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.