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:
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.
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.
The fourth and final golf course on the HOG World Tour trip to Morocco was the #1 course in Morocco (World Golf Awards), Assoufid Golf Club. Assoufid is a desert style course with some great elevation changes and creative architecture.
Target golf, anyone?
Assoufid is located a short drive southwest of Marrakesh, a city of about 1.5 million (map below).
Assoufid Golf Club, Morocco
If you’ve played golf in Palm Springs, you’ll feel at home at Assoufid. There are distinct takeoff and landing areas, with desert between. Holes are lined with palm trees and olive trees.
Unfortunately our group’s round there was rained out, hard. We got as far as the approach shot on the 10th hole when it was too heavy to plod on. Sorry to my Scottish friends about that.
I even left my golf ball in the fairway on #10. I need to go back and find it soon.
Stay tuned for a full review of Assoufid, and more posts on Morocco.
I’m still traveling and I had a small problem with my brand new MacBook Pro. The power cable plug broke. That and non-existent or extremely slow internet access has made it tough for me to post from the tour. I’ll be catching up for a while.
The HOG World Tour made it’s first golf stop in the African continent at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat, Morocco.
Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Rabat, Morocco
Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design. “RTJ” is one of the all-time greats of golf architecture.
Above are rocks which could be found in places on the course. They had some kind of crazy erosion, producing perfect holes.
Below is a map to show you just were Royal Golf Dar Es Salam is. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review and more photos!
I’ve now been to St Andrews, the Home of Golf, on three separate occasions. I plan to return in 2018 and I know where my group will be staying, Albany Apartments. It’s the best combination of price, convenience, location, and quality of the many places I’ve stayed in the “Auld Grey Toon.” Let’s take a look:
Location Location Location
Albany Apartments is located on the famous North Street in St Andrews. North Street intersects with Golf Place, the primary access road to the Old Course. I would guess the total yardage from Albany Apartments to the Old Course is length of a short par-4. A long iron to Golf Place, then a 9-iron to the 18th green. It’s all of maybe a 90 second walk. Albany is a 45 second walk from the most famous pub in Scotland, the Dunvegan.
If one heads the opposite direction of the Old Course, the center of St Andrews is a 3-5 minute walk. Shops, restaurants, golf shops, golf shops, pubs, golf shops, pubs, are all very close by. Did I mention golf shops and pubs?
One minor drawback to Albany’s great location is that it could be “too close” to the pubs, if you know what I mean. On a warm summer night with the windows open one might be subjected to the horrendous and embarrassing sound of 10 drunk americans singing “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” at 2:00 a.m. like I was.
Albany features three bedrooms, located on the 3rd floor of the structure (see outside photo). They’re accessed via a rather fun spiral staircase, as is the 2nd floor from the street level. The bedrooms upstairs are spacious and feature a bathrooms with showers.
On the main level, one level up from the street, is a kitchen, spacious reading/sitting/TV room, restroom with bath, and a back deck which is located in a secluded garden (first image). The kitchen is fully appointed with a dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, microwave, and washer/dryer. There are even some staples in the cupboards.
The building was built in the late 1800’s, but renovated and modernized in roughly the mid-2000’s. The inside is very nicely appointed with quality furniture, carpeting, fine woodwork, and lots of great golf memorabilia to enjoy. The space is warm, clean, inviting, classy, and extremely comfortable.
Current pricing runs 50 pounds per person, with a four person minimum and three night minimum. This is a very reasonable price. Consider that a single room across the street at the Ardgowan Hotel ran me 120 pounds per night in 2012, and the rooms there are barely bigger than a sardine can. With a group of four or more golfers the cost per golfer, especially considering all of the great offerings I mentioned above, is unmatched. What a great value. To bring the cost down even more, a group of six could comfortably occupy the Albany Apartments.
Location, amenities, quality, space, price… No hotel in St Andrews can come close in any of those categories. If you are putting together a golf buddy trip to Scotland of four or more golfers and are looking for St Andrews hotels, look no further.
It has taken a few weeks to process my experience at French Lick Resort’s Pete Dye Course. I was also slightly sidetracked by a little trip to Scotland in that timeframe. The dust in my golf cranium has settled. I’m ready to try and tackle this big review of a big golf course.
French Lick Location
First off, let’s get the location figured out. French Lick Resort is in Larry Bird country, the towns of French Lick and West Baden Springs in southern Indiana. The closest major city and airport is Louisville, Kentucky. Next would be Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The resort sits on a large and historic estate which dates back to 1845.
The Dye Course is a 5-10 minute drive from the West Baden Springs Hotel and the French Lick Hotel and Casino. The course lies on one of the highest points of elevation in Indiana, producing a 40 mile panoramic view.
Pete Dye Course Key Facts
First off, one must know who Pete Dye is. Pete Dye is a Hall of Fame golf course architect who has built some of the most famous courses in the world. Some of Pete Dye’s most notable courses include Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Harbour Town Golf Links, TPC Sawgrass Stadium (home of THE PLAYERS), Whistling Straits, and PGA West.
Pete Dye and me
The Pete Dye Course at French Lick is certainly one of the most difficult courses in the USA, if not the world. The course rating from the tips is an unheard of 80.0. The slope is a massive 148. It’s hard to translate those numbers for those who don’t understand rating and slope. A skilled professional on average would shoot an 80 on this course, on a good day.
The course plays to a par value of 72. The total yardage is 8,102. Amongst that hefty yardage is par-3 16th hole which measures 305 yards. If the length isn’t tough enough, there’s water down the entire right side.
The views presented to the golfer from the tees are tremendous, challenging, and worthy of not only a solid tee shot, but a solid shutter release of a nice DSLR camera.
1st Tee – The sliver of fairway in line with the cart path is the target
Where to aim from the tee on the Pete Dye course is a tough call on nearly every hole. Visually the landing areas look extremely narrow and seem like they’re miles away. Wait a sec… that’s because they are extremely narrow and miles away. One must know how far they hit their drives or layup shots, exactly. Then execute a near perfect shot to hit that precise spot to keep a ball in the fairway. And I’m talking about the par-3’s! I kid. I kid. Sort of.