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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'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told GolfChannel.com in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Web.com Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”