From Czech to Hawaii: Mike Bailey's best of 2013 golf travels

By Mike BaileyJanuary 1, 2014, 5:34 pm

Thirteen has always been my lucky number. I was born on that day, my favorite quarterback wore No. 13, and now, I can look back on the year 2013 with great fondness.

Yes, my previous five years as a travel golf journalist weren't too bad either, but 2013 stands above most. My travels took me from Hawaii to central Europe and many points in between. Most of the golf was stellar, to be sure, but the people, sites, food and experiences along the way were as fascinating as the risk-reward holes. Here's a look at some of the superlatives from last year:

Most underrated destination: Lake Geneva, Wisc.

Chicagoans and vacationers from Milwaukee certainly know of the Lake Geneva, Wisc., area, but much of the rest of the country is in the dark when it comes to this wonderful destination just north of Chicago. Built around the pristine waters of Geneva Lake, there are 22 golf courses in the area and several top-notch resorts, including Grand Geneva, which used to be a Playboy resort. The two courses at Grand Geneva – the Brute and the Highlands – are two of the most fun golf courses I played all year, but there were so many other good ones, too, like the three at Geneva National, Abbey Springs in Fontana and Hawk’s View Golf Club, which not only has a terrific 18-hole championship course, but a really enjoyable par 3 track as well.

Most memorable experience: Irish Open Pro-Am

This was my fourth trip to Ireland to play golf, but my first time playing golf in the Dublin area. I wasn't disappointed. First off, Dublin is a great city to visit. The pubs, the restaurants, the architecture and Temple Bar district (think the French Quarter in New Orleans during Mardi Gras) are as good as it gets, but the golf was surprisingly good – even the parkland golf at courses like Headfort and Carton House. The Montgomerie Course was the setting for The Irish Open and I was lucky enough to play in the pro-am. Our pro was Francesco Molinari, who couldn't have nicer, and we started on the first hole, where there was a surprisingly sizeable gallery for pro-am. I was the first amateur in my group to tee off and somehow I managed to hit one right down the middle. It was a thrilling start, to say the least, and one of the few times anyone ever clapped for one of my shots. Golf is golf, but the culture here was a little different. The Irish fans were knowledgeable and very supportive, no matter how bad of a shot you hit.

Longest trip: Houston to New England and back

Before 2013, my longest golf road trip was two weeks, but last summer, we decided to try something a little different. Starting from Houston, we drove to New England, then toward the Midwest and back home (Read: Bailey's epic summer road trip). The trip took 27 days, covering more than 5,000 miles and 17 states. I didn't play golf every day since there was some long days of driving involved, but there was plenty of it and a few side trips along the way. The hardest course I played was the Pete Dye Course at the French Lick Resort, which will host the 2015 Senior PGA Championship. Ironically, the best course on the trip was right next door, the wonderful Donald Ross Course at French Lick. The most fun course might have been an 18-hole executive course in Plymouth, Mass., Squirrel Run Golf & Country Club. Not too far away, we had some of the freshest and most economically priced lobster ever, caught fresh right out of the Atlantic.

Other highlights included barbecue in Paducah, Ky., Graceland in Memphis, the Gil Hanse-designed Inniscrone Golf Club near Philadelphia and a visit to the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, Ohio.

Best views: Kapalua on Maui

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Last spring marked my fifth trip to Hawaii, but my first to Maui. Of all the islands, with the exception of Oahu, Maui is probably the most commercial, but that might be because it's arguably the most beautiful, too. And the golf courses take advantage of the scenery. We paired this trip with nearby Lanai, taking the ferry over to stay at the Four Seasons and play the two courses there. (No shortage of views from Lanai either.) All the golf on Maui was exceptional, but there were two that really stood out for me. The first might be a little under the radar – King Kamehameha Golf Club, a private club that allows limited outside play. Laid out along the side of the West Maui Mountains, with plenty of elevation change, you also get panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean as well. Still, for me, the king of spectacular is the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Even if you don't play the course, go get breakfast on a clear day at the Plantation Clubhouse and eat outside on the veranda. There's nothing better. 


In Photos: View Mike Bailey's best golf course photos from 2013


Most pleasant surprise: Czech golf scene

About 15,000 or 20,000 miles from Maui, in central Europe, lies the Czech Republic. While it doesn't have the golf reputation Hawaii enjoys, the golf scene there is probably a lot better than you think, and it's rapidly growing. And the bonus on our fall golf trip to the Czech Republic was a visit to the capital city of Prague, which is one of the great architectural and cultural cities of the world. But not far away are a few really nice golf resorts. One of them is Konopiste Golf Resort, situated in an old chateau about 45 minutes away. It has two championship golf courses -- D’Este and Radecky – which take advantage of the incredibly beautiful hilly countryside and were in beautiful shape. The golf culture there is a little different, though. There's not much interaction with the pro, who generally just gives a few lessons, and the local golfers seem a lot more serious about the game than we do (they love to play in tournaments, for example). In the end, though, it's still golf, trying to get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible, and that holds true whether you're playing at the brand new Loreta Golf Club Pysely in the Czech Republic or Pebble Beach.

 

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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.

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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.


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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?

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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."

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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