Category: Texas

December 01, 2013

Ask Travelin' Joe: From One Fine Bay to Another

Posted at 10:49 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

TPC Harding Park
TPC Harding Park / Getty Images


Dear Joe: I'm heading out to San Francisco and I have three days to squeeze in a couple of rounds. What are your recommendations? -- Kyle McKearney, via email

There's iconic TPC Harding Park ($155-$175; 415-664-4690,, the foggy, cypress-lined home of the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship (won by Tiger Woods) and the 2009 Presidents Cup. A heads up: On December 1, after it hosts the Champions Tour's season-ending Schwab Cup, Harding's greens will get a face-lift. This means you'll have 18 temporaries (along with a deep discount on green fees) through March. Until then, Presidio Golf Club ($110-$145; 415-561-4653, is your best option. This hilly challenge is a bear to walk, but it compensates with imposing pines and some fun shotmaking challenges. And be sure to check out Lincoln Park ($38-$55; 415-221-9911, This quaint, 5,146-yard muni is more about the postcard (as in amazing views) than the scorecard, with a dazzling glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge on the par-3 17th.

Redstone Golf Club
Redstone Golf Club / Larry Lambrecht


Yo Joe: I'm heading down to Houston in late November to catch a college football game. Where should I tee it up? -- Jake Davidson, Cincinnati, Ohio

There's nothing like college pigskin in the Lone Star State. After you watch your Cincinnati Bearcats battle the Houston Cougars, check out Redstone's Tournament course ($125-$175; 281-459-7800, in suburban Humble. Host to the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open, this Rees Jones creation is a bomber's paradise. It's long, wide and watery. Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan are among the recent winners. Closer to downtown (and to Rice Stadium, where you'll watch the game), you'll find Memorial Park ($39-$49; 713-559-2000,, a flattish, well-treed, 7,300-yarder that boasts some history of its own -- 14 Houston Opens were contested here between 1947 and 1963, with Arnold Palmer claiming the crown in 1957. It's a score either way, so why not go for two?

Orange Lake Golf Resort
Courtesy of Orange Lake Golf Resort


Hey Joe: My wife and I are older golfers and fairly new to the game. We want to take a vacation, ideally to a moderately priced place with good instruction. Ideas? -- John and Pat Morello, via email

With December closing in faster than a one-horse sleigh, I direct you to the Sunshine State, specifically Orange Lake Golf Resort (407-239-1050, in Kissimmee, just south of Orlando and three miles from Disney. If you're feeling ambitious, there are two championship 18s on-site, as well as a pair of beginner-friendly nines, first-rate practice facilities and excellent instruction (we rank the McCord Golf Academy as one of the 25 Best in the U.S.). With December lodging rates that begin at $99/night, for pure value, this Orange is very sweet.

Dear Travelin' Man: I'm taking the family to Pensacola, Fla. I'd like a break from the beach and plan to hit the links for a day. Any diamonds in the rough under $70? -- Dave Gardner, Louisville, Ky.

Value on the Emerald Coast is as prevalent as the sugary-white beaches. My top pick is Kiva Dunes ($64.50-$92; 251-540-7000, across the border in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It's a superb, linksy Jerry Pate design between Mobile Bay and the Gulf, with afternoon rates of less than $70 in December. Just one catch: It's more than an hour's drive away. If that's too much of a haul, try Tiger Point ($40-$50; 850-932-1333,, 12 miles from Pensacola in Gulf Breeze. Its Jerry Pate-designed East course offers water on 14 holes and views of Santa Rosa Sound. I'm also a fan of Sandestin, about an hour to the east. The Baytowne course ($54-$89; 850-267-8155, charges $54-$74 during the winter and features what passes for an elevation change in the Panhandle, along with kid-friendly tees and rental clubs -- so bring the wee ones and wipe away the guilt.

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

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July 16, 2013

Muirfield for the Masses: Royal Links and The Tribute

Posted at 8:19 PM by Joe Passov

The 9th hole at Royal Links in Las Vegas (right) mirrors the 5th hole at Muirfield. Credits: Getty (left), Walters Golf 

The obstacles to playing Muirfield are daunting.

Start with a flight to Scotland and finish with the club's notorious exclusivity. Visitor times are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but they're quite limited. You'll likely have to book a year out, and you may have to play foursomes as well, an alternate-shot format that's seen in the Ryder Cup, but not much at U.S. courses.

For those seeking a more feasible taste of Muirfield, two courses will satisfy, Royal Links ( and The Tribute. Dozens of replica, homage and faux-links courses are scattered across the U.S., but by my count, only these two deliver Muirfield holes.

Royal Links, a Walters Golf facility in Las Vegas, is a favorite of mine. Sure, you can roll your eyes about the entire concept of "Scotland in the Desert," but at many times of year, it works perfectly. Just ask David Feherty, who once told me, "Royal Links -- you go out there and if you close your eyes and forget that you really came here for the slot machines -- you can really believe that on a cool day, maybe that you're floating around in Scotland. I mean, hell, they've got pirates, they've got the Eiffel Tower, they've got the pyramids. Why the hell shouldn't you be in Scotland, and if you're in Scotland, you should be on a golf course."

True, the softer, more lush conditions and the high heat that defines summer in Sin City make the experience slightly less authentic, and the pine trees are more Rocky Mountains than Scottish links, but so what. The Royal Links experience is superb -- great fun in every way -- especially when you start with the only-in-Vegas, castle-like clubhouse. They pour Guinness and Newcastle at Stymie's Pub, to accompany the fish and chips, bangers and other across-the-pond favorites (though truth be told, they feature the best hot dog in the business, with awesome home-made chips -- crisps for those of you from the U.K.).

Still, you came to experience Muirfield and that's what you'll do at No. 9. Inspired by the par-5 5th at Muirfield, Royal Links' 9th is beautifully rendered. The back tee distance of 567 yards is nearly identical to Muirfield's 559, and the bunker strategies, shapes and placement compare favorably. Humps and hollows check out, as does the two-tier green.

My most recent Royal Links visit was in late March, on a cool, breezy, overcast day with a hint of raindrops. The ninth hole couldn't have looked any more Scottish. Muirfield's 5th is actually the least celebrated of its three par 5s, so it was an interesting pick for owner Bill Walters and designer Perry Dye, but it's a spirited risk/reward hole -- on both sides of the pond.

The second U.S. public course that serves up a plate full of Muirfield is The Tribute (, a Tripp Davis design in the northern suburbs of Dallas. As with Las Vegas, the wind is a frequent, if nearly constant factor here, so it's easy to envision playing links-style golf if ground conditions permit it. For the most part, The Tribute lives up to its billing.

The first hole mirrors the opener at St. Andrews' Old Course and does a great job as impressions go. So do a slew of other holes. As with Vegas, The Tribute can lack Old World authenticity when it's too hot and soft, but overall, especially with the vast and very visible Lake Lewisville factoring in, this is faux-links fun at its finest.

The Tribute dishes out a double dose of Muirfield. Its 9th hole mirrors Muirfield's 9th, both outstanding par 5s, replete with a long, low stone wall down the fairway's left side, exquisitely placed bunkers and native fescue grasses awaiting the errant shot. One difference: Muirfield built a new back tee for 2013, so the hole now plays 554 yards. The Tribute's is 505.

Hole No. 14 at The Tribute mimics one of the world's great par 3s, Muirfield's 13th. Yardage is similar, 201 yards, to Muirfield's 190, and so is the long, narrow green. Most impactful are the gaping bunkers that frame either side of the green.

If a round at Muirfield isn't in the cards anytime soon, don't despair. Royal Links and The Tribute are worthy alternatives.

July 15, 2013

Worth Your Money: Old American Golf Club in North Dallas

Posted at 2:20 PM by


Three years after it was named one of Golf Magazine’s Best New Courses, the Old American Golf Club continues to blend a private club feel with public access, remaining one of the Lone Star state’s best layouts. Designers Tripp Davis and Justin Leonard based the layout on their favorite classic courses, with tiered greens and natural-looking bunkers. Although some of the tall native grass throughout the course has been reduced since the opening, don’t go long on green approaches or else count on some lost balls. Wind is ever present, with multiple back nine holes located on the shore of Lake Lewisville. Extra old school touches—a hand-drawn yardage book, shorter than usual wooden flagsticks, tree branches used to direct cart traffic—add to the atmosphere, as does a simple yet elegant clubhouse. Enjoy a post-round Shiner Bock on the back patio while sitting around a new fire pit in an Adirondack chair. Ranked fifth on Golf Magazine’s Best Public Courses in Texas, Old American is located 30 minutes north of DFW airport. (website, 972-370-4653, $125)


NYLO, a 176-room boutique hotel located in Plano, is a 15-minute drive from Old American. Modern art, funky lighting fixtures and an industrial/minimalist vibe is topped off by ultra comfortable beds. Other Dallas-area NYLO locations include Las Colinas and the city’s burgeoning South Side neighborhood. (website, 972-963-9090, $89-$229)

The Tribute Golf Club, located directly across the street from Old American, has eight rooms ($159-$209) available in its clubhouse. The club, with an enjoyable Tripp Davis-designed 18-hole homage ($79-$129) to the best Scottish links courses, holds up to 140 outings a year and plenty of weddings, so call well in advance when booking a room. (website, 972-370-5465)


Henry’s Tavern, part of The Shops at Legacy in Plano, has 100 beers on tap, plenty of flat screen televisions and a comfort food menu. Start off with the giant Bavarian soft pretzel. (website, 972-473-7252)

Coal Vines, also located at The Shops at Legacy in Plano, serves above-average, thin crust pizza that can be washed down with local beers and a wide variety of wines. (website, 972-943-1339)


Starting at $213 per night per person, a new Stay & Play package includes accommodations at any of the three NYLO locations around Dallas and one round at Old American, which includes a complimentary yardage book, water, snacks and a pro shop gift.

--By Tom Mackin

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


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

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,, 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,, 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,, 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, 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,, 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,, 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,, 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,, 45 minutes south of downtown, has the Ocean Course ($160-$205, 650-726-1800,, 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, 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 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, 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, or 90 minutes east to Streamsong ($115-$225; 863-354-6980,, 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,, 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, You're also next to Busch Gardens, a 383-acre amusement park with more than 100 rides and attractions.

(Photo: Courtesy of Quintero)

Run to the border to play R.T.J. II's superb, affordable new design, Max A. Mandel

Posted at 11:18 PM by Joe Passov

How close is the new Max A. Mandel Golf Course to the Mexican border? "If you slice one bad enough," says its designer Robert Trent Jones II, "you'll need a passport to retrieve it."

The "Max" straddles Texas and Mexico, with the mighty Rio Grande serving as a handsome dividing line. It was named for local businessman Max Mandel, who donated 390 acres and $1 million toward startup costs.

Unfolding atop sandy bluffs above the famed river, the Max winds through groves of towering mesquites and is slashed by two massive arroyos, lending the design beauty and grandeur.

Four memorable holes skirt the Rio Grande: Nos. 8, 9, 15 and 16. The 462-yard, par-4 8th may be the strongest design of the four, but the blessedly short (138 yards) par-3 15th will be the crowd-pleaser, with a splendid river view.

The Jones design team thoughtfully provided junior tees and multiple routing options, so the course can be played in three-, six-, nine-or 18-hole loops. Laredo is a long way from anywhere (150 miles to San Antonio) but if you seek tranquility and value, make the trek to the Max.

Max A. Mandel Municipal
Laredo, Tex.
7,069 yards, par 72
Green fees: $33.50-$56

(Photo: John and Jeannine Henebry)

October 07, 2011

10 Courses Worth Arguing About

Posted at 6:13 PM by Joe Passov

Diamond Travelin' Joe has played more than 1,500 courses and has an opinion on each of them. Here are five that deserve more love, and five high-profilers that puzzle me.


1. Black Diamond (Quarry), Lecanto, Fla.
After years of high rankings, some have found flaws in this Diamond (pictured). Outside of homes encroaching on the front nine and perhaps some hit-and-miss conditioning, I can't see them, even with a jeweler's glass.

2. Blackwolf Run (River), Kohler, Wisc.
The River has suffered from three factors: a brief closure for renovation in '09, the splintering from its original 1988 layout and inevitable comparisons to its sibling, Whistling Straits. When the U.S. Women's Open visits in 2012, competitors will rediscover one of Pete Dye's greatest strategy-laced creations.

3. Desert Forest, Carefree, Ariz.
This favorite of Tom Weiskopf is the closest thing the Arizona desert has to a classic course. While narrow and framed with mostly trees and unplayable underbrush, it does put supreme emphasis on thoughtful ball placement. This low-profile 1962 design was ahead of its time.

4. The Country Club, Pepper Pike, Ohio
No designer in history built better gooseneck green complexes than William Flynn, the kind where only properly placed drives would reap the benefit on the approach. He did brilliant work on this suburban Cleveland layout, where a recent renovation makes it worth a look.

5. Prestwick, Ayrshire, Scotland
The quirkiest "championship" course violates every rule of modern course design, yet succeeds in the "fun" department better than most highly-ranked courses. Long, blind par 3s, oncoming trains in the line of play, the freakishly deep, hidden bunker guarding the "Alps" 17th green—it all adds up to greatness in my book.


1. Colonial Country Club, Ft. Worth, Tex.
Storied Colonial has slipped in the respect department over the years, and I can see why. I love the Hogan aura and mystique, but this flat, cramped layout doesn't really inspire architecturally, nor does it sufficiently test the pros. Even par used to contend. Now, it won't even make the cut.

2. Sutton Bay, Agar, S.D.
Blame nature for the demise of one of the most acclaimed new courses of the past 10 years. Tragically, this 2003 Graham Marsh bluff-top prairie design is literally breaking apart due to fissures in fairways and greens caused by shifting landforms and will likely soon be abandoned.

3. Royal County Down, Newcastle, Northern Ireland
One of my personal favorites combines unmatched beauty and brawn, but wow—when the wind blows, the many blind, narrow, gorse-guarded valley fairways and infamous eyebrow bunkers make for a march of holes that are relentlessly penal.

4. Carnoustie (Championship), Carnoustie, Scotland
I have friends, all better players than I, who place Carnoustie on the top rung. Yes, it's great, but its lack of sea views, the overly punishing, artificial looking bunkers, and the strangely placed water features menacing the final two holes all leave me cold.

5. World Woods (Pine Barrens), Brooksville, Fla.
This is one of the nation's best values, but I'm surprised it hangs on to its lofty rankings since so many superior public and private courses have emerged in the past 18 years. The solitude, risk/reward options and Pine Valley-esque features remain appealing, but their novelty has long since faded for me.

(Photo: John and Jeaninne Henebry)

June 06, 2010

What's New This Month? The Old American Golf Club at the Tribute

Posted at 7:53 PM by Joe Passov

The Old American Golf Club at the Tribute
The Colony, TX
Green fees: $150-$175

This might mark the first time that alums from the University of Oklahoma (architect Tripp Davis) and the University of Texas (consultant Justin Leonard) have gotten together without conflict. Instead, the pair has delivered an agreeable, modern "Golden Age" classic. Tribute

Located in a thriving community along Lake Lewisville, 35 minutes north of Dallas, Old American is a 7,174-yard, par-71 layout that whispers rather than shouts its virtues.

There's nothing jaw-dropping here, but nor is there anything harsh or abrupt. The bulk of the challenge is presented by width, angles, wind and skillfully configured bunkers, which along with the imaginative contouring help create indecision — the beating heart of risk/reward golf.

The flatter back nine yields more lake views — notably on the superb 232-yard, par-3 12th. If you warm to wild, windy courses (think Shinnecock Hills or Prairie Dunes), then this is one Old American you'll want to salute.

(Photo: Tocrok Productions/Matthews Southwest)

April 01, 2010

Ask Travelin' Joe: Alabama, New Mexico, Austin and Providence

Posted at 11:57 PM by Joe Passov

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

Dear Joe,
Our group is having an argument about the destination for this year's trip. Some want to do Alabama (Grand National Lake/Links, Farmlinks, Oxmoor Valley and Limestone Springs) and others are thinking about New Mexico (Paa-Ko Ridge, Black Mesa, University of New Mexico Championship, Twin Warriors). We live in Chicago, so either destination is equally convenient. My opinion is the average quality of the courses in Alabama is higher, but Paa-ko and Black Mesa are spectacular. Any guidance?

Greg Roemelt
Chicago, Illinois

We're splitting hairs here, albeit blonde versus brunette. Do you like Cameron Diaz or Megan Fox? Point is, they're both stellar.

Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Trail is one of the greatest values in golf travel. So is New Mexico. However, I'm inclined to agree with you: The average quality of the courses in Alabama is higher, especially as you approach the second-tier courses, the ones ranked 6-15 in the market.

That said, nothing in Alabama packs the 1-2 punch of Paa-Ko Ridge and Black Mesa. Moreover, the best of the Alabama courses not only look similar to each other, but they also will look somewhat similar to your home courses, with wall-to-wall grass framed by trees. New Mexico's best are vividly memorable and completely different from anything in Chicagoland. Pass the salsa.

Dear Joe,
I have relied on your expertise for golf course guidance several times in the past. What would you recommend for a five-day trip to Austin, Texas? Our eight guys range from scratch golfers to a 22 handicap, with most of us in the low teens. We have traveled to many golf destinations, including Scotland and Ireland and are looking for some good golf in the Austin area this spring.

Michael F. Kaufman
Chicago, Illinois

For maximum variety and quality in the Austin area, it's impossible to top Barton Creek Resort & Spa (512-329-4000,; package rates from $181 per person per night). This Silver Medalist in our recent Premier Resorts awards boasts four courses spread out across different locations and terrain.

The Fazio Canyons course, ranked No. 67 in GOLF Magazine's 2008 Top 100 Courses You Can Play, is the strongest test of the four, but the resort's earlier Tom Fazio layout, Fazio Foothills, ranked No. 71 in 2008, contains the most distinctive hole, the par-5 closer which features a second shot over an abandoned limestone bat cave. For a great first round, and pure fun for the 22 handicapper, the (Ben) Crenshaw Cliffside course features a friendly 121 slope from the tips. The fourth course, called Palmer Lakeside (for its designer, Arnold Palmer) is dotted with quirky holes, but it's a quality shotmaking venue in its own right.

Worth the side trip is the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa (512-308-1234,; $120-$145), situated 20 minutes southeast of Austin. Its four-year-old Wolfdancer course is the handiwork of Chris Wilcynski of the Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest firm and sports three distinct playing landforms, from forested ridgelines to rolling prairie to a tree-studded valley. The Cliffside plunge at the par-3 12th is unforgettable.

Hi Joe,
I am taking my wife to a quilting show in Providence, RI in the middle of April. The show lasts for three or four days and I will be free to play golf while she is at the show. Thus my question: Do you know of any good/nice public or semi-private courses within a twenty-mile radius of downtown Providence that I would enjoy playing? I am 66 and carry a 15 handicap.

Frank Comer
Via email

Adjacent to downtown Providence is Triggs Memorial Golf Course (401-521-8460,; $40-$58), one of the nation's rare munis designed by the master, Donald Ross, back in 1932. Expect mediocre facilities and suspect conditions, but you'll also encounter a classic layout that opens and closes with Ross' specialty, tough par-4s with firm, fast, sloping greens.

Twenty-two miles south of Providence, in Middletown, is Newport National (401-848-9690,, the Ocean State's highest-ranked public course. Designed by Drew Rogers of the Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest firm in 2002, Newport National's Orchard/East course is magnificently groomed and a terrific challenge at a 138 slope from the 7,244-yard tips, not that you'll be playing it from back there. Best of all, it's only $65 to play there midweek, $75 weekend through May 6.

A word to the wise: Providence has been blasted with rain, 16.32 inches in March alone, and as of late March, flooding is widespread. Call ahead to check on current conditions before booking anything.

February 19, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Austin, Sedona and Spring Training

Posted at 11:34 AM by Joe Passov

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

Dear Joe,
Four of us are heading to Austin, Texas in March. We already have a few rounds lined up, but are there any hidden gems that we should look into?

Duncan Norcross
Atlanta, Ga.

Off the beaten path but worth howling about is Wolfdancer (512-308-WOLF,; $165, includes forecaddie) 20 miles southeast of Austin, at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort. Arthur Hills and his lead associate Chris Wilczynski fashioned a unique test over three distinct landforms, from forested ridgelines and rolling prairie land to a valley peppered with trees. The downhill plunge at the par-3 12th, its mountainside green a scary but inviting target, is worth the drive out from the Austin city limits.

Hi Joe,
I'll be traveling down to Sedona, Arizona in February/March and I'll be staying at Seven Canyons. I'll be playing most of my golf there, but are there any other affordable courses that you recommend in that area? I've never been there and I'd like to play a few other courses as well.

John Hoffer
Minneapolis, Minn.

You'll have a tough time breaking away from the tight, if ultra-private Seven Canyons, which overdoses on scenery at every turn. Still, for the spice of variety, check out Sedona Golf Resort (877-733-6630,; $59-$105), a 1989 Gary Panks design with elevation changes, undulating greens, a driveable closing par-4 and an all-world, par-3 10th that's backdropped by red rocks.

Not quite as dramatic, but where the homes are less intrusive is Oakcreek Country Club (928-284-1660,; $79-$99), an early '70s collaboration from Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. In classic Trent Jones style, most of the greens are elevated, and the par-3 4th, which plays straight at a gigantic, reddish rock formation is unforgettable, but a massive tree pruning/removal would really open up some spectacular vistas.

Dear Joe
My dad and I are big Philadelphia Phillies fans and are flying into Tampa, Fla. and driving to Clearwater for a few of their spring training games in March. We were wondering if you had some suggestions for courses for us to try out while we are down there?

Clay Stabert
Via email

Hopefully you perused the March 2009 issue of GOLF Magazine where I recommend a good value for Phillies fans, Bardmoor Golf Club in Largo (727-392-1234,; $65-$90), 15 minutes south of Bright House Field, where the Phills play their Grapefruit League ball.

Nearby, the underrated TPC Tampa Bay (813-949-0090,; $135-$162) in Lutz is a worthy splurge. It hosts the Champions Tour in April, where Tom Watson defends and after 2 p.m., you can tackle its myriad bunkers, lakes and wildly contoured greens for $99.      

Ask Travelin' Joe

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


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