NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Finally, after four grueling weeks of hard-nosed research and writing, NFL Training Camp at TravelGolf.com is coming to a close. It's sad, isn't it? But the good news is that after this preview of the AFC West, all you golf and football addicts will be set for a full season of helmet-crunching and ball retrieving.
So let's get to it.
Frankly, no one is really quite sure what to expect from the AFC West. There are just too many question marks and too many missing persons to predict that any of the teams will even have a mildly successful season. In reality, the squads in the division could be as different as night and day in terms of their success.
And luckily, the golf courses in the region are exactly the same way.
At the forefront of the two California destinations in this division is San Diego. Promising characteristics of the region include knee knocking ocean views, mountains looming in the background, a fair share of canyons and flat out dozens of playable courses.
Any time you can hit a course that is home to a popular PGA Tour spot for under a hundred bucks, you know you are in the promise land, and this is just the case with Torrey Pines. Widely considered the best in the area, the city-owned course hosts the Buick Invitational every season and has witnessed its fair share of down-to-the wire finishes. Out of towners get in for just under a hundred dollars, while local residents will play for about a quarter of that.
The La Costa Golf Resort and the splendid Carlton Oaks, the one Pete Dye design in the area, are also worth a Saturday afternoon visit. And the list of great tracks goes on and on, upward into the 40's. The good news? Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego January 26. Consider planning to stay a week. The golf is that good.
Even though San Diego takes the golfing prize in this division, Denver is nipping at its heels, especially because of the big name designers that keep stopping by. Tom Weiskopf's Ridge at Castle Pines is a gem that quickly comes to mind, and is only about a Jason Elam field goal away from downtown. Catch the course after October for more manageable greens fees.
Two other mentionable tracks are the babies of the area. Pete Dye's Green Valley Ranch is a great mixture of challenging Dye holes and breathtaking beauty. The Homestead at Murphy Creek opened in 2000 and was quickly praised as one of the nation's top ten new affordable courses.
It's hard to push a California city down on the list this far, but part of what makes Oakland unattractive to the traveling golfer is that to get the quality stuff, you have to pony up an appropriate amount of dough. But, that aside, there are some beautiful courses in the area.
The Silverado Resort and Country Club is about 50 miles from the Oakland Airport, and is home to a regular Senior Tour stop. The golf is superb, but the 1200-acre resort that is conveniently located smack dab in the middle of the Napa Valley Wine Country is just as worth the journey. Eagle Ridge is another good choice, as is the Pasatiempo Golf Club, although at certain times of the year is the priciest of the bunch.
Falcon Ridge is the area's best public course, and one of the top five or ten in the state. The fairways are hilly, the greens brutal, and the service unbeatable. And the rates aren't that bad either.
Destined to knock Falcon Ridge off of its lofty perch is Tiffany Greens, a Robert Trent Jones II designed track and home to yet another Senior Tour stop. Although this course is crowded with a lot of members, daily tee times are available to public, and they are worth snatching up.
1. Kansas City - Let's go out on a limb here and say that Dick Vermeil knew what he was doing when he turned the Rams around, and that this is the year that the Chiefs return to the ranks of the playoff contenders. Plausible? Yeah, what the heck.
2. Oakland - Granted, the men in black are without their fearless leader, and in their first two preseason games the Raiders only managed to post 10 points. But these guys have a lot of talent and shouldn't fall too far from their successful, albeit, heartbreaking, 2001 campaign.
3. Denver - All looked well until Terrell Davis retired. Now everything is up in the air, and it most likely will all land on the shoulders of Brian Griese. At least Shannon Sharpe has returned, guaranteeing that even if they stink, the Broncs will at least have great news conferences.
4. San Diego - Oh, Marty Schottenheimer, why won't you just give the starting job to Doug Flutie? He deserves it. The earlier the Chargers realize Drew Brees needs another year on the sidelines, the better chance they have of avoiding a stormy season.
August 22, 2002