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College football's bowl season means big games, great golf

By William K. Wolfrum, Contributor

New Year's is a time of reflecting while gazing into the future. It's a time to cherish memories while preparing for new adventures. But more importantly, it's a time for a college football orgy that defies imagination.

The Lost Canyons Golf Club
Before enjoying USC-Texas at the Rose Bowl, check out Simi Valley's Lost Canyons.
The Lost Canyons Golf ClubBear's BestLas SendasBCS LogoFootball fan

Yes, the annual marathon of college football bowl games is upon us, leaving golfers and non-golfers alike to plan their television-viewing schedules accordingly. Starting Dec. 20, there will be a whopping 28 bowl games televised, leading up to the "Granddaddy of them all," the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4, 2006, where USC takes on Texas for the national title.

Of course, quite a few people make the trek to these games in person, and there's a good chance a lot of these are college football fans that will eagerly moonlight as golfers.

Luckily for the college-football-loving golfer, many of the bowl games, including the biggest of them, are played in golf-rich areas. So, the chance take a little time off from rooting for your school to get in 18 holes is usually a good possibility.

Here are some fearless predictions of some of this year's biggest bowl games, along with an idea of a good place to play golf in the area, starting with the four Bowl Championship Series games.

Rose Bowl

No. 1 USC vs. No. 2 Texas, Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 4:

This is a college football fans dream game. The only two major college teams to finish the year at 12-0 will square off for all the marbles. The Trojans look to ride quarterback Matt Leinart's arm and tailback Reggie Bush's legs to a remarkable third consecutive national title. The Longhorns counter with the otherworldly talent of quarterback Vince Young, and an offense that has scored more than 50 points on seven separate occasions in 2005. This game just feels ripe for an upset.

Prediction: Texas, 42-35.

Where to golf: The Lost Canyons Golf Club.

Located in Simi Valley, it's about an hour's drive from Pasadena, but well worth the effort, if you want to take your game to Rose Bowl levels. Built into the Southern California mountains, Lost Canyons has the Sky and Shadows courses that both come in with big-game slope ratings of 149. The courses feature amazing views, as well as give a golfer the thrill of playing a round on the property where "Bonanza" and "Little House on the Prairie" were filmed.

Second choice: Brookside Golf Club is literally right around the corner from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Orange Bowl

No. 3 Penn State vs. No. 22 Florida State, Miami, Fla., Jan. 3

This battle between the 10-1 Nittany Lions and the just-glad-to-be-here, 8-4 Seminoles features a battle of septuagenarian coaches in Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden, who have won more than 700 games combined. Only a last-second loss to Michigan kept Penn State from screwing up the BCS system by finishing undefeated, and they have the guns to wipe out Florida State.

Prediction: Penn State, 29-17.

Where to golf: Don Shula's Hotel and Golf Club.

If it's a football-themed trip anyway, why not take a stop at the course owned by one of the NFL's greatest coaches in Don Shula. You get the full feel of the Southern Florida landscape at Shula's, with the back nine of this nearly 7,000-yard course giving a player the full Everglades treatment with water hazards a constant companion. As an added plus, Shula's is big on deals that combine a round of golf with a dinner at their award-winning steakhouse.

Second choice: The Doral Golf Resort and Spa has five courses including the famed Blue Monster. Bring extra balls.

Sugar Bowl

No. 11 West Virginia vs. No. 8 Georgia, Atlanta, Jan. 2

At 10-1, the Mountaineers have won 10 games in a season for the first time in 12 years and bring one of the nation's top running games into the battle. Georgia finished at 10-2, with quarterback D.J. Shockley throwing 21 touchdowns. The fact that the game is being played in Atlanta means carnage could result.

Prediction: Georgia, 62-20.

Where to golf: Bear's Best.

A course that's an homage to a designer's best-designed holes is either narcissistic or Jack Nicklaus. Okay, maybe it's both, but 18 holes at Bear's Best won't leave you wanting. Despite the fact it's a course compiled of holes from other courses, Bear's Best plays very complete, and you'll have a good feel of continuation on this interesting run. Plus, if you're a fan of Nicklaus, it's a can't-miss course.

Second choice: A 70-mile drive to Callaway Gardens will give you 63 holes of golf in a picturesque, Southern setting.

Fiesta Bowl

No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 4 Ohio State, Tempe, Ariz., Jan. 2

The Fighting Irish have bounced back from a miserable 2004 campaign with a high-profile 9-2 season under their new coach, Charlie Weis. The Buckeyes also finished 9-2 in a season that saw them play six teams ranked in the top 20, and come within a whisker of beating No. 2 Texas, 25-22. The experience in tough games will pull them through in what should be a very fan-friendly game.

Prediction: Ohio State, 28-27.

Where to golf: Karsten Golf Club.

Karsten is a Dye-designed course, though there's some question as to whether it was Perry or papa Pete who designed it. Nonetheless, it's one of the more interesting designs in the state and will keep you on your toes with elements such as the "Brown Mile" a treacherously massive bunker that protects the left side of the No. 8 fairway.

Second choice: Los Sendas Golf Club gives you fantastic desert views along with a slope rating in the 140s.

Other bowl games

Capital One Bowl, Wisconsin vs. Auburn, Orlando, Fla., Jan. 2

Prediction: Auburn, 24-10

Where to golf: Grande Lakes Orlando will whisk you from the city to an isolated golf oasis.

Insight Bowl, Arizona State vs. Rutgers, Phoenix, Dec. 27

Prediction: Arizona State, 56-10

Where to golf: Talking Stick's two courses feature minimalist designs that makes the most of its desert setting.

Las Vegas Bowl, BYU vs. California, Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 22

Prediction: California, 38-37

Where to golf: TPC Canyons offers some Vegas glitz and some solid play.

Fast fact

The men's team at California was the NCAA Div. 1 national champion in golf in 2004, while the football team finished 7-4 this year to earn the Las Vegas Bowl berth.

William K. WolfrumWilliam K. Wolfrum, Contributor

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.

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