CHICAGO, Ill. -- Golf always has had a special connection to fathers and sons. Just consider the U.S. Open -- the final round is played on the third Sunday in June and that just happens to be Father's Day. The Open wasn't designed to fall out that way on purpose, but for reasons that transcend the game, it's a wonderful thing it does. And for me, and so many of us who love the game, the bond between a father and a son and the game of golf is as strong as any backyard game of catch.
My dad and I weren't always close. In those longhaired teenage years I was more interested in listening to Led Zeppelin than learning the intricacies of the short game. And that was OK. Golf was Dad's game reserved for himself and his buddies, and he was reluctant to take his novice son out onto the fairways.
Then, it happened. This game grabbed me around the throat in my late 20s and I gained an unending passion for it. Dad noticed. We began playing together now and then, and he would always beat me. Dad was good in those days -- a 6-handicap. As the years passed, the walls of intellectual separation began to fall away and, as sons do, I became more and more like my father. That brought us closer and golf sealed the deal.
I remember the first time I finally got the best of my father on a golf course. We traveled together to Pinehurst and played the historic courses of that fabled resort. And on a Saturday morning in May, I squeaked past Dad by one stroke on Pinehurst No. 2. A few years later, that incredible golf course hosted the U.S. Open, the one where Payne Stewart held on to defeat Phil Mickelson. Phil was just hours away from becoming a father, and Payne was embracing his children on the 18th hole. It all seemed appropriate for Father's Day Sunday and it reminded me of much of my golf trip with Dad.
After Pinehurst, Dad and I played a lot together. We traveled to Scotland and Ireland experiencing St. Andrews and Ballybunion. We've walked the fairways of the top courses in the world, and the most humble of park district layouts. Golf, Dad and me -- it has been a combination I simply would never want to change.
Although playing any golf course, anywhere, with your father can be a wonderful experience, there are five special spots that are the absolute top of the wish list for father-sons.
This is America's most storied golf course and who wouldn't want to try to knock a few into the ocean with old dad? Yeah, the greens fee is steep, and the rounds sometimes take five or six hours, but hey, it's Pebble. You simply must battle the winds on the par-3 seventh, the most photographed hole in the world. And you have to flirt with the rocks and the Pacific on 18. It just has to be done.
The Lodge at Pebble Beach is also a tremendous place to stay. Again, history drips from these accommodations and you're just a short walk to the golf course.
Playing Pebble is one of those things every golfer has to do at least once. So, why not do it with dad? Note of caution, though -- book way in advance. Pebble is the hardest golf course in America on which to get a tee time. However, there is a secret to getting on another way, if you have the time and patience. If you're going to be a few days in the area, go to Pebble first thing in the morning, tell them you're a twosome and you want to put your name in. There are cancellations. Not many, but it happens. Just be prepared to wait around for, maybe, hours. You can spend the time bonding.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Green Fee: $380
Lodge Rates: $545-$2,545
This is America's St. Andrews. It is the center of golf in the United States and there are some who believe, although no one's ever documented it, there's more golf per square mile in the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina than in any other part of the world. And right in the center of it all is a quaint New England style village and the Pinehurst Resort.
Pinehurst is timeless, it's laced with tradition, and it's all about the golf. This is where architect Donald Ross painted his masterpiece on the landscape -- Pinehurst No. 2. The resort's graceful, casual elegance and superior golf courses make it one of the classiest golf venues you can find. Plus, choosing a golf course to fit your game won't be a problem. The Resort alone has eight courses, and five of them start just steps from the clubhouse door.
Pinehurst Resort and Country Club
(800) 487-4653 pinehurst.com Fees/Lodging -- Pinehurst offer three- to five-day packages ranging from $500-$2,000 and include, golf, lodging at the hotel or condos, and even meals.
This magnificent island has some of the best and most visually stunning golf courses you'll find. In the past 10 years, golf in Ireland has been a major draw for legions of golfers on this side of the Atlantic. The courses you and dad should not miss include Ballybunion, Royal County Down, Waterville and Lahich. But the most dramatic golf spot in Ireland is Old Head Golf Links. This layout literally clings to a promontory jutting out from the Irish coast into the churning sea. It may be the most dramatic piece of land for a golf course in the world.
golf.travel.ie (Irish Tourist Board Web site)
There is no other place on the planet with more golf history and no other nation in more steeped in everything that is golf. Certainly, you must play the Old Course at St. Andrews, but if time allows and if you and dad don't mind driving on the other side of the road on narrow highways through stunning countryside, then you should also get your sticks to Royal Troon, Kingsbarn, Royal Dornoch, and Turnberry. And if you can swing it, stay at the Old Course Hotel or the Turnberry Resort Hotel. These are pure, traditional, classy Scottish accommodations. But the more quaint lodging, the guesthouses and bed and breakfasts, are many times the better ways to get to know Scotland's people.
visitscotland.com (Scotland's National Tourism Board Web site)
The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin is fast becoming the "Pinehurst" of the Midwest. The Pete Dye courses that surround this resort are some of the best in the U.S. and the resort itself is pure class. The accommodations and the restaurants, along with the golf, make for a combination that is not easily matched anywhere.
The resort has four courses, but the jewel is Whistling Straits. The Dye design is pressed hard against Lake Michigan and after playing it you will swear you have just finished a round on one of the links courses of the British Isles. The ambiance is heightened by the sheep that sometimes graze the land and the course's rough-hewn design. It is windswept and natural. No carts permitted, only walkers and caddies. And frankly, dad will think that's just very cool.
The American Club
Green Fee (Whistling Straits): $270
June 6, 2003
Dave Berner is a long-time journalist for CBS radio in Chicago and has freelanced for CNN, National Public Radio, and ABC news. He created and produced the popular radio feature "The Golf Minute" for CBS-owned radio station WMAQ in Chicago along with writing a regular column for Golf Chicago Magazine. He is also author of "Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons" and "Accidental Lessons: A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed." Follow Berner on Twitter @DavidWBerner
Looking back, the sequence of events leading to golf in Pinehurst seems so fragile, so random, that you wonder how fate didn't take different twists and turns circa 1895. The Tufts Archives, located in the Given Memorial Library, tells the resort's unlikely story.
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