With the Ryder Cup three years away, now's the time for a Wales golf vacation
One main criteria used in deciding which European venue is awarded the Ryder Cup Matches by the European PGA is how it can impact the golf and economics of the proposed venue.
For Wales, being awarded the 2010 Matches at the Celtic Manor Resort has galvanized not only its golf courses but its entire tourism industry - which has lacked the marketing and tour savvy of Scotland, England and Ireland.
They've traditionally been a mostly industrial and rural country but times are changing. Wales' capital, Cardiff, was once a gloomy industrial port. Now it's a sleek, vibrant city with bustling city streets, designer stores, trendy hotels and still plenty of cranes.
Less than three hours by car from London, there isn't much reason for Wales to lag behind its neighbors and they've recognized that. It's a beautiful country with plenty of spectacular coastal and mountain scenery. There are around 200 golf courses, though tour operators like Wales Golf Vacations say there's a rotation of about 36 worthy to overseas golfers.
These courses vary from the renowned to the unknown. The most prestigious links is Royal Porthcawl, host of the 1995 Walker Cup that featured Tiger Woods. This 19th century links anchors the southern region which boasts other solid options like Ashburnham, Pyle & Kenfig and one of the wildest, unique and picturesque links anywhere: Pennard.
The value is tough to beat. After Portcawl (£80) and the new Ryder Cup Course at Celtic Manor (£150), the rest of the pack range from £20-50. The price of a normal four-day package in Scotland, England or Ireland can get you a week or more of courses and accommodation in Wales.
North Americans don't visit Wales much yet, so your odds of stumbling into a pub full of New Yorkers is miniscule. Tee times are easy to get and courses are becoming more and more welcoming to guests from anywhere.
The overall product is still has a few rough edges. But Wales is the golf trip for the group out to trek the uncharted links off the radar - it's an identity and experience all of its own.
The Ritz-Carlton on Key Biscayne is the Miami area's only AAA Five Diamond resort, and it's a beauty, stuck out on the end of what they call here their "island paradise." The resort overlooks the bay and the ocean, and has pretty much everything you would expect from a five-diamond resort, from the 20,000-square-foot spa to excellent restaurants. And with Crandon Park golf course nearby, it's an excellent place to stay on your next Florida golf vacation.
One of the newest Myrtle Beach golf real estate developments is well off the coastline and resulting madness of its main roads - one big attribute developers are hoping brings in buyers. Woodland Valley is located in Loris, about 30 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach. It's a more peaceful section of the Grand Strand that isn't nearly as clogged as the oceanfront about 15 minutes east, though there has been a stream of development in the area.
Even in BadGolfer.com's rankings system, where the normal rules don't apply, most of the time it's just impossible not to rank Tiger as the world's most supreme golfer. And trust us, we looked for other contenders. We were truly hoping Stephen Ames would come out and say his final round of 76 was somehow taken "out of context" by reporters bent on destroying him. Or that John Daly would require a Schlitz transfusion.