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. 

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x