Friday, December 17, 2010

using the V Harness--- golf swing training aid

The V Harness is a golf training aid that has been promoted on the Golf Channel lately by Rocco Mediate and Jimmy Ballard.
This is a very simple training aid, designed to promote your swing arc to be as big as possible, when taking the club back, and it helps promote good posture and proper tension in your arms and shoulders and a proper turn.

Just put it on like a vest, adjust the shoulder straps to the proper length (something I had trouble with in the beginning) connect the v- chords to your club and Presto you have a self-coaching lesson in the connected golf swing. I worked with it several times, before I wrote about it and each time I could feel my swing improve. I could even feel the changes after I removed it and swung without it. It took some time for me to get used to but the more times I have used it the better I see the benefits.

The instructional DVD with Jimmy Ballard and Roco may be worth the price alone.

Find out more at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A GOLFERS DREAM now available on IPAD

My book, A GOLFERS DREAM, is now available for download on the IPAD. So if you have a new IPAD or know someone who does, let them know. Just go to the itunes store and download the kindle Ap. (its free) then go to enter the Kindle store and download the book.

If you have a kindle you can download it for the kindle as well

This book is a wonderful holiday gift both in printed form and in ebook form

Monday, October 18, 2010


Legend Trail is located in north Scottsdale AZ very close to Cave Creek and Carefree. It was designed by Rees Jones, one of today’s leading architects who also hails from the leading family of Golf Architects in America. Rees is now known as “The Open Doctor” since he is the USGA’s regular choice to design renovations for courses that have been designated as upcoming U.S. Open sites.

Legend Trail, which opened in 1995, is a very popular, daily fee course in the Sonoran Desert. It will fit the game of all level of players from its 4 sets of tees ranging from 6,845 yards down to 5,,000 yards. There are generous landing areas and distinctive putting surfaces, and plenty of elevation changes here to give you wonderful views of the valley, as you meander through the high sonoran desert, A there is water on only one hole, #7.

Just when you are getting lulled into thinking “this course ain’t so tough” you step up to the tee on #11 and from here thru #17 you will find plenty of challenge.

In addition to this wonderful golf course it is home to the Hot Stix golf club fitting center, and the John Jacobs Golf Academy. Hot Stix has a reputation among the best club fitters around, and certainly John Jacobs’s schools have one of the best reputations among golf schools

If you go:
9462 E. Legendary Lane
Scottsdale, AZ 85262
From the Phoenix Airport travel east on I-202, then north on I-101 then North on Pima to Legend Trail,
(480) 488-7434

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Prague Chezc Republic

By Larry Berle

Prague may be one of the oldest, primarily intact cities in Europe that did not get wiped out by the World Wars.

We are staying at the Mosaic House a new form of accommodation that is a combined youth hostel and hotel.
It Opened in Spring of 2010, so its brand new.

It has 330 beds 64 of them are secure and contemporary hotel rooms and the rest are dorm rooms of 4,6,and 8 beds.
They have one all girls dorm room. The entire place has AC, is very eco friendly, has free Wi Fi and Internet access with their computers. All rooms have bathrooms in the rooms. The entire hotel is Non-smoking and has 24-hour reception. Hostel beds range from 15 to 25 dollars a night. The hotel rooms range from $45-95 depending on the season. For a family of four booking a 4-bed hostel room, you just can’t beat the price.

Inside our hotel room we found a double bed with oversized pillows, flat screen TV, telephone, desk, iPod docking station, mini-fridge, pin-code safe for valuables, air-conditioning, and a stylish bathroom with low-flow rain head shower. We also have an outdoor deck overlooking the city.

Belusi’s is the lobby bar, where young people from all over the world meet to discuss their travels. They also have wonderful food, including a full menu of gourmet burgers, and tonight we had the spare rib special with salad and fries. It was outstanding and under $15. Its also a sports bar with several big screen TV’s. and several times a month they have live music on their stage. It’s hard to believe it’s a hostel.!!
Mosaic House is also a very environmentally friendly and green bldg. The roof is totally solar panels. One thing I had never seen before was Gray water recycling. Sink and shower water is reclaimed, heat extracted, and reused for flushing of the toilets. The staff, which is very helpful, is from 19 different countries. So the staff is diverse as the guests.

We took a free walking tour of the old town (just tip the guide at the end if you want; most did) visiting most of the important sites of Prague, which has beautiful old bldgs and wonderful windy cobblestone streets. The Spanish synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Europe. And the nearby castle is the largest in Europe. It was the birthplace of the composer Dvorcak and of course Franz Kafka. The Jewish quarter is the oldest in Europe and we were told it stayed in tact because Hitler planed to use it as a museum to an extinct race, after he completed his mission of exterminating every Jew.

This is a fascinating old city, with lots of Jazz clubs lots of history to learn from the old sites and we even went to see the “Image” black light theatre. A silly story tying together dance performance done all in black light with fascinating moving images.
And if you are coming you will love Mosaic House It’s like a 5 star experience for a 1 star price.

If you go

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Ich Bin ein Berliner

These are the famous words uttered by President Kennedy when he was here in 1961 and “ Open this gate, Mr. Gorbachev, and tear down this wall” are famous words uttered by President Regan when he was here in 1987 in front of the Brandenburg gate. In Nov 1989 the wall finally came down. We have talked to several people who were alive then and were kids. It was quite a day of celebration on both sides of the wall. It was a school holiday. Did I mention that the hotel right next to the Brandenburg gate is where Michael Jackson decided to hang his baby off the balcony for the world to see? The story of the Berlin wall is in itself, enough reason to visit Berlin.

We are at the Ritz Carlton in Berlin and just outside our front door, on Pottsdammer Platz, is an exhibit and remnants of the Berlin Wall, which stood here less than 25 years ago. In fact, it actually may have gone down the middle of our hotel lobby. Amazing to comprehend.

75% of Berlin was bombed out during the Second World War. Consequently this city is loaded with brand new contemporary bldgs.
Many leading architects have contributed to this cities landscape in the last 20 years, and Embassy row, where all major countries have embassies, is one architectural gem after another. Potsdammer platz was a no-mans-land in the late 80’s. Today it too is filled with contemporary bldgs. All this mixed with some of the beautiful old buildings that did remain standing, create quite a contrast.
And if that is not enough, of course Berlin was the Nazi Gestapo headquarters during their reign.

Antje’s story
I met a woman today who lived in East Berlin, behind the wall, until the age of 6, when it came down. She now has a very successful job here in Berlin, with and International corp., something that would have been impossible for her had the wall remained.

When she was growing up, No one in East Berlin had phones (a privileged few) but there was no one to call anyway. No one had TV’s. The stores had little or no food. Families grew most of their food in their own backyard. Her family had a car but the floor of the backseat was completely gone and it was impossible to get it repaired, even if they could afford it. She had to ride with her feet propped up on a piece of the chassis.

She does not know her father, nor has she seen him in many years.
To the best of her knowledge he had been arrested and jailed and made a deal with the East Germans to become a spy in exchange for his life. Her grandparents, on her mother’s side, were prominent citizens in East Berlin and she has every reason to believe that he married her Mother in order to get spy information on her grandparents. She has learned that the name of her father as she knew it was not his real name, (he was undercover, after all). The story goes on and on. The most important part is when the wall came down a world of opportunity opened up to her that could not have been there until that day!!!

Warren Buffet once said, “I am a member of the lucky sperm club and am lucky to have been born and raised in the U.S.” Had I been raised anywhere else in the world, I may have been just as smart, may have been just as financially savvy, but I could have never accomplished what I have accomplished and I certainly would not be standing before you today as the wealthiest man in the world.

Apply that thought to this woman or all the people who were liberated from that wall on that beautiful Nov day of 1989. This may be history, but its hardly ancient history. This is less than 25 years ago. You and I were alive and this story could just as easily be you or me.
I would guess that for every “getting over the wall” success story there are hundreds that do not have this happy ending.
This could bring new meaning to the words “Wall Street”

Ritz Carlton Berlin at Potsdammer Platz where kids are kings and queens.When a family with kids under 12 years old checks in to the Ritz Carlton- Berlin, someone comes from behind the desk to welcome this kid personally to the hotel. He/she is given a treasure hunt map with four tasks and 4 stamps to collect on his map. If he collects all 4 stamps he brings it back and gets a prize. When he and his folks have breakfast in the morning (a breakfast buffet like I can’t even begin to describe) the kid is invited into the boulengeree with the chef and can learn from him how to make his own waffles or crepes. He leaves with his own little apron. He is given a drink voucher and goes to the bar, just like Mom and Dad, to order his non-alcoholic drink. If he is the right size, they bring out a Mercedes car (pedal car) that he can ride around in the lobby or on the front sidewalk. Oh yeah!! Mom and Dad pay rack rate of approx 295 euros per night and the kids adjoining room is 99 euros and his food and beverage are ½ price. I wanna be that kid!!! And when Mom goes to the Spa. Ritz Carlton supplies a nanny.
High tea is served everyday at 4:00. What do you do with your kid? They have a game table at high tea with hot chocolate and cakes.

This Ritz Carlton has a charity, Sonnenhof” of the Bjoern Schulz Foundation. This is a hospice for kids with cancer. This hotel supports this foundation not only with money but also with many services of the staff. At Christmas time kids can post wishes on the lobby tree and guests can contribute to make these wishes come true.

Oh yeah, it’s great for adults too. The staff is international and provides un-matched service. “Ladies and Gentlemen, serving Ladies and Gentlemen” is one of the staff mottos. The lead concierge was named concierge of the year for all of Europe last year. And if you have ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton than I don’t even have to tell you about the 5 star luxuries you will experience. U.S. Presidents even stay here.

But this city is great for kids too I can’t list everything but here are a few examples
2 zoos
Kids science museum
Kids arts museum
There are many lakes and Parks in Berlin so there are all the activities you would associate with that. In fact I learned today that Berlin has more water and bridges than Venice and Amsterdam. What a surprise!!
And of course they will experience a part of history that we lived through “the story of the Berlin Wall”

This is a great city, perhaps the most contemporary in all of Europe. Fantastic gastronomy, the number one Symphony in the world and more cultural activity than you can possibly take in. Even better it is one of the lesser expensive cities to visit in Western Europe.

If you go:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cruising the Mediterranean

Cruising the Mediterranean

Costa Cruises promotes itself as the largest cruise line in Europe. It is an Italian company and seeks the bulk of its customers from the European continent, with as little as 10 percent patronage from the United States on any given ship.

The boat we were on, the Costa Serena, was built in 2007 and has a passenger capacity of 3800 plus 1100 crew. That may sound quite large, but the largest ship in the world holds over 6000. The itinerary we chose included the following ports; Venice and Bari, Italy, Olympia, Greece, Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. One may board the ship at several different locations, so the composite profile of passengers is in a constant flux, with the majority being Italian, with German and Spanish patrons in a close tie for second place. Less than 10% of the guests were from the U.S.

On board this ship you will never tire for lack of activity, including gambling in the casino, bingo games, dance lessons, spa and gymnasium services, cooking lessons, dance lessons, arts and crafts projects, and much more. It’s a buffet of options for any adult.
The nightlife can be found in one of many on-board bars with live music and various themed programs. There are singing contests, and costume nights to add to the pleasure. But the largest area for entertainment is found in the 1200 seat theater, where you will find specialty performances on a nightly basis. It is not uncommon to be entertained by skillful acrobats, multi-talented musicians, spell-binding magicians, or even the Costa Crew itself.

For children, the Costa Serena is paradise. A giant, two-story slide plunges into a refreshing pool on the top deck for starters. And if that doesn’t give you a scream, then the Formula One simulated race-car will certainly excite them. There are video games, table tournaments, play parlour, deck-side contests, and pizza parties at all hours. So, if you want your children to have a multicultural interaction with other cruisers, than this is the spot! Our cruise was host to over 700 children. Parents who share their cabin with the children can do so at no additional cost, and there are plenty of activities with competent staff to supervise.

There are daily excursions, which, if led by Costa, may be purchased for an addition fee (no less than 50 euros per tour). But you are welcome to enter each port individually and self-explore.
My wife and I chose to explore the port in Bari on our own with great success. We could walk directly into the old city where we visited two historic churches, complete with weddings in progress. It was beautiful to see the wedding parties lavished in flowers and rice. And on a Monday as well! One of these was the Basilica of St. Nicholas. It holds the tomb of this patron saint and the locals say that here lies the tomb of Santa Claus (although I believe the Russians may take issue with that).

Excursion to Ephesus
Ephesus is one of the most visited, ancient excavations in the world, getting approximately 10,000 visitors per day. The day we visited, it was crowded. This ancient city survived thousands of years, invading armies, geological disasters, and tyrannical rulers. The population at its onset rose to 250,000 inhabitants and you will also find an amphitheatre that seats over 4,000 people. It was a costal port, at one time, but, over the decades, the land has risen to a point that the sea is now five miles away. Once the sea became too far away, the city was abandoned.
The excavations are extensive, possibly the largest in the world.
The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple was destroyed in 401 AD.

Kitchen Tour
We took a tour of the Main onboard kitchen with the Executive Chef. This is one awesome operation. There are 4 kitchens on board and they serve 15,000 meals per day all served by a kitchen staff of 180 people working 7 days a week 11 hours a day. 1,000 of them are crew meals which are prepared and served in a separate location.

Just to give you an example of the lengths they go to for everyone on board, the 1,000 ships staff come from all over the world ( over 85 countries on this trip) and they do their best to cater to each of their tastes. They carry 2 kinds of rice, they see that Muslims do not even get offered pork. The Chinese, Philipinos, Indians and other countries have far different eating habits and they do their best to cater to them all.
We learned that when an American asks for Espresso café, he has one expectation. When an Italian asks for Espresso he has another and French a third. So they know the nation of origin of every passenger and staff and what their preferences are. The same goes for the consistency of the cooking of Pasta, Italians expect Al Dente and other nationalities may expect it to be cooked to a different consistency. All the bread and rolls are baked fresh daily by a staff of 8 bakers. They serve 3800 guest dinners per night ordered from a limited menu and with two seatings they can predict what percentage of people will order what and at the end of the night may waste 5-20 meals. Amazing!!! Did I mention that they wash 150,000 dishes a day not to mention silverware and glasses

Hello Istanbul
Where West meets East
From my visit 40 years ago I used to tell people “Istanbul is where West clashes with East” Now I would say that “Istanbul is where West meets East.” This city is over 6 million people and it is the only city in the world to sit on two continents, Asia and Europe. It has had several names over the years including Byzantium, New Rome and Constantinople. Turkey is 98% Muslin but it is by far, the most westernized of the Arabic countries. Most women dress western style but there are some that still cover up completely in burka’s. We even saw some who were middle ground; head and arms completely covered but with blue jeans and tennis shoes.

Turkey’s relations with the US are extremely strong and unlike other Arabic countries, are not based on Oil production. They have equal pay and equal rights for women and a democratic society.

Islam requires that everyone give 2 1/2% of their earnings to the poor. So Turkey has its share of poor people but little or no poverty or homeless.
The Blue Mosque with its 6 minarets is one of the most beautiful and popular Islamic religious centers of the world. St.Sophia Basilica is an extraordinary architecture example dressed in marble and precious stones decorating its walls and galleries.

I remember the Grand Bazaar from 40 years ago and it was a fascinating place to visit and haggle with the vendors throughout its small alleys and stalls. It has changed now and haggling is still the main stay of negotiating prices but its much more commercial now.

The museum at Topkapi Palace is by far the most interesting, built for and by ancient sultans it is a beautiful place with exquisite jewels and treasures on display.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik was certainly the most pleasant surprise of this cruise. What a beautiful and wonderful city. Croatia was part of Yugoslavia and when communism fell, so did Yugoslavia which divided into 5 countries. It survived a nasty war with Bosnia in the early 1990’s and some evidence of the damage still exists today.
It is set in front of a picturesque hillside on the Dalmatian coast across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. The old city is lined with cobbled streets, fountains, and churches and surrounded by a 700-year-old city wall, which is mostly still intact. We walked on top of most of the wall and the perspective it gives you of Dubrovnik is wonderful. They have rebuilt the cable car that goes up the mountain which has some beautiful panoramic views of the city, coast and surrounding islands.

Dinner, on most of the nights closes with fun and bravura from the staff. One night, as the lights went out, desert was presented to a recording of O’ sole Mia as the staff appeared around the periphery of the restaurant with desert in one hand and sparklers in the other…. Patrons lifted their napkins and swirled them like homer hankies at a baseball game.

The staff appears to be very happy, jovial and full of life as they take care of your every need. They are a pleasure to be with.

If you go

Sunday, July 25, 2010

St Moritz Switzerland

St. Moritz Switzerland

Nestled in the Engadine Valley in the heart of the majestic Swiss Alps lays the village of St. Moritz. At 6,000 feet above sea level it overlooks the beautiful, aqua blue, Lake St. Moritz. It is Europe’s version of Aspen, Colorado . And home to international vacationers, sports enthusiasts, and spa seekers and certainly has its share of the rich and famous.

The Kulm Hotel, ranked 4th best in Switzerland in the five-star category, is a magnificent, 173 room property in the heart of St. Moritz built in 1856. It’s charm and elegance attract those is seek of a get-away fit for royalty and brings to mind this saying; “Only the possibility of realizing a dream makes life worth living.”

To that end, the hotel has added a 6th rating star which includes the motto: “Whatever You Like!” The staff is dedicated to make your every wish come true. In fact, they tell a story of one such patrons dream to ski with her favorite soccer star. Done.

This year, The Klum Hotel introduced a valley-wide, stay and play golf package, which includes four golf courses. The first is a 9-hole executive course right here on the Kulm property. All of the tee boxes have artificial mats from which to tee off, and the longest hole is about 140 yards. But don’t let that fool you. Even if you are a big hitter, you will find this course sporty and pleasant. Every hole, with all of its elevation changes, is a small gem.
I am reminded of the par-3 course at Augusta National Golf Club to which you can compare the beauty and majesty of this small golf course. If there were a rating of top 100, par-3 golf courses in the world, this would have to be on it. Not only is it challenging, but it is very romantic as well. When you stand on the tee box of hole # 5, you see a lovely heart-shaped green some 100 yards below the elevated tee box. My wife cooed with emotion and even gave me a big kiss!
Handy divot tools hang from every flagstick and the rakes in the bunkers have leaning stands. It’s Swiss efficiency at its finest. But it is the views of the surrounding Alps that are truely awe-inspiring. If you come for golf, don’t ignore this little treasure.

Golf Club Alvaneu Bad
This is part of the hotels stay and play package, and when they told me it was an hour and twenty minute drive, I began to question the sensibility of that. But the drive alone is well worth the trip. The road itself winds dramatically over the Alvaneu Pass, which often becomes a single-laned road, and reaches a summit of over 7500 feet. Along the way you will dodge a myriad of bikers, hikers, motorcyclists, and perhaps a cow or two. Wunderbar!
The course is a par 72 playing at 6400 yards. It lies at the base of the Alvaneu Valley. So, while I was prepared for a mountain course with a lot of elevation changes, this course plays horizontally within the valley, with mostly level holes. And these holes are beautifully framed by the tall, wooded forests growing mountainside, with rivers and streams cutting through many of the holes. It is level enough that there are hardly any players choosing to hire carts. It is the splendor of the walk that enhances a players’ experience.
The manager, Roland Fisher, told me it is regularly rated in the top 10 in Switzerland, but keep in mind there are only about 100 courses in the entire country.
Because of its sunny valley locale, their season of golf lasts from May through September. Aside from the golf package, the greens fees are 100 Swiss Francs on weekdays and 120 on weekends.

If you go:

Zouz- Madullain
Zouz is less than 10 miles from St. Moritz and was built just seven years ago. It is a par 72 playing 6600 yards from the tips. It plays mostly level through the enchanting Engadin Valley. The course is tightly built with very few trees to line the fairways, so it is easy to hit your ball into the adjoining fairways. This is evident on a few of the par-5’s where it can be a challenge to direct your ball onto its proper fairway. There are holes with 45 degree, dog-legs, and holes whose tight, small greens require accurate approach shots. My wife protests the difficult golf shots here, but marveled at the courses scenic beauty. In fact, she photographed many holes laying next to active farmland, mountain streams, quaint ponds, and even distant Swiss trains.
Be prepared for altitude accommodations and sun intensity here in Zouz. And be prepared to have fun too!

Zouz is a Romansch word, and the primary language of the village of Zouz. Romansch is a form of ancient Latin and one of the four official languages of Switzerland. The others are German (with many speaking Switzer-Deutsch), French, and Italian. The head Professional here is one of the 10,000-20,000 Swiss who speak Romansch. And that number dwindles each year. With a population of 7 million, it is interesting that this language that is spoken by so few people remains one of Switzerland’s official languages. Those who speak this language live in a very small section of Switzerland, and the Engadin Valley is home to most of them. It all adds to the charm of this golf vacation.

Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina
The Hotel Kronenhof is a sister hotel to the Klum , and approximately ten miles away. It has 112 luxury rooms and is also 5 stars. The original part, like the Klum Hotel, is very traditional. But there is a newer part that is quite contemporary and we stayed in one such room.
Vibrant red colors and sleek design lines define the room with a leather headboard and electrical blinds that block the bath from the bed. Many of the rooms have large windows and patios that allow viewing of the nearby glacier.
The hotel also has a newly designed spa, which features pools of water that massage, soothe, relax, invigorate, and transform your entire body. There is a floating, relaxation pool with accompanying light projections on the ceiling that is sure to delight any spa enthusiast, weary golfer or skier. A massive central Jacuzzi generates bubbles in every shape and form, designed to target different parts of the body; neck, back, legs, etc. And the pool uses underwater music to enhance the relaxation process. One may very well forego golf and lavish into this sensual world of water.

But is the impeccable service at the Hotel Kronenhof that defines its elegance. The entire staff offers friendly, inviting stays. It is not uncommon to find the General Manager awaiting your arrival or visiting your dining table to welcome and enrich your experience.

Like many upscale resort hotels, kids activities are becoming a priority. There is a kid’s club space with loads of activities, and even a kid’s dining room. The Hotel Klum has a VIK program (very important kid)
If you bring your children during the ski season, the hotel will take care of them to whatever degree you desire. Take them to ski school, pick them up, keep them busy, and dine them in the kid’s dining room. It’s almost like having the hotel staff as your private nanny.

Samedan Golf Club
Samedan Golf Club was built in 1893 and is the oldest golf course in Switzerland. It is no more than 7 miles from St. Moritz and plays 6800 yards from the tips. Today I played it from 6500 yards, but keep in mind that, at this elevation, balls travel between 5% and 10% further. I played with Wault (from the Netherlands) and Frank (from Austria) and we had a blast today. This course is much flatter than Zouz but has much more water. Of the 18 holes only 5 have no water in play, so pay attention to your accuracy The greens were in excellent shape and most of the fairways were too, but there is the occasional bad patch of fairway.
The sand, which I found more than once, is very will cared for and the bunkers play very well. There is a diagram board at each tee box so the water hazards, some of which may seem hidden, are quite obvious if you pay attention to the board on the tee box. The Engadin Valley is broad so there is plenty of flat terrain on which to build a course. High approach shots look magnificent with the Alps in the background.
If you go:

Badrutt’s Palace

There are 6 hotels with 5 star ratings in the St. Moritz area and Badrutt’s Palace is one of them, featuring 159 rooms 38 of which are suites. The senior member of the Badrutt’s family built the Kulm hotel and his son built Badrutt’s Palace which was completed shortly after his father died. It has a very British feel to it, serving high tea everyday and customer service is at the forefront of everything.
It seems that Mr. Badrutt had a bet with some British friends that if they came in winter they would experience at least 90 days of sunshine “otherwise I will pay the bill for your entire stay” He not only won the bet but started a tradition of the British visiting the St. Moritz area.
In addition to the skiing in the winter, which St. Moritz is known for, there are lots of activities: Hiking, biking, curling, tennis, polo, sailing, wind surfing, bridge. . The list is almost endless!!
80% of the customers return regularly and the staff knows everything about them, from names of parents, kids and even pets. Regular returning guests have robes and towels that are personally monogrammed for them. There is even a resident who has lived in Badrutt’s Palace for 38 years and has his own table in the dining room at which no one else is ever allowed to sit. The kitchen keeps his own personal place settings on hand at all times for use exclusively by this man. The history book of the hotel and family have dozens of stories like this, mostly about the many royalty and celebrities that have spent time at Badrutt’s. Some guests return so regularly that they leave everything when they checkout. The staff then photographs the placement of everything in the room, packs it up and stores it until they return and places everything just where it was when they checked out.
A couple more interesting facts: Every winter season the kitchen goes through 2 ½ tons of chocolate!! I love this place. The wine cellar, which very few people ever get to see houses 40,000 bottles of wine.

“Kids are the clients of Tomorrow” is a creed of the entire staff, and it reflects in the commitment they have to the younger generation There is a kids club here with a capacity of nearly 40, for kids age 2-14 and there are up to 5 nurses on call to take care of these kids at all times. In addition to the adult activities, mentioned above, they can take lessons in almost all of these as well as cooking classes from the head chef. In winter the hotel has access to nearly 60 ski instructors. They will arrange family picnics, have an arts and crafts room and the activities range from both indoors to outdoors. No wonder generations of families keep returning to Badrutt’s Palace.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, Italy

We are in Cinque Terre, Italy. The 5 villages date as far back as the 13th century and sit on the hillsides that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea.
A little over 150 miles across the Mediterranean Coast lies Monte Carlo, which also sits on the hillside over-looking the same sea. But that is where the similarity ends. Monte Carlo fashions itself with the very best that money can buy, while Cinque Terre takes great joy in the simple life. Colorful houses seem to hang on the cliffs. Local churches sound their daily chime. And the land is terrace farmed for food. Surrounding these five villages is an infinite mosaic of vineyards, olive and lemon groves, and fruited trees. These agricultural plots seem to hang onto the sheer cliffs above the sea. And from these marvelous fields, we receive tangy local wines such as Sciacchetra, purely extracted olive oils, and delightful herbed pesto.

The agriculture is of main concern here in Cinque Terre. All of the 5 towns and other rural villages are tied to each other in their quest to keep local farming alive. The towns people, like their forefathers, preserve the terraced farms as a means of income and property stability. While some of the farmland has been abandoned and is scrub, most have been passed on from generation-to-generation. They farm mostly wine grapes, olives, pears, and herbs. Each family plot is divided by old, dry-rock, stonewalls, built hundreds of years ago.

We visited an Olive Oil mill that housed both old and new technology. The old is powered by a water wheel at the foot of a water fall, which spins two large stone wheels one of which presses the olives. Then heat is applied to separate out the water and the extra virgin olive oil. The new technology accomplished the same task with an electric press.
In old days these terraces were very difficult to access, to plant, fertilize and harvest. Now they have a monorail with a small-motorized cart that can take whatever they need up and down the mountain to their plots.

Today, the area is sought by tourists from all countries. We were told that there are 800-1000 residents here who mingle quite well with the two million annual tourists.

On our first night here and as we walked the streets of Riomaggiore after dinner, we heard music in the distance. We were drawn towards the drumming of the Alleluya Band from Malawi Africa, who were singing and dancing for the village of Riomagiorrie. No less than 15 singers and dancers, who were wildly dressed in multi-colored costumes, were gyrating to a rhythmic, African beat. The local Catholic Church sponsored the event for all of the towns residents to enjoy. The audience was captivated. What a treat!!

Cinque Terre (5 lands) consists of 5 tiny villages sitting on the bluffs over the bays on the Northwest coast of Italy.
Monterosso al Mare is the most western of the 5 towns and the closest to being a classic beach town of the Italian Riviera. Vernazza, and Corniglia are just a few kilometers down the coastline. The later is different from the others because it is situated on a plateau, over 300 feet above sea level, while the others lie next to the Sea. And Manarola and Riomaggiore lie on the eastern end. All of the villages are linked by charming cobblestone pathways that make home to local musicians. One can have a quiet seaside stroll while listening to melodic accordion music. But be prepared to take in a few sets of stairways, as each village is scattered with scenic steps that reach high into the mountains. It seems that every street, alleyway, passageway is a long stairway to somewhere. Who knows how many outside stairways exist in these 5 villages!!

These five communities discourage auto traffic to preserve the tradition and ecological impact of the area – so they are best reached by train. It has now become a World Heritage Site and a UNESCO National Park. In fact, certain parts of the nearby sea are part of the National Park system as well. And it is the preservation of this area that makes for some clear water scuba diving and snorkeling.
The water is temperate and refreshing while keeping a swimmer bouyant and tireless.
But it is the view from the boat back to the towns that is truly breathtaking. If you don’t want to plunge into the sea, there is plenty of kayaking, canoeing, and beach time to fill your day. And for those preferring the countryside, you may go horseback riding, or rent a mountain bicycle, or hike almost 100 miles of trails. There are plenty of activities for all families here in Cinque Terra.

If you want to have your kids interact with a culture rich in history, this is the place for you and your family. In this town of Riomaggiore which is almost all hills, there is one flat Piazza, where all the kids of the village gather daily to skateboard and ride their bikes. On the walkways, pictorial photographs recall a time when nearly 1000 hectors of land was cultivated for farming. Scenes of harvest are murals of the landscapes, with Italian locals briskly carrying baskets of grapes on top of their heads. By taking a walk into the vineyards, one may recall such a time.

The main street is doted with tiny restaurants (capacity of 20-25), a few souvenir shops, and several grocery stores. We are talking tiny stores with fresh fruits and vegetables out front, and a bakery and meat counter inside. You wont find much in the way of packaged food here.

· Visit the terraced farms and learn how farmers worked hundreds of years ago
· On the Sea: snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, swimming and even surfing
· Hiking: nearly 100 miles of hiking trails cris-cross the area. These trails can be explored on horseback and mountain bike as well

If you go:
Fly to Pisa Italy and take the train to Cinque Terre about 1-½ hours or fly to Genova and take the train. You can drive there but once you arrive your car will be useless.
More information:
More: don’t bother with a car and don’t show up in high season without a room reservation. Rooms (mostly small apartments)
Range from 80-$125.00 per night.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monaco Golf club

Monaco Golf club

When the assistant golf pro, who lives only 30 miles away, in Nice, France, was scheduling an interview to work at The Monaco Golf Club, he asked the manager; “A golf course in Monaco? How do I find it?” And that was our first challenge of the day; finding the course.

Monaco’s sole golf course lays 3000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea, yet only a couple of miles away from the center of town. Narrow switch-back roads ascend dramatically from the seaside to a cliff-hanging locale at the top of Mont Agel approximately 8 driving miles away from the center of Monte Carlo. The golf course is technically in France, but it is owned and operated by the Principality of Monaco. It is the sole golf course in the area and boasts Prince Ranier and the royal family among its famous patrons. There are 500 members in all.

The Monaco Golf Club will celebrate its 100-year anniversary next year, and it is truly a wonder how this course was carved into the mountain in 1911. And only a few changes have been made to its original design by a committee of members.

The front 9 boasts panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. Standing on the 5th tee box, one can see Italy in one direction and France in other. And, on a clear day, the views reach Cannes, nearly 50 miles away. Today, I am able to span the entire city of Monte Carlo, some 3000 feet below, with its yacht filled harbor and meandering coastline.There may not be another course in the world where you can see three separate countries on one tee box.

It is 8:00 AM and birds are singing. The grass is covered with dew, and the sun is playing hide and seek behind the mountain, creating exotic, long, shadows from the mountain peaks. Taking in account the severe elevation changes and the deep shadows, a golfer must carefully examine the depth and width of each hole. A golf shot 20 yards into the rough may well send your ball into a different country!
Before you finish the first half of the course, you will have mastered playing the fairways for a convenient roll, sacrificed distance for accuracy, and used a high-lofted wedge onto the many smaller greens. And be sure to calculate your endurance, since most players choose to walk the course.

Be prepared to hold onto your chariot on the back 9 holes, as hole number 12 plunges down the mountain towards the cup. And as you meander back up the remaining 6 golf holes with relative ease, remember to take in the enchanting cliffside villages on hole number 14,15, and 16. Bowled fairways and strategically placed bunkers will probably save you from rolling off the course. And you may even thank a bunker or two. But for the average golfer, an errant shot may be trapped by the heavy brush and hedges that frame the holes.
If you have a fear of heights, hole #16 will sure to send you packing. The green is cloaked in an amphitheatre of rock that hangs cliffside. The visual splendor of this course brings to mind a German word that I have recently learned: Augenschmaus. It means “a feast for the eyes”. And the Monaco Golf Club is certainly one such feast.

If you go:
Length 6341 yards par 71
Cost: 120 euros weekdays and 150 weekends

Goodbye Salzburg Hello adventure travel

Auf Vidersehen Salzburg
Hello adventure travel

We are leaving Salzburg via train to Milan and then plan to pick up a rental car and drive to Monte Carlo. I bought the train ticket 2 days ago and was told “on Thus and Fri there is a train strike in Italy, so go to Innsbruck on Fri, stay overnight and continue on, Sat morning. When we got to the train station we were told, “change in plans! Now travel to Innsbruck, change for Brenner (a boarder town) and take a bus to Verona and a train from there will continue to Milan.”

Somehow all that worked, and as unexpected and unpleasant as it was changing to the busses with a train full of people, the bus ride through the Alps to Verona was beautiful and we actually loved it. It turns out the continuing train to Milan is a German train, leasing track space from Italy, and our conductor was American born (in Orange County) and living in Innsbruck for the past 18 years. We left ½ hour late but we got to Milan and he actually found us a room at the hotel he stays at.
The next day was another story. Rental cars are sold out in Milan, so we set up a car rental in Genova, 90 miles past Milan and on the Mediterranean Sea. Took a cab to Milan Central Train station to get our train to Genova. Remember that I told you about the train strike? Well, 12 hours ago it was over, and the train station is packed with huge lines everywhere. We were in line to buy our ticket from a machine and a very nice guy helped us. The line to purchase a ticket from a human ticket agent was at least an hour long.

Got a ticket for a noon train, a regional train with no AC and very dirty train cars… I mean dirty. Boarded 20 minutes before departure, the train is almost completely full, and a conductor comes on and announces in Italian “this train is cancelled and is not going anywhere”. We did not know what to do, got off and we were told get on the train on the next track and take it to another of the Milan train stations and change for Genova. We took that train on faith, hoping that what we were being told in English was accurate Hundreds of us got off and we were directed to track 1.
We asked the conductor “is this train going to Genova?” He never looked up “no” is all he mumbled.!!, But someone else informed us its going to _______ and you can change there for Genova. We took that on faith and hoped on this dirty, regional hot train.
“Welcome to Italy” our seat mate told us, “this is how our train system operates on a regular basis”. As you can imagine it’s still crowded with people trying to get to Genova.

Got to this intermediate stop, waited an hour and, low and behold, a train for Genova showed up. It was full, but we all got on anyway filling the aisles with bags and people and an hour later we got to Genova.Most of us were standing, but I managed to sit between cars on the step to get on and off the train.

Throughout all of this we never saw a conductor on the train and were never asked for a ticket. Hoped in a taxi to get our rental car at the airport. “I hope I never see an Italian train again as long as I live” said Annie and I agree!!!
We had a rental car reservation with Dollar, but guess what??? There is no Dollar counter at the airport, what a day. We went to all the counters and finally Avis said, “I have one car left” So we were off. Its approx 90 miles to Monte Carlo and there are two ways “the toll road and the beach road. We ended up on the beach road through 20-30 miles of the Italian Riviera. Windy, beautiful, packed with cars and scooters and motorcycles, both driving and parked in every imaginable spot. It was a challenging, slow drive, but after an hour of that we found the toll way. I see why it’s a toll way!! It is bridges connected to tunnels and not short tunnels and very high long bridges. Whoever figured out how to get a highway here was truly an engineering genius. We finally got to Sam Remo where we found a hotel, and a fell fast asleep. What a day.

Up at 8 am and on the road at 9:00 AM. Up the beach road< which at 9:00 AM on a Sunday is not nearly as crowded. 10 miles of that and 10 miles of toll road and we are in Monaco.

Monaco is a principality, completely surrounded by France and otherwise its own government. A few thousand live here permanently and several thousand call it home (I am guessing tax purposes has something to do with it). The municipality of Monaco consists of 6 communities one of which is Monte Carlo. From this day forward when I think of Monte Carlo I will think of the show “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” We are staying at the Hermitage Hotel across from the Casino and a cheap room is 700 euros per night. Don’t even ask about the cost of restaurants. Condo’s which are everywhere start at ½ million for a studio and go up from there. We saw several advertised for 5-10 million.
If you are not staying at one of the hotels that is owned by the principality, a beach chair at their private beach cost 100 euros and if you want to rent one of their cabanas it could cost you 300-400 euros per day. All of the taxis are Mercedes, the cars parked in front of the casino are Aston Martins, Ferraris, Bentleys, etc. making a Porsche look cheap
Did I mention the port yet? 80-foot yachts look like bathtub toys compared to some of the yachts here. And every kind of high-end shop you can imagine is here.

All that said, it is a fascinating place to visit and a beautiful community sitting on a bluff overlooking the Med.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Trains and Boats and Planes

Trains and Boats and Planes

That is how the song goes but we took every form of trans I can think of today -- Metro and bus to the airport, plane to Memingen, bus to Munich and Train to Salzburg. We have been told that they have had a couple weeks of straight rain. Good thing we missed all that. Found our new apartment in the walking section of the city and fell fast asleep.

This is a great walking city, like Barcelona, and we walked and saw plenty. But tonight we went to see the Salzburg Marionette Theatre, performing the Sound of Music. Imangine choosing that piece in Salzburg. (we did however learn that the Sound of Music is the 3rd most seen movie in history behind GONE WITH THE WIND and CASABLANCA. This Marionette Theatre is 97 years old. I was overwhelmed and the show was fabulous… As an encore they deploy a mirror so you can see the puppeteers working their magic. A big surprise…

Last night we found a bridge club and played bridge—Can you say hearts,clubs,diamonds, spades in German? I can now… we met some great people there whom we will get to know.

We have made a couple friends thru “expat blog” someone from Ireland and someone named David from Chi who works here. We spent the afternoon with David and went to Hohen Salzburg the fortress high above the city. Quite a hike and a beautiful old place.

Our small apartment is on Linzergasse and last week Linzergassefest was in full swing, just outside of our window. 5 bands food, beer and sales from all the shops, just like every street festival you would expect.

I was surprised to learn that Salzburg is only 150,000 people. I guess because of the festivals, and its notoriety from the movie and the home of Mozart, people group it in conversations with the major cities of Europe.

I finally convinced someone at the Mozarteum to let me use a practice room to play piano. The number of pianos in this city is too numerous to even cotemplate but so are people here studying piano and voice as well (they need piano accompaniment). I feel like I am playing pianos, where great piano players may have preceded me. Yesterday I even got a Boesendorfer, originally an Austrian company.

We have also found a couple swimming pools where we go for exercise. We walk to the pool and swim laps.
Yesterday we went on the Salt Mine tour. It is approx 20-25 miles from Salzburg and its no coincidence that the Salz in Salzburg means salt. It was a beautiful bus ride, near Bertchesgarden. We were issued protective clothing to wear and walked to a little railroad that takes you into the tunnel, deep in the mountain. The mine is at a constant 55 degrees. We walked from our little train and then, as the miners did years ago took a slide down approx 100 feet. It was a riot.

Hundreds of years ago they mined the salt with picks and axes. Then they discovered a way to inject water into it and let it leach out into a lake that creates a 27% solution which is piped out of the mine and dried and taken to market.

Today we toured the catacombs of Salzburg, dug out of the mountainside this is where the monks prayed years ago.
Then we wandered across a couple beautiful churches and finally toured the Festspiel halls. This is the center of the Mozart festival that takes place later this month.
Since I made my living renting theatres all my life this was a very interesting tour for me. There are 3 theatres, 1400, 1600 and 2200 seats. The 1600 has a retractable roof and when the opera director wants it open, it's open, if the director wants it closed, it's closed. It turns out, however, that the roof is not strong enough to hold the winter snow, so, in winter, they open it up, retract the seats and cover everything in plastic for the season.

We were told the large theatre has the largest stage in the world at over 350 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. I can’t imagine that it is bigger than the met opera stage but google showed me that it truly is, by a few feet each way. Mozart festival, which does not begin for another 3 weeks, is 95% sold out. Cheap tickets are $ 50-60 and top tickets go for over $500 a seat.

We met two wonderful women at bridge club and the other night they invited us to one of their homes for dinner and bridge. This is what I was hoping for in getting integrated into the community. We had a great time and we are getting together again Monday and on Thurs I am playing golf with her son.

I am getting to be a regular in the practice rooms at the Mozarteum and I just love going there.

Wally (a female), the woman we met at bridge who invited us to dinner, introduced us to Laurie and Gene. They also play bridge and he is a very successful doctor and quite an avid golfer, he has golfed all over the world. We were at their house for dinner last night. In high school Gene was a foreign exchange student in Denver and both of them speak perfect English and they are very willing to help us in our learning. So I increased my German vocabulary today.

We finally started doing the tourist things. We bought the Salzburg Card, for which you pay by the day and it gives you free admission to the attractions. We visited the house where Mozart lived and learned of this child prodigies story. He was already a superstar at 6 years old, pushed by his “stage dad” and died at age 36, no one knows the cause of death and even more importantly noone knows where he is buried, only in Vienna, seems he died a pauper and went to a common mans cemetery.
Then we went to visit Schloss Helbroon which has magnificent grounds. It turns out the Prince who built the castle was quite the practical joker. He had fountain features through out the property and through them he would have his guests squirted with water. One example, he had an outdoor wine table for 8, When the guests got tipsy, he would turn on his fountain so it not only sprinkled on the guests but the cement seats they were sitting on shot up a stream of water to soak everyone’s pants, except his own chair, of course

Finally we went to the cable car at Unterberg. About 6-10 miles out of the city. This cable car rises to almost 7000 feet and the panorama views are breathtaking. Worth every minute.
Our last day in Salzburg today and Laurie and Oegen invited us to play gof at Altantann, the first Jack Nicklaus golf course designed in Europe. Gene had a match so Annie and I played with Laurie and Marcos, their son who is a banker. Beautiful day, beautiful course. I am gonna miss it here. Auf Viedersehen, Salzburg


We are in
Barcelona at the Caledonian Hotel in the heart of the city.

This is a great walking city and the Ramblas is full of people. Shops and restaurants galore and several street performers on every block--- some of them have come up with fabulous costumes and characters.

We flew on Ryan Air, which is cheap, not great customer service but cheap. The seats don’t recline and the flight attendants are up and down the aisle selling you food drink and even lottery tickets. Its non stop, but its cheap. I think Annie and I paid about $70 for both tickets from Malaga to Girona (Girona is a secondary airport for Barcelona approx 60 miles from city center.

Today we walked thru the park, came a cross a very big Harley Davidson rally (its funny to see a rally in Barcelona based on a company based in Wisconsin. Then we visited the Joan Miro museum. He lived here in Barcelona and this is the largest collection of his work anywhere.

We went on a harbor cruise and saw Barcelona from the water then we went to the Picasso Museum and saw a large retrospective of his work. He was born in Malaga, but spent a substantial part of his life here in Barcelona. We must have walked 5 hours today.

Attention Harley Lovers
Annie and I were trying to figure out why so many hotels were sold out when we were looking for a room in Barcelona. This morning the reason went right by our hotel window. The Harley Days Barcelona 2010 is here this weekend. The final event is the flag parade and I am sure over 10,000 motorcycles just went past our little balcony . What a sight. The last one was in 2008 and over 100,000 people visited the city for that one. I don’t know how many people go to Sturgis, but if this isn’t bigger, this cant be far behind. WOW!!!

Today we took the .bus tour of Barcelona. This is a wonderful,clean cosmopolitan city and I could see living here. We saw several bldgs designed by Gaudi which are big tourist attractions. But there are also 4 projects here by Jean Nouvel, who designed the Guthrie Theatre in Mpls.
He has 2 park projects here and 2 bldgs.
One is definitely an icon of Barcelona—all glass shaped like a very tall cucumber with lights that change color in the night.
This man will make an impact on this city.

This eve we went to see Barcelona Opera Flamenc. This is a combination I never heard of before but there are a couple famous opera composers from Spain. It was a combination of Arias, flamenco music and dancing. Quite the interesting evening

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Villa Padierna Marbella Spain

Fly to Malaga on the Costa del Sol in Spain, then get yourself to Villa Padiernain Marbella. When you walk in the door you will think you are walking into an Italian Villa. Not a hotel, more like someone’s private home, complete with tapestries, artwork and white-marbled sculptures. Then you are greeted by one of many Ritz Carlton employees who seem as glad to see you as though you are an old friend.
This a small hotel compared to the others I have visited this week. The hotel is sold out tonight and to look through the lobby you would think it was nearly empty.
And that’s the beauty of this courtyard style design; public, yet private.

There are 131 rooms and twelve of them are marvelous villas with private entrances. One of these has its own private pool fit for visiting Royals. Even the Saudi Royal Family comes here to book all of the 12 villas. And the going rate is well over a thousand of dollars per night.

I learned today that on, Villa Padierna is rated as the number one hotel in Spain and 28th in the world. In fact, even the hotels’ chef was recently voted best chef in Marbella. I concur with this assessment having eaten a luscious T-Bone steak dinner with seasoned potatoes and crisp watercress and béarnaise. Followed the next night by a Risotto like I have never tasted before.

The Golf Courses
I came here specifically to play golf, and they have two wonderfully challenging golf courses; the Flamingos Course, and the Alferini Course.

Los Flamingos is a par 71 that plays approximately 6300 yards from the tips, but everything here is measured in meters including the distance markers in the fairways, so you have to calculate an additional ten percent to account for the difference into yards. Once you get that down, there is club differential could change all that on this beautiful mountain course with lots of elevation changes and sweeping vistas, with the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

We teed off on the Flamingos Course immediately after check-in since the driving range was not open.
Most of the fairways have ample driving room and provide a generous roll. Only a few such as number 9 and number 10 give little wiggle-room for a well-hit drive.
The greens are easy to read and are sure to hold your ball on line.
The tee box at hole number 14 is the highest spot on the course with panoramic views of the Costa del Sol and Marbella below. And it gives a player a chance to take in some fresh mountain air rolling up from the Mediterranean Sea. Los Flamingos is surrounded by hundreds of condo developments to take in its generous beauty. The course will host the Women’s’ Spanish Open for the next 3 years.

Adjacent to the Los Flamingos Golf Club is the Alferini Course. And one may say that it is completely opposite in nature to its neighbor.
Built into the highland valley, the Alferini Golf Course delights in solitude and splendor. There is no development, in view, rather, sweeping pastoral fairways and valley walls that frame the beauty in each hole.
The opening fairways sport large meandering gorges that dissect the pathways towards the distant greens. And the player is immediately put on guard to place each shot strategically into segments when calculating their par strokes. Number 3, the first par 3 on the course may have the largest green I have ever seen. It looks like a huge target, until you start thinking about mile long putts.

Midway through the front nine we began our assent into the mountain gorges and were rewarded with ample Bermuda grasses and a teasingly easy par 4 on hole number 6.
But this slight break in challenge is only temporary since it is followed by a nearly 510-yard par 5, a 175-yard par 3 (with a green protected entirely by a large man-made lake), and a 410-yard par 4.
The back nine brings the golfer into a meadowland of mountain grasses and stone-lined cliffs. Back to back par 5’s test your endurance while giving you the opportunity to unleash the “John Daly” within you. And you are reminded why you ever took up this game in the first place.
Midway through the back nine, with its ups and downs, you realize why nobody EVER walks this course! Every player needs all of their strength to blast off each and every shot on this 7000-yard course. The finishing holes fully challenge each player with a tempting par-3 green and a skinny 18th hole fairway for a last chance to lower your score. And while you may not like the total tally, you will definitely want to play this course again.

If you go

Delta airlines flys non-stop from the U.S to Malaga

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Abama Golf & Spa Resort Canary Islands Spain

The Abama Resort is on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands are part of Spain, but are actually located approximately two hundred miles off the coast of Morocco, in the Atlantic Ocean.
This is a very large and luxurious resort, with 476 suites and private casitas. It resembles a Turkish fortress with domed spires and large courtyards housing large tropical ponds complete with rainbow colored coy.
The spa has all of the normal spa treatments, but it has a unique hydro-center that plunges you into a sea of water sensations. It is beyond anything I have ever experienced.
We put on our bathing suits in the changing rooms and entered the dewy center. First up was the “world of showers” with three distinct full body showers. One of these was a large wooden bucket filed with cold water for dousing. Additional showers sprayed fine mists and messaging pellets of water.
The area is complete with a range of steam rooms. One is a herbal steam with healing scents. Another is a bath designed after a Turkish hammam beautifully tiled in silver and green mosaics.
There is also a snow cabin and a cold plunge bath, to activate the circulation. Of course, there is also the super-hot African sauna to cleanse all of your pores.
In the center of the room there is a whirlpool to beat all whirlpools. It had 5 separate sections, each concentrating the water pressure on different parts of your body; lower back, shoulders, neck and even a tube of hard running warm water that can make any knot in your body melt away. The entire hydro-therapeutic experience indulges all of your senses and ultimately leaves you tension free.
Abama, which sits on a bluff above the Atlantic Ocean, has multiple restaurants and seven swimming pools. There is a funicular that takes you down to the main beach where there are several “ocean pools” built into the seaside. The waves naturally bring fresh water into these pools nestled among the rocks. T
hey have almost ideal weather year round here with the temperatures varying only six-ten degrees. Last week we were fortunate to miss a windstorm that arrives a few times a year with intense heat and strong winds. And these storms from the Sahara desert of Africa bring lots of sand in its path. Surely, it is not a good time to be here.

Breakfast has everything you can think of to offer…. Enough said!!!
It is best to save your appetite for one of the gourmet eateries such as El Mirador where you can marvel at the technique of salt-fish cookery.
Over half of Abama guests are families with kids. They have a very active kids club and in their busy seasons (Easter Christmas and August) the club can have 50 to 60 kids doing activities each day. .

Then there is the golf
This golf course was designed by Dave Thomas, who is best known for his design of the Belfry Golf Course in Ireland. It sits on the south face of the Teide Volcana, which is the highest point in Spain. This is a mountain course on a tropical Isle and boasts 22 lakes, streams and waterfalls, and thousands of palm trees. There are views of the Atlantic Ocean looming in every direction. But it is the dramatic elevation changes that define the Abama course.
The first fairway is extremely up hill and it is better if you shoot a shot directly into the rough to prevent your ball from back-sliding to the tee. The next holes continue to climb higher until the course eventually flattens out. From a design point of view, the Par-5’s and Par-3s are the most interesting. On the downhill holes, it’s a thrill to watch your ball hang in the sky with the Atlantic Ocean in the background for several seconds.
Number 5 is probably the weakest hole on the course a short par 4 with a blind second shot to the green.
The greens roll true but with plenty of movement and some are two tiered. The rolling greens are a big part of the challenge here. And one must keep an eye out for the direction of the ocean since it is likely to pull your putt to the sea.
They say this course is walkable but the hills will take it out of you if you are not fit.
The carts have GPS which you can change from meters to yards so you can tell your distances but it is always a club or two different for the elevation changes. There is plenty of bottled water and bananas available everywhere. We used the Taylor made rental clubs and they were the current models and in outstanding condition.

There are many flights here from all over Europe, especially London . Frankfurt, Barcelona and Madrid. There is at least one regular direct flight from the U.S. on Air Europa.

If you go

Monday, June 14, 2010

Life Aboard the Scotish Highlander

European Waterways operates river barge cruses throughout Europe. One of their unique destinations is the West Highlands of Scotland.

We flew to Glasgow and took an enchanting four-hour train ride to Fort William. We spent the night in the lovely Inverlochy Castle Hotel and boarded the barge for our six-day cruise onboard the sixty mile Caledonian Canal. Twenty-two of these miles is completely man- made, with 29 locks to adjust for the various water levels.

The Scottish Highlander is 117 feet long and, several years ago, it was converted into a luxury hotel barge with a capacity of 8 passengers. It travels on the canal at a maximum speed of 7 miles per hour. You can ride, get off and walk, or bike along its towpath and be as active or relaxed as you wish.
The fees are all inclusive: including 3 gourmet meals a day with unlimited wine and cocktails and all the entrance tickets to all the activities. There is a crew of 4 (captain, cook, tour guide, and server) for 8 passengers (however there are only 6 on our trip).
Our travel mates are very interesting; one couple, Andrew and Susan, are from London. He is an author, having written a couple of travel books and she is an interpreter from English to German. The other couple, Steve and Jill, are from Melbourne, Australia. He is a retired Hydrologist who ran a very large consulting company working in the area of water management for governments and mining companies worldwide. They have traveled the world, and it is most interesting to learn so much about water as I have in these few days. Every meal brings stimulating conversation.
The Highlands of Scotland are breathtaking, as I am sure you have seen in many films— Most recently, you may have seen the Steam Train in the Harry Potter film—very nearby.

We boarded the boat at 4:00 P.M. after a safety briefing from the Captain and a quick overview of the coming days. We were escorted to our cabins to un-pack and get moved in for the next 6 days. Our cabin has a full bath, king size bed and plenty of storage for our luggage. But not much passing room. So it’s a bit cozy.

This was followed by a tasty dinner of Risotto Appetizer, Roasted Duck, Roasted Root Vegetables, and Hearty Crusted Bread. A fine selection of regional wines, and tortes or pie follow, with a finishing round of local cheeses and fruit to cap off a simply splendid meal. If this is what the food is going to be like on this trip--- its gonna be a gastronomical feast!

A colloquial breakfast was served at 8:00 A.M. with fresh slabs of Scottish Ham and eggs. At 9:15 we were off in a van to the valley of Glencoe, a lush and green valley of mountains and streams. This was followed by a detailed tour of the Ben Nevis Distillery, maker of single malt scotch whiskey. And by tours’ end, one may want to build a distillery right at home! At 2:00, we pulled away from the dock, headed up the canal, winding our way through glens of heather, rolling mountains, and ever changing cloud formations. Ft. William, and many other Highland towns, is loaded with B&B’s. It often seems that there is a local inn as often as every other home.
Our tour guide, Linda, took us to what she called “Fairy Glen” along a path hidden in the woods where locals have brought many items to create this little secret spot. Its’ primary charm is the fact that this is a secret place that few discover. “Our little secret” if you will. You will not see any thing about this enchanting spot in the tour books, and even if you parked 100 yards away, you still may not find it.
Imagine walking through the woods and coming onto a group of tiny dollhouses. That is not what is here, but that image will give you a taste of what we experienced.
It was probably started by a group of kids from a nearby town, who walked into the woods and left a group of stuffed animals among the trees. Then some other kids not only discovered it but added to it, perhaps a few yards down the path, until you now have a couple hundred yards of pathway decorated with all these little angelic collections. I would describe it in more detail if I could but that would spoil the fun of the discovery.

As things clouded up and a bit of rain appeared, our plan for the day changed. The boat was supposed to move in the afternoon but we moved in the morning in stead. In the afternoon we visited a woolen mill chuck-loaded with colorful Scottish plaids, and then took a gondola ride up the Ben Nevis Mountain.
This gondola is used for the ski area in the winter but last week it was the transportation for the World Cup Downhill Mountain Biking Championships. The views from 2000 feet up are panoramic and spectacular, even as the clouds rolled in and out taking our view from panoramic to almost white-out.

We set sail in the morning, moved through another set of locks and arrived in Ft. Augustus around 10:00 AM. Ft. Augustus is a charming little town hugging the side of the Loch Ness. Its’ streets are lined with stone covered cottages and local inns with flower pots hanging on almost every porch. However, no monster sightings as of yet, but it’s early.
In the afternoon we took a beautiful one-hour drive to the Eilean Donan Castle. Eilean (pronounced Ellen) is Gaelic for island and Bishop Donan was one of the early settlers of the area. Hence the name.
This castle was built in the early 1300’s. It was destroyed a couple hundred years later, then rebuilt and destroyed a second time. Finally, in the 1930’s it was restored to its current glory. For all those years it has been in the MacRae family and continues to be today. There is a private apartment that the MacRae family uses from time to time and the banquet hall is available to rent for weddings.
This is probably the most photographed castle in all of Scotland and has been a location for several movies, including one James Bond film. It is furnished so you can see what life was like in those times. The kitchen is redone to a point that you get a very clear picture of what food preparation was like back then. Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Scotland.

Its takes almost an hour to go through the four locks that take us 40 feet down to the level of Loch Ness. After lunch, we drove one-half hour to Urquhart Castle. This sits on the bank of Loch Ness and was built in the 1300’s it has been destroyed a couple times, the last time by its own inhabitants. It seems the area was being overtaken and they destroyed it so that the conquering enemy could not use it as a strong hold. Unlike Eilean Donan, It still sits in ruin to this day. But the gigantic trebouchet that sits on the front lawn is sure to delight every child with an imagination.
Returning to the barge, we visited a thrashing waterfall in Invermoriston.
Our trip is coming to a close. We cruised up the Loch Ness, but still no sightings of the Monster. This is the deepest Loch in the Highlands at nearly 1,000 feet, so there is plenty of room for a monster to hide. This afternoon we visited the 14th century Cawdor Castle famously associated with Macbeth. However this castle was built over 200 years after Macbeth reigned, but the castle owners let the association live in our minds. Unlike the other castles, this one is still inhabited. The dwellers move out each year during tourist season. The gardens here are ripe with bloom and cared for by eight full time gardeners. There is even a maze of holly in the garden. Spectacular! And local residents come to the castle in their own vintage costumes to play around with all of the visitors. It’s great fun to pretend you are a fighting soldier for a Scottish clan.
I’ve made an interesting observation throughout the area: I do not think we have seen a billboard since we arrived.
Motorcycles and bicycles leisurely roam along the windy, narrow roadways.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Highlands of Scotland

Take the train from Glasgow Queen Street station to Ft. William, in the West Highlands and you will be in for a truely scenic trip. We boarded the train at 8:20 AM and arrived in Ft William around noon. Soon we were riding along the "bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. But with the scenery of the ride into the Highlands, we were in no hurry for it to end. Alec and Richard, two local Scotsmen, were taking the trip one hour beyond our stop for the day and returning home. They were doing it mostly for the train ride. So were several other people who surrounded us in our car, several of whom had brought an abundance of sausage and ale. It was like a rolling party. Several people on the train were on their way to a hiking trip on “The West Highland Way” which is a 90 miles trek from Glasgow to Ft William. Many choose smaller portions of the hike as well.

Inverlochy Castle Hotel in Ft. William

We are staying here for one night before our departure on a six day barge cruise in the north of Scotland on the Scottish Highlander, but I wish we were staying here longer. It sits on the river Lochy and was built in 1873. Many notables have stayed here including Jefferson Davis (yes the one who was head of the confederacy in the U.S.), and numerous Hollywood celebrities, including Justin Timberlake, Charlene Tilton, from Dallas fame, not to mention the star of the hugely famous Harry Potter film.

This place is luxury personified. Even the hotel car is a Rolls Royce. These rooms are fit for a queen, as they were once fit for Queen Victoria, who stayed here in 1873. Brocaided curtains, antique floral wallpaper, and masterful artwork decorate every nook and crannie. It’s just like you would expect a castle to be except it also has all of the modern amenities; flat screen TV, state of the art in-room stereo and wireless wi-fi. Other than that it takes you back in time with 17 luscious suites. The names include; the Kings Suite,the Queens Suite etc.
get more information at:
1-888-424-0106 (toll free from the U.S.)

Penha Longa golf resort Sintra Portugal

The Penha Longa Resort is located 30 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal, in a beautiful city called Sintra. Penha Longa means “long rock” in English and was originally built in 1357 as a Monastery. During the sixteenth century it became the summer residence of Portugal’s’ Royal family. And today it is the site of a luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel and spa.
The hotel, with its 194 guest rooms, was built next door 17 years ago. Ritz-Carlton has made a substantial investment in the renovation of the Monastery and has used the charming aspects of the medieval past for modern day wedding and conventions alike. Even its splendid, marble church has been preserved with unequaled beauty. The monastery itself has retained colorful ceramic tiles, large wooden doors, spacious gardens, vaulted ceilings, and more. It is truly a dream locale for any bride.
The resort itself has two golf courses. One is a 9-hole course called “The Monastery.” The other is a championship course called “The Atlantic”, which is regularly rated in the top 40 in Europe and was designed by renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. In fact, the course was recently renovated to the tune of two million dollars.
The Atlantic Course is sculpted into the high hills of Sintra. One can see for miles and even onto the Atlantic Ocean in spots. The elevation changes are what bring drama and beauty to this golf course.

The fescue fairways are a generous surfacing that seem to hold a rolling ball. They are lined with shading pine trees and occasional water ponds. But the most unique feature is the ancient aqua-duct and sentry look-out post framing the 6th green. These 14th century stone walls may even tempt you to pull out your putter and pretend it’s a sword….ChiChi Rodriguez style. VIVA
The bent grass greens run very true, Often, you will find them elevated and blind,. And well protected by bunkers. So accurate chip shots are a must. A general avoidance of the deep sand traps will surely lighten your scorecard. The back 9 is much more interesting the front, and the two finishing, downhill holes, with the Resort in the background, are a wonderful completion to a beautiful golf course.
The Portugal Open is being played here next week.. so watch for it on TV.
The Monastery course is a 9-hole par 35 course that is both challenging and a fun to play. It is not in the pristine shape of the Atlantic but excellent greens that roll true. The finishing hole #9 a downhill par 4 can rival many finishing holes in all of golf. A drive hangs in the air in such a way it would make an NFL punter proud.

Both courses are fescue and the fescue rough is much more challenging than normal U.S. rough. Thin in parts and thick and knurly in other parts. It’s easy to loose balls in some of the spots.

Distance is a challenge for us Americans too. There are markers for 200,150,100 but its in meters not yards. It would improve if there were more accurate yardage markers on the courses. Even with that minor drawback—I recommend you come and try it

Cuisine is always front and center at Ritz-Carlton. And the five international restaurants will satisfy every palate. The assiMassa with its authentic Portuguese flavors, Midori a spectacular, traditional Japanese restaurant, and the ultra contemporary Hole-In-One bar in the clubhouse all have delicious selections and provide spectacular, pastoral views. One should not miss the Butterfish Entrée with Black Truffles or the sporty Club Sandwich with Cracked Egg in two of these locations.

Next door, also housed in a 14th century bldg, is the six senses spa. They offer all the traditional spa services but in quite a unique setting. There are contemporary furnishings combined with antiques in this beautiful historic bldg. A very unique place for a spa visit.

Kids Club at Penha Longa

Ritz Carlton at Penha Longa resort has a kid clubs that will make you want to bring your kids with you on vacation to this luxury resort.
You can put your kids in there for part of or all of a day including evening if you wish. They have 3 activities per day; morning, afternoon, and evening. Each day is different but includes things such as Pastry Arts, golf lessons, visit the horse paddock, gardening, creating puppet shows and even nighttime star and moon observation. It is so popular that kids even ask their parents to bring them back year after year. It’s very affordable. This is a growing commitment at Ritz-Carlton resorts (not all hotels) as they grow their commitment to becoming a destination for the whole family

If you go
Penha Longa Hotel, Spa and Resort
Sintra Portugal .
Greens fees for the Monastery 30 euros
Greens fees for Atlantic approx 90 euros but discounts from travel packagers should be easy to find.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Volvos new saftey braking system

I never write about automobiles but I just participated in a demonstration that screams to be written about.

I am at Penha Longa resort near Lisbon and Volvo is hosting this years model introductions for auto journalists from all across Europe. I managed to get a demonstration ride showing their new auto-braking safety feature. It is called
Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection. I was blown away. It is a $2,000 option they are introducing this year on the S-60 and on all Volvos in the near future.

The average person takes 1.2 seconds to react to a danger and initiate an action to avoid it. A substantial distance can be traveled in that time causing a fatal accident. In this demonstration we drove at approx 25 MPH toward a mannequin. When the driver would still have his 1.2 seconds to react and take action, a warning light flashes in the windshield. If the driver did nothing, the brakes were automatically applied and we stopped several feet short of the mannequin. As we approached the mannequin I flinched and it appeared to me that we were much too close to avoid hitting him, but this system is amazing.
If that isn’t enough, it can detect “drowsy drivers,” when they change lanes without signaling and it sounds a warning, and also flashes a light when someone drives into your blind spot. This detection is good at all speeds.

I asked the engineer “ if every car in the world had this, by how much would traffic fatalities be reduced?” Their current estimate is 20%

Monday, May 31, 2010

A week in Portugal

For years, Annie and I have talked about renting a place in Europe for a few months to get a feel for “living in another culture” rather than visiting as a tourist. We were offered a wonderful rental deal for our home in Minneapolis for an entire year. And some would call this “an offer you just can’t refuse”. So we decided to stay 7 of those months in Phoenix and take off across the ocean for the rest of the year.

On May 25 we flew to Lisbon. We rented a small, one bedroom apartment in the Alfama district of Portugal’s’ capitol for five nights. Lisbon, like Rome, is built on seven hills. In 1755, Lisbon was devastated by an earthquake and the Alfama district is one of the few Lisbon neighborhoods that remains Medieval in nature. This neighborhood is made up of old, twisty, curvy, narrow, cobblestone streets, where stray dogs and feral cats roam the barrio. If there is one outdoor stairwell cutting through this neighborhood, there must be 100.
The culture of this area here has not caught up with 20th century America. Laundry hangs from every window, public telephones mark every corner, local grocers carry simple basics and only the seasonal fruit. Artists paint pictures and ceramic tiles in small groups.

Fada is the music that Lison is known for, and it is performed in the local cafes and restaurants.
Annie and I were lucky enough to stumble upon one such café last evening where all of the staff (waitress, cook, hostess alike) sang the Fada at full volume. Each song is accompanied by two guitars; one being a12 string Portuguese guitar. And the performers are sure to don a fringed shawl with a rose as they bellow out a song of love, passion and beauty. The Restaurant Viela d Alfalma, on Calcada de S. Vicente #26 is a treasure of neighborhood song-birds to be enjoyed with grilled sardines, a fist full of green olives, fried potatoes, mango pudding and sweet cherry wine.

This is a wonderful walking and public transportation city. The trams that run through Alfama and the Bario alto takes you everywhere you want to go. There is plenty to do here just in seeing the city. Bldgs from the 1300’s to bldgs of the 17 and 1800’s. This is a city with lots of history.
Yesterday we visited the Castle of Sao Georg

Today we took the train to Cassias and Estroil, suburban beach communities of Lisbon. Where Lisbon is a protected port on the mouth of a river these communities are directly on the Atlantic Ocean where the wealthy come to play. Its beautiful here and new, quite a contrast to the rest of Lisbon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Golf At Chaparral Pines

Our day began with a 70 mile drive up hwy 87 from Phoenix. We are climbing 4000 feet in elevation and winding through high sonoran desert with hundreds of Suguarros, followed by stacked boulders and finally reaching the Pine forest of Payson Az.

The Golf Club at Chaparral Pines is a bit of northern Minnesota dropped in Payson Arizona. It was opened in 1997 and designed by David Graham and Gary Panks. It was awarded best private modern design by Golf Digest the year it opened and is consistently ranked #12 in Arizona.

Chaparral Pines is private with an almost completely built out housing development in Payson AZ, just 75 miles north of Phx. It is open year round but its high season is May- Oct just the opposite of Phoenix. That is because it sits at over 5000 ft of altitude (Phx is 4000 feet lower) and in the summer days are 8-12 degrees cooler and the evenings are 20-30 degrees cooler-- You can sleep with the windows open and no AC. Quite the contrast to Phoenix, 70 miles away.

This course winds its way through the mountains, cutting its way through the pine forests of Payson. It has lots of elevation changes and rarely a flat lie or a flat hole. Today was very windy, calling for 2-3 club variations not to mention the club variations based on up-hill or downhill shots. I played with my friend Todd the dir. of golf at Blackstone CC here in AZ and we had a terrific time--- twice today (not just once) Todd drove the green on a par 4 (he 3 putted one and birdied the other)
One fascinating architectural feature is there are 5 par 5s and 5 par 3s which, to me, makes for a much more interesting design because usually signature holes tend to be par 5’s and par 3’s

There are lots of trees, rock outcroppings and water hazards on this course which makes accuracy a premium (a big challenge when its windy)
Number 4 is a par 3 over water with a creek running along the right side, flowing into a waterfall just right of the green. A fantastic hole.

This is Elk country and herds of them inhabit the area. Several of the greens, like # 4, have wire elk fences around them. Many of the greens have deep elk hoof marks from when they come through at dusk and dawn and this damages to the greens.
Hole #7 winds its way down the hill just like #13 at Augusta National, one of the more beautiful par-5’s on the course.

Scenic views are everywhere up here, some that sweep for miles but none better than the tee box at #12, where the yardage book says
“Enjoy the view, now turn around and face the hole” You can see the Mogollon rim stretch for miles.
Even the cart paths are notable because it had to take some imagination, the way they wind their way up and down these mountains. We had to cross many bridges over ravines and washes, so many that I lost count.

This must have taken some imagination to route this course through this terrain, and make no mistake about it its not an easy place There are 7 sets of tee boxes ranging from 7019 yards down to 5197
The tips are rated 73.4 and sloped at 142. That is up there.

There is Tennis, a fitness spa and a beautiful lodge-like clubhouse, and plenty more to do in the area, fabulous hiking thru the mountains
Picnics hunting,fishing and horseback riding are widely available. Payson is even home to the oldest continuous running rodeo in the nation which began in 1884.

For more information visit

Monday, May 10, 2010

Golf in Portugal

Portugal is quickly becoming a sought after golf destination, with all the great golf courses it has to offer and its wonderful weather.
Mostly they are the courses in the south of Portugal (Algrave) but the Lisbon area is a growing golf destination as well, not to mention the island of Madeira.
As the euro drops in value against the American Dollar, Portugal is becoming, more affordable and more appealing to Americans.

Penha Longa, a Ritz Carlton golf resort just outside of Lisbon, in Sintra, is one I am looking forward to playing on my trip there next month. They have 2 courses surrounded by majestic forests and jagged Sintra Mountains. The Atlantic course is designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. with wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean. I will post the details the first week of June

Mariott Praia D’el Rey Golf & Beach Resort about an hour north of Lisbon has an 18-hole par 72 golf course that looks wonderful and has a 5 star Marriott resort on property.

The Island of Madria just off the coast of Portugal has Santo da Serra golf club which has hosted the PGA European Tour for the Madeira Open and Palheiro Golf Club affords fine city views and views over the Atlantic coastline.
Robert Trent Jones Sr. is the credited architect of Santo da Serra golf club. It was built originally in 1937 and redone (quite substantially I think) in 1991 by Robert Trent Jones. But if you look at the credit on their website it says Robert Trent Jones Sr and Mother Nature. That alone says a lot. It is nestled in the mountains and overlooks the bay of Machico… No wonder the pros love to come here.
Palheiro Golf Club has magnificent views overlooking the town and bay and is set within the stunning 200-year-old Palheiro Estate.The 18-hole par 72 course was designed by Cabell Robinson and opened in 1993. The spectacular clubhouse sits in a bluff 1500 feet above the ocean with commanding ocean views. Casa Velha do Palheiro is an exquisite hotel situated right on the course. The best source of information for all of this is golf in Portugal

There are 3 commercial airports that service Portugal. Lisbon being the largest and most central. There is also Faro in the very south and Porto in the very north both of which have many inter-Europe flights of the discount airlines such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air. Of course there is an airport on the island of Madria as well
To find more information about golf in Portugal”:

For more information visit golf in Portugal

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Generation takes over the PGA Tour

The PGA tour showed us some fresh young faces this week. Rory Mcllroy, the Irish youngster just a few days short of his 21st birthday, not only won the Quail Hollow but blasted the course record by 2 shots on Sunday shooting a 10 under par 62… WOW. Tiger, was one month younger than that when he won his first PGA tour event. And on Friday Mcllory was one shot above the cut line. He almost didn’t make the cut.
Did I mention that Tiger missed the cut? If you tuned off your TV after Tiger got eliminated, you missed some great golf.

In addition to that Eighteen-year-old Ryo Ishikawa from Japan shot a world record single round low score of 58 (12 under par) for a comeback win on the last day of the Crowns professional tournament in Japan. This kid was causing a stir at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine last fall and now he is causing a stir in the golfing world again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

La Manga resort on the Med coast of Spain

La Manga is a 15-mile strip of land that sits between the Mediterranean Sea and Mar Menor. It is home to La Manga golf resort located on the southeast coast of Spain.
It is 400 miles south of Barcelona and less than 40 miles from Murcia, its closest airport and approx 80 miles north of Gibraltar.

This 1400-acre resort sits on rolling hills and is home to 3 championship golf courses. It has hosted many international tournaments including the Spanish Open, Spanish PGA Championships, Spanish Junior Championships, Ladies' Spanish Open and Senior Spanish Open. It has also been voted Europe’s Top Golf resorts several times.

La Manga Resort has 28 multi surface tennis courts and a world-class spa… and some of the most consistently sunny weather in Europe.

There are two types of accommodation at La Manga, The, five-star La Manga Club: Hotel Príncipe Felipe or the more private apartments in Las Lomas Village. The apartments and townhouses are like renting a private home, but with all the hotel services avail to you as well. Ya wanna cook your meal. Fine, Ya want room service, that’s fine too.

La Manga is also an ideal place for water sports. There is sailing and windsurfing, and catamarans. The Mediterranean can be enjoyed by those who prefer high waves for windsurfing and there are several ideally suited sites for scuba diving.

The hotel and resort restaurants get high ratings but from the reviews I read, there are some truly outstanding restaurants in the area.

I am going to Europe in a month and now that I know about LaManga, I am going to include it on my trip. Everything tells me it’s a wonderful spot for a golf vacation.
For more information:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Par at amen corner

As I was watching the tourn yesterday, my memory kicked in when I saw Tiger hit it close at #12 the opening hole of Amen Corner, cause that is where I got my first par of the day when I played there in my Top 100 quest. More about that in my book A GOLFERS DREAM. I could have tied him on that hole today!!

The Young and the old make a Splash at The Masters

Matteo Manassero is a 16-year-old phenom, not only the youngest player in this year’s event, but also the youngest competitor in Masters history. Manassero shot 1 under par Thursday, to put himself 5 shots behind the leader.

On the other end of that age spectrum sits Tom Watson, 60 years old who shot 5 under to be in second place and was the leader for most of his round yesterday.

But sitting on top of the leader board is Fred Couples, 50 years old. At 6 under par Wow!! Can you imagine a 50 or 60 year old playing at such a highly competitive level in any other major sport? And the news media thinks its a big story that Bret Farve became a grandfather a few weeks ago.

If you are following these interesting characters at the Masters this weekend, keep an eye on Y. Yang, also at 5 under par. This is the man who beat Tiger Woods head to head at the last major Tiger played in, the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. Here they are at another major and he leads Tiger by one shot.

There is no need to mention Tiger, cause the whole world is already following him at a mere 4 under. He shot his best ever opening round at the Masters.

Some history is going to be made this year --- keep your eyes open

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blackstone Country Club a wonderful private reciprocal experience

Blackstone Country Club
Peoria AZ
If you are a member of a club anywhere in the world, and are looking for reciprocal play in the Phoenix area, then you have to look at Blackstone CC.

Blackstone opened in 2005 and is a private club within the master-planned community of Vistancia. (There is also a public course in the development).

This course was designed by Jim Engh and if you have not heard of him, you certainly will. ( ) He is getting accolade after accolade for his designs, being named Golf course architect of the year in 2003 by Golf Digest Magazine should be enough to get your attention. Several years ago, on my quest to play the Top 100 I played the Sanctuary just north of Denver and just loved that course, just like I love this one.

My wife Annie and I played today with Todd Cernohous the Director of Golf on one of their busier days of the year with 70 rounds, that is less than 20 foursomes. Just for comparison sake, a public course can send that many off in two hours.

The practice area is wonderful. First of all the range is stocked with Titelist Prov-1’s and the targets are plenty and well marked. Not only that, but as you finish hitting a club on the range one of the rangers comes up and cleans it for you before it goes back in your bag. Now that’s service.!! Right next to the first tee is the short game area and practice putting green and the green is contoured similarly to the course, so you know what lies ahead. Today the greens are running at a speed of about 11, which is quite fast. But I love this speed.

Blackstone is par 72 and can be played anywhere from 7089 to 4738
Yards. I played it from 6400 which was plenty for me.
If you play this course and pay attention to the design, you will know the next time you set foot on a Jim Engh course. There is water on only 2 of the holes, and after a few holes you will see that he loves bowl shaped greens (my wife called them toilet bowl shaped) some of which sit down below the fairway and many of which are surrounded by substantial mounding. Usually this means that if you are just off the green you are going to have a fast running downhill chip. Most of his bunkers are very small, but they are hidden in mounds so they can collect balls from a pretty broad radius. Having said that, there are only 70 bunkers on the entire course.

Jim Engh sets his courses up much differently from a visual perspective than most golf course architects. The landing area are generous, but the mounding and bowling of the greens can trick your eye, Annie called it visual trickery. To me this is what makes this course visually exciting. Jim Engh said “ I know 4 out of 5 players will love this course and the fifth will not like it at all”. It’s that different.

There were a couple holes, that I would design differently, par-5 number 9 a double dog leg, has a short approach to a postage stamp green surrounded by lots of trouble. (although I did get up and down there which Todd later told me was next to impossible) You have to hit your very best shot here. On the par-3 number 17 the entire green surface and the entire flag are hidden from view by high mounds. You have to be careful that the previous group has left the green. At this point Todd told me he has never had a hole-in-one. I said “wouldn’t it be ironic if you get one here and we can’t even see it?” He didn’t get one but his ball mark was 4 inches right of the hole and his ball had come to rest 5 inches left of the hole. It had to roll right over the hole.
On the next hole I asked Todd about the course record. “65 held by Jeff Quinny” but later he sheepishly admitted he has also shot 65 there. I am not sure how many birdies Todd had today but it was a lot.

The 30,000 square foot clubhouse, which they call the Hacienda, is stunning and the food is outstanding. Annie loved the potato chips which are made daily right on premises. It turns out everything that comes out of the kitchen is fresh made on site.

Blackstone is also an Audubon certified golf club, which means it keeps use of pesticides and herbicides to a minimum.

It was $75,000 for an equity membership but that was recently reduced to $15,000 and a non-equity membership is $7500 all with monthly dues of $675. They currently have only 66 members so there is plenty of room for you to join, and when the development is built out there will only 200 homes.

They are promoting reciprocal play with other clubs at $125.00 per round. If you are headed to Phoenix, this course should be on your list. Have your head pro call to set it up.

If you go :
Phone 623.707.8700
They are located approx 45 minutes north west of Sky Harbor airport in Peoria