Golf Blog

It's Not Taco Time, it's Tahoe Time!

I could eat tacos until I am blue in the face, but if you made me choose between tacos and Tahoe, I would choose Tahoe every single time. The only problem with this particular visit to Tahoe… it wasn’t long enough. I visited only for a couple of days, but I loaded up on a heavy doses of those Tahoe blues.

First up on the agenda was a visit to South Lake Tahoe and Edgewood Tahoe. Every year, Edgewood plays host to the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. Celebrities and athletes like Justin Timberlake, Steph Curry, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Ray Romano crowd the shores of Lake Tahoe and golf hard.

Those “Keep Tahoe Blue” bumper stickers are working.

Those “Keep Tahoe Blue” bumper stickers are working.

Edgewood Tahoe is located right next to the casinos of South Lake and is an excellent place for a golfin’ and gamblin’ type trip. I wasn’t hitting the casinos on this particular visit, but I have been known to lose $5-$10 on a friendly Nassau. The best part about Edgewood is that it is a public golf course and anyone can tee it up. Just book a tee time and golf like a celebrity.

The 18th hole at Edgewood is one of the best finishers in Tahoe.

The 18th hole at Edgewood is one of the best finishers in Tahoe.

The 10th hole starts off a terrific back nine.

The 10th hole starts off a terrific back nine.

Beware of the bunkers on the 16th green at Edgewood

Beware of the bunkers on the 16th green at Edgewood

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For the afternoon, I headed up to the north side of Lake Tahoe to visit another public gem called Coyote Moon. Located in the pristine forests of Lake Tahoe, there isn’t a single home spoiling the view at Coyote Moon. Numerous rock outcroppings really add to the ambience.

The golf ride at Coyote Moon is also a lot of fun. With ample landing areas off of the tee, you won’t lose too many balls and will have plenty of chances to go for broke or birdie.

With the elevation and the significantly downhill slope, you could hit 3-4 clubs less on the 13th hole.

With the elevation and the significantly downhill slope, you could hit 3-4 clubs less on the 13th hole.

Shadows fall on the 16th green at Coyote Moon.

Shadows fall on the 16th green at Coyote Moon.

The par 5 12th hole is a great eagle opportunity and a personal favorite.

The par 5 12th hole is a great eagle opportunity and a personal favorite.

The following day it was a visit to Old Greenwood. Old Greenwood is a Jack Nicklaus Signature design and always a crowd favorite with the visiting golfers. Even though the golf course is lined with trees, it’s very playable and still presents a challenge to the scratch player. I casually strolled by Anika Sorenstam as I headed into the pro shop to check in. If Old Greenwood is good enough for Anika, it’s good enough for me.

The view from behind the 18th green. This uphill finishing hole is one of the finest holes on the property.

The view from behind the 18th green. This uphill finishing hole is one of the finest holes on the property.

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The short par 3 3rd hole at Old Greenwood.

The short par 3 3rd hole at Old Greenwood.

The public options for golf in Tahoe run pretty deep. Not only do you have a large number of courses to choose from, but you also have plenty of high end public golf courses as well. Where some destinations have a large concentration of private golf clubs, Tahoe has a great percentage of public golf that anyone can enjoy. I made a quick visit to another public course and area favorite called Schaffer’s Mill.

The 8th hole at Schaffer’s Mill.

The 8th hole at Schaffer’s Mill.

Good bunkering, good shadows.

Good bunkering, good shadows.

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After a rousing good meal at “The Sawyer,” a newly renovated restaurant at Schaffer’s Mill, I retired to my quarters for the evening.

When you are bouncing from hotel room to hotel room, a lot of the accommodations tend to blend together. However, my accommodations for this trip were especially unique. The River Ranch Lodge has white water rafting, a restaurant, and rooms that you can stay in right on the Truckee river.

The Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee also stood out. Just look at that fancy bed. How often do you take pictures of a hotel room bed? They also have these fancy shower heads that they will explain to you when you check in. So fancy that they require an explanation.

In the morning I loaded up on a serious breakfast situation and headed out for the final round of the trip. I had managed to secure a tee time at one of the few private courses in the area called Clear Creek.

Designed by the Coore Crenshaw team of architects, Clear Creek Tahoe opened for play in 2014. It’s regarded as one of the best places to play in the Tahoe area and I had the course to myself. I was feeling pretty special.

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Every golfer hits the skids every once in a while and for the past several weeks this guy had been going sideways with the golf ball. That was all going to change with my solo mission around Clear Creek. The birdies flowed like mountain fresh spring water rolling down the mountain side. Even when things got a little questionable, I would roll in a long par putt to keep the momentum going. It was one of those days that makes the golf soul smile. I tapped in for birdie on 18 and a satisfying even par 71.

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The short 17th emits a strong Pine Valley vibe.

The short 17th emits a strong Pine Valley vibe.

Before the sun had time to set on another blue and beautiful day in Tahoe, I was off to my next blue destination… Hawaii

Is spelling Coeur D'Alene more difficult than making par on the island green?

You will want to double check your club selection on the floating, movable, island green at Coeur D’Alene Golf Resort. You will also want to double check your spelling after typing out the city name, Coeur D’Alene. Both tasks require a certain amount of precision and even slight mistakes will bring serious wrath. Upon completion of reading this blog post you will be able to easily navigate both tasks.

You should be able figure out the spelling and we shall get into the details of the island green later, but first, it is my duty to give you the details on one of Idaho’s greatest public golf courses, Circling Raven. Often ranked at the top of many lists, the Gene Bates design opened for play in 2003. The golf course sits on the land of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. In the tribe's own ancient language, it is called Schitsu'umsh, meaning "Those who were found here" or "The discovered people." Take my word, you will want to discover Circling Raven for yourself.

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Our crew got several chances to play Circling Raven and both rounds managed to hold my interest providing a fresh experience each time we played the course. As you can see in the aerial photograph below, the course is void of surrounding homes and visual distractions. Circling Raven is often forgiving off of the tee and provides a fun challenge for the casual golfer as well as the scratch player.

Holes 2-5 at Circling Raven take place on the other side of the tracks.

Holes 2-5 at Circling Raven take place on the other side of the tracks.

Golf Snake Alert! This harmless little guy was hanging out near the pin on the 2nd hole. He witnessed several pars and a lip out bogey.

Golf Snake Alert! This harmless little guy was hanging out near the pin on the 2nd hole. He witnessed several pars and a lip out bogey.

The view from the 8th tee box at Circling Raven

The view from the 8th tee box at Circling Raven

The Director of Golf at Circling Raven,  Dave Christenson , watches his golf ball land safely on the 16th green.

The Director of Golf at Circling Raven, Dave Christenson, watches his golf ball land safely on the 16th green.

For those that like to gamble with more than their $5 pro V1’s, there is a casino located right next to the golf course. Lee Abbamonte and I hung out in the casino bar, listened to some live music, and conversed with the locals. Circling Raven has hotel accommodations on the property and you can actually walk from your hotel room to the first tee.

While Circling Raven is certainly an excellent golf course, one course alone does not make Coeur D’Alene area a certified golf destination. However when you add in The Coeur D’Alene Golf Resort, you have a golf location worth making a trip for.

The Coeur D’Alene Golf Resort has somehow managed to make a name for itself based just on one golf hole alone. Home to the world’s only floating, movable, island green, golfers come from all over the world to see this feat of golf engineering.

The view of the floating 14th green emerges as soon as you step outside of the clubhouse.

The view of the floating 14th green emerges as soon as you step outside of the clubhouse.

In 1991 the first golf ball was struck onto the 14th hole and golfers have been inspired to visit and try their hand ever since. The green is reachable only by boat and usually plays anywhere from 140 - 170 yards. An underwater cable system adjusts the green’s position on a weekly basis. The good news is that they don’t make any changes while your golf ball is in the air. I like to imagine that there is a little underwater golf den where Golf Satan is at the controls. Golf Satan just sits there and moves the green out of the way on every shot, laughing maniacally. What a horrible thing to do, but that’s just how Golf Satan does things.

On the day we visited the hole was playing about 150 yards. Everyone but Lee Abbamonte found the green safely. However, Lee threw down not one, but two extra balls and found the green with each one. He banged in back to back birdie putts of 30 and 25 feet and exclaimed “This is my greatest golf moment of all time.”

A little boat called the “Putter” gives you a ride back to the mainland and they even provide you with a certificate for successfully completing the golf hole. The certificate is signed by the Captain of the “Putter” for authenticity. While the island green is a one of a kind experience, there are 17 other golf holes to play as well and trust me, you will want to golf ‘em all.

The tee shot on the short par 4 4th hole.

The tee shot on the short par 4 4th hole.

The collection of 5 par 3’s at Coeur D’Alene Resort stand out as one of the best in the entire country. You might make some 2’s, you might make some 7’s but you will certainly enjoy the views and challenges that each one provides.

The par 5 11th green with the par 3 12th hole in the distance

The par 5 11th green with the par 3 12th hole in the distance

The floatin’ 14th

The floatin’ 14th

The downhill 6th hole.

The downhill 6th hole.

The lakeside 3rd hole.

The lakeside 3rd hole.

The fidget spinner 5th hole.

The fidget spinner 5th hole.

When it comes to booking your trip to Coeur D’Alene, you have several options. You can stay at the CDA Resort or the Circling Raven Casino. We stayed at the casino and just made the 30 minute drive into Coeur D’Alene. If you tell em pjkoenig sent you, you won’t get a discount but there is a 1/10 chance that you will receive a high five.

Hot Times, Hot Springs... It's Harrison Hot Springs

“It feels like a totally different country up here.” I said those words out loud as I drove my Jeep Wrangler rental car out of the Vancouver airport and towards Harrison Mills, British Columbia in Canada. With such a short and easy flight from Sacramento, it felt like I had barely left California. Here I was hours later, driving the Canadian countryside on my way to Sandpiper Golf Resort to “Play the Piper.” When I arrived, I was thrilled to learn that I was staying in a tiny little golf cabin right on the 15th hole. The accommodations at Rowena’s Inn have been so popular that they are adding 7 more cabins to meet the demands of visiting golfers. It’s like you have your own little golf house out there.

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After checking into the golf cabin, I explored the property and scouted my plan of attack for the following day. My plan was simple, avoid the planes landing adjacent to the 17th fairway and make a ton of birdies.

The scouting report on the 16th hole.

The scouting report on the 16th hole.

The 17th hole runs adjacent to an airstrip for incoming planes filled with golfers.

The 17th hole runs adjacent to an airstrip for incoming planes filled with golfers.

This little lady demonstrates perfect form in the over the shoulder water pour pose.

This little lady demonstrates perfect form in the over the shoulder water pour pose.

The next day I got up early for a day of 36 with the Director of Golf at Sandpiper Golf Resort, Dave Corke. At Sandpiper, Dave is a little more than just the Director of Golf, he is also the most popular guy on the course. Not a group passed us by without a brief exchange of golf quips and handshakes. It was like getting a celebrity escort around the property. “Hey Dave! great putt for triple on that last hole.” “Play on through, Dave! We’ll just hide out here in the middle of the fairway, so you won’t hit us.” The jests and friendly smiles came in waves.

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As for the golf course itself, it’s got several main strengths. The first one is the high fun factor. The course is only 6,500 yards from the back tees and places a premium on accuracy off of the tee. The good news is that you won’t necessarily have to be accurate with your driver. Sandpiper offers plenty of shot options from the tee and club selection comes down to what you want to face with your second shot. When you have options, the fun factor really starts to rise. There are also several reachable par 5’s that will give you several good chances for an eagle. Making eagles is fun.

The second strength at Sandpiper is the beauty of the golf course’s surroundings. The majority of the course runs through chutes of tall stunning pine trees and reminded me a little of Sahalee Country Club in Seattle. The course picks up the ambiance further on the 15th hole when it reaches the banks of the Harrison River. With a handful of the finishing holes playing along the water, the views will delight the golf senses.

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If you happen to play Sandpiper in the months of October or November there is a 100% chance that you will find at least one eagle. However, that eagle will most likely be bald. Every year tens of thousands of bald eagles converge on Harrison and Sandpiper Golf Resort for some sort of bald eagle summit meeting. They line the trees and feast upon the spawning salmon. The story of the day goes to Dave Corke for his tale of salmon falling from the sky on the 9th tee box. A bald eagle had dropped his daily catch and the plummeting fish nearly hit Dave right in the head. Fortunately, Dave survived the ordeal and lives to tell the tale of flying salmon.

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After a rousing day of 36 at Sandpiper it was time to head down to Harrison Hot Springs and jump into full exploration and discovery mode. That’s right, it was time to begin the hunt for Bigfoot. With sightings all over the Harrison Hot Springs area, there is a wealth of information and lore on the hairy beast. I decide to jump right in and orchestrate my own Bigfoot expedition. First, I was going to need to conduct some research and fully investigate all of the available clues.

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All clues were fully investigated.

All clues were fully investigated.

Although the fresh fudge clue turned out to be a dead end, I received several hot tips from local fudge eaters that Bigfoot is real and in the area.

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There were many Bigfoot clues, but the biggest discovery was the fact that Bigfoot is indeed a fan of pizza.

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Following a hot lead, I decided to hike up to Whippoorwill Point to see if I could get my camera lens on the world’s most famous beast. On my way out to the point, I passed the source of the Harrison Hot Springs. Since the springs can reach up to 140 degrees, they are guarded by the trellis in the picture below. It is rumored that Bigfoot drinks the water directly from the springs, a potential source of his otherworldly strengths.

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As you can see below, a huge break through in the Bigfoot case was made on Sandy Cove on my way to Whippoorwill point. We are still awaiting the clinical results on the footprint pictured, but I think it is pretty obvious that this print is the real deal.

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Like almost every other Bigfoot adventure, mine would come up short in the end. The only shot of the hairy beast that I was able to capture was this picture of a replica Bigfoot in front of Muddy Waters Cafe. This particular Sasquatch is staring down the treats at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory which is also located on the main drive in downtown Harrison. Since he was frozen in stone, I had to eat the all of the chocolates myself.

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The scene in downtown Harrison is quaint and filled with all sorts of restaurants and scenic viewpoints. With the mountains on one side of the street and Lake Harrison on the other, the town is worth visiting for the sights alone. Fueled by the hot springs, you can go for a soak in the public pool, take in a fantastic meal at Morgan’s Bistro, or go for some ice cream on the the main drive. The stop at Morgan’s Bistro was easily my favorite meal of the trip. I took in a delicious halibut while overlooking Lake Harrison.

Standard sunset stroll in Harrison Hot Springs

Standard sunset stroll in Harrison Hot Springs

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Quick little evening workout session

Quick little evening workout session

My accommodations for the visit were at the nearby Harrison Beach Hotel. The hotel is located right in the heart of the scene and has balconies that overlook the lake. The photo below was actually taken from my personal balcony while I was in my underwear, which earned the hotel an unheard of 11/10 balcony rating.

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With only one day left in Harrison Hot Springs, I decided to pursue the Loch Ness Monster. That’s right, since I failed with Bigfoot, I was going after the second most legendary beast in the world. I would need a boat and an expert guide for this sort of mission and BC Sportfishing fit the bill perfectly. There were no real clues that the Loch Ness Monster was hiding out in Harrison Lake, but my all star guide, Anthony, told me there was a pretty good chance that we might catch some sturgeon. I happily boarded the boat.

Anthony has been providing fishing tours for over 20 years. Not only does he look like a pro, he is one.

Anthony has been providing fishing tours for over 20 years. Not only does he look like a pro, he is one.

Awaiting the nibbles…

Awaiting the nibbles…

Sturgeon can live to be over 100 years old and can grow to be over 20 feet long. These fish have been swimming in the sea for over 200 million years dating back to the triassic period. They might not be the Loch ness, but these fish sounded like the next best thing. Tony told stories of 2 hour battles with these ancient water beasts. However, my battle would last a quick 30 seconds as I reeled in a recording setting fish. When we put the tape measure down it measured a whopping 16.” It was indeed the smallest sturgeon ever captured. The largest sturgeon on record was a Beluga female captured in the Volga estuary in 1827, weighing 1,571 kg (3,463 lb) and 7.2 m (24 ft) long.

This sturgeon will likely live in the waters of Harrison Lake for the next 20 years.

This sturgeon will likely live in the waters of Harrison Lake for the next 20 years.

Even though I had not photographed Bigfoot or captured the Loch Ness Monster, I considered the trip to Harrison Hot Springs a raging success. After the fishing journey, I jumped on a plane back to the US with my new fishing record and a smile on my face.

A Bandon Dunes Wedding.

Over the last several years, golf has taken me to some pretty sweet ass places. From the cliffs of Old Head in Ireland to the crashing waves of Cypress Point in California, this golfer has gotten around. Even though I have been spoiled rotten with the destinations, it is the people that have been the magic ingredient. One of those people that brought the magic has been Kenzie O’Connell.

The first time that I meant Kenzie O Connell was at a Starbucks in the Calgary airport. She was ordering some sort of advanced triple macchiato with double iced espresso beans, with zero fat and zero calories. “Oh lord, here we go,” I remember muttering in my head. It’s a good thing that I didn’t say those words out loud as I would have been forced to eat them several days later. As it turns out, my new friend Kenzie O’Connell was the real deal.

My second favorite shot of Kenzie from our Canadian Rockies trip

My second favorite shot of Kenzie from our Canadian Rockies trip

My favorite shot of Kenzie from our Canadian Rockies trip.

My favorite shot of Kenzie from our Canadian Rockies trip.

Countless adventures and golf trips later, Kenzie was scheduled to arrive at the altar with the man of her dreams, Jimmy. I was selected as the photographer of choice and the destination of choice was Bandon Dunes. It was a real best in class type situation. If anything, the photographer was the weak link.

I warned Kenzie that this was my first official wedding shoot and that all of her wedding photos were going to turn out blurry and overexposed. She paid little attention to my pleas and paid me anyways. The pressure was on and I needed to deliver. Fortunately, I didn’t have to jump right into '“capturing the magic of love” right away, I had time to warm up with a practice round at Bandon Preserve. Nothing warms up a camera lens faster than Bandon Preserve.

Jimmy, the groom, hits one in tight on #6

Jimmy, the groom, hits one in tight on #6

#7 on Bandon Preserve with Bandon Dunes in the distance

#7 on Bandon Preserve with Bandon Dunes in the distance

Looking back on 17 at Bandon Dunes from #11 on Bandon Preserve

Looking back on 17 at Bandon Dunes from #11 on Bandon Preserve

When I first met Kenzie, she couldn’t high kick past her knee.

When I first met Kenzie, she couldn’t high kick past her knee.

Devastation over a short missed putt for birdie on #5.

Devastation over a short missed putt for birdie on #5.

The emotion of the missed putt strikes the faces of the wedding crew.

The emotion of the missed putt strikes the faces of the wedding crew.

There a few things as satisfying as the sun setting over Bandon Dunes.

There a few things as satisfying as the sun setting over Bandon Dunes.

With the warmup photo session and golf complete at Bandon Preserve, it was time for Jimmy and Kenzie’s big day. First up, I was tasked with photographing the ‘getting ready phase.’ This phase can last anywhere from 1 to 17 hours and involves a lot of high stakes hair fixing, makeup, and garment arranging. I just tried to get out of the way as the girls rushed to meet their deadline.

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Keeping with the golf theme Jimmy’s groomsmen and best man were outfitted in caddie attire.

Keeping with the golf theme Jimmy’s groomsmen and best man were outfitted in caddie attire.

With 4 wedding caddies and just 1 groom, Jimmy was fully prepared for success at the ceremony.

With 4 wedding caddies and just 1 groom, Jimmy was fully prepared for success at the ceremony.

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Jimmy and Kenzie decided to drive one into the Pacific to finalize their wedding vows to each other.

Jimmy and Kenzie decided to drive one into the Pacific to finalize their wedding vows to each other.

Jimmy was excited to marry Kenzie.

Jimmy was excited to marry Kenzie.

Some of the most boss bridesmaids that I have ever seen.

Some of the most boss bridesmaids that I have ever seen.

Kenzie did not actually hit this golf ball off of her brother’s face. Golfing in a wedding dress is hard.

Kenzie did not actually hit this golf ball off of her brother’s face. Golfing in a wedding dress is hard.

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After Jimmy and Kenzie were officially married, it was time to head to the reception. That reception was held at Bandon Dunes’ Punch Bowl. The 100,000 square foot putting surface was the perfect place to have some drinks and celebrate two great people and families joining their lives together. There was also a fierce putting duel, in which Jimmy The Groom emerged victorious. I am not gonna say everyone let him win… but everyone let him win.

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Probably talking joint banking accounts and mutual funds.

Probably talking joint banking accounts and mutual funds.

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Jimmy’s father and best man exudes confidence and joy.

Jimmy’s father and best man exudes confidence and joy.

Easily in my top 5 wedding photos. Kenzie did not know that I was taking this picture. She is legitimately angry about her new husband beating her at golf.

Easily in my top 5 wedding photos. Kenzie did not know that I was taking this picture. She is legitimately angry about her new husband beating her at golf.

Nikki B is a talented golfer… but it is just one of her many talents.

Nikki B is a talented golfer… but it is just one of her many talents.

Tisha  and  Chelsea  did not approve the posting of this picture.

Tisha and Chelsea did not approve the posting of this picture.

My favorite shot out of the 3 million photos I took.

My favorite shot out of the 3 million photos I took.

After the sun went down on an amazing day, we didn’t just give up and go to sleep. We grabbed our golf clubs and headed out for some golf… Night golf that is.

The staff at Bandon Dunes provided all of the night golf supplies that we needed. They set up the course, provided the glow balls (Glow V1’s) and even had the staff walk with us to make sure we didn’t get lost. All that was required of us was to show up with our clubs once it got nice and dark.

Anyone can set up night golf if you have a group of 8 or more. Just inquire when booking. The routing is holes 1,2,3, and then you play back into the Bandon Dunes main clubhouse on the 9th hole.

The staff even left a special glow in the dark message for Jimmy and Kenzie.

The staff even left a special glow in the dark message for Jimmy and Kenzie.

Like a true Bandon bride and groom, Jimmy and Kenzie decided to wake up the next morning and play more golf. The agenda for the following day… more golf. It was a true Bandon Dunes honeymoon, or maybe we just call it a Bandon Honeydunes.

I take this picture every time that I arrive on the 6th tee box at Bandon Dunes, it’s always wonderfully different looking back down the 5th fairway.

I take this picture every time that I arrive on the 6th tee box at Bandon Dunes, it’s always wonderfully different looking back down the 5th fairway.

Tisha Alyn deals with one of the newly renovated bunkers on #9 at Bandon Dunes.

Tisha Alyn deals with one of the newly renovated bunkers on #9 at Bandon Dunes.

Since this was the first time playing Bandon Dunes for Nikki, Chelsea, and Tisha, I played the role of Golf Tour Guide. Golf Tour Guide is great because you get to tell all of your old stories and feel real important and knowledgable.

Nikki, Chelsea, and Tisha stroll hard on the 16th at Bandon Dunes.

Nikki, Chelsea, and Tisha stroll hard on the 16th at Bandon Dunes.

The view looking towards the green on the 6th tee box at Bandon Dunes.

The view looking towards the green on the 6th tee box at Bandon Dunes.

The gorse (bottom left) blooms twice a year at Bandon.

The gorse (bottom left) blooms twice a year at Bandon.

the 11th hole at Pacific Dunes is a popular selection for favorite golf hole at Bandon.

the 11th hole at Pacific Dunes is a popular selection for favorite golf hole at Bandon.

Although I knew it was going to be a special weekend, I couldn’t have imagined the outpouring of joy and love from this fantastic group of friends and family. Here’s to a long and fulfilling life together for the new bride and groom. Golf and love on!

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Things To Do in Golf Before I Die List

A tee time at Augusta National. A pairing with Tiger Woods. A hole in one. These are the things that make up the everyday golfer’s “bucket list.” Or in plain English, they are things that golfers dream of accomplishing before they die.

However, I am not your everyday golfer and I have a strong dislike for cliches. I actually cringed when typing out the words “bucket list.” That is why this post is named “Things To Do in Golf Before I Die List.” Don’t get me wrong, I would certainly love to make a hole in one on Augusta National while playing golf with Tiger Woods, but that’s a lame ass cliche. You won’t find any of that nonsense on my list below.

Here is my official “Things To Do in Golf Before I Die List.”

  • Drive a golf ball through a phone book. I have been trying this for years. It may never happen.

  • Get struck by a golf ball at a PGA Tour event. I would love to take a header from Tony Finau or get plunked in the thigh by Gary Woodland. Caveat: No permanent physical damage.

  • Witness a double eagle. A hole in one is nice but the double eagle is the real deal.

  • Be a golf fan in the background of a historic golf moment. I want to be the guy who looks like he $hit his pants after watching Tiger Woods hole his putt to win the 2024 Masters and his 19th major. Although, I would have settled to be the dude in this sombrero.

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  • Do a cannonball into a body of water on the golf course. I refuse to do this for any reason other than making a hole in one. The key here is that the cannon ball is the list item, not the hole in one.

  • Make par on all 18 holes in one round. I have made it through 16 holes twice.

  • Hole out from the fairway to win a tournament. It doesn’t have to be the US Open. I would settle for the local Wednesday night Shamble Mixer. The riot in the fairway would be legendary.

  • Cash in on my Rod Pampling golf bet. At 750:1 odds, I stand to turn my $20 into a cool $15k when Rod Pampling holes the winning putt on Sunday at the RBC Heritage.

  • Witness this exact same thing. Seriously change nothing.

  • Get randomly paired up with Fred Couples. I am golfing solo and I run into a two-some, instead of letting me play through, they ask me to join. One of those golfers is Fred Couples.

  • Watch any golfer accidentally fall into the water after playing a golf shot. The key here is that this must be fully accidental. Full submersion is preferred.

  • Hit a 600 yard drive. I am playing a 400 yard par 4. I hit my normal 270 ball but it finds the cart path and rolls 330 additional yards. I have to play 200 yards back towards the green.


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That’s it for the “Before I Die” list. For the “After I Die” list I only have one request. That request is for my ashes to be spread on a golf course. There should be a bench or a moniker of some sort that will remind people that “Koenig was here.”

“That old man Koenig sure was a real asshole. But man, he loved to whack that little ball.” That is what they will say.

Smash in the sun

“Swing as hard as you possibly can.” Whenever someone asks me for a hot golf tip that is always the advice that I offer. It’s not too serious and it usually makes people laugh. However, when attending the Ak Chin “Smash in the Sun” World Long Drive event in Maricopa, AZ, that is the only advice that makes sense. You are gonna need everything you got as these competitors routinely hit the golf ball over 400 yards.

Fortunately, for the Pro Am we would have these competitors on our side. The night before the main event, we paired up with the professionals and squared off against other teams in a “most yards wins” scenario. Press LaBrie was our pro for the team competition and we got right to slamming the long ball.

My plan for distance was a simple 4 pronged approach.

  • Untuck my shirt for maximum flare and rotation.

  • Scream like I was being murdered.

  • Sell the follow through like it’s going 600 yards.

  • Swing as hard as I possibly can.

In a shining moment of long ball greatness, I was able to put one out on the grid 319 yards away from where I hit it. That particular drive was good enough to put our team over the edge. and we would be crowned the Smash in the Sun 2019 champions. I rank this victory slightly behind my Cinco De Mayo Scramble triumph at Diablo Creek back in 2008. We received a complimentary “Mexican fare lunch” instead of prize money.

The sun had already set as the “Smash in The Sun” Pro Am champs were crowned.

The sun had already set as the “Smash in The Sun” Pro Am champs were crowned.

I may never see that # next to my name ever again.

I may never see that # next to my name ever again.

The futility of our long drive attempts became apparent the next day when the big guns came out firing. The World Long Drive events future both a men’s and women’s division and the Golf Channel cameras were there to catch all of the action. With the sun was shining and the wind blowing, we settled into our seats to watch the golf balls fly.

First up was the women’s division and it’s no joke, people. Each one of these women can pound it farther than 99.9% of the male golfing population. That fact was clearly evidenced when Phillis Meti hit her golf ball 413 yards to win in the finals against Alexis Belton. No, she didn’t launch her golf ball out of a cannon, she hit it with a golf club. That drive set a new record for the longest drive ever recorded in the Women’s Division at a World Long Drive competition. 413 yards.

Troy Mullins came up just short in the semi final round of the competition..

Troy Mullins came up just short in the semi final round of the competition..

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Not yet out of diapers, this young golfer was already calculating launch angles in between matches.

Not yet out of diapers, this young golfer was already calculating launch angles in between matches.

Golf Channel’s Alex Olaughlin calls the action

Golf Channel’s Alex Olaughlin calls the action

Chelsea Pezzola made sure that all of The Smash in the Sun fans had a good time.

Chelsea Pezzola made sure that all of The Smash in the Sun fans had a good time.

With a record already in the books for the women, the men’s division had their work cut out for them. Tim Burke would deliver in stunning fashion when he hit a 474 yard bomb down the left hand side of the grid to win the event. 474 yards. To help put that into perspective…

  • Tim Burke’s drive was over 1/4 of a mile. He literally hit that thing a quarter mile.

  • The USGA’s current yardage guidelines for par 5’s are 471 to 690 yards.

  • Tim’s drive covered approximately 40 yellow school buses lined up back to back.

  • If you laid the Empire State Building on it’s side, Tim’s drive had it covered by several hundred feet.

Kyle Berkshire reacts to his final drive of 466 yards coming up 8 yards short of champion Tim Burke.

Kyle Berkshire reacts to his final drive of 466 yards coming up 8 yards short of champion Tim Burke.

Phillis Metti successfully defends here title at the Ak Chin Smash in The Sun in record setting fashion.

Phillis Metti successfully defends here title at the Ak Chin Smash in The Sun in record setting fashion.

Tim Burke and Phillis Meti capture victory and hoist their hardware.

Tim Burke and Phillis Meti capture victory and hoist their hardware.

The Ak Chin Smash in The Sun was the first of six televised events in 2019 with the season culminating in September at the Volvik World Long Drive Championships. If you manage to attend one of these events, you will find a fun party atmosphere like no other in golf. They pump up the crowd in between sets and even hand out noise makers to the spectators. If you can’t catch the WLD in person, you can always watch live on the Golf Channel.

With the long drive behind us it was time to take in some of the excellent public golf that the Phoenix area has to offer. We had 3 delicious courses lined up for the visit.

  • Ak Chin Southern Dunes

  • The Phoenician

  • Troon North’s Pinnacle course

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes is easily one of the best public tracks in the Phoenix area. However, it’s about 45 minutes away from the golfing center of Scottsdale and doesn’t always get the attention that it deserves. Created by the architecture team of Schmidt-Curley Design and the help of golfing legend Fred Couples, Southern Dunes is a wonderfully routed championship test of golf. Our group gladly took on the course on a sunny day and returned for dinner as a storm rolled in. The result was a fantastic double rainbow situation.

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A visit to the newly renovated Phoenician was up the following day and before the golfing commenced we got a tour of the AAA 5-Diamond resort. Not only was the tour of the resort amazing, our group was also treated to some first class male model poses.

Male model fountain posing

Male model fountain posing

One of the many pools at the Phoenician

One of the many pools at the Phoenician

The Phoenician is a Luxury Scottsdale, Arizona resort and it is clearly one of the finest in the Phoenix area. Featuring an upscale spa, fitness center, and top notch dining, the resort has a lot more to offer than just golf. There is an expansive pool complex, tennis, shopping, and more activities than I can even list.

We even scored accommodations in the luxurious Canyon suites on the property. Now, a Canyon Suite is not your normal hotel suite. These rooms have rooms within the rooms, it’s more like a canyon complex, I got lost several times looking for the bed. These suites are also good enough for Hollywood types as I passed David Spade in the hallway as I returned to my room. I excitedly blurted out “Spade!” and he calmly replied with a “What’s up man.”

The AAA 5-Diamond Phoenician resort

The AAA 5-Diamond Phoenician resort

The short par 3 17th at The Phoenician

The short par 3 17th at The Phoenician

The par 5 15th hole at The Phoenician

The par 5 15th hole at The Phoenician

Completed in 2018, Architect Phil Smith transformed the previous 27 holes at The Phoenician into a much more cohesive 18 holes of golf. Gone are the blind hazards and unwelcome surprises and the result is a course that flows much better. Golf purists will be drawn to the back nine as it is a much more cohesive unit set into the Sonoran Desert.

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Sun rises over The Phoenician’s 11th hole.

Sun rises over The Phoenician’s 11th hole.

The tag line Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale is “Pure. Desert. Classic.” I decided to do some investigating on each of these words to assess their validity. After several visits and double bogies, I have reached the conclusion that each word rings true. I like to imagine the marketing meeting where each one of these words was discussed in detail. Words like cactusy and rattlesnake would have been casually dismissed. But pure, desert, and classic do an excellent job of describing both golf courses at Troon North.

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Emily Lawrence attempts to take out the camera man.

Emily Lawrence attempts to take out the camera man.

Our leader for the day at Troon North was Emily with Experience Scottsdale, but I was in charge of picking the team names for our 2 v 2 showdown in the sun. It was Emily Lawrence and Art Sticklin on “Team Cartpath” vs Brian Gifford and I on “Team Viper.”

They wanted “Team Tempo” but I strategically downgraded them to “Team Cartpath.” By establishing an opposing and powerful team name, I had heavily stacked the odds in our favor. They would never recover from the psychological blow.

The 10th hole at Troon North’s Pinnacle course is one of my favorites.

The 10th hole at Troon North’s Pinnacle course is one of my favorites.

Getting Wild on the wild dunes at Wild Dunes Resort

The 18th hole on the Links course at Wild Dunes in Isle of Palms, SC.

The 18th hole on the Links course at Wild Dunes in Isle of Palms, SC.

“You know, the 18th hole used to be a par 5?” said Jeff Minton, the Director of Golf at Wild Dunes Resort. I was fumbling around with my 8 iron as I tried to figure out the logistics. “What!?!” I replied. “Yeah it used to be a real beauty around that corner but the green eroded into the ocean last year.” “Well you guys certainly replaced it with a real dump of a par 3.” I replied sarcastically. “A real trash dump.” Jeff agreed.

It’s kind of like if your husband Bard Pitt got sent to prison and you had to shack up with George Clooney instead. You will probably make due. The plan is to rebuild the 18th hole and return the par 5 to its former glory in the year 2020. As it stands now, you’ll just have to put up with one of the most scenic golf holes on the entire property.

The 17th green leads you right into the finishing 18th hole on the Links course.

The 17th green leads you right into the finishing 18th hole on the Links course.

The temporary par 3 18th plays at around 190 from the back tees.

The temporary par 3 18th plays at around 190 from the back tees.

Throughout the Wild Dunes Resort property you will have your hands full of resort activities. From tennis to water sports, Wild Dunes Resort has you covered. You can pig out at Huey’s Southern Eats and then learn basket weaving if you want to. Or you can go to the spa and experience the “Bubbles and Bliss” package. I passed on the spa and the basket weaving but I did remember to pig out at Huey’s. I got the bbq chicken with the macaroni and cheese and it was spectacular. However, the real reason that I was on the Isle of Palms in South Carolina was to check out the golf.

The 18th hole on the Links course from the tee box.

The 18th hole on the Links course from the tee box.

The par 3 12th was also one of my favorites

The par 3 12th was also one of my favorites

There are two golf courses that await the vacationing golfer at Wild Dunes Golf Resort, the Links course and the Harbor course.. Both courses were designed by Tom Fazio and The Links course is the more highly regarded of the two. When it opened in 1980, it was on the list as one of America’s Top 100 golf courses.

The 16th on the Links course starts a 3 hole finishing stretch right on the Atlantic Ocean.

The 16th on the Links course starts a 3 hole finishing stretch right on the Atlantic Ocean.

Even though the Links course has the pedigree, I found the Harbor course to be the more challenging of the two. With small greens and tight landing areas, you need to have some control over that golf ball. When the wind picks up, you could be in for a tough but scenic scoring day.

As you make the turn on the Harbor course, you will find a handful of golf holes that sit right on the intercostal waterway. These holes stand out in terms of aesthetics and make for a visually stimulating finish to the round.

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Along with the golf at Wild Dunes Resort, I also got a serious helping of wildlife. We saw several gators, egrets, and even some snakes. After hitting our tee shots on the 8th hole, one particular alligator grabbed my attention. I approached the prehistoric beast, I looked him dead in the eye, and challenged him to a wrestling match. Sensing my confidence, he turned and immediately jumped into a nearby pond. I do not recommend this strategy to amateur gator wrestlers.

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Since the resort is located directly on the Atlantic Ocean, I decided to take a break from the golf to spend some time on the beach. This was the perfect opportunity to work on my sand game and my golf tan. While my bunker game is in great shape, I fear that my golf tan game is beyond repair. Walking on the surface of the sun may be the only remedy for this disaster. Please accept my apologies for the jarring yet artsy image below.

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The 12th hole on the Harbor course.

The 12th hole on the Harbor course.

The sun sets on my Wild Dunes experience.

The sun sets on my Wild Dunes experience.

My visit to Wild Dunes Resort was a brief one but the golf was as intense as my golf tan. If you are interested in learning more about Wild Dunes Resort give em a visit here.

You guys golfing in that Wigwam?

When it comes to winter golf destinations, there are certain places that immediately rise to the top of the list. States like Hawaii, California and Florida jump into my brain and scream.. Pick me!! Pick me!!

Today we are giving the readers of pjkoenig.com another option to consider. We are talking The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, AZ. With Spring training in town and located only 30 minutes away from the Phoenix airport, the resort is a popular option from February to March. Scottsdale gets most of the love from the Spring Training crowd but The Wigwam is King of the West side and it’s been in charge for quite some time.

In 1918, the Goodyear Tire company discovered that cotton was a key ingredient in making higher performing and longer lasting tires. To help meet the increasing demand for their tires, Goodyear purchased 16,000 acres of land for cotton farming in Arizona and established lodging for local ranch suppliers. Naturally, these guests grew to love the place and suggested it would be an ideal spot for winter vacations.

On Thanksgiving Day of 1929, The Wigwam opened its doors to the world as a guest ranch. Over the next 90 years, the resort would host presidents, celebrities, and various high society types. In 2019, they added Patrick Koenig to their already impressive roster of esteemed guests. Note: Esteemed guest list does include Britney Spears. I immediately classed up the place with a professional teepee modeling shoot.

Pose 1: Power Teepee Pose

Pose 1: Power Teepee Pose

Pose 2: Teepee Tabletop Pose

Pose 2: Teepee Tabletop Pose

Even though the Wild West ended somewhere around 1895 and the resort’s history picks up some 30 years later, you can still feel the spirit of the wild frontier at The Wigwam. In this modeling shoot, I attempt to capture that spirit. Photo credit goes to Rick Cicci, Head Golf Professional at the resort. His zest for participation in the photo shoot should tell you a lot about the fun loving atmosphere at The Wigwam. Without Rick none of this would have been possible.

Pose 3: Hip Pop Teepee Pose

Pose 3: Hip Pop Teepee Pose

Pose 4: Teepee Tantalizer Pose

Pose 4: Teepee Tantalizer Pose

In 1930, golf would enter the picture with the creation of a 9 hole Red Course. 5 years later course architect Red Lawrence and head professional V.O. “Red” Allen would expand the routing to include 18 holes. Today, the Red course is a local favorite as it is the most player friendly option of the 3 courses at the resort.

In addition to the Red course, Robert Trent Jones Sr. marched onto the scene in 1965 and delivered 36 more holes of golf. Honoring the history of the resort, the new courses were named after the colors of the Goodyear Tire logo, Blue and Gold.

Playing 7,345 yards from the back tees, the Gold course is the true championship test at the resort. The course was once listed as a Top 100 golf course in America and has hosted numerous US Open qualifiers, NCAA Championships, and currently holds one of the top amateur competitions in the world, The Patriot All-America Invitational.

The greens sites also add to the difficulty of the round with dramatic slopes on a number of the putting surfaces. On the first hole, I was sure that my second shot was going in for an albatross two. Even though we couldn’t really see where it finished, I was confident I was at least facing a short putt for eagle. As it turns out, I never stood a chance of holding that green and I had rolled down into a bunker. I ended up tapping in for a smooth 6 and a solid welcome to The Wigwam.

The golf moat on the Gold’s 18th has ruined many promising rounds.

The golf moat on the Gold’s 18th has ruined many promising rounds.

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The Gold course’s golf moat is one of my favorite features on the property.

The Gold course’s golf moat is one of my favorite features on the property.

While the pjkoenig.com golf blog is not much for pictures of food, the cuisine at The Wigwam is inspiring. Between Litchfield’s and Red’s Bar & Grill the dining options abound. The resort even offers fireside s’mores at The Wigwam bar. I could spend several paragraphs raving about the eatery, but I will leave you with just one pearl of wisdom.

The scallops at Litchfield’s earn my first ever 5/5 food star rating. While the food star scale isn’t fully vetted, in order to receive 5/5 the dish must be considered life changing and these scallops did exactly that. The picture below is just a preview of the full 4 scallop main entree that I would order later. I would have taken a picture, but I was busy with my life changing 5/5 food experience.

Pictures of food

Pictures of food

5/5 life changing scallop

5/5 life changing scallop

The Blue course also opened in 1965 and plays about 1400 yards shorter than the Gold course from the back tees. Even though the par 70 course lacks distance by modern standards, the small sloped greens establish it’s difficulty. On a day when I hit the ball well enough to find 12 greens in regulation, I only managed to find 5. Almost all of the greens are of the pushup variety and you’ll have plenty of fun testing your short game around the greens.

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The island green on the Blue course’s 15th hole.

The island green on the Blue course’s 15th hole.

Wigwam Superintendent, Chad Parron, escapes from the sand.

Wigwam Superintendent, Chad Parron, escapes from the sand.

After 3 days of various staff interactions at the resort, one thing became abundantly clear. The employees of The Wigwam love The Wigwam. It feels like almost everyone has been at the resort for over 10 years. The staff is fully invested and it shows. They even have one employee with 48 years of tenure. In the hospitality industry, this sort of loyalty is very rare and it makes a huge difference in the overall Wigwam experience. Plus they have a waterslide in the pool. Who isn’t going to be happy about waterslides?

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The 2nd hole on the Gold Course with the 17th on the Blue on the far left.

The 2nd hole on the Gold Course with the 17th on the Blue on the far left.

Sarah would kick in for an easy par.

Sarah would kick in for an easy par.

Even if you didn’t bring your golf clubs, you can still play golf at The Wigwam… foot golf that is. The rules are the same as golf but you have bigger holes and bigger balls. Just kick the ball down the fairway and count em up at the end. Foot golf is a great way to get everyone involved and any one can play. It’s a pretty social sport that can involve as much or as little side shenanigans as your group deems necessary.

In the picture above, we find the Pelé of foot golf, Sarah Boyd. Sarah is the Social Media and Marketing Manager for the resort and is often recognized on the streets as the host of The Wigwam’s bi-weekly video blog. Tune in here for some behind the scenes Wigwam footage.

A near hole in one. My Ace Hunt efforts come up short even in foot golf.

A near hole in one. My Ace Hunt efforts come up short even in foot golf.

With The Wigwam resort celebrating 90 years of existence, they are throwing a weekly roaring 20’s party every Saturday. Just like everything else that The Wigwam does, these parties are done to perfection. They have disguises, fake cigars, and smoked manhattans. Our group gladly joined in on the action and roared hard.

Selfie from 1923

Selfie from 1923

Late evening reading at The Wigwam. The bowtie helps with comprehension.

Late evening reading at The Wigwam. The bowtie helps with comprehension.

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If you are interested in roaring into your own Wigwam adventure. more information can be found here.

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Discover Puerto Rico!

When the opportunity arose to visit Puerto Rico in the middle of February, I raised my hand quickly. It was 40 degrees in California and I was happy to pay a visit to the 80 degrees and sunny scene. Having never visited Puerto Rico before, I was excited to enter unexplored territory.

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The next day, our group quickly jumped into the golf agenda at TPC Dorado Beach’s East Course. We had a full foursome of golf “influencers” in addition to myself, here was the lineup.

With firepower like this, it was necessary to put it all on the line in a winner take all death match. It would be the Chicos vs Chicas. The battle would be life threatening and intense.

“Prepare to lose and cry,” barked an enthused Chelsea Pezzola. Hailey Ostrom followed up the taunt with a casual “This won’t even be close.”

That was all the motivation that Lee and I needed. The boys came out hot and never looked back. With the women down 3 on the 16th hole, Pezzola holed her bunker shot for birdie but I would also make birdie to seal the match. The ladies came up with plenty of excuses but nothing could take away the sweet taste of victory. Final Score: Chicos win, 3 and 2.

In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico. It is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect the island and the category 5 storm caused $91.6 billion in losses.

The good news is that Puerto Ricans are persistent and the country has bounced back aggressively. There are still signs of the devastation as you travel the countryside but at the resorts we visited, the damage is unnoticeable. Puerto Rico is definitely open for business.

After arriving in San Juan, we headed out on the town for some dinner. Azabache Restaurant was the decision. The gnocchi shrimp was good but my taste buds are still recovering from the dessert. I can taste it right now just looking at the picture again. Look at those gold flakes!

Hailey pounds her drive on the 5th hole at TPC Dorado.

Hailey pounds her drive on the 5th hole at TPC Dorado.

Just about every swing was documented by this duo of powerful Instagram influencers.

Just about every swing was documented by this duo of powerful Instagram influencers.

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Today, there are currently two courses open for play at TPC Dorado Beach, the East course and the Sugarcane course. Running through lush jungle and coconut groves, The East course was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr and restored by Jr in 2011. In 2016, Golf Digest named the East course the #1 course in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, our group didn’t have time to explore the Sugarcane course but it sounds delicious.

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After the round our party made a quick transfer to the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar. Over the next several days, our group would take full advantage of the 10 different restaurants and bars on the resort. My personal favorite was the conveniently located Ice cream bar. Who needs whiskey when you have ice cream? It must be noted that they have a corn bread ice cream that was surprisingly delicious.

The resort also has a casino that Lee and I made a run on. I was up $50 and Lee cashed in around $250. It’s always fun to walk out of a casino with some money in your pocket. But the best walk for me will always be on a golf course.

The grass courtyard at The Wyndham is one of my top 5 grass courtyards.

The grass courtyard at The Wyndham is one of my top 5 grass courtyards.

The best part about the Wyndham is that this is the backyard.

The best part about the Wyndham is that this is the backyard.

After we settled into the accommodations, it was time for the ‘death match’ rematch at Bahia Beach, which is just 20 minutes down the road. The course was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones and later tweaked by Robert Trent Jones Jr in 2008. The golf course requires the golfer to keep the ball in play off of the tee as the lush Puerto Rican jungle awaits your wayward tee shots. If you brought your slice with you to the island, you will need to make sure you brought a couple extra sleeves of Chrome Softs.

We would struggle out of the gate and hover around 3 down for most of the day. A late surge was also thwarted by some untimely 3 putts. I blamed the views on the 15th hole (shown below) for most of our team’s putting woes. In the end, the chicas would prove too much for the chicos and we would be forced to enter the loser locker room. Final Score: Chicas win, 1 up.

The pivotal 15th hole at Bahia Beach.

The pivotal 15th hole at Bahia Beach.

Also onboard at Bahia Beach was professional photographer Omark Reyes, who was following our group for the day. Omark did an excellent job of documenting the match and it was a pleasure to be on the other side of the camera for a change. Although it was labeled a death match, nobody would lose their life and we would all emerge bonded as survivors and friends. Although, with the death match victories tied at 1, a death match rubber match will need to take place.

Hailey Ostrom looks on as I pound one… probably 400 yards.

Hailey Ostrom looks on as I pound one… probably 400 yards.

Lee Abbamonte sends one deep into the woods during a tough front nine stretch.

Lee Abbamonte sends one deep into the woods during a tough front nine stretch.

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Death Match Win Totals

One of my favorite parts about the golf courses in Puerto Rico are the ever-present iguanas. They can be found near just about every body of water and appear to be huge fans of the game. I informed the iguanas that I was putting together the world’s greatest iguana photo gallery and they reluctantly posed for some photographs.

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After the round at Bahia Beach it was time to watch some professional golf at The Puerto Rico Open. In 2006, Tom Kite designed four nines at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club and the course has hosted the Puerto Rico Open since it became an event on the PGA Tour in 2008. The tournament is the only official PGA event in the entire Caribbean. I would only catch the tail end of Saturday’s round but I would find some cool sunset action.

The 17th hole at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club

The 17th hole at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club

The highlight of my visit to the Puerto Rico Open was when I got a chance to meet Oro the Cat. Oro is in charge of Player Support in the media center and is one of the friendliest golf cats in the industry. Oro is a very big deal.

We also filmed a mock player interview in the media center that I am unable to post due to a copyright claim by The PGA Tour. Rest assured it is hilarious.

There was time for one more round in Puerto Rico and Wyndham’s Rio Mar River Course was up on deck. Guests of the resort have 2 options for golf on the property, the River Course, designed by Greg Norman, and Fazio’s Ocean Course. The River is the more difficult of the 2 courses and I was up for the challenge.

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The 16th hole at the 2018 Puerto Rico Open.

The 16th hole at the 2018 Puerto Rico Open.

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The view from behind the 12th green at Rio Mar’s River course.

The view from behind the 12th green at Rio Mar’s River course.

The River course derives its name from the Mameyes River that winds its way through the property. Wisely, Greg Norman took advantage of the river’s natural charm and routed a number of holes along it’s banks. With views of the nearby Yunque Mountains the course is a beautiful and challenging experience.

Since I was the only golfer to rise early enough for the final round, I was golfing alone. I have always enjoyed golfing by myself and being surrounded by the Puerto Rican country side made the walk even more enjoyable. The death match rubber match would have to wait until we return to discover more of what Puerto Rico has to offer.

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Bahamas!

During 2018’s RGV Tour across the United States, tour operations were temporarily halted for a visit to Great Exuma in The Bahamas. If you are going to halt operations for a destination, Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in The Bahamas is a good place to do it.

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The Sandals resort is an all inclusive type of place. You pay just once and then keep your money in your wallet. Just stroll up and start ordering… then order again. They have options for Italian, Indian, American, Japanese, etc. You get the idea, you are not going to starve at this place. Below are my top 5 favorite spots at the resort.

  • Croquet fields - Challenge your spouse to death match .

  • Cafe De Paris - Pig out on different desserts and coffee all day long.

  • The beach - Just beyond the pool lies the beautiful Flamingo Bay.

  • Soy - As much sushi as you can you eat.

  • The Drunken Duck - Shoot pool, throw darts, dance like an idiot.

The resort has a lot more to offer than just my top 5. However, the main reason for the visit was to focus on some world class golf. Just next door, the resort has a Greg Norman designed golf course and it was hosting The Web.com Bahamas Great Exuma Classic.

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Before the official tournament began, it was time to kick off the Pro-Am. Little did the Bahamas know that it was about to encounter the world’s greatest Pro-Am team and witness the most unbelievable Pro-Am performance in the history of the world. The format was a shamble and the team was led by Harry Higgs himself. We started off eagle, eagle and never looked back. Putts dropped from all over the place, shots were holed out. We even recorded a net ace. When the smoke cleared, we were -22 and 6 shots ahead of the field. As I type this, jaws are still being picked up off of the floor at the Sandals Resort.

The rainbow shines down on the world’s greatest Pro-Am team.

The rainbow shines down on the world’s greatest Pro-Am team.

Nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here.

It must also be noted that Brodie Smith hammers it about 350 off the tee and put us in position to score all day long. Brodie is relatively new to the game, but you can instantly tell that the ceiling for his golf game is very high. I am excited to see what the future holds for Brodie as he explores the world of golf.

Emotions run high as another putt finds the bottom of the cup.

Emotions run high as another putt finds the bottom of the cup.

Only 3 of the 5 members of the world’s greatest Pro-Am team were able to make it to the podium. The other 2 members were being treated for exhaustion.

Only 3 of the 5 members of the world’s greatest Pro-Am team were able to make it to the podium. The other 2 members were being treated for exhaustion.

After the performance in the Pro-Am our team needed to cool off with a quick swim. Naturally, we decided it would be best to swim with the pigs 🐷. Joining me for the adventure was Brodie Smith and his fiancé Kelsey Lowrance.

Posing with Big Squealy.

Posing with Big Squealy.

Lil’ Squealy was my favorite piggy.

Lil’ Squealy was my favorite piggy.

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Amongst the pigs, you also have rays looking for a quick bite to eat. Brodie’s excitement for Kelsey’s terror is inspiring.

Amongst the pigs, you also have rays looking for a quick bite to eat. Brodie’s excitement for Kelsey’s terror is inspiring.

Just across from Pig Island is Iguana island. These Bahamian rock iguanas are pretty friendly.

Just across from Pig Island is Iguana island. These Bahamian rock iguanas are pretty friendly.

When I learned that Kelsey Lowrance had been previously affiliated with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and had some modeling experience, I immediately challenged her to a model-off.

MODEL POSE #1: Rock pile lounging

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MODEL POSE #2: Beach bathing

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Like many other people, when the results of the model-off came in, I was shocked. That lizard made a surprise run at 2nd place, but I held him off like a seasoned veteran. Enjoy 3rd place, silly Bahamian rock iguana.

Model-off Results

Brodie and Kelsey are scheduled to be married and become Mr and Mrs Smith. A common name, an uncommon couple.

Brodie and Kelsey are scheduled to be married and become Mr and Mrs Smith. A common name, an uncommon couple.

Perhaps the best part about the Sandals resort is that you can just walk right over to the golf course. Brodie and I took full advantage of this and happily enjoyed a lot of live golf. The quality of play and depth on the Web.com tour is significant and most of these players can compete at the PGA Tour level. The biggest difference is that the players are not playing for millions of dollars in front of huge crowds. They are grinding for a paycheck and fighting for the ability to play golf for a living. Some of them will succeed and live out their dreams and others will become real estate agents. The stakes are as high as it gets.

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Our group was also treated to a tour of the Golf Channel production facilities. Most viewers have limited knowledge about the effort that it takes to put on a golf tournament and it was eye opening to walk behind the scenes. These guys are working hard to make sure that every second of live golf is as good as it can be.

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The tournament does a great job of employing the local Bahamians. Brodie and I salute their work.

The tournament does a great job of employing the local Bahamians. Brodie and I salute their work.

That evening we were treated to a dinner with golf royalty. Greg Norman would be joining us for dinner at the resort’s Il Cielo restaurant. I had previously had the chance to photograph Greg at a launch event and I was excited to talk with the golfing legend. Greg had stories for days and it was a joy to ask questions about his projects and achievements around the globe. For the most part, I was just trying not to spill drinks or dump food in my lap.

Every time that you visit the Bahamas, your time will certainly be up too soon. As we scurried off to the airport, I snapped a couple of parting shots as the sun rose over paradise for another day. If you are interested in catching your own Exuma sunrise, click here.

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