I had to take a moment to soak in what was happening yesterday. I was in one of those “special golf places” which leaves memories for a lifetime. The contrasting green of Punta Espada Golf Club and the blue waters of the Caribbean were really making me thankful for the opportunities I’ve been able to capitalize on through my 11+ years of hard work on one of the internet’s top golf blogs.
Punta Espada Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus signature design golf course in the Dominican Republic. Hole after hole lines the Caribbean with dramatic views and thrilling and challenging tee shots over the water. I couldn’t help saying to myself numerous times, “Pebble who?”
I’ve played more Jack Nicklaus courses than I can remember, but this one is different. Many of Jack’s courses can look a little too similar to me, but this one is a one and only, unique experience. Perhaps it’s the terrain. Perhaps Jack was completely in the zone when he designed it. Probably a bit of both.
I’ll be posting my full review in the next few weeks. If you’re planning a Caribbean golf stay and play, I strongly recommend Punta Espada Golf Club.
The final golf day of the 2017 Michigan HOG World Tour event took place on the Wolverine Course at Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. The Wolverine is a very playable Gary Player signature design which doesn’t beat you up and as tired I was at that point it came as a relief.
I started out birdie-birdie and quickly checked out the course record, LOL. A couple more birdies on the front and I turned in a surprising 2-under 34.
Trying not to completely gag away a good round I managed a 3-over 39 on the back for a rather unexpected and welcomed round of 73, one over. Somehow I had the green reading and speed dialed in.
I’ll be posting a full review of the Wolverine course soon. Stay tuned.
Next up The Bear and boy was it…
One of my bestest golf buddies has a great gig as a pilot. He is able to stop and play golf in many great places and when he finds good ones, he sends me photos. After seeing his latest batch I was inspired to post about Oak Quarry Golf Club, located in Riverside, California.
Oak Quarry Golf Club – click image to view more
The course was designed by Dr. Gil Morgan/Schmidt Curley Designs and has won numerous awards. The course plays to a par of 72 and rates vary depending on date and time between $40-$95.
Oak Quarry Golf Club – click image to see more
I dig the layout, even from the few pics I’ve seen. This one is definitely on the HOG radar and I hope to bring the HOG World Tour there soon.
Oak Quarry Golf Club Image Gallery
On my recent trip to Morocco I had the opportunity to stay at some truly special and unique places, and I’m excited to share those places and experiences. Today’s review/share is of the Villa Mandarine, in Rabat Morocco.
Before I cover the Villa itself, let’s get some geography information. Rabat is the capitol of Morocco. It is located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, about one hour northeast of Casablanca.
The city’s population is roughly 580,000. I’ll cover nearby attractions and activities later.
Villa Mandarine Overview
Villa Mandarine is a small, secluded oasis minutes from all the action in Rabat. It’s practically in a residential area, hidden behind a wall around the edge of the property, which is traditional in much Moroccan architecture.
Inside the grounds is a practical rain forest of vegetation, immaculately maintained. The three-acre estate features 700 orange trees and tons of flowers.
Small trails wind around and lead to sitting areas, sculptures, activities, and of course the villas themselves.
There are 31 villas and 5 suites at Villa Mandarine. Each villa has a large main room, entry, large bathroom and fantastic terrace overlooking the grounds.
The quarters are very warm and welcoming, as are the hotel lobby, restaurants, and bar. The luxury rooms are so inviting and relaxing, it’s hard to decide whether to stay in or venture out to the terrace, or the grounds to soak in the mellow vibe.
If you can’t relax here, there’s probably no hope for you.
Along with the beautiful and serene gardens, guests can lounge at the swimming pool and hot tub.
If you fancy a game of ping pong, you’re covered. I had a great match with fellow golf blogger and golf buddy John Duval, from IntoTheGrain.com.
Food & Beverage
The restaurant at Villa Mandarine is fantastic. I enjoyed several meals there, featuring traditional moroccan dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are selections for every possible palette, including a kids menu. Lunch out on the terrace was particularly great, between the excellent food and the fabulous environment.
Villa Mandarine’s bar/lounge is great. Every possible drink is served and the atmosphere is very warm and inviting. I could kick myself… well I have actually been kicking myself, for not enjoying some of the Cuban cigars there.
Nearby Attractions and Activities
There is some fantastic golf nearby, at Dar Es Salaam Golf Club. Dar Es Salaam is an award winning Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design, lined with mature trees and featuring some tremendous golf holes.
In the city of Rabat one can find fantastic shopping and dining at the Medina. Be sure to rock the Kasbah. For sightseeing I recommend visiting the historic Hasaan Tower, and the Mausoleum of Mohammad V. Don’t forget to visit the Royal Palace.
Mausoleum of Mohammad V, Rabat Morocco
Last but not least, Rabat is on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Visit the beaches and you’ll see why Morocco is a well known secret haven for surfing huge waves.
A visit to Morocco should be on everyone’s bucket list. The sights, tastes, sounds, golf, and experiences will be remembered and cherished for a lifetime. Villa Mandarine fits right into that formula, providing a tremendous, welcoming, and comfortable home base.
Each year my hard work on this golf blog provides me with the opportunity to visit many great golf courses all around the world. 2016 was a tremendous year for playing courses which I had not previously played, from the USA to Scotland to Morocco. To qualify for the Best Golf Course Award for the year, the course has to be one I had not played previously. I narrowed the finalists down to a eight stellar courses played this year:
Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort, Indiana
Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, Indiana
Panmure Golf Links in Carnoustie, Scotland
Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, Scotland
Cruden Bay Golf Links in Cruden Bay, Scotland
Mazagan Golf Club at Mazagan Resort, Morocco
Royal Palm Golf Club in Marrakech, Morocco
Journey at Pechanga in Temecula, California
Those are some fantastic courses to say the least, in some fabulous locations. As great as they all are, one course stood out and not by just a wee bit either. Scotland’s Cruden Bay left me absolutely stunned. Here are a few picturesque reasons why.
Cruden Bay – ©2016 by Tony Korologos
The dunes above. What a view. Absolutely stunning.
How about the view below, from the 9th tee. It was a hell of a walk from the 8th green up to this point and despite nearly having a heart attack, the view was well worth it!
The golf at Cruden Bay is stellar. But it has a fun and very quirky personaly as well. Just ring the bell or push the button on the electric post to let the group behind you know it is okay to hit their approach shot.
And because I want to see another money shot, here you go below. This one from late in the day as the sun was setting and the shadows began to really accentuate the terrain.
In the photo above you can see a plateau in the background. That’s where the shots I mentioned from the 9th tee were.
I’m in love. Cruden Bay is one of the top courses I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
Awarding Cruden Bay the 2016 Best Golf Course Award was a no-brainer, and it was up against Golf Digest Top 100 USA courses on my list. I will be back as soon as possible. What a fantastic course, design, location and the town of Cruden Bay is quite fun as well.