As I look back at 2019, I’m pretty sure it was the year where I got in the absolute most golf travel I’ve ever been able to play!
Tee view, 18th hole Varadero Golf Club
It all started in Varadero Cuba in February / March with 8 rounds of Golf at the top-rated course in Cuba (ok, it’s the only 18-hole course in the country now!) the Varadero Golf Club. Varadero Golf Club is a wintertime favorite of mine that I have played dozens of times. Located a short 3-minute walk (yes, walk) from the Melia Las Americas Resort, Varadero Golf Club is not the best course you will ever play but it is a ton of fun to play, has 2 great holes that are right beside the ocean and plays tough enough for a decent golfer to enjoy but is fair enough for everyone to play.
April saw me on a trip to visit my brother in Traveler’s Rest, an area of South Carolina I’ve never been to before – up in the northern part of the state near the border of North Carolina. This is a totally different golf experience that the coastal courses of Myrtle. Admittedly I was playing all private courses (The Cliffs courses, all part of a private residence community) but they were all vastly different, everything from mountain courses through to tree lined lake courses and inland links style courses, and an amazing kick off to my summer golf season.
17th hole, The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards
Every 2 years my buddies and I take a major trip somewhere and in 2019 it was Banff and the Columbia Valley of BC.
The trip of 10 nights and 9 rounds of golf was a marathon, but we played 8 of the rounds on courses on ranked in the Top 53 of Score Golf’s best public courses in Canada including one of my favorite courses in the world – Banff Springs. This Stanley Thompson gem really is a masterpiece with great design (I LOVE his bunkering!), unbelievable scenery and even a few visits from the local wildlife (give those elks a wide berth if you’re ever playing there). Memories for a lifetime.
Tee shot on 14th hole at Banff Springs with interested bystander
After that trip I stayed out west for a few more days to do some site visits and played perhaps one of the most dramatic courses I’ve ever been on – Tobiano. This course is a bit off the beaten track, just outside Kamloops, but it is a course that every Canadian golfer who is anywhere near the area should find the time to play. It is one of the toughest challenges I’ve run across with jaw dropping hole designs and scenery everywhere you turn. Tobiano has earned its status as one of the great courses in Canada.
Tobiano Golf Club
4th Hole Ridge Course, Predator Ridge with more bystanders
On the same trip I also went up Predator Ridge, a 36-hole resort with some of the best off-course facilities I have every experienced. Both courses are ranked in the Top 25 of public courses by Score Golf, the vast selection of off-course activities and the accommodation and dining are world class it can be the anchor for a great trip in the Vernon / Kelowna area. I was able to play the Ridge course, which features breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan and dramatic elevation changes dotted with beautiful granite outcroppings. I even had a visit from a black bear on the 10th tee (several hundred yards from me thankfully). The Predator is the second course and features rolling hills, long grasses and undulating greens which have twice hosted the prestigious world skin games. I didn’t get to play the course, but it looked beautiful as I had dinner and a few drinks on the patio overlooking the course!
Being back out west to golf after a few years reminded me of just how spectacular the golf in that region can be and for those who haven’t been, or haven’t been in a while, it is definitely worth a look and we can set up some amazing tours for you in that area.
My 2019 golf travels ended in October when TJ and I were at the Sweep and Swing Tour with a few Golf Away clients, plus Glenn Howard and John Morris. We not only won the international bonspiel we played in (a tie in the final game so both Canadian teams were declared winners!) but we also played several of the great course in the Fife area. My rounds included Carnoustie, St Andrews Castle Course and St Andrews New Course (another of my favourites in the world). We enjoyed unbelievable weather (low double-digit temperatures and only 7 holes of rain over the 108 holes of golf played by most of the group – great weather at any time of the year!).
Carnoustie, Castle Course St Andrews and North Berwick
After the tour I had an extra day in Scotland and took the opportunity to go down to North Berwick and Play North Berwick Golf Club. This is now a new favorite of mine! One of the oldest courses in the worked (I think the team there told me 17th oldest) golf has been played there almost since the game was invented and it should be played there by everyone. Multiple holes along the sea, a wall in front of the 14th green, the famous Redan Hole (#15) and that firm, fast links turf make for an unforgettable day of golf – that as a truly great way to end an unbelievable year of golf travel!
32 rounds of destination golf over 2019 – quite the year!
I could talk for hours about all these destinations, and will if any of you want to look at these as possibilities for your future golf travel plans, and I’m looking forward to the years ahead as I look to explore more of the great golf this world has to offer.
Happy golf travels to all in 2020!