The best, the burly, the bonehead: 2011 year of travel in review

By Brandon TuckerDecember 31, 2011, 6:40 pm

In 2011, I teed it up on nearly 100 golf courses ranging from Hawaii to Scotland, from posh spots like the St. Regis Princeville to bargain spots off I-95 like Santee, South Carolina. 

Over some holiday chili dogs and egg nog, I took a little time to reflect on the highs, the bargains, and the bizarre...

Best resort golf deal: For $50 a month, you can play golf at 4 p.m. until sunset at Ka'anapali Golf Club on Maui. It's part of the 'Fit Club' they introduced recently to encourage walkers. I played and got in 14 holes before walking in (the Kai course usually runs over $100). 

The catch, you ask? None I can think of. 

Wackiest golf hole: I've never played a quarry golf course that didn't have at least one hole that raised your eyebrows. In Nebraska, Iron Horse Golf Club's 10th fairway bottlenecks between water and the quarry wall. All three shots on this par-5 are every bit as penal as the picture:

Iron Horse No. 10 

Most memorable course name: Few golf courses in the world roll off the tongue quite like Santee-area's Wyboo Golf Club. The sticker price, about $28 to play a solid, Tom Jackson design, is equally memorable. 

Biggest bonehead: That would be this guy, who didn't heed his GPS warning and drove straight into rocks at La Cantera and off to E.R. 

Golf Cart accident

Best model golf operation: No developer should be allowed to build a golf course until they've visited WildHorse Golf Club out in Gothenburg, Nebraska. This humble operation off I-80 has a meager clubhouse and no-name course architects. But the course is in phenomenal shape, walkable and the design is fantastic.

Even better, anyone can play it for under $50, and locals can buy season passes for about $500. 

Best 'value' digs: In Augusta, our room at America's Best Value Inn on Washington Road was about $150 a night during Masters week (about triple what it normally costs) and included a free breakfast and happy hour. Once I caught wind of houses charging upwards of $30,000-$40,000 for the week around Augusta, suddenly $150 for two beds within walking distance of Magnolia Drive seemed like a steal. 

Best power lunch: I think I got as many stock tips as golf tidbits during my lunch with the always business-savvy Greg Norman at Sandals Emerald Bay. 

Best way to grow the game: I can't think of a better way to introduce a novice to the game of golf than an hour or two at TopGolf, a new driving range concept that's gaining steam in the U.S. If there isn't one near where you live now, just wait a couple years, as up to 50 locations are in planning stages. 

Most bizarre driving range site: A cold spell in Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open caused a malfunctioning sprinkler head at Troon North Golf Club's driving range: 

icy sprinkler

Best way to kill jetlag: Walking around Royal Dornoch in the Highlands at 4 a.m., watching the sunrise and getting the sea breeze in your face is a great way to kick off a week of links golf. 

Most unique happy hour: Mussels are so abundant around Prince Edward Island that a lot of places don't even charge you for them; they're simply in a cooler at the corner of the bar and you can help yourself. One of the best spots is at Glasgow Hills Golf Club, which features a clubhouse perched overlooking green hills and the Atlantic Ocean, where you can enjoy a cold beer, fantastic view and as many fresh mussels you can pry open. 

Best course to ball hock: The Plantation Course at Kapalua's fairways are some of the widest in golf - and apparently not wide enough. I must have found 40 usable balls during my twilight round - and by the back nine I was getting picky, saving room in my bag only for the best quality stuff. Green fees are over $200 at Kapalua, but at least you can make a lot of it back with used Pro-V1s.

Best wildlife encounter: Without a doubt, it'd be the multiple bear sightings at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club. It's not every day a bear and cub stumble upon the tee box in front of you:

Bear and cub

Luckiest bounce: By the time I got to the 17th tee on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, my swing was in shambles, thanks to Pete Dye's treacherous design revealing every little flaw in my error-prone game. Then, on golf's most famous tee box, I bladed a pitching wedge straight towards the left side of the island with little hope it would find land. Somehow, the ball smacked into the top of the bulkhead, jumped over water and landed safely on the grass behind the green. I may not have made the green, but I didn't find water, either. That's a 'push' for me. 

'Overachieving Butler' award: Paul the Butler surely knew I was visiting the Sandals Emerald Bay on my own for a press trip; a rare solo traveler at this Bahamas getaway geared towards couples. But that didn't stop him from creating this romantic bathtub scene in my guest room:

Butler bath

Favorite golf course played in 2011: I played an old favorite, Royal Dornoch, and also a few great new ones like Castle Stuart and Dormie Club. But it's tough to think of a better all-around day of golf and travel than in Bend, Oregon at the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Golf Club. The scenery, the design, the conditions, the sunny weather and the accommodations (not to mention all sorts of other activities like mountain biking, fishing and even skiing) makes this one of the best travel experiences you could ever draw up. A day of golf and mountain biking gets the nod for my favorite day on the road in 2011. 

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Lexi involved in a(nother) rules controversy at LPGA Thailand

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2018, 2:50 am

Jessica Korda stole the show this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand, winning the star-studded event by four strokes in her first start since undergoing serious jaw surgery to address a significant overbite that led to ailments ranging from facial cramping to headaches to sleep apnea.

But just four strokes behind Korda finished Lexi Thompson, who may have challenged for the win on Sunday if not for another rules controversy during the second round of the event.

Thompson, who was famously assessed two two-stroke penalties last year at the ANA Inspiration that ultimately cost her the title, was hit with another two-stroke penalty on Friday in Thailand after she moved a sign out of her swing path at Siam Country Club.

The 23-year-old mistakenly thought a billboard on the 15th hole was a moveable object, when in fact, the local rule deemed this particular advertisement a "temporary immovable obstruction."

The two-stroke penalty was assesed after the round, where the par she made on the hole became a double bogey and what would have been a 66 ballooned into a 68.

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After Further Review: JT may face serious Ryder Cup heckling

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2018, 2:09 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Thomas getting heckler thrown out ...

Justin Thomas polished off a playoff win at the Honda Classic despite the efforts of a fan who screamed for his ball to head for a fairway bunker on the 16th hole.

Thomas signaled for the fan to be ejected after striping his tee shot on No. 16, telling him, “Enjoy your day, buddy. You’re done.” It’s the second straight week that Thomas has had issues with fans, having bristled at some of the behavior he encountered while grouped with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open.

Thomas’ stance is that golf has earned a reputation as a “classy sport” that should place it above jeering and catcalls from the gallery. It’s a view that is as noble as it is unachievable.

As long as tournaments continue to serve alcohol well into the afternoon hours, there will be outlier fans who will look to get a rise out of players with comments before, during or after swings. Thomas was within his right to ask for the fan’s removal, though I’d imagine the European fans planning to attend this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris might take note of the apparent impact the gallery can have on Thomas while in the heat of battle. – Will Gray


On the debate over rolling back the ball ...

The opening salvos in what promises to be one of the most polarizing eras in golf were exchanged this week. First, USGA CEO Mike Davis, via Jack Nicklaus, announced his arrival: “Mike said, ‘We’re getting there [on the distance issue]. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there,’” the Golden Bear explained when asked about the growing drumbeat to curtail how far modern players hit the golf ball.

A few days later, former Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein fired back: “Mike Davis has not told us (Acushnet/Titleist) that he is close and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there.”

Perhaps this will turn out to be a misunderstanding and the game’s rules makers and manufacturers will all end up on the same sideline, but it doesn’t feel that way right now. Rex Hoggard


On Tiger turning up the notch on his comeback ...

It’s safe to say the Tiger Woods comeback is ahead of schedule. After looking lost with his long game in his first two starts of the year, he led the field in proximity to the hole and third in driving distance. He flighted and shaped shots both directions, seemingly at ease, looking nothing like the player we saw at Torrey and Riviera.

If that form continues at Bay Hill and beyond, this has the potential to be one of the greatest comebacks in golf history.  Ryan Lavner


On Korda's journey from pain to promise ...

Jessica Korda is the leader in the clubhouse for best story of the year in women’s golf. She won her first start of the season Sunday at the Honda LPGA Thailand just a little more than two months after undergoing a complex and painful double-jaw surgery to alleviate headaches caused by her jaw’s alignment.

She did so in record-breaking fashion, shattering tournament scoring records against a star-studded field that included the top six players in the world. If Korda can so quickly overcome the challenges of that daunting offseason, there is no telling what else this determined young American star might achieve this year.  Randall Mell

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List loses playoff, may have gained performance coach

By Randall MellFebruary 26, 2018, 1:52 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Luke List didn’t win in his playoff with Justin Thomas Sunday at the Honda Classic, but he thinks he may have found a pretty good new performance coach.

The guy’s name is “Moose.”

He’s a former Australian rules football player.

Actually, his full name is Brent Stevens, a friend of List’s caddie, who put them on the phone together for the first time last week at the Genesis Open.

List liked a lot of the performance keys Stevens gave him and posted some of the advice in his yardage book, so he could reference them.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


“Effort over result” was one of the ideas List scribbled down.

“I feel like I've got the ability to play at this level,” said List, who was seeking his first victory Sunday at PGA National. “It just hasn't quite happened yet, but the more I think about it, I feel like the worse I do. So I focus on what's in front of me, the effort into the shot. I did a really good job of that this week.”

List said he’s interested in maybe visiting Australia to take Moose’s training to another level.

“He's a very fit dude,” List said. “He's got some clients that he brings down to south of Melbourne, to run the sand dunes,” List said, “and if we keep in contact, which I'm sure we will, I'm going to have to go down there and get my butt kicked.”

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Both in contention, Thomas hears 'crickets' from Woods

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 26, 2018, 1:36 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods has become a friend, confidant and something of an adviser for Justin Thomas.

Whenever Thomas has been in contention in his young career, Woods has often texted him advice or good luck on the eve of the final round.

That wasn’t the case Saturday night after the third round of the Honda Classic.

“Got crickets last night,” Thomas said, laughing.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


That’s because Woods was in contention, too, beginning the final round seven shots off the lead.

“I knew he had one thing in mind, and we both had the same thing in mind,” Thomas said. “I thought that was pretty funny.”

Thomas added that he was “very impressed” with Woods’ 12th-place finish at PGA National.