Some recent e-mails courtesy of the golfdigest.com "Travel Trouble" in-box:*
From Gary McCray in Patterson, NJ: Dear Matty G., I'm trying to attend three golf tournaments next year. Do you have any advice on the FBR Open, Doral and the dream trip--THE OPEN at St. Andrews? Your help would be appreciated.*
Gary, I've done recent travel stories about Scottsdale (FBR Open), Miami (Doral) and I've been to St. Andrews (THE OPEN) a few times. Loosely, one might say those three specific destinations represent beer, babes and golf-porn, respectively, if you will. I see how you're rollin'. And I like it.
I suggest the two courses at Talking Stick or the two at We-Ko-Pa (the theme here is no houses along narrow fairways). In terms of scenery, you wont have to go any further than just outside the ropes of the FBR. I'm told this is the second best golf party every year--the best is the one in Texas the week of the Byron Nelson, hosted by Tommy Armour III.
I suggest Key Biscayne if you want to play a course in the Miami area. Either that, or take a walk along the out-skirts of South Beach. You'll need a neck brace for several scantily clad scene-arios by the time you're done.
As for Scotland and St. Andrews, yes, I'd agree, that's a dreamy trip--different from the dreams induced by Scottsdale and Miami. Picking a good course to play in or around St. Andrews is like picking a ripe avocado--it's hard not to squeeze em all before you know what's right for you and your basket.
I found this website, which might help. I suggest Kingsbarns, the Dukes and Jubilee. One of our Executive Editors at Golf Digest, Mike O'Malley, often refers to Kingbarns as his favorite. And he has played Augusta, the Old Course and Pine Valley.
The Castle course got ripped as "ruining a perfectly good potato farm" when it first came out (greens were pretty crazy), but I hear there have been adjustments made by designer, David McLay Kidd, so it might be worth another look. McLay Kidd told me that tweaks to the Castle Course can't be considered "changes" if he's the one making them--which is why I went with the word, "adjustments."
From Ken Kneis of Wayne, NJ: Matty G., We need your help. We have a trip next week that was supposed to be 12 players. One guy bailed out on us, so we are left with 11. We were going to have four-man teams, but don't know what to do down one player without having someone play two balls.*
Ken, if it's not too late, and without knowing the specifics (so I apologize if this is insensitive), but maybe the sleeve of two balls is best played by the guy who suddenly can't make it.
That being said, a man-down is a frequent dilemma for a lot of buddies trips (and I encourage people to chime in). But I've always thought the blind draw is the best way to fill in for a busy buddy. In your case, with 11 guys and four-man teams, play two foursomes and one threesome (put the threesome out first for pace-of-play issues). I assume the four-man teams have some sort of A-player, B-Player, C-player and D-player structure. If that's the case, depending on the level of the missing party, say he's a C-player, at the end of the round do a random selection of the other three C-players. Then insert his scores into the scorecard of the threesome and he becomes the random fourth man. And I say the random fourth man does not cash in on his borrowed teams winnings, if that's the case.
If you're in a scramble situation, I'd adjust the teams so the three-player team has two B-players and a D-player (load em up with a little so-called talent) and then I say they still get four putts. The fourth putt is rotated amongst the three players throughout the round. Larry gets two putts on the first hole (if necessary), Curly gets two putts on the second hole (if necessary) and Mo gets two putts on the third hole (if necessary), and so on. I hope this makes sense, and I hope it helps your cause.
And then there are just a few recent e-mails worth posting, if for no other reason, as a way to let a reader vent a little:
From Jim Cesarz of Braintree, MA: Matt, I know that you are not personally responsible for the list of Top 75 Golf Resorts in North America, but I think Golf Digest made a big mistake by not including the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina. The "property" is without peer in my opinion and the May River Golf Course (Nicklaus Design) was in pristine condition and a very challenging test of golf.
From Jeff Hamilton of Orlando, FL: Why no news on the website about the closing of Troon Golf Vacations and their affiliate, Hospitality Tee Times? Get a story out on the importance of reliable tour operators, not a "name" claiming to be in the industry. They outsourced the operation to Desert Golf Vacations.*
Do you have a question, a rant or a dilemma? If so, send 'em to this link. By way of this blog or in the magazine, I try to answer as many as I can.