The Local Knowlege


Deal of the Week: Add golf to the full Branson experience

Travelers on the coasts sometimes sniff at Branson, Missouri as a potential vacation destination, but nearly 10 million people visited the Ozarks entertainment hub last year for shopping, shows, fishing and golf. 

The problem with heading to a place that has more than 50 theaters, some of the best bass fishing in the U.S. and a collection of natural attractions like Marvel Cave is parsing out the time to see everything. 

With its Platinum Experience package, the Thousand Hills Golf Resort aims to solve that problem. For rates starting around $200 per night, you get a two-bedroom condo adjacent to the Bob Cupp design and $750 in coupons for a laundry list of shows, attractions, activities and restaurants. Golf costs $49 per player, and isn't included in the price. 

The coupons range from practical (free rental clubs for four at the course) to the prosaic (see Yakov Smirnoff live!), and cover virtually every cultural taste, from Mickey Gilley to the Osmonds.


Using Thousand Hills as a base, you can branch out and play some of the area's other strong tests. Buffalo Ridge is one of Tom Fazio's toughest tests, and played host to the Champions Tour's Legends of Golf last year. Payne Stewart Golf Club was designed by Chuck Smith and Bobby Clampett as a tribute to the PGA Tour star and Missouri native. Both courses are on the outskirts of Branson proper. 

The vast majority of travelers get to Branson by car and bus--it was the most popular charter bus destination in the U.S. last year--but air travel has gotten way easier in the last few years. The privately-owned Branson Airport opened in 2009, and has daily flights from Denver, Chicago, Houston and Baltimore. 

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Deal of the Week: Enjoy Northern Michigan's deep daylight at Boyne

Northern Michigan can hang with any American golf destination when it comes to both quality and volume of courses. 

Better yet, the approaching summer season--and Michigan's position on the west edge of the Eastern time zone--means a Scotland-like 15 hours of daylight to play a leisurely 36 holes, but without any haggis to endure afterward. 


The best way to take advantage might be Boyne's Great Escape Golf Vacation. You can stay five nights at the Petoskey-area's Boyne Highlands Resort and play one of eight courses spread at three different resorts--four at Boyne Highlands, two at Boyne Mountain, Crooked Tree Golf Club and Hidden River Golf & Casting Club--for rates starting at $880 per person. For a surcharge, you can also get access to the award-winning Bay Harbor trio of nines, which are also owned by the resort. 

Among the eight "regular" courses available in the package, the Donald Ross Memorial at Boyne Highlands might be the most interesting. Executed as a replica compilation of Ross' most famous holes, it features examples from Seminole, Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills, among others. Taken together, they offer 6,800 yards of pure Ross intrigue. In the span of just a few holes, you can two-chip on one of No. 2's brutal tight collection areas and pick the wrong side of a split fairway. 

If your only Michigan experience is downstate, in Detroit, Ann Arbor or Grand Rapids, the northern part of the Lower Peninsula really is a different world. While most of the state is flat, the area around Traverse City and Petoskey has rolling hills and decent skiing--along with world-class frontage on Lake Michigan. 

It's also easier to reach than you think. Traverse City's efficient Cherry Capital Airport is serviced by daily flights from Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis by American, Delta and United. If you want to drive, it's 260 miles from Detroit, and 320 from Chicago.

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Video: Cabot Cliffs is opening for play soon and it looks stunning

If watching this video doesn't get you going you might not actually be alive. Cabot Links has been Canada's only true links golf course since it opened in June 2012 (it's third on our ranking of best courses in Canada and 42nd on our ranking of the World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses), and Cabot Cliffs, which will open for preview play in July, will be the country's second links course. It looks nothing short of spectacular. The resort, which is located on the northwest coast of Cape Breton, recently released a 43-second video that is complete with dramatic cliffs, rolling fairways and golf holes that jut out into rocky oceans. Oh, and it's narrated by Kiefer Sutherland (!).

Related: Golf Digest's Sneak Peek At Cabot Cliffs

If you need more reason to click play, here are three screen grabs from the video.

The video and these images make Cabot Cliffs look fake. Thankfully for us, it's very real.

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Deal of the Week: Golf and gamble at Pearl River in Mississippi

When you don't have the flash of a ocean- or riverfront location, it's up to the amenities to draw the crowds. 

At the Pearl River Resort in Central Mississippi, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians do it with a luxury hotel, first-class spa and a pair of Tom Fazio-Jerry Pate golf courses at the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club. 


Most places that refer to themselves in the same sentence as Augusta National aren't worth much more than a snicker, but Azaleas Course really does show the same bloodlines--although more as a first cousin vs. a direct sibling. Impeccably maintained, it sports a similar rolling topography and variety of trees and flowering plants. And unlike Augusta, getting on this course, ranked one of the best in Mississippi by Golf Digest, is a snap. 

Better yet, you can act out your own Crow's Nest Masters fantasy and book one of the eight king suites on the second floor of the Dancing Rabbit clubhouse. For $305 double occupancy, you get a night in the suite, a round for each player on either the Azaleas or the Oaks--both on Golf Digest's list of America's Top 40 Casino Courses--20 percent off any purchase in the shop, breakfast and a dedicated cart to ferry yourself both around the course and over to the adjacent casino. The package starts at $235 if you're content with a regular room in the casino tower.

The resort is located outside of similar-in-name-only Philadelphia, Ms., 80 miles northeast of Jackson and 160 southwest of Birmingham, Al. It's definitely a driving destination, or, you can take one of the daily buses from Birmingham, Tuscaloosa or Bessemer, Al. 

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Deal of the Week: Get historic on a trip through the Berkshires


May is the best golf weather month in New England, and it serves a very useful double duty. Kids aren’t out of school yet and vacation time generally hasn’t started, which leaves you pure high-60s and low-70s sun and off-peak rates at some of the best places. 

The Cranwell Resort is tucked into the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, about two hours from Boston and two and half from New York City. The majestic main building started as a sprawling summer home for a Vanderbilt scion, and in the 100 years since has variously been a hunt and country club and school for boys. 

Now, it’s a high-end resort set on 380 acres, with a luxurious spa and a vintage, sporty Stiles and Van Cleek layout. The course was laid out in 1926, and is a worthy comparison to the most interesting Donald Ross designs of the same era. It only plays 6,300 yards from the tips, but the combination of clever green complexes and subtle sidehill fairway lies make it entertaining challenge worth a few replays. The two nines play almost like different courses, with the front more open and the back set back in mature forest. 

Book Cranwell’s Unlimited Golf Package and you can stay in one of the resort’s 114 rooms spread between the original manor house and a variety of other “cottages,” play unlimited golf, get $20 food credit and have free access to the award-winning spa for swimming and exercise. Midweek rates start at $255. 

It’s policy to never root for rain, but if it does happen, you won’t have to sit in the room and sulk. The Norman Rockwell Museum, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Edith Wharton and Herman Melville homesteads, Ventfort Hall Museum of the Gilded Age and Tanglewood (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) are all within a short drive. 

There’s even a huge outlet mall one town over, if you’re looking for last season’s version of the Tiger Woods Nike golf shoe.

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This is basically every golfer's worst nightmare

Warning: This photo is NSFW.

What even happened to that poor bag? Can you even imagine the emotions you'd feel if you ever saw your clubs swing around on a conveyer belt in this kind of shape? I can't. Based on a few of his tweets, John Held said his eyes nearly popped out of his head.

This image of Held's clubs shouldn't mean the death of all soft travel cases. A few best practices make them just as safe as hard cases. Most tour pros today use soft cases, and when Golf Digest wrote about the best travel covers in the November 2014 issue, Dan Brooks, head coach of the Duke women's golf team, said his players and most of the teams they compete against rely on soft cases. Brooks offered two tips: first, wrap towels, clothes and whatever you can around the heads of your clubs; second, once you finish packing your clubs ask yourself, "would I be OK having someone stand on this?"

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Deal of the Week: Chase The Slammer at the Homestead

It's saying something when a resort's Donald Ross-designed course isn't the most prestigious of the three on the property. That's the case at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., where the circa-1913 Old Course expanded by Ross from bones of the original 19th-century six-holer is a charmingly quirky understudy to the William Flynn-designed Cascades--which has played host to the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Amateur and NCAA Men's Division I championship. 


The mountainous Cascades is one of the most challenging courses in the eastern U.S., with dramatic elevation changes, tight fairways and deep rough. The Old is a more manageable 6,200 yards, and was the favorite of presidents McKinley, Coolidge, Truman and Nixon--four of the 23 U.S. leaders who have stayed at the resort. The first tee has been in continuous use since 1892, and McKinley was the first president to play golf anywhere when he went off it in 1901. 

The rest of the resort isn't any slouch, either. Originally constructed as an 18-room lodge in 1766, the hotel now features 483 luxury rooms across its two vast brick wings, along with a first-rate spa, shooting club and the eponymous hot spring pools. Secluded deep in the Allegheny Mountains on the Virginia-West Virginia border, the Homestead does takes a bit of commitment to reach. It's four hours by car from Washington D.C. and one and half from Roanoke, the closest decent-sized airport.

You can experience it all with attractive springtime golf packages for either the Old or the Cascades (or both) for about $450 a night midweek. The Cascades Unlimited Golf Package offers unlimited golf for two on Sam Snead's old stomping grounds--Snead was a lifetime resident of the Hot Springs area. Post your score, then compare it to one of the original scorecards on the wall at Sam Snead's Tavern on the property to feel just that much more inferior to The Slammer--who shot a 60 at the Lower Cascades course in 1983, at age 71.  

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Deal of the Week: Break the ice at Foxwoods in Connecticut


Temperatures are starting to creep into the 60s in the Northeast, which means golf season can finally start--even if it's a month late. 

One "advantage" to the brutal winter was that the cold and snow cover kept most courses off limits the last five months. Mild winters mean wintertime play, and divots taken on dormant grass don't heal until well into the spring.

You can roll the dice literally and figuratively at the giant Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Southeastern Connecticut with the attractively priced Golf and Spa Package. For $249 per night, you get a room at the Fox Tower, 18 holes at the adjacent Lake of Isles Golf Club, a $50 spa credit, access for two to the sauna-steam-fitness center, $15 food and beverage credit and a $10 casino match credit. 

The Rees Jones design fits its name, with plenty of forced carries over water and marsh. Play it from the back tees and the shortest par-3 is a robust 196 yards, and that one, the 11th, requires 175 yards of lake flyover before you can land safely. You get a free sleeve of balls as a part of the package, but you're going to need more. 

Foxwoods sits just of the I-95 corridor, 140 miles from New York City and 100 from Boston. Hartford and Providence are each less than an hour away. Driving by, you can't miss it. It's the second largest casino in North America, covering almost 5 million square feet. Along with every slot machine and table game known to man, it also has a dozen restaurants (including a Hard Rock Cafe and David Burke Prime) and two theaters. 

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Deal of the Week: Take some blissful abuse for cheap at Nemacolin Woodlands


One thing Western Pennsylvania is not short on is rolling forest land. And so, the golf courses there tend to be sprawling, brawny places with big slope ratings and lots of room off the tee. 

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort's Mystic Rock fits the pattern exactly. The home of the former 84 Lumber Classic on the PGA Tour, Pete Dye's layout will make you tired just looking at the scorecard. Tipping out at more than 7,500 yards, it has five par-4s of 460 yards or longer. In the three years it hosted the 84 Lumber Classic, from 2003-2006, they didn't even play it from the full yardage. Folks love birdies.     

Lest that sound too much like a death march, it's a beautiful walk at a beautiful place, and a collection of springtime deals make the punishment even more palatable. Book the Just Fore Four package for any date before May 21 and you get four rounds on Mystic Rock along with lunch at one of the resort's acclaimed restaurants for $440. Book a fifth round and the rate is only $60. The peak season green fee is normally $225.  

The Nemacolin Woodlands Resort sits in the southwestern corner of the state, 70 miles south of Pittsburgh and 36 miles east of Morgantown, W.V. Spreading out over 2,000 acres, it has accommodations ranging from the AAA Five-Diamond Falling Rock hotel to RV hookups. Room rates at Falling Rock start at $509, while a two-bedroom townhouse runs $319 and up. 

If you have friends with an RV, book a space for it at $129 a night and use the savings at the adjacent Lady Luck Casino--which is only open to resort guests and members. 

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Didn't get into the Pebble Beach Pro-am? Roll with Greg Norman and Richard Branson instead

Necker Island Aerial.jpg

If you can fork over $80,000 for a two-person team entry into a pro-am, you probably aren't wondering what it would be like to fly private. 

But playing golf with Greg Norman and partying on Sir Richard Branson's private island might be a different story. 

Branson is hosting the first annual Necker Open Pro-Am Aug. 27-Sept. 1 in two locations. For the full $80,000 entry fee, you and a teammate can play 36 holes over two days with Norman and three other to be determined golf stars at Sea Island Resort in Georgia, then fly privately to Branson's Necker, in the British Virgin Islands, for a four-day, three-night stay at the 74-acre ultra-private oasis. 

On Necker, which is space-limited to 30 people, you'll compete over nine stylized island "holes" around Branson's home, but mostly text everybody in your phone to let them know you've arrived, and who asked to borrow sunscreen while sitting next to you on the veranda. 

If you can't quite cover the $80k, you can still "win" your way to Necker in the 36-hole Sea Island tournament. For $9,750, you can enter your two-person team in the 36-hole qualifier at Sea Island. Record the lowest handicap-adjusted team score and you get 10 tickets in a drawing for one spot in the main event on Necker. Every team that competes will get at least a single "golden ticket," and additional raffle tickets can be purchased for $500 each. 

Get lucky and you could be extending your stay, and getting on a jet with Norman and Branson.

The event was devised as a sister tournament to the Necker Cup Pro-Am tennis tournament held the last three years, which has raised more than $2.5 million for charity. The golf event will benefit the Greg Norman Foundation, Virgin Unite, the National Tennis Foundation and charities related to the other professional golfers who will be in attendance. 

They're still checking to see if Necker's casualty insurance would cover John Daly. But you can dream.  

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