1. LEXINGTON, KY.
It might seem like there are fewer opportunities these days to pound our chests and feel proud to be American, but when you're sipping a bourbon after a round of golf amid the rolling emerald hills and endless rows of horse paddocks around Lexington, well, color me red, white and Kentucky blue. The reason I'm going all Uncle Sam on you is that I recently returned from a pilgrimage of sorts. Because I love golf and bourbon, I visited the Lexington area where I could blend the two—like a master mixologist. The idea was to play golf in the morning and tour some of the area's bourbon distilleries in the afternoon. If you're thinking of doing the same, start at Griffin Gate Golf Club and stay at its adjacent hotel and spa. Rees Jones designed the very playable course, and the resort's location near several major highways allows you to zip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (kybourbontrail.com
) with ease. Among the best tours are the ones at Woodford Reserve and Four Roses. To fill out your golf schedule, Old Silo Golf Course and The Bull at Boone's Trace are terrific. I played The Bull on a perfect 75-degree morning in September and finished in time to head over to the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg. Al Young, a brand ambassador for 47 years, walked my group through the fascinating distilling process, including a taste of "white dog." It's the clear, moonshine-like, pupal stage of bourbon before the charred oak barrels give the drink its familiar taste and color. Before I took a sip, I wasn't expecting much. But like Lexington as a golf destination, it was very satisfying. —Ron Kaspriske
2. NIPOMO, CALIF.
The genius of the Learn Golf! program for kids is that it's modeled after a video game: You complete a "level" before moving on to the next one. Introduced last year at Monarch Dunes Golf Club by general manager Minas Kaloosian and course superintendent Tom Elliott, Learn Golf! uses the club's 12-hole par-3 course, with two flags in each green: one normal-size hole in the back, and the other eight inches in diameter near the front. First-timers start at the Green Level with a 9-iron and putter and are instructed to get the golf ball into the big hole. Do that and move on to the slightly longer Yellow Level, with three clubs, still to the big hole. Orange Level is still longer, with more clubs, and played to the smaller hole. Black Level is regulation length, played by traditional golf rules, with a full set of clubs. Cost is $10 a round, and the course can provide balls and clubs. One Tuesday last summer, I found the course packed with kids. To remind me what it was like to be a newbie, they had me play the Orange Level using left-handed clubs. Humbling. —Ron Whitten
3. ST. LUCIA, THE CARIBBEAN
The amazing thing isn't that there are horses grazing on the rough at St. Lucia Golf Resort & Country Club. It's that they always seem to be standing off to the left side of the fairway, about 250 yards out. Call it learned behavior from years of dodging short slices in the opposite direction. A shortage of grazing land makes the borders of the course prime real estate for local ranchers, so they've struck an agreement with the course's management to use their horses to help with grass maintenance—the old-fashioned way. Before the course-construction bubble burst, architects Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman were in the process of making St. Lucia a premier golf destination, with two new courses. But that never materialized, leaving the Caribbean island with only the par-71, 6,685-yard layout. It's worth a round. Just remember to bring some carrots.—Tim Oliver
When it comes to golf, we get around. Each month our editors share dispatches on the cool things they found.