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


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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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.