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Top 10 Favorite Golf Courses I’ve Played

Written by: Tony Korologos | Thursday, February 5th, 2015
Categories: GolfGolf CoursesGolf For WomenHOG World Tour
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Golf Digest, or is it Golf Magazine… or maybe it is both… always coming up with their top 100 courses lists.  Top 100 courses in the world. Top 100 courses in the USA. Top 100 public courses. Top 100 private courses. Top 100 courses you can play.  Top 100 courses built in a leap year. Top 100 courses built before 1987.  Top 100 courses built after 1987.  Top 100 listings of top 100 course lists….  You get the idea.

Time For MY List

I’m not sure I’ve even played 100 courses, so I’m now setting out to do a couple of things: post my list of top 10 “favorite” courses I’ve played, and create a list of all the courses I have played.

Criteria

My criteria for these ratings is simple.  First and foremost is the total “experience” at the course.  High influence goes to the quality of of the golf, shot by shot.  I take into account playability, course architecture, scenery, originality. From there I factor in the facilities, location, and staff.  Regarding course architecture I’m not a snob like some golf writers.  The course doesn’t need to have X number of redan holes, X number of dogleg-left and dogleg-right holes and all that. I consider playability, strategy, and the number of options available to play a particular hole or shot. For instance, does an approach to a particular green offer the golfer two options, high carrying shot or a run-up shot?

Drum roll please… Below is the list my top 10 favorite golf courses played, and links to the course review/photos/blogs if available.

#1: Black Mesa Golf Club – La Mesilla, New Mexico

Black Mesa Golf Club has stolen my golf heart.  From the first round I played this Baxer Spann design in 2007 through the last eight years, there isn’t a course I’ve played that has given me more enjoyment.  There isn’t a course I’ve played which places so much value on EVERY shot, on every hole.  There are no sleeper holes.  There are no boring shots.  None.

Aerial Photo of New Mexico's Black Mesa Golf Club - © 2014 by Tony Korologos

Aerial Photo of New Mexico’s Black Mesa Golf Club – © 2014 by Tony Korologos

Combined with the serenity and scenery of a high New Mexico desert there is no place like it. To top it off the pro and director of golf Tom Velarde has become one of my best friends in golf, a relationship I value deeply.

The course has had some maintenance issues recently, which is tough.  The staff is working hard to bring the course back to the condition it was in for the years that it was ranked the #1 course in New Mexico.

#2: Kingsbarns Golf Links – Kingsbarns, Scotland

Another course which owns a piece of my golf heart is the fabulous Kingsbarns Golf Links.  Kingsbarns is a “modern links” course a short 15 minute drive from the town of St. Andrews.  I could spend the rest of this month describing how beautiful this layout is, with so many waterside holes looking over the North Sea.

golf picture bunker shot

Look at the precision maintenance at Kingsbarns

With the standard prevailing winds this challenging links course has razor sharp teeth.  Nowhere else have I been beaten up on a course and loved it so much.  I fondly remember crushing a four iron to the 132 yard 8th hole, downhill.  So much wind that shot, which would have normally gone some 225-230 at home, went 125 yards…. DOWNHILL!  Then on the next hole, the par-5 9th, I remember debating going with 3-wood or hybrid, from 134!  I went with hybrid and killed it.  Nice shot, about 20 yards short.

The course architecture at Kingsbarns is fantastic.  Credit designer Kyle Phillips.  The facilities tremendous.  The Kinsgsbarns chili is to die for.  The “wee pints” are frosty.

I also have a great friend in director of golf Alan Hogg.  Yes, HOGG!

#3: Carnoustie Golf Links – Carnoustie, Scotland

One of the most satisfying and amazing golf experiences I’ve ever had was playing Carnoustie Golf Links.  Carnoustie is regarded by many as the toughest golf course in the world.  Carnoustie is a “links” course and water is nearby, but not visible from the course.  Carnoustie does not feature any notable elevation change, unless you count the elevation change between being in a bunker and out of one.  Then it is huge.  The bunkering on this golf course is the most amazing I’ve ever seen, or played.

carnoustie golf

Try and get this bunker shot up-and-down at Carnoustie

The layout is so enjoyable yet challenging, especially when the wind kicks up.  Playing the par-5 6th hole “Hogan’s Alley” was such a thrill, and I made a hell of a bogey after my tee shot went out of bounds left.  Yes, made birdie on the 2nd ball. No, I don’t play mulligans.

The layout at Carnoustie is stunning.  I can’t wait to get back there.  Two supposed “friends” told me (1.5 handicap) I couldn’t break 100 there and I did so easily, an 88 without losing a ball.  I started off great, even par after the first five holes. The course slowly consumed my shots from that point on, and I loved every second.

Golf masochism.

#4: The Old Course – St. Andrews, Scotland

Hell of a list when the Old Course is in 4th place!  Realistically the Old Course should be in its own list of one.  This is the most unique golf course I’ve ever played.  There is nothing like playing this layout, which has been serving up pars and birdies for over 1,400 years.  The architecture of the course is so unlike anything else with it’s shared greens, amazing bunkering, criss-crossing holes, wind, weather, caddies, history.   All the greatest players the game of golf has ever seen have competed on this course, from Tom Morris to Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros (except Ben Hogan)… I could go on.

Road Hole

Picking the ball out of the hole after holing out from 196 for par on the Road Hole

The Road Hole?  What a golf hole. We have a love/hate relationship.  My only par on the 17th was following an out of bounds shot that hit the Old Course Hotel observatory, an all glass building.  No worries, it is bullet-proof glass.  The price I had to pay for that amazing par?  Nothing better then a double-bogey on the rest of my rounds on the Road Hole.

The finishing hole and I have a deeply loving relationship.  In the four times I’ve played the 18th during a round of real golf* I’ve carded two pars and two birdies.  Two-under lifetime!

*I have played the finishing hole a few times with a putter, a ball, golf partners, and a wee bottle of scotch at around 2 a.m.

#5: Ballyneal – Holyoke, Colorado

Back in 2006 I had the distinct opportunity to play the Tom Doak designed Ballyneal two weeks before the course officially opened.  At that time my round there was the most pure, enjoyable, and amazing golf experience I’d ever had.  I had not been to Scotland yet.

Tom Toak is an amazing golf architect and his product built in a set of dunes in the middle of the flat plains of central USA is tremendous.  The course played like a true links, hard and fast.  The routing and layout found a great path through the unique dunes situated in the middle of thousands of acres of cornfields.

ballyneal golf

Blasting out of a bunker at Ballyneal

I haven’t been back to Ballyneal since, but I’m aching to.  Need to get there soon.

#6: Sand Hollow Championship Course – Hurricane, Utah

Pretty cool that one of my top 10 courses is in my home state of Utah.  From my garage it is exactly a 3.5 hour drive to Sand Hollow Resort, with its Championship Course and 9-hole Links Course.  I’ve spent many rounds enjoying what could be the most stunning back nine anywhere.

Sand Hollow Championship Course - Hole #10

Sand Hollow’s 11th hole aerial shot by me

#7: Diamante Dunes – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Diamante Dunes is rated the #1 course in Mexico, and for good reason.  The Davis Love III design sits next to the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez.  It sits on top of, winds through and around huge white sand dunes left there by the constant thrashing of the ocean over hundreds of thousands of years.

Diamante Dunes is the sister to the new Tiger Woods design which just opened called El Cardonal.

Diamante Dunes 16 Green

Diamante Dunes 16 Green

My experience at Diamante Dunes was pure golf, ocean, wind, air, and dunes. A marvelous experience.  Soon (perhaps already) the holes will be lined by real estate development, high end homes and such. That purity will forever be gone, except in my memory.

#8: Balcomie Links – Crail, Scotland

A short 20-30 minute drive southeast of St. Andrews, Scotland lies the very salty and wonderful town of Crail.  Crail is home to Balcomie Links, a Tom Morris design which opened in 1895.

Balcomie Golf Links

Fantastic Balcomie Golf Links in Crail, Scotland

Balcomie Links is not about length, difficulty, or even par-72.  Balcomie Links is authentic Scottish links golf and absolutely bleeds character.  This is perhaps the most enjoyable walk I’ve had in Scotland.

The golf was fabulous too.

#9: La Cima Club De Golf – Andes Mountains, Colombia

One of the world’s best ski areas is a 20 minute drive from my house.  The highest ski lift at Alta Ski Area dumps skiers off at 10,450 feet.  Colombia’s La Cima Club De Golf’s highest green is a mere 450 feet lower, at 10,000 feet above sea level.

La Cima Club de Golf - Click to enlarge

La Cima Club de Golf – Click to enlarge

La Cima is not an architectural masterpiece.  The course is not designed by a famous designer (to my knowledge).  It isn’t the home of major championships.  It isn’t in the heart of Scotland, on the coast of Monterey, or in Florida.  Though it is none of those things, it is truly one of the coolest golf experiences I’ve had, especially teeing off “above the clouds” and watching my ball disappear into them.

#10: Colonial Williamsburg Gold Course

Picking number 10 was tough.  There are many courses which could occupy this spot, and picking one means the rest are left out.  I narrowed it down to two courses, oddly enough both designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.  The first option was Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico, the second, Colonial Williamsburg’s Gold Course.

When looking back at some of my experiences on so many great courses, I couldn’t help noticing my body and mind felt “it” when I came across my Colonial Williamsburg Golf Course review.  What a special place.

golf island green

Island Green built decades before the 17th at TPC Sawgrass

Colonial Williamsburg’s Gold Course is on nationally preserved real estate and will never be altered or developed.  There will not be homes on the course, nor will there be a Red Lobster near the entrance.  The Golf Course was designed by one of golf’s all time great architects Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and plays fantastically.

The whole experience at the Golden Horseshoe is a bucket list worthy item.

Honorable Mention

Gil Hanse’s home course: Applebrook in Pennsylvania.  Hanse is the architect for the 2016 Olympic golf course in Rio.

Cabo Del Sol in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (Nicklaus).  Best tacos of any course…

Black Lake Golf Course in northern Michigan.

Oasis Palmer Course in Mesquite, Nevada.

 


Hottest Bar & Restaurant in Bogota, Colombia – Andrés Carne de Res

Written by: Tony Korologos | Tuesday, January 13th, 2015
Categories: Golf For WomenGolf LifeHOG World TourMiscellaneousReviewsTravelWeb.com Tour
Tags:

Since it is winter here, I’m going through the HOG World Tour archives and weeding out any reviews and photos which have gotten lost in the queue. One such review is of the most hopping, happening, coolest, wildest, craziest bar and restaurant in Bogota, Colombia: Andrés Carne de Res.  This is like an indoor version New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, every night of the week!

Andres Bogota Colombia

One of many floors, packed with guests who are having a great time at Andres

Andrés Carne de Res is five stories of restaurant and bar, packed with hundreds of people at all times. The food is great, with separate mini kitchens on each floor. Each floor also can be home of one or several bars. Below is but ONE bar of many in the building.  Looks like the wine selection will work for me…

Andres Colombia bar

Do you have Coors? I didn’t think so…

Part of the craziness that is Andres is the actors, ventriloquists (photo below), and musicians who float around and perform at each table.

Performers come to each table to entertain the guests at Andres…

Hello ladies! Why are you cupping your breasts?

Andrés Carne de Res was truly an experience of a lifetime. If you are ever in Bogota, Colombia, you MUST get to Andrés Carne de Res.  I just realized I got this far and haven’t even mentioned the awesome Colombian food, drinks, and appetizers!

Andres

Fantastic and unique appetizers and food, Colombian style

Web.com Tour

The Web.com Tour stops in Bogota in the first couple of weeks of each season. Those of you who are golfers, golf media, players, or caddies on the Web.com Tour should be sure to stop in and have fun and food at Andrés Carne de Res when you are in town for the Web.com Tour’s Colombia Championship.

Related Links

Andrés Carne de Res photo gallery

La Cima Club de Golf – Golf at 10,000 Feet in the Colombian Andes Mountains

Gold Museum – Bogota, Colombia

Country Club de Bogota Golf Course Review

 


2014 Product of the Year Awards – Best Golf Course – Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club

Written by: Tony Korologos | Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
Categories: GolfGolf CoursesGolf For WomenHOG World TourMiscellaneousProduct of the YearSite News
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I’m thrilled to continue the Hooked On Golf Blog Product of the Year awards, this time with the Best Golf Course award.  To qualify for the Best Golf Course award, a course has to have been reviewed and/or played for the first time in the calendar year (2014 for this year).  There were many new courses I played this year, from Greg Norman’s Emerald Reef Golf Club in the Bahamas to the Alister MacKenzie design at the University of Michigan, to Paako Ridge in New Mexico.

Serenity… click to read full review of Shepherd’s Hollow

Factors which go into my decision include course architecture, playing conditions, amenities, vibe, location, staff.  In short, the overall experience from when one arrives to the time he/she finishes up the last frosty beverage at the 19th hole.

Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club

Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club

The two finalists came down to New Mexico’s Paako Ridge and Michigan’s Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club.  Both are amazing tracts of land, and both courses have NO homes on the course; not the center of real estate developments.  That scores big points with me.  Both courses had fantastic conditions when I played.  Based on the serenity, the amazing amenities, clubhouse, and the fact that they offer 27 holes, Shepherd’s edges out Paako Ridge for the Hooked On Golf Blog 2015 Best Golf Course Award.

Shepherd’s Hollow is northwest of Detroit about a 45 minute drive, and well worth it.  Tip o’ the hat to Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club for winning this distinguished award.  Can’t wait to get back there.

HOG_POY_2014_Best_COURSE

Links

Full Hooked On Golf Blog Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club review.

More Hooked On Golf Blog Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club photos.

Other Michigan golf course review.


Hooked On Golf Blog 10 Year Blogiversary – A Look Back at 2013-2014

Written by: Tony Korologos | Friday, December 12th, 2014
Categories: BoneheadsGolfGolf BabesGolf CoursesGolf For WomenHOG World TourMiscellaneousSite News

Here’s a recap of the highlights of the last two years as part of the Hooked On Golf Blog 10 year anniversary. Many interesting stories, both personal and in the golf world, happened over the last two years.

Dufnering was the biggest story of 2013

2013

Rory McIlory switched to Nike Golf.

Asher Golf’s James Roundy, a local friend, passed. Sad.

The Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour traveled to Bogota, Colombia.

I got to play golf with Web.com Tour star Kevin Foley in the Web.com Tour Colombia Championship Pro-Am.

Played golf at La Cima Golf Course, 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains.

Bye bye belly putter! USGA and R&A announced the ban on anchored golf clubs, beginning January 1st, 2016.

Played golf in St. Andrews for the second time.  In high winds the Old Lady ate my lunch and crushed my confidence! I gained new respect for the Old Course.

I played Carnoustie, considered the toughest golf course in the world.

Carmoustie Golf Course

Carnoustie Golf Links – click for more images

On a trip to Cabo San Lucas I played the #1 (Diamante Dunes) and #2 (Cabo Del Sol) courses in Mexico.

I played every round from the first week of July to August 8th without losing a golf ball.  199 consecutive holes.  Couldn’t make it to 200.  Choker!

Latest Hooked On Golf Blog site design adapts to mobile devices.

A skinny female streaker who wasn’t quite naked ran at the Presidents Cup because “golf is boring.”

Jason Dufner won the inaugural “Most Entertaining Golfer of the Year” award with his internet craze, “Duffnering.”

2014

I posted an article in January with thoughts on how to change things up for 2014. I need to evaluate again, and see if I actually did any of that.

In one of the biggest moments in HOG history, I had a great interview with golf legend Gary Player.

A new hobby and passion for me surfaces, aerial photography and video.  Perhaps one day it will graduate from hobby to money-maker.  See photo below:

Salt Lake Country Club

Salt Lake Country Club

Visited Washington D.C.

Can’t take the watermarking anymore. Had to post the 10 worst GolfWRX watermarked photos.

golfwrx_mostinterestingman

Miguel Angel Jimenez IS the most interesting man in the world, and his stretching video proves it.

Best golf photo of 2014: The Gretzky Boys.

Brilliant.  Absolutely brilliant...

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant…

Did my first automotive review, the Hyundai Genesis.

I seriously consider quitting golf.

Played Rhodes Ranch in Vegas for the first time.

I post the Top 51 Things Golf Can Do Without.

I card my best finish in the Salt Lake Amateur, 2nd place.  Win $500 in prize money.

I visit Michigan, highlighted by many great golf course rounds and a stop at the Henry Ford Museum.

Tried fly-fishing for the first time.  Didn’t 3-putt once.

Posted a very information and educational article, “Things Golf Bloggers do to Make Themselves Look Like Idiots.

Rory McIlory won the Open Championship.

Visited the Beautiful Paako Ridge Golf Course in New Mexico.

Rory McIlory wins the PGA Championship.  Kid’s good.

Witnessed a hole-in-one. My opponent won that hole.

Top 10 Nauseatingly Repetitive Questions Golf Publications Keep Asking Over and Over….. and Over… Again… and Over

Craziest Round of Year Features TWO Eagles, Four Birdies

Won my SECOND club championship!

TaylorMade’s First FootGolf Shoe? The R15 FGZLDR Tour 360 SuperMegaOcto.

R15_FGZLDR_Tour360_SuperMegaOcto

I used the internal GPS to find my stolen phone, which had traveled to Missouri.

Swam with pigs in the Bahamas.  Yeah, you read that right.

Played Greg Norman’s Emerald Bay Golf Club in the Bahamas.  Had lunch AND dinner with Greg Norman, then he tried to chop his arm off with a chainsaw then next day.

Shot of the year: I eagled a 470 yard par-4 by holing out from 173 with a 7-iron.

Stayed at the fabulous Sandals Emerald Bay in the Bahamas.

Possibly found a stretch for when my bad back goes out?


Hooked On Golf Blog 10 Year Blogiversary – Looking Back at 2010-2012

Written by: Tony Korologos | Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Categories: BoneheadsGolfGolf BabesGolf For WomenHOG World TourMiscellaneousSite News

This is the second to last look-back post celebrating the DECADE I’ve been blogging about golf here at Hooked On Golf Blog.  Below are some quick comments including links to the original golf blog posts, featuring some key nuggets from the years 2010-2012.

2010

I took on a new job as National Sales Manager for the high end golf accessory company Sumi-G.

I handed over the Battle of the Golf Blogs crown to the Orlando Golf Blogger in Orlando at the PGA Merchandise Show.

Tiger Woods publicly apologized for his “transgressions.”

“Speed” is the year’s buzzword for marketing golf clubs.  It’s always something.

Acushnet sold Cobra to Puma.

I attend the Puerto Rico Open.

I’m the first to break the news on the new TaylorMade R15 SuperMegaQuad Driver.  See image:

taylormade driver

TaylorMade R15 SuperMegaQuad

I attend my first Masters practice round.  Here are some Masters photos you don’t see on TV.

I was asked to remove my photos of the TPC Sawgrass Yardage Book.  Lame.

I got married.  Golf babes worldwide go on suicide watch.

I added the “How Not To” category to the blog.

Possibly my most detailed and best review ever was the Potty Putter.

My dad and I win the Father’s Day tournament!

Rumors of Tiger Woods’s divorce start surfacing.

I visit the fabulous Gran Melia resort in Puerto Rico.  That did NOT suck.

HOG gets a NEW LOGO!  Big doings ’round here.

Tiger Woods divorced Elin Nordegren.

I put a new putter in the bag, Dornoch Putters by Grant Mackay.  The Putter is STILL in the bag.

Europe wins the Ryder Cup.

“Cigar Guy” is the biggest rage on the internet for 2010.

Cigar Guy on right…

Tiger Woods starts using Twitter.

2011

Unfortunately in January I separated my shoulder skiing.

The Japan earthquake and tsunami made it hard to think about golf.

June and into July was perhaps the most insane HOG schedule in history.  In 1.5 months I played in the Salt Lake City Amateur tournament, went to St. Andrews, played the Mesquite Am, played 72 holes in one day in four states, and traveled out of town to no less than 15 golf courses.

Met Kristen Williams, the world famous and mega cool Golf Chick.

People freak out because Bubba Watson wears a $525K watch which was loaned to him by watch sponsor.

Tiger Woods puts his yacht “Privacy” up for sale for $20 million. My attempts to get 20 million people to each chip in $1 and buy it with me fail.

I interview Fred Funk.  What a cool cat.

Rory McIlory blew a huge lead in the Masters, but handled the loss with class.

Rookie Keegan Bradley records first win of PGA Tour career at the HP Byron Nelson and I WAS THERE.  Shot the picture below:

Keegan Bradley HP Byron Nelson Champion 2011

Keegan Bradley HP Byron Nelson Championship – © Tony Korologos

HP invites me to cover the HP Byron Nelson Championship as resident blogger and social media expert.  What a blast.

Golf world saddened as legend Seve Ballesteros died at the young age of 54.  RIP Seve.  You will be missed and always remembered.

Rory McIlroy destroys the field at the US OPEN shooting 16 under par and blowing away Tiger Woods previous US OPEN record score of -12.  McIlroy set a number of records which may never be broken.  I doubt Congressional will hold another major.

 Tiger Woods’s caddie Steve Williams moves to Adam Scott’s bag for the US OPEN.

Steve Jobs died.

son

Me and my son Seve

2012

The biggest news of the YEAR for me was the birth of my son Seve Anthony.  Yes, his name was inspired by Seve Ballesteros.  Little Seve has been nothing but a joy.  SO thankful.

On a sad note, I lost a golf buddy who I’d played 100’s of rounds of golf with.  RIP Dave Shields.

I got to tour Golf Channel’s facilities, and even get a shot of myself behind the Golf Central desk.  Fun stuff.

Sadly, the great golf announcer Jim Huber died.

TaylorMade bought Adams Golf.

I attended two practice rounds of the 2012 Masters Tournament.  My comments and some photos of the 2012 Masters can be found here.

Golf architect Gil Hanse was named the designer for the Rio 2016 golf course.

I played 112 consecutive holes with one Callaway Hex Black golf ball.  The people at Callaway thought that feat was so cool they sent me a whole box of them, or the equivalent of 1,344 holes.

Suzanne Pettersen, blonde Scandinavian golf babe, posed nude for ESPN’s Bodies magazine.  That didn’t suck.  Golf media trending toward link bait.

Suzanne Pettersen nude - ESPN The Body

Suzanne Pettersen nude – Golf is awesome

Rory McIlory won the PGA Championship by EIGHT shots.  Amazing performance.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, the wine drinking-cigar smoking golfer from the European Tour, broke a leg skiing.  Fortunately the cigar made it unscathed.

The last and final Q-School EVER, graduated to the PGA Tour.


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