College football and golf Follow your team bring your clubs
The only thing better than visiting Hawaii is following your football team there.
This holiday season, nearly two million college football fans will follow their favorite team to a bowl game. But while the teams themselves are all business, the fans get to enjoy a few days of fun in the sun. Before you leave don't forget to grab your golf clubs. Here's your guide to where to play golf in each bowl game destination:
New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 18
The Albuquerque area is home to what many call New Mexico’s top golf course, Paa-Ko Ridge, a Ken Dye design set high in the mountains and features loads of elevation changes.
The University of New Mexico Championship Course is a worthy runner-up, also conveniently next the airport if your team gets blown out and you want to make a quick escape out.
R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 18
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 4
Current host of the PGA Tour Zurich Classic of New Orleans, TPC Louisiana is a stadium-style, Pete Dye design with plenty of high drama cut through wetlands. And it's a TPC property that offers public tee times.
A more affordable option is Stonebridge Golf Course, a links-inspired, 27-hole course full of water canals and sand traps. For a quick golf fix before football, the most affordable option right in the heart of the city is Audubon Park G.C., an 18-hole executive track.
Beef 'O Brady's St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl, Dec. 21
There’s a lot of affordable golf in Tampa and St. Pete, though four-course Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club steals the show with its PGA Tour-adored Copperhead course. All four courses have a sandhills-like terrain over the flatter land surrounding them.
For more affordable but above-par daily fees, try Cove Cay Country Club or Seminole Lake Country Club.
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 22
For luxurious golf that's right on the Strip, tee it up a Bali Hai Golf Club, a Polynesian-themed course full of palms, sand and water. Or if you're a guest of the Wynn resort and have deep pockets, play their Tom Fazio design, Wynn Golf Club, right behind the hotel.
Beyond the Las Vegas Strip, you can play some top desert golf courses, like Rio Secco Golf Club, Badlands Golf Club or Jack Nicklaus' Bear's Best Golf Course.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 23
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30
San Diego hosts two bowl games, and with such fantastic winter weather, golfers can rejoice. U.S. Open and PGA Tour host Torrey Pines South and North make for one of America's most coveted municipal facilities. If you want muni value but can't get on Torrey, try the area's best value course, Coronado Municipal Golf Course.
Elsewhere, check out The Crossings at Carlsbad, another good San Diego-area value with fees under $110 for non-residents, or splurge at nearby Aviara, part of a Four Seasons resort.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24
If you're heading all the way out to Hawaii to catch football action, it'd be ridiculous not to book some tee times on Oahu. Turtle Bay Resort features 36 holes of resort golf, with 18 by Arnold Palmer and a more traditional 18 from George Fazio.
Oahu is also loaded with daily fees. For a mighty test, try one of Hawaii's toughest, Ko'Olau Golf Club, a severe Pete Dye jungle excursion. Or try Royal Kunia, which opened in 2003 on the Leeward Coast and features spectacular backdrops from many holes.
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 27
Louisiana gaming hotbed Shreveport has a handful of golf courses worthy of a tee time, such as 27-holer Olde Oaks, designed with player consultant Hal Sutton. Or try the semi-private Golf Club at Stonebridge designed by Gene Bates and Fred Couples.
Champ Sports Bowl, Dec. 28
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1
For luxury resort golf, stay-and-play at Arnold Palmer's home, Bay Hill Club and Lodge. Or for a taste of something new in the Orlando golf scene, try the new Waldorf Astoria Resort and Golf Club.
For more daily-fee type courses, try MetroWest Golf Club or Celebration Golf Club, both Robert Trent Jones family designs. East of Orlando, Harmony Golf Preserve is a big, free-swinging Johnny Miller design run by Troon Golf that is certainly worth the 40-minute drive.
Insight Bowl, Dec. 28
Tempe has its own, more affordable courses worth playing if you're not up for Scottsdale swank, starting with the Arizona State University Karsten Golf Course, a formidable Pete Dye design that's regarded as one of the top ten college golf courses.
Also nearby is a local favorite: Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, recently redesigned by Ken Kavenaugh. Or play Phoenix's historic municipal, Papago Golf Course, near Sky Harbor Airport.
Military Bowl, Dec. 29
If the weather is cooperating this late into winter you can play city-run East Potomac Golf Course, one of the more convenient options located right on the banks of the Potomac. Langston Golf Course, another municipal, is even closer to host RFK Stadium.
A little further away in College Park is the University of Maryland Golf Course, a step up from the city courses and worthy of hosting top collegiate teams.
Texas Bowl, Dec. 29
One of the top golf experiences in town is the PGA Tour Shell Houston Open host, Redstone's Tournament Course. This Rees Jones design opened in 2005.
Houston residents also adore Memorial Park Golf Course, an affordable muni in the heart of the city.
For something between Memorial Park and Redstone, Augusta Pines features a country club feel and top conditions.
Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29
There is plenty of golf to choose from in San Antonio, starting with the brand new 36-hole TPC San Antonio, new host of the Valero Texas Open. The former host, La Cantera, features 36 holes of its own, an entirely different type of Hill Country golf.
For daily-fee options, try The Republic Golf Club or historic Pecan Valley Golf Club. The most historic of them all is revamped municipal gem Brackenridge Park G.C., designed by A.W. Tillinghast.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 30
TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 1
If you're in Big D for football, you probably want to play Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, a big, luxurious tribute to the team and its fans, opened in 2001. Other top Metroplex golf options include the newly-renovated TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas or Tangle Ridge.
The Old American Golf Club just debuted a brand new Tribute Course, a Golden Age-inspired design by Justin Leonard and Tripp Davis on the shores of Lake Lewisville.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Dec. 30
You'll find good bang-for-your-buck on the golf course in Music City. Nashville’s top resort golf is at the Hermitage, a former LPGA venue that is home to 36 holes of golf, General's Retreat and President's Reserve. In Springhouse, Gaylord Springs Golf Club is a links-inspired design that follows the Cumberland River.
Locals stick to traditional Nashboro Golf Club in the heart of the city, or Buford Ellington Golf Course at Henry Horton State Park, which plays over 7,000 yards through forest.
Meineke Car Care Bowl, Dec. 31
Public golf in Charlotte is a bit of a letdown compared to so many other great pockets of golf in North Carolina. The new Rock Barn Golf & Spa features a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that hosts the Champions Tour.
If you've never been this close to the Carolina Sandhills and the golf-loaded, Aberdeen-Village of Pinehurst-Southern Pines triangle, consider a side trip 90 miles east to the area's historic golf mecca.
Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 31
El Paso, Texas
When in west Texas, you can check out one of the great new municipal courses in the country, Butterfield Trail Golf Club, which was designed by Tom Fazio, who sculpted a course out of the natural sand dunes of West Texas and also boasts bentgrass greens.
If Butterfield Trail is booked, try 27-hole Painted Dunes Desert Golf Club, a tournament tested, Ken Dye/Jeff Bauer design that plays over 6,900 yards in any 18-hole combination.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Dec. 31
TPC Southwind is the top course in Memphis, but it's also private. Tunica, Miss. however is 40 miles south and is home to hotel and casino excitement, plus golf courses such as Tunica National, River Bend Links and the Links at Cottonwoods.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Dec. 31
Atlanta is loaded with golf courses, though it can be quite a drive from one side to the other. The city's courses, like the Atlanta Athletic Club, are mostly private, though you can play recently revamped Bobby Jones Golf Club.
Further out in the 'burbs, try former Georgia Tech Club, now Echelon Golf Club, an upscale Rees Jones design on 600 acres. Bear's Best features a collection 18 of Jack Nicklaus' finest holes throughout the world.
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1
Beyond the Innisbrook Resort, try the TPC Tampa Bay, a PGA Tour-worthy Bobby Weed/Chi Chi Rodriguez design that invites public play.
Or, for something truly un-Florida-like, head about an hour north to remote World Woods, home to two Tom Fazio designs, including the highly touted Pine Barrens course, which offers a little slice of Pine Valley.
Gator Bowl, Jan. 1
The First Coast is full of options. From Jacksonville, head a few miles south to TPC Sawgrass. Even if you don't play the famous Stadium Course, the neighboring Valley Course is another Pete Dye design with its own formidable challenges.
You can also swing by the World Golf Village's Hall of Fame in St. Augustine for a history lesson – or play golf at one of two championship courses there, the King & Bear and Slammer & Squire.
Rose Bowl, Dec. 1
Considering how many golf courses there are in SoCal, the Pasadena area doesn't have a lot to offer. Next door to the Rose Bowl is Brookside Golf Club, an historic 36-hole facility, but be sure to call ahead because it closes a day or two before the game to make way for Rose Bowl festivities.
About an hour's drive from the Rose Bowl is scenic Simi Valley, which is home to a few good tracks, including the Pete Dye-designed Lost Canyons.
Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3
The obvious option for golf in Miami is five-course Doral Resort & Spa, home of the TPC Blue Monster plus four other courses, including the new Jim McLean Signature Course (formerly called the Silver Course). The Fairmont Turnberry Isle also offers posh accommodations and course conditions on 36 holes just off the beach.
For a top daily-fee option, head to Crandon Park Golf Course, the city's beloved municipal play on Key Biscayne.
GoDaddy.com Bowl, Jan. 6
Down on the Gulf Coast, Mobile is a hotbed for fishing and offers some value-laden courses to play too. Kiva Dunes headlines the bunch, set on sandy land on Mobile Bay. Josting with Kiva for the toast of Mobile is Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club, a 27-hole course with amenities worthy of a private club.
AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 7
With Arlington's location between Fort Worth and Dallas, you have boundless options for golf in the Metroplex, but that's not to say there aren't good options right in Arlington. Spread out over 250 acres, the well-run Tierra Verde Golf Club is the first municipal course to earn Audubon Sanctuary certification.
There are two other, less expensive municipal facilities worth trying in Arlington: Lake Arlington and Chester W. Ditto Golf Course.
BBVA Compass Bowl, Jan. 8
Part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, 54-hole Oxmoor Valley Golf Club is a solid mid-priced option near Birmingham. The newest addition to the Trail, Ross Bridge, is a short drive outside the city and boasts an eye-popping 8,100-yard championship tee if you dare.
The best non-Jones course is about a half hour's drive north of the city; Limestone Springs, a Jerry Pate design on 225 scenic acres in the Appalachian Mountains.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Jan. 9
Historic, municipal TPC Harding Park has not only become part of the TPC network, but is shining bright as ever following massive renovations prior to the 2009 Presidents Cup. Also right in the heart of the city is Presidio Golf Course near the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Of course, you're just a two hours drive north of the Monterey Peninsula, or about an hour from oceanside, 36-hole Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay, as well as historic Pasatiempo Golf Club, an Alister Mackenzie design.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1
Tostitos BCS National Championship game, Jan. 10
By January, it's prime winter golf season in the Valley of the Sun. Courses are wall-to-wall over-seeded and plush from tee to green.
Though not as loaded as Scottsdale to the east, Glendale in the northwest has a few of its own worthy, less expensive courses near the University of Phoenix Stadium. The Legend at Arrowhead is a traditional-styled Arnold Palmer design with plenty of grass and six lakes. Or for resort golf, stay and play at Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort and play Lookout Mountain Golf Club, a resort-style course with top conditions and water features bordering the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.
Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions
The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”
For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.
There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.
“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”
But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.
Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”
“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”
Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.
“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”
It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.
Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”
The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”
You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.
How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?
“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.
Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.
The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.
Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.
Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.
“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”
It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.
Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.
The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.
Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week
Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.
That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.
Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.
From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.
Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.
She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.
She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.
“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”
Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.
With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.
The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.
She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.
The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.