Punch Shots: Great remote golf experiences

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 8, 2012, 4:42 pm

If your idea of a great golf trip is one that's in the middle of nowhere, our travel experts name their three favorite remote golf destinations: 

Mike Bailey: Black Jack's Crossing in Lajitas near Big Bend National Park, Texas

Everyone knows Texas is big, but to get a real feel for that statement, all you have to do is take a trip out to Lajitas Resort & Spa in Big Bend country.

Under the night desert sky of Lajitas in remote Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, the stars are glorious. During the day, there's a feeling of the old west, taken advantage of by the resort and enjoyed by the guests. For dining, there's Lajitas fajitas, drinks at the Thirsty Goat and a host of non-golf activities, like skeet shooting, hunting, jeep tours, rafting, mountain biking and fishing.

And then there's golf. The original course was lost four years ago to a devastating flood. In the end, that was probably fortunate, because the course that replaced it, Black Jack's Crossing (named for Gen. John Pershing), is far better. Designed by Lanny Wadkins, there are at least seven elevated tees, where you can see 50 miles in almost every direction. The tee shots are exhilarating, looking down on the paspalum fairways and greens set against endless mountains, buttes, mesas and other rock formations ('lajitas' means 'flat stones'). Best of all, Wadkins created a golf course where every hole is memorable.

When I took my trip out there late last year, I was fortunate; I got to fly, courtesy of Lajitas' owner, Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren. But even then, the trip is well over an hour from Dallas, and that's straight in without getting into a traffic pattern to a remote runway a few minutes from the resort. Drive in, say, from Dallas or Houston, and you’re talking an all-day trip.

But it's well worth it, because there's nothing like it in Texas or the world, for that matter.

Brandon Tucker: Scotland's Kintyre Peninsula

For years, storytellers like Alfred Hitchcock and Paul McCartney have glamorized the long, winding road along Scotland's Kintyre Peninsula.

Starting from Loch Lomond, the drive winds through tiny fishing villages and mountain passes before ending on a narrow road overlooking coastal farms and the sea. That said, it's 100-plus-miles interspersed with a few terrifying moments if you're a bit timid behind the wheel. I played chicken (and lost) with a truck on a small bridge near the little village of Inverary. I've met other golfers who have blown tires on the trek, a common and understandable result of hugging the shoulder a little too tight on the left.

At the end of the road are two of the world's purest links courses: Machrihanish Old and Machrihanish Dunes. Built over 100 years apart, both are pure links test, albeit very different ones despite their locations beside one another. Making the journey that much more alluring, accommodations have improved recently, thanks to a restoration of the 22-room Ugadale Hotel beside the first tee of Machrihanish. If that's not remote enough, also tack on Machrie and Dunaverty to the journey. 

Now, you don't have to make the three-hour drive to get here. Machrihanish is also accessible via speed boats from Scotland's west coast, as well as private helicopters or even a commercial light into nearby Campbeltown, a sleepy town that McCartney is spotted in time-to-time to this day. But a good chunk of the fun of Machrihanish is the journey - and rest assured the road has improved a bit since Hitchcock's 39 Steps.

Jason Deegan: Prairie Club in Nebraska

The Prairie Club’s founder Paul Schock has proven if you build it right, they will come. In just a short amount of time, Schock has transformed Cleve Trimble’s 2,500-acre remote ranch property in the Sandhills near the South Dakota border into a golf pilgrimage of the highest order. Getting here requires persistence - unless you’ve got a private plane – but the club’s commitment to service and the surreal setting combine to deliver the kind of spiritual retreat craved by golfers. Both the Dunes and the Pines courses opened in 2010.

At times, the two par-73 designs share the same wide-open spaces among the dunes. Wild, blowout bunkers and maddening greens define the duo. The Pines, designed by Graham Marsh, dives into the narrower confines of a ponderosa pine forest hugging the Snake River Canyon. The Dunes, routed by Tom Lehman and Chris Brands, ranks No. 78 among the top 100 public courses in the country by Golf Magazine. Its fairways stretch 80 yards wide in places with nary a tree in sight. Gil Hanse, arguably today’s hottest architect, designed the interesting Horse course, a 10-hole short course that can play an endless array of combinations and lengths. Hanse’s course called “Old School” could open within three to five years if membership growth continues.

Thirty-one rooms are spread among several floors of the lodge. Foursomes love the space and privacy of the four cabins overlooking the canyon. The river below is a hotspot for fly-fishing, but only members have access, another of the many reasons to join The Prairie Club.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

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."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

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.