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
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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.