Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Golf Tucson AZ

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

SunRidge Canyon Golf Club Fountain Hills AZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information and tee times:


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vacation in Jordan at the Red Sea and Petra

Vacation in Jordan
by Larry Berle

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Happy 125th Aniversary to the Banff Spring Hotel

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

by Larry Berle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 Hole Green Fee

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

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Golf Buddy Voice

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

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

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

for more information:www.golfbuddyglobal.com 

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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thais that Bind (or a wonderful golf trip to Thailand

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

visit:  http://siamcountryclub.com

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

                                                                     Our caddies

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

                                                             PAINTED BY AN ELEPHANT (ARTISTS NAME UNKNOWN)

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

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

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

I didn’t come here to layup

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

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bobby Jones Hybrid Clubs

Bobby Jones
Hybrid clubs
by Larry Berle

It is hard to find a name in golf that is more timeless than the name Bobby Jones.  He is still the only golfer to win the grand slam  (unless you call the Tiger slam a grand slam.)

The Bobby Jones company is now in the equipment business and their  hybrids are designed by Jesse Ortiz who was at the leading edge of hybrid club design. His design concepts have been imitated by many of todays leading club manufacturers.  His father founded Orlimar golf and Jesse designed the original tri-metal which was an extremely popular club for years.

First of all, these clubs just look beautiful to the eye.  They are done in a pearl white finish and they come with the old classic knit head covers.   They are avail in 18,21,25 and 30 degrees which means they basically replace anything from 3-6 irons.  I have the 18 and 21 degree and I will be very pleased to replace the hybrids in my bag that now occupy that space.  These are beautiful to look at and truly hit the ball at least 5, maybe 10 yards further than the others of the same loft that I have tried.

Visit  http://www.bobbyjones.com/golf-equipment/hybrid12  and watch the 4 minute video of Jesse explaining what went into the design of these clubs.  He explains why he lowered the center of gravity and the forgiving nature of the wider and deeper face.  He also talks about the curved sole and the challenges that get created by a straight leading edge.  There are inverted runners in the bottom of the club to help it move more smoothly through the rough.  These clubs are designed to replace irons, not fairway woods.  If you have been playing golf for a while  you have probably noticed that high lofted fairway woods like 7 and 9 woods, which were popular several years ago, have virtually disappeared from the scene. The shafts are a bit shorter for greater control and  the lie angle is adjustable, which is not the case with fairway woods and he explains how to do that in his video.

 My friend Lee Silverstein has a set of these hybrids and he says “His hybrids are the best clubs in innovation and technology I have ever owned.  The ball explodes off the face of the club--it has height; length; and with the offset for my game it delivers incredibly straight or slightly draw shots on command.” 

MSRP is $159.00 each and you can order them custom made for you at www.bobbyjones.com

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ixtapa Mexico land of sea and sun

Ixtapa Mexico
by Larry Berle
On the Pacific coast- of Mexico- somewhere between Aculpuco and Puerta Vallarta, lie the two towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, so closely associated you might call them twin cities.  
Zihuatanejo was a sleepy picturesque fishing village  with a few hundred inhabitants until 1972 when the Mexican Govt undertook an initiative to build tourism in Mexico.  Several resort towns were born from this initiative, including Ixtapa, which now has approx 15  hotel/ resorts along the coast in what they call “The hotel zone”.  Ixtapa is nestled  between the lush green Sierra Madre Mountains and the deep blue Pacific Ocean.
If you love life in the sunshine, this is the place for you, with over 330 sunny days a year, thats almost every day.  If you are an avid bird watcher or love snorkeling this is the place for you. It is an ecological wonderland and there are just too many things to do to name here.

I took the combo tour of the area and we went to a Coconut farm, the gold and silver markets in Petatlan, and its historic church. Then we visited a clay quarry where they make bricks and roof tiles by hand. This was followed by lunch on the beach on the Lagoon, which floods it way to the ocean during the rainy season.

If you saw the film Shawshank Redemption, then you remember the character Andy Dufrense, played by Tim Robbins.  He escapes from prison and goes to Zihuatanejo to live out his life and leaves a note for his prison buddy, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, to join him there when he gets out, which he does.  It turns out that this part of the story is based on truth and that character lived in Zihuatanejo for the rest of his life and even built a hotel here.  I am at a different hotel, however!!

I am staying at the Sunscape Dorado Pacifico hotel and I can not only see the ocean from my balcony but I am lulled to sleep each night by the surf pounding on the beach.
This hotel has 285 rooms and approx 3/4 of the guests that visit here are families.  This is an all inclusive resort and by all inclusive I mean almost everything.  The exceptions are: spa services, in room movies and telephone calls.  Everything else in included.  All meals, in 7 different restaurants including 24 hour room service, four bars, Wi-Fi, etc. its a long list.

 There is plenty to do right here in the resort: Karoke, movies, Sunscape Idol (their version of American Idol) climbing wall, swimming pools, craft area yoga, bike rides an elegant spa etc etc.
There is an Explorers Club open 12 hours a day for 3-12 year olds with a wonderful supervisor and plenty of activities for the toddlers.  They give Mom and Dad a beeper in case they need the parents to return to the Explorers club. 
They are open late and you can drop them off for dinner so Mom and Dad can have a romantic dinner alone.
 They even have a place where turtles can come and safely lay eggs and when the baby turtles are born they have a “baby turtle release” on the beach for guests to experience.  It seems that most turtle eggs, if unprotected, never see the light of day due to many predators that will eat them.
There is also The Core Zone for Teens (13-17) with fussball, pingpong air hockey, x-box and numerous other table games, movies and other activities


Swim with the Dolphins
Just a coupe blocks from the hotel there is the Delfiniti, where the kids, and adults alike can swim with the dolphins.  It is a truly fun experience and the trainers have quite a skill at communicating with these dolphins.  Wave hello, Oscar the trainer, , says and I turn around and the dolphin is on his side waving his flipper at me.  Then Oscar said, “Larry turn around and look over your shoulder.”  Suddenly this dolphin from the  bottom of this18 foot deep pool  leaps 16 feet into the air.   “Do you want to see a forward sumersault, Larry?  and he is out of the water doing a summersault.  A  double back flip was next.  I don’t know how these dolphins get trained to do these tricks, but its quite impressive.  They live 40-50 years in captivity and the rapport they have with the trainers is a wonder.   Bring the family, everyone will love it.

for complete packages 


Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo  certainly would not qualify as a destination, but if you want to have a resort trip include golf, this should be on your list.  There are two golf courses here and today I played Marina Ixtapa, located right by, you guessed it, the Marina.  It was designed by Robert Von Hagge in 1993.  There is water in play on over half of the holes. but these are streams and lagoons, not the ocean.   Large burms protect you from the constant wind of the ocean, but the light breezes I encountered were pleasant. Many of the holes are framed by water on one side and mounds and burms on the other-- so its easy to see how the hole lays out in front of you.
The fairways and rough are all bermuda grass-- so your ball sits up and creates very nice lies.  The greens are smooth and undulating and quite fast.  They were much better to putt on than I had anticipated.  There are four sets of tees from 6774 yards down to  5228  so all levels can enjoy it.
I played today with Tim Sullivan, the General Manager of the club and we had a wonderful time
 Be careful if your ball  goes in or near the water..  There are crocodiles that make Marina Ixtapa their home, but we only saw one today and he was swimming along and minding his own business.

If you go:
Walking $82
with a cart $97
They have caddies for $25-$30

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

Sky Caddie Breeze

Sky Caddie Breeze

by Larry Berle
In Fall of 2012 Sky Caddie introduced a new model called the Sky Caddie Breeze.  It is set apart from previous Sky Caddies, in that its more affordable and simpler to use.  It also has more limited features.
Unlike former Sky Caddies it comes pre-loaded so there is no need to load courses from your home computer before you leave the house. 

When I arrived at the course and turned it on, a couple minutes of searching and it knew right where I was and showed me the yardage to the first green.   It knows the course and automatically advances to each hole.  Now, that is as simple as it gets. One nice thing, for those of us with weakening eyes is the numbers to the front, middle and back of the green are very large and update quickly.

The breeze retails for $229.00 substantially less than their more sophisticated models but the information you get from it is also much more basic.  It does require a $19.95 annual membership, thus you have to sync it to your computer and register on line when you first get it.   I had trouble syncing it at first but a phone call to customer service fixed that.  In fact, it turned out the problem was with my computer and they had a technician call me who actually logged onto my computer remotely and fixed the problem.  That is better customer service than I am used to getting these days.

It has a “mark ball” button so you can measure any shot you take to confirm just how far you hit each club.

It comes equipped with “intelligent automation,”  with the simple turn of you wrist it  switches to a  scorecard screen where you can not only keep score but keep track of fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts etc.

The Breeze is also upgradable with three feature packs, depending on the extent of information you want.  Number one is a target list of distances to hazards and carry distances as well as displaying the green shape with major contours and the capability to move cross hairs so you can know the precise distance for short game shots.

The second feature pack gives you a birds eye view of the hole so you can clearly see and know how far each hazard is. There is a third feature pack as well.  Each of these upgrades can be purchased at www.Skycaddie.com. for $34.95 each and if you end up getting all three, you would have been better off buying their more expensive model of Sky Caddie. You can learn more details of the upgrade packs at www.skycaddie.com 

More information at www.skycaddie.com 

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