1. What’s on the horizon?: There are dozens of new golf courses set to open in 2010, but with some facing uncertain financial futures, it’s anyone’s guess how many of them will actually cut the ribbon in 2010.
2. The year of the public golf course: In 2010, for the first time ever, the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship and U.S. Amateur are all staged at public golf courses. Ok, so Pebble Beach ($495), Whistling Straits ($340) and St. Andrews ($208) aren’t exactly bargains, but if you’re looking to take a once-in-a-lifetime golf trip, you have more options this year than ever to play where – and when – the pros play.
3. Will the economy heat up?: There isn’t a sport more inextricably linked to the success of the economy than golf, and it’s no secret that golf resorts all over the world are shivering these days. Things seem to be heating up, but it’s too soon to predict when we’ll be out of the cold.
4. The emergence of China as a golf destination: When the 12 courses at golfing metropolis Mission Hills opened, it sent a message that China is serious about being a golf destination. And when Augusta National promised a Masters invite to the winner of the newly-formed Asian Amateur Championship, it proved that the golf world is noticing. From Golf Channel's home in Orlando, it’s almost twice as far to China as it is to Scotland. The number of Americans who travel to China probably depends on how good the golf continues to get.
5. Is Dubai toast?: Tiger’s course in Dubai is still up in the air, the purse for the European Tour’s Race to Dubai shrunk, and the entire city is teetering on the edge of financial calamity. Will Dubai ever become a major golf destination?
6. TPC Rio?: Now that it’s official that golf will be included in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, the question is: Where will it be played? With no real championship-caliber course in the area, some suspect that the PGA Tour will champion an effort to create a TPC Rio. Because of the historic circumstances, however, don’t be surprised if the bidding for design privileges heats up. Who knows, maybe we haven’t seen the last Nicklaus vs. Palmer duel.
7. How will gas prices affect travel habits?: The economy is supposed to improve this year, and if it does, oil and gas prices probably will go back up. How high, no one knows, but when prices hit record highs in the summer of 2008 golfers traveled less.
8. Championship golf in the Pacific Northwest: Proving that the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee was more than just a flash in the pan for golf in the Pacific Northwest, the USGA is staging the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay Golf Course. In a region stereotyped as cold and rainy, a summertime national championship at this hard-and-fast, links-style course south of Seattle could show the world that the Pacific Northwest is a golfing force to be reckoned with.
9. New course at Bandon Dunes: The only thing more spectacular than Bandon Dunes is the fact that it keeps getting better. This June the seaside southern Oregon resort introduces its fourth course, Old Macdonald, which is Tom Doak’s tribute to Charles Blair Macdonald, the late father of American golf course architecture. The early buzz is that it’s just as good if not better than Pacific Dunes, its world-renowned sibling.
10. Easier than ever to book online: With each passing year it becomes easier – and safer – to make golf reservations on the Internet. Tee time sites like GolfNow.com and travel sites like HawaiiGolf.com ensure that everyone from the traveling golfer to the weekend hacker has a place to research and book their rounds of golf.