Best of 2012: My golf year in review
Best golf course of the year
I was VERY fortunate I got to play a number of outstanding courses so it was a very good year for me. I must have played about 20 courses that are ranked in the “Top 100″ of the world so it’s impossible for me to come up with a “best” or “favorite” course. Pine Valley, Oakmont and Seminole are all without a doubt among the best and most exclusive courses I played this year and I simply cannot pick one over another.
Favorite new golf course
Trump International Golf Links Scotland has been creating buzz in the golf world for a number of years. It boasts large dunes and spectacular scenery and opened to rave reviews in July. While it’s a very fine golf course in it’s own right which I think will get even better as it matures, it wasn’t my favorite new course I played this year.
My favorite was the Streamsong Resort in Florida, which will open to the public later this month. The Red Course (designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw) and the Blue Course (laid out by Tom Doak) were built in a former phosphate mine. The faux links courses boast a variety of exciting holes and play firm and fast. I cannot say which of the two I prefer as I both consider them to be exceptionally good. Streamsong is already one of the best public 36-hole facilities in the world, in my opinion.
Favorite golf resorts
I am a big fan of The Ritz-Carlton so this one is a tie between The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation and The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is located on the shores of Lake Oconee and close to the Oconee clubhouse (Reynold’s Plantation boast 99 holes that are open to the public). The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota gives guests exclusive access to the Ritz-Carlton Members Club, a private 18-hole Tom Fazio design.
Both resorts offer luxurious accommodations, fine dining and unparalleled service.
Honorable mention: The all-inclusive and all-Butler Sandals Royal Plantation in Jamaica (golf on the resort course is also free of charge for all guests).
Most memorable round of golf
I was part of a press trip to Puerto Rico in March. On our second day we played El Conquistador, a hilly Arthur Hills layout that has a number of thrilling downhill tee shots. On the back nine, one of our playing partners (who shall remain nameless) managed to flip over his golf cart (see picture). Luckily, he and his passenger (Jim Moore) got out unharmed. While I wasn’t far away from the scene, I could not see anything because of the elevation change. However, the incident made for a round that I will never forget!
Best golf trip
This one is a tie between Southwest Ireland and Aberdeen and the Scottish Highlands.
In Scotland, I flew into Aberdeen and in three and a half days I played Trump International Golf Links, Cruden Bay, Nairn, Castle Stuart and both courses at Royal Dornoch. I can’t say which of these two trips was better as they will be very hard to beat!
Best golf lunch
My friend (who is a member) invited me to Muirfield where I stayed in the dorm for two nights, played golf and he also treated me to lunch twice. Lunch at Muirfield is legendary and an experience in itself. You have to put on a jacket and a tie to join the buffet-style feast that features excellent food and plenty of drinks.
Honorable mention: Pine Valley, Oakmont, Seminole and Shinnecock – the porch at Shinnecock might be my favorite place in all of golf!
Best playing partner
This one is a no-brainer: Jim Moore, 710 ESPN Seattle co-host and 710Sports.com co-host of “Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe” was my best playing partner by far. This guy is a character if I’ve ever seen one to say the very least. I am inclined to say I’m impressed that someone can play golf while drinking that much. However, I am not sure he can play golf when he’s sober. Jim managed to have a golf cart flipped on him and not only survived unharmed but also didn’t even spill a drop of his beer. This remains one of the biggest accomplishments I have ever been fortunate to witness on a golf course.
Best golf lesson
I got a tour of the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy near Hilton Head Island to jumpstart this year’s golf season. While they showed me all of the academy’s facilities, I can only image how good a golfer I would have become (which probably WOULD not have happened, due to a lack of talent), had I been one of their students. Doug Alexander, Director of Instruction at the Hank Haney IJGA, gave me a quick lesson and three pointers that made me absolutely stripe it. Now if I could only make the swing he taught me more often…
I was fortunate to have had a lot of memorable golf experiences this year. However, the literally coolest perk was at Aronimink Golf Club outside of Philadelphia. On a day when the heat index exceeded 100 degrees, employees rode around the golf course in a golf cart and gave players towels that had been drenched in ice water.
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