Looking back on the best new courses in 2012

By Brandon TuckerDecember 31, 2012, 9:31 pm

Travel Editor Brandon Tucker looks back on the best new courses he visited in 2012:

There isn't much new golf being built these days. But the projects that are opening are pretty spectacular. Here's a recap of new courses I visited in 2012: 

Cabot Links in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

To golfers, the tale sounds familiar: a remote village whose most industrious days seemed long gone, until a fairy god-bankroller named Mike Keiser is willing to bet some of his greeting cards coin on a small piece of seaside dunesland. 

The comparisons of Bandon Dunes to Cabot Links, located on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, are aplenty. But Cabot has its own allure: a playable-yet-spectacular and raw links, set on a spectacularly natural island that is easily accessible to east coasters than the Pacific northwest or Scotland.

And here's another big sell that Cabot Links has to golfers that Bandon doesn't: Highlands Links, a Stanley Thompson-designed, golden era masterpiece located in a national park that delivers holes in both dense forest and exposed, rolling ground high above the water. 

The two courses are linked by the Cabot Trail, one of the world's great coastal roads and makes for Canada's best old-and-new, yin-and-yang golf course combo.

More on Cabot Links and Highlands Links

Red and Blue at Streamsong Resort, Central Florida

It seems like a niche that's needed to be filled for awhile now: links-inspired golf for the winter months, where you can still wear bermuda shorts and get a suntan when Scotland or Bandon is chilly and dark.

Streamsong Resort officially opened Dec. 21st of 2011 and is a long-awaited addition to the Florida golf scene. Tom Doak's Red? course and Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw's Blue have side-by-side, sandy layouts full of Irish-esque towering dunes, plus small lakes and ponds lining other holes to create a most unique canvas.

More on Streamsong Resort


Bay Course at Costa Navarino, Greece

Though the Bay Course at Costa Navarino had a soft opening in the fall of 2011, this was the first full year for a big new addition to the continental European golf scene. Located on the southwest corner of Greece, the Bay course joins the existing Dunes Course.

Greece may be a newbie to elite golf resorts, but Troon Golf-operated with two side-by-side luxury Starwood-brand hotel properties onsite, Navarino is an experience that stacks up with the best of North American resort golf. But north American courses don't have the thousands of olive trees and other floral aromas that waft throughout both courses, not to mention elaborate Greek lunches in an open-air restaurant and a fascinating, and land with a thousands-of-years-old history, so score one for the Greeks.

More on Costa Navarino

Summit Rock, Horseshoe Bay Resort

In the Texas Hill Country just west of Austin, Summit Rock's timing couldn't have coincided with the economic meltdown of 2008 any worse. But unlike the many golf and residential projects throughout the world that were shuttered for good, Horseshoe Bay found a way to make the newest Jack Nicklaus signature course on U.S. soil work - and its long-awaited grand opening was held this fall. 

The fourth course at Horseshoe Bay, Summit Rock is fully private with amenities that top the already stellar offerings at the three Robert Trent Jones Sr. courses.

More on Summit Rock at Horseshoe Bay

Royal Isabela, Puerto Rico

The poster child of Puerto Rico's surge into ultra-high-end scene is Royal Isabela. The course, perched on high bluffs above the Caribbean Sea, has been quasi-open for a couple years now offering 'preview play', but the brainchild of tennis stars Stanley and Charlie Pasarell (with a design assist from former Pete Dye associate David Pfaff) finally had its grand opening this summer and is now complete with new, luxurious villas. 

Royal Isabela was, unquestionably, the most interesting round, if not imperfect, round of golf I played this year. It includes perhaps my favorite hole of the year: the par-5 13th, which has a wide fairway splattered with tall, skinny, coconut palm trees. From where your drive lands, you almost have to carve a shot around one or more towards the green. I speak with a lot of golf writers who thought this hole was silly. Not me, it's hole that warrants a great mix of skill and luck. 

More on golf in Puerto Rico

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For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.



Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

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Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

Titleist representatives could not be immediately reached by Golf Channel.

“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

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Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!

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Hot Seat: Honda fans bring noise and heat

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 1:34 pm

The Bear Trap awaits in South Florida.

With hot, sunny days forecast for all four rounds of the Honda Classic, the mercury’s rising, especially at the 17th hole, where the revelry at the Goslings Bear Trap party pavilion could turn the tee box into a sweat box.

It may be even steamier for women playing the Honda LPGA Thailand, with temperatures forecast in the 90s for the weekend.

Here’s our special heat index gauging the toastiest seats in golf this week:

Five-alarm salsa – PGA National’s 17th tee

PGA Tour pros almost universally don’t want to see the craziness promoted at the Phoenix Open’s party hole (No. 16) duplicated at other Tour events, but they will get a distant cousin this week at the Honda Classic.

The Goslings Bear Trap party pavilion sits over the 17th tee, where Graeme McDowell cracked that players can get “splashed with vodka cranberries” if the wind is right. The Cobra Puma Village surrounds the 17th green.

That pretty much means everyone playing through there late in the day, with the party fully percolating, is on the Hot Seat.

Tiger Woods is scheduled to go through there at about Happy Hour on Friday afternoon.

“I said to myself, ‘This isn’t Scottsdale, this is ridiculous,’” Billy Horschel said after playing through there a year ago.

Sergio Garcia was among players who got heckled there last year.

It’s one of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour, ranking as the 21st most difficult par 3 last year.



Hot-collar rub – Rickie Fowler

Fowler returns to the Honda Classic as its defending champ.

He also returns for his first start since losing the 54-hole lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he bogeyed three of the final four holes and fell all the way out of the top 10 at Sunday’s end.

Fowler is now one for his last six closing out 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour.


Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.


Spicy Tom Yum heat – Shanshan Feng

The Rolex world No. 1 in women’s golf is back in action with the strongest field of this young season ready to resume chasing her at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

World No. 2 Sung Hyun Park will be making her first start of the year. No. 3 So Yeon Ryu, No. 4 Lexi Thompson, No. 5 Anna Nordqvist and No. 6 In Gee Chun are all in the field.

Park and Ryu shared Rolex Player of the Year honors last season. Thompson was the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year.

Feng has ridden atop the world rankings for 15 consecutive weeks. She opened the year tying for third at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic last month.