Best of 2008 Travel Awards part 2
As I look back on my 2008 golf season (spurred on by my colleague Brandon Tucker’s column), I can’t help but feel every passing year gets better on the golf course.
Even after playing more than 400 courses around the world, I still appreciate finding new gems and experiencing the subtle touches of each new resort or destination.
I knew it would be a fun year when my first round in Michigan, the traditional start of my season, delivered a 79, a career low.
I never sniffed it again, but the pursuit continues in 2009.
Best course: The Lake course at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Teeing it up at this venerable U.S. Open site was a thrill of a lifetime. It’s like Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan on steroids with more vistas, bigger elevation changes and longer, tougher holes. Wow.
Best Resort: The Broadmoor (www.broadmoor.com) in Colorado Springs. No one mixes history with opulence more elegantly than the 5-star Broadmoor. One guest told me the Broadmoor makes the famed Greenbrier look antiquated. The Broadmoor spa experience is other-worldly and the food at its restaurants, like Charles Court, over-the-top. The new golf cottages, expected to be finished in May, 2009, add another reason for golfers to visit.
Best Golf Destination: The nod in 2008 goes to Brainerd, Minn. If you haven’t been, go. Now. With the long summer nights and great golf and scenic lakes at every turn, this is a buddy golf or family golf trip paradise. The Classic at Madden’s on Gull Lake (www.maddens.com) makes a strong run for the best inland course in the Midwest. The clubhouse at Deacon’s Lodge (www.deaconslodge.com) might be the best in the region, too.
Prettiest Golf Course: (tie) Either of the Vista Vallarta Golf courses in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I enjoyed the Weiskopf better than the Nicklaus (a trend I’ve found applies to almost any course between the two), but both were tropical paradises surrounded by mountains and littered with ravines and streams.
Toughest golf course: The Broadmoor East. I teed it up on the 2008 U.S. Senior Open venue about two months after the tournament. The rough was still growing and the greens still as confounding as ever. The course looks and plays straight-forward, but those two factors kept all but a couple pros from breaking par on this brute. Too bad I didn’t see any bears like the one that scared Dottie Pepper during the tournament.
Best PGA Championship Moment: At the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills in Michigan, I wisely avoided Phil Mickelson in the final round and walked all 18 holes inside the ropes with Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia. Their battle was epic drama. The moment I’ll remember is sitting 10 feet behind Harrington when he hit a 5 iron to 12 feet on the difficult 17th. Sergio, coming off a bogey and seemingly out of it, answered by stiffing it to 5 feet. Amazing golf.
Best dessert: Fresh berries covered in a rich vanilla sauce at the Broadmoor is deadly good.
Best birdie of 2008: I missed a hole-in-one at the par-3 sixth at the Olympic Club by 18 inches. An ace at the famous hole in the shadow of the clubhouse would have made my career.
Biggest surprise course: CordeValle Resort, hidden in the countryside of San Martin, California, doesn’t look like much driving in, but its golf course and mandatory caddies add up to a royal treat (although a bit pricey at more than $400). It’s the playground of the state’s rich and famous, especially San Francisco’s Giants and 49ers. Robert Trent Jones II deserves kudos for this one.
Biggest surprise resort: All-inclusive resorts in Mexico might sound like a bad idea, but not at the Casa Velas Boutique Hotel (www.hotelcasavelas.com) in Puerto Vallarta. The intimate boutique hotel serves fresh meals at all hours to its guests. The fresh seafood from the nearby ocean alone is worth the trip.
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Other than that, intriguing. I've played few of the places you mentioned...wait...I've played none of them. I'll be looking to head west one day to check them out.
thanx for bringing minnesota's brainerd lakes area to the attention of your readers! all the best for a plentiful 2009!
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