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When it comes to Canadian golf, there are a number of wonderful courses. When it comes to great golf at a luxury five star resort, a must course to play is The Ridge at Manitou while on a Canadian vacation at The Inn at Manitou. Located in McKellar, Ontario Canada, two hours north of Toronto on the unspoiled shores Lake Manitouwabing, The Inn was founded by Sheila Wise and her husband 35 years ago. Today, The Inn, a charming, eclectic, warm and hospitable resort with 34 luxurious guest rooms, is operated and managed by Mrs. Wise and her daughter, Jordanna Lipson. The Inn has been described by AAA’s Home and Away travel magazine this way…“The Inn at Manitou provides an elegant retreat tucked away along the shores of crystal-clear Lake Manitouwabing. It is a unique blend of sophistication and simplicity that has an added luxury of a most-secluded location.” As you check in you are greeted with a glass of champagne, taken on a familiarization tour of The Inn, and escorted to your spacious Jr. Suite overlooking the lake or your deluxe room overlooking the tennis courts. A top rated member of the distinguished Paris based Relais & Chateau Association since 1986, The Inn’s staff of 11 international chefs prepares delicious contemporary French cuisine which is served by a mostly European staff in either the outdoor patio or The Inn’s white table cloth dining room. We met a number of the 70 members of the international staff, most of whom have hospitality and culinary school backgrounds. We met staff members from France, England, Scotland, Austria, Venezuela, Ireland, Viet Nam, Indonesia, New Zealand the U.S. and Canada. All were bright, enthusiastic and well skilled in their roles as goodwill ambassadors for both their countries and The Inn. There is plenty to keep you busy at The Inn. Besides exquisite meals in a most relaxed atmosphere, spectacular scenery, massages in the Spa, yoga, tennis on four hard courts and four clay courts, afternoon tea on the tree shaded patio, cruises on the lake, workouts in the fitness center, a swim in the outdoor heated pool, you can enjoy golf at the nearby exclusive private golf course, The Ridge. The Ridge was named Ontario’s Best New Course in 2005 and the best new Canadian golf course in 2006 by Golf Digest. An exclusive private club, The Ridge offers guests of The Inn at Manitou the opportunity to play one of Canada’s finest courses. At nearly 7000 yards from the black tees and 6300 yards from the member’s tees, the highly scenic course winds its way through a forest of white pines, maples, and century-old hemlocks. Course architect Thomas McBroom called his work “an immersion into the landscape,” and so it is. When you play The Ridge, you’ll need to bring a polished game as a smooth accurate touch is just as important as a “grip it and rip it” approach. In 2007 Golf Digest writer Ron Whitten said “The Ridge is more about position and finesse than brute ball bashing.” Picture in your mind fairways with granite outcroppings, multiple left and right doglegs, strategically placed fairway and greenside bunkers, meandering water on five holes, and subtle undulating greens. With these pictures in your mind’s eye, you’ll understand Whitten’s comment and the subtleties of The Ridge at Manitou. Each and every hole at The Ridge is challenging even though the fairways are wide and receptive. However, hit an errant tee or fairway shot and you’ll find yourself looking for your ball on grassy knolls, in stream-fed wetlands or in the lush forest. The challenging Par 3’s average 199 yards from the tips. The Par 4’s range from the short 306-yard 2nd hole to the lengthy 453-yard 8th hole. The Par5’s, including the downhill 18th hole, The Ridge’s signature hole, are 487, 503, 520 and 578 yards in length. My favorite hole was the downhill Par 5 18th. While just 503 yards from the black tees, it required a well-placed tee shot to a fairway that doglegged left around pines and outcroppings. Having survived that test, I was challenged with a second shot over a bush-covered ravine to a carpet-like fairway that led downhill to the green. Fortunately, my second shot was also successful. I stopped for a moment before my third shot to view one of the prettiest “Kodak Moments” in golf… Lake Manitouwabing with its sky blue water shimmering in the sunlight just yards behind the green. One of The Ridge’s many well-manicured green side bunkers captured my third shot. My feeble attempt at a sandy-birdie landed 25 feet from the pin. I two putted, recorded my bogey, and headed to the inviting stone and pine clubhouse for a relaxing moment and a bet settling libation with my playing partner and long time Canadian friend, Gord Kidder. My day golfing at The Ridge at Manitou had been a true walk in the park as my military style golf…left, right, left, right…gave me an opportunity to traipse though the very lovely quiet and scenic Canadian landscape. My score didn’t reflect my enjoyment of the day but I came back to Southern California vowing to return to The Inn at Manitou and The Ridge at Manitou. When you combine the opportunity to play The Ridge at Manitou while staying at the five-star The Inn at Manitou, you have the makings of a perfectly relaxed all-inclusive golf, spa, lake, tennis, swimming and dining vacation. Open mid-May through mid-October, The Inn at Manitou and The Ridge atManitou combine for a wonderful five star Canadian golfing experience. For information on The Ridge at Manitou, including a view of each hole, visit www.ridgeatmanitou.com. For details about The Inn at Manitou, including photos of accommodations, sample menus and details on spa, golf, and tennis packages, visit www.manitou-online.com, or call 1-800-571-8818.
Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable. These are words that renowned Scottish golf champion, course designer and club maker Old Tom Morris most likely would have uttered if he had accompanied me on a recent tour of TaylorMade Golf in Carlsbad. I’m sure of this because these are the words that I, and others on our behind the scenes tour uttered after viewing the advances in golf club technology that is now an every day occurrence at TaylorMade. In Morris’ day, in the mid 1800’s, golf clubs were almost that, clubs, and balls were made of pressed tar and feathers. Today, thanks to R & D teams at TaylorMade, their golf clubs and balls are made using the latest in highly sophisticated laser and computer technology, technology that can dramatically help the average golfer improve his or her game. As a left-handed golfer who could barely find a golf course or golf shop with left handed clubs when I was beginning to play, I was blown away at what I saw on the tour given by TaylorMade’s San Diego Sales Representative Tom Kroll. A two-time US Amateur and three-time Mid-Amateur and U.S. Publinx competitor, and a former Nike and Canadian tour player, Kroll is a 20-year employee of TaylorMade. His experience at TaylorMade, including nine years in R & D, marketing, and sales, made him an ideal guide. Tom took our group through every step of golf club production and introduced us to technology that is absolutely state of the art. From the detailed fitting of shafts, grips and club heads, to MATT, the Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade, to The Kingdom, where tour professionals’ swings are analyzed and clubs are tailored to their swing patterns, to the private driving range where clubs are tested, the technology was overwhelming. In 1979 when TaylorMade founder Gary Adams started TaylorMade by taking a $24,000 loan on his McHenry, Illinois home, he wanted to tailor make golf products for better players, thus the name TaylorMade. He believed the two-piece balls of the day were more than a passing fad and that two-piece balls performed better off irons than off woods. Because of this, he was inspired to created a wood made out of metal. He leased a 6,000 square foot building, and with two other employees, began production of TaylorMade’s first product, a 12-degree driver with a revolutionary head cast of stainless steel. Adams’ vision was also to make a complete line of superior golf clubs that outperformed all others. Based upon the fact that TaylorMade Drivers, Fairway Woods, and Hybrids have been #1 on the PGA Tour since 2001, and TaylorMade irons have been #2 on the tour during this period, it is safe to say that Adams’ vision has become a reality. TaylorMade has geared its sales around the philosophy known as “The Pyramid of Influence”. Their belief, which seems to have proved quite successful, is that there is a natural tendency to think that if the world’s best golfers play TaylorMade, amateurs will follow suit. This certainly has been the case. Since pro Ron Streck won the Houston Open in 1981 using a TaylorMade driver, giving TaylorMade its first PGA Tour event victory, sales have risen from $1.2 million to more than $1 Billion in 2006. Reviewing TaylorMade’s achievements is like reading from a history book about the advancement in golf technology. From the introduction of the first metal wood in 1979, to the introduction of the moveable weighted driver heads in 2005, TaylorMade has been a leader in innovative golf technology. According to Kroll, “much of the success at TaylorMade is because key management personnel are all golfers. We play golf, we are passionate about golf, we live golf”. Kroll also states TaylorMade is successful because “although we are huge, we are nimble. We listen to our customers, and use our technological skills to react to their needs. We are the technology leader. Our competitors react to us in all areas…clubs, apparel, bags and shoes.” Technological skills have helped TaylorMade make quite a name in the golf industry since moving to Carlsbad in 1983. In 1985 an average of 44% of the field at PGA Tour events played a TaylorMade metalwood. In 1986 their metalwoods ranked No. 1 on the PGA Tour and their drivers ranked No. 1 in usage among U.S. consumers. In 1988 the winner of the U.S. Open used a Burner driver, the first time a TaylorMade metalwood was used to win a Major Championship. Also in 1988 TaylorMade metalwoods were played by more pros on the PGA Tour than any other brand. In 1989 sales reached $150 million and their consumer market share jumped to nearly 34%. In 1993 PGA Tour players won five tournaments using TaylorMade drivers, finished second 12 times and third 17 times. In 1994 the winner of the Masters used a TaylorMade driver equipped with a prototype shaft and head, the first time a metalwood driver was used to win at Augusta; the shaft was later introduced as the Bubble Shaft. In 1996 TaylorMade Tour Staff Professional Tom Lehman used the Ti Bubble to win the British Open and the TOUR Championship, and finished the year as the PGA Tour’s leading money winner, and the PGA Tour Player of the Year. In 1998, the year TaylorMade became a wholly owned subsidiary of adidas Salomon AG, it introduced TaylorMade Kids Clubs, making TaylorMade the first major golf equipment manufacturer to offer clubs engineered specifically for kids. In 2000 the TaylorMade 300 Series of drivers became the No. 1 driver on the PGA Tour, while still a prototype. In 2002 the new R500 Series of drivers introduced Inverted Cone Technology, a TaylorMade innovation that expanded the size of the COR zone, delivering consistently longer tee shots. In 2004, the R500 Series was named Driver of the Year in Golf Digest’s 2004 Equipment review, and TaylorMade drivers ranked No. 1 at every PGA Tour Event during the year. In 2006 the r7425 made its debut on tour and was the No. 1 Driver Model the same week at the seasons opening event, a feat never before seen on tour. As to the future, Kroll sees the American golfing public, regardless of age or skill level, becoming more technology savvy which will mean more knowledgeable consumers, consumers that will be cognizant of TaylorMade’s leadership in technology. Gary Adams, created a WOW when he developed the first metal wood. If he were alive today he would be pleased that his courage to do something so radically different in golf technology has not only continued but has encouraged TaylorMade to continue to bring products to the market place that are new and innovative. If Old Tom Morris were with us today, I’m he would be looking at TaylorMade’s technology, inspired and encouraged by Adams, and would be saying Incredible, Amazing, Unbelievable.
With 314 days of sun a year, and over 60 golf courses, it is no wonder that Scottsdale, Arizona has become such a mecca for golf enthusiasts and sun worshippers. Since my first trip there some 40 years ago, Scottsdale has grown by leaps and bounds to become one of the West’s most highly sophisticated business and vacation playgrounds. Today’s Scottsdale, which stretches some 33 miles from north to south, has it all…terrific golf courses, wonderful accommodations, restaurants to please any palate, shopping galore, a vibrant art district, and the Scottsdale Trolley, a Free shuttle which operates seven days a week providing access to parks, recreation, and shopping for vacationers and locals alike. Along with its nearby neighbors, Carefree, Fountain Hills, Cave Creek and Paradise Valley, Scottsdale is no long just a suburb of Phoenix. It is a much sought out destination by those seeking a restful yet activity oriented locale for a vacation or business conference. As a golfer and golf writer, when it comes to vacations, my interests lean toward hitting a little white dimpled ball. I love the challenge of trying to hit the middle of a lush green fairway, drive over babbling brooks or areas of natural grass. I love to chip to undulating greens while trying to avoid the sometimes fluffy, sometimes gritty sand bunkers that are strategically placed in fairways and around the greens. I also love to putt on a wide variety of greens with their sometimes subtle, sometimes draconian breaks. The courses in and around Scottsdale offer all these challenges. When in Scottsdale recently, I had the opportunity to try my skills against three beautifully manicured, strategically designed, and immensely enjoyable courses, Legend Trail Golf Club in Scottsdale, the Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa in Fort McDowell and Boulders South in Carefree. These three extremely scenic, challenging but fair golf courses are all within minutes of the newly remodeled Xona Resort Suites, an all suite resort where we stayed in North Scottsdale. The Xona, which offers very comfortable one, two and three bedroom suites, is a great retreat for a couple, a family, a group of golfers or a company business conference. All were in attendance during our stay. As a member of the Annual Scottsdale Media Classic, I enjoyed most of our meals in either The Pavilion, the Xona resort's large banquet room or around one of the four swimming pools on the property. We did eat one night in the resort's Asada restaurant, a Sonoran Grill serving fresh fish, seafood, steaks, chops and poultry grilled or smoked and finished on the grill. We not only enjoyed the southwestern style cooking but also the casual atmosphere and the Arizona earth tone decor of Asada. It was warm and inviting place after a tough day of golf. The first day of the Media Classic, I played golf at the Legend Trail Golf Club with three of the more than 90 golf writers from the US, Canada, the UK and the Czech Republic who were present for the four day event. We played from the Silver tees at 6400 yards, second longest of the five tees. Since I am a military type player...left, right, left, right, left...I got to see quite a bit of the course. Course architect Rees Jones designed a course that, depending on the tees that are used, is challenging and playable for both scratch players and rank amateurs. The format for the first day of the three-day Media Classic was a Shamble. We took the best drive on each hole then played our own ball and scored the two best net scores of our foursome. With our handicaps, we came home with a net 9 under par, good enough for a tie for first in our bracket. Although score was important, the fun we had meandering through the scenic natural environment and admiring the Sonoran Desert landscape was the thing that had us really excited and pleased about our round. The wide fairways of summer bermuda grass were plush with over seeded rye grass when we played. Surprisingly, our foursome's favorite hole was the only hole on the course with water. We avoided the water which bordered the left side of the fairway for a good 200 yards, stayed out of the strategically placed fairway and greenside bunkers, carved our shots from right to left on the doglegged fairway and walked away with two pars on the 475 yard par 5, the course's number three rated handicap hole. It was a good hole and a good day. Following golf we headed to the driving range to watch a demonstration by PING professional PGA Pro Bubba Watson, the tour's long-drive leader the past three years. It was easy to see why Bubba has led the tour in long drives. With a tempo and flexibility that were just like amateurs read about in Golf Digest, Bubba's drives raced into the atmosphere like bullets shot from a rifle. The ooohs and aaahs from the assembled crowd were constant as Bubba's 300 to 400 yard drives rocketed off his pink-shafted PING driver high into the light blue cloudless sky. Not only is Bubba a great golfer, he truly appears to be a squared away, down to earth person with a good understanding of his abilities and how fortunate he is to make a living playing and enjoying golf. After watching and hearing him, it seemed to be the consensus of those in attendance that he will becomes a top flight player on the tour. We all hope that is the case as he is fine golfer, an excellent representative for PING and seems to be a true Southern gentleman. The second day of the three-day Media Classic I teamed with a journalist from Toronto. We played a two-man scramble and scramble we did. We hooked and sliced our way around Fort McDowell's We-Ko-Pa's par 71 Saguaro course. Course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw would have been chagrined to watch us as we hit balls into the cactus decorated desert, traipsed through dry river washes, and three putted a few of the beautiful undulating two-tiered greens. Although our golf left a great deal to be desired, the breathtaking views from almost every hole of the mountain ranges and the vast Sonoran Desert valley made up for our lack of skill. The Saguaro course, which opened in January 2008, joined We-Ko-Pa’s Cholla course which opened in December 2001. Both courses yield dramatic and "natural" views of the surrounding mountain ranges. They are both definitely challenging whether played from the tips that extend out to 7,225 yards on the Cholla course and 6,996 yards on the Saguaro, or the forward tees at 5,289 and 5,061 yards respectively. Both courses have won numerous awards since opening including recognition in 2008 as Golf Digest's #1 and #2 ranked Best Public Access Courses in Arizona. When you play either or both, you will notice one of the somewhat unique features is that there are no residences on the course...and we are told...never will be. Pure, wonderful, scenic golf. My favorite Saguaro hole was the 4th, a long, long, long 607-yard Par 5. I enjoyed it not only because it was long, but because it had elevation changes, lush rolling fairways and lots of risk and reward options. My partner and I scrambled well, managed a "Par 6" and were proud of it. The third day of golf was played at Boulders South, one of two courses at The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa in Carefree. Having played there once before, I was looking forward to returning to what I remembered was a stunning desert course. I wasn't disappointed. The golf course was in exquisite shape and the sight of the 12 million year old boulder formations that dot the course was once again amazing. Tall and rounded from millions of years of weathering, these multi-shaped giants stood guard as we attacked the course. We played as individuals and played we did. From tee to green I dodged from left to right, from the edge of the desert, to and from bunkers of soft beach like sand, from behind small and large Saguaro cactus. I played as if I were dodging fighters who were intent on strafing me right out of existence. It wasn't the course, it was my golf. I did manage to right the ship so to speak and made four pars and a birdie on the last six holes. Besides being a gorgeous course, kept in immaculate shape, The Boulders South and its companion course, Boulders North, offer interesting holes of varying length, elevation, and degrees of difficult. Boulders South also offers one of the more unusual back to back holes combinations I have ever played on a championship course...two par 3's in a row. The 15th is 104 to 151 yards depending on which tee is used. The 16th is 141 to 227 yards. I will never forget the 16th because I came within inches of a hole-in-one that would have won me a seven night cruise on Royal Caribbean. As the last one in our foursome to tee off, I hit a three wood that moved from right to left, landed on the green, rolled toward the cup on the lower tier of the green and disappeared. As I and my fellow golfers began to shout and jump around, the ball came back into sight and stopped three feet past the pin. It had disappeared from view because of the undulation in the green. Disappointed but undaunted, I sank the putt for a birdie and put the idea of a free seven night Caribbean cruise out of my mind. Actually, when I came to my senses I was a bit relieved as I realized a hole-in-one would have meant free drinks for nearly 100 thirsty golf writers. The Scottsdale area, with all its sunshine and terrific golf courses, is a true paradise for golfers and sun lovers. As Mikey used to say in the TV commercials..."Try It, You'll Like It".
Gene Bates, Scott Miller, John Harbottle, III. Not names that jump out at you. Not names the average golfer is familiar with unless that average golfer happens to be knowledgeable about golf course architects. These three men may not even know each other but they will forever have their names linked together in my mind following my recent golf outing to Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. Bates, Miller and Harbottle are the golf architects of three of the Northwest’s finest golf courses…Circling Raven in Worley, Idaho, The Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort course in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Washington. Bates, Miller and Harbottle have designed courses that should be on everyone’s “Must Play” list. Although they are considerably different, all three are extremely scenic and all three provide a good test of golf for golfers of all skill levels. Gene Bates, who designed Circling Raven, is no newcomer to course design. His twenty-nine year background in golf course design includes 160 projects, five years with the Jack Nicklaus Design Group, and 15 designs in partnership with PGA Pro Fred Couples. His Circling Raven course, which is owned and operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, has received numerous awards since it opened in 2003. It was named to Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play” in 2008-2009, No. 1 in Golfweek’s “America’s Courses You Can Play” by state in 2009, and voted one of Golf Digest’s America’s Greatest 100 Public Courses for 2009-2010. Circling Raven’s slogan, “As Nature Intended” is right on. Natural scenic beauty abounds when playing “The Raven” as the course meanders through woodlands, natural grasses and wetlands. Rolling terrain and strategically placed fairway and greenside bunkers provide for challenging golf shots from both the tee and fairway. Depending on which of the five sets of tees is played, the length of the par 72 championship course ranges from 4708 yards to 7189 yards. One of my favorite holes was the Par 4, 8th hole, a 339-yard beauty from the whites. Looking at the view from the tee, it was easy to forget the stresses of our fast paced society. The powder blue sky, the stately green pines on both sides of the sloping fairway, and the long line of manicured bunkers, which flowed gracefully toward the green, took my thoughts away from my golf game. I hooked my left-handed tee shot into the environmentally sensitive forest area that runs from tee to green but managed a “second ball par” and thought…“Wow, what a great hole”. Another of my favorite holes was the 17th, a par 5 that offers challenges from tee to green. The course’s only lake lies between the tee and the fairway. Trees guard the ample fairway on both sides of the lengthy 559-yard hole. A well hidden creek flows the length of the hole on the right side of the fairway. Multiple fairway and greenside bunkers beckon to errant shots as you approach the small sloping green. All these obstacles make 17 a very challenging hole. My unexpected par made me a happy camper. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has done a wonderful job of bringing golf to their reservation and the tiny town of Worley, 45 minutes from downtown Spokane, Washington. In building Circling Raven and the nearby 202-room Western style Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel; the tribe has made Worley a destination location. Expansion plans are underway to add two additional hotel wings, a 15,000 square foot spa, and an upscale steak house. According to tribal member David Lasarte-Meeks, who is the Resort CEO, “the amenities we’re going to offer will match or surpass any we currently know of in the Pacific Northwest. The Spa will be worldclass, and the new hotel wings will provide every comfort and luxury of a five-star property”. When completed, the steak house will add another dimension to the already popular Twisted Earth Grill, High Mountain Buffet and Sweetwater Café restaurants which offer an abundant assortment of breakfast, lunch and dinner dining options for golfers and non-golfers alike. Fifty short minutes from Worley, Circling Raven, and the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel you’ll find the picturesque town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, home of the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort and world’s only moveable floating island green. Resort founder Duane Hagadone turned an old sawmill site into one of the world’s finest resorts, hired Scott Miller to design a course to be remembered… and as the saying goes…“The rest is history”. The famed island green at the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort course has been pictured in golf magazines all over the world. It is unique in every sense of the word. It’s 15,000,000 pounds, covers 15,000 square feet, and is moved daily through Lake Coeur d’Alene’s sky blue water via a one-inch cabled connected to electric winches in the substructure of the green. It plays from 95 to 218 yards depending upon where it is positioned and the tee that is played. Whether you have a successful shot across the water to the green, or send your ball into Lake Coeur d’Alene, you are motored to and from the green via an electric powered boat and given a certificate designating your score on this unique and magnificent hole. Scott Miller’s fame as the course architect is usually centered around the island green. However, the other 17 holes are worthy of praise also. Each and every hole has a view of the lake. Each and every hole is manicured to perfection and each and every hole is its own scenic beauty. Before you play the course don’t be fooled by its 6309-yard length. It plays tough if you try to overpower it. Think strategically placed shots to wide open fairways so you will keep clear of the trees that line almost every fairway. Stay out of the bunkers, the lake, the streams and listen to your caddy. Each foursome has a uniformed caddy who is well trained, will run like a deer to find your ball, knows distances and breaks, and is a godsend to have as a mentor. When you play the course, you will drive luxury golf carts with tilt steering wheels, tee dispensers, club and ball washers, heated seats, and beverage coolers filled with ice and water. Combine these features with the beauty of the course, its thousands of brightly colored flowers, its manicured fairways with no rough in sight, its lake views from every hole, and the truly spectacular moveable floating island green, and you’ll be sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hollywood movie star turned California Governor, when you say…“I’ll be back”. John Harbottle, III is the third architect I will always remember following my golf trip to Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. He is the architect of the newly opened Palouse Ridge Golf Club on the campus of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. The Palouse Region, full of rolling hills full of acres and acres of wheat, provided a wonderful setting for the new golf course home of the WSU Cougar golf team. Because of the many sloping fairways, the environmentally sensitive areas, and the abundance of bunkers on each hole, knowing correct distances is of utmost importance when playing Palouse Ridge. If you want to score well on Harbottle’s beautifully designed course, make sure to get a yardage book when checking in at the pro shop before your round. In addition to correct distances and suggested landing areas, it will also provide you with interesting background information about the course, the area, and Washington State’s role in developing and maintaining the course. Played from the tips at 7308 yards, Palouse Ridge may prove to be a difficult course for mid and high handicap amateurs as length and accuracy are of prime importance. As someone who sprays the ball a great deal, particularly off the tees, I decided to play from the Grey Tees, the middle of the five sets of tees. From the Greys, I found the 6172-yard par 72 course challenging but fair. Palouse Ridge’s five Par 3’s range from 119 to 184 yards but don’t let the short distances fool you. All take skilled shots to sloping greens to make birdies a possibility. At 307 to 414 yards, the Par 4’s also offer challenges. The drivable 307-yard 15th hole sets up a classic risk/reward opportunity. The three bunkers in middle of the fairway are to be avoided at all costs if a birdie or par is your goal. The longest Par 4, the 414-yard third hole is handicapped No. 3 and for good reason. Accuracy off the tee is key as right side fairway bunkers narrow the landing area and the greenside bunkers to the left of the green dictate a long and accurate approach shot to the right side of the green. To my way of thinking, a par on this hole is an achievement. The Par 5’s average an even 500 yards with the shortest being 475 yards and the longest 527 yards. An unusual but enjoyable aspect of Palouse Ridge’s design is that the final two holes are both Par 5’s. When playing Palouse Ridge, you will experience closeness with the natural terrain and panoramic views of the beautiful countryside. To me, the following quote from the yardage book sums it up, “throughout your round, you will be aware of the course’s natural setting.Native areas will influence your strategy of play. Great care has been taken to incorporate features that will give the course a true Palouse feel”. Gene Bates, Scott Miller and John Harbottle, III worked diligently to capture the Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington region’s natural scenic beauty when they designed Circling Raven, The Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort course and Palouse Ridge Golf Club. Bates’ Circling Raven, Miller’s Coeur d’Alene course and Harbottle’s Palouse Ridge are three courses that should be included in your golfing itinerary when visiting Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. They are challenging, fun, extremely scenic and well designed by three very talented golf course architects.
Pro-Am golf events at most PGA, LPGA and Nationwide golf tournaments generally consist of introductory handshakes on the first tee between a pro and his or her amateur playing partners, and a handshake and tip of the cap after the last putt is dropped on the 18th hole.
Pro-Ams are designed to give the average amateur golfer the opportunity to meet professional players, see tremendous golf shots, and play golf while contributing to a local worthwhile charity. Pro-Am events are ways local host committees raise money to help cover tournament expenses. Most are quite expensive one-day events.
The Hassan II Golf Trophy golf tournament, held yearly on the Royal Dar Es-Salam’s Red Course in Rabat, Morocco’s European-styled capital, also includes a Pro-AM event. However, it is much more than a one-day event. It has been called “The Ultimate Pro-Am” as participants take part in ten days of activities in conjunction with the tournament.
Begun 36 years ago as a result of a friendship developed between golf legend Billy Casper and Hassan II, the now deceased King of Morocco, the Hassan II Golf Trophy is a marvelous event for both professional and amateur players from all over the world. This past year 24 professionals from 17 countries competed as did amateurs from the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Winners of previous tournaments read like a Who’s Who of Golf and this past year’s winner was no exception as South Africa’s Ernie Els joined the list of top professionals who have won the tournament title. Els’s scored a two stroke victory over Sweden’s Johan Edfors with a 17 under par score on Royal Dar Es-Salam’s lengthy 7000 yard Red Course. Els joins an international elite group of golfers including Casper, Lee Trevino, Payne Stewart and David Toms of the US; Vijay Singh of Fiji; Colin Montgomerie of Scotland; Peter Townsend and Roger Chapman of England; and 2007 winner, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, as a champion of this international tournament.
Laurie Davies of England took top honors in the women’s Lalla Meryem Cup, held in conjunction with the Hassan II Golf Trophy, by beating an all-star group of 13 women professionals from seven different countries. Davies won with a seven under score on Royal Dar Es-Salam’s 6200-yard Blue Course. She bested Tania Elosegui of Spain by one stroke to take home her 70th international golfing victory.
The 2008 “Ultimate Pro-Am” was more than just golf. Way more. It was ten days full of of wonderfully organized golf and activities. An incredible opportunity to speak with professional and amateur golfers from all over the world and an opportunity to meet Moroccans, learn about their intriguing culture, taste palate pleasing food, and sightsee and shop in the centuries-old souks in the medinas of Marrakech and Rabat.
It was an opportunity to take a 4-wheel off-road tour into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains; to drive through Berber villages filled with smiling children. It was lunches and dinners with golf legend Billy Casper, his wife Shirley, and their son Bob, co-host of the weekly golf show Real Golf Radio. It was an opportunity to trade golf stories with other members of our group who had flown in from Dubai, New York and California to play in the men’s and women’s tournaments.
While in Marrakech, it was relishing the exquisite lunch served at the Kasbah Agafay, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It was the dining at Ksar Char-Bagh, a private palace inspired by 14th century Moorish architecture and member of Relais & Chateaux It was dinner at Restaurant Tanjia where belly dancers entertained while we dined on traditional Moroccan delicacies.
In Rabat, our group was privileged to spend an evening at the home of Mohamed El Gaharvi, one of Rabat’s leading rug merchants. What an evening. We conversed with Mohamed and his family in their lovely home filled with exquisite Moroccan and Chinese rugs, gorgeous lamps, clocks and family photos. We enjoyed home cooked chicken pastilla, a large elegantly shaped pie of delicately blended layers of flaky philo pastry, eggs, almond paste, and ground chicken, topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. We ate mouth watering bites of lamb shoulder covered with tender slices of squash, turnips, carrots, and pumpkin served on a bed of couscous topped with raisins and onions and sprinkled with cinnamon. It was a wonderful experience.
Our hotels in Morocco were distinctly different as were the cities of Marrakech and Rabat. The Hotel Sofitel in Marrakech had the feeling of old Morocco with light pastel colored orange walls, tiled floors, carved wooden doors and bellmen dressed in traditional Moroccan attire. The Hilton in Rabat reflected more of the European flavor of Morocco’s capital. The staffs at both hotels
were highly trained, extremely courteous and in most cases totally able to decipher the needs of our American group who spoke little French and no Arabic.
The pairings party at which the 24 male professionals and 13 lady professionals were presented, and the gala black-tie dinner for nearly 700 guests which was presided over by His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, were held in the main banquet room at the Hilton. At the pairings party, Billy Casper personally greeted each professional golfer. The respect shown him was overwhelming, as well it should be. Casper’s golf record includes 80 wins on five continents including 51 wins on the PGA Tour, and nine on the then Senior Tour. He won the US Open twice and donned the famed Green Jacket as Masters Champion once at Augusta National. He also played on nine Ryder Cup teams, was Captain once, and holds the record for most wins by an American in Ryder Cup competition.
Casper’s warm personal relationship with the Royal family, members of the Royal Society of Golf of Morocco, and the people of Morocco, was quite evident during our 10-day sojourn. At a private reception for the American amateurs and the Casper family held at the residence of US Ambassador Thomas Riley, Ambassador Riley praised Casper, his relationship with the Royal family, his 65 trips to Morocco since first meeting with KingHassan II in 1968, and his 40-year tenure as “Goodwill Ambassador to Morocco”.
By being with him daily and watching him interact with Moroccan friends new and old, it was obvious to us how much Casper has done to promote positive relations over the years between the US and Morocco. Watching the reverence for Casper among the professional golfers as he greeted them at the pairing party, on the course, and in the player’s dining area was truly inspiring.
During the tournament we were able to meet and speak with many of the competing professionals, both men and women. The openness of the tournament allowed me to converse with tournament winners Ernie Els and Laura Davies, four time European Tour winner Paul McGinley of Ireland, Marcel Siem, who teamed with Bernard Langer to win the World Cup for Germany in 2006, Faycal Serghini, Morocco’s number one pro, Johan Edfors, this year’s 2nd place winner from Sweden, women’s runner-up Tania Elosequi of Spain and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc of France, team captain of the winning team in the ladies Friendship Cup for female guests and sponsors of the tournaments.
During our stay in Rabat, I played Royal Dar Es-Salam’s championship Blue Course, the nine-hole Green Course, and walked with a number of pros on the Red Course. All three courses were tree-lined parkland styled courses. All were well bunkered with heavy red clay sand, much different than the light white sand we are accustomed to in the US. The layout and terrain of the three courses reminded me a great deal of my home course, Shadowridge Country Club in Vista, California.
My favorite holes on the Red Course were the 9th hole, a difficult par 3 which required a 200-yard shot to the green over a duck filled lake, and the 11th hole, a par 4 with Roman columns sitting elegantly in the rough to the left of the fairway. Rains during the three weeks prior to the tournament soften the greens and allowed the pros to go for the pin on most occasions although wicked pin placements provided adequate challenge and demanded exacting shots.
Morocco’s geography and climate are similar to my home state of California. It has lovely sand beaches on its West Coast, the spectacular Atlas Mountains in the middle of the country, the Sahara desert to the East and flat agricultural land for raising fruits and vegetables throughout the country. Morocco, a country that should be on everyone’s “To Visit List”, was the first country to recognize Washington’s new government in the late 1700’ and has been a friend of the US ever since.
A great way to visit Morocco is to participate as a golfer or non-golfer in “The Ultimate Pro-Am”. For more information about Morocco, visit www.Morocco.com. For information about the Hassan II Golf Trophy or the Lalle Meryem Cup, email Joan Short at email@example.com or Chuck@TheTravelingGuy.com.
Majestic oaks, sprawling sycamores, and towering eucalyptus trees lining lush fairways.Scenic beauty observed from tee to green.Challenging greens conjuring up of visions of three putts.When you play The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort’s Ranch Course, which is open only to guests of the resort and members of the local men’s club, these are images you will enjoy. Opened in 1955, the Ranch Course is part of a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch and full-service resort located in the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley, 35 miles north of Santa Barbara. Golf course architect Billy Bell, Jr. designed the Ranch Course around a barranca that winds through the course and comes in to play on 12 holes. A championship par 72, 6500-yard layout with three sets of tees to accommodate golfers of varying skills, the Ranch Course is challenging yet fun to play. In addition to an abundance of century old trees and acres of unspoiled natural beauty, the course is home to a variety of wildlife. The day I played, black tailed deer wandered nonchalantly across the fairways and numerous hawks glided through cloudless pale blue skies. Playing the course was like taking a leisurely walk through the country, void of life’s daily hustle and bustle. Unusual in its design in that the 9th and 18th holes are both par 3’s, the course’s challenges are many…tight fairways, subtle dog legs, well bunkered sloping greens, and the meandering barranca that seems ever present throughout the course. My favorite holes were #8 and #16. Anytime I par a number one handicap hole it automatically becomes a favorite hole…and the 416-yard par-4 eighth hole is the course’s toughest. My drive was short of the barranca that crosses the fairway 236 yards from the tee. My second shot avoided the outof-bounds behind the green and the bunkers to the right and left of the green. When I coaxed a pitch and run shot to within 10 feet of the pin and sunk my curling double breaker putt, I had my par. The hole immediately became a favorite. The 16th hole, a relatively easy 377-yard tree-lined downhill par-4 was my second favorite. I managed to avoid the large fairway bunker guarding the left side of the fairway but proceeded to hit my second shot into the bunker to the right of the green. Although I bogeyed the hole, because it was one of the most scenic holes on the course, and a doe and two speckled fawns crossed the fairway prior to my second shot, it quickly became my second favorite hole. Home to numerous tournaments including the Southern California Golf Association Senior Amateur, the Ranch Course’s low round record of 63 is held by Johnny Henn who, incredibly, was a freshman at Santa Ynez High School at the time. Other notable scores include a 65 by “Mr. 59” Al Geiberger, and a 65 by now deceased local Santa Ynez Valley golfer Dick Thomas who was 65 at the time. When you finish your round of golf, you will find there are plenty of other things to do at The Alisal. You can swim, kayak, sail or fish in the resort’s 100-acre spring fed Lake Alisal, play tennis, take a horse back ride, lounge by the pool, relax in the Jacuzzi, enjoy a refreshing drink in the lodge’s comfortable western themed bar, or just plain sit and commune with nature. If you do decide to go fishing for blue gill, trout or wide mouth bass in Lake Alisal, be sure and ask the resort’s professional fishing guide Jason Grupp for fishing tips and/or a guided fishing trip. I did and caught four bass in 30 minutes. The Ranch Course reflects the old style course design not found at many of today’s modern courses. When asked what changes he planned for the course in the future, Course Superintendent Dave Rosenstrauch said, “We are going to leave it the way it is. It’s beautiful as is.” Both Head PGA Pro Dave Hartley and I agreed…The Ranch Course at The Alisal is truly beautiful. If time permits, be sure and play The Alisal’s River Course on the outskirts of Solvang just a few minutes away from the resort. Its serene riverside setting offers wide-open fairways with challenging lakes and bunkers. For more information about The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, and its myriad of guest packages and activities, visit www.alisal.com
It wasn’t my usual Saturday morning….up at 6 a.m. to get ready for my 7:30 tee time. It wasn’t going to be 70 degrees. It was going to be cold, 20 degrees with a possible wind chill factor of six degrees. I wasn’t going to wear shorts and a golf shirt. I wasn’t even going to take my golf clubs. I wasn’t in warm Southern California. I was in Brainerd, Minnesota, two and one-half hours north of Minneapolis. I was about to join more than 10,000 other hearty souls in the Brainerd Jaycee’s 16th Annual $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, billed as the world’s largest ice fishing contest. My vocabulary was about to change. Instead of drivers and fairway woods, I was about to learn about ice augers and sonar. Instead of wedges and putters, I was going to speak about bobbers and bait. Instead of 18 holes cut into lush greens, I was going to see 20,000 holes in two-foot thick ice. It was going to be an adventure! Dressed in layer upon layer of clothes, including black long johns from my Squaw Valley skiing days, a white San Diego Padres turtleneck, a brown fleece pullover, a San Jose Sharks teal blue parka, a red jumpsuit, and bright orange ski mask, I looked more like the Abominable Snowman than a golfer. But, I was ready for what I was told would be a “warm” 20-degree day. When the wind came up and the wind chill factor dropped to six degrees, I was very happy that I was bundled up. Along with boots with ice grabbers, my fishing pole, heavy-duty gloves, and my one-day fishing license, I drove to the 250-acre fishing area on Gull Lake’s Hole in Day Bay, site of the tournament Walking onto an ice covered lake for this California born and reared Saturday morning golfer was a new and somewhat scary experience. Fortunately, I was somewhat familiar with my surroundings because the day before I had been given a preview of the lake and the tournament area by local fishing guide, Walleye Dan. He had taken me out on the frozen lake in his heated Sno Bear which was equipped with sonar for reading water depth, a GPS system that showed everything in the lake beneath us, an underwater camera with which we could see fish swimming in the lake, all the fishing gear one would ever need and an all important a beverage container. However, watching cars, trucks and trailers drive out on the ice to the fishing area…that was still quite a surreal experience. To get to the fishing site, I walked between hundreds of red, white and blue American flags proudly lining the entranceway on the ice. As I got closer to the fishing site, I got a whiff of sausages being barbecued on huge portable barbecues. I chatted with men, women and children of all ages dressed in a variety of colorful fishing attire. I saw food vendors cooking their treats; inexpensive and upscale ice houses on display, and smiles everywhere. I knew this was going to be a Saturday I would long remember. Although the actual contest wasn’t to begin until 12:00 Noon following the playing of the Star Spangled banner, I was out on the ice covered lake at 9:00 AM trying to understand why anyone in their right mind would venture out on a 20-degree day to try and catch fish through a salad plate sized hole on an ice-covered lake. Understanding that the first prize for the largest fish was a shiny new Ford 4X4 truck, and the lucky fisherman with the 100th largest fish would win a check for $10,000, I realized there were incentives to fish in the tournament. However, I quickly came to realize that the 150 prizes to be given were really secondary to being a participant and having a fun day in the Jaycee’s fundraiser. Since the closest I had ever come to ice fishing was watching Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon fight over Ann-Margaret in Grumpy Old Men, I decided to watch contestants decided which hole in the ice they would choose from the 20,000 that had been pre-drilled the previous day. Because I was absolutely clueless as what to do, except bait my hook with minnows I didn’t have, I was as helpless as a 30 handicapper trying to compete in the U. S. Open. Fortunately, I was “adopted” by a group of fishermen from Roscoe, South Dakota. Ranging in age from 18 to 70, this delightful group of anglers made up of friends and family members, included a grandfather, son, and grandson. “The Rosconians” (as I dubbed them) immediately saw I was totally flustered and invited me to join their group. Of course, I quickly accepted their generous invitation. I listened to their stories of previous tournaments, how many had been participating since the first tournament in 1991, and how some had never caught a fish. I heard of their love for the outdoors, for family and friends. I watched as they prepared for the contest by rigging their poles and checking the depth of the water with their sonar devices. I even joined them in a beer although I did decline their multiple offers of blackberry, root beer and/or butterscotch schnapps. “The Rosconians” typified to me what I found ice fishing to be all about… fun, friends and family. Today many ice fishermen have heated icehouses that they drive onto Minnesota’s frozen lakes. Inside the fancier ones you’ll find TV’s, bars, propane stoves, card tables and even bunk beds. However, during the three-hour tournament, it was man against nature. No shelters allowed, just man against the elements, as I was told by one veteran ice fisherman, just like the old days.” I was fortunate to be participating on a “warm” sunny day. Evidently in past years, temperatures during the tournament dipped to as low as 20 degrees below zero. At exactly 12 noon the contest began, not with a normal charity golf tournament shotgun start, but with a cannon blast. I can just imagine what it must have been like under the ice as the fish swam quietly about and then, following a large boom, more than 10,000 baited hooks dropped through the ice. The fish must have been hungry because within seconds lucky fishermen began to form a more than 100-yard line at the weigh-in shed to get their catch officially weighed. When the cannon blasted again at 3:00 PM, signaling the end of the tournament, the first prize Ford 4X4 went to an angler who landed a 4.91 pound Walleye, which according to a Brainerd native, is “the best eating fish in the world”. The 100th largest fish, which garnered the $10,000 check, was also a Walleye, weighing in at .8 of a pound. The last place finisher won a Suzuki ATV with a .58-pound Perch. Other prizes, placed randomly among the top 150 places included cash, ice augers, fish locators, and underwater cameras. The perch I caught was too small to be included in the largest 150 fish caught. So, like so many of my Saturday morning golf games, I contributed but didn’t win a prize. However, I came home realizing that my prize was being able to be part of the Brainerd Jaycee’s $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, a truly fun fundraiser. Over the years the Brainerd Jaycee’s have raised nearly two million dollars for local charities. You can join in the fun and participate in the 17th annual world’s largest ice fishing tournament on January 26, 2008.
Phoenix/Scottsdale Area Ranks High for Winter Golf Vacations Whenever a freezing cold wind blows and rain or snow falls, do you immediately think of vacationing in some sunny climate where golf is a year round sport? Even though I live in Southern California where our winters are mild, there are times when I have these thoughts and immediately Arizona sunshine and golf come to mind. No matter where you live in the US, a Phoenix/Scottsdale golf vacation is just hours away. With over 80 golf courses in the immediate area, and an abundance of outstanding hotels and restaurants to fit any budget, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area is a delightful locale for a fun winter vacation. Even though it is the fourth largest city in the US, Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, along with the close-by Fort McDowell Yavapai Indian Nation, offer a relaxed atmosphere where warm sunny days and bright blue skies are the norm during the winter months. On my last winter trip to "The Valley of the Sun", I had the opportunity to play four truly wonderful desert courses, the Arizona State University Karsten course; Eagle Mountain Golf Club in Fountain Hills; Grayhawk, the former home of the Champion Tour's Fry's.com Open; and TPC Scottsdale, where nearly 500,000 spectators gather yearly for the PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open called "The Greatest Party on Grass". These four courses were all within a few miles of the Xona Resort Suites in North Scottsdale, headquarters for the Xona Resort Suites Annual Media Golf Classic which I was attending along with nearly 100 golf writers from the US, Canada and Europe. Located on 14 spacious acres, the "Xona" with one, two and four bedroom suites, four sparkling pools, and a truly professional and helpful staff, offered a welcome retreat for our group of golf writers and for the other leisure and business travelers staying at the resort. The first course we played was the Arizona State University Karsten Golf Course, a true links-style course designed by famed golf architect Pete Dye. ASU Karsten was named in honor of PING golf equipment founder Karsten Solheim, the largest single cash contributor to the project. Since its opening in 1989 it has been the home course for the ASU men's and women's golf teams which have produced 47 Collegiate Golf All-Americans (21 men and 26 ladies) and nine NCAA team titles (2 men and 7 ladies). Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Wendy Ward, Grace Park and Anna Nordqvist all played their collegiate golf there. Whether you play from the Forward Tees at 4,765 yards, the Regular Tees at 5,671 yards, the Championship Tees at 6,288 yards or the Professional Tees at 7,002 yards, you'll find the course challenging yet fun to play. My favorite hole was the course's signature hole, the Par 3 sixteenth. A whopping 248-yards from the tips, it is bounded on the right by a lake from tee to green. Although I played it from only 175 yards, the hole quickly became a favorite when I hit my left-handed slice out over the water, landed it on the green, and two putted for par. With four sets of tees, ASU Karsten provides variety for golfers of all skill levels. Good golf course management and precise shots are essential as a number of greens are partially hidden and/or well guarded by bunkers and water. Speaking of water, the kidney shaped green on the 398-yard Par 4 eighteenth is also well protected by water. Even with a good drive from the Regular Tees, a very accurate second or third shot is imperative if you are to get near the pin on what is known as one of the toughest finishing holes in Arizona. The second day we played Eagle Mountain Golf Club which winds through some of the natural box canyons, rolling hills and lush desert valleys of the Sonoran Desert. Golf course architect Scott Miller designed Eagle Mountain so that it has spectacular views of challenging holes that play through and around mesquite, palo verde and saguaro cacti. At 6,771 yards, this Par 71 beauty has some of the greatest elevation changes in Arizona golf. It also has undulating fairways and well-bunkered greens which make you continually think about proper club selection. My favorite view was from the 18th tee which rests some 400 feet above the fairway. As I prepared to tee off, I gazed out across the valley at scenic Red Mountain and was once again reminded of another reason why I love the game of golf. Named by the Arizona Republic as the Best New Public Golf Course when it opened in 1996, and touted by Golf World Magazine as one of the Top 50 Public Courses in the Country, Eagle Mountain Golf Club should make your list of "Must Play" courses when you visit Phoenix and its surrounding areas. Our third day we ventured to Grayhawk Golf Club, which offers championship golf on two of the highest rated daily-fee golf courses in the US. Its two courses, Talon and Raptor, designed by former US Open and PGA Champion David Graham and golf course architect Gary Panks, are widely considered two of the finest golf courses in the Valley of the Sun. We played the Talon course which we thoroughly enjoyed. With water on three holes and many greens that are both large and multi-tiered, as well as fairways that are wider and more receptive than they appear, we found the course a pleasure to play. Four sets of tees ranging from 5143 to 6973 yards offer good tests for both low and high handicappers. Each of Talon's holes are named. Since the holes on my home course have only numbers, I was quite intrigued with the names of each of the holes. It was easy to understand the importance of the name of the first hole, Farrview, as it is dedicated to the late Heather Farr, a local LPGA standout and Grayhawk Ambassador. Farr, who died of breast cancer at the early age of 28, is memorialized with a statue showing her holding her picture-perfect follow through. Other hole names I particularly enjoyed, and could easily understand how they were named were Three Sisters, the Par 5 third hole with three deep bunkers short and right of the green; # 13, a drivable Par 4 only 303 yards from the tips named Heaven or Hell because of its risk/reward opportunities; and # 17 the 126-yard Par 3 appropriately named Devil's Drink because an errant tee shot that misses the island green most likely ends up "in the drink". In addition to its great courses, Grayhawk is also known for its impressive pro shop, The Golf Shop and Trading Company, which has been named as one of the top 100 pro shops in the US for the past six years; for Phil's Grill, named after Grayhawk's PGA Touring Ambassador Phil Mickelson; and for the Grayhawk Learning Center originally developed by Peter Kostis and Gary McCord which offers highly personalized golf instruction. TPC Scottsdale, home to the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has been described as "the largest spectator golf event in the world", was the fourth course we played. When we arrived at the course it looked very inviting. It was in immaculate condition, its fairways appeared wide and receptive, and the blue sky overhead was cloudless. I was ready. When I learned that Mark Calcavecchia had once commented, "I trust everything about the course. I trust my reads on the greens. I trust my yardages. Best ever conditions", I became very excited about playing. Realizing these quotes were spoken during a PGA Tour event, I thought I might be disappointed. This was definitely not the case as the course is kept to PGA Tour standards year round. Playing where more than 40 touring pros regularly practice and play was an exhilarating experience. As anticipated, the Stadium course's famed 16th, only 162-yards from the tips, turned out to be one of my favorite holes. I pictured myself being loudly cheered by the more than 25,000 fans who pack the stands surrounding the green during Phoenix Open. Since there were no fans when I hit my tee shot into one of the greenside bunkers, I was not booed which is also the custom during the tournament. My other favorite hole at TPC Scottsdale was the short 332-yard Par 4 seventeenth which has bunkers, desert and water that must be avoided. I found out it is also one of Touring Pro Andrew Magee's favorite holes as he scored a double-eagle hole-in-one there during the 2001 FBR Phoenix Open. His hole-in-one was all the more interesting in that Magee, who was not a long driver, didn't think he could reach the green on which Steve Pate, Gary Nicklaus and Tom Byrum were putting. He teed off and his drive bounced in front of and then onto the green. It rolled past Nicklaus and Pate and caromed off Byrum's putter into the cup. This surprising, amazing and unusual hole-in-one also happened to be the first hole-in-one on a Par 4 in PGA Tour history. When it's cold, rainy or snowing in your hometown, remember the Phoenix/Scottsdale area rates high for winter golf vacations. The more than 80 courses in the area await you. Information on ASU Karsten, Eagle Mountain, Grayhawk and TPC Scottsdale as well as other Arizona courses can be found at www.arizonagolfcourses.com. Xona Resort Suites information can be found on their website, www.xonaresort.com.
Whenever Northern California Golf Courses are discussed, Monterey Peninsula's famed Pebble Beach, San Francisco's Olympic Club, and Napa Valley's Silverado are three that immediately come to mind. It's only natural as they get all the press....Pebble and the Olympic Club for their connection to US Opens, Silverado for its Senior Tour events. Lesser known by far, but just as scenic, challenging and majestic are two courses in the tiny hamlet of Clio, located a leisurely one hour drive north of Lake Tahoe.Clio's two mountain beauties, The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch and The Dragon at Gold Mountain, though different in typography, both offer mountain golf at its finest, as well as an opportunity to retreat from the busy and complicated world we live in here in Southern California. The subject of this issue's article is The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch. Next issue we'll review The Dragon At Gold Mountain. Whitehawk, as it is more commonly known, is a par-71 course from the 6927-yard championship tees. Part of the 956-acre Whitehawk Ranch, the course carries a 72.6 rating with a 133 slope, providing plenty of length and difficulty to challenge low handicappers. Mid to high handicappers can tackle the course from 4816, 5673 or 6457 yards depending on tee selection. No matter which tees are played, the emerald green fairways lead past environmentally sensitive areas full of native grasses and wildflowers. They meander through tall pines, firs, cedars and quaking aspens. They saunter past quiet ponds, free flowing waterfalls and seven rock strewn creeks. As you contemplate your drives, fairway shots, and read the breaks and undulations on even the shortest of putts; you'll relish your surroundings in the pine-scented forests alongside protected marshlands. Whitehawk offers challenging contoured fairways and large greens that grant opportunities for superb pin placements. Correct club selection is a must. Shaping tee shots to narrow rye grass fairways, hitting straight shots from sloping fairways, and playing doglegs and uphill holes, makes for an exciting day on the links. Although Whitehawk has demanding par 3's and par 5's, its signature hole is the driveable 310-yard par-4 ninth hole. Don't let its length fool you. With a creek crossing the fairway at 212 yards out, and a green protected by a pond on the right and bunkers on the left, the risk reward factor is ever present. If you get a chance to meet Matt Cruse, Whitehawk's Group Coordinator, ask him how to play the hole. He says it's his favorite because. "It's the only hole on the course I have ever eagled". An environmentally sensitive course, in 1997 shortly after it opened, Whitehawk earned the California Golf Writer's Environmental Award in recognition of actions and efforts to preserve and protect the environment. Once you play this Mohawk Valley gem, you'll understand why preserving the unspoiled splendor and the natural, beautiful terrain were major factors in the thinking of course architect Dick Bailey. Prepare for your round at Whitehawk by warming up with unlimited range balls on the well-situated practice facilities that feature multi-level grass tees, a large putting green and multiple practice bunkers. After your round, enjoy the scenery with a cold one and a sandwich from the snack bar or head over to The Lodge for cocktails or a scrumptious dinner. If you want to attack the course record, bring your "A" game. Scott Ferrin, former Assistant Pro at the Lahontan Golf Club near Lake Tahoe, holds the record with an outstanding eight under par 63. As a semi-private course, Whitehawk plays host to Whitehawk Ranch homeowners, local residents and visiting golfers from around the world. The pro shop is well equipped, the staff is ready to assist you with your every need, and the course is a scenic beauty and challenge for golfers of every level. As Mikey of cereal ad fame says, "Try It, You'll Like It". One note of caution when planning a golf outing at Whitehawk, be aware that because of its location in the Sierra Nevada snow belt, the course is open only from mid April through mid October. For information on tee times, green fees, tournaments, or lodging in the well-appointed private cabins, or The Lodge at Whitehawk, log on to www.whitehawkgolf.com, or call toll free to 1-(877) 945-6343. For information on home sites, rentals, or homes for purchase, contact Whitehawk Property Services at 1-(530)-836-2021.