Monday, June 20, 2011

Video - Popular Golf and Accommodations in St. Andrews, Scotland

The U.S. Open golf tournament has just finished here in the States, and a great one it was.

It's now time to look to the next Major, the Open Championship. In looking ahead, I visited, a site created by my friend, Andy Brown. Even though this year's open isn't near St. Andrews, any golf trip to the UK wouldn't be complete without a pilgrimage to the Home of Golf.

While looking through the videos on, I came across the Fairmont Hotel video, shot while Andy was there for the Senior Scotish Open back in March. It looks absolutely fantastic. Between Andy's video of the Torrance Course at the hotel, which is near St. Andrews, and the hotel's own website, it is now at the top of my list of "must visits" in Scotland.

Have a look at this short video and visit the sites for more information.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Take the Plunge, Conquer Your Fears (with travel)

Over at the Vagabondish blog, Charlotte Halligan has written an excellent post. The title of her post, Taking the Plunge: How to Conquer Your Fears Through Travel, is self-explanatory, to an extent. But, not to the extent of how far she went to conquer her own fears.

A gorgeous, tropical beach doesn't typically strike fear in the hearts of most of us, but for Halligan, it did. Despite the intrinsic beauty, all she saw was herself wading in the water, then totally consumed by it, gasping for air.

Go now and read her post and you'll see another of the benefits of travel. It's truly amazing.

Wonder if I can convince everyone that I have a very real fear of teeing-off at a golf course in Bali?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Historic Sun Valley Resort - A National Treasure in Idaho

The difficulty level in planning a family vacation that pleases everyone often ranks around 9.5 out of 10. The Sun Valley Resort, in Idaho, has such a variety of top shelf amenities and activities, which should rank it near the top of all resort destination lists, that it greatly reduces family trip planning difficulty.

An All New Nine

In 2008, the resort opened a new nine holes, to add to its 18-hole championship golf course. The new nine, designed by golf course architect Don Knott, features challenging golf and breathtaking, panoramic views of the Northern Rockies that envelope the resort. An all new clubhouse, which doubles as the Nordic Center in winter, also opened in 2008. For guests who can't squeeze in 18-holes, or a quick nine, Sun Valley Resort has enhanced their golf practice facility. They now offer clinics as short as two-hours, as well as private instruction and a driving range for individual practice.

Golf is only the beginning of Sun Valley Resort's activities. The resort was the first to bring the look, feel and mystique of European ski resorts to America. Since 1936, the resort-goers have enjoyed world-class skiing on the 9,150 foot summit of Bald Mountain, as well as on the beginner-friendly Dollar Mountain.

Ice Skating Year-Round

The country's first ski destination also boasts the country's first year-round outdoor skating rink, allowing guests to skate under the sun, even during the hottest of summer days. Sun Valley's ice-skating rink has been named to Budget Travel's Top 10 list. Home to legendary ice shows that feature Olympic medalists and greats such as Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan, Sasha Cohen and the Canadian team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, Sun Valley's outdoor rink rests in the heart of the resort and offers spectacular views of the majestic mountains. The resort's ice skating complex also features an indoor rink for organized hockey.

According to Sun Valley's General Manager, Wallace Huffman, "Generations have enjoyed skating on our outdoor ice rink and it's an honor to be recognized as one of the country's top skating destinations. While the ice shows have drawn national attention, it's the countless guests who've enjoyed the rink that's most gratifying."

In addition to skiing, ice skating and golf, Sun Valley is flush with activities from horseback riding and hiking/biking, to an acclaimed tennis facility and gun range. The resort's Symphony Pavilion plays host to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony and other outdoor events.

What Else Could There Be?

Although too numerous to list everything else the resort provides, here is a short sampling of things that make Sun Valley Resort one of the most family-friendly destinations in the world:

•The Playschool - A full-service, licensed day-care center

•Young Summer Camp - Kids age 6-14 enjoy supervised swimming, ice skating, hay rides, barbecues, fishing, horseback riding, and tons more

•Sleigh Rides

•Ice Skating School/Lessons

•Salon and Day Spa

•Swimming and Fitness Center

•Movie and Opera House

It seems that any time is the right time to visit Sun Valley Resort, Idaho.

Image Courtesy CarolineJoan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hilton Head Island Golf Vacation - Southern Beauty, Family Fun, Fantastic Golf

Among the eastern United States' great family vacation destinations is Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Hilton Head is also known for its great golf. Home to the PGA TOUR's Verizon Heritage, Harbor Town Golf Links leads a host of other great courses that are complemented by a wide variety of activities the whole family will enjoy.

When entering the island, which measures 12 miles from heel to toe, vacationers will be struck initially by the lack of visible commercialization. Although a family vacation and tourist destination full of every convenience imaginable, planners succeeded in keeping the signs so plentiful and visible everywhere else from easy view. All business signs, such as restaurants and shopping centers, are kept at eye-level, which succeeds in making the island less commercial and more naturally beautiful.

Hilton Head Island Golf

On Hilton Head and in the surrounding area, there are literally dozens of great courses to play, which causes some difficulty in deciding where to tee it up. The most widely acclaimed is, of course, Harbor Town Golf Links. Located in the Sea Pines area of the island, this course provides spectacular views of Calibogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as lots of the native flora. As it is a PGA TOUR venue, it is immaculately maintained and deserving of it's high rating. If you plan to play, contact the course well in advance of your arrival to secure a tee time. Expect to pay upwards of $200 for the privilege.

The Palmetto Dunes area of the island is home to three courses by famous golf course designers; the Robert Trent Jones Course, the Arthur Hills Course; and the George Fazio Course. They are within a few minutes of each other and located approximately in mid-island. Palmetto Dunes has beachfront and beach view lodging and dining for any budget, as well as activities for the kids. The location and amenities makes Palmetto Dunes a great place to stay and play on the island.

Lodging and Activities

Few places so beautiful have as much to offer by way of golf and other activities as HHI. When looking for places to stay on on the island, expect to pay more than you would in the surrounding areas; however, it is worth the extra money to experience the island's beauty and activities. Several rental companies can provide great lodging referrals and reservations to fit most budgets. Island Getaway, a vacation rental company, has access to numerous locations and the staff are friendly, courteous and willing to assist with any question or concern.

Everyone has different shopping tastes and Hilton Head has something for everyone. From the Shelter Cove Mall, which contains a Saks Off 5th Avenue and other national stores, to the outlet malls just off the island, to the numerous boutiques and shops throughout, no shopping taste will go unsatisfied.

For golfers, Golf Outfitters and Golf Headquarters are two popular HHI golf shops. The two golf retailers have a full selection of golf equipment from Adams, to Callaway, to Taylor Made. Both also offer golf club rental and golf equipment rental in case you can't bring your clubs along.

In short, if anyone in your family loves golf, Hilton Head Island is a great choice for your next family vacation. The golfers and non-golfers alike will have a spectacular time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Druids Glen Golf Resort - The Augusta of Europe

It's widely believed that most golf courses in Ireland, Scotland and England are not as lavishly landscaped as many U.S. courses. There, hosts of seaside links courses draw their character and beauty from their setting and history. Druids Glen is not your traditional links course, in fact, it isn't a links course at all. When compared to other premier British Isles and Irish golf courses, it is a mere infant.

Not Your Grandfather's Links

The golf course, an inland parkland course, opened to much acclaim in 1995. Often referred to as "The Augusta of Europe," the flora and fauna of the Glen provide a magnificent and colorful backdrop to a championship golf course. It's forests and streams produce a haven for wildlife in what was once a home to the Druids of pre-Christian Ireland.

Within a surprisingly short time after opening, the course began hosting the Murphys Irish Open. It held the tournament from 1996 to 1999, and was the host venue for the Seve Trophy in 2002. Golfers of worldwide renown such as Colin Montgomery and Sergio Garcia, who recorded his first professional victory there, have conquered their foes at the Glen.

Course Designers Pat Ruddy, designer of The European Club, and Tom Craddock have provided golfers with a thrilling golf experience, set amidst a beautifully manicured landscape. Voted European Golf Resort Of The Year 2005 by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, the par 71 course measures 7,046 yards.

The difficulty of the course is matched only by the difficulty in picking the best holes. Many players choose the 13th hole, a par four ranked as the toughest hole on the course. The 13th begins with an elevated tee to a fairway bounded by a stream on the right and forest on the left. Players with substantial fortitude can make a play for the green on the second shot, at great potential peril, as it must be played over water. Every hole isn't as demanding as the 13th, but all are surely challenging and reflective of the Ireland in the minds eye of people who have never visited the isle.

Green Fees and Rates

Green fees are typically the same for weekdays and weekends, around €175 ($1US = €.54 IEP). With a member, the cost drops to €60. Visitors on their Ireland golf trip can also expect a great pro shop, great food, club rental and a driving range.

Combining golf with a stay at the Marriot Druids Glen Hotel & Country Club can save money add five-star accommodations. Several Ireland golf packages are available for guests. For example, the Escape! Golf Package includes two rounds of golf and hotel stay for €243 per person, per night. Essentially, guests choosing that package get a five-star Irish hotel for around $100.

If time permits on your Ireland golf vacation, playing other courses may be the order of the day. Guests of the Marriot are within a short distance of Druids Heath (also part of the D. G. property), The European Club, Arklow Bay Golf Club, Wicklow Golf Club and Charlesland Golf Club.

An Ireland golf vacation doesn't get any better than the beauty and fantastic golf of this amazing course.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Bear Trap at PGA National

Most professionals aren't able negotiate the Bear Trap and escape the week even par through the three holes. In one recent tournament at PGA National, though a fan favorite and notoriously accurate player, Boo Weekley, the Bear Trap left a five-over-par mark on him by week's end. South African, Ernie Els, the big easy, has fared somewhat better over the years, as have a few others. Take heart in knowing the pros play a much harder and longer layout than the rest of us.

Amen Courner at Augusta has arguably lost some of the dread from players in recent years. August National takes steps every year to make the course tougher. Every April, the world discovers whether Augusta National took the necessary steps to challenge players for their Masters Tournament. To their credit, the staff of PGA National took that route with The Champions Course.

The difficulty level of the Bear Trap is due to two separate rounds of renovations to The Champ course in as many years. According to PGA National's managing director, Joel Paige,

"We are thrilled with the extensive renovations by Nicklaus Design and Superior Golf Concepts," said Paige. "The combined scores from holes 15, 16 and 17 have shown that our "Bear Trap" offers professional golfers the toughest three-hole stretch anywhere in the world." It also proves that Jack Nicklaus, as designer, is continuing to leave an indelible mark on golf, much like he did as a player.

Improvements to The Champion Course were part of an extensive, multi-million dollar resort-wide makeover that included a new resort front entrance, lobby bar, steak and seafood grille, free-form zero-entry pool and waterside bar and grill. The Champ Course's re-shaped and expanded bunkers has drawn significant attention from players and spectators who commented on the course's demand for a focused game. It isn't simply a bomber's course, as the Bear Trap's par-three, par-four, par-three stretch has proven.

The Champions Course isn't simply for the pros or a select few members. Anyone can play the course and be caught by the Bear Trap. The South Florida location of PGA National, as well as the other activities and amenities offered by the golf resort, make it a great vacation spot for golfers and non-golfers. Its 339 guest rooms, restaurants, five golf courses, European Spa health club, and other activities make it a world-class resort destination. Golf is only the beginning.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Plantation Course at Kapalua

Since 1999, the Plantation Course has been home to the SBS Championship, formerly the Mercedes-Benz Championship. The natural beauty of the area and fantastic golf have made Kapalua a top golf resort and spa. Each January, Kapalua hosts the winner of the each of the previous year's tournaments, which makes for great golf. Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, course architects, helped Hawaii give the world a small glimpse into its sweeping natural beauty.

History of the Championship

The Plantation Course is the fourth PGA Tour venue for the SBS Championship, which, in those early years was called the Tournament of Champions. From 1953 to 1966, the tournament was held at Desert Inn Country Club in Las Vegas. That period crowned winners such as Art Wall, Gene Littler, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

In 1967 and 1968, the tournament remained in Las Vegas, but moved to the Stardust Country Club. Frank Beard and Don January were crowned champions in those two years.

In 1969, the Mercedes Championship tour venue saw itself transported further west to Carlsbad, California's La Costa Country Club. It remained at La Costa until moving to The Plantation Course. A notable example of the stellar career of Jack Nicklaus, he was crowned champion three more times while the tournament remained at La Costa, in addition to his two previous victories. Also winning during the La Costa period were a host of great names; Gary Player, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Paul Azinger, Davis Love, III, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Duval, and Stuart Appleby, among other greats.

The Tournament of Champions became the Mony Tournament of Champions in 1975, the Infiniti Tournament of Champions in 1991 and the Mercedes Championships in 1994. The name changed slightly, to the Mercedes-Benz Championship, in 2007, before SBS (Seoul Broadcasting Systems) became the title sponsor for 2010.

The Plantation Course

By listening to some of the competitors in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, it would seem that the Plantation Course is one of the most difficult tracks on tour. The fact is, it ranks 50th out of 54 in terms of difficulty. Despite it's statistically "easy" ranking, there has been only one hole-in-one recorded in the 10 years it has been held in Kapalua; Lucas Glover's ace on the eighth hole in 2006.

Golfweek ranked The Plantation Course as No. 56 among its "America's Best Modern Courses" in 2007. The par-73 course opened in 1991 and was, as earlier mentioned, designed by architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. They designed a course that puts a great deal of importance on precision and shot-making over distance. Rolling terrain, a seaside location and lots of vegetation, not to mention 99 bunkers, lie in wait for errant shots.

Any person who has seen the course in person, or even watched the tournament on television, can attest to the secondary importance of course specifications. It's natural beauty is virtually unparalleled, not simply in golf, but in the world. Even casual nature lovers and golf fans will find themselves in awe of the views.

The PGA Tour has done an excellent job in keeping The Plantation Course on display as the season-opening Tour venue. It looks as if thanks are also in order to SBS for keeping the championship alive.

Resort Accomodations and Amenities

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is just the beginning of the awesome accommodations you can find yea- round in this paradise. There's little doubt why Kapalua is a top golf resort. There are luxury villas and vacation homes with views that rival anywhere in the world. Richly appointed homes and guest suites will enhance the vacation stay of a lifetime.

Vacation Packages

It may be the vacation of a lifetime, but package deals can be relatively inexpensive. Golf and spa packages, with stays in two- and three-bedroom units, start at around $519 per night. Villa packages, for two- and three-bedroom units, begin at around $200 per night, with a minimum four-night stay. They also include $150 resort credit, which can be used for spa and other amenities.

Statistical Sources: PGATOUR (dot) com; Golfweek.