Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Enjoy the Walk in True Linkswear golf shoes

by Larry Berle
Do you think golf is a walking game? If so, then these new golf shoes by True Linkswear are for you. Even if you ride, you will find a noticeable difference in the stability of your golf swing in these shoes because connecting to the earth has everything to do with stability.

True Linkswear seems to be making a new statement in golf footwear: “Enjoy the walk.” Their idea is that if you walk like human beings were designed to walk, this will increase your walking enjoyment on the course. True Linkswear has created what they call the True Barefoot Golf shoe to work naturally with your body and enhance your game.

PGA Tour winner Ryan Moore has not only endorsed these shoes—he is a co-founder of the company—so he had great input into the design. The design has style, but what caught my attention even more is the functionality. One of the primary features of this shoe is what they call “zero drop.” In zero drop the heel and toe of the foot are an equal distance from the ground  (as though you are barefoot). A spokesman for True Linkswear shared the following information with me:

The core principles of our minimalist stylings were derived from the barefoot running movement. Our shoes allow the feet and body to function as naturally as possible. There are 5 key elements that contribute to the minimalist footwear label:

1) Light weight
2) Flexible
3) Wide Toe Box
4) Zero Drop
5) Thin Outsole

So I tried them out for several rounds. They are light and the wide toe box definitely adds to the comfort. At the same time, the back of the shoe molds to your heel. You never feel as if you could walk out of them. The most noticeable feature is the zero drop. I could feel the difference in a greater extension in my foot and it felt more stable throughout the golf swing. I have tried them for three rounds now and I can feel an increase in stability. I don’t understand it, but if it works, who needs to understand it?  And they are comfortable. Can’t wait to play in them again


Monday, March 17, 2014

Riding the Rails of the Verde Canyon Railroad in Arizona

Clickty Clack Clickty Clack is the soothing sound of the Verde Canyon Railroad....  (read more click the link below)


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

You say hello I say Dubai

by Larry Berle

The city of Dubai may not have even existed when The Beatles wrote that song but I am thinking about  it as I sit in my hotel in Dubai.   Imagine the Island of Manhattan being built from scratch in less than 25 years, because that is what I thought of  as my flight landed in Dubai.

There are seven Emirates in the U.A.E., the largest of them being Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  The British empire gave up control of this area in 1971 and the U.A.E. was established in Dec of that year.  It was probably all desert back then, but the discovery of oil in the 50’s brought money, huge construction projects and now  Dubai has become one of the most expensive cities in the world and everything is first class. If you search, you can find cheap local restaurants and hotels, so you can come here on a budget, but that is probably not why you are coming here.

The great football coach, Vince Lombardi is widely credited with the quote “Winning isn’t everything, Its the ONLY thing.”   When the visionaries who created Dubal translated this  into Arabic they must have thought he said “ The  biggest is not everything, it is the ONLY Thing.”  After a few days here this seems to be the driving force of Dubai. 

In addition to golf,  it is home to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world,  the only indoor ski area in the world,  Abu Dhabi has the fastest roller coaster in the world and the list goes on.  We even heard that as Saudi Arabia is planning a taller building, that Dubai is ready to go one taller than that (can’t loose that tallest building in the  world status). The attitude just seems to be “ the biggest  or the best or why bother. 
They even have a 7 star hotel , The Burj Al Arab, and it is currently the only 7 star hotel in the world.  It has 202  suites (all two story) the smallest is 1800 square feet and the largest being the Royal Suite  at a mere 8400 square feet. Would you like to stay in the Royal Suite?  It will set you back in the vicinity of $15,000 US per night depending on the season.  
Dubai hosts the Dubai World Cup with a purse of over ten million US dollars, making it the  world’s richest horse race.
Then there is the man-made Palm Island which added over 300 miles of non public beach front to the city of Dubai so more people could buy waterfront property on the palm fronds that extend from the center of the island.  Palm Island was such a success that  there is a new development of Islands in the planning called The World, laid out as a map of the world.
The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world with over 1200 stores.  It was in the Dubai Mall that we saw a store selling Apple products.  In the front window was an eighteen carat gold  iPad case.  If you feel a need for one,  go to Dubai.  Even better if you have a money making idea that involves the biggest or the best of anything in the world  then get on the next plane to Dubai and pursue your fortune.

If you like contemporary skyscraper architecture, this city will delight your senses. There are some fabulous buildings here.
 There are probably over 600 hotels not to mention condos and houses to rent to visitors. There are many more coming on line between now and 2020 when they host the World Expo.  Just how big is tourism here?  In 2013 Dubai hosted nearly ten million visitors.

Then there is what is left of the old city
We visited the spice market and Gold market (the Gold Souk is the largest in the world)  and they are quaint and crowded and similar to the markets of many arabic countries. Our metro stop was on the other side of Dubai Creek and we took a .25 cent Dhow ride across the water to the other side.  (these are the old water taxis of the region)  But, go a few miles from there and the opulence begins.  Dubai is so westernized that if I blindfolded you and dropped you in the middle of Dubai, you would not even know you were in an Arabic country. You might just mistake it for Las Vegas or New York City.
There are many things to see,  many beautiful hotels  and plenty of wonderful golf.  Let me give you a snapshot

Movenpick Hotel Jumeirah Lakes

There are hundreds of hotels you can pick from here in Dubai, and in a few months there will probably be many more.  It would not surprise me if there is a new one opening today. One is more  glorious than the next.  Dubai seems to be in a building frenzy. But we are visiting four different hotels on this trip and  the Movenpick at Jumeriah Lakes is an excellent choice.  It is brand new (opened Oct 2013)  and intimate with only 168 rooms.  The service is wonderful and our one bedroom suite is just perfect.    The workout room has just what we need and the negative edge pool is beautiful and warm.— Did I mention the sumptuous breakfast buffet?  You can eat enough for the entire day if you want. Compared to the other hotels in Dubai, this one in moderately priced.

 Jumeriah Emirates Towers Hotel

As we were being greeted at the door we were told this has been the number one business hotel in the world and after entering the lobby and seeing our room— I can imagine why.
 With over 400 Rooms and Suites  and over 14 restaurants and bars. Your needs in Dubai may be 2 simple things, Great golf courses and this hotel.  It is apres golf at its best.  No real need to go anywhere else.  We had dinner at Al Nafoorah, (derived from the Arabic word for Fountain) their award winning Lebanese style restaurant. I have had a few Lebanese dishes in my day but tonight I was treated to some delicious Lebanese  fare that I had not even heard of before.  Its a delight for your tastebuds and you should experience it when you come here.

The views alone are worth staying here— the glass  elevators all have panoramic views of the the skyline and Persian Gulf.  You may just want to spend your day riding up and down the elevator.  You can spend $35 to visit the observation deck at Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 140 stories, or come here and ride the glass elevators 50 stories for free.  Did I mention the sumptuous breakfast buffet?

Madinat Jumeirah Hotel
This resort is really 3 hotels in one resort and its on the beach in Dubai. The rooms and the service are as good as it gets and you get around the resort either by golf cart or water taxis. There are over 2 miles of waterways winding their way through the property so the water taxis are a wonderful way to get where you are going.  If you are looking for a relaxing beach stay,  with lots of  on sight activities this is the place.  Did I mention the sumptuous breakfast buffet?
Desert Safari

If you want to see what this land was like 25 years ago, before all the development,  take a desert Safari.  We were picked up at our hotel in a  4 x 4 vehicle at about 3:30 and were taken about an hour out of town, where the development ends and the barren desert begins.  The desert goes on forever with little or no vegetation and the sand blows up into giant dunes, some 15 or 20 feet high   Off road we went  for a half-hour thrill ride called Dune Bashing. Up and down and across the sand dunes, racing up one side then sliding down the other, until it was almost sunset, when we stopped for sunset photos over this barren desert.    Then we were off to a camp with Camel rides, belly dancing and a huge BBQ dinner with enough choices for food that its bound to satisfy anyones dietary desires.  There are many companies that offer this service.

Golf in Dubai
There are currently ten golf courses in Dubai and three in Abu Dhabi,  but like everything else in Dubai, Golf is growing at a rapid rate.  Most golf visitors come from Asia and Europe. Less than 3% of golf tourism is generated from the United States.  As Emirates airlines adds more non stop service to Dubai from several cities in the US, this too will grow. Several other airlines fly there from the U.S. as well.  Its a long ride from the U.S. to Dubai but if you want world class golf and a fabulous cultural experience its worth the many hours on the plane.
The best way to arrange your golf trip is with Dubai Golf.  They will arrange everything for you and a group of any size to play the best golf courses and stay at the best accommodations in the area. If you are looking for the best  (and why else would you travel to a place like Dubai), then these are the people to arrange it for you.
For further information  contact Pansey Gonsalvez +971 4 380 1234, email golfbooking@dubaigolf.com or visit www.dubaigolf.com 
 Of the ten courses in Dubai, I am going to tell you about three of them.

The Track Meydan Golf

At first glance you may ask “why would I travel 1/2 way around the world, where there are world class golf courses and put The Track Meydan on my schedule.   To play 18 holes you have to play it twice but when you are done, if you played the tips, you will have played a 7412 yard course.   We played 9 holes at 5:00 in the evening (its open until 11 PM) and here is what I found intriguing about this place.
The entire course is floodlit, So in the dark you can see the course and your ball in flight quite well.  If you love golf so much that there aren’t enough daylight hours for you, come here and keep playing into the night. I had never played a lit up course at night so this was a new exciting experience for me.
 There is water on almost every hole, and it just brings a beauty to a desert course that you wouldn’t expect.
The fairways and greens were in very good shape  (but stay out of the sand, you wont like it)
As you stand on the tee boxes of  numbers 3,4 and 9  you are treated to a view of the Dubai skyline that is awesome, and if you don't understand what I am talking about, remember that it includes looking at the tallest building in the world.   As we played number nine in the dark, with the lights of Burj Khalifa starting to glisten all over its impressive 2716 feet of height, It almost makes you forget to take your next shot.

.  I am guessing that night golf In the summer is quite popular, as there are daily highs of 115- 120 degrees with overnight lows of 85 degrees . So golf at night would be quite appealing. Go try it after dinner one night and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did

rates are 595 AED for a round

The Emirates Golf Club
If you have watched the Dubai Desert Classic on TV or the Dubai Ladies Masters, you have seen the Emirates Golf Club.   It’s a club with 2 golf courses. Today we played  The Faldo course called The Wadi. It is a typical Faldo design with high profile  dramatic bunkers.  It also has a wadi (valley) that runs the length of the course.  The fairways and greens were in great shape and the rough is lush and beautiful. Enjoy wonderful views of the Dubai skyline from the front nine as you try to navigate your way through the water, sand and many palm trees.
Its not easy.  If you want a challenge, you have come to the right place.  You can  play this one at night under floodlights also.

Address: PO Box 24040, Dubai, UAE.
Course details: Majlis  par 72, 7,301 yards; Wadi - par 72, 7,328 yards
Did you know? The Wadi course was re-designed by six-time Major winner Nick Faldo and re-opened in October 2006
fees 695 AED sometimes as low as 500 AED
T: (00971) 043 802222;
W: www.dubaigolf.com
Dubai Creek Golf Club
The Dubai Creek Golf Club has such an iconic clubhouse that it is the only clubhouse in the world that is featured on its countries currency, (in this case the Dh20 note).  It has been voted as one of the top 100 must-play golf courses in the world by UK magazine Golf World. The club opened in January 1993. The clubhouse design is based on the sails of a traditional Arab dhow. Thus the clubhouse  reminds you of a sailboat.
Dubai Creek has played host to numerous tournaments and events, including the Dubai Desert Classic in 1999 and 2000. It stretches along the banks of Dubai Creek, and the setting is beautiful and the course is in fabulous condition.  If you are coming to Dubai on a golf trip, this course better be on your list.
A couple of the highlights:  Number six with its floating tee built approx 30 yards into the creek, where you stand in awe as you prepare to hit your tee shot back to the mainland.  If the challenge of the creek all the way up the right side isn’t enough, on the left is a 3 level pond with a waterfall that will certainly get your attention. 
Number thirteen is  a 544 yard par five to a jaw clenching island green.  Does this sound like there is lots of water in play at Dubai Creek?  There is water in play on almost half of the holes, so if your ball isn’t clean enough there will be plenty of opportunities to “rinse it off”

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers (in Abu Dhabi)
Abu Dhabi, the largest of the Emirates, is less than an hours drive from Dubai.  It translates in English to “Father of the Gazelle”  named for the Arabian Gazelle- found around here. It is an island city.  This is contemporary architecture at its best.  We are across the street from the  Palace hotel, which is the Sheik’s old palace, which apparently was not up to his standards. So it became a luxury hotel and the Sheik has a newer bigger palace just next door. I would tell you all about it but he did not invite us over. However  our view of the gulf is fabulous, and the hotel may be one of the most beautiful I have ever stayed in.
You can play golf in Abu Dhabi  (there are 3 courses) but there are many other things to see and do as well. Ferarri World has the worlds fastest roller coaster and  the Shieks palace is hugely impressive but don't miss Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. 
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
We went to visit the  Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque  There are many impressive things about this beautiful mosque, you can read them on their website but here are  just a few.  The hand made Persian carpet is the largest carpet in the world.  The Grand Mosque has handled up to 51,000 worshipers at a single time.  There are seven chandeliers, all decorated with Swarovski crystals. The largest weighs twelve tons and was the largest chandelier in the world when it was installed.  It opened in 2007 and took over 10 years to build.  It is clad in white marble on every wall, inside and out, Its whiteness is overwhelming.

The golf in Dubai is wonderful (otherwise why would Phil and Tiger and others fly half way round the world every year to play there.)
I have visited several Arab countries in my life.  It is Arab enough, that if you have never visited an Arab country, this one will delight you. One of the questions that kept running through my mind was this.  “if Al Quaida and Hamas etc hate the Western excess so much, why isn’t Dubai a target for them?  After all, Dubai represents all the things they seem to hate about Western culture.   Its just a question for which I don’t have an answer. Dubai has  a lot to offer and If you have never been there, I highly recommend it.  Bring lots of money or prepare your credit card for a surprising jolt.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Padre course at Camelback Golf Club Scottsdale AZ-- A walk in the park

by Larry Berle

There are two golf courses at Camelback Golf Club and the older of the two is the Padre, designed in 1999 by Arthur HIlls. Unlike its companion course, El Ambiente, Padre is basically a parkland course with minimal desertscape, framed by towering trees and the lovely mansions of Paradise Valley. If you are new to Arizona golf or are looking for a course with a plenty of grass, this is a perfect place to play. It’s not far from the airport and it will feel familiar, more like the parkland courses of the east and Midwest than a true desert layout. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that familiar equals easy.  

Padre is about as flat as a course can get. The fairways were in great shape and very firm, so you get lots of roll  (which short hitters, like me, find helpful), but that roll may land you in a fairway trap—there are quite a few in play. The greens are very firm too. They will hold a well-struck, well-placed shot, with the emphasis on well placed. Shots on the edges of some greens will end up in collection areas, or water hazards. Did I mention that water comes into play on nine of Padre’s holes? 

It’s a factor on all four par fives, especially nine and eighteen, where the greens are surrounded on three sides by water which may suck up shots that wander close to the edges. Some say eighteen is the best water hole in Arizona. In addition to the memorable fives, Padre offers a great mix of par fours. Most are medium to long, requiring some power, but there is also a delightful quartet of short, devilish par fours  (2,12,14 and 16) that require sharp thinking and strategy. They may appear easy from the tee box, but accuracy is required and will be rewarded. 

The fairways are over seeded Rye grass, presenting us with the lush green fairways we have come to expect in Arizona in winter. The Bermuda greens, however, are basic brown. Starting two years ago, the Camelback Golf Club decided not to over seed its greens. If you like smooth putting surfaces, you’re in for a treat. I believe these greens are much healthier and putt better because they are not over seeded. I think you’ll agree. 

The Padre course is quite walkable, and excellent pushcarts are available at no charge. The management encourages walking, which is not only unusual in Arizona, but admirable too.

Camelback Golf Club is owned and operated by Marriott and is affiliated with the Marriott Camelback Resort nearby. Very attractive stay and play packages are available for the two championship courses, The Padre and the new El Ambiente. If you were here 15 or 20 years ago, you won’t recognize this facility. From the courses to the $16 million renovation of the 36,000-square-foot clubhouse, it has been hugely upgraded. You might just enjoy the apr├Ęs golf as much as you enjoyed your round.

If you go:
Fees range from $165.00  during the winter season to $65 in the summer, but  bargains can often be found on their online booking website.

Larry Berle is a travel writer who writes on many travel topics but specializes in golf travel.  He is author of A GOLFERS DREAM: HOW A REGULAR GUY CONQUERED THE GOLF DIGEST LIST OF AMERICAS TOP 100 GOLF COURSES. Learn more about his book at www.GolfersDreamBook.com. From there you can also access his travel blog.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ambiente Course at Camelback Golf Club

Ambiente Course at Camelback Golf Club

by Larry Berle
In this economy there are not many new golf courses being built in the U.S.  but Marriott  invested over $10 million in the new Hurdzan-Fry designed Ambiente course at Camelback Golf Club in Paradise Valley AZ.  This is the first new course in the greater Phoenix area in five years.

Ambiente, means environment in Spanish and they have incorporated the local environment into  this golf course design.  It takes the place of the old Indian Bend Course but don’t confuse it with a remodel.  Its a brand new golf course.  Plenty of dirt was moved.  150 acres of Bermuda rough was “naturalized” with native grasses along with summer and winter desert wildflower mixes meaning the new golf course will save 60 million gallons of water per year.  Rob Bartley, the director of golf referred to it as “healing the earth” These native grasses now frame the fairways, giving it a very unique look.  (It’s also thick in places so you have a place to loose golf balls)  

You will rarely stand anywhere where there is not a bunker in sight. 74 in all, that is an average of over 4 per hole.  Some are deep and quite  challenging but many are directional and don't really come into play, but they do attract your attention, helping to show you the best route.  Speaking of best routes, the   GPS on the carts is an outstanding tool  showing exact carry distances over bunkers and you can utilize the touch screen to see lay up distances as needed.

The fairways are firm and fast as are the greens.  Most greens in AZ are over seeded with Rye but this is new Champion Bermuda and it putts wonderfully— much better than over seeded Rye.  Did I mention the greens are firm?   How firm are they?   We were told by the starter  “try to land your approach shots on the front of the green, because they will run towards the back.”  It only took one hole to see how right he was.  Ambiente will certainly test your shot making, putting and green reading skills.  If you like greens with lots of movement and undulation in them, then you are going to love it here.

Tucked into the village of Paradise Valley, don't let the views of the surrounding McDowell Mountains  distract you. There is more elevation changes than you would expect on such a flat piece of piece of property. This course runs out and back along a wash, that is dry most of the year but  it floods during monsoon season, so in this design, they had a challenge to keep the wash functional as  needed for environmental protection.

There are 4 sets of tees ranging from7275 yards down to 5538.  Its easy to find a distance that will suite you although I think some women will be looking for something less than 5500 yards.  The only thing I can say about that is:  The firm fairways will make it play shorter.

Ambiente is owned and operated by Marriott and is affiliated with the Marriott Camelback Resort nearby. Camelback Golf Club has two championship courses, Ambiente and Padre.  They offer very attractive stay and play packages.

Bunkers and fast  greens with plenty of undulation  is what this place is all about.  Its a challenge but I liked it enough that I want to go back and play it again.

One last thing.  There are not many golf courses in the Phoenix area that allow walking,but they not only allow it, but encourage it here.  Personally, I love that.

If you go:

Fees are $195  during the winter season and lower in the off seasons

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Golf Tucson AZ

by Larry Berle
When most people think of winter getaway golf in AZ, they think of Phoenix but after three rounds this week in Tucson,  This city should move up on your list
Tubac Golf Resort
Today we went to Tubac Golf Resort in Tubac Arizona,  about 30 miles south of Tucson.  Tubac Golf Resort is where many of the scenes from the movie Tin Cup were filmed.  If you loved Tin Cup, then you will find this a very fun place to visit and play golf.  There are even signs and plaques depicting where some of the scenes were shot.  If you want to hit the 240 yard shot over the water that Roy McAvoy (Kevin Costner) hit— just find the plaque in the fairway and give it a try.

Tubac Golf Resort was founded in 1959 by Bing Crosby and a group of his Hollywood buddies when they bought the Otero Cattle Ranch.(a few of the cattle herd still live on the property)
It is more like a parkland course, than the desert course you would expect to find around here with plenty of trees  and surrounding  majestic mountains.
There have been over 60 full length movies shot here over the years so Hollywood is very familiar with Tubac.  They brought in Red Lawrence to design the course, a man who became known as “The Desert Fox”  for his outstanding courses in Phoenix.

We are less than 25 miles to the Mexican border and Interstate 19 south of Tucson is the only stretch of Interstate in the U.S. where the mileage signs are in kilometers rather than miles.   Despite all the rumors and tales of the areas near the Mexican border being unsafe, it's not.   It is a wonderful stepping off point to visit the border yourself and even go into Mexico. In fact Santa Cruz County has the lowest crime rate in all of Arizona.  Many artists have moved here year round so the town is filled with artist studios and galleries.

The resort food is outstanding and the villas make for a very charming get away.


The Gallery Golf Club.
The Gallery is a private club in Marana AZ  (a northern suburb of Tucson)  and for  two years was home to the Accenture Match Play Championship.  Troon Golf recently took over management of the course  (there are 2 courses, North and South) and there is now limited public play.  It’s always a wonderful thing when we can have a private golf club experience available to the general public. Every other day one of the courses is open to the public. There are many wonderful golf courses in the Tucson area that can be accessed by the public and it's thrilling to have the Gallery added to that mix.


Sewailo Golf Club and Casino Del Sol Resort
Casino Del Sol is located in South Tucson, about 8 miles west of the Tucson airport.  They have a beautiful concert amphitheater,  wonderful spa,  and a terrific hotel  and  casino and now a new golf course, Sewailo, which means “flowering world” in the language  of Pascau Yaqui Tribe. The course was designed by Notah Begay, former winner on the PGA tour and commentator on the Golf Channel, but he is perhaps best known as Tigers roommate at Stanford University.  This is his third course and if its any indication of what he is capable of, we will see many more from him.
At dinner tonight he told us  what inspired some of his design decisions.  It starts with lush greenery for a few holes then moves clearly into the desert then back to the lushness with an abundance of lakes, streams and creeks.  Approx 10 holes have water in play,  including #18 which  frames the green with a waterfall. This is much more water than most AZ courses. If your day has been frustrating, the waterfall will bring you to a  peaceful conclusion. 

Sewailo also has a double green of approx. 24,000 square feet shared by holes #1 and #8, these are rare but Mr Begay told us it was inspired by St. Andrews in Scotland.   The beautiful stone bridges will also remind you of St. Andrews for those of you who have been there.
Notah’s two favorite holes out here are #10, a  dog leg par five that require three very well placed shots between bunkers and water and #3 a short par 3  over water with terrific views of the casino hotel and Tucson Mountains in the  background.   One of my favorite holes was #6 a 545 yard double dogleg par 5.  A few minutes spent pondering your tee shot can pay off as it challenges you to cut off the dog legs and  go straight for the green.

Most of the holes have generous fairways which give you a safe landing area for your drives but you pay for that safety with a longer more challenging approach shot.  The fairways are bright green Rye grass and the rough is dormant Bermuda so the shape of the hole is very clear from the tee boxes.  The  T-1 bent grass greens putt beautifully. All this framed by the flowering plantings of the desert.
One thing to note is the GPS on the carts has outstanding graphics and a touch screen so you can touch a layup or carry area and it will give you the exact distance from your cart.  I suggest you get familiar with this feature and use it or you may hit driver on a few holes where you wish you hadn’t.  Sewailo has 14 acres of lakes over a mile of creeks and nearly 65 bunkers, so there are plenty of places to get in trouble. 

Sewailo is par 72 and has seven sets of tees from  7300 yards  tips down to 5209 from the very front.  The ladies in our group thought the forward tees were well fitted to their games. The slope and rating are 73.5 and 138 from the Bear Down tees to  69.6 and 123 from the forward tees for women.
They announced today that  Sewailo will be the home course of the U of AZ Wildcats golf teams.  So go tee it up with the big guys play— I think you will love it.

Other things to do in Tucson and the surrounding area
Old Tucson  movie studios
Pima Air & Space Museum   www.pimaair.org
Kartchner Caverns  (about 30 miles)   www.AZStateparks.com/parks/kaca
Biosphere 2 www.b2science.org

City of Tombstone  (home of the OK Corral)  http://www.tombstoneweb.com

Monday, December 9, 2013

SunRidge Canyon Golf Club Fountain Hills AZ

by Larry Berle
It had been years since I had played SunRidge Canyon. I avoided it because my memory of it was, “It’s just too difficult.”  It is difficult. Some people may even call this course “The Wicked Witch of the West,” but the new owners have made some significant improvements. I loved it today and will play there again soon.

The course was in beautiful shape. SunRidge Canyon has chosen not to overseed its greens these past few seasons. Last year they removed 220 tons of compacted dirt from the greens and replaced them mostly with sand. The new bermuda surfaces have almost no grain and are very firm and fast—firm enough that there is hardly a ball mark to be found. They may not be the bright green color we have become accustomed to, but they putt so well, who cares.  

Don’t let all this praise of the greens fool you. Good doesn’t equal easy. They have contours—sometimes subtle, sometimes not—that are a challenge to read. A day without three putts here would be a great day indeed. But here is one little tip that will help. Look toward Four Peaks, which looms strikingly over SunRidge Canyon, and keep in mind that putts tend to break toward this magnificent mountain.

SunRidge Canyon plays to a par of 71. From the tips the yardage is 6,878, but it plays much longer. I played it from 6150 and it felt like a few hundred more. I’ve been a Tee It Forward guy since before they invented the term, and SunRidge Canyon is Exhibit A for moving up. Believe me, you’ll get the full experience from the forward tees, including having a reasonable chance to conquer some of this course’s wonderful challenges. For anyone whose handicap is not tiny (or even plus), the tips here will be torture.     

The course opens with a short, welcoming par four, and builds from there. You won’t see a par three until number six, but ultimately there are five of them. They are all beautiful and full of character, ending with number 17, which has two sets of tees. They come at the L-shaped green from completely different directions—it’s two holes in one. Depending on the day you play, you’ll have a short iron to the smaller arm of the L or a long iron or hybrid to the bigger arm. None of the four par-fives is reachable except by the longest hitters, but the course really shows its teeth on the par fours. While eleven and fifteen stand out, SunRidge Canyon has numerous two-shotters where par feels like birdie and bogey is often a relief.

We are winding through a housing development, but the houses rarely infringe on this course as it descends to the bottom of the canyon on the front nine and climbs back up to the clubhouse on the back nine. Architect Keith Foster followed the contour of this canyon land and, unlike the homes, the canyon walls, water falls and large boulders do impact (or should I say add to) your experience.  There are several optical illusions here. On holes three and four, the fairways look as wide as a driving range from the tee box, but they are not. On hole seven, the fairway looks much too narrow to hit, but it’s not.

The challenges of SunRidge Canyon peak on the final six holes, which are mostly uphill, upwind, and just plain hard. The management has embraced this difficulty by naming this stretch of holes “The Wicked Six.” As you approach the thirteenth tee, there is even a plaque welcoming you to the Wicked Six. Welcome, indeed. The two par threes, two par fours, and two par fives of the Wicked Six will test both your skills and your fortitude. Play these well and you’ve truly accomplished something.   

This would be a very challenging course to walk, so riding will be the way you make your way around. A windshield would have been welcome in the morning chill. On the other hand, SunRidge’s carts are equipped with the most up-to-date GPS that I have ever used. Every hole has a flyover video with a tip from the pro and, in addition to yardages to the pins, you can tap the screen to a layup point of your choice and the exact distance there shows up.

Unlike many of the courses in the valley, SunRidge Canyon is not managed by OB Sports or Troon Golf, so it may not show up on your radar quite so easily but it is worth seeking out. You won’t forget it.

SunRidge Canyon is also home to the Jim McLean Golf School
And also home to  one of few Hot Stix locations

For more information and tee times:


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vacation in Jordan at the Red Sea and Petra

Vacation in Jordan
by Larry Berle

A visit to the Red Sea and Petra should be on your bucket list  if its not already.
Click this link to read more

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Happy 125th Aniversary to the Banff Spring Hotel

Golf in Banff Canada
Happy 125th birthday to Banff Springs Hotel

by Larry Berle

             It’s on the roof of the world, the golf is excellent and the scenic surrounding                       
                is unsurpassed in beauty.”-Chick Evans

 For several years now I have tried to get to Banff and something got in the way every time---- until now.  It was worth the wait!!!
Banff may be one of the most breathtaking spots in North America, nesteled into the Western Rocky Mountains of Canada.  Its about 60 miles west of Calgary - so it is easily accessable.

There is lots of golf here in the area but the standout here is Banff Springs Golf Club sitting in the valley just below the Banff Springs Hotel, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Stanley Thompson, Canada’s leading golf course architect, designed the original 18 holes in 1928. The course winds along the Bow River (holes 8-13 are right on its shores), all this under the occasionally snow-capped peaks of Sulphur Mountain, Mount Rundle. and Tunnel Mountain. In 1989, an additional nine holes was added.    But if you are coming here, lets be real, you want to play the Stanley Thompson course. From the actual hole design to the optical illusions created by the surrounding mountains, this Alberta golf course will delight and tempt you.

This par 71 course has five par threes and four par fives.  The front 9 has three par threes, three par fours and three par fives.  For years I have been a proponent of this proportion, because normally  Par fives and Par threes are the most intersting holes, and Stanley Thompson does not dissapoint.  
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the course is the exquisite nature of Thompson's bunkering and this course has over 150 bunkers, so you better have an accurate day if your goal is to stay out of them.  “Stanley Thompson was really known for his bunkering – and we’ve been told – that these are the best examples of Stanley’s bunkers here at the Banff Springs,” said Steven Young the Banff Springs Director of Golf.  But If you avoid every bunker on the course you may rankle Stanleys ire, if he were still alive to be rankled.  I don’t think there is bunkerless hole out here. and on number eleven I counted over 14 of these monsters.

On number three the sheer cliff of Mount Rundle hovers over the green and depending on the shadow, can change the aparent color of the green to blue.

Number four, The "Devil's Cauldron," as it is affectionately known, is a 190 yard par-3, over water, voted one of the best 18 holes in the world by Golf Magazine in 2000. Its guarded by 6 bunkers, standing in the shadow of Mount Rundle.  This is often refered to as the signature hole. However, I think that par 3 number eight, should be the signature hole 160 yards over a pond with the shores of the Bow River to your right.

Some times its a challenge just to concentrate on the golf course you are playing.  The majestic mountains, sheer rock cliffs and towering lodgepole pines lining the fairways of this course, demand your attention.  A high flying shot against a wooded mountain side is just plain breathtaking.

Some might even say its like playing in a backyard.  But whose backyard is it?  The greens keeper, who lives on site, might argue it’s his.  He is on it every day and the condition of the course shows it. 
Others might argue its the backyard of the wildlife of Banff Park. Many of them also spend everyday here.  Deer, Bear, Elk, Moose and an occasional Coyote or Cougar  are often seen on the course.  Although we didnt see any of them today, I know they were there because my ball was in an elk footprint in a bunker more than once.  
The fairways are fabulous and the greens ran true and quick--  and they are large.  Most of the greens are 35 to 40 yards deep which can mean a 3 club difference in shot selection for your approach.  And a day here with no three putts would be a good day indeed.
If these massive stone walls and majestic mountains aren’t enough to take your breath away then when you stand on the 14th tee box this view of the Colossal Banff Springs hotel will.  Enough said-- you will just have to stand here and see for yourself.

Number fifteen tees off by at the foot of the hotel  nearly 200 feet above the fairway.  A good tee shot here is not only a thing of beauty as it framed by the mountain, but it has hang time that would make an NFL punter proud
On number 16 Stanley placed a horseshoe bunker in front of the green, his subtle way of wishing us good luck as our ball carries over it.

Then finally this special day cames to an end.  I shook hands with my 3 playing partners from Calgary, John, Barry and Grant  and then  silently paid tribute to Stanley Thompson  for his vision in putting a golf course in this beautiful park.
Rates vary by the season which is only six months 
                           May & Oct              June & Sept           July & Aug

18 Hole Green Fee

Phone(s): (403) 762-6801
There are several other wonderful courses in the area for more information visit

Larry Berle is a travel writer who writes on many travel topics but specializes in golf travel.  He is author of A GOLFERS DREAM: HOW A REGULAR GUY CONQUERED THE GOLF DIGEST LIST OF AMERICAS TOP 100 GOLF COURSES.   Learn more about his book at www.GolfersDreamBook.com and from there you can also access his travel blog.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Golf Buddy Voice

The GPS and yardage devices for golf just keep getting better and better.    Last month I was playing golf in Thailand and one of my playing partners had  a Golf Buddy Voice  clipped to the brim of his hat, like a ball marker.  He had tried it at several courses in various countries and it worked everywhere.
They also make it in a wrist watch form  (the one I tried)  and it seems much better than former Golf Buddies and even Sky Caddies I have tried in the past.
There is no downloading of courses, they are all accessible automatically and there is no annual fee. It found the course I was playing in Phoenix almost immediately.  It shows yardage to front middle and back and moves to an accurate display very quickly.  But lets say you are in very bright sunlight and the display is difficult to read.  Just push the big button on top and it “tells”  you the yardage to the middle of the green  push it and hold it and it tells you front and back of green yardages as well.  You can  even choose the language.
Did I mention that you can  toggle and have it tell you what time it is? It holds a battery charge for 11 hours, so you can play a couple rounds before it needs recharging. This just couldn’t be more user friendly,if that isn’t enough there is a wonderful tour on the website.

 It can pull up a dynamic green view, you can measure shot distances and 
you can choose between yards and meters.  
MSRP for the “Voice plus” is $179.00 but there are several places on the web where you can get it for $149.00

If you are looking for value and a bargain this is one choice you should consider.

for more information:www.golfbuddyglobal.com 

Larry Berle is a travel writer who writes on many travel topics but specializes in golf travel.  He is author of A GOLFERS DREAM: HOW A REGULAR GUY CONQUERED THE GOLF DIGEST LIST OF AMERICAS TOP 100 GOLF COURSES.   Learn more about his book at www.GolfersDreamBook.com and from there you can also access his travel blog.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thais that Bind (or a wonderful golf trip to Thailand

Travelling to Scotland, the home of golf, is certainly a wonderful experience but if you love this game,  and you like visiting new cultures then a golf trip to Thailand is an experience you should put on your bucket list. Without a doubt there is wonderfully spicy cuisine, warm sunny weather and tropical rainforest to feast all of your senses.

Thailand is half way around the world from Minneapolis MN. Its a full day in transit, not to mention what happens  crossing the international date line.
This writer started in Phoenix AZ.  First I had to get to Los Angeles then its 14 hours in the air to Taipai  on EVA air and another 3 hours in the air to Bangkok. Add the layovers and its suddenly 24 hours.  However from Minneapolis you can make it in one stop, on Delta to Tokyo and then Bangkok.
That is about as easy as it gets for flying to  Southeast Asia from the U.S.  Most people on my trip had two or three stops.

We were invited to the International press launch of “Golf in a Kingdom.” Thailand boast over 260 golf courses and growing and the Golf in a Kingdom experience is composed of twelve of the top courses in Thailand, or in all of Southeast Asia, for that matter, and 9 of the best resorts. Learn more at www.GolfinAKingdom.com 
Thailand has become the third largest golf destination in the world.  Most of the 200,000-300,000 golf visitors to Thailand come from Asia, Europe and Australia but even though its a long flight from the U.S.-- its well worth it.  These are not only wonderful golf courses but this is a fantastic culture to visit and learn about.

 If you want your every need taken care of while you are there, book your trip through  www.golfasian.com 


 The greater Metro area of Bangkok has over 15 million people.  It’s hot, humid and crowded with more than its share of traffic.  I felt like I was taking my life in my hands as I stepped off the curb to cross the street.  If the busses and trucks aren’t coming your way, the scooters and motorcycles are.  And the scooters just keep appearing from everywhere.

I am in Pattaya, about an hour from the Bangkok airport. Our hotel, Cantara  Pattaya Hotel, is just a few blocks from the ocean.  Tonight was a beautiful sunset over the water as we dined in a restaurant overlooking the beach.  If it’s golf you want, you will find plenty here with 21 golf courses in the Bangkok area alone and growing.

If you like night life, you are going to love it here because the party never stops and there seem to be more people out at night than in the daytime.

Last night we had dinner at a wonderful restaurant on a deck over the beach  called Cabbages and Condoms (no mispelling there)  They serve wonderful food  (I had the pork spare ribs) and they named it because they promote family planning, and  HIV prevention. What a great concept.

Siam Country Club 
is located in Pattaya. There are two courses here: The Old Course and the Plantation Course.  We played the Plantation.  This is the home to an LPGA stop that you may have seen  on TV  (The Honda Classic)
They are in the process of building another golf course, so Siam will have 63 holes of golf in 2014.
The fairways and greens are in wonderful condition-- and the service at this club is on quite a different level than I have experienced in the U.S. Every player has a caddie (females only) who drive the carts,  and the caddies not only club you, but read putts,  fix every ball mark, and fill every divot.  I am sure that is why its in such superb condition.    The grass choice here is Zoysia which is a very heat resistant grass with strong blades that make your ball sit right up.
A good golf course is one thing, but this places differentiates itself with a beautiful clubhouse and locker room  ( fully tiled showers)  The female caddies know their stuff and are a true help from beginning to end. My caddie carried an umbrella to shield me from the sun and a fan to create my own personal breeze.

visit:  http://siamcountryclub.com

What else do you want to do and see in Thailand?

If you want to learn about the culture  there is plenty to see and do. Much more than I had time for. 
I wish had extended my trip to visit the royal palace in Bangkok and several other interesting places.
Today we visited The Sanctuary of Truth.  It is a completely wood carved structure, with no nails, that looks like a spectacular Buddhist monastery. The Sanctuary shows us the relationship between human beings and the universe.--for more information  visit  http://www.sanctuaryoftruth.com 

At Nonggnooch Tropical Garden we were treated to a performance of Thai history and culture, with re-enactments of historical events,  depicting the kingdoms of the past  and Thai martial arts.There was also a very entertaining Elephant show,  the audience fed the elephants and they did elephant bowling, spun hula hoops, played basketball and  kicked soccer balls into a goal.

One of the great pleasures of this culture is massage-- after our first round of golf  I went across the street from the hotel, just before bedtime, and got a 1 hour foot massage for $6.00--  slept like a baby.   They have Swedish and Thai massage as well and I recommend them both but the foot massage is truly wonderful, especially after a hot day on the golf course.  They work on your feet, legs and end up with 15 minutes on your back and shoulders.  After that I went and found a foot massage after almost every round of golf.



Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, located in the Andaman Sea of southern Thailand. The island is mostly mountainous with a mountain range in the west of the island running from north to south.  
On December 26, 2004, Phuket and other nearby areas on Thailand's western coast suffered extensive damage when they were struck by the  tsunami, caused by the  Indian Ocean earthquake. The waves destroyed several highly populated areas in the region, killing over 5,000 people nationwide, Now, 9 years later, following strenuous recovery programs, no tsunami damage can be seen except in the most remote beaches.

Pullman Phuket Arcadia hotel and resort
I stayed at the Pullman in Phuket and if you like luxurious contemporary surroundings at non luxury prices, this is the place for you.   They just opened in mid 2012 and the rooms are large and beautiful, with overhead rain showers and a private balcony and mine had a partial ocean view.  The negative edge pool overlooking the beach and ocean is fabulous and the breakfast buffet, served every morning, has everything you could possibly want and then some.

Red Mountain Golf Club in Phuket promotes itself as “The most exciting golf course in Phuket”.  Imagine playing golf surrounded by lush rainforest, spectacular views and red rock cliffs framing the twisting, turning fairways. That   describes Red Mountain Golf Club.  Number 17 for example is a 140 yard par three with a tee box that sits on a cliff  over  100 feet above the green.  Its a spectacular shot.
 Red Mountain was designed by Jon Morrow, whom I never heard of and I later learned that he lives on Phuket.  It is the site of an old Tin mine. It takes quite an imagination to put a golf course on this land and do so as successfully has he did here. And I can’t remember an uphill hole. It’s amazing how he routed this couse to do that. I wonder if he ever designed any other golf courses
Did I mention the caddies.  You will experience caddies like you have never experienced in the U.S.  We had 4 females dressed in jackets and slacks like  hotel bellmen (and it was sweltering hot) and they were outstanding. Reading putts, knowing yardages fixing divots and ball marks-- and they were just a pleasure to be with. One of the caddies was so much fun she just added a great deal of joy to todays round.  They also carried an umbrella to shade me from the sun and a fan in their pocket to fan me and keep me cool. How wonderful is that?

                                                                     Our caddies

Chaing Mai elephant camp and Hills tribe village.  Make no mistake about it, this is a tourist attraction, but a fun one-- there is an hour long elephant show where they show off their many tricks and 3 of them even create a painting right before your eyes. (see painting here)  Then we took a half hour ride on an elephant to visit the Hill tribes people.  Yes there are still people in the world that live in a tribal culture and have no exposure to civilization as we know it.  It is quite an experience and will make you appreciate the many things you have at home.

                                                             PAINTED BY AN ELEPHANT (ARTISTS NAME UNKNOWN)

Chedi Chaing Mai
This is a five star hotel with a flash of contemporary and splashes of the orient.  We were there for 2 nights.  There is an abundance of  four star resorts in Chaing Mai but only one Five star and this is it.  If you like contemporary with an asian twist to it-- then this is the place for you.  The rooms are extremely well appointed and the buffet breakfast is more than you could possibly eat all day.  And if you love shopping, this is just around the corner from the famed night bizarre of Chaing Mai.

Alpine Golf Resort in Chaing Mai is just a fun enjoyable course to play. it even has a 600 yard par 5  (a bit much for me)   aside from that bear of a par five this was a beautiful course and a joy to play
ChiangMai Highlands was a treat also, set in amoung the rolling hills, streams and ponds.  South East Asian Globe Magazine recently named Chiangmai Highlands the Number One Course in Thailand .  I liked Red Mountain much better  but you will certainly have a wonderful time here.  With 5 sets of tees it ranges in length from 7227 yards down to 5056 yards so every skill level can enjoy it

The Night Bizarre
 The Night Bizarre in Chaing Mai  is certainly popular with tourists and understandably so.  It was just around the corner from our hotel.  Anything you want to buy in Thailand is here and then some. Silks, leather items, soaps spices and even a free ladyboy show if you want that kind of entertainment.

I didn’t come here to layup

As part of this trip we were invited to the inaugural press launch for Golf in a Kindgom, This is a consortium of the 12 best golf courses, hotels and resorts of Thailand.  If you are coming half way around the world for this vacation, don’t lay up!!!! 
 Mark Siegel, said “The world has discovered Thailand golf tourism and Golf In A Kingdom is now reaching out to the world to highlight the unbeatable values of the Thai golf experience. Invariably, golfers who come to play in Thailand keep coming back.”
 Visit Golf in a Kingdom  or GolfAsian.com  to get economically priced access to the very best golf that Thailand has to offfer.

Larry Berle is a golf travel writer who has played the top 100 golf courses in the U.S. and wrote a book about his quest  A GOLFERS DREAM.  visit www.GolfersDreamBook.com