The Local Knowlege


Deal of the Week: See Hemingway's Sun Valley at a discount

Ernest Hemingway came to Sun Valley, Idaho for the first time in 1939 for a lot of the same reasons visitors come now -- the incredible mountain scenery, clean air and low key atmosphere. A-listers like Tom Hanks and Mark Zuckerberg still like it because they can walk around relatively unbothered and enjoy two distinct recreation seasons -- golf and skiing. 


When you go, you can stay at the same resort Hemingway did. Suite 206 in the iconic, x-shaped Sun Valley Lodge -- where Hemingway finished writing For Whom the Bell Tolls -- isn't a part of the resort's fall Aspen Glow promotion, but you can get a standard room at the Lodge or related Sun Valley Inn and a round of golf at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Trail Creek course for $179 per person through September 28th. A night in the Lodge normally starts at $324, and the green fee ranges from $79 to $149.

Don't let all of the snowy photographs of Sun Valley's world-class Bald Mountain ski area trick you. The average daytime high in September is still in the low 70s early in the month and mid 60s late, while average lows dip into the 30s. Play 18 holes and take meandering fall color tour around nearby Warm Springs, where Hemingway spent his final years in a house overlooking the Wood River. 

Head back to the Lodge afterward and lose the jackets and go for a nighttime swim in the famous circular outdoor pool adjacent to the lobby. It's open year round and heated to 102 degrees, perfect for nursing a cocktail and looking at the stars. 

The Hailey airport is 14 miles from the resort, and it has daily non-stop flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake and Seattle.
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Deal of the Week: Fall savings at Southern California's La Costa

The weather in San Diego is ideal any time of year, but fall is especially nice. Daytime temperatures sit in the mid-70s and "drop" to the high 60s at night. It's the perfect time to enjoy a quick getaway to La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad. 


La Costa's sports pedigree is nearly unmatched. Its Champions course was the site of the PGA Tour's champions-only Mercedes Championships from 1969 to 1998, seven editions of the WGC-Match Play from 1999 to 2006 and the LPGA's Kia Classic in 2010 and 2012. Its tennis center has hosted a women's professional event since 1971. 

To celebrate the recent $10 million renovation of the Champions course, the resort is offering a variety of discounts on its popular stay-and-play packages. The $199-a-night Experience package includes a room for two and $90 in credit toward green fees or $45 in credit toward spa treatments per person. The Golf package starts at about $430 per night and includes room, breakfast, unlimited golf for two and a $50 credit toward lessons at the practice center. 

After playing the new 493-yard, par-4 14th, you might need that lesson -- if only to rebuild your shattered confidence. The same creek protects the left side of the hole off the tee and threatens your lay-up when you inevitably realize you won't get home in two. 

Book either package by Aug. 24 to get the best deal.

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Deal of the Week: Buy two and get one free at the new Disney Four Seasons

Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando will always be the place to release your inner 10-year-old. But that doesn't always mean you want to sleep in a bunk bed. 


As of Aug. 1, that just got easier. A sprawling new 443-room Four Seasons hotel opened on the property, offering the first true luxury experience at the mega-theme park. Room rates start at about $550 (vs. about $100 at one of the standard themed hotels), but as a part of the grand opening festivities, you can get one room free for every two consecutive nights you book. The offer is good until Dec. 19 and includes access to both the adults-only pool and family-friendly lazy river and water slide on property. Even if you don't use the dedicated Disney concierge in the lobby to set up your day at the theme parks, you can sit at the rooftop lounge overlooking Cinderella's castle and watch the nightly fireworks. 

Disney's resort golf courses have long been favorite wintertime destinations for both vacationers and the PGA Tour. The Palm and Magnolia courses have hosted tour events and are considered to be the best of the four 18-hole tracks. The Tom Fazio-designed Tranquilo Golf Club adjacent to the Four Seasons might be familiar from a different visit. It used to be called Osprey Ridge, and it will reopen Sept. 1 after a light facelift during construction of the hotel.  

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Deal of the Week: Stay and play at Arcadia Bluffs

By Matthew Rudy


Northern Michigan's Arcadia Bluffs has million-dollar views from its position high above the Lake Michigan shoreline. Now, it can be had for a good bit less.

Normally, you'd pay $180 to play one of Golf Digest's Top 100 public courses in prime summer season. But with Arcadia's Sunday Night Special, you can book a Sunday tee time and stay overnight afterward in one of the 15 guest suites on the second floor of the clubhouse for $270 per person, double occupancy. That's $140 off the regular rate, and good through Sept. 28. The deal also includes breakfast for two in the Sunset Grill, which has panoramic views of the lake both inside and out on the patio. Stop by after your round as well, as it's perennially listed as one of the best 19th holes in golf for the view, big-screen televisions and comprehensive list of craft beer, bourbon, scotch and wine.    

Arcadia's front nine plays like a sweeping Scottish links, with the lake tumbling into view as you crest a rise on the fourth hole. The back nine tightens up through gullies protected by mature heather and deep bunkers. If you turn to your left on the lakeside 12th tee box and hit a ball, it wouldn't make landfall for 60 miles, in Kewaunee, Wis. Four of Arcadia's most severe greens -- the seventh, 10th, 17th and 18th -- were given facelifts over the winter to make them slightly more accommodating. The 10th was a particularly nasty welcome to the back nine, with a false front and horizontal ridge on either side of a giant sod-faced bunker.     

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Deal of the Week: Plays and rays at Troon North

By Matthew Rudy


It's a dry heat. 

Scottsdale probably isn't your first pick for a summertime game, with temperatures in the 90s by 8 a.m. and 110 by lunchtime. But many of the best resort courses in the Phoenix area are doing their best to drum up play during this traditionally slow period. 

Troon North is offering one of the best -- and most clever -- embrace-the-heat deals. You can play 36 holes on either the Tom Weiskopf-designed Monument or Weiskopf/Jay Morrish-designed Pinnacle and get a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses for $199. The Maui Jims usually retail for more than $200, so you're getting shades with a nine-hour suntan thrown in for free.  

The offer is limited to the first 150 customers who buy it through the Troon North e-store, and is good through Aug. 16. 

If you don't need the glasses, you can make a golf-only deal for $125. That leaves plenty of cash left for an Arnold Palmer in the air-conditioned Dynamite Grille or a rehydrating spa treatment at the Four Seasons next door.
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Places We Like: Farmer's Home Tavern in Hemlock, MI

By Matthew Rudy

The upper half of Michigan's Lower Penninsula is known for some of the best destination golf in North America -- Arcadia Bluffs, Bay Harbor and Treetops are just a few. The middle part of the state doesn't get the same attention, but one little roadside tavern should. 

Established in 1860 as a rest stop for mid-Michigan cattle herders, Farmers Home Tavern now specializes in giant cheeseburgers, coney dogs and fried fish instead of nickel bunkhouse rooms and a community bathtub. It occupies a ramshackle clapboard building on what constitutes tiny Hemlock, Michigan's main drag, M-46, which bisects the corn and sugar beet fields in the middle of the state like a ruler from Saginaw to just north of Grand Rapids. 

The tavern is most famous for its cheeseburgers, 3/4-pound monsters made from local beef that have won the regional Saginaw News' "Best of" award for more than a decade running, but the two-for-$5.25 coney dogs are equally worthy. The decor -- and the beer specials -- will remind you of 1984, but in a good way. Enjoy a $2 Miller Lite and the Tigers game on TV as you sit in a chair that looks like it came out of a church basement. It's cash only, but you can order more food than a single person could eat for $10. 

There's even room to park a combine in the back. 

After you fuel up, it's an easy hour drive west to one of the state's best kept secrets, the 36-hole Tullymore Resort in Stanwood. The original St. Ives 18 is a Golf Digest five-star course, and when Tullymore came along in 2002 it was named Golf Digest's Best New Upscale Course. Rates range from $100 to $125, but ladies get a 40 percent discount and juniors are half off.  

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Unofficial Guide: Space Shuttles and Amish Delicacies in Washington, D.C.

By Matthew Rudy

Big Air
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is still the standard by which all class field trips are judged. Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the Wright Brothers' Flyer, Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1and NASA's Apollo 11 command module from the first trip to the moon are all in the same 160,000-square-foot building near the Capitol. 

Many visitors to the original museum figure out too late -- once they've already made it downtown --that many of the most impressive exhibits in the collection are shown at the vast Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Annex at Dulles International airport in suburban Dulles, Va. The annex would be worth a trip to the nation's capital all by itself. 


The two giant hangars have the elbow room to show off a priceless collection of American air and space iron. There's the low-tech B-29 bomber "Enola Gay," which dropped the atomic bombs that ended World War II, and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the first "stealth" reconnaissance aircraft (shown above). You can also see the space shuttle Discovery, which completed 39 missions between 1984 and 2011. Admission is free, which is $100 less than decent tickets to a Nationals baseball game for a family of four. 

Golden Oldies
It's fashionable -- and healthy -- to eat clean foods that haven't been adulterated with additives or chemicals. One way to do it is to chow down with people that don't believe in electricity. At the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer's Market in Annapolis, Md., 25 miles east of D.C. on the Chesapeake Bay, you can go straight to the source and pick up meat, eggs, vegetables and baked goods produced the way they were in carriage days, by Amish farmers. 


Or, you can move up the food chain and sit down for lunch at the Dutch Market Restaurant's counter. Open Thursday to Saturday only, it offers the original incarnation of American comfort food circa 1850: turkey, bacon, gravy, hand-mashed potatoes, homemade bread and fresh-baked pie. Don't ask for a decaf cappuccino afterward. You'll get black coffee in a thick porcelain cup, and you'll like it. The Amish don't take credit cards, but they do have a website.      

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Places We Like: Pepperfire Hot Chicken in Nashville

By Matthew Rudy

Buffalo has its wings, but Nashville is a little more equal opportunity when it comes to chicken. The Music City's signature dish is "hot chicken," a catch-all category that includes the bird in all of its guises -- breasts, wings, drumsticks, strips, tenders -- marinated in buttermilk and doused in various amounts of cayenne pepper before being deep fried. 

Like New York City pizza, everybody has an opinion about which establishment is the best (or hottest). Prince's Hot Chicken Shack is the grandaddy of the bunch, and visiting is like entering an archeological dig that's in the middle of excavation. It's set in a grimy strip mall in a decidedly less-fashionable part of North Nashville. Take your cue from the dining room full of people tearing up over molten breasts and wings that are stacked like firewood over pickles and white bread on picnic-style styrofoam plates. They're the ones who ordered "medium" heat. 

As good as the chicken is at Prince's, it takes a special commitment to soldier the wait, crummy service and paleozoic chairs. To get a more modern (and equally delicious) experience, head toward downtown for Pepperfire. The decor is no great shakes here, either -- you order at a makeshift front window in what appears to be an abandoned cinder-block fast-food restaurant. Pick your cut of chicken and heat level (mild to XXtra hot), order a couple of sides and leave your cell number with the cashier. The chicken is prepared to order, and you get a text when it's ready. Which is good, because if you touch your phone with your fingers after you eat, you could scar your corneas forever.

At both Prince's and Pepperfire, medium was still as hot as anybody from the Northeast should ever order. The extra-hot chicken comes out an angry, devil-face red and is served with a stern warning from the counter staff. Slices of plain-jane white bread seem like a wasted accessory until you realize that spicy chicken is best eaten with a handle. Some foods are hot for the sake of hotness, and all you can taste is the heat. Prepared well, hot chicken starts with the heat and morphs into the juiciest fried chicken you've ever had. At least in medium guise. I wasn't brave enough to bite into the XXtra hot without a pair of goggles and nowhere else to be the rest of the afternoon. 

If you're intrigued (and brave), the annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival hits Nashville July 4. Bring an iron stomach and a pail of milk and conduct a taste comparison among the seven vendors -- including both Prince's and Pepperfire.

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Unofficial Guide: Legendary pizza and original burgers in Hartford

By Matthew Rudy

New Haven Style
The unofficial motto of the Unofficial Guide is "local delicacies and hangouts," or, the places you shouldn't miss when you make your first visit. You might feel a pang of Instagram regret if you miss a visit to world Pez headquarters (in Orange, CT), but if you come to Connecticut and don't go to the ancestral home of thin-crust brick-oven pizza in America, you've made a serious tactical error. 

New Haven is 30 miles southwest of the TPC of River Highlands. You've heard of it as the home of Yale University, but you should visit for the places you can actually get into. When GQ food writer Alan Richman picked his 25 best pizzas in America, two pizzerias on the same block of Wooster street in New Haven -- population 125,000 -- made the list, and a handful of others in town are worthy contenders. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally's Apizza have been serving pies since 1925 and 1938, respectively, and simple combinations that end up on the battered trays at your table are essentially identical to what you would have eaten during the Great Depression --  homemade dough blistered in the original brick ovens at 600 degrees and topped with your choice of fresh mozzarella, chicken, peppers, pepperoni, sausage and even clams. Come during standard meal hours and you'll wait more than an hour for a table, and the service alternates between brisk and brusque. But fight it out and you'll be rewarded with one of those rare unique food experiences that live up to the hype. Pepe's has an outpost closer to the tournament, in West Hartford, but if you're going to make the commitment, do it right. 

The Throwback Burger
New Haven is to comfort food what Athens is to architecture. Ten minutes from the dueling pizzeria legends is Louis' Lunch, the nondescript little shack where hamburgers were invented in 1900. The original proprietor's great grandson still runs the place, and cooks your burgers pinched vertically on the same unique cast iron clamshell grill Louis Lassen used during the Teddy Roosevelt Administration. Get fancy with your order and they'll boot you out, so don't. Ask for the cheese works and take your medium rare cheeseburger with tomato and onion and sit in one of the ancient booths where turn-of-the-last-century Yalies carved their impeccably spelled graffiti. Louis' might fit 30 people, so if the line is daunting you can stall across the street at Bar, where they serve a mean mashed potato and bacon white pizza. You'll only make fun of it once, before you try it.    

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Unofficial Guide: Cholesterol and the King in Memphis

By Matthew Rudy

Memphis Smoke
Combine the words "barbecue" and "Memphis" in the same sentence within earshot of anybody from Tennessee and the Rendezvous will be the reflex response--and for good reason. They've been serving pork ribs with Charlie Vergos' secret dry rub in the same downtown alley since 1948. It's an institution, and worth the pilgrimage. 

But part of that reflex response might be a little protective and self serving. Because as good as the Rendezvous is, it isn't the best rib joint in Memphis. The Cozy Corner is, and the tiny storefront on the corner of North Parkway and Manassas might be able to cram 30 people inside at a time. If the Memphians told you about it, they wouldn't be able to get in. And in a place where the most famous joints take advantage of Memphis' FedEx superhub status to ship ribs and sauce around the world, the Corner wears its locals-only status like a badge of honor.

The wet ribs pay the bills, but some of the more "exotic" choices on the menu are equally good. The Corner is almost as famous for its whole barbecued Cornish hen, and the tastes-far-better-than-it-sounds barbecued spaghetti. Hours are 11 am to 9 pm Tuesday through Saturday, but the ribs and hens sell out quickly.  

Down in the Jungle Room
Even kitsch becomes historic when it ages long enough. And so it is for Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion--his Memphis home base from 1957 until his death in 1977. Sure, the commercial stuff across the street is over-the-top (an actual Heartbreak Hotel? Really?), but in the mansion they've done a terrific job preserving many of the rooms as they were when Presley lived there. You can't go upstairs and see Elvis' bedroom--or the bathroom where he lost his life while on the throne--but a tour for the ethereally garish Jungle Room is a worthy substitute. It's where Presley recorded his last two albums, and the King must have been taking drugs to be able to concentrate amongst the green shag carpeting, tiger prints and crazypants faux-Polynesian furniture. 

A trip around the garage reveals that what Elvis lacked in taste he made up for in presence. His favorite car, a baroque black-on-red 1973 Stutz Blackhawk, glitters like it did when he took his last drive in it the night before he died. They don't make googly-eyed, hand-made, Italian-built, Pontiac-powered touring coupes with 18-carat gold plated trim like they used to. And that's probably a good thing.    

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