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Wisconsin Destinations

News and Notes from Top U.S. Golf Resorts – Part II

Forest Dunes
Forest Dunes


Streamsong Black
Streamsong Black

The Black Course, a Gil Hanse design and the third course at the remote Florida resort, is on schedule. Almost every hole has been seeded and the plan is for a grand opening in the fall of 2017. Select participants and media can expect a comprehensive tour of the new course during the Streamsong Invitational (Jan. 19—22), which leads into the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. Hanse had access to almost the same amount of land that was used to build both the Red (Coore and Crenshaw) and Blue (Tom Doak) at Streamsong. Having walked it in various stages of development, I can only promise a wide variety and massive expanse to the corridors from beginning to the end.

There continues to be talk of the fourth course at Streamsong being an homage and almost exact replica of C.B. Macdonald’s Lido Course, but no further updates at this time. With the addition of Black, Streamsong will most likely prioritize a clubhouse, potentially more buddies-trip lodging and a short course.

Mossy Oak/Old Waverly

Mossy Oak
Mossy Oak

Congratulations to everyone involved in the building of Mossy Oak, a Gil Hanse design which is owned by George Bryan and Toxey Haas. The second course at Old Waverly and new home to Mississippi State’s golf program, Mossy Oak is a charming and rolling ride through the classic southern countryside, which opened Labor Day Weekend. Green fees are $132 for walkers, $150 includes a cart. The second course allows for extended stay-and-play packages, which will include Prairie Wildlife, the Augusta National of sporting clubs. If you love golf, guns, dogs and the great outdoors, make your way to Mossy Oak.

Forest Dunes

Forest Dunes
Forest Dunes

The Loop, Tom Doak’s reversible routing, has been open all summer for preview play. But owner, Lew Thompson, isn’t stopping there. In addition to building more eight-room cottages and fire pits, Thompson has enough land for another 18-hole course, a short course and a putting course. The putting course should be grassed before the end of the year. And with Rick Smith on site for a teaching academy, Phil Mickelson’s former instructor and architect of Three Tops, the popular par-3 course at neighboring Tree Tops Resort in Gaylord, MI, Smith seems like the obvious choice for the short course at Forest Dunes. “I want nine holes just like the bet-settling hole that we have at the end of the Weiskopf course,” said Thompson. “I have grandchildren that are 9 and 5 and they love to play golf, but they can’t really play the courses I have now. They’d have a blast on a short course.”

Names being considered for the additional 18 holes continue to be Doak, Smith, Mike DeVries and just recently, Thompson mentioned Coore and Crenshaw.

Arcadia Bluffs

Arcadia Bluffs
Arcadia Bluffs

Forest Dunes isn’t the only Michigan property making significant moves. Arcadia Bluffs has purchased over 300 acres of what was mostly an old apple orchard. It’s two miles south of Arcadia Bluffs, inland and more flat than the land they used for the first course, which overlooks Lake Michigan. “We pieced together seven parcels of land,” said Bill Schriver, Chief Operating Officer. “We hope to start pushing dirt around this winter. It will be fun, fast and less expensive than what we already have. But like everything else here, it will be top shelf.”

Michigan natives, Tom Doak and Mike DeVries, are apparently not in the running for the job. Smith was part of the team who built the first course. Schriver isn’t ready to announce the architect, but sources close to the situation are saying Arcadia’s owner has a good relationship with Dana Fry, of Hurdzan and Fry, which, along with Ron Whitten of Golf Digest, built Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

With more golf comes the demand for more lodging. On October 1, Arcadia will be adding a second lodge. It will have four levels, 20 rooms and a workout facility. It will be dropped on what is the 10th tee and will have views across the course and out to the lake.

Sand Valley

All 18 holes of the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw course opened for preview play September 1. (Green fee is $100.) They’ve opened three cottages (eight beds in each cottage), and the plan is to open a 12-bedroom cottage (24 beds) October 1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are being served at what they call Craig’s Porch, a scenic spot overlooking the start of the Coore and Crenshaw course. “We’re also offering dinners cooked in the cottage, which is a cool concept for a buddies trip,” said Josh Lesnik, President of Kemper Sports, which also manages Sand Valley.

As for the David McLay Kidd design, six holes have been seeded and the hope is to have nine seeded by the end of the season.

The Official opening of the Coore and Crenshaw course is scheduled for June 12, and at that point, there should be six to nine holes on Kidd’s course open for preview play.

And the idea of a third course? A fourth course? A short course?

“We need to make sure the first two courses are a viable business. If that’s the case,” said Lesnik, “the sky’s the limit out there.”

News and Notes from Top U.S. Golf Resorts – Part I

Big Cedar Lodge
Big Cedar Lodge

“They” say golf is struggling.

Struggling to do what, exactly? I’ve just spent the last few days connecting with 12 of the best public golf destinations in America. The only thing they seem to be struggling with is keeping up with the enhanced demands of the avid amateur. Let’s face it, “we” are spoiled. As “we” should be. Golf remains time consuming, difficult and pricey. And in this great jump ball for our golf dollars, they should all be on their A-games.

Per my travels and as far as I can tell, the ancillary benefits of the economic bubble burst is a little natural selection, a heightened focus on pace of play, the restoration and embrace of municipal golf courses, a separation and identification of thoughtful and talented architects, a movement to simplify the rules, budding grow-the-game initiatives, smart talk of resources and sustainability, a new appreciation and development of the junior caddie and as you’ll read below, a competition at the top properties that is breeding excellence. (And continues to put pressure on private clubs.)

Pebble Beach

It’s not easy getting to No. 1. And it’s even harder to stay there. See Rory McIlroy and/or Jordan Spieth. But Pebble Beach seems poised for an extended stay as the best public course in the country.

10th Tee at Pebble Beach
10th Tee at Pebble Beach

In the midst of a five-year plan for golf course updates, the Pebble Beach Company has completed tweaks to the ninth, 17th and 14th greens. They’ve also restored an old 10th tee that hangs over the beach. And according to RJ Harper, Executive Vice President of Golf and Retail, the 13th green is next. “Right now, in championship conditions, the right side of the green is too severe,” said Harper. “We will soften that side of the green and create more pin placements.” As far as when that work will be done, Harper says they will decide by the end of the year.

Even more extensive than the work on the course, Pebble Beach just completed phase one of room renovations. “Every room to the right side of the 18th fairway has been redone,” said Harper. “Exterior. Interior. Everything. And we’re very proud of the work that’s been done there.” Those rooms reopened in April to rave reviews.

And to the left of the first fairway, work continues on Fairway 1, which is a 38-room project that will be finished in July of next year. Thirty of the rooms will be exactly like what’s on the 18th fairway. Two of the “rooms” will be four-bedroom suites with 1,000 square feet of common space. “We never had that before,” said Harper. “We will now have the lodging option for foursomes of friends or four couples.”

As for Pebble’s “little” brother, Harper says Spyglass will get a little longer. But here’s the good news: In March, the 50-year lease of the Spyglass Founders Club expired, resulting in a 30-percent increase in available tee times to the general public. Worth noting and appreciating Spyglass wouldn’t exist without the financial support of those original 250 members ($2,500 each, plus $50 in annual dues for 50 years).

No exterior changes to the Inn at Spanish Bay, but Harper says there are plans to update all rooms at one of my favorite golf hotels in America.

“When the current ownership made the purchase in ’99, their simple goal was to keep improving,” said Harper. “They’ve done nothing but fulfilled that commitment. And will continue to do so.” That ownership includes Arnold Palmer, Richard Ferris, Peter Ueberroth, Clint Eastwood, William Perocchi and GE Pension.

Pebble Beach and Spyglass will host the 2018 U.S. Amateur and Pebble Beach will host the U.S. Open in 2019 as part of their 100-year anniversary celebration.

Bandon Dunes

Doak's Course
Doak’s Course

The sixth course at Bandon Dunes should still be Tom Doak’s 11-hole par-3 course, which will meander through the dunesland near the start of Bandon Trails. From the second tee at Trails you can see at least one flagstick indicating the spot for a proposed green. “We continue to weigh various options,” said Josh Lesnik, President of Kemper Sports, “but unfortunately it doesn’t look like Tom will start building the course this winter.” Doak should break ground in the first or second quarter of 2017.

Meanwhile, Gil Hanse is everywhere. From Rio, Doral, Winged Foot, Mossy Oak and Streamsong Black, but there have also been several Gil Hanse sightings at Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst. More on Pinehurst later, but Mike Keiser has been trying to get a Hanse addition to his Oregon portfolio for over 10 years. A diligent and patient Keiser finally walked away from a decade worth of stalled negotiations with Oregon’s State Park Department and the Bureau of Land Management that would’ve allowed for at least 27 more memorable holes 20 minutes south of the resort. At that same location, Keiser in fact owns enough land for 18, and Hanse has done at least one routing, but there’s also speculation that Hanse might get a crack at some land north of the resort. Sheep Ranch? It’s possible. Either way, the Hanse-working-for-everyone-BUT-Mike Keiser phenomenon will soon come to an end.


From the purchase of two courses/competitors (2011 & 2014), the gutsy restoration of No. 2 (2011) and successful back-to-back Men’s and Women’s U.S. Opens (2014), Pinehurst’s fairly new President, Tom Pashley, who took over for Don Padgett in late-2014, has snuggled into The Cradle of American Golf at a time when the basinet is on the up swing. So, to keep the momentum going, Pashley just debuted The Deuce, a new open bar that extends onto the porch overlooking No. 2’s 18th green. “The post-round experience now matches the on-course experience,” said Pashley. “The Deuce was built to be the perfect place for golfers to reflect and unwind after a day on the links.”

The Deuce
The Deuce

Pinehurst will host the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, 2019 U.S. Amateur and 2024 U.S. Open. No shock if the USGA decides to go back-to-back again with the men’s and women’s major. Everyone agreed it was a strategic, competitive, logistical and financial success.

We also know Coore and Crenshaw have a routing on what once was The Pit Golf Links, which is a few miles off property and, if completed, would be Pinehurst No. 10. But lots of friends and Twitter followers are also reporting Gil Hanse sightings in the Sandhills of North Carolina. Pashley will only say that there’s a lot of potential for a guy like Hanse to help continue the aforementioned momentum of the storied resort.

Anyone for a beer at The Deuce where we can reflect on the possibilities?

Sea Island

And then there was one. Owner, that is.

In case you missed it, Sea Island has been around since 1928, owned and operated by the Jones family. Well, back in 2007, right before the economic crash, Bill Jones III pushed all in on almost $1 billion in upgrades and acquisitions.

Cut to 2010, when two teams of two partners are at an auction, bidding against each other for all that was Sea Island. They paused the auction, huddled, and decided to stop the bidding and own it together. (Among other things, they got the Cloister, Lodge, three courses and a 360-degree driving range with a prime ocean view for $212 million.) Captain Obvious: “They got a great deal.”

In June, the Anschutz family of Denver, CO., one of the four owners, bought out the three other partners and put the property into a 100-year family trust.

So after all that, Sea Island is back to being a family-owned operation with a seemingly endless future.

In April, Sea Island opened another 63 rooms to an extended wing of the Cloister. I’m told the Anschutz family, who also owns The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, will be looking to make updates and upgrades to all three courses at Sea Island: Seaside (Tom Fazio), Plantation (Rees Jones) and Retreat (Davis and Mark Love). They’re also looking at the property near the back of the range as potential for further development.

American Club, Kohler, WI

With David Kohler’s ongoing focus on addressing the needs and demands of the prototypical four- to 24-person buddies trip, Destination Kohler will break ground this month on an expansion to the Inn at Woodlake, which will include four- to six-person suites. There will be six suites with four bedrooms and four suites with two bedrooms, which will have common living space and kitchenettes. The expansion should be open for bookings later in the 2017 season.

As for the plans of a fifth Pete Dye course, the process of permitting and politics continues. “I wish I had more information,” said a Kohler spokesperson.

(So do we.)

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WV

As you recall, historic floods in June devastated West Virginia, causing 15 deaths in Greenbrier County and 23 statewide. The 235-year-old resort cancelled their PGA Tour event and opened its doors to flood victims. And in less than three weeks, the 710-room hotel reopened to the public. Almost all of the golf on property needed more time.

“It has been organized chaos here,” said Burt Baine, Greenbrier’s Director of Golf. “We have four courses under major construction, all within five miles of each other.” Baine noted that Kelly Schumate, the Director of Golf Course Maintenance for all four courses, hasn’t had a day off since June 23. (Which is 83 days, and counting…)

The Greenbrier Course suffered the least amount of damage and reopened in mid-July.

Old White TPC at The Greenbrier, a C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor original, will remain shut down and is undergoing a complete restoration by Keith Foster, who has previously restored prominent courses such as Philadelphia Cricket Club, Southern Hills and Eastward Ho!

“There will be no major changes,” said Baine. “But Keith’s going to uncover a lot of cool stuff out there. And the greens will get a necessary consistency.”

Blaine expects the new Old White to reopen for next year’s Greenbrier Classic (July 3—9). The Meadows course is scheduled to reopen in late-April.

The Sam Snead course, a private Tom Fazio design, was hit the hardest. The course remains closed while Fazio’s team redoes all greens, bunkers and the design of three holes.

The “Big Course,” which is being designed by Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Trevino, is underway. And although early indications were that Team Nicklaus would be doing a bulk of the design and work, that’s apparently not true. According to Baine, it has been a fairly balanced collaboration. And although Trevino might not have as much experience in architecture, he has always been a plus-six storyteller, which goes a long way to getting people to see the finished product. Trevino has been a pro-emeritus at the Greenbrier since 2015 and has already spent several months on site engaging and entertaining guests and golfers.

“One thing we’ve realized in this summer of very little golf,” said Baine, “is that, going forward, we will get focused on repositioning the Greenbrier as a golf destination. It has been very obvious the last few months that golf drives a bulk of what goes on at this resort.”

Big Cedar Lodge

Big Cedar Lodge
Big Cedar Lodge

Owner, Johnny Morris, doesn’t just keep turning sinkholes into spectacular cave tours. The founder of Bass Pro Shops is also turning the Ozarks into a golf heaven. He has an Arnold Palmer driving range, a Jack Nicklaus short course and a Tom Fazio championship course. He’s opening a Gary Player 12-hole par-3 course in 2017 and a Coore and Crenshaw 18-hole course in 2018. Morris also continues to make updates and enhancements to the resort he purchased in 1987.

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Whistling Straits
Whistling Straits

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil have enthralled sports fans worldwide. People are drawn to the drama, the pageantry, and the sad fact that for every gold medal won, there are dozens of elite athletes who come away empty-handed, and rue the fact they weren’t a touch faster, stronger or more skilled. Same can be said for the elite universe of the nation’s finest golf destinations. GOLF Magazine offers a very short list of Gold Medal Resorts, and to find a place therein is to know you are among the best of the best.

Destination Kohler is just such a place, despite its unlikely location in working-class Sheboygan, about an hour’s drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Grab your car from National and head out to try four scintillating golf experiences at the Midwest’s only Five Diamond Resort. For the time-challenged golfer who can afford one round only, the choice is undoubtedly Whistling Straits, an Irish-themed thrill ride hard by the banks of Lake Michigan, site of the 2004, 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship, and the 2020 Ryder Cup Matches. If the itinerary allowed for a second round, then the River Course is the choice, a beguilingly beautiful walk among river and woods, site of the 1998 and 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Meadow Valleys and the Irish Course round out the quartet, and are magnificent resort venues, albeit understudies to the main attractions.

The Straits
The Straits

The Straits, and the neighboring Irish Course, came to life amidst 560 lakeside acres about ten miles northeast of the resort itself. The land was a former army base, an ecological ruin filled with asbestos, toxic waste, concrete bunkers and fuel storage tanks. But it also featured seventy-foot bluffs rising above the waters of Lake Michigan. Though fairly new to playing the game, resort founder Herb Kohler had quickly developed an affinity for links golf, whose roots are in the seaside courses of the United Kingdom. “I want this course to look like it’s in Ireland,” was the directive handed down.

The Irish
The Irish

By the time architect Pete Dye was done scalloping the featureless landscape, employing four decades of know-how, a fleet of bulldozers, and 13,000 truckloads of sand imported from area farms, the wondrous creation of fescue grasses and bunkers surrounding tilting fairways looked as if it were sitting on top of the Irish Sea. Kohler even imported a flock of blackface sheep to roam the golf grounds along the lakeshore unencumbered, adding a uniquely appealing touch. He also decreed the course would be walking only, no carts, as it was meant to be the antithesis of a typically cushy resort course. “He told me he wanted a walking course, and I thought he was crazy,” remembers Pete Dye. “I enjoy walking, and thought I’d be the only one who ever played this course, but I was wrong. He set a trend.”

Despite the constant views of Lake Michigan from throughout the Straits Course, water is rarely in play, other than the quartet of incredible par-3s, several of which look as they are ready to teeter off the cliff, and tumble down into the steel-gray lake. A boomerang hook or high-flying slice, depending on which way the golfer is heading, will come to an inglorious demise on lake’s bottom.

The River
The River

The River Course undoubtedly plays second fiddle to The Straits, but is still first-rate in every capacity. This parkland beauty features the gurgling Sheboygan River on twelve holes and is an exceptionally scenic golf journey, deeply wooded, with a multitude of wildlife. The serene setting, rife with native grasses, unusual mounding, and a color palette of dazzling flowers, provide the visual reverie. But it’s the strategic element of the routing, the go-for-broke mentality that golfers found irresistible, and made the course an instantaneous hit from its late 1980s inception. It is target-oriented, demanding accuracy from the tee and on the approach. The middle portion of the course is a spectacular series of downhill tee shots, hard-angled doglegs, and an unending series of risk/reward opportunities that tempt golfers to bite off as much as they dare.

While golf is the main attraction, many other amenities make Destination Kohler such a prime attraction. The award-winning Kohler Waters Spa, a five-star facility considered among the world’s top fifty spas, is another major attraction of the resort. There’s also great fishing, shooting, horseback riding, biking and other fitness activities. Other unique features include garden tours, and visits to either the Kohler Design Center or Kohler Factory itself, where some of the world’s finest bathroom and plumbing fixtures are manufactured.

Dining options abound, with the marquee option being the Immigrant Restaurant. Paying homage to the factory workers who were among the earliest residents of what eventually became the resort, there are half-a-dozen separate rooms in the elegant bistro, and are decorated in the style most befitting the French, Dutch, German, Normandy, Danish and English, respectively. Specialty caviar, lamb chops, Salmon Oscar and braised veal are among the highlights. The Horse and Plow is another excellent option, particularly for those not inclined to don sports jackets or coat-and-tie. Crab cakes, chicken pot pie, homemade meatloaf, bison burgers and a wide range of salads are complemented by a dazzling array of beers, both bottled and on draft.

In terms of the quality of golf, resorts, countries and cultures, 2015 is at the top of the ten years I’ve been a “travel insider.”

With two trips to South Korea, three to Ireland, Canada, Hawaii, multiple trips to the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, 2015 was also my most traveled year. I logged over 200,000 miles of an ongoing magic carpet ride as I chase the sun at some of the best golf getaways in the world.

Pebble ($495), Pasatiempo, Portrush, Bandon, Cabot, Cypress, Sea Island, Straits, Ardglass, The Goat, Royal County Down, Waterville and Winter Park Country Club ($8 for residents), just to name of few.

And don’t think I don’t appreciate my incredibly fortunate position of being asked to review golf for a living. I say it a lot, because it’s true, but I never take it for granted. And, as it relates to helping you make the best decision for you and your group, as to where to stay and play, I take it seriously.

For the purpose of reflecting on five of my 2015 highlights, I’m excluding the two personal buddies trips—the Uncle Tony Invitational at Bandon Dunes in Oregon and the Father/Son at Waterville in Ireland. But I am considering the trip I took to Northern Ireland, where I was invited to play in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro-Am at Royal County Down.

“Let me think about that for a second,” I said. And I waited one second. “I am IN!”


My best friend and caddie for the week, Todd Curran.
My best friend and caddie for the week, Todd Curran, as we walked down Royal County Down’s ninth fairway. The Mountains of Mourne as a dramatic backdrop to one of the best courses in the world.

My best friend, Todd Curran, would caddie for me. And we’d plan more golf on the front and back end of the tournament. We stayed at the Culloden Estate and Spa, Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, and Ardtara, some of Ireland’s elite lodging options.

We played Holywood, home of Rory McIlroy, who treated us to a tee time and trolleys. Royal Portrush, host of the 2019 Open Championship. Portstewart, which has one of the most underrated front nines in the UK. We played Ardglass, a hidden gem and a must play on any Northern Ireland golf itinerary.


Pictures, tributes and replicas of Rory McIlroy’s major trophies are at Holywood, a small course and country club where McIlroy grew up playing golf.
Pictures, tributes and replicas of Rory McIlroy’s major trophies are at Holywood, a small course and country club where McIlroy grew up playing golf.

Off the course, we caught the tail end of a Van Morrison concert. (That part where he walks off the stage because he’s distracted and disrespected by crowd activity.)

As for the pro-am, in which I was paired with Rickie Fowler, who had just won The Players Championship, it was my most memorable round of my year. (I didn’t say “best,” I said “most memorable.”)

There was quite a crowd gathered around the first tee. Over 3,000 crazed Irish golf fans, and only about half of them were there to see Fowler. Most of them were fans of my other two playing partners, who are apparently very famous.

A.P. McCoy, I’ve since learned, is the Secretariat of jockeys in the UK. At 4,357 career wins, he has almost twice the number of wins than the guy who is second best. McCoy might’ve been more popular than Fowler.

Patrick Kielty, A.P. McCoy and Rickie Fowler
Patrick Kielty, A.P. McCoy and Rickie Fowler helped entertain an adoring crowd. Nothing could keep them safe of my errant shots.

The other amateur in the group was Patrick Kielty, a successful comedian who was born and raised in County Down. A hometown hero, of sorts.

And then there was me, who was incredibly overwhelmed and humbled by the situation. I shook. I had the sweats. Shortness of breath. And I sucked. At least until the eighth or ninth hole, when I finally started to feel my feet. I was so afraid of killing someone. There were so many people. And they were so close. And they were all in danger. Regardless, my buddy and I had a blast. All week. But don’t expect us to remember all of the details.

What I do remember is Fowler and his caddie, Joe Skovron, were gracious and engaging. The crowd was warm and supportive. The same could be said of Ireland in general. It might not be the “Home of Golf,” but a golf trip to Northern Ireland rivals any trip to St. Andrews.


Sitting down with Ben Crenshaw the week before his 44th and final Masters.
Sitting down with Ben Crenshaw the week before his 44th and final Masters.

One of the most cherished benefits of doing what I do has been getting to spend time with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who are not only successful partners in architecture, but they are two of the game’s finest gentlemen. And going into Crenshaw’s last Masters, I found out two things: That I’d be interviewing Crenshaw the week before Augusta National, and that I had an invite to his party after his final competitive round.

At Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Crenshaw shared his emotions and state of mind as he approached his 44th Masters week. “Quite simply, I can’t play the course,” said Crenshaw. “It’s the right time. It’s part of life. I will be an encourager of the younger players from now on.”

I’ve covered eleven Masters, but this was my first time going to Augusta as a fan. My friends and I were in the massive gallery encouraging Crenshaw on Friday afternoon.

Attending a Masters with friends and as a fan.
Attending a Masters with friends and as a fan.

Having met up with him on the 11th tee, Crenshaw saw me standing outside the ropes. He nodded, and then walked over to where I was standing. He shook hands with my friends, and then, when it was his turn to tee off, he offered me his driver. “Here,” he gestured. “You hit this. I can’t reach the fairway anymore.” The crowd laughed with him. And then Crenshaw obviously hit the shot. A high draw, slinging its way down the hill and coming to rest on the left side of the fairway. Short, but serviceable. Such a proud man and champion, and yet so decent and humble. I remember watching Crenshaw navigate the drastic decent down the 11th tee and into Amen Corner for one last time. The legend and legacy he leaves behind at Augusta National will last forever.

“I’ll be seeing a lot more of Bill Coore, my partner in architecture,” Crenshaw said to small gathering of friends and family.
“I’ll be seeing a lot more of Bill Coore, my partner in architecture,” Crenshaw said to small gathering of friends and family.

Later that night, Crenshaw gathered a small crowd into the living room of a rented house in Augusta. He stood in the middle, rotating and making eye contact with people as he talked and turned. “You can’t make it in this life without friends,” said Crenshaw. “Bobby Jones once said that friends are among life’s most cherished possessions. And he was right. We are rich with friends. I want to thank you all for your support. As for today, I don’t know how to describe it, other than I’m happy it’s over. And I’ll be seeing a lot more of this guy, my partner in architecture, Bill Coore.”


“I will love you forever,” Crenshaw said to his longtime caddie and loyal friend.
“I will love you forever,” Crenshaw said to his longtime caddie and loyal friend.

And then he called Carl Jackson to the center of the room. Jackson is Crenshaw’s longtime caddie and soulmate, and as the loyal looper took his place next to Crenshaw, the two men locking arms, Jackson was back to being the tree Crenshaw has leaned on throughout the years. The relationship so much more than just club selection and putting breaks.

“I love you until the day I die,” said Crenshaw, looking up at Jackson. And then he turned back to the crowd. “When we’d try to read a putt, I would say, ‘Carl, it looks like one cup to the right.’ And if he agreed, he’d always say to me, ‘We’re together.’ Well,” said Crenshaw, “Carl, we’re together.”

Needless to say, to have spent that time with the Crenshaws, during that week was incredibly special. And so was playing on opening day of Cabot Cliffs with Crenshaw, in which he shot a smooth 73. Coore and Crenshaw’s addition to Cabot Links will officially open in Inverness, Nova Scotia next summer. I always felt it would be in the conversation of the top 10 courses in North America. Now that it’s done, it might be in consideration for top 10 in the world.


The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club might be manufactured from landfill, but it made for great theater the week of the Presidents Cup.
The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club might be manufactured from landfill, but it made for great theater the week of the Presidents Cup.

Having made two trips to South Korea in 2015, one for a travel story, and one for a story relating to the Olympics in 2016, I was afforded an incredible opportunity to experience the Korean culture and get to know more about why they’ve emerged as such a force in the future of golf. Even though, of the two million golfers in country, only 40 percent actually play golf on one of the 500 courses. The rest go to simulators or driving ranges. (Simulator golf tournaments are televised.) To the kids, golf is not a game—even at an early age—golf is a career opportunity. The kids are trained to be machines. They are expected to be masters of a chosen craft.

Anyway, what they’re doing is working. And it was fascinating to learn more about the who, how and why.

Cheerleaders are big in Korean baseball. And they cheer from on top of the dugouts.
Cheerleaders are big in Korean baseball. And they cheer from on top of the dugouts.

Not to mention, having tea and later emailing with a real monk. I got a picture with the cheerleaders of one of the professional baseball teams. I got rototilled by some of the countries finest amateur table tennis players. Even the smallest and sweetest of my competitors heartlessly blasted ping pong balls off of my forehead. They nod and apologize, of course.

As for the Jack Nicklaus golf course at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, which hosted the Presidents Cup, it was hard to believe you pay $1 million for a membership. The course is good, considering it’s all built on landfill, but far from great. That being said, it provided ample drama to a well-contested Cup. More proof that you don’t have to have a great course to have a compelling match play venue and event.


Tom Doak playing his reversible routing even when it was just dirt.
Tom Doak playing his reversible routing even when it was just dirt.

Having covered the history, design, development and redesigns of hundreds of courses all over the world, it’s now hard to come across something truly unique. And then I started covering Tom Doak’s design of a reversible course at Forest Dunes in Roscommon, Mich. “I like to say that I didn’t build two courses,” said Doak. “I built 18 greens that can be attacked from multiple directions.”

What Doak says is true, but those 18 greens will be consumed by the avid amateur as one course that is played one day in a clockwise order of 1 to 18. And the next day, golfers will go on a routing that is counterclockwise.

In an attempt to make Forest Dunes into more than one-course shopping, Thompson has added lodging and the reversible routing, which they are calling The Loop.
In an attempt to make Forest Dunes into more than one-course shopping, Thompson has added lodging and the reversible routing, which they are calling The Loop.

And the two routings will certainly be directly compared as though they are two different courses. Which they are. And to have been there through various stages of development, even playing a portion of the course with Doak when it was still just dirt, was priceless access and an education in advanced golf architecture.

Although the green complexes are small for such a layered concept, I do think Doak pulled it off. And I’m excited to see the feedback when the course opens for limited preview play in the summer of 2016. If successful, an efficient and sustainably smart concept like this has serious growth potential, especially as the world of golf continues to consider alternate ways of growing the game.


Herb Kohler, Pete and Alice Dye have built one of the ultimate golf getaways in the world.
Herb Kohler, Pete and Alice Dye have built one of the ultimate golf getaways in the world.

From Coore and Crenshaw at Cabot, to Doak at Forest Dunes, Robert Trent Jones Jr., at Chambers Bay, David McLay Kidd at Sand Valley, Tom Weiskopf at TPC Scottsdale, Tom Fazio at Waterville, Gil Hanse at Streamsong, Jim Wagner at Mossy Oak and Keith Rhebb at Winter Park Country Club, I learned a lot about architecture in 2015. But one of the more memorable moments was interviewing Herb Kohler and Pete Dye about the development of Blackwolf Run, Whistling Straits and how they brought multiple majors to one remote Midwestern destination.

Dye has built all four courses at Destination Kohler. And there are ongoing talks of a fifth course. “We better do it quick,” said Kohler. “While Pete is still alive.” Both men laughed. (Dye celebrated his 90th birthday on Dec. 29, 2015.)

Just one of the wild sunsets during the week of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
Just one of the wild sunsets during the week of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

In doing that interview, as well as touring and sampling all of what the resort has to offer, I was reminded why it is one of the ultimate golf getaways in the world.

The Straits is my favorite of all Pete Dye public designs. Service is exceptional. The food options, culinary culture and other off-course amenities are tirelessly held to five-star standards. I also had the opportunity to sit down with David Kohler, who has recently taken over a bulk of the leadership responsibility on behalf of his father.

The younger Kohler has worked his way up to the top of the company, and it’s obvious he has an appreciation and respect for all that has been created within the family brand. David is sharp, articulate, thoughtful and demanding. Kohler Company is in good hands, which is more good news for the avid amateur.

From subsidized caddie academies and junior green fees, water conservation and redesigns, reversible routings and the ongoing growth of short courses, foot golf and Top Golf, I’m looking forward to shining the light on more of what’s right with golf in 2016.


Pete Dye’s 90th birthday is Dec. 29, 2015. Just back from the Dominican Republic, the family is prepping for a worthy celebration. The World Golf Hall of Famer of 2008 didn’t start building courses until his mid-30s, and yet, he has the most respected and prestigious portfolio of the modern era of architecture (1949—2008). And he did it all from a rental car.

Whistling Straits
Whistling Straits

A few of Dye’s best—Whistling Straits, TPC Sawgrass (Stadium), Kiawah’s Ocean Course, Crooked Stick and Harbour Town—are frequent hosts of Major Championships, Ryder Cups and PGA Tour events. Dye has managed to remain busy and relevant in what is now an era of minimalists, in which the architects who do the least to the ground they’re provided, get hired to do more. The rest are out of work, or they’re being hired to either fix their mistakes, or fix the mistakes of their peers.


Pete and Alice
Pete and Alice

“The key is to do it for a little less than everyone else,” says Dye, who believes “designer” is a curse word. To Dye, that’s an architect who sketches plans on paper, then has someone else do the work for them. Dye is a builder. He wears boots to his “office,” and leaves them on the front step every night, covered in mud. “By being there, it’s better,” says Dye. “And it’s quicker.”

Reflecting on his career at 90, Dye is also quick to offer credit to his wife, Alice, an accomplished golfer—winner of nine Indiana state amateur championships—who has had significant impact on most of Dye’s 90-course portfolio. “She’s not just a good golfer,” says Pete, “she keeps up with all golf and golfers, younger and older. We talk about it a lot.”

TPC Sawgrass
TPC Sawgrass

For a guy who likes to mess with the minds of the professionals, but also claims to cater to his clientele, it has been paramount to Dye’s success that he stays current with the bifurcated trends of the game. It was Dye who foresaw the distance boom of the modern game, and it drastically influenced his style. In order to continue to test the best, which he is often hired to do, by both the PGA Tour and developers chasing tour events and/or majors, Dye stretched the playing surface, and he added more risks while eliminating rewards.

Blackwolf Run
Blackwolf Run

He’s now known for courses with high-degrees of difficulty, island greens, and he likes to finish his routings with a three-hole combination of a par 3, 4 and 5. He’s a master at drainage and is often hired to build courses on land that sits below sea level. “Before I start a course, I get to know the membership or the customer,” says Dye. “You build to suit their needs.”

Harbour Town
Harbour Town

Pete and Alice Dye both say that there’s a distinct difference between the courses they built for resorts, and the courses they built for private memberships. “At a resort,” says Alice, “you’re building a course for someone who will probably only play the course once or twice. It can be more dramatic and less forgiving.” “But a private course,” says Pete, “has a membership that will play the course over and over again. And you build them a course based on the average age and playing level.”

Makes sense. And for Dye, given his 50-year career (and counting), so is renting cars. “I haven’t owned a car in over 40 years,” says Dye. “I’m on the road all the time. We either rent or lease.” Dye suspects he’s National Car Rental’s No. 1 customer. “For whatever reason, I’ve only rented from National. It has always been the most convenient, and they’ve always been available everywhere I went. And they’re usually a little less than everyone else.”  Bobby Weed, a former Dye associate, affirms, “He’d rent National cars for a year at a time. He rented National cars so much he talked about them like a brand of car…as in Chevy or Ford. I’d need to get something out of his car in the parking lot. I’d ask him, ‘What kind of car do you have?’ He’d say, ‘National.'”

Pete and Alice
Pete and Alice

With six projects in the finishing stages, and at least six more on the horizon, including a fifth course at Destination Kohler in Wisconsin, Dye is driving his way into his 90s. Although he does admit, most of his clients now send him a jet to get to and from their developments. “It’s nice.” He laughs, as if he can’t believe his luck. “They come pick me up?!”

When asked if he could imagine building courses until he was 100 years old, Dye laughed again. “It has to end sooner or later. The ones I’m going to start building now will take me at least two or three years. So, that gets me almost there.”


My Top 5 Pete Dye Courses in the U.S. (that you can play)

1 – Whistling Straits – 2004, ’10 and ’15 PGA Championships, ‘07 U.S. Senior Open and ‘20 Ryder Cup.

2 – Kiawah (Ocean) – 1991 Ryder Cup and 2012 and ‘21 PGA Championships.

3 – Harbour Town – RBC Heritage Classic since 1969.

4 – Blackwolf Run (Championship Routing) – 1998 and 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.

5 – TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) – Players Championship since 1982.

My Top 5 Pete Dye Courses in the U.S. (that you can afford)

1 – Peninsula Golf Course, Lancaster, KY.

2 – Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links, Berlin, MD.

3 – Prestwick Country Club, Myrtle Beach, SC.

4 – Fowler’s Mill Golf Course, Chesterland, OH.

5 – The Fort Golf Course, Indianapolis, IN.

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According to the latest power rankings, fall golf and football knows no rival. But what’s the best NFL city for public golf?

In order to answer the question, we must first be clear on a few particulars.

There are several teams with broad-based geographical references, and for the purpose of this exercise, need definition.

  • New England Patriots = Boston
  • New York Jets and Giants = Manhattan
  • San Francisco = San Francisco, not Santa Clara, which is the address of Levi’s Stadium
  • Carolina Panthers = Charlotte, NC
  • Phoenix = Phoenix and Scottsdale

It should also be noted, that in order to establish this ranking, I considered all public courses within a one-hour drive of the city center, or, in some cases, major airports. A mix of prestige—rich history and/or frequent host of major events—as well as perceived value for locals, were key ingredients to my criteria.

With that being said, I grant 49ers’ fans (guilty!) a small slice of salvation in yet another season of mediocrity.


No. 1: San Francisco

It’s not a stretch to include Pasatiempo, an Alister Mackenzie design, to the roster that is public golf in and around San Francisco. Built by the same guy who gave us Augusta National, Cypress Point, Crystal Downs and Royal Melbourne, Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz is only a few minutes more than an hour from the San Francisco airport. Add TPC Harding Park, both courses at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, Presidio and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the 17th tee at Lincoln Park, and you have quite an itinerary.


TPC Scottsdale
TPC Scottsdale

No. 2: Arizona

Admittedly, the Phoenix and Scottsdale area was No. 1 on my list until I granted San Francisco an extension of measuring distance to Pasatiempo from the airport. Having grown up an hour north of San Francisco might have also factored into my ultimate analysis. Regardless, with courses such as TPC Scottsdale, both at We-Ko-Pa, both at Talking Stick, both at Troon North, Quintero and the saddle fairways of Westin Kierland, the NFC West is dominating this list for a reason.

Whistling Straits
Whistling Straits

No. 3: Green Bay

Like Pasatiempo to San Francisco, with drive time a little over an hour, I’m giving Green Bay all four courses at Destination Kohler, which incudes Whistling Straits, Irish and both at Blackwolf Run. Add the Bull at Pinehurst farms, Wander Springs, Mid-Vallee (Blue) and Brown County (muni), and it’s hard to think there are two better NFL cities for golf. Especially given the additional roll on anything deemed “frozen tundra.”


Bethpage Black

No. 4: New York

I had Tampa Bay fifth on this list, but in the end, I think the combination of Bethpage Black and Red is better than Streamsong Red and Blue. But it’s close. To the New York itinerary, I’m adding Ferry Point, Harbor Links and Ballyowen, which is in New Jersey. I’d also add Patriot Hills and the gritty charms of Dyker Beach, Van Cortland Park, Clearview and Pelham Bay/Split Rock.


Chambers Bay
Chambers Bay

No. 5: Seattle

It still bothers me, the way the USGA presented Chambers Bay to the masses. I had toured the course two weeks before the U.S. Open and conditions were impeccable. And not only is Chambers Bay a compelling narrative—gravel pit to major championship—it’s an impressive anchor to public golf in and around Seattle. The value golf at Gold Mountain is some of the best in the country. Home course, Washington National and Druids Glen are also formidable forces in what has quietly become a strong consideration for future buddies trips.


By way of Twitter (@mattginellagc) and Instagram (@matt_ginella), I also solicited your feedback.

@josephnikolai: “San Diego with Torrey, Balboa, Maderas, Arrowhead, Coronado, Barona, Goat Hill, Temecula Creek Inn—all public.”

M. Ginella: San Diego would be in my Top 10 on this list.

@along3593: “Green Bay to Whistling Straits is about an hour. Amazing NFL area and a heavenly golf course.

@almostheavengolf: “Charlotte with Tobacco Road and all the Pinehurst courses nearby.”

M. Ginella: Charlotte to Pinehurst is over two hours, but I agree, Carolina is a contender.

@troysenanigans: “Co-sign Seattle. Chambers, Gold Mt, Semiahmoo, Home Course, WA National, Allenmore (classic), Trophy Lake and Avalon.”

@hoepf24: “Phoenix/Scottsdale…a golfer’s paradise and fantastic weather year round.”

@marcbabyar: “San Fran, San Diego, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Arizona…my opinion.”

@parrotheadgolfer74: “Tampa is solid with Orlando area courses just up the road and Streamsong close by too.”

@jtarble: “I’ll throw out Indianapolis. The Colts may suck right now, but we have the Fort, Brickyard, Trophy Club, Prairie View and several other great options.”

Herb Kohler got into the golf business to create a first-rate destination in the upper Midwest. Now, with 72 impressive holes in his Wisconsin portfolio, the Kohler is preparing to host Whistling Straits’ third PGA Championship since 2004. The good news for the waves of avid amateurs descending upon the Badger State this summer is that the golf options in and around Kohler are better than ever.

From August 10-16, thousands from all over the world will fly into Milwaukee, jump into a National rental car, and make the one-hour drive north to watch the best players in the world test their skills on a Pete Dye masterpiece.

As I’ve discovered over two decades of covering major championships, watching golf inspires us to play the game. And leading into a week in which most fans don’t have tickets to every day of competition, I often get asked: “Where should I play if I’m in town and want to tee it up for an afternoon?”

So here are four choices, all within 90 minutes of Whistling Straits.

Erin Hills
Erin Hills

Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisc., opened in 2006, hosted the 2011 U.S. Amateur and will host the 2017 U.S. Open. The caché of an upcoming major makes this a popular pick the week of the PGA. The Hurdzan/Fry/Whitten design has evolved into a stiff test and a demanding walk (no carts) as you work your way around a former dairy farm. You can expect a remote and tranquil setting, perfect conditioning, polished caddies and snappy service, but if you don’t call soon, you can also expect a packed tee sheet. The green fee is $245 all week and Erin Hills is an 80-minute drive from Straits.

The Bog
The Bog

The Bog is a 1995 Arnold Palmer design that winds through 300 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat. Although your focus will be on birdies and eagles, you can’t help but be distracted by your surroundings and the value available at this Saukville facility. The Bog’s new owner, Michael Hammes, recently told the Milwaukee Business Journal that there are no major plans to change the course. “We believe it’s one of the finest golf courses in the area and we intend to keep it operating it that way.” At 40 minutes from Whistling Straits, and not far from the freeway, the Bog splits the difference between Kohler and Milwaukee. The green fee is $109 on Monday, Tuesday and Sunday of the PGA. Wednesday through Saturday, it’s $129.

The Bull
The Bull at Pinehurst Farms

The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, which opened in 2003, is the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Wisconsin and it’s yet another former dairy farm that lends itself to a peaceful walk among trees, creeks and lakes. The resident pro reports perfect conditions as they prepare for a busy week of golf. Only 15 minutes from Kohler, this will be a popular option. The Bull has a 30-day cancellation policy, so if you make a tee time, you’ll want to stick to it. Fees are $75 before 7am, $150 before 2pm, $95 before 4pm and $65 after 4pm.

The Links at Lawsonia
The Links at Lawsonia

The Links at Lawsonia, built by William Langford and Theodore Moreau in 1930, is a Midwestern and American classic. With its raised putting surfaces and flat green-side bunkers, one can see why Langford and Moreau, who built almost 200 courses, have been compared to prominent architectural teams such as C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor. The Woodlands course, built by Rocky Roquemore, was added in 1983, and offers a stark contrast in look, distance and strategy to the Links. The Woodlands is shorter and tighter but more forgiving around the greens. Almost 90 minutes from Straits, Lawsonia is a longer drive than the rest, but that also means there could be more availability and flexibility in the tee sheets. Green fees at both courses are $79 on Monday thru Thursday of PGA week, then $90 Friday through Sunday. One local told me the Friday fish fry is almost as good as the golf.