Best golf courses in the Sun Belt

By November 10, 2010, 2:30 am
butterfield golf el paso
510-yard par-4 16th at Butterfield Trail Golf Club in El Paso, Texas (Courtesy Mike Bailey)

College football fans know the best way to enjoy a game is to do more than just enjoy the game.

It's the complete experience of college football that makes it memorable. Taking a tour of the campus. Finding a great place to eat. Partaking in a local beverage – or two.

And it wouldn't hurt to bring the sticks and get in a round of golf, either.

The weather may be turning cold and dreary in many parts of the country, but in the Sun Belt college football and golf are an ideal winter daily double. So, for your benefit, here are a few places to turn your game-day experience into a two-fer:

San Diego

San Diego State University and the University of San Diego may not be college football powerhouses, but the 90-plus public golf courses more than make up for the fact you won't be watching a BCS powerhouse team on Saturday.

Start with Torrey Pines South, one of the most celebrated courses on the West Coast and host of the 2008 U.S. Open, won by some one-legged guy named Tiger Woods. Torrey Pines isn't cheap – rates range anywhere from $68 to $279 depending on the day and time – but it's one of those must-do golfing experiences.

For a cheaper and more accessible alternative, try Sycuan Resort in El Cajon, about 15 minutes inland. With 54 holes, a casino on site and green fees around $40, you'll never want to leave.

Other recommendations: Maderas Golf Club, Temecula Creek Inn in wine country and Aviara Golf Club.

Tucson, Ariz.

The University of Arizona football team has enjoyed a renaissance under Coach Mike Stoops, and so has public golf in the area.

For a little history – and a fun 18 holes – try the Dell Urich Course at Randolph G.C., located in the heart of the city and the longest of the five municipal golf courses in Tucson. Randolph served as host of an LPGA event and, in its day, the Joe Garagiola Tucson Open.

For a more upscale experience, there's the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain, site of the Accenture Match Play Championship or the JW Marriott Starr Pass Tucson Golf Club.

Other recommendations: Silverbell Municipal Golf Course, a city course with nine lakes; Westin La Paloma with its 27 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus; and Tom Fazio's masterpiece at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

Tempe, Ariz.

Okay, so the Arizona State Sun Devils aren't exactly must-see college football, given that they're headed for a third straight losing season. But the Valley is a golf mecca, so make sure you give yourself an extra couple of days to truly enjoy the vacation.

It's impossible to pick out the best public golf courses in Arizona – that would be like choosing which child you like best – but here a few recommendations:

If you don't mind a two-hour drive, get up to Seven Canyons Golf Resort in Sedona. The scenery is second to none – don't be surprised to see a deer lurking just off the fairway – and the course is spectacular both in terms of its design and beauty.

In north Scottsdale, I'd recommend Troon North – you'll feel like you're playing a private course – or one of the two golf courses at We-Ko-Pa near Fountain Hills.

For a change of pace, head south to Maricopa and play Southern Dunes Golf Club, a links-style course that is unique in the Valley.

Other recommendations: Dinosaur Mountain in Gold Canyon, Raven at South Mountain and of course TPC Scottsdale, site of the PGA Tour Waste Management Open.

El Paso, Texas

UTEP football actually has become relevant again under Mike Price, but let's be honest: It's a good thing there are some quality courses around so football isn't at the heart of your trip.

Take the Butterfield Trail Golf Club, ranked recently as the fourth best public golf course in Texas by Golfweek. The Tom Fazio design is built on the original Butterfield Trail, which dates back to 1858.

Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course, a 27-hole layout, has something you don't see in many courses in southwest Texas – rolling hills and undulating greens. Green fees in November, by the way, are ridiculously low.

Other recommendation: Lone Star Golf Club.

Houston

The Houston Cougars love to throw the ball, so it's apropos there are a few courses that don't play it safe, either.

The 36-hole Black Horse Golf Club has long been ranked in the top 10 of the country's top 100 courses under $100. The North Course at Black Horse is carved into lakes and wetlands, while the final six holes on the south course play through a sand quarry. Do yourself a favor: Start early and play both courses in a day.

The Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club hosts the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open and is a monster, with its back tees stretching to 7,422 yards. For a less demanding track, try Memorial Park Golf Course, which hosted the Houston Open from 1951 to 1963 and was renovated in 1995.

Other recommendations: Houston National, The Woodlands Resort, Wildcat Golf Club.

Dallas

The Southern Methodist University football program is still trying to recover from the death penalty handed down by the NCAA in 1986. But golf in the Dallas area is thriving.

Dallas has six city courses, including Cedar Crest C.C., which was designed by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast and hosted the PGA Championship in 1927.

Also try the Texas Star Golf Course, which was ranked as the No. 1 municipal golf course in Dallas and likes to say it has 'the toughest darn greens in all of north Texas.'

Other recommendations: TPC Four Seasons, Stonebriar Country Club and Cowboys Golf Club, which is an ode to, you got it, the Dallas Cowboys.

New Orleans

Whether in town to see Tulane or LSU in Baton Rouge, make sure to take time to play TPC Louisiana, a Pete Dye design and host of the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

We'd recommend other courses but we're in New Orleans: We'd rather eat, drink and listen to some jazz.

– by Scott Bordow

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.