Monday, July 28, 2014

Renegar Rx 14 Wedges

Renegar Rx 14 Wedges
by Larry Berle

Do you want shorter putts and lower scores?
Renegar Golf has introduced its new Rx14 Wedges. What makes these wedges different?    Their patented technology  for these wedges is what they refer to as “player controlled bounce.”  They define this  as having a lower leading edge and more bounce.  I don’t fully understand those terms but I can tell you what my experience was.

I tried the 60 degree and it glides very smoothly through green side bunkers.  It not only works well in sand but out of light rough too.   Most importantly, I felt very confident hitting it from a tight lie in the fairway when I was just 30 or 40 yards away and I could get shots to check up which has always been a challenge for me with previous 60 degree wedges.

They are cast stainless steel with double milled grooves for the greatest spin possible that conforms to the USGA limits.

Jack Gilbert at Renegade Golf told me, “We have the lowest leading edge out there making it easier to open up for higher lofted shots or cut through rough or hit from buried lies.”

This is a wedge worth checking out— to learn more visit

www.RenegarGolf.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Things I recently learned at the International Network of Golf gathering

I recently spent a couple days at the International Network of Golf annual conference in Atlantic City NJ  and  here are some of the new products and services I discovered while I was there.

Alphard Golf
This is an all in one pushcart and golf bag— these units are all one piece and fits easily in your car trunk.  It features four large easily detachable wheels with a strong enough club cover that it can also serve as your travel bag  (no outside travel bag needed)  and it takes just seconds to set up.  It’s also easily converts to a cart bag.

EyeLoc Golf Gear—  These are Sunglasses that are a training aid to keep your eyes locked on the ball and your head still.  It has  a vertical line in each lens  (which you adjust to your own eyes) and you simply adjust it till you see only one line.  Keep your ball within that line and the slightest eye or head movement off the ball is detected

StgrackalLine  uses laser technology to map the slope and breaks of golf course putting greens. They have been doing it for years for the PGA tour yardage books and now have an ap called “own the app own the green”   If your course subscribes to their  service you can download these maps to your mobile device and get complete information on the slope and break of greens  The ap is $20 per year 

Knuth Golf  Dean Knuth had developed a new driver called High Heat. It is USGA conforming and is longer and far more forgiving than the major brand drivers.  Its unique feature is its greatly increased sweet spot.   Its in beta testing and should be avail in Sept 2014.   I hit several shots of the prototype on the range and  I want one when they come out.

Snag Golf  developed  appropriate golf equipment  to be experienced on non- traditional  venues.  Over 12,000 schools are worldwide are using Snag Golf to introduce children to the game of golf.   We played it on the beach and its quite fun

Nexbelt   Is your belt holes sometime just a bit too tight or too loose because of the proximity of the buckle holes?   Nexbelt has no holes and has developed a racheting system  that lets you adjust it to the next 1/4 inch.  They have many snappy designs and for both golf and causal wear.


Golf Mesquite  and the Amputee Long Drive Championship   Golf Mesquite has hosted the Remax long drive contest for several years now and this October15-17, 2014 they will host the Amputee Long Drive Championship.  These are people who are not fully able body.   We saw three of them do a demonstration on the driving range.  A one armed  man was hitting his drive 260 plus yards and two men  who each had  one good leg and one prothesis  were hitting drives in excess of 375 yards—- wow    http://www.amputeelongdrivechampionship.com 

I also learned that years ago, at a match at Atlantic City Golf Club  the terms "Birdie" and "Eagle"  were first coined.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Things are just Peachy in Peachtree City GA

by Larry Berle
Discover Life at 15 miles an hour. Just how do you do that?  Probably not by running faster..  First, find a community with  90 miles of cart paths and that, my friends,  is Peachtree City,  a planed community just southwest of Atlanta GA.  This place can be as much fun as a barrel of sunshine, even if its raining. There is more than enough to do here, three golf courses, tennis, swimming, schools, industry, churches, hospitals- a full service city within the Greater Atlanta Area, and a very large presence in the film and Television industry.   Some here refer to it as  Southern Hollywood and others refer to it as “The Bubble.” 

It may, at first, seem like a retirement community but, in fact,  substantially less than 1/2 of its residents are retired.  Joel Cowan the founder of Peachtree City, told us   “We didn't want second home buyers, our target market from the beginning was a diverse cross section of pioneers  to join this community”   It is simply a small town in an almost  rural setting in close proximity to the thriving metropolis of Atlanta.  38,000 people live here. But here is the part that I found intriguing, there are approx  8,000 households and 10,000 golf carts. (thats 1.2 carts per family) In fact we drove by the high school on Friday afternoon and the parking lot is full of golf  carts. That is how the High School kids of Peachtree City get to and from school.



The parking lot at Peachtree High


I asked Nicole Sheets of the Peachtree Convention and Vistors Assn if she thought that kids who learned to drive golf carts before cars became safer drivers. She said “there are not studies that would indicate that teens who start driving on Golf Carts are better drivers, but my opinion would be yes!”  







Hotels
We stayed in 2 different hotels on this trip and I recommend them both highly
Dolce Atlanta Peachtree City has  233 rooms  on a very tranquil 40 acre wooded site.  Complete with fitness center,  swimming pool bicycles and great food

Wyndham  Peachtree is located on 19 acres of lush forest  with a 10,000 Sq foot fitness center, and 250 guest rooms.  They have more great food—  the restaurants in these two hotels are good enough that there may be no need to wander out- but you probably don't want to miss some of the special  area restaurants.


 Culinary Delights

If you love sumptuous food, you’ve come to the right place, including the chefs of these hotels, who are wonderful culinary artists, themselves.  We had dinner the first night at  Georgia Shrimp Co  where every writer on this trip spoke lovingly about the food  (my pork chop was very tasty)  and a wonderful jazz singer named Toni Byrd entertains regularly  www.Tonibyrd.net 

The following day we had an outstanding lunch at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground & Social Club in Senioa just a few miles down the road from Peachtree City.  We were served a  delicious tasting menu by Chef Josh Butler who was Zach Browns  chef on tour for a several years,  and was the chef of the Florida Governors mansion for a couple years and  has also cooked in the White House more than once.

Just a few outstanding dishes were the Barbacoa brisket, the OMG Burger,  (the name says it all) their own style of Mac n’ Queso.  This is a restaurant that could easily become popular in large metropolitan area and this small town is lucky enough to have it all to itself.  


Grazing Here is a wonderful casual restaurant serving Zagats award winning burgers with 100% grass- fed beef, no antibiotics or hormones. They are embracing  new healthier food preparation. The food was yummy and it’s fun place.

Southern Hollywood Film Tour
The television and film industry has a growing presence here in Peachtree City and the surrounding area.    This has been the location for many films and TV shows including Sweet Home Alabama, Driving Miss Daisy, Fried Green Tomatoes and many more.  In addition this is where  the TV shows,  Walking Dead  (which has the largest viewership of any cable TV show) and Drop Dead Diva have been producing  for several seasons.  There is more studio space under construction as this industry grows here and if you are a fan of any of these, you will love this tour.
678-216-0282

What can my dad do?

There is plenty of golf here..  The people at Cannongate own and operate 22 golf clubs in the Atlanta area.   Six of them are within a 15 mile  drive  of Peachtree City and three of them are right here in town, Planterra Ridge, Flat Creek Club and Braelinn.
Join one and you have joined them all and at bargain prices too.  A full golf membership is $400 initiation fee and monthly dues of $239.  If you are staying at the hotels of Peachtree City these courses will treat you as if you were a member and it will cost $45-55  for a round.
770-274-0704

The Fred Brown Amphitheater
Tonight we saw Gladys Knight at “The Fred” and this woman, at the age of 69, can still belt  out  “Midnight Train to Georgia.  She even had one Pip with here.
This is a beautiful 2500 seat outdoor amphitheater  here in Peachtree City and  a great place to see a show.  Visit    www.amphitheater.org  to see what shows they have coming this season.

Golf Carts are King
We went on a photo scavenger hunt on golf carts.  Four person teams spread out over the miles of golf cart trails following clues to return with photos that had to include all four team member.  We stopped many Peachtree City residents for directions,  or to take our photo  or  with questions like “do you have a tattoo? we need a photo of a tattoo”   Everyone here was so helpful and friendly —  You feel very welcome here.  (I think they had met people before on these scavenger hunts)

Is there more?
If you want to venture out of the bubble  then head for Atlanta and tour the CNN Headquarters, President Jimmy Carter Library, The Martin Luther King Center and even Coca Cola.


 For several years CNN/Money Magazine has ranked Peachtree City in its Top 100 best places to live in the US.  
Other awards have included:
“Georgia's Best Place to Raise Kids 2013” - BusinessWeek,
“Top 10 Cities for Families” - Family Circle Magazine, 2011
“Georgia's Best Affordable Suburb” - BusinessWeek, 2009
“10 Great Places for Boomers” - Newsmax Magazine, 2009
  Its a terrific place to visit and would surely be a wonderful place to live, all within in 25 miles of the busiest airport in the U.S. 
 One final note    I know its called Peachtree City but we were told there isn’t a Peachtree anywhere in the city.  Go Figure!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ain't that a Beaut? A Day at Poston Butte in Florence AZ

by Larry Berle

If you have watched the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass on TV, or even played the course, you will be interested to know that they recover nearly 100,000 golf balls every year from the water surrounding the #17 island green. And that's from only 40,000 rounds of golf!

You can challenge yourself to a very similar island hole at Poston Butte Golf Club in Florence AZ, just an hour's drive from the Phoenix airport. Hole #17 at Poston Butte plays about 10 yards longer than the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, and welcomes you with a similar wooden wall  and a bridge to the green. Just hope your ball is lying there when you arrive and not in a watery grave.   Deliver a hole-in-one and you will be commemorated on the clubhouse wall. This island green  is approximately 10,000 square feet, similar in size to it's famous Florida cousin, and many a ball get rinsed in the water surrounding this island too. "Not so sure why a target so big is hard to hit, "Josh Green, the general manager, said to me. “If it were a 10,000 square-foot house you wouldn’t have any trouble hitting it."

This relatively flat course is a very enjoyable, with five sets of tees ranging from 7282 yards down to 5297.   It's flat enough that there is nothing for miles to stop the wind, which we had to contend with most of the day. The fairways are generous and even if you are a bit wide there is very little trouble. The fairways are bordered by several yards of dark brown crushed rock, so as you stand on the tee the holes are visibly well defined. I ended the day with the same ball I started with, which is an accomplishment here in the desert . This course seems to be almost parkland in style rather than desert.   The fairways may be easy to hit, but when you approach the greens the challenge begins. There is  wonderful bunkering around the greens, and the  undulations on the putting surfaces require your full attention.  

The back nine seems to have more character than the front. This is also where houses have been built along a few of the fairways, but they are set back enough that they never impose on the course.  Three quarters of the play here comes from the residents of Anthem at Merrill Ranch, the community in which the course is located, so a visit here almost feels like a private club experience. 
One new feature of Troon-managed clubs like this one is Time Par. This is the amount of time they expect a round of golf take at their courses, and they do their best to make that happen. Time Par for Poston Butte is 4:07, and that is almost exactly how long it took us.

If you want to leave your clubs at home, they can supply you with  state of the art Callaway rental clubs  (they get the newest models from Callaway every two years). The $40 rental fee includes two sleeves of balls. Depending on how many rounds you are going to play on a trip, when you include 2 sleeves of balls it may be cheaper to rent than to bring your clubs as checked baggage.

If you are planning a golf trip to the Valley of the Sun, Visit www.troongolfaz.com and you will find access to twelve of the finest courses in the Phoenix area.



If you go:

Poston Butte Golf Club
6100 West Merril Parkway
www.Postonbuttegc.com
520-723-1880

Course architect: Gary Panks

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

http://www.truelinkswear.com/true-benefits/

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)


http://bestkidfriendlytravel.com/2014/03/16/riding-the-rails-of-the-verde-canyon-in-arizona/

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
CONTACTS:
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”
http://dubaigolf.info/dubaicreek/dubaicreek.html



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:
480-596-7050
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
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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.

http://tubacgolfresort.com

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.

http://www.gallerygolf.com




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:

http://www.sunridgegolf.com