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The curses and charms of the golf destination business fad

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

Australia's Aborigines are now touting a segment of the Outback as the ultimate upcoming golf destination. What could be more exhilarating than blasting through thickets of brush, onto rocky terrain that most SUVs find intimidating (let alone those golf carts that wheeze their way over the tiniest of muni hills). All the while, worrying that a dingo may be eating your baby Titliest just around the bend.

Better book those tee times now. This golf adventure is just waiting to take off. It's on the verge I tell you.

Then again, the Eskimos' ice golf North Pole package is threatening to steal all the travel thunder. Sick of being ignored in the burgeoning golf market, the North Pole Convention and Visitors Bureau is pulling out all the stops for this one. Hiring the advertising firm that brainstormed those zany ESPN commercials, offering half off greens, er ice, fees when it dips below 35 degrees below freezing (no wind chill factor adjustments allowed).

Crazy? Yes. None of it's true of course. But not so farfetched in today's out-of-control, everywhere's-a-golf-destination world that you didn't have to think about it for at least a few seconds. Who would be surprised if someone started offering golf through an active volcano? The lava's on us!

If an area's eager/desperate to boost tourism, it inevitably starts counting up all its courses and viola.suddenly there's a golf destination where even that guy who made Sports Illustrated for golfing across Mongolia's countryside would not have seen one. The old land of feuding warlords, yes, but Farmville, Virginia?

Farmville is the site of a former diary farm in the middle of nowhere where a Rick Robbins-designed course/golf condo community is springing up. Not to pick on those developers. They are but one example of this heavy-handed golf destination craze.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. At least in some cases. It has just unquestionably made thegolf traveler's job tougher than ever. There are so manynew "golf destinations" to chose from if you want to breakaway from the usual roll call of Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, Scottsdale and St. Andrews. There are so many glowing pronouncements to shift through.

Some turn out to have as much claim to golf as Erik Estrada holds on an Oscar. Others are intriguing enough to send you driving right past. The Strip after landing at Las Vegas' McCarran airport. Not that there aren't moments of doubt. Walking off the plane, immediately getting jolted by the sensory overload of the slot machines clanging and the C-List stars embracing, it is hard not to feel the tug of the carnival. There's Carrot Top, with the unmistakable orange locks proudly standing straight up in the air, drawing a crowd of pointing onlookers. Meanwhile, any real celebs stuck flying commercial slip right by.

Leonardo DiCaprio should really hire the Carrot man to run interference.

But those thoughts are quickly in the rearview mirror. Remember, you're leaving Vegas and all its allures, including the high-priced, high level golf, behind. Far behind. It is only about an hour and 45 minutes to St. George, Utah, just across state lines, and yet it is quickly apparent this is a whole other universe. Instead of the battle of the Showgirls billboards, it is tiny signs in convenience store windows, pushing the available live bait. Politely.

This can be part of the satisfaction in checking out some of these off-the-cart-path golf destinations. Golf draws you to a place you never would have visited otherwise. Sometimes it even turns out that places' charms are severely underrated. Maybe it is standing in the middle of nowhere in Utah and realizing just how much beauty is there. The kind of scenery you didn't think existed anymore. Maybe it is playing courses in the isolation of Georgia's state parks and discovering that out-there excursion is the golf trip you talk about most. Travel golfers of all levels tend to come up with their own unique eureka moments.

Of course, there are also those other moments.Like realizing it is 9:30 at night, the whole town exceptJack In The Box has shut down and you're stuck in a motel room that makes your old college dorm look like a Saudi Arabian prince's palace. Suddenly, even Carrot Top's show does not look so bad.

It is all part of this raging golf destination business fad. A marketing push that isn't going away anytime soon. Everyone wants a piece of the golfer's wallet. So you can tell yourself you are going almost anywhere to golf. Have clubs, will travel.

Fidel Castro is undoubtedly plotting his own golf destination revolution once that damn embargo is finally lifted. And don't count out the Aborigines just yet.

Hey, we golfed on the moon.

Wait. Richard Branson is on the phone. He's just figured out the perfect demographic to target for his commercial space travel schemes.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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