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Marriott is offering college students discounted green fees

College students don't have much income but do have plenty of expenses: tuition, books, food, beverages, etc. Paying fat green fees can be a budget-buster.

loop-marriott-camelback-518.jpgScottsdale's JW Marriott Camelback G.C. (13th hole at the Ambiente Course, shown) is among the courss offering discounted rates to college students. (Lonna Tucker)

Marriott's College Links program is designed to give students a break. The program allows college students to play at the nearly two dozen participating Marriott Golf properties nationwide from now through June 1, 2015.

Students showing their college ID after 3 p.m. will be charged a discounted twilight rate ($29-$69) plus a twilight voucher for a future round.

Go to collegegolflinks.com for the complete list of participating courses.

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Courses & Travel

Deal of the Week: Play your own Open Championship

Scoring a tee time at the Old Course in St. Andrews leading up to next year's Open Championship will be a lesson in futility, but for about $170 and a few mouse clicks, you can play a different leg of the rota in the offseason. 

Turnberry's Ailsa Course -- where Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus in the Duel in the Sun (and barely missed another chance in 2009) -- is offering a weekday morning "Gulfstream" tee time package that includes a breakfast sandwich, 18 holes and a three-course lunch afterward for about $170. The package is available Oct. 13 until March 31 on tee times from 9 to 11 a.m. and costs 105 pounds, or about $170. You can pick the same package on the Kintyre Course for just 75 pounds and even choose from some weekend times.

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Turnberry sits on a point on Scotland's southwest coast, a scenic 100-mile drive from Edinburgh, and has dramatic water views on three sides. Donald Trump bought the property this summer and has plans to spend $200 million upgrading the hotel, but he says he's going to leave the golf course alone. October and November offer the best weather bet, with temperatures consistently in the mid-50s -- which isn't that different than what you might get in the middle of the summer.

If you go, take an extra minute after you hit your tee shot in 15 to find the remains of the airstrip built across the course during World War II. The entire property was turned into a Royal Air Force training station and paved flat to accommodate hangars and planes. The Ailsa reopened in 1951 after a redesign from Philip MacKenzie Ross and joined the Open Championship rota in 1977, when Nicklaus and Watson had their famous battle. 

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Courses & Travel

We toured next year's U.S. Open course on a GolfBoard and it was sweet (VIDEO)

Chambers Bay is an unlikely place to bag a maiden GolfBoard ride. The municipal links, built in 2007 on a former industrial gravel pit along the Puget Sound, doesn’t allow golf carts. Players must take a caddie, a pushcart or carry their own bag. Only with a medical note may one ride in a cart, and the enforcement of this policy is as strict as the rental fleet is small. So ripping around on another motorized vehicle, albeit a quite smaller one at 100 pounds, was a big ask.
 
But since the U.S. Open is coming here in 2015 and golf fans are eager to see what the youngest course to land the national championship looks like, the good folk at Chambers Bay slackened their retro-purist principles for a morning and let us film a ride.



It was my first time on a GolfBoard. Brock Sabo, the GolfBoard sales rep who met me in the parking lot, didn’t need my help unloading the unit from his car. After a tentative introductory minute, I was comfortable to set sail on the course at full speed, or 11 mph. The motion is similar to any type of board riding -- I’m fairly experienced with the snow and skate variety -- but getting wholly accustomed to the throttle, a Bluetooth-enabled device held like a water pistol, took a few holes (Then again, I’ve never been outside the bell curve for rubbing my belly and patting my stomach simultaneously). The vertical handlebar mount, which can aid steering but is mostly there for security, was the design addition “that convinced insurance companies it would be safe for the public to rent without helmets,” says Sabo. Which was an important development, because hitting quality golf shots is hard enough without a helmet.

Is it fun to ride? Does Ricky Barnes wear a funny hat?

Riding a GolfBoard is a more physically involved act than driving a cart. By no means a workout, but the more you throw your weight around, the more you are rewarded with deeper, more thrilling carves. Like walking, the tendency is to become more attentive and engaged with the topography of the golf course. Also like walking, the fun’s in the fairway. Traipsing through the rough at low speed looking for a lost ball isn’t fun in any mode of ambulation. My theory is far from being proven, but I think the GolfBoard might actually help one stay in the fairway. The rhythmic weight shift of the carving motion bleeds nicely into a pre-shot routine.  

A major reason Chambers Bay shuns golf carts is to protect its 100-percent fescue turf. A GolfBoard is five- to six-times lighter than a typical golf cart and has smaller wheels, so it at least partially assuages that concern. However, the kneejerk fear of most courses considering the GolfBoard will be safety. How many golfers will ride recklessly and get hurt? Who knows, perhaps an even higher rate than already do with golf carts. Like a golf cart, you won’t get hurt on a GolfBoard unless you purposefully push the boundaries.  
           
Laird Hamilton, the legendary pro surfer and design consultant of the GolfBoard, has his own handle-less model that allegedly goes 60 mph.

Maybe Oakmont Country Club will let us film in advance of the 2016 U.S. Open. Laird, you available?
   

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Courses & Travel

A sneak peek at Gleneagles reveals an American golf course that happens to be in Scotland

PERTHSHIRE, Scotland -- With 10 days still to go before the first shot is struck in Ryder anger, all the things that sit alongside a major event are already well underway at Gleneagles.

Security is tight (your intrepid correspondent was escorted to the European Tour office before being allowed entry).

Watched by a squad from the local constabulary who had just concluded its daily search of every grandstand, former European Tour pro Mark Roe of Sky Sports was taping an explanation of the intricacies found on the new 18th green. It's nine yards "wide" at its narrowest point apparently and runs off sharply on both sides.

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Gleneagles will be in immaculate, but soft conditions. (Photo by Stephen Szurlej)

And the PGA Centenary course is looking very green and feeling very soft. Despite a recent and glorious run of "Indian Summer" weather in sunny Caledonia, one day of rain was seemingly enough to eliminate any semblance of fast running conditions.

Not that any golfers will have experienced that fact. The course has been closed since the first of the month and is, as you'd expect, in pristine condition. Which has both good and bad implications. While the exotic and expensive Perthshire resort no doubt wishes its third-best course to be presented to the world in a fashion that will encourage future visitors -- mission accomplished -- a closer inspection provoked one or two misgivings in this observer.

For one thing, the fairways are immaculate, not a divot hole in sight. For another, the gradual lengthening of the grass on either side of the "cut and prepared" is exact almost to the inch. A few feet of short semi-rough (six lengths of a size-11 shoe in width) is bordered on the outside by the same stretch of what might be termed intermediate rough. Then comes the real tough stuff.

That all sounds fine and dandy -- and has obviously been done at the instigation of European skipper Paul McGinley -- but what all of the above does is eliminate any sense of randomness. In other words, it's all very predictable and scientific, rather than arbitrary and artistic -- two features you would expect at a more traditional venue in the Home of Golf. We certainly won't be watching any of the 24 players hitting from anything other than a perfect fairway lie, something we already know they can do with monotonous aplomb.

This isn't really a "Scottish" track, of course. Designed (and re-worked) by Jack Nicklaus, this is PGA Tour golf with only a vague tartan hue. The first hint of that came in the ET office, where could be found a sign headlined "Buggy Instruction." But on the course is just as "American." Long grass, for example, all but surrounds almost every bunker. And, just as inexplicably, more long grass can be found between greenside bunkers and putting surfaces. This Ryder Cup, it would appear, is going to be played through the air -- not on the ground.

Perhaps most egregious, however, is the deliberate dampening of adventure on more than one hole. By its very nature, match play encourages the bold and the brave rather than the merely prosaic. But any incentive to "go for it" over the corner at, say, the par-5 second has been all but eliminated. There, very thick rough has been allowed to grow just over the bunker situated on the left side of the slight right-to-left dogleg. Long hitters with a sense of enterprise are thus rendered all but impotent. Bubba Watson and Jim Furyk will likely play this hole in very similar fashions.

Happily, a bit more imagination has been applied to the par-5 ninth. Measuring 618 yards and playing slightly uphill, this hole has the potential to be a rather boring 90-yard par 3 if no one can possibly reach the green in two. But that possibility has clearly occurred to Mister McGinley. A forward tee, maybe 50 yards ahead will surely make for more excitement.

So, all in all, despite the geographic location of the biennial bun-fight between Old and New Worlds, it would be folly to expect anything like an Open Championship next week.

Golf in Scotland? Yes. Scottish golf? Not so much.

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Courses & Travel

Tour players are way different, example No. 793: When they rank golf courses

Asking a PGA Tour star which top golf course he's still waiting to play is like asking an artist which color he'd still like to paint with. Before long, your options start to dwindle.

Still, in advance of this week's Deutsche Bank Championship, the Boston Globe pressed players on the courses remaining on their bucket list. The answers -- and sometimes the lack thereof -- were telling.

Already with exposure to gems like Augusta National and Pebble Beach, many mentioned uber-private destinations like Pine Valley and Cypress Point. Others, like Geoff Ogilvy, said it was more about getting a chance to experience a classic in a more casual context.

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Pine Valley is still a good get for many tour players.

“I’d love to do all of Long Island properly, and play them all as the members play them,” Ogilvy told the Globe. “We see these courses in such ridiculous setups.”

Other players, owing to the demands of the profession, admitted to a sort of golf fatigue.

“I don’t play any leisure golf," said Jonathan Byrd. "If I told my wife I was going to take a week and play some courses I’ve never been to before, she’d slap me silly.”

Added Phil Mickelson: "I’ve played them all. All the ones I’ve wanted to, anyway.”

The Globe question was a variation of one Golf Digest posed to some of the game's A-listers in 2011, as part of our package on America's 100 Greatest Courses: Of the countless American golf courses you HAVE played, what ranks in your top 10?


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In handwritten responses from the likes of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Ernie Els, we got many of the usual suspects (Pine Valley, Augusta National, Oakmont, and Winged Foot). We got plenty of sentimental favorites: Davis Love III included his hometown Frederica Golf Club on St. Simon Island, Ga., while Palmer went with his own Bay Hill, Pennsylvania's Laurel Valley Golf Club, and Cherry Hills, where he won the 1960 U.S. Open.

And of course we got the expected from Donald Trump. He included five Trump courses, including Trump Bedminster at No. 1.

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Courses & Travel

What's in a name? The owners of two courses, both called TimberStone, may soon find out

By Peter Finch

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But what about a TimberStone? That’s the gist of a federal lawsuit filed recently in the Northern District of Illinois. (Hat tip to Rob Harris of GolfDisputeResolution.com for spotting the suit.)

TimberStone Golf Course at Pine Mountain (below) has been around since the late-1990s. Set in Iron Mountain, Mich., it’s a popular, Jerry Matthews-designed course that carries five stars (out of a possible five) in Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play reader ratings. In 2000, its sixth hole -- a 413-yard dogleg left over water -- was cited as an “honorable mention” when Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins and Ron Whitten ranked “America’s Best 18 Holes.”

loop timberstone 1.jpgThe TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell, Idaho, (below) is no relation. It opened
three years ago and charges a mere $39 including cart for 18 holes (vs. $100 at the other TimberStone).

Loop timberstone2.jpg Michigan’s TimberStone takes exception to Idaho TimberStone’s use of the name, arguing that the Idaho course -- even though it is 1,700 miles away -- could be confusing to consumers. Idaho's TimberStone contends that’s unlikely and points out that its director has a local landscaping business with the same name.

Would anyone honestly think the two courses were related? Perhaps. But if the court rules in the Michigan course’s favor, imagine the lawsuits that might follow. I count 12 U.S. golf courses with “Augusta” in their names. I count 20 whose names include “Pine Valley.”


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Courses & Travel

A reversible golf course? Tom Doak's plan for Forest Dunes is a course you can play two ways

By Peter Finch

When Lew Thompson began contemplating a second 18 holes at Forest Dunes Golf Club, the much-loved course he owns in northern Michigan, the Arkansas trucking executive made one thing clear: The new design had to make him say “wow.”

He got his wish. The architect Tom Doak came up with a plan he’d been mulling for the better part of 30 years: a fully reversible 18-hole course. That is, you can play it forward or backward, depending on the day.

Construction is underway on the as-yet-unnamed course(s), with August 2016 as the targeted opening.

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Though Forest Dunes is ranked among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses, it has struggled financially for years. Part of the reason is its remote location, in tiny Roscommon, Mich. When Thompson and a silent partner bought the Tom Weiskopf-designed course in 2011, he created a five-year strategic plan to turn Forest Dunes into more of a destination, says Todd Campbell, general manager. That included adding more lodging and more golf.

Right now it has 65 beds, more than twice the number when Thompson took over. Campbell says his “gut feeling” is that it will end up having room for as many as 150 guests in the years ahead.

Doak was one of two finalists in the running to build the new course, Campbell says. He recalls a meeting with Thompson and Doak about a year ago. When the architect had finished his presentation, Thompson leaned back in his chair and said, “Tom, it looks really nice, but I’m not wowed.”

At that point, says Campbell, Doak reached down and pulled out some additional documents. “I think this is going to wow you,” he said.

Doak had with him a plan for the second 18 that can be played in the opposite direction of the one he’d just pitched. “Our jaws just hit the floor,” Campbell says. “It was goose-bump city.”

It won’t be the first time a golf course has offered two routings on the same property. At the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, they used to reverse directions regularly and in fact they still play it “backwards” one day a year.

But still, it’s not exactly common. “As far as we can tell, this will be the only truly ‘reversible golf course’ in the world,” says Campbell. Forest Dunes will alternate the course each day, he says. He imagines it will be par 72 in one direction and either 70 or 71 in the other.


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Courses & Travel

What would you shoot if a pro was driving for you? Recalling a bold Golf Digest experiment

By Sam Weinman

Whatever your individual philosophies about golf, let's agree the game would be much easier if you could drive the ball 330 yards down the center of the fairway. That's true at the game's highest level, as was made apparent by Rory McIlroy's win in the Bridgestone Invitational with a 334-yard driving average. And it would be true at your course, wherever that is.

Think about it: that long par 4 with trouble down the right side -- wouldn't it be considerably less daunting if you knew you were hitting wedge in from the fairway? What if every hole was like that?  How many strokes off your typical score do you think you could shave?

Golf Digest set out to answer these questions more than two decades ago, when writer Peter Andrews and tour veteran Mark O'Meara played together at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, Fla., for a story in the May 1991 issue. Andrews was an 18-handicapper who was convinced he could be shooting in the 70s "with only a few measly extra yards off the tee, assuming 50 yards qualifies as measly." O'Meara was by then a PGA Tour star -- not yet a winner of two major titles, but already with six tour wins to his name. The concept was quite simple: playing from 6,279 yards, Andrews played O'Meara's tee ball in on every hole, and O'Meara played Andrews'. 

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The result was about what you'd expect when you take some of the variables out of a mediocre golfer's hands, but still leave him with enough room to make a mess.  Using O'Meara's respectable pre-titanium 260-yard drives, Andrews shot 82 (playing Andrews' drives, O'Meara shot 75). It was about 10 strokes better than his average, but as Andrews noted, he never quite took advantage of O'Meara's help.

"And so it went; Mark clicking off pars and birdies whenever I left him on anything Luther Burbank would have recognized as grass, and me constantly being offered the glittering prize, but able, only sporadically, to gather it in," Andrews wrote.

Do you think you could fare better? What if you didn't just have any tour player teeing off for you, but the premier driver in the game? If you could hit Rory's tee ball at your home course, what sort of difference would it make? Let us know in the comments section below, or chime in on our Golf Digest Facebook page.


(Illustration by Arnold Roth)
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Courses & Travel

Higher handicap golfers can enjoy Bandon Dunes, too

By Ashley Mayo

In 2013, I went to Bandon Dunes with three other guys. Our ages ranged from 26 to 32, and our handicaps ranged from 2 to 5. This year, I went to Bandon with seven other guys. Our ages ranged from 28 to 70, and our handicaps from 1 to 25. Same destination, two very different groups, one very similar outcome: we all had a blast.

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Our crew played The Preserve as an eightsome on the day we arrived. 

Whether you're an avid, accomplished golfer who thrives on a good challenge, or a weekend warrior who attempts to avoid any and all trouble, the five courses at Bandon Dunes manage to offer enough of a test for single-digit-handicap golfers without being too overwhelming for double-digit-handicap golfers.
 
Our higher-handicappers had this tremendous fear of losing a lot of golf balls. As it turns out, they lost very few. Don Scheck, a 23-handicapper, lost just one ball in five rounds (he lost it at Pacific Dunes), and says the courses are playable because there aren't a lot of forced carries, especially off the tees. "My drives mostly landed short of trouble as long as I hit them straight," says Scheck. "Approach shots and putting are what did me in."

Brian Bakst, a 22-handicapper, says he returned home with more balls than he brought. "And better ones," says Bakst. "When I went into the junk, I often came out with two or three beauties."
 
Scott Davies, who started playing golf when he was 65 years old (he’s now 69), says that the courses are not as intimidating as they might seem. "Having a caddie was a big assist," says the 25-handicapper. "And playing Preserve (the 13-hole par 3 course) first really increased my sense that I could play these courses and have fun. I lost a couple balls at Pacific Dunes but not otherwise."
 
The best decision we made all week was taking a "Links Lesson" led by Master PGA Professional Grant Rogers and PGA Professional Jake Sestero. They taught us, in just one hour, how to play golf in the wind, how to hit bump-and-run shots with putters, irons and hybrids, and how to lag putt.
 
"Some of the lessons I learned there carried with me the whole week," says Eric Hyland, an 11 handicapper. Among them: 

--Light hands on fast putts. 
--If you can run the ball up to the green, run the ball up to the green. Keep it low.
--Remember, the golf holes like to win, too.
--You might as well be the person having the most fun in your foursome.

That lesson was equally important to our higher-handicappers as it was to Tom Freeman, our 1-handicapper. "There aren't many courses in the United States where you'll learn how to hit a bump-and-run hybrid 123 yards, and then use it to give yourself a 4-foot birdie putt," says Freeman. "It's something I'll laugh and smile about for years."
 
I asked everyone in our group to answer the classic question that all golfers should answer after they’ve played each of the four regulation-length courses at Bandon Dunes: If you had 10 rounds to play at Bandon, how would you divvy them up? Collectively, our double-digit handicap golfers slightly prefer Old Macdonald—wild bounces on that course generally feed toward the green and can turn so-so shots into stellar ones, and it’s actually quite difficult to lose a ball there—and our single-digit handicap golfers would rather face Pacific Dunes—Tom Doak’s extreme design requires shot-making skills.

Other than that, our higher-handicappers and lower-handicappers appreciated Bandon Dunes just the same. "You better laugh when you think at the start of your shot that you're putting for birdie and then leave the hole with a double," says Tom Scheck, a 9-handicapper. "Good shots are going to roll under the lip of a bunker. It's a lot like life. You better roll with the good and bad bounces or you'll spend most of your time in misery."

But isn't it that kind of misery that keeps us nutty golfers coming back for more?

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Courses & Travel

Bandon's Mike Keiser keeps building golf courses when others are shutting them down

By Peter Finch

Like a lot of people I know, I got home from a recent trip to Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and immediately began dreaming about my next visit. Developer Mike Keiser has created something extraordinary, reflected not just in the accolades (it has four courses in our ranking of America’s 100 Greatest) but in the satisfied smiles you see on golfers all over the property.

One knock on Bandon is that it’s hard to reach, especially if your trip doesn’t begin in the western U.S. But Keiser has a couple of other projects in the works that, if everything goes as planned, will bring the Bandon experience to the East Coast and the Midwest. The former is the Cabot Links Resort in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and the latter is Sand Valley in Rome, Wisc.

How can he keep building all these courses when news about the golf economy is generally so dour? The difference is the sand, he says.

“As you know, these are links golf courses built on sand and using fescue grass,” Keiser explains. “Most U.S. courses are built on dirt. People love the links courses. They always have. They’ve flooded over to Ireland and Scotland for decades, for that reason. The Wisconsin courses won’t be links because they’re not on the ocean, but they will be virtually treeless and links-like.”

Here are updates from Keiser both of these projects, as well as a third one near Bandon.

Cabot Links
 
loop cabot links.jpgKeiser partnered with Canadian Ben Cowan-Dewar in 2007 to build the first course (pictured) and now they are adding a second 18, this one designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. "We're in the last two months of completion," Keiser says. "By sometime in September we'll have everything seeded, then we’ll get through the winter and as early as next August, we'll probably have limited preview play for our hotel guests." He imagines an official opening for this second course, known as Cabot Cliffs, in 2016.

For the moment, getting to Cabot Links is every bit as tough -- if not tougher -- than Bandon Dunes. You fly into Halifax, then drive three and a half hours north. But Keiser is "95 percent confident" the government will build an airport nearer to the resort, with direct flights likely from Toronto if not New York and other U.S. cities eventually.

Right now there are 48 rooms on property. Keiser is building “at least” another 24 in time for the opening.

Sand Valley

For this 1,500-acre site, set about an hour and 45 minutes north of Madison, Wis., Keiser imagines multiple courses. "We're near the final 18-hole routing" on the first, also designed by Coore and Crenshaw, Keiser says. "It will be final after a mid-August trip with Bill and Ben and my son, Michael, and me. We'll also nail down a final clubhouse site, at which point we’ll begin grading the course. Next year we’ll put in the irrigation, do the fine grading in September 2015, and by 2016 we'll have some founder play."

Founder play? Keiser rounded up 155 investors -- "friends who wanted to be part of a golf-course project" -- to help finance the development. It was a sort of Keiser Kickstarter. "They get all kinds of freebies," he explains, including a chance to play the course first.

He’s already talking about starting a second course there. "My philosophy is 1 plus 1 equals 3," he says. "One course is a curiosity, two is a destination."

Who will design the second course? "Well, it's known that I think highly of the boy genius Tom Doak and also Gil Hanse," he says. "Bill and Ben's two key guys are Dave Axland and the Canadian architect Rod Whitman (who designed Cabot Links). They work as a team. So I'd say those three are all contenders." Keiser says he expects to have an announcement about the architect by November. 

Eventually he'll build some lodging on site, but for the time being he expects guests will stay at the nearby Lake Arrowhead and Northern Bay resorts. "We want to help the existing economy," Keiser says.

Bandon Links

This is a separate project, located a few miles down the road from Bandon Dunes. It's a 36-hole municipal facility that's to be designed by Hanse. Keiser has gotten approval from the state parks department to do a land swap that will make the project viable for him, and now he’s waiting on federal Bureau of Land Management and Coos County approvals. "I estimate we'll get all that done in two years and then Gil Hanse can go to work," he says.

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