CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Ben Affleck is the next Harrison Ford. Kobe Bryant is the next Michael Jordan. The Carolina Panthers will be the next New England Patriots.
Arguments about "who's got next" are as American as beef jerky, pancakes on a stick and baseball (pre All-Star game ties, steroids and labor strife, of course.)
As a red blooded American golfer, I feel it is my sworn duty to apply this insatiable longing for the next great thing to golf destinations. As up-at-dawn, 36-holes a day golfing superfreaks, shouldn't we all be rooting for the next Myrtle Beach, Pinehurst, Scottsdale or Palm Springs to hatch from the earth, flex its muscles, and scream "bring it on"!?
Travel data suggests that golfers mix up their golf destinations about every four years. No matter how great the courses (Scottsdale), service (Pinehurst) or nightly entertainment (Myrtle Beach), it all gets to be old golf shoe after a while and primal male wanderlust instincts kick in.
Whether you're getting that four-year itch, or you just want to zig when most expect you to zag, here's one man's list of "next" great golf destinations.
Daytona Beach, Florida. A no-brainier, folks. Both have beaches, both have sensible working folks who enjoy a good NASCAR race as much as the next guy (you know the guy), and both have annual tourism numbers in the millions - Myrtle Beach 11 million, Daytona eight. Sure, the Grand Strand has 120 courses and Daytona has 24, but if Daytona defined Daytona the way Myrtle Beach defines Myrtle Beach (a 60 mile stretch of coast), it would have 120 golf courses, too.
Think about it - this former promised land of spring break is home to The LPGA's International Champions and Legends Courses, classic Halifax Plantation, and Ocean Hammock - the first oceanfront golf course built in Florida since Seminole in 1929 and the No. 10 track on Golf Digest's Best New Upscale Courses list. And get this: Orlando and its armada of golf courses is just a good CD's drive east on Interstate 4.
Williamsburg, Virginia oozes history, has more class in its pinky finger than most towns have within their entire border, and is home to a pretty darn good golf resort in the Golden Horseshoe. Pinehurst Resort has five good golf courses and three incredible ones, all designed by the likes of Donald Ross, Ellis Maples, Tom Fazio and Rees Jones. Golden Horseshoe has two Rees Jones designed courses that, taken together with the resort, have earned Golden Horseshoe a Gold Medal rating from Golf Magazine.
Edge: Pinehurst of course, especially when you consider that other classic tracks such as Mid Pines and Pine Needles are right around the corner. But just as a crop of top shelf courses surround the white jewel of the Sandhills, so do a smattering of quality layouts grace the outskirts of Williamsburg. Williamsburg National is an award winning design of Jack Nicklaus protégé Jim Lipe. Lester George's Colonial Golf Club is a strong traditional design. Royal New Kent is one of the most visually stunning courses in the state and as close to a Scottish links style course you'll find in the Mid-Atlantic. And Stonehouse is Mike Strantz being Mike Strantz - bunkers with elevators, greens built into cliffs, and plenty of knee-knocking, teeth gritting approach shots.
Albuquerque, New Mexico - the Duke City baby - and its upscale sibling, Santa Fe. This one's a stretch, but work with me here. Albuquerque, with three respectable municipals courses, two first class, multi course facilities, and one of the best University tracks west of the Mississippi stands in as Phoenix. Santa Fe, with its chic shops, fru fru eateries, and exclusive Las Campanas Golf Club stands in as Scottsdale. There may be no Troon North or Boulders sitting around waiting for you to drop $300 on a prickly pear filled round. But pound for pound, dollar for dollar, the best desert layout in the southwest is sitting right in between the two towns in Sandia Park. Paa-Ko Ridge has what it takes to go head to head with the snooty target courses of Scottsdale. A rater from Golf Digest once told Warren Lehr, Paa-Ko's director of golf, that he preferred the Ken Dye design course to Cypress Point. Wow.
The great state of Michigan is nothing short of the "bizarro world" version of Florida. You remember the old Superman movies, when the eerily similar yet devilishly different version of the Man of Steel would make an appearance. Or perhaps you caught the Seinfeld episode with bizarro Jerry and friends. Either way, that's how it shakes out: Florida is a peninsula that juts out to the south and Michigan is a peninsula that juts out to the north. Florida is flatter than two-week-old diet Coke. Michigan is flatter than a Calvin Klein model before breakfast.
Florida has 1200 golf courses and new ones tend to pop up faster than zits on a teenager. Michigan has over 600 courses and has seen more new course construction than any state in the U.S. over the past five years. This bizarro battle between the two states will reach an epic conclusion when all retirees from Florida travel north to Michigan in the summer to get away from the heat, and all college age Michiganders travel south to Florida to get away from the retirees, and the demographics of both states flip flop, if only for a moment. Interesting ...
The Atlanta Braves are the next Atlanta Braves (team that always makes it to the big game and blows it) - they'll lose in the World Series to the Yankees ... The Georgia Bulldogs are the next Colorado Buffaloes (college football team from a major conference that appears to be on the verge of a breakout year) ... Charles Howell III is the next Phil Mickelson (ultra talented golfer than can't win a major).
July 15, 2002
Simply select where you want to play, find a tee time deal, and golf now!