a set of Silver tees that run 5,782 yards, with a slope of 117. Play from noon to 1:30 and it's $75; wait until 1:30 and it's $40.

Hello Joe,
My buddy Mike and I are planning to head to Scottsdale the first week in February. We are going to stay at the Marriott on site at the TPC courses. We plan on the Stadium course for our "expensive" round. Any suggestions on courses that are reasonably priced but still worth going to? Also, we would like to try and double loop a day or two…what time does the sun set in the desert in February?

Jason Devore
Via email

Step out of your hotel room door and you'll stub your toe on the TPC Scottsdale's Champions course (480-585-4334, tpc.com/Scottsdale), a sturdy, variety-filled Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish desert course that benefited from a terrific Randy Heckenkemper overhaul in 2007. The course played host to the 2009 Champions Tour Q-School. Green fees are $135.50, with a miniscule replay rate of $41. Give it a go — the first week in February, the sun rises between 7:20 and 7:25 and sets between 6 pm and 6:05.

For another dose of affordable Randy Heckenkemper design work, check out Sanctuary Golf Course at WestWorld (480-502-8200, sanctuarygolf.com; $109-$129), a 10-minute drive from your hotel. This Audubon-certified layout is cramped in spots, but if you came to the desert to play desert golf with mountain views, you'll find it here. Between 11 am and 2 pm, it'll set you back $109.

A half-hour drive is Longbow Golf Club (480-807-5400, longbowgolf.com; $135-$155) in Mesa, a boldly bunkered Ken Kavanaugh design that is annual host of the AJGA Heather Farr event. Paula Creamer won here in 2004, followed in '05 by Inbee Park, who would win the 2008 U.S. Women's Open. Book online and you'll pay $99.

Dear Joe,
I will be traveling with my wife in the Fort Lauderdale area in January. Can you give us a few recommendations for decent courses in the area that will not break the bank.

B. Mihal
Danbury, CT

Start with Jacaranda Golf Club (954-472-5836, golfjacaranda.com; $79-$124) in Plantation. Its East and West courses are both classic layouts with mature trees, but a recent sprucing on both from architect Bobby Weed has added flavor in the form of strategy and challenge. East is the longer, tougher of the two, but both are worth the freight, especially after 1 pm, when the fee is $79.

Pembroke Lakes Golf Club (954-431-4144, pembrokelakesgolf.com; $55-$70) is a muni owned by the town of Pembroke Pines, but sports enough upscale trappings to make you feel you're at a pricey resort course. It's $55 to play during the week and after 11:30 am on weekends. John Sanford reworked the layout in 2007, and today its coquina shell waste bunkers, paspalum greens and affordable rates puts this one on your must-play list.

May 28, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Wisconsin, Illinois, Scottsdale and British Columbia

Posted at 12:38 PM by Joe Passov

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

Dear Joe,
I will be spending 3-4 weeks in Southeastern Wisconsin and Northeastern Illinois in late May and June. The past few years I have enjoyed playing Thunderhawk in Beach Park, IL. Are there any courses you would recommend at a similar price point in the region?

Nick J.
Gilbert, Arizona

The Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Thunderhawk ($52-$85; 847-968-4295, lcfpd.org) is pretty strong, but if you're craving variety in an area roughly one hour north of Chicago, start with Stonewall Orchard Golf Club ($70-$95; 847-740-4890, stonewallorchard.com) in Grayslake. This 7,074-yard, par-72 Arthur Hills creation, situated almost due west of Waukegan, between Libertyville and McHenry, boasts a formidable 140 slope, owing to water, wetlands and a superb set of par-3s.

Next, check out Shepherd's Crook ($42-$55; 847-872-2080, shepherdscrook.org) in Zion, an open, prairie-style Keith Foster product that sports wild, wavy greens and a wildly low price tag.

Continue reading "Ask Travelin Joe: Wisconsin, Illinois, Scottsdale and British Columbia" »

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