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Fifty years ago while managing A & W Root Beer Drive-Ins in my then home state of California, one of the other managers was an Englishman named Neil Jones. Neil, like myself, was a golfer. He spoke with great enthusiasm about his love of living in and playing golf in Bermuda prior to coming to the US. Neil’s enthusiasm for golf in Bermuda stayed with me over the years to the point that visiting and golfing in Bermuda became one of my goals in life. I decided that someday, somehow, I was going to travel to Bermuda to enjoy its scenic beauty and play golf there. As golfers, when we think about golf vacations most of us think not only about destinations and courses, but also about how to get to our chosen destination. As an avid cruise enthusiast with 24 cruises to all parts of the world under my belt, the obvious answer for me when and if I visited Bermuda to play golf was to cruise to Bermuda I reached my goal this year by cruising to Bermuda from New York City on Norwegian Cruise Line’s magnificent BREAKAWAY and playing golf at Port Royal Golf Course, home of the 2013 and 2014 PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The BREAKAWAY, a gorgeous four-star ship built in 2013 was outstanding in every way. Staterooms, bars and restaurants, entertainment, service, and activities for both young and old alike, were terrific. With 18 decks, and just over three and one-half football fields long, it is one of the largest cruise ships in the world. With a 4,028 double occupancy guest capacity and more than 1,600 crew members, it carries more passengers and crew than there are residents in many cities in the US. However, the passengers we spoke with didn’t find it overly crowded. The BREAKAWAY has 27 dining options including The Waterfront which houses outdoor dining areas; 22 bars and clubs, three Broadway shows, a water park with five multi-story water slides, two pools and four hot tubs; a rope course, a rock climbing wall, a spa with views of the ocean, and an abundance of daily activities to keep you busy. For quiet relaxation the ship has cozy corners where you can read a book, play cards or write the always important post cards. And, for those who like to tempt Lady Luck, the BREAKAWAY has a large and well laid out casino with hundreds of slot machines as well as a variety of table games. Dining aboard the BREAKAWAY offered an excellent variety of options. Most room service meals were complimentary as well as meals in The Garden Café and the three main dining rooms, the Manhattan Room, Taste and Savor. Specialty restaurants… Cagney’s Steakhouse, Teppanyaki, Lu Cucina, Le Bistro, Moderno, Shanghai’s, Ocean Blue, Wasabi Sushi, O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub and the Raw Bar had either cover charges or a la carte menus. Casual breakfast, lunch and dinner meals in The Garden Café Buffet on deck 15 all offered a great variety to fit all types of palates. We found dinners in all the main dining rooms to be excellent and were absolutely wowed by the entrees in the specialty restaurants. While on board we experienced The Ice Bar, a unique bar where the temperature stays at 17 degrees Fahrenheit and the specialty vodka drinks are served in ice glasses. While in the bar I received puzzled looks from other passengers, who were decked out in ship supplied hooded parkas, as I wore my Coveted Fagapo Blazer which I won in 2013 at the Annual Fagapo Invitational Golf Tournament in Graeagle, California. Following two and one-half days of leisurely sailing from New York City, the BREAKAWAY docked at Kings’ Wharf in Bermuda at the Royal Navy Dockyard where within minutes, golf, sightseeing, shopping, soft pink sand beaches, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling were awaiting. Bermuda, which is a British Overseas Dependent Territory with significant autonomy, was first discovered in 1503 by Spanish Sea Captain Juan de Bermudez after whom Bermuda was named. Shaped like a fish hook, Bermuda is not just one island but 122 islands connected by bridges and waterways. Its main seven islands are home to a vast majority of its 69,000 residents, scenic bays, outstanding sand beaches, historic sites, shopping opportunities and yes…gentlemen dressed in Bermuda shorts and long socks. Golf was introduced to Bermuda in the late 1800’s by British Army Officers and prior to the expansion of golf in California, Arizona, Florida and other states, Bermuda was the place to golf There are presently nine courses, six private and three public courses owned by the Bermuda government including The Port Royal Golf Course which we played. Designed in 1970 by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and reworked in the past few years by Roger Rulewich, one of the original design team, it is a 6,842-yard beauty, with emerald green fairways and spectacular views of the ocean. It is a challenging course with left and right dog legs and elevated, well bunkered, smooth, fast and undulating TifEagle greens. October 13-15 of this year Port Royal will once again host the PGA Grand Slam of Golf with the winners of the four Majors competing for a pink blazer and the $600,000 top prize in the 1.35 million dollar purse This year’s 36-hole event will pit Master’s Champion Bubba Watson, U.S. Open Champion Martin Kaymer, and British and PGA Champion Rory McIlroy. Since McIlroy won two of the four Majors, former Grand Slam and Fed Ex winner Jim Furyk received an invitation and will compete in this year’s prestigious event. Port Royal’s signature hole, the stunningly scenic and extremely challenging Par 3 235-yard 16th hole, may well decide the winner. From the tips it is a treacherous hole. A highly accurate tee shot will be key when hitting slightly downhill to the narrow green. To the left of the fairway shrub covered cliffs drop off into the shimmering light blue, turquoise and dark blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The right side of the fairway has sloping grass bunkers and rough which will provide awkward stances for chip shots to the green. I can hardly wait to see how the hole is played by the world’s top players. Golf excursions to Port Royal and other Bermuda courses, which include transportation to and from the course of choice and 18 holes of golf with a cart, can be arranged with the PGA pro on board the BREAKAWAY. Scott Perryman, a PGA Professional with 17 years of experience organizing golf excursions, was the pro on our cruise. He gave informative seminars, answered questions, and organized and accompanied golfers to Bermuda’s well groomed and scenic golf courses. Since we only played Port Royal, we hope to return to Bermuda to play some of the other courses, especially Turtle Hill, an 18-hole Par 3 course that is rated one of the top five Par 3 courses in the world. When not golfing Bermuda has plenty to see and do. One of our favorite excursions was swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest located within the National Museum of Bermuda only a short 10 minute walk from where the BREAKAWY docks. Swimming with, touching, and even kissing a dolphin, was a thrilling experience. Dolphin Quest, with locations in Hawaii and Bermuda is an international organization devoted to public education and conservation of marine wildlife. According to its literature, in addition to entertaining thousands of people like ourselves since it opened in 1988, Dolphin Quest has donated over 3 million dollars in funding, resources and field support to vital marine research projects around the globe.
As an avid golfer since learning to play golf in San Diego, California at the age of 10, when considering vacation possibilities I try to think of how I can work in a round of golf. As a person who loves traveling to new and different locales, when I think of a vaca¬tion I look for opportunities to see and experience foreign countries and cultures. As someone who enjoys cruises, I continually review cruise itineraries when considering vacations. I recently found a way to enjoy golf, traveling and cruising while on vacation…a European River cruise. My wife and I took a Viking River Cruise along the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands during which we enjoyed days and nights of comfort, culture and camaraderie on board one of Viking’s new Longships, and had the opportunity play golf on an outstanding course in Lucerne, Switzerland. In 2014 Conde Nast Traveler’s readers named Viking River Cruise’s Longships “Best River Cruise Ships” and in 2015 Travel & Leisure Magazine named Viking River Cruises the #1 River Cruise Line. After our week on the one year old Viking Longship Viking Idi, we can understand why… outstanding staterooms kept organized and immaculate; excellent food served in the outdoor Aquavit Terrace or in the casual but elegant main dining room; free Wi-Fi in our stateroom; wonderful all-included daily shore excursions lead by extremely knowledgeable local guides; staff and crew members that made every moment enjoyable; and complimentary soft drinks, beer and wine at every lunch and dinner on board. In addition, we enjoyed soothing tunes by an on board pianist and listened to talented local musicians and singers who came on board to entertain the 186 passengers. We enjoyed the daily patter of Nick Hale, Viking Idi’s Program Director who was omni-present, a fountain of information about the ship, sites and ports along the Rhine, and was witty enough to be an extremely successful stand-up comic. When you take a Viking Longship on the Rhine, you are in a hotel that glides effortlessly from town to town and city to city on one of Europe’s busiest and most famous rivers. You pass barges carrying coal, oil, wheat and all types of freight. You pass vineyards on steep hills. You pass castles that sit high above the river, some of which date back to the 13th century. Some of the castles are in ruins, some have been converted into private homes and some are now very, very expensive hotels. All are sites to behold. In addition to our daily shore excursions, Viking offered other tours which were included in the price of the cruise. We had a drive through the Black Forest where we learned about the history of Cuckoo Clocks and how they are made, and had a demonstration on how to make a Black Forest Cake. We visited famed Heidelberg Castle, took a tour of 13th century Marksburg Castle near Koblenz where we had a look at what life in a castle was really like; and toured the Kinderdijk Windmills near Amsterdam, A UNESCO World Heritage Site. Optional tours available at an added charge included a tour of the medieval Village of Colmar, a tour of a Mercedes Factory, a wine tasting and winery tour, a World War II Museum tour, a dinner of sauerbraten, red cabbage, apple sauce, dessert and lots of wine at the Rudesheimer Schloss in Rudesheim, and a Pub Crawl in Cologne. If you decide take a Rhine River cruise and add on a pre or post cruise extension to play golf in Lucerne as my wife and I did, enjoy a round at Golf Club Kussnacht. In 1995 four farm families went together to develop the course located just 20 minutes from downtown Lucerne. It has wonderful scenic views of green grassy rolling hills, colorful flow¬ers decorating flowerboxes on wooden farmhouses, gently clanging cow-bells on cows grazing in nearby pastures, and “Kodak moment” views of the Alps and Lake Lucerne. You may in fact have trouble concentrating on your golf game as the dazzling scenery will make you feel as if you are in a theater watching an IMAX movie. Golf Club Kussnacht isn’t a long course. It ranges from 4300 meters (about 4700 yards) from the forward tees to 5470 meters (about 6000 yards) from the back tees. However, it isn’t a pushover by any means even with the extra distance Kick X balls we play which give us greater distance on our shots. Kussnacht’s hilly terrain, eleven doglegs, and five holes where water comes into play combine with elevated tees and greens to make the Par 68 course quite challenging. With one Par 5, 12 Par 4’s and five Par 3’s it carries a men’s slope rating of 121 and a ladies slope rating of 115. Kussnacht’s manicured fairways, smooth fast greens, fast BMW golf carts, friendly employees, and a wonderful lunch on the outdoor patio of the clubhouse restaurant made our day of golf truly enjoyable. Although we only scheduled ourselves to play golf at Golf Club Kussnacht in Lucerne while on our trip, there are many golfing opportunities along the Rhine. A few that were suggested to us were: Near Koblentz/Boppard- the Jakobsberg Hotel and Golf Resort. In Cologne - Golf Club Gut Larchenhof e.V.- a Jack Nicklaus course, one of only a few Nicklaus courses in Europe, and Golf - und Land - Club Koln e.V.- where Bernard Langer won his first pro event at age 17. In Amsterdam there are 31 courses within a few miles of downtown. The best way to secure a golf tee time and arrange for rental clubs if you don’t wish to take your own, is to contact the courses directly by email. Once on the ship, the Concierge can reconfirm your tee times and arrange for transportation to and from the courses. Extending in Lucerne was a great decision as Lucerne is a very friendly city for English speaking tourists as almost everyone speaks English, and, it is a very walkable scenic city. It has hundreds of years of history, numerous museums, and a calendar full of concerts and festivals. Also, shopping for watches, attractive fashions and stylish accessories is available in shops along the narrow alleys and in the wide squares. Whether on your own or with a guided tour, you can visit interesting and historic sites like the Benedictine Monks church, the Rathaus (City Hall), and the world famous Chapel Bridge, Europe’s oldest wooden covered bridge dating back to the 14th century. Numerous sightseeing excursions are also available including trips into the Alps where you can ride Europe’s oldest mountain railway, the world’s steepest cogwheel train, or the first revolving aerial cable car. We can highly recommend an excursion we took…a three-hour Lake Lucerne cruise on the steamboat Gallia which takes you around the lake past lush meadows, popular resorts and small villages that dot the shoreline. Only steps from the Chapel Bridge, and it’s 18th century painted panels portraying scenes of Swiss and local history, you can enjoy both lunches and dinners at excellent indoor/outdoor cafes along Lucerne’s Ruess River. We had a delightful meal outdoors at the Phistern restaurant. The building in which it is housed was originally the Bakers Guild dating back to the 15th century. (A Dining Recommendation: Have the ravioli starter followed by either a Caesar Salad with shrimp and chicken or a dinner of strips of veal with a mushroom cream sauce and Swiss Rosti potatoes). For another dining and entertainment treat, plan dinner at the Stadtkeller Restaurant. There you can enjoy a delicious Swiss dinner of cheese fondue, salad, entrée and dessert, and a fun and highly entertaining folkloric show featuring musicians in national costumes yodeling, doing flag twirling and playing cowbells and thirteen foot long alpine horns. During our three days in Lucerne, we stayed at the Waldstatterhof hotel just two blocks from the main train station and Lucerne’s internationally acclaimed Culture and Convention Center. It’s a tastefully renovated downtown hotel that has maintained its old European architectural charm on the outside yet inside has comfortable modern rooms and an inviting restaurant that offers a bountiful buffet style breakfast. A word of caution…don’t expect large showers or air conditioning. At the Waldstatterhof, as is the case in most older hotels in Europe, showers are small by Western standards and rooms are not air conditioned. With a great deal of sadness we disembarked in Amsterdam after seven wonderful days on the Rhine. It wasn’t that we were unhappy to be going to Amsterdam, it was just that we had had such a tremendous cruise on the Viking Idi. In addition to our excellent accommodations, outstanding food, and terrific tours, we had the opportunity to meet and get to know fellow travelers from England, Australia, Lebanon and numerous states in the US, as well as crew members from Germany, Austria, England, France, Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia, and Romania. During our two days and nights in Amsterdam, we stayed in two dif¬ferent hotels, Casa400 Hotel, a student hotel for college students when school is in session. It was quite comfortable, nothing like the hostels and student hotels I stayed in during the seven and one-half months I bummed around Europe in 1960. It was a convenient five minute walk to the metro which took us to downtown Amsterdam in 15-20 minutes and it housed the East 57 Restaurant where we had an excellent and quite reasonable dinner. Our second hotel was the Park Hotel located on one of Amsterdam’s busy canals and was just two blocks from the Rijks Museum. It also had one of Amsterdam’s newest high-energy and trendy restaurants, MOMO. Although we ate at the Café Zuylen Bar and Restaurant near Dam Square while walking through the old section of Amsterdam, we did have a to-die-for chocolate dessert at MOMO. Even though totally different, both hotels and their restaurants are now on our “places to stay and eat” when we next visit Amsterdam. During our two day in Amsterdam we walked through the old section, took a canal cruise using an I amsterdam City Card that was good for transportation in the city, gave us free entrance to a number of museums, and a reduced price at the Rijks Museum where we marveled at Rembrandt’s Nightwatch. We also took an emotional tour through the Anne Frank House where we got a real gut check on what it must have been like for Anne and her family hiding from the Nazis. We also spent time walking through the Red Light District. No matter what you think about the “world’s oldest profession”, a walk through the district is an experience not to be missed. During our 14 days in Europe, we had a great day of golf at Golf Club Kussnacht, loved visiting all the towns and cities in four countries, and thoroughly loved our cruise on the Rhine on the Viking Idi. If you also enjoy golf, traveling and cruising, combine all three by taking both your golf and deck shoes on a Viking River Cruise on the Rhine River. And, if you want to take along your electronic gear including your laptop, ipad, iphone, etc. and not have to unpack and place them in the grey boxes provided as you go through the ever present TSA inspections, get yourself an ecbc Lance Back Pack with the checkpoint-friendly ecbc FastPass System. All you have to do is unzip the FastPass compartment, which displays all your protected electronics and cords, lay the Back Pack flat on the conveyer belt and send the it through the checkpoint scanner. Doing so certainly made our security checks much simpler. For information about Viking River Cruises, visit their website www.VikingRiverCruises. For information about golf courses from Lucerne to Amsterdam, visit www.1golf.eu/en/golf-courses/europe and follow the prompts for language, countries, cities and courses.
Recently I enjoyed a golfing doubleheader. I played St. Andrews and Pebble Beach on the same day. And….if it weren’t for a scheduling conflict, I could have played Banff Springs, Pinehurst #2, Valderama, or one of 35 other world famous courses as well. How could I do this? It was simply a matter of making tee times on the TruGolf simulator on board the Celebrity Infinity as my wife and I cruised from Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal to San Diego. Although golf simulators have been around for a number of years, they are becoming quite popular on cruise ships thanks to Elite Golf Cruises of Sunrise, Florida. They presently operate Onboard Golf Academies on 21 Carnival ships, all nine ships in the Celebrity fleet, four of the newest Holland America vessels, three Princess and two Silver Seas ships…with more to come. My golfing experience on the Infinity was thoroughly enjoyable. The most difficult time I had was deciding which courses to play. I decided on St. Andrews because of its historic background and tradition, and the fact it was still on my “Courses To Be Played” list. I chose Pebble Beach because I had played there a number of times and wanted to compare actual play with a round on the simulator. Playing St. Andrews and Pebble Beach on the simulator was like being at the courses themselves. Although each shot was played into a giant 11 x 9 foot screen, tee boxes, fairways, trees, water, and bunkers were shown just as you would see them on the actual course. Watching my shots head toward the narrow St. Andrews fairways, trying to avoid the notorious pot bunkers, shooting at double greens, and seeing the famed “Road Hole”, was realistic enough for me to promise myself a pilgrimage to St. Andrews. As a 12 handicapper, I decided to play St. Andrews from the 6032-yard white tees. I shot an 83 with a great deal of assistance from on board golf pro, Ryan Northrup, who acted as my caddy and gave me plenty of tips. Oh yes….he also set the putting program on the Microsoft computer system so that all putts under six foot were gimmees. I should be so lucky to have my golfing buddies give me such a break. When I played Pebble I played from the blues with no gimmees. A different game….I shot a rousing 95 with a 3.75 average on the Par 3’s, 5.4 on the Par 4’s and a 6.5 average score on the Par 5’s. That’s an aspect of the simulator that is quite educational. Following each round, in addition to giving averages for Par 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s, you’ll receive a readout of your average driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation and average putts per hole. Putting proved to be the most difficult aspect when playing the simulator as depth perception and the breaks on the greens take a bit to master. Just as you would on your home course, when you play a simulator on a cruise ship, spend a few minutes practicing prior to your round. Adjusting to the motion of the ship, learning proper club selection, and getting a feel for putting will help you have fun and will definitely improve your score. You can play golf on the simulator as an individual, in a twosome, or in a foursome. As an individual player expect to play an 18 hole round in about one hour at a cost of $50.00 an hour. If you have a group and want to develop a great deal of camaraderie, hold a Par 3 Shootout with you and your fellow golfers shooting at some of the world’s toughest and most scenic par 3’s. Cruise ships are a natural for simulators as golfers who cruise can now spend sea days playing some of the world’s top golf courses without having to fly half way around the world or be worried about weather, bugs, or lost balls. Next time you consider a cruise, cruise on a ship that offers Elite Golf Cruises’ Golf Academy. You can take golf lessons, arrange for golf games at fabulous courses during days in port, and…. play St. Andrews and Pebble Beach on the same day. For more information about golf on cruises ships, and golf cruises, consult your local travel agent or visit Elite Golf Cruises website at www.elitegolfcruises.com.
When world-renowned South African golfer Gary Player designed Steele Canyon Golf Club, located in Jamul at the intersection of Jamul Drive and Fowler Canyon Drive, he recognized the uniqueness of the surroundings and combined them with his love of nature and the environment. The result…a 27-hole course with three diverse nines, Canyon, Ranch and Meadow. Winner of Golf Digest’s prestigious Four Star Rating, Steele Canyon has been a favorite of East County golfers since it opened in 1991. The course gets high marks from both high and low handicappers because of its natural beauty and distinct personality…no two holes are alike and adjacent fairways are non exist. Women golfers love the course. In fact, Golf For Women Magazine has voted it one of the Top Ten Women-Friendly Rated Courses in California. The Canyon nine presents dramatic shot-making challenges from breathtaking elevations. The Ranch nine meanders through the fields of a working ranch, and the Meadow nine stretches through a valley with beautiful woodlands, lakes and wildlife. Any combination of the three nines presents an opportunity for an exciting day of golf on a course with an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty. On any given day you will see ducks and coots enjoying a refreshing splash in one or all of the course’s five lakes that present both Kodak moments and golfing challenges. You’ll see cottontail rabbits and ground squirrels watching you as you hit shots over and around the canyons and dry creek beds that make up their natural habitat. You may even see groups of horseback riders as they traverse some of the many trails that wind through the pastures and brush covered hills that are adjacent to the course. For a fun day of golf at one of San Diego County’s finest courses, or for information about private membership, banquets, weddings and/or tee times, call Steele Canyon Golf Club at 619-441-6900 or visit their website at www.steelecanyon.com Read another sample from Chuck Miller's Grand Tour Magazine column: The Dragon Beckons
For over 40 years ABC Sports lured TV viewers to its hit TV show Wide World of Sports with its tag line, “The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat”. Just like Wide World, The Dragon at Gold Mountain, located one hour north of Lake Tahoe , California offers an opportunity to thrill in victory and/or agonize over defeat. With its target golf concept, narrow sloping fairways, blind shots, and fast, well-bunkered greens, The Dragon is a spectacular mountain course which challenges both scratch golfers and high handicappers.As a qualifying site for the LPGA Western Sectional, the Northern Nevada Golf Association Senior Championship, and numerous local and regional tournaments, The Dragon has gained the reputation as a difficult test of golf. And deservedly so. Playing from 4611 to 7077 yards from six sets of tees, with slopes ranging from 123-147 for men and 128-149 for women, The Dragon is not a course for the faint of heart. Golf Insider Magazine calls The Dragon a “true shot maker’s course that requires thought at every turn”. The scenery, which includes rolling hills, deep ravines, gushing creeks, and on occasion snow capped hills, can make you forget about the importance of hitting a straight drive, a delicate second or third shot to a fast contoured green, or stroking a well paced putt. The Frank Lloyd Wright 24,000 square foot clubhouse, which gives the appearance of an immense teepee, was originally designed in 1924 for a golf and country club in Madison , Wisconsin , but was never built. It became the centerpiece of the Resort & Spa at Gold Mountain in 2001 when Gold Mountain owners Peggy and Dariel Garner collaborated with Taliesin Architects, Inc., the extension of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture practice, and brought it to life at Gold Mountain . It was then, and only then, that the building, which has been featured in Architectural Digest magazine and on The Golf Channel, became a reality. According to Head PGA Professional Matt Magnotta, “The Dragon beckons to golfers from all over the world with its slogan, “Send Me Your Heroes”. If you are looking for a challenging golf course at a resort located in a quiet, relaxed and scenic setting, plan a visit to The Dragon at Gold Mountain . If you conquer it, you will remember the thrill of victory and will be a hero. If it conquers you, you’ll remember the agony of defeat. Either way, once you play it, you’ll always remember The Dragon. Please note that many more of Chuck's articles can be found in his Article Archive.
When you think of golf, do you think of Minnesota? I certainly didn’t until my golfing holiday last summer to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. My mindset totally changed after I played some of the most beautiful and enjoyable golf courses I had ever seen. Golf in Minnesota is lush, green, and with nearly 400 public and resort courses, quite accessible.My first look at Minnesota golf began with a round at The Wilds Golf Club in Shakopee, a short drive from the Twin Cities. Known for its 180 acres of natural wetlands, The Wilds plays from 5,095 to over 7,000 yards from four sets of tees. Its open wide fairways, with water in play on nearly half of the holes, made it an outstanding introduction to Minnesota golf. My next two rounds took me to Northeast Minnesota to play The Legend and The Quarry, two absolutely gorgeous courses at Giants Ridge, just outside Biwabik. The Legend is a 6,930-yard rolling fairway beauty with fairway bunkers galore. Although all the The Legend’s holes are noteworthy, the one that truly got my attention was the Par 3 seventeenth hole.... a 226-yarder with a 200-yard carry over a sparkling blue lake. Spectacular! The Legend’s sister course, The Quarry, is more rugged with outcroppings of excavated bedrock and giant boulders sharing lush green fairways. The Quarry has the distinction of having the longest Par 3 in Minnesota, 269 tough yards from the championship tees. Both The Legend and The Quarry have won numerous awards. In 1999, The Legend was picked by Golf Digest as The Best Public Course in Minnesota, and was selected in the Top Places to Play Golf in 2001 and 2002. The Quarry was named one of the Best New Courses of 2003 by American Airlines Celebrated Living and One of The Midwest’s Top 10 Best New Public Courses in 2003 by GolfChicago Magazine. On day four of my golfing adventure, I participated in the Grand Opening of The Wilderness at Fortune Bay. It included a golf clinic by PGA Touring Pro Notah Begay III, and a scramble golf tournament. The Wilderness, with its ponds, peninsula greens, long waste bunkers, split fairways and a variety of different sized and shaped greens, is sure to become one of the state’s most treasured courses. The highlight of my day at The Wilderness came on the fifteenth hole, a 507-yard par 5, when I witnessed a true golfing rarity. My scramble partner, John Lieser, holed his 217-yard second shot for an Albatross. My next stop was GrandView Lodge located on The Brainerd Golf Trail known as The Midwest’s #1 Golf Destination. GrandView Lodge, with its seventy-year history of Minnesota hospitality, and three outstanding championship courses, The Preserve, The Pines, and Deacon’s Lodge, was named one of the Top 100 Golf Resorts in The World by Conde Nast Traveler in 2003, Playing The Preserve, a 6,601-yard par 72 challenge, will give you the feeling of a walk through the woods to Grandma’s house. Don’t let the peacefulness fool you. The Preserve requires delicate shots, particularly to the fast, manicured bent grass greens. GrandView Lodge’s second championship course, The Pines, is a scenic 27-hole layout made up of the Lakes, Woods and Marsh nines with a slope range of 128 to 145 and a yardage combination of 5100 to 6800 yards. GrandView’s third championship course, Deacon’s Lodge, was designed by Arnold Palmer and named in memory of his father. Described by Palmer as “An Example of Nature and Pure Golf at it’s Best”, its 6,924-yard length garners a 73.1 rating, a 134 slope, and high praise as a tough, yet playable course. Another “must play” championship course on the Brainerd Golf Trail is The Classic at Madden’s Resort. When playing The Classic, which was honored in 2003 as Minnesota’s #1 Public Course by Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golfweek, prepare to be tested with shots to doglegs, alongside lakes, and over ponds, wetlands and fairway bunkers. With five tees on each hole, and yardage ranging from 4,859 to 7,102 yards, playing the tees that match your skills is essential or it could be a very, very long day. Although I had traveled to 45 of our 50 states, prior to my mid-West golfing holiday, I had never been to Minnesota . Wow, what a mistake! It is a beautiful state with absolutely terrific golf courses and friendly people. Consider Minnesota for your next golfing vacation. You’ll be glad you did. For more information on Minnesota golf, log on to www.MinnesotaGOLF.com.
When Johnny Miller is discussed in golfing circles, different images come up depending upon the age of the golfer. Today’s younger golfers know Miller as a straight forward, tell it like it is golf commentator. Golfers fifty and older remember him as one of the word’s premier players in the early 1970’s and 80’s. What most golfers don’t realize is that Johnny Miller, winner of 24 PGA TOUR events, including the U.S. and British Opens, has become one of the world’s top golf course designers. Since working as a consultant on his first golf course design in the mid-70’s, he and his company, JMD, have 24 completed golf courses around the world and have 10 more in the design or construction phase. Recently I had the opportunity to play Maderas Golf Club, which Miller designed in collaboration with Robert Muir Graves. Located in the foothills of Poway, about two hours south of Orange County, Maderas Golf Club opened in November, 1999. In 2003 and 2004 it was ranked the #1 golf course in San Diego County and the #6 golf course in California by the Zagat Survey. A semi-private club, Maderas has lush contoured fairways, large undulating greens and plenty of challenge. Although Miller’s design gives the course a tight look, the fairways are fairly wide and quite receptive. However, proper club selection is key as shots must be made uphill, downhill, and over rock outcroppings, canyons, lakes and creeks. To help with your club selection, pick up a course yardage booklet available in the well-stocked pro shop. When playing Maderas, the real fun begins on each and every hole once you reach the green. The greens are fair, but their size and undulations, when combined with tough pin placements, can make two putting a relief, three putts common, and four putts a distinct possibility. The key to playing Maderas according to General Manager Jack Kirkpatrick, is to “play the right tees” and there are six sets to choose from. The longest are the black tees at 7115 yards with a 146 slope and 75.6 course rating. The course record from the blacks is 63 held by two players, Charley Hoffman and Steven Eshbach. Hoffman shot his record score while playing in the final round of the 2004 Gateway Tournament, when, according to Assistant Pro Cole Duncan, “the tees were back and the pin placements were nasty”. Eshbach, who was 19 at the time, shot his 63 from the tips this past March while playing Maderas for the first time. As a 13 handicapper, I found the blue tees quite a challenge at 6654 yards, a 138 slope and a 73.1 course rating. My favorite holes were the Par 4 fifth hole, Maderas’ number one handicap hole and #17, the shortest of the course’s Par 3’s. One of the toughest Par 4’s in San Diego, #5 is a 460-yard downhill dogleg left with its fairway guarded on the left by three enormous bunkers and a hazard, which runs the entire length of the fairway. At 165 yards from the blues, #17 is also a downhill hole. Its changing wind conditions, and long and difficult two-tiered green, will make you forget that its rated the easiest hole on the course.
If you need a quick tune up or a series of lessons before tackling Maderas, John Darling, and Maderas’ four teaching pros are available by appointment to assist you with your game. Darling, a former head instructor with the Golf Digest Schools who has taught five State Junior Champions, brings 31 years of experience to golf instruction. Following your day on the course, take a few minutes to visit The Grille, Maderas’ informal yet elegant restaurant, where a full bar and a complete luncheon menu await you. The beautiful setting, combined with the emphasis on service that is so evident at Maderas, makes The Grille an ideal stop after a round of golf as well as a wonderful site for wedding receptions, corporate outings and/or banquets. Join the likes of PGA Pros Cory Pavin, Dennis Paulson, John Cook, Ricky Barnes, Phil Mickelson, Scott Simpson, Kevin Stadler and LPGA Pro Hee-Won Han, all of whom have played Maderas. Once you play Maderas, you will realize that Johnny Miller is not only a world champion golfer and an outstanding golf commentator, but also a masterful golf course designer. For tee times and/or more information, call the golf shop at 858-451-8100 or visit the Maderas web site at www.maderasgolf.com. For tournament and corporate play information and assistance, call Bob Maggiore at 858-217-2555. Please note that many more of Chuck's articles can be found in his Article Archive.
It started with a handshake, a smile and the words, “Hi I’m Billy Casper”. This was how my wife and I recently met golf legend Billy Casper, a man who won 51 times on the PGA Tour, including two US Opens and a Masters Championship; nine times on the Senior Tour including the US Senior Open; played on eight Ryder Cups, and was twice named PGA Player of the Year. We had been invited to join Billy and members of his family, five US pros, and a number of US amateurs and their wives as they headed to Morocco to participate in the 33rd Hassan II Trophy golf tournament and the extraordinary activities connected with it. Begun in 1971 as the result of the friendship between Casper and King Hassan II of Morocco , the tournament is played yearly on the 7400-yard Dar Es-Salam Red Course in Rabat , the capital of Morocco . This year 30 pros from 13 countries around the world competed for $600,000 in prize money with first place worth $200,000 and a jewel-encrusted sword rumored to be worth as much as the monetary prize. The Hassan II Trophy tournament is more than just a pro tourney offering the chance to watch skilled professionals hit shots we amateurs only dream about. For the 90 amateurs who participated in the three day Pro-Am, it was an “up close and personal” happening, a chance to interact with pros from across the globe on a one-to-one basis. Unlike most Pro-Am events, where amateurs are greeted by a pro on the first tee and say goodbye on the 18 th green, the Hassan II Trophy amateurs not only played with different pros on each of the three days of the Pro-Am, but were able to spend up to ten days and evenings socializing, dining, traveling and getting to know them. This year’s US pro contingent that crossed the Atlantic to compete included two-time PGA Tour winner Keith Clearwater; Erik Compton, who placed first in the Canadian Tour’s 2004 Order of Merit; Ty Tryon, who made his professional debut in 2002 at the age of 18; Bobby Casper, known not only for his golfing skills but also for his nationally syndicated golf talk show, Real Golf Radio; and Patrick Damron of the Nationwide Tour. Compton, who holds the distinction of being the world’s only professional athlete that competes with a transplanted heart, won this year’s tournament. He conquered Dar Es-Salam’s tough par 73 Red Course by navigating its tree lined fairways with accurate drives and long straight iron shots to well bunkered greens. By shooting 15 under, he tied the tournament record set by three-time winner Santiago Luna of Spain, and bested runner up Jose Philippe Lima of Portugal by four strokes In winning the 2005 Hassan II Trophy, Erik’s name will forever more be linked with an illustrious group of past winners that includes Orville Moody, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Payne Stewart, Nick Price, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Roger Chapman, and David Toms. In addition to watching terrific golf, playing in the Pro-Am, and being able to listen to Billy Casper reminisce about his years on the PGA Tour, the trip to Morocco also featured unforgettable activities. Topping the list was the opportunity for pros and amateurs and their spouses to meet His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid and US Ambassador Thomas Riley at cocktail receptions at their respective homes. Other highlights included guided tours through the maze of souks of Marrakech and Rabat where Moroccans have shopped for centuries; dinner at world famous Chez Ali while costumed dancers and drummers entertained; attending a gala black tie sit-down dinner for 500 inside the walls of the old city of Rabat; and a private tour of the King’s Stables to view world champion show and race horses. The ten days of activities in conjunction with this year’s tournament and Pro-Am offered great golf, quality time with professional golfers, fascinating sightseeing, and time to visit and learn about Morocco . It was truly an incredible experience. As we boarded our Royal Air Maroc flight home, we heard a number of this year’s amateurs paraphrase California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and tell their many new Moroccan friends, “We’ll Be Back”. For information on how you can participate in the 2006 Hassan II Trophy with all its golf and sightseeing opportunities, contact Joan Short of World Wide Golf and Travel in Newport Beach at 949-644-8490. Please note that many more of Chuck's articles can be found in his Article Archive.
Chances are you will never hear B-4 or N-33 called out on a golf course. Probably FORE!, but not B-4. However, if it weren’t for bingo numbers like B-4 and N-33, there would be fewer golf courses in the US . Profits from bingo and casino gaming have helped Native American tribes rebuild tribal communities, build schools and hospitals, and provide care for tribal elders. Profits have also helped US tribes diversify their business activities by building or purchasing golf courses. Today, according to Kansas Native America Golf Pro Steve McDonald, there are 27 golf courses owned by Native American tribes.Prominent tribal owned courses in the San Diego area include the Barona Creek Golf Club in Lakeside and the Sycuan Resort and Casino courses in El Cajon . The subject of this issue’s column is the 18 hole Par 72 championship Barona Creek Golf Club. Next issue, on the eve of its 50 th Anniversary, we’ll review Sycuan Resort and Casino’s two championship courses, Oak Glen and Willow Glen, and Pine Glen, its executive course. The Barona Creek Golf Club, built and opened in 2001 by the Barona Band of the Mission Indians, is a championship public, daily fee course. Located in a wide picturesque valley surrounded by rock-strewn hills, Barona’s rolling terrain makes for a most enjoyable links-like experience. It has beautifully maintained fairways and large, fast greens that have both subtle and dramatic breaks. Over 100 bunkers combine with challenging slopes, creeks, boulders and 170 native oak trees to make club selection extremely important. When you play Barona, make use of the excellent GPS system in each cart to help you select the right club. There are five sets of tees on Barona’s 7088-yard course. If you choose the tees suitable to your golfing ability, and bring your straight drives, you’ll find the fairways wide and accepting and the golf ball swallowing native grasses no problem. However, if you have a tendency to spray your tee shots, bring an extra ration of balls and forget about chasing the course record of 62. My favorite holes are the 406-yard Par 4 ninth hole and 176-yard Par 3 sixteenth hole. The ninth hole, the number 9 handicap, is not the hardest but it is certainly one of the most scenic. A lake borders the fairway to the left, a rambling creek runs across the fairway near the green, and Augusta white bunkers at the green beckon with a come hither look. With the 400 room Barona Valley Ranch Hotel and surrounding hills in the background, this front nine finishing hole will make you stand for a moment to take in the majesty of your surroundings. The Par 3 176-yard sixteenth is also a favorite but for different reasons. I love the challenge of shooting to its narrow green nearly surrounded by bunkers. Once safely on the green the challenge is not over as the green is wide, fast and undulating. Even from the second longest tees at only 137 yards, this 18th handicap hole is not a pushover. When Director of Golf and PGA Class A Professional Don King was asked to describe golf at Barona Creek he said, “Barona will challenge you but will allow you to play your game”. Touring pros Phil Mickelson, Chris Riley, Scott Simpson, Lon Hinckle and Notah Begay have all played Barona and enjoyed its challenges. Average golfers also like Barona’s challenges but say they can still play their game and have a fun time. Bob Fagan, co author of California Golf Universitee, a catalog of California golf courses, says “Barona is right up there with the very best public-access courses in all of Southern California . It is architecturally solid and a good value to boot”. Other kudos Barona has receive include ranking as the 3 rd Best Resort Course in California, and 18 th best resort course in the United States by Golfweek Magazine, and, rating as the 2 nd best golf course in San Diego by the San Diego Union-Tribune. Following golf, relax and enjoy a meal in one of the resorts many restaurants including The Branding Iron Cafe, The Ranch House Buffet, the Ho Wan Asian Restaurant, or the upscale Barona Oaks Steakhouse. If you get the urge to tempt lady luck, you can do so in Barona’s 300,000 square foot casino. You might even hear B-4 or N-33. Visit Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino’s website at, www.borona.com or call the Barona Creek Golf Club at 619-387-7018 when you are ready for an outstanding golf outing in the San Diego area.
If I were to ask you to tell me the first word that comes to your mind when I say Mayan Palace, chances are you would say ruins. That was my first thought. However, having recently returned from a Mexican Riviera cruise, I now think of golf when I hear the words Mayan Palace. During our cruise we visited four ports, one of which was world famous Acapulco. Since I had visited Acapulco on four previous occasions, I decided to check out the Mayan Palace golf course while the rest of the family went to see the death-defying La Quebrada divers and spend time bargaining with native artisans at the massive shopping bazaar in downtown Acapulco. The Par 72 championship Mayan Palace course, which opened in 1993, was a fun course to play even though the greens on the back nine were being aerated on the day I played. Because of its wide, receptive and forgiving fairways, its length of only 6156 yards from the blue tees, and its 125 slope rating, on first glance many golfers might think of it as a relatively easy course. Low handicappers might even find the Par 3’s at 103 to 168 yards, the Par 4’s at 306 to 438 yards and the Par 5’s at 461 to 517 yards less than challenging. This might be the case if it weren’t for the course’s four lakes, six dog legs, hundreds of palm trees, its club grabbing bermuda grass fairways, and the multitude of greenside bunkers ready to welcome wayward shots. You may have noticed if you have read other of my columns that I seem to have a preference for water holes. Something about choosing the right club and executing a sphincter tightening shot while trying to avoid the expense of another drowned Pro V. As such my two favorite holes on the Mayan Palace course were the short 118-yard Par 3 second hole and the 503-yard eighteenth hole. The Par 3, though only 118 yards, requires a very accurate shot as a lake runs from the tee to near the green, has a wide bunker positioned from the lake to the green, and additional bunkers on each side of the green. All this plus a more than gentle breeze blowing directly into your face off the Pacific Ocean less than a mile to the West...well, you get the picture. The Par 5 finishing hole is straightforward from tee to green. Big hitters withlots of courage and pinpoint accuracy can hit the green in two. However, the risk/reward factor raises its ugly head as the green is tucked away on a peninsula with water on three sides. As a short hitter, I had no problem realizing going for the green in two was not an option. When my second shot arrived about 60 yards short of the water and 100 yards from the pin, I felt comfortable. With the pin tucked delicately near the back of the green with water in front, on the side and in back of the green, I knew why I liked water holes... the challenge of picking the right club and the executing the proper shot to the correct location on the green. Unfortunately I wasn’t up to the challenge. I hit into the water and took a double bogey seven. However, as I headed to the “modern Mayan” shaped clubhouse for a frosty thirst quenching blended margarita, I knew I’d had a most enjoyable day playing one of Acapulco’s finest golf courses. The Mayan Palace golf course is located in the Diamante district of Acapulco about 10 miles southeast of Acapulco Bay, 10 minutes from the Acapulco airport, and 45 minutes from the cruise terminal. The district is made up of mostly luxury homes and condos for wealthy Mexican families who spend their holidays and winter weekends there, and for tourists enjoying the fine weather, white sandy beaches, elegant shopping and golf that make a vacation in the district so enjoyable. The course is open to owners of the resort’s condominiums and time-share units, to guests of its Gran Mayan Hotel, and to the general public. Next time you head for Acapulco, consider a round of golf at the Mayan Palace. You’ll enjoy your day at one of Acapulco’s most beautiful golf courses and you won’t have to climb any ruins. For more information and a tour of Acapulco’s Mayan Palace golf course, visit www.mayanresortsgolf.com. For information on the various Mayan Resorts in Mexico, visit www.mayanpalace.com.