Golf/Travel Articles

There are innumerable reasons to love the Hawaiian island of Kauai. From fifty miles of beautiful beaches, which is more beach per mile than any of its sister islands, to the fact that only about 5% of the island is developed at all. No building can be taller than the tallest coconut tree, and many places on the island are only accessible by air or sea. Nicknamed the “Garden Isle,” the landscape is lush and verdant, rife with green and gold mountains, turquoise Pacific Ocean waves and waterfalls.

Wailua

Golf is a key component of the myriad recreation options available. Grab a National Rental Car at Lihue, the island’s primary airport, and in ten-minute’s time you’ll be at Wailua, regarded as one of the most beautiful municipal courses in the nation, and recently named the third-finest public course in Hawaii by Golf Channel. Built on the site of an old coconut plantation, the course’s original holes date back to the 1920’s, and in 1962 then expanded to a full eighteen under the direction of Hawaii Golf Hall of Famer Toyo Shirai. There are some ocean views, plenty of breeze, and the sticker shock will be minimal, especially considering how expensive Hawaii can be. Green fees top out at about $60. (Sounds too good to be true, until you consider residents can play for $15!)

Puakea is another fine course in very close proximity to the airport. It doesn’t have the jaw-dropping scenery or scintillating ocean views of other Kauai courses, particularly on the opening nine, which have a few holes near roadways and retail establishments.  But this course, which happens to be owned by AOL founder Steve Case, is adjacent to the actual Jurassic Park movie set at the foot of Mount Ha’upu. It has many natural streams and ravines which are lovely and provide challenging design features. The inward nine is more remote, with a series of tough par 4s, varying length par 3s and some slam-bang par 5s, the split-fairway eleventh, in particular.

Poipu Bay

For a dozen years Poipu Bay played host to one of the most exclusive professional golf tournaments in existence, so restrictive it makes the Masters look like an open audition.  For a dozen years, from 1994 through 2006, the course played host to the annual PGA Grand Slam of Golf, open only to the winners of that season’s four Major championships. Once-and-future Hall-of-Famers named Norman, Crenshaw, Els, Lehman, Mickelson, Furyk and Woods have all tasted victory at Poipu Bay, considered by Golf Digest to be among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. This seaside beauty sits on more than two hundred manicured acres adjacent to the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, with its dramatic open-air lobby looking out to the Pacific. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. creation, set between lush mountains and rugged ocean bluffs, is one of Hawaii’s most colorful, not to mention enduring, golf venues. The resort underwent a comprehensive renovation in 2012, and now features a water playground with river pool, waterfalls and a saltwater lagoon, among other amenities.

It’s an ongoing shame that the ferocious Prince Course at Princeville Resort, on the island’s north end, remains closed. It was one of the most exciting and memorable tracks in all of Hawaii. However their eighteen-hole Makai Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., is open and ready for play, and is a favorite of visitors and islanders alike. Makai offers many memorable holes, but none better than the seventh, a long par-3 over a gaping chasm, the turquoise Pacific waters churning below. It is one of the most thrilling holes on Kauai. It incorporates serene lakes and stunning ocean coastline throughout, while the adjacent nine-hole Woods Course winds through native woodlands against a backdrop of lush mountains.

Morning on the beach at Hanalei Colony

Not too far from Princeville is a unique hotel that will appeal to those who enjoy getting ‘off the grid.’ (The polar opposite of a St. Regis, or other glitzy resort hotels.) The Hanalei Colony Resort is found north of the town of Hanalei. It’s about fifteen winding minutes, and seven one-lane bridges from town. There’s no AC, no TV, but comfortable rooms, superb ocean views, the soothing sound of pounding surf, a very nice on-site restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Speaking of eateries, Kauai doesn’t offer the richness or diversity that are found on other, more populous Hawaiian Islands, but nobody’s going hungry either. One of the best bets is also one of the most cleverly-named restaurants on the island. Bar Acuda, in Hanalei, offers delightful tapas of all kinds in a very hip setting. The seared tuna and lamb chops are particular highlights, but everything they serve in this ultra-hip outdoor-and-indoor bistro is wonderful.

In busy Kapaa Town, there is a sedate, French-inspired bistro called Art Café Hemingway, which is unique in that the same space affords two separate-but-connected eateries. The original founders, Markus and Jana, run the operation Friday through Sunday, while talented protégé Jeremiah is in charge Monday through Thursday. It doesn’t matter what day one visits, because they offer delectable brunch (with vegan options) and subtle, savory dinner (fresh fish, wonderful cuts of beef, ethereal desserts, etc.) every day of the week.

Viewing the ocean from the fairway is one thing, but all visitors would be well served in getting out onto the deep blue proper, and no outfit does a better job than Holo Holo Charters, which offers a wide range of water-borne activities, including sightseeing, snorkeling, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the ‘forbidden island” of Niihau, which offers no visitor’s accommodations, and is home only to native Hawaiians. (IE—of pure Hawaiian ancestry.)

Try their Napali Sunset Tour, which brings lucky passengers up the remotely beautiful Napali coast, on the northwest side of Kauai. The amazing craggy, mountainous topography, which is characterized by sheer drops right down to the azure waters, is unforgettable. Add in the flowing bar, fine appetizers, excellent dinner service and lively music, and you have the recipe for a vacation highlight in a trip that will have plenty, both on and off the course.

There are individuals who know more about golf on Maui than Rick Castillo, but it would be a short list. Currently the head professional at the uniquely named King Kamehameha Golf Club, Castillo has been gainfully employed in the golf business on Maui since 1979, including nearly twenty years as the head professional at Wailea Golf Club.

“There are three major golf resorts on Maui,” begins Castillo. There’s the three courses at Wailea, which are known as the Blue, the Gold and the Emerald. In addition, there’s Kaanapali, with two courses, and Kapalua, which also features a pair of courses.”

The Blue opened in 1972, its younger siblings in the middle ’90s. Castillo, the son of a golf professional himself, explains that the trade winds blowing in off the ocean make for challenging golf. “However we need them, because otherwise the temperatures would be too hot for most people.”

Wailea Gold

The Gold is the bellwether course at Wailea, the longest of the trio, and like the Emerald Course, a pure golf experience, unsullied by condos and roadways. The Gold played host to the Senior Skins Game for nearly a decade, and unlike other golf areas on the island, some of the wind-related challenges are mitigated by the buffering presence of Mount Haleakala, a dormant volcano that stretches to nearly 10,000 feet in elevation.

“Kapalua is probably our best-known resort,” continues Castillo, whose four siblings are also longtime members of the golf profession. “The Plantation Course is famous as the home of the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions every January. It’s a massive course, par 73, with huge greens and tilting fairways. The Bay Course is also hilly, with uneven lies, plenty of wind, and some gorgeous ocean views.”

Kaanapali is the third resort offering, and while the Royal Course is known as a terrific test of golf, beginning at sea level and climbing up into the West Maui mountain foothills, there are some roadway and highway views that detract just a bit from the ‘walk in the park’ sensibility that many golfers, particularly those on vacation, seek out. The Kaanapali Kai course is a bit shorter, and more forgiving.

“Golf on Maui offers great conditioning, consistently good courses, and strikes a wonderful balance,” concludes Castillo. “Some people find Oahu too busy, and Honolulu a very hectic city. others love Kauai, but some consider it a bit too sedate. Maui is somewhere in between.”

Hotel Wailea

There are nearly as many fine resort hotels on Maui as there are beach umbrellas stuck in the sand, but few, if any, would be superior to the exceptional Hotel Wailea. It’s the only hotel in Hawaii with the coveted Relais & Chateaux designation, not to mention being designated at the #1 hotel in Maui by Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” awards.

To put it delicately, this is a place to make the babies, not bring the babies. The hotel features seventy-two single-bedroom suites tucked amid fifteen secluded acres, just a three-minute shuttle ride to the beach, and is blissful, tranquil and a marvelous getaway. Among numerous on-site amenities, their delightful restaurant might top the list. Gorgeous ocean views, attentive service, and an emphasis on locally grown food (and amazing, fresh fish) are hallmarks of this ‘special occasion’ eatery. (And if you’re on Maui, every day is a special occasion!)

Speaking of special occasions, Mama’s Fish House, about forty minutes from Wailea in the funky, shop-lined, surfer-centric town of Paia, is one of the most memorable restaurants you will ever have the privilege to visit. Most eateries are attractive for one, or maybe two of four reasons: The food (of course) the location, the service and the ambience. Mama’s checks all the boxes. First, it’s located just steps from the crashing surf. (Some of Maui’s biggest waves are just a mile down the beach.) Second, the food is magnificent. They even credit the local fishermen, bringing in the catch or catches of the day, by name on the menu. (And the apps, entrees, meats, cocktails, desserts, etc, are equally impressive.) The service is impeccable, and the various dining rooms, (the canoe room, the deck, the lounge, etc,) are eclectic and filled with cool memorabilia from the owner’s extensive travels in the South Seas. Mama’s Fish House is expensive, understandably so, but three words suffice: Don’t miss it.

The best way to work off all that seafood might be to swim with the fish themselves. Try Maui Kayak Adventures for an exhilarating early-morning kayak-and-snorkel escapade. (And early means just that–you convene with your guide at 7 am, to be off the water by late morning before the trade winds start to blow.) The day begins with a brisk kayak excursion, maybe thirty or forty minutes, along the coast. Then participants don snorkels and fins, floating, swimming and diving near reefs and coves, observing large sea turtles, and all manner of ocean life. Once back in the kayak, it’s another forty-odd minutes back from whence you began. In its own nautical way, this is as much fun as any golf course you might care to visit–even on the magical island of Maui.

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Golf travel can be exhilarating and exhausting concurrently. It’s always great to check out new courses and destinations (and this correspondent knows of what he speaks—more than nine hundred courses played in forty-plus states and fifteen countries), but there are tips, tricks and hints that can make the trekking a bit easier on both the body and the mind. Here are some thoughts on minimizing hassles and getting the most enjoyment out of a trip; whether with the boys, the girls, the spouse, or as couples.

  1. Bring two pairs of golf shoes, and a pair of sandals. The shoes need to be rotated daily to air out and dry out. With the evolvement of modern golf shoes, many of which look likesneakers or casualwear, often they can substitute for evening shoes in restaurants, grill rooms or pubs. The sandals are there for the off-course hours; to let your feet breathe either in transit, near the pool or in the hotel or condo.
  2. Invest in a sturdy travel bag, preferably with wheels, for ease of transport through airports. Be sure to insert a towel covered broomstick longer than the driver into the golf bag. (There is also a commercial product called the Stiff Arm which is expressly for this purpose.)This will ensure that if a ham-handed baggage handler drops the bag upside down, the broomstick or Stiff Arm, not the driver, bears the brunt of the impact.
  3. Maximize your time. Depending on how much golf the group is willing and/or able to play, by leaving early and returning late on departure day, it possibly affords the opportunity to play a full round, or maybe just nine holes, on both travel days.
  4. Shipping can be your friend. On that same subject, if there’s a tight connecting flight, consider shipping golf clubs (there are a variety of reputable services available) to the final destination, or risk arriving to the course without benefit of one’s own clubs.
  5. Cut yourself some slack on a new course after a long layoff. Instead of tying self-worth to the scorecard, consider a ‘traveler’s game.’ Divide the round into ‘good holes,’ (often pars or birdies) ‘OK holes’ (usually bogeys, and depending on the skill level in question, sometimes double bogeys.) And ‘others.’ (Doubles, triples or X’s, depending.) At round’s end see if you managed a goodly number of good’ or ‘OK’ holes, and hopefully a dearth of ‘others.’ It will help with equanimity, and lead to a more enjoyable excursion.
  6. Weather the weather. Don’t forget the umbrella (always) and rain pants. (Sometimes. But particularly in the UK, or in coastal Oregon, AKA Bandon Dunes.)
  7. Pack lighter than you think. Most golfers tend to pick up a shirt, wind vest, rain jacket, sweater, etc., while visiting a marquee destination. Leave some space for the mementos that mark your adventures on and off the course.
  8. Don’t skimp on the rental car size. Four people, with four days worth of luggage and four golf bags and covers, equals serious volume. Reserve a large SUV, even a mini-van, for maximum comfort. Golf bags and travel covers fill up the trunk of even the most capacious sedan much faster than you think!
  9. Schedule a day off, even two, if the location chosen is heretofore unexplored. This advice is primarily directed at travelers to the UK, but is equally applicable to those who plan golf-themed travel to more exotic locales. South Africa, Asia and continental Europe come immediately to mind. First off, the body can use the time off from incessant golf. Secondly, playing course after course becomes a blur, especially when indulging in links golf, as many of these courses have a similar feel and look regardless. Third and most importantly, take some time to explore the culture and the community where you’re visiting. The pubs, the castles, the museums, the wildlife, the countryside are all worthy of one’s attention. Engage some locals, and try and get a feel for the area, beyond the course or courses themselves. This advice, much like the advice in the opening paragraph, comes from hard experience. So myopic was this correspondent earlier in this golf-travel writing career, I once spent five days in greater Seattle, and never visited a coffee house or the Space Needle! Similarly, some years back I spend an equal amount of time in Chicago, and hopscotching from one course to the next, never found time to visit Rush St. or Wrigley Field. Don’t make the same mistake.

Renowned architect Pete Dye was born in Urbana, Ohio, but has lived most of his life in Indianapolis. Much of his seminal work took place in his adopted hometown. His most highly regarded creation there is Crooked Stick, where an unknown John Daly rocketed from anonymity to stardom thanks to an out-of-nowhere victory at the 1991 PGA Championship.

Crooked Stick is very private, but Indianapolis is peppered with some fine examples of public-access venues where the traveling golfer is welcome. Grab a National Rental Car at Indianapolis International Airport, and explore some of Dye’s hometown creations. Now he’s a Hall-of-Famer, but back in the day, he was an insurance man-turned course designer, and a golf tour around Indy offers some fascinating insight into the majestic career that would unfold in the ensuing decades.

The Fort

The Fort is easily one of the most memorable and challenging golf experiences in greater Indianapolis.  It’s located within an hour’s drive of a million citizens, but it’s an isolated entity unto itself, not a roadway crossing anywhere, not a home on property, or even on the periphery.  Fort Benjamin Harrison was a military installation dating from World War One on Indianapolis’s east side.  It closed in 1996.  The state of Indiana purchased the property from the federal government—2,000 acre Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park, and the military-only golf course contained therein.  Pete Dye was called upon to renovate the existing course, which was slated to open to the general public.  He magnanimously charged the city fathers a single dollar, not even the price of a Big Gulp soda.

A big gulp is what most golfers will be taking, after a couple of easier warm-up holes, when they stand on the tee of the swooping  par-4 4th, nearly 480 yards from the tips, a full 440 from the penultimate markers, narrow and tree-lined.  It’s a wakeup call, as the Fort is as rugged and hardy as the military personnel it once served.  The golf course is almost 240 acres in size, a scope and breadth that is nearly double the acreage of an average course. Central Indiana is generally flat as a Scrabble Board.  But this heavily wooded, heaving and rolling parcel, rife with wetlands, gullies and ravines, and teeming with wildlife, is a geographical aberration.

The final four holes are the most demanding on the course.  The 15th is nearly 450 yards, followed by a true three-shot par-5 of 560 yards, which sets the stage for a 230+ yard par-3.  The final hole plays uphill, more than 425 yards, unless play is being conducted from the tips, in which case the mileage swells to some 475.  It’s safe to assume that many a good-looking scorecard have been defaced in the final hour.

The Brickyard

One of the most unique courses in the Midwest is The Brickyard, where Dye actually put four golf holes (numbers seven through ten) within the confines of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the remainder winding their way around the spacious grounds outside of the fence line. Because the property is so massive, and the use of trees and mounding so clever, even from within the oval it’s sometimes easy to forget about the one-of-a-kind location. But the irony is that the proximity to the grandstand is never closer than outside the oval, on the property’s northeast corner.  An errant approach to the long par-5 twelfth, or a pulled tee shot on the tough par-3 that follows could potentially clatter into the stanchions supporting the stadium-style bench seating on the infamous third turn.  Making birdie on this hole, with railroad ties left and the always-lurking Little Eagle Creek to the right, is high excitement.  But it’s a mere trifle, say veteran race patrons, compared to the thrill of some three dozen super-charged race cars roaring down the mile-long straightaway at nearly 200 mph, prior to the turn.

Kampen Course

Although not quite in Indy proper, the Kampen Course at Purdue University is definitely worth the fifty-mile drive to Lafayette. This is one of the best college courses in the nation. Dye took agronomy courses at Purdue as he was learning his craft, and decided to renovate the course that had been on site for decades. Much of this heavily bunkered, fescue-laden course is routed around a natural marsh known as the celery bog, to the right of the brutally long par-5 sixth hole.  The greenish bog is home to all sorts of birdlife, and thanks to the sophisticated filtration and recycling system Dye devised, the course’s water runoff goes through several stages of cleaning before entering the bog.

Just off the eighth tee, a tough par-4 with waste bunkering down the entire right-hand side, is a sign for the Turfgrass Research and Diagnostic Center, which is housed in a building just a long iron from the hole itself.  It showcases the symbiotic relationship between the course and the Purdue agronomy students who take care of it and study it on an ongoing basis.

“It used to just be a farmer’s course,” explains a longtime golf course employee.  “It was long, flat, back-and-forth, with almost no features whatsoever.  What’s transpired here is amazing. It’s a great course, very challenging and full of contour. The 17th is a wicked par-3 over water, two hundred-plus yards, often into the wind.  The last is an exhausting par-4, a driver and then a 3-wood, where you’re just hoping to reach in regulation.  But the fact the renovation was done so inexpensively, so quickly, and using student labor with no prior golf course construction experience, makes the end result almost hard to believe.”

 

Even though Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is one of the nation’s most desired golf venues, in the minds of many it isn’t quite family-friendly. After all, if dad wants to get out and play a few rounds in Orlando, Myrtle Beach or Scottsdale, to name just three examples, there are scads of other activities to keep the rest of the family, IE—the non-golfers, happy and entertained. But what of the non-golf opportunities along the Trail? It stretches through much of the length and breadth of Alabama, which isn’t quite at the forefront of many would-be vacationers when they think ‘tourist destination.’

It just so happens that there is plenty to do along the Trail, activities that will appeal to all members of the family, whether they’re interested in smacking the dimpled ball or not.

For example, a prior column extolled the virtues of playing The Shoals, in Muscle Shoals, with their Fighting Joe and Schoolmaster courses. But music lovers might be inclined to visit the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, located in nearby Tuscumbia. The state has a rich history of musicians who went on to worldwide acclaim, and the hall includes tributes to Tammy Wynette, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole, Lionel Richie, the Temptations, the Commodores, and of course, Alabama, among other luminaries.

Highland Oaks

Highland Oaks is in Dothan, in the southeast corner of the state. They offer a trio of nine-hole courses, with a par-3 (also nine holes) thrown in for good measure.  The Highlands is relatively open, with several lakes in play. The Marshwood is known for its notorious sixth hole, a mere 700 yards, and the 422-yard, par-4 ninth which includes a left-to-right dogleg and a tilted green elevated above a ribbon of wetlands. The Magnolia is well named, graced as it is by magnolia trees on high ground that is reached via a 1,000-foot wooden bridge spanning a marsh filled with lichen-dappled trees. Because the majority of the nation’s peanuts are grown within a hundred-or-so miles of Dothan, those so inclined might want to check out the National Peanut Festival, which is held each autumn. It’s a full ten days of agricultural displays, rides, games, amusements, concerts, and livestock showings.

Hampton Cove in Huntsville offers three championship courses. The Highlands is as close to a Scottish-style course as you’ll find on any Trail course, and features thousands of Japanese black pines, oaks, dogwoods and crepe myrtles. The River is the only Trail course without a single bunker. Laid out on former soybean fields in the flood plain of the Flint River basin, The River is a throwback to the simplistic way courses were built early in the previous century, with dirt pushed up to create the greens and tees. The course features massive oak trees, including an enormous, 250-year-old black oak behind the eighteenth green, reputed to be one of the oldest in the state. Meanwhile, the par-3 course on site is no pushover. Eleven of eighteen holes on the Short Course have water in play.

Hampton Cove

While big hitters can seemingly launch golf balls into orbit, the real deal is found nearby at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Famed rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and his team helped transform Huntsville from ‘the Watercress Capital of the World,’ as it was known in the 1950’s, to a leading edge technology center and research park. The U.S. Army donated land for this fascinating museum, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center opened its doors in 1970. Since then, nearly seventeen million people have toured the Center. Many of the more than 650,000 annual visitors are school students on field trips, perhaps contemplating their future. Dozens of interactive exhibits encourage guest participation, prompting the oft-repeated motto: Here, everyone can be an astronaut for the day!

Grand National, close to Auburn, is one of the best-known Trail stops, and offers a trio of eighteen hole courses. The Links is the cornerstone of the Grand National complex, and the finishing hole is billed as the strongest concluding hole on the Trail. The drive must carry a corner of the lake while the approach is played to a shallow pedestal green shored up by boulders. The Lake course includes a dozen holes that hug the shoreline, and its 230-yard island green on the fifteenth is among the prettiest holes in the state. Keeping with the theme, more than half of the par-3 holes on their eighteen hole Short Course abut the lake. Be sure to check out the magnificent campus and famed Toomer’s Corner at nearby Auburn University, the ‘other’ major University in the state. (Alabama’s Crimson Tide attracts the lion’s share of the rooting interest, but the Auburn Tigers have no shortage of devotees themselves.)

From Prattville to Birmingham, Anniston to Auburn, Huntsville to Greenville to Dothan, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has resulted in huge swaths of underutilized acreage repurposed into these marvelous playing fields. And every stop on the Trail offers something intriguing, to see, to do, to experience, for golfers and non-golfers alike.

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Now celebrating twenty-five years of wonderful golf throughout the length and breadth of Alabama, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail remains one of the ‘must play’ golf experiences in the nation. The twenty-six courses, comprising 468 holes, spread across eleven locations across the state, ensure that there is compelling, affordable golf in virtually every corner of Alabama.

The Shoals

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, early on the focus was just on the golf experience itself, with little forethought in regards to the lodging component. Early visitors made due with chain hotels and motels, nothing too fancy, occasionally on the shabbier side. But Dr. David Bronner, the visionary and single greatest impetus behind the formation of the Trail, eventually realized that to attract the international business community to Alabama they needed to up the ante. To showcase the beauty of the landscape, friendliness and work ethic of the people, attractive tax rates and large swaths of inexpensive land for potential factories, upper-level executives wouldn’t be thrilled with the EconoLodge and Comfort Inns at their disposal.

“Frankly speaking, we needed to drastically upgrade our lodging component,” explains Bill Lang, the PR director of the Trail. “Now we have eight luxury properties from one end of the Trail to the other, including two of Golf Digest’s top golf resorts in North America. Several were historical properties that have been comprehensively refurbished, and others were built from scratch. But the bottom line is we now have lodging that is commensurate with our golf experience, and that is really saying something!”

For example, in the northwest corner of the state, the very modern Marriott Shoals in Florence, with two hundred luxurious rooms overlooking the Tennessee River, was rated the chain’s top hotel for customer satisfaction. The Fighting Joe course located there opened in August 2004 and was the first Trail course to break 8,000 yards, measuring some 8,072 yards from the purple tees. Several golf publications named Fighting Joe as one of the top new courses in 2004. However The Schoolmaster, another course on site, is considered a tougher course than Fighting Joe, with narrower fairways, difficult greens and topping out at a shade below 8,000 yards.

Magnolia Grove

By contrast, down in the southwest corner in Mobile, close to the Gulf, a refurbished hotel from 1852 called the Battle House sufficiently charmed executives visiting from Airbus to the point that in 2015 they opened a manufacturing plant nearby. (Of course, 158 million dollars in financial incentives and logistical support also helped sway them.) The executives were enamored of the hotel, and the nearby golf amenity. Magnolia Grove, which has hosted several LPGA tournaments in the past, features fifty-four holes of memorable golf. The Falls is laced with large, liberally contoured greens and massive cloverleaf bunkers. The 570-yard, par-5 tenth hole has a waterfall that cascades across steps immediately below a green that falls eight feet from front to back. The Crossing is a shot-maker’s heaven, with several pulpit greens elevated well above fairway levels. Most of the holes on their Short Course call for forced carries over marsh to liberally sloped, bulk-headed greens. (Many of the Trail stops feature epic par-3 courses, miniature versions of the wild-and-wooly nature of their ‘larger siblings.’ Suffice it to say these are never pitch-and-putts.)

There’s no way of accurately quantifying the enormous economic and social impact of the Trail throughout the state, well above the number of golfers that have visited, and projections of dollars spent. But here’s an illustrative story.

Prior to Capitol Hill opening up in central Alabama near Montgomery, the town of Prattville, according to Lang, was just another wide spot in the road, with a couple of cow pastures. But the Trail provided three 18-hole courses. The Senator is a traditional, Scottish-style layout, with more than 150 pot bunkers and mounds twenty to forty feet in height located so that the cart path or any other hole cannot be seen from a given fairway. The Legislator features huge pine trees and has been compared to some of the more famous courses in North Carolina. The Judge plays alongside the Alabama River, with a dozen water-bordering holes that provide some of the most spectacular scenery on the Trail, along with elevation drops of more than two hundred feet.

“First it was 54 holes of great golf, then a Hyundai plant opened close to town,” continues Lang. “Now there are hotels, shopping centers, restaurants, the town played host to LPGA events for nearly a decade, and it has become a much more vibrant and thriving community. It’s safe to say that without the advent of the Trail, Prattville would look much different today.”

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Now celebrating its twenty fifth year of existence, Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has been a staggering success since its 1992 inception. The Trail has welcomed more than twelve million visitors in total, an awe-inspiring number, especially considering it came into being just as golf’s popularity was reaching its peak, and shortly before the game began its slow, inexorable decline that continues today.

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

Golf has lost millions of players, many millions of annual rounds, and more than a thousand courses nationwide since the Trail began operation. But the Trail continues to be a resounding success, adding literally billions of tourist dollars to a state that desperately needed the influx of funds.

Bill Lang is the PR Director of the RTJ Golf Trail, a position he has held for more than a dozen years. “All of our successes, this amazing Golf Trail, with 468 holes at eleven different sites around the state, stems from a visionary named Dr. David G. Bronner, who moved to Alabama from Minnesota years ago,” explains Lang.

Dr. Bronner was a law professor and PhD, who eventually took the reins at the RSA, or Retirement Systems of Alabama, the pension fund for employees of the state. He was struck by the fact that golfers were continuously driving through Alabama to get to Florida, even though the climate was similar and ‘Bama’s terrain offered far more topographical interest. He earmarked a chunk of the five hundred million dollars then under management to fund the largest single golf course construction every undertaken, building courses throughout the state simultaneously. No Trail stop is more than two hours from the next closest destination, and all are within fifteen minutes of an interstate highway.

“He approached a number of well-known golf course architects,” continues Lang. “And it was Robert Trent Jones Sr. who decided to come out of semi-retirement and take on the project.”

Alabama’s tourism business was less than two billion dollars annually prior to the Trail’s creation, and now it is in excess of twelve billion dollars. (Look at it this way: If each of the twelve million visitors paid an average of just $500 for green fees, lodging, food, transportation, etc, the influx of money has been about six billion dollars. All but the most budget-conscious Trail visitors are probably spending closer to $1,000 per person with everything factored in, which means the revenues are closer to twelve billion dollars.)

Why all the success? In a nutshell, these eleven sites, comprising twenty six different golf courses spread throughout the state, are of excellent quality, and very affordable. How affordable? Green fees generally top out around $65. To paraphrase from the movie Field of Dreams, “Build it, and they will come.”

Ross Bridge

All the original sites have been renovated since their construction in the late 1980s, though the same cannot be said for the newest entry. There’s no need to burnish Ross Bridge, near Birmingham, because it maintains much of its original luster. Stretching nearly 8,200 yards in length, this is one of the longest courses in the world. The scale of the course comes into immediate focus as a player meanders down the first fairway. Greens are measured in quarter acres, and bunkers are the size of building foundations, often just as deep. It is this capaciousness that provides much of the challenge for course superintendent Josh Dyer, and his staff of nearly two dozen. “We have 170 acres of Bermuda grass here,” begins Dyer, who hails from the small town of Mccalla, Alabama, just a short distance from Ross Bridge. “I used to work at Silver Lakes, another stop on the Trail, and we have nearly as much turf on our single course here as they do on their 36 holes!”

This steady stream of golfers that converge up and down the Trail, at Ross Bridge, nearby Oxmoor Valley, Magnolia Grove, Grand National, and all the other stops, have had something of a domino effect on Alabama’s business landscape.  It’s no coincidence that since the Trail’s inception, blue-chip companies like Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda, Airbus, Navistar and ThyssenKrupp have all built major manufacturing plants in Alabama.

Oxmoor Valley

The lodging component along the Trail has taken some giant steps forward in recent years, and few properties on the Trail are as impressive as Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa outside Birmingham. Its impact on the community is a microcosm for what’s occurred statewide. Modeled loosely after the famed Banff Springs Resort west of Calgary, Canada, Ross Bridge is an imposing edifice, 259 guest rooms, a 12,000 square foot spa, and considered by Travel + Leisure Magazine to be among the Top 500 Hotels in the World. The on-site eateries, both fine dining (Brock’s) and casual (Clubhouse Restaurant) are superb, with first-class service. A bagpiper strolls the grounds each evening, adding even more ambience to this handsome hotel, snuggled close to the expansive golf facility just steps from the patio and pool area.

The hotel is located in a formerly-wide-spot-in-the-road called Hoover, which a generation ago was fairly remote. While the rural sensibility still exists, the fact is that an entire upscale subdivision has sprung from the earth, in part due to Ross Bridge, and its close-at-hand Trail neighbor, Oxmoor Valley, fifty four more holes of compelling golf just five minutes down the road.

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FedExCup Trophy

The PGA Tour’s Fedex Cup Playoffs are in full swing, and the end-of-season race to claim the Cup (and the cool ten million that accompanies it) help maintain the attention of golf fans as both pro and college football get down to business.

It’s not easy to sway the attention of sports fans from the NFL and CFA, not to mention the looming baseball playoffs, so pro golf does its best with a ‘race to the finish.’ Fields get winnowed week after week, and only the top thirty points-earners make it to Atlanta and the season-ending Tour Championship.

Glen Oaks Club

First up is the Northern Trust on Long Island, (fly into LaGuardia or Kennedy and grab your National Rental Car) followed by the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston, (Logan Airport’s the gateway) then the BMW Championship in Chicago, (stroll National’s Emerals Aisle at either O’Hare or Midway) then the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s famed East Lake. (Hartsfield International is just a short drive from the course.)

There have been some stellar moments in the playoffs over the first decade of its existence. (The format began in 2007, so there have been ten events held thus far.) Here are some random highlights from a decade’s worth of playoff events. It’s worth noting that when the format began it was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, but it has slowly-but-surely become ingrained in the consciousness of golf fans. Plenty keep close watch from week-to-week, hoping their favorite players survive and advance, perhaps making it to Atlanta, and claiming the ultimate prize.

East Lake Golf Club

It seems only fitting that Tiger Woods, then at the apex of his power, won the inaugural Cup in 2007. He not only won the Tour Championship, but won the week prior, and came in second the week before that. Talk about a dominating performance, and a torrid stretch of golf.

One of the single most memorable moments in Fedex Cup history was courtesy of 2010 champion Jim Furyk. He got up-and-in from a greenside bunker on the final hole of the Tour Championship to claim the Cup, but that’s not even the best part. After a wonderful bunker shot and before attempting a four-foot putt for victory, Furyk curiously turned his baseball cap around, wearing it backwards. “It was drizzling pretty hard,” recalls the 2003 U.S. Open champion. The rain was dripping off the bill of my cap, and it was distracting me, so I turned it around to make that last putt.” It might’ve looked odd, but we’d all do something somewhat out-of-character to put ten million in our pocket.

Bill Haas pars No.17 from the water

The degree of difficulty for the shot Bill Haas pulled off in 2011 absolutely dwarfs the relatively straightforward putt Jim Furyk made to win the year prior. In the first-ever sudden death playoff for the Cup, Haas stunned the golf world (not to mention his playoff opponent, Hunter Mahan) when he blasted a shot out of shallow water to less than a foot in the midst of their playoff. His approach shot had trickled into an adjacent greenside pond, the ball was mostly submerged, and the odds were overwhelming that Mahan would emerge victorious. But playing it much like a bunker shot, Haas blasted the ball to tap-in range, and he won the Cup on the next hole. The odds of pulling off such an unlikely shot, even for a Tour pro, were high, but Haas hit the shot of his life when he needed to most.

Henrik Stenson became the first European winner of the Cup in 2013, his win at the Tour Championship the capstone to an incandescent run of golf through the last month-and-a-half of the season. To wit: He took solo second at the Open Championship (AKA—The British Open) then tied second at the prestigious WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Then he took third at the PGA Championship, and once the Fedex Playoffs began, won the Deutsche Bank Championship before emerging victorious at the season finale at East Lake, capturing the Cup, and ten million reasons why it’s beneficial to get hot late in the season!

Billy Horschel

While many Cup winners are true blue-chippers, (Tiger twice, Vijay Singh, the aforementioned Furyk and Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, etc.) there have been some out-of-nowhere winners also. Billy Horschel is a great example. In 2014 he didn’t finish inside the top forty in any event for more than two months prior to the playoffs, and missed the cut in the Barclays, the first playoff event. Then lightning struck. He took second in the Deutsche Bank, then swept the final two events, winning both the BMW Championship, the Tour Championship, and the Cup. It’s instructive to note he’s only won one additional event in the three years since his unlikely stretch run.

Jordan Spieth

Finally, Jordan Spieth put a cherry on the sundae at the end of his magnificent 2015 campaign. He won both the Tour Championship and the Fedex Cup, but what made it a season for the ages was what transpired in the months prior. Victory at the Masters. Victory at the U.S. Open. Finishing one shot out of a playoff at the British Open. Two other Tour victories besides his pair of Majors. A record twelve million in prize money, which doesn’t even include the ten million dollar bonus he banked at season’s end. For many Fedex Cup winners hoisting that gleaming trophy is the season’s highlight. But for Jordan Spieth in 2015, it was just the final jewel in a glittering year.

 

 

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Vancouver, Canada is one of the world’s most picturesque cities. Beautiful seascapes, a sparkling and modern downtown, a cosmopolitan, multicultural population, a vibrant cultural scene and dozens upon dozens of outdoor activities to engage those lucky enough to pay a visit. It is on a very short list of ‘must visit’ cities (keeping company with places like New York, Paris, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Beijing, San Francisco, Boston and London, among others) for those intrepid travelers who like to experience the most dynamic and iconic population centers in the world.

For those who prefer to fly domestically, you can pick up a National Rental Car in Seattle, which is an easy highway drive of about 160 miles. (However crossing the border to Canada can take an hour or more.) Or you can fly directly to the Vancouver airport itself, which is not even ten miles from the city. Either choice works, and prepare to be delighted and inspired upon arrival.

Stanley Park

Before we take a quick glance at the golf, and an even more cursory look at the amazing, eclectic dining options, the first order of business is to recommend a visit to Stanley Park. Named after Lord Stanley (he of the ubiquitous Stanley Cup, the ‘Holy Grail’ chased by all NHL players,) this nearly one thousand acre park is one of North America’s most magnificent green spaces. Walk it, bike it, tread upon its infamous Seawall, but do not visit Vancouver without gamboling about its vast, open spaces.

Furry Creek Golf and Country Club

Speaking of open spaces, be sure to visit Furry Creek Golf and Country Club, located between Vancouver and Whistler Mountain, which is one of North America’s most iconic ski mountains. From the first tee, with its striking 165-foot plunge towards the tranquil waters of Howe Sound and the glacier-capped mountains in the distance, this is no run-of-the-mill public track. It may top out at little more than 6,000 yards in length, but this tiny dazzler caught the eye of Hollywood. The Adam Sandler golf-themed smash “Happy Gilmore” was partially filmed on site. In fact, the ninth hole is where Sandler had his infamous fight with TV’s Bob Barker. This is undoubtedly one of the most scenic landscapes in golf.

Northlands

When it debuted in 1998, Northlands won a Best New Course award from Golf Digest. That initial acclaim has lasted, as the course provides a well-thought-out mix of challenges and vistas for various levels of play. The keyword is playability, it’s just a fun course to walk and smack the ball, with tree-lined fairways that take advantage of the location at the base of Mt. Seymour. Be sure to bring an extra sleeve of ammo, as water is omnipresent on the inward nine, with the environmentally sensitive Thomas Creek influencing play on three of the final four holes.

Fraserview

Fraserview is another fine choice, often touted as one of the best public golf courses in western Canada. It’s partly due to its majestic rolling greens and partly for its scenic location overlooking the Fraser River. Hidden away by a mature urban forest peppered with old growth trees, this Thomas McBroom design is a traditional, parkland style golf course. It has some notable elevation changes, spacious fairways, and looks and feels ‘old school.’

Langara Golf Course

The lyrically named Langara Golf Course is another excellent ‘muni,’ a traditional, walker-friendly layout that dates back to 1926, when it was originally commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Its petite, at just a shade over 6,200 yards, but the contoured, tree-lined fairways put a premium on ball striking. Otherwise it makes for a long day, despite the delightful walk, punching back into play from amidst the hardwoods.

Picking a few notable eateries in Vancouver is like judging the Miss Universe Contest. There’s no shortage of excellent choices, and one really cannot go wrong. It’s something of a fool’s errand, as there are hundreds of viable options. It’s akin to picking just a couple or three places to eat in New York or New Orleans.

The Jam Cafe

We’ll offer three choices, from entirely different categories. The Jam Café YVR is a hip breakfast-and-lunch spot, with lines typically out the door. But the fried chicken and biscuits? The green eggs and ham? (Made with spinach and pesto.) Both are well worth the 30-or-45 minute wait time.

The Blue Water Café is as appealing as its name. Amazing sashimi, fresh oysters, their infamous seafood tower and Dungeness crab salad are highlights on a menu with many. Finally, for Francophiles, Le Crocodile is a must-try. Formal, white linen, with a disciplined and highly knowledgeable wait staff, they feature traditional French cuisine like frog legs, escargot in pastry, and a delectable assortment of seafood, duck and lamb dishes.

 

Dana Fry is bullish on a bold new course he’s building at Arcadia Bluffs in Arcadia, Michigan. One of the co-designers of Erin Hills, recent host of the U.S. Open, Fry is putting the finishing touches on what will look and feel a lot like the Chicago Golf Club, a C.B. Macdonald original, which was later remodeled by Seth Raynor, Macdonald’s longtime partner/protégé.

Chicago Golf Club, No. 14 on Golf Digest’s recent list of America’s 100 Greatest, is famous for the adventure of timeless design, strategic options off the tees and approaches into big and challenging green complexes, as well as several of Macdonald’s template hole concepts, including a Punchbowl, Redan and Biarritz. As for the second course at Arcadia Bluffs, Fry tells me the Chicago Golf Club was simply a template, there will be no template holes.

I recently caught up with Fry for more on what promises to make waves in the golf world, especially along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Do you have a name for the course?

It is called The South Course at Arcadia Bluffs.

How far is it exactly from Arcadia Bluffs?

It is one mile directly to the south, just off of Route 22, which is the road used to enter Arcadia Bluffs. Ours is inland, there are no views of the water.

What was the process of getting the job?

As you know, the first course is credited to Rick Smith and Warren Henderson. Warren used to work with Mike Hurdzan and I back in the early 90s. Well, a story not many people know, Rick Smith called me and wanted me to go work with him back in the early 90s. I didn’t want to leave Mike, so I referred him to Warren Henderson. Rick called Warren, and that’s how they started working together. Then, after Arcadia was built, Warren went on to work with Gary Player and Nick Price. And about seven or eight years ago, the owner of Arcadia Bluffs, Rich Postma, hired Warren to run one of his companies. We’re not talking golf, we’re talking one of his big businesses. Well, over the course of the last few winters, Warren called and had me host Rich and his buddies at Calusa Pines and Naples National. And that was it. Just a great guy and we had a lot of fun. And then last July, a little over a year ago, Warren called me and said, “We’re going to be working together real soon.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

He goes, “Rich is going to build another golf course and he decided you’re going to be the guy. He said he likes you, thinks you’ll be easy to work with, loves Calusa Pines.” And that was that. It was totally unexpected. There’s no question.

What happens next?

Well, last July, I met Rich and Warren and went out on what was the site. We walked around quite a bit of it. There’s 310 acres and probably 30 to 40 percent of it was treed, the rest was open. And I said, “Rich, have you ever been to Chicago Golf Club?” He said, “Yes.” Mind you, at this point, I wasn’t sure I had the job. He said, “It’s one of my favorite courses in the world. I play there every year.” I said, “It’s one of my favorites too. I think, if all these trees were gone, with your soil and topography, I think we could do something that has the look and feel of Chicago Golf Club.” And I think that’s what cemented the deal. He’s a member at Sand Hills, loves the Coore and Crenshaw stuff. He has seen a lot of Tom Doak and Gil Hanse stuff that he likes, because he’s a well-traveled guy. But he tended to believe a lot of the courses were looking alike, and he wanted to do something that was really different. And what we’ve done at Arcadia is really emulate the style and look of Chicago Golf Club, without copying any of the holes.

Tom Doak had been looking for years for an owner and a piece of property where he could do a reversible routing, which he found in Lew Thompson and built The Loop at Forest Dunes. Have you long been looking for an owner and a piece of property to do something like Chicago Golf Club?

I’d been to Chicago Golf Club about five or six times over the last 25 years, and I have always told people it was in my top 10 or 20 in the United States, but I never felt the urge to do something like that. But when I got on that land, which is pure sand, and the topography was similar in nature, I thought about Chicago Golf Club, which is basically one big square piece of land. And that’s what we have at Arcadia, almost a complete square. And there are parts of the golf course where you can see 16 holes just by standing in one spot. And, when you’re at Chicago Golf, as you know, you can virtually see the entire golf course from everywhere you go.

Did you go to any other Macdonald/Raynor courses as homework for what you were going to do at Arcadia?

Well, I’ve been to probably 15 Macdonald/Raynor courses, so I’ve been to quite a few, including National Golf Links of America, Fishers Island and Blue Mound. But we went to Chicago Golf Club last August and then again in September. Once with Rich and once with Warren, and Rich was bound and determined that this was what we were going to do. And then in April and May, I took the whole construction crew down—all the shapers and the project manager—and then I went seven times in April and May. I’ve become very good friends with the superintendent, Scott, who has been a big help. And a lot of it was just to see how they did their grass lines, cross bunkering and how they mowed the fairways right into the bunkers. A lot of the greens were the high point and the collars would slope down and would go right into the bunker face. The collars, in many parts of the Chicago Golf Club, are just slopes going into the bunkers and I just kept looking at that, taking a lot of pictures.

The bunkering we have is really dynamic and almost all of the backs of the greens are built up with five to ten feet of fill, which is a big Raynor trademark—where they have steep slopes on three sides—and that’s pretty much what we have, with varying degrees, on all of the golf holes. The greens are all built up in the air.

You’ve seen a few of our courses, and I’ve done a lot of different looking stuff over the years, the all-sod walls at Devil’s Paintbrush, and Calusa Pines with 50-foot fills, faces of sand that are 20-feet high, and now we’re doing steep banks and the sand is dead-flat at the bottom, but this was really done trying to emulate a feel and a style. We drain a lot of our water from the greens into the bunkers. We drain some of the fairways into the bunkers. I’ve never done that in my life. They do that at the Chicago Golf Club. Some of the collars at Chicago Golf are so steep, they almost look like you can’t mow them. When I first showed that to Jim Bluck, the superintendent at Arcadia, he thought I was crazy. So we took him down there to show him.

Any specific template holes on your course?

Rich didn’t want to copy any golf holes. The last hole we’re going to shape, they’re doing the earth work on it now, the 13th, it’s a 420-yard par 4. It’s sort of a semi-blind tee shot over a ridge. It doglegs right up a little valley and by nature it’s sort of a punchbowl setting of a green, with slopes left, back and right, and then about 20 yards short it’ll have a series of cross bunkers. And we have a variation of the thumbprint green, except it’s not straight on, but it’s on the right side of the fourth green, which is a long par 4. But there’s no Redan or Biarritz. The fifth green, a par 3, is sort of a reverse Redan looking shape, but it’s not what I consider a true Redan.

Neither Rich nor I wanted people thinking we were out just copying golf holes, because we weren’t, but we do have square greens like at Chicago Golf, where three or four of them literally look like a slice of bread. We do have some of that. The bunker style, the straight lines in the fairways, and the way they’re mowed into the bunkers, is going to look a lot like Chicago Golf.

You know what’s really weird, when you see the aerials of what we’ve done, they sort of look a little harsh. You can see it in the pictures I sent to you, but they don’t look like that from ground level. I think if people saw aerials of Chicago Golf, they almost wouldn’t believe it. The one thing we have different than Chicago Golf, we have a lot of space. We have a far bigger piece of property. And not on every hole, but we have quite a few chipping areas.

There are only two trees left on the property. Had there been more native trees, I would’ve left more, but someone had already logged it years ago. One of the coolest things about Chicago Golf is that you look around on almost any part of the property and you can see five or six greens in the distance that are popped up into the air, six to ten feet. I’m telling you, Arcadia has that in spades. And in the morning, or late afternoon, the shadowing is visually stunning.

Any preliminary feedback from other architects?

I had Mike DeVries out to Arcadia three weeks ago and we walked the whole golf course together. And his biggest comment that stuck with me, we were on the sixth green, which I think a lot of people will talk about when they see it, he said, ‘These greens are wild. They look like something I would build.” And then he wrote Rich and incredibly nice letter. And then one of the assistants at Conway Farms wrote me and said, “Mr. Fry,” because he doesn’t know me, he said, “I’m telling you, this is going to be the best course in Michigan. I’m a Michigan State grad, grew up in Michigan, and I believe the place is that good.”

I don’t know. Time will tell.

On that subject, how much time have you spent on the ground at Arcadia?

I’ve spent two or three days a week out there ever since April. I missed two weeks not being there, and one of them was the U.S. Open. It has been a real labor of love, and I think it’s going to get a lot of press because it’s a very different type of a product, and, quite frankly, Arcadia Bluffs is one of the most successful golf properties in the country. I’ve spent a lot of time out there. They’ve got a new lodge they opened this July, and Rich thinks, because the occupancy is so good, he thinks he might have to build another one depending on how much play our course gets.

When will it open?

Rich will have a soft opening next summer. He’s saying somewhere around the first of August, but the grow in has been unbelievable. We started grassing holes right after the U.S. Open, and the bentgrass on those holes, tees, greens, fairways and surrounds, is just perfect. I’ve never had a golf course grow in this good this quickly. And that has a lot to do with the sand.

It’s amazing. We started clearing trees last winter. And then finished the clearing in the spring. We started moving dirt in the middle of April and we’ll be done grassing by the middle of September. We already have 12 holes grassed as we speak. We’ll have about 50 or 60 acres of bentgrass, and then another 30 acres of rough, and then we’ll have another 130 to 150 acres of native fescue grass. The front nine greens, completed, average 9,300 square feet. They’re huge. I mean, I really studied Chicago Golf. I got the green sheets that showed the percentages of slopes. The greens at Chicago Golf have a lot of contour in them, and that would be an understatement, and we couldn’t do that for the resort play that will come to Arcadia, but we’ll have a 9,000 square-foot green where only 50% of that is pinnable. There are a lot of transition areas between pin spaces. The greens here are going to be pretty different.

Will it be walkable? Are there cart paths?

It’s an incredibly walkable golf course. But at a resort, most people take carts. I haven’t broached the subject with Rich yet, but I’m hoping he can get the high schools involved for a caddie program of some sort because it’s a true walker’s golf course. There are cart paths, but in most cases they’re in between holes, but he’s expecting most people to take carts.

Tell me more of the scorecard particulars of the course.

It’s a traditional par 72. They can stretch it close to 7,400 yards from the tips. From the next set of tees, it’s around 6,900 yards. Then it goes down to about 6,400. And then it goes down to about 5,800. And then it goes down to about 5,200.

Do you have any concerns or fears?

Not many average golfers have heard of Chicago Golf Club because it’s so private. And God rest his soul, because he was one of my favorite people on the planet, but years ago Bob Cupp did a course with geometric design. Some of the people, when I tell them what we’re doing, they say, “Well, Bob Cupp did something like that and everyone hated it.” But Bob built everything with angles, including cart paths and lakes. This is not like that. We have a lot of curvature in the rough lines and the native lines. Even the fairways have some. And not all the greens are dead straight lines. There are arcs and curves in some. So before you rush to that judgment, you got to see it. Trust me. But I wonder if the average golfer is going to understand what we were even attempting to do.

It might not matter, as long as they have fun playing it.

Yeah. And I think they will. The fairways are averaging about 52 to 55 yards wide. And then we have about 15 to 18 yards of cut rough on each side. So add that all up and you’re pushing 85 yards of cut grass, so you have a lot of space to hit it into. At Erin Hills, we probably average about 60 yards of cut grass.

Do you think you could’ve done this as a first course at Arcadia?

You know, people ask me that all the time and I’ve talked to Rich about that and I’m absolutely convinced that, on its own, without the first course already there, no.

I think golf people would’ve loved it, but would it have gotten the volume of play that they get at Arcadia? No.

And now, because they have the incredible golf at Arcadia, and they have the dining and lodging, the setting and the overall experience, he’ll be able to capture people for at least another day. Instead of two rounds of golf, they may play three or four rounds of golf. The service and atmosphere at this place is unbelievable. Some nights I’m there and there are 300 people having dinner and drinks. Every night! And everybody is taking pictures because the sunsets there are, you know, I’ve been to 109 countries, and I’d say Hawaii, Greece and Arcadia Bluffs have the best sunsets that I’ve ever seen.

Who are some key members of your crew who deserve some credit for the work being done at Arcadia?

Well, I worked with Mike Hurdzan for 24 years, and then a guy who worked with Mike and I for 17 years is Jason Straka, so the name of my company since 2012 has been Fry/Straka. Like Doak and Hanse, he’s a Cornell guy and he has known Tom and Gil since he was in college. And then Bill Kerman has done a lot of our planning. And those are the two guys who help me do a lot of the work.

Well, it has got to be exciting for you, on the heels of Erin Hills hosting an Open, it has to feel like you have some sweet momentum as an architect.

I was already starting to get a lot of work nine months before the Open, and it has picked up. The client we have in Brazil is phenomenal. The job in Vietnam is the same way. And we’ve gotten a lot of big renovations as well, so we’re real busy and very happy about it. And I think the Open has played a big part of that, there’s no question.