Golf Blog

Hunting down the Loch Ness Monster

In the summer of 2019 I did a pretty extensive search for Bigfoot in the hot springs of Harrison Mills in Canada. Even with comprehensive research and several hot clues, my quest for the historic beast came up empty. So when the fine folks at Ness Walk Hotel in Inverness, Scotland reached out to me, I was beyond excited. It was time to hunt down the world’s most famous aquatic creature, the Loch Ness Monster.

My partner in crime for this adventure was the lovely Bella Angel. Bella hails from London and its easy to see why she is such a big hit on Instagram. She gladly signed up to hunt down the Loch Ness monster with me.

Bella does some lobby modeling in the lobby of Ness Walk.

Bella does some lobby modeling in the lobby of Ness Walk.

The accommodations for the journey were nothing short of spectacular. Ness Walk is a new 5 star luxury hotel tucked down on the banks of the Ness river. The hotel is so brand new that you can even smell it’s newness. The entire experience made us feel like VIP’s as we were shuttled out on our expeditions like A-list celebrities. The first of those expeditions was a trip to Royal Dornoch. Argued by many to be the very best golf course in the UK, my excitement was pee your pants level high. With Bella around, I managed to play it cool and keep my trousers dry.

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The “High Hole” at Royal Dornoch

The “High Hole” at Royal Dornoch

Uphill golf holes are almost always under appreciated. They usually don’t present the views that most people enjoy and aren’t as rewarding distance wise. The 16th hole “High Hole” at Dornoch is an example of an uphill golf hole that should not be overlooked.

The short par 4 5th was one of our favorites

The short par 4 5th was one of our favorites

The par 3 13th hole at Royal Dornoch

The par 3 13th hole at Royal Dornoch

Royal Dornoch has everything that a golfer looks for in a top tier golf course. You have seaside golf holes, challenging par 3’s, a glorious short par 4, and some real testers. The holes are varied, giving the golfer plenty of options and different ways to play each hole. The undulating links land is well taken care of and provides fast and firm playing conditions. I could go on and on about the routing and shot values, but you get the point, It’s golf course heaven at Royal Dornoch.

The bench behind #11 looking back onto #4 green.

The bench behind #11 looking back onto #4 green.

Bella and I decide to play a 1 v 1 match with the loser responsible for dunking their head into the cold dark waters of the River Ness. It was decided that I should give Bella 8 shots, I offered 10 but she refused. She also insisted on playing from the same tees as I did. What a grinder, that Bella. The match had varying degrees of intensity but in the end my birdie on the 15th hole sealed the match.

Boys 1, Girls 0.

Ms Bella is all smiles on the 17th.

Ms Bella is all smiles on the 17th.

After golf, it was time to refuel back at the Ness Walk hotel. Conveniently, the Torrish Bar and Restaurant at the hotel was the perfect location for top notch cuisine. The scallops and cheesecake were rivaled only by the company. Scallops and the company are pictured below.

I caught Bella doing some light reading before dinner.

I caught Bella doing some light reading before dinner.

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The next morning, it was time to get down to some serious business. That business was the business of finding the Loch Ness Monster. It was in 1934 that the original and infamous picture of Nessie surfaced. Since then, only anecdotal accounts of the beast have been recorded. We boarded a boat on the crisp Scottish morning and took off down the Loch Ness. Would Bella and I finally capture definitive proof?

The earliest known documentation of a beast in Loch Ness dates back to 6th century AD when a man was attacked by a “water beast.” The story was documented in the Life of St Columba by Adomnan. However, the legend didn’t really gain steam until the “Surgeon’s photograph” was published in the Daily Mail on April 21st of 1934. Since then, there have been a bevy of sightings and personal accounts. My favorite story was when Apple maps joined the search party in 2014. There are a lot of things that Apple maps is not good at. Go ahead and add identifying the Loch Ness monster to that list.

The infamous “Surgeon’s Photograph”

The infamous “Surgeon’s Photograph”

Apple Maps: “In 500 feet, turn left to find the Loch Ness Monster.”

Apple Maps: “In 500 feet, turn left to find the Loch Ness Monster.”

Unfortunately, the only sighting of Nessie turned out to be a false alarm. I know it looks real, but that picture (below right) is only a statue. The only legitimate photos from the hunting expedition are the glamour shots that you see below. Not even some of the finest modeling in Scotland could rouse old Nessie out of her hiding spot deep below the dark waters of Loch Ness.

Perhaps a Loch Ness Monster winter home?

Perhaps a Loch Ness Monster winter home?

Not the actual Loch Ness Monster.

Not the actual Loch Ness Monster.

Bella puts on her Loch Ness hunting scarf.

Bella puts on her Loch Ness hunting scarf.

I try to lure Nessie out of the sea with lurid male modeling poses.

I try to lure Nessie out of the sea with lurid male modeling poses.

After our failed attempt on the Loch Ness, we needed to put a victory on the board. That victory would come at Nairn Golf Club. It’s almost alway a guaranteed W at Nairn Golf Club. Despite having Shane Bacon as a member, the course is one of the best places to play in Scotland and there is a good chance you haven’t even heard of it. Nairn is one of those ‘hidden gems’ that everyone is always talking about. Personally, I believe that the term ‘hidden gem’ is wildly overused. In this case, it is applicable.

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The long 14th hole, “kopje” plays downhill and difficult. Kopje is of South African origin and means small hill in a generally flat area.

The long 14th hole, “kopje” plays downhill and difficult. Kopje is of South African origin and means small hill in a generally flat area.

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The turn house at Nairn is actually an old bothy where fisherman used to live hundreds of years ago. Directly across from that bothy is the icehouse where the fisherman would keep their catch. Today it has been converted into a golf storage facility. If this doesn’t scream MODEL OFF, what does? Cast your vote below.

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Who modeled the icehouse harder?
The 3rd hole at Nairn Golf Club

The 3rd hole at Nairn Golf Club

Ooooweee. I love grass bunkers.

Ooooweee. I love grass bunkers.

It was a double or nothing match between Bella and I at Nairn. We didn’t really clarify the details but I am pretty sure the wager was a swan dive into the icy waters of the River Ness. I offered 10 shots again but Bella demanded 8. Nice, but I had no plans to show mercy,

After a back and forth front nine, we arrived on the 10th hole and I decided that I was tired of goofing around. it was time to unleash my secret weapon. It was Medterra CBD time. After taking some of the CBD oil sublingually, I proceeded to birdie the next two holes. Sensing that the match was slipping away from her, Bella demanded that she get in on my secret arsenal as well. I obliged her request, but it was too late, I was off and running. By the 15th hole, the match was over.

Boys 2, Girls 0.

Bella catches me with my secret sauce. Medterra CBD.

Bella catches me with my secret sauce. Medterra CBD.

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I know what you are thinking. “Koenig! where can I purchase this secret weapon of yours?” Well, the good news is that readers of pjkoenig.com receive 15% off of their Medterra order. Just use code pkoenig15 at checkout. If you are curious about CBD, you can read my blog post on Medterra or head on over to the Medterra website.

As the #1 CBD brand in golf, Medterra is used by tour pros like Charley Hoffman and Lucas Glover. It is sold in some of the best clubs and retailers around the country. Most importantly, it is third party tested and THC free. As someone who does not do drugs or put mind altering substances into my body, I have no problem with taking CBD.

“Don’t worry, I won’t put this one on the internet.” - Me.

“Don’t worry, I won’t put this one on the internet.” - Me.

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Before we sent Bella back to London, there was the little matter of her birthday. Bella was turning 22 and we needed to celebrate. We headed down to Tesco, bought her a unicorn birthday cake, informed the hotel staff of the situation, and headed out to dinner.

We were dining at the nearby Kingsmills Hotel, which is Ness Walk’s sister hotel. At the conclusion of the dinner, we had 180 Pro Am golfers sing happy birthday to her. She made a weird face and I took a picture.

The real birthday gift was that I I let her out of the River Ness ice cold swan dive bet.

The Dunhill Links

When I first visited Scotland, I waited in line at 3am to play The Old Course, I golfed the original redan at North Berwick, and I played in 50mph winds at Elie Golf Club. These experiences and more shaped my view of the game and enhanced my appreciation for the people, places, and the history of the sport. After a second visit to Scotland had the same effect, I was thrilled to visit for a third time. The magical country of Scotland would exceed my expectations again.

This time, I was invited by the tournament committee to cover the 2019 Dunhill LInks Championship. The Dunhill is a celebration of links golf played over three iconic golf courses, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, and The Old Course at St Andrews. The tournament has a unique format with two separate competitions playing side by side. There is an individual professional tournament for the world’s leading golfers and a team format that features some of the world’s most famous amateurs playing alongside the professionals. For Americans, the format is similar to the ATT Pro Am at Pebble Beach. The actual tournament has a completely different feel.

Rory’s face when he was told that Patrick Koenig was in town to cover the 2019 Dunhill.

Rory’s face when he was told that Patrick Koenig was in town to cover the 2019 Dunhill.

This year’s field at the Dunhill was one of the strongest in the tournament’s 37 year history at St Andrews. With stars and celebrities like Rory Mcilroy, Tony Finau, Justin Rose, Ahmad Rashad, Greg Kinnear, Padraig Harrington, Bill Murray, Lee Westwood, Luke Wilson, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, and Justin Timberlake, I was going to have my hands full.

Justin Timberlake eyes his approach on the 14th at Carnoustie

Justin Timberlake eyes his approach on the 14th at Carnoustie

Ahmad Rashad rips one down the fairway on the Road Hole at St Andrews

Ahmad Rashad rips one down the fairway on the Road Hole at St Andrews

One of the best parts about covering golf tournaments as a photographer is the access that we are generously provided. I was able to walk inside the ropes and along with the competitors. It was a real kid in a candy store type feeling. While I was focused on capturing the action, it was also fun to be a spectator with a great view.

I did my best to blend into the links landscape as I captured moments in time with my camera. However, the players weren’t adverse to chatting it up in between golf shots and Justin Timberlake even gave me a fist bump.

It’s difficult to look at this face and not think “Mitch-a-palooza”

It’s difficult to look at this face and not think “Mitch-a-palooza”

I’d take The Dunhill over Mitch-a-palooza all day long.

I’d take The Dunhill over Mitch-a-palooza all day long.

Jon Rahm reacts to the news that Patrick Koenig has been allowed into the media center this week.

Jon Rahm reacts to the news that Patrick Koenig has been allowed into the media center this week.

Justin Rose shows his excitement after learning the news that Patrick Koenig had joined the Dunhill Links media team.

Justin Rose shows his excitement after learning the news that Patrick Koenig had joined the Dunhill Links media team.

As you can tell from the photos above, the players had mixed reactions to my presence at the tournament. One thing is for sure, nobody wanted to talk to me about it during my impromptu press conference..

Andrew “Beef” Johnston on the 16th hole at St Andrews.

Andrew “Beef” Johnston on the 16th hole at St Andrews.

One of my favorite stories from the week was Rory playing golf with his dad. As most golfers know there is nothing quite like a father son golf outing. This outing just happened to be on a grand stage. I followed the pairing for about 9 holes and you could tell that Rory was really enjoying the walk with his father. I didn’t see the smile on Gerry McIlroy’s face disappear for one moment.

Gerry McIlroy hammers a hickory driver on the 18th hole at St Andrews. The Dunhill folks set out some of the old school clubs for the pros to try.

Gerry McIlroy hammers a hickory driver on the 18th hole at St Andrews. The Dunhill folks set out some of the old school clubs for the pros to try.

How many times is JT going to bring sexy back?

How many times is JT going to bring sexy back?

After catching some early action at St Andrews it was time to head out to Carnoustie. I was hunting down the power grouping of Justin Rose, Justin Timberlake, Tony Finau, and Ryan Smith. I know what you are thinking… “Woah, that Ryan Smith guy got lucky.”

The biggest observation I took from walking with Rose & Finau for some time is the relaxed nature of their approach to the game. It has a clear and strong focus with a calm natural vibe. If I could bottle it, I would.

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The two Justins mull over a pair of birdie putts.

The two Justins mull over a pair of birdie putts.

JT’s number one fan, Jessica Biel, made an appearance.

JT’s number one fan, Jessica Biel, made an appearance.

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While Justin Timberlake did not say the quote above, he did manage to play some pretty good golf. JT hovers around a 1-2 handicap and rescued his team mate, Justin Rose, on several holes. I was hoping for some sort of choreographed celebration dance but it never happened.

Being a 1-2 handicapper as well, I saw a lot of similarities in our golf games. However, after observing him for 2 days, I think I could take him. Since I know that Justin Timberlake is an avid blog reader of mine, this your official challenge, JT. Any place, any time.

Who wins?

My favorite moment from Carnoustie came on the 8th hole. I was taking some video of Justin Rose from behind the tee box on #9 when we heard a roar. Lee Westwood had decided to interrupt Justin’s Rose’s tee shot with an ace. The tweets below should give you a good idea of how it all went down.

For the second day of the Dunhill LInks I decided to head out to Kingsbarns to catch the hot golf action. As you can tell, security was tight, but I made it past Scruffles after a lengthy interrogation.

With high profile celebrities left and right, Scruffles and his security team were on the premises.

With high profile celebrities left and right, Scruffles and his security team were on the premises.

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Rory makes his approach into the short 6th hole.

Rory makes his approach into the short 6th hole.

Timberlake made a long par putt on the 11th hole to pick up partner, Justin Rose..

Timberlake made a long par putt on the 11th hole to pick up partner, Justin Rose..

Golf has been enjoyed on the links land of Kingsbarns since 1873, but it wasn’t until the year 2000 that Kingsbarns Golf Links was established. Designed by Kyle Phillips and developed by Mark Parsinnen, the modern links design provides great contrast between modern day creations and the historic courses in the area. It fits perfectly into the 3 course rotation of the Dunhill Links.

JT laughs at another one of my hilarious golf jokes.

JT laughs at another one of my hilarious golf jokes.

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Tommy Fleetwood stares one down on #5 at Kingsbarns

Tommy Fleetwood stares one down on #5 at Kingsbarns

Vinnie Jones  heads to the 6th tee as the rain drizzle gets drizzling.

Vinnie Jones heads to the 6th tee as the rain drizzle gets drizzling.

After watching several days of golf, I was itching to hit the little white ball around myself. Fortunately, there was an unoccupied golf course just down the street called The Duke’s course. It’s owned by the same folks that operate Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run in Kohler Wisconsin. I knew it was going to be good.

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I tried my best to channel my inner Justin Rose, but the Duke’s course is surprisingly hard and plenty long. The course is a par 71 and from the back tees it plays 7.512 yards. I decided to knock off about 1,000 yards and have some fun. Although you do have views of the sea on several golf holes, The Duke’s is regarded as one of the finest heathland courses in the country. The holes are well designed and the bunkering is reminiscent of a Coore & Crenshaw course that you might find in America.

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Since it has only been open for play since 1996, the course is hundreds of years younger that it’s celebrated neighbors in St Andrews. While it’s probably not the main reason you came to Scotland, the course is very well done and should be given a chance in between your rounds on the links courses.

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After the round at The Duke’s Course I hustled back to the Old Course to catch the day’s remaining action on The Old Course.

Alex Noren prays to his golf ball on the 18th tee box.

Alex Noren prays to his golf ball on the 18th tee box.

The two Justins pose on the Swilcan Bridge.

The two Justins pose on the Swilcan Bridge.

Luke Donald is all smiles after holing out for eagle on 18.

Luke Donald is all smiles after holing out for eagle on 18.

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Lee Westwood and his caddie/girlfriend Helen Storey.

Lee Westwood and his caddie/girlfriend Helen Storey.

Rory lines up a birdie look on the 18th hole.

Rory lines up a birdie look on the 18th hole.

Rory with one of my favorite tee shots in all of golf.

Rory with one of my favorite tee shots in all of golf.

Martin Kaymer eyes the green on the 18th at the Old Course

Martin Kaymer eyes the green on the 18th at the Old Course

Even  Medterra CBD  got some time to pose on the Swilcan Bridge.

Even Medterra CBD got some time to pose on the Swilcan Bridge.

We had finally arrived at the final day of the Dunhill Links Championship. By the time that the leaders had made the turn, it was apparent that it was only a two man race. It came down to Victor Perez vs. Matthew Southgate.

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Lucky Charms cereal???

Lucky Charms cereal???

Perez awaits his approach into 17.

Perez awaits his approach into 17.

Both Perez and Stafford were tied at -22 heading into the 17th hole. As I quietly observed the two competitors, I noticed what I believed to be the deciding factor in the golf tournament. As Perez prepared to hit his tee ball on 17, he loaded up on a handful of Lucky Charms cereal. The actual existence of Lucky Charms cereal cannot be confirmed, but Perez hammered a bomb right down the middle of the fairway after digesting the mystery sustenance. He never lost the momentum after that tee shot and proceeded to take the victory on 18. I would highly suggest checking out my Instagram Highlights story to experience the action down the stretch.

Victor Perez hits his approach into the 18th on the Old Course en route to a one shot victory.

Victor Perez hits his approach into the 18th on the Old Course en route to a one shot victory.

Victor Perez signs pin flags after his victory at the 2019 Dunhill Links

Victor Perez signs pin flags after his victory at the 2019 Dunhill Links

A joyous interview from an elated Victor Perez.

A joyous interview from an elated Victor Perez.

A champagne soaked Perez looks for some victory hugs.

A champagne soaked Perez looks for some victory hugs.

Now normally after the golf tournament is over everyone just packs their stuff and goes home. In my case, the excitement was just beginning. I quietly braced myself to check one of the greatest items of all time off of my golf bucket list… Play golf with Bill Murray on the Old Course. The full behind the scenes story is coming to you exclusively from www.golf.com. Please enjoy these pictures in the meantime.

Making Moves to Medterra Golf

After the RGV Tour ended in early 2019, I had no plans for post tour life. However, I did have plenty of destinations to visit while I came up with my next move. As you can tell by my golf journeys post RGV Tour, I was all over the place. From Scotland to Canada to Portugal, I continued to golf like a maniac.

However, I was looking for something more permanent. I wanted to be a part of a team and find a place where I could use my passion for golf and continue to do some good in the world. Not having an address or a consistent source of running water was also increasingly annoying. When asked about my plans for the future, I used phrases like “evaluating my options.” and “holding out for management.” 8 months after the end of The RGV Tour I have finally found my next destination and that is with Medterra, the leading CBD company in the golf world and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

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Like many people, when I first heard the letters CBD, I associated it with marijuana. The burning plant with roots in hell was finally gripping my soul. While the situation is not quite as ridiculous as it was in 1938, there are still some large gaps in perception that exist. 81 years after the “Reefer Madness” era, education about CBD, THC, hemp, and marijuana is needed.

Quick Facts About CBD:

  • CBD is short for cannabidiol which is just one of the 113 identified cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.

  • CBD will not get you high, it is separate from THC. THC is the psychoactive ingredient that produces marijuana’s “high.”

  • CBD has the potential to help all golfers with anxiety, sleep, and various ailments associated with excessive amounts of golf and those grueling range sessions.

  • There are marijuana plants and there are hemp plants. The marijuana plants have high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. The hemp plants have very low levels of THC and high levels of CBD.

  • The Federal Farm Bill of 2018 legalized the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity while removing it from the list of controlled substances. This paved the way for companies like Medterra to flourish.

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Quick Facts about Medterra

  • USA Grown: Medterra’s hemp is grown and extracted under the strict guidelines of the Kentucky Department of Agricultural Industrial Hemp Pilot Program.

  • Zero THC: Medterra isolates CBD from the hemp plant removing all traces of THC. You’re getting 99.9% pure CBD. Not all CBD companies do this.

  • US Hemp Authority certified: Medterra is one of only 13 companies to receive the US Hemp Authority seal of quality, a distinction only earned by those companies with the most stringent quality control processes.

  • Non GMO: Each batch is 3rd party lab tested and guaranteed to be free of contaminants.

  • Medterra is the fastest growing CBD company in the United States and is making a major entrance into the golf world. You can find Medterra available at PGA Superstores, World Wide Golf shops, and hundreds of the country’s finest golf courses.

  • Professional golfers like Lucas Glover, Charley Hoffman, and Morgan Hoffmann have signed with Medterra CBD because of their commitment to quality.

I started writing this post on my first day here in the office at Medterra. It’s pretty exciting. Things are happening fast, people are passionate about what they are doing. There is an aura of excitement that hangs in the air at the offices of Medterra. There is a golf simulator, a 40 seat movie theater, and a world class 2,000 ft gym. A golf simulator!! On second thought, I might not get anything done.

The potential to play Oakmont on your lunch break was too much for me to resist. I am looking forward to simulator Fridays on Instagram.

The potential to play Oakmont on your lunch break was too much for me to resist. I am looking forward to simulator Fridays on Instagram.

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When I made the decision to come on board with Medterra CBD I was naturally excited about the product and the potential to make a difference in people’s lives. What I wasn’t expecting was just how big of a deal this is. CBD helps people do more of the things that they love to do in life. It’s like giving the golfer the gift of playing more golf. Perhaps the best gift there is. When you are actually making a difference in people’s lives instead of just talking about it, things get real cool, real fast.

In addition to changing people’s lives, Medterra will also be leveraging my existing talents as an experienced road warrior. That’s right the RGV is headed back into action. Emblazoned in Medterra purple, the plan is to transform the Recreational Golf Vehicle (RGV) into the Recreational Medterra Golf Vehicle (RMGV). We are making stops all over the country to meet golfers, capture their stories and share how Medterra is helping golfers play more golf. We will create amazing golf content, deliver great events, and work with the leading influencers in the golf community. It is going to be a serious golf ride.

Ways that you can join the serious golf ride.

  • Ride shotgun and follow along on the Medterra Golf social media handles.

  • Golf retailers can Email me about carrying Medterra CBD products.

  • Sign up to become a partner with Medterra Golf

Hello Wisconsin!!

Every time that I visit the great state of Wisconsin, I yell “Hello Wisconsin!” as an ode to Ashton Kutcher and “That 70’s Show.” Even though I never get to hang out with Ashton in Wisconsin, I always end up playing a ton of great golf. The timing for this visit was perfect as I had just ranked the destination as #2 on my inaugural list of the 20 best golf destinations in America.

As the best state for public golf in the USA, I couldn’t possibly take in all of the golf that Wisconsin has to offer on this one trip. However, any time that you visit Wisconsin, you are in for some top tier golf action. The move is to fly into Milwaukee, rent a car, and then head out exploring. Only about an hour away is the city of Kohler and 4 fantastic golf courses. You have the River Course and Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run and the Straits and Irish courses at Whistling Straits. All of these courses are Pete Dye creations. I was in for a good couple days of 36.

The last of the day’s sun splashes down on the Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run.

The last of the day’s sun splashes down on the Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run.

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The best part about playing golf at places like Blackwolf Run is that they are filled with other passionate golfers. Above, we see Mr Jeff Horowitz and his son, Josh. I caught up with Jeff and Josh on the 2nd hole on the River course and it was clear that I had some serious golfers on my hands. Jeff is a little over halfway towards playing all of America’s 100 greatest golf courses and his son is intent on breaking 80. He has come close, but as many of us know, the 70’s have are elusive. Like a group of old pals we traded course stories and fired our golf balls into the woods. It was quick proof that It doesn’t take long to forge a friendship on the golf course.

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When I first started getting into golf course photography, one of the first places that really caught my eye was Whistling Straits. Perhaps, it was just an easy place to get a good picture with limited effort. Or maybe the golf gods live deep beneath the sand and they just helped to point my camera in the right direction. Either way, one thing is true about Whistling Straits. It is an absolutely beautiful golf course. I could post 100 pictures of this golf course, but I managed to narrow them down for this post. The entire gallery is available here.

When the 17th hole plays into the wind, it is easily one of the most difficult holes on the golf course.

When the 17th hole plays into the wind, it is easily one of the most difficult holes on the golf course.

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Like many holes at Whistling Straits, the wind will play a big part in deciding if you will walk off of the 2nd green with a birdie or an early blemish on the scorecard.

Like many holes at Whistling Straits, the wind will play a big part in deciding if you will walk off of the 2nd green with a birdie or an early blemish on the scorecard.

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For my round on the Straits course at Whistling Straits, I was fortunate enough to play with the Director of Golf Operations, Michael O’Reilly. Michael and I both brought our C games but managed to sprinkle in some highlights of brilliance. One of those highlights came on the 6th hole. With one of the country’s deepest and most ridiculous bunkers guarding the center of the green, I took my chances and came out with an easy par. Had I put just a little more side spin on this one, I am sure that I would have ended up on Sportscenter’s top 10 shots of 2019.

Since it’s inception in 1998, Whistling Straits has hosted a number of premier golf championships over the years. It hosted the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010, and 2015. The US Senior Open was also played on the Straits course in 2007. Next year, the course gets another chance to shine when it will host the 2020 Ryder Cup. The buzz is already in the air and the pro shop is loaded up with Ryder Cup merchandise. People are going to go mad for this Ryder Cup. With a ton of options for risk and reward on the golf course, this cup is sure to feature some wildly exciting matches.

The 8th hole at Whistling Straits

The 8th hole at Whistling Straits

The opening hole at Whistling Straits.

The opening hole at Whistling Straits.

The 18th hole and the scene of Jason Day’s first major championship victory at the 2015 PGA..

The 18th hole and the scene of Jason Day’s first major championship victory at the 2015 PGA..

The first hole at Whistling Straits is one of my favorites. With so many inspiring holes, this one is often overlooked.

The first hole at Whistling Straits is one of my favorites. With so many inspiring holes, this one is often overlooked.

After an inspiring morning on the Straits course, it was time to explore the other course at Whistling Straits, the Irish course. The Irish course is another Pete Dye design and for what it lacks in lakeside views, it makes up for with some fun and enjoyable holes of golf. The course has an Irish links flare to it with some old fashioned Pete Dye tricks.

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In the distance, you hear them coming. The jingling and jangling of their bells let you know that they are near. It is the sheep of Whistling Straits. As an ode to the courses of Ireland and Scotland, Whistling Straits employs a pack of sheep to roam the lands and bring smiles to golfer’s faces.

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The opening hole on the Irish course.

The opening hole on the Irish course.

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Since the good golf is so dense in Wisconsin, I didn’t have to drive far to find my next destination. It was the site of the 2017 US Open, Erin Hills. Given the soft and benign weather conditions, the field was able to post some wildly low scores on the 7800 yard layout. In the 3rd round, Justin Thomas fired a smoking good 63. At nine-under, Thomas set the U.S. Open record for lowest score in relation to par in a single round, breaking the mark set by Johnny Miller in 1973. Brooks Koepka would tie the overall US Open scoring record at -16 and win by 4 strokes. A fair warning to those visiting… this course is not that easy.

As I walked into the club house at Erin Hills, I was greeted by a couple of familiar faces. It was Jeff and his son Josh again. They were just coming off of the golf course after a round of golf in the rain and had some big news. Josh had finally done it, he had broken 80. Earlier that day the young lad had fired a personal best 78 at Erin Hills. Perhaps it was the weather at Erin Hills that had inspired such outstanding play?

I would return to Erin Hills the following day and experience a different type of weather.

I would return to Erin Hills the following day and experience a different type of weather.

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The sun sets over Erin Hills.

The sun sets over Erin Hills.

I guess, hello world, huh?
— Tiger Woods

Those were the exact opening words that Tiger Woods spoke at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open press conference. Tiger had just won the US Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge and he had selected Brown Deer Park as the place to make his debut as a professional golfer. A young and inexperienced Tiger actually looked a little nervous up there. As most of us know, that nervousness would not transfer to the golf course and Woods would go on to dominate the golf world in short order. Tiger would never actually contend that week, but he did end up winning $2,544 and finishing in a tie for 60th place. On a side financial note, that same week he signed $43 million in endorsement contracts.

The 14th hole at Brown Deer Park is the site of Tiger Woods’ first hole-in-one as a PGA Tour professional.

The 14th hole at Brown Deer Park is the site of Tiger Woods’ first hole-in-one as a PGA Tour professional.

Even though Woods finished near the bottom of the leaderboard, Tiger would not leave without making a splash. On the 202-yard, par-3 14th hole in the final round, Woods pulled out his 6 iron and made a hole-in-one. So when I visited Brown Deer Park, I decided that my time had finally come and I was going to make an ace myself on the exact same hole. The hole was only playing about 180, but I did use my 6 iron and I swung away. Wide right!! I grumbled to myself and updated my lifetime ace attempt stats… 0/13,456

The brown deer at Brown Deer Park.

The brown deer at Brown Deer Park.

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For years Brown Deer hid behind the PGA Tour event, we’ve taken away the veil and dusted this baby off.
— Andy Barrett, Head PGA Professional at Brown Deer Park

A brief conversation with Andy will let you know that he is extremely passionate about the work that he and his team have done out at Brown Deer. With improvements to the clubhouse, the team has reinvigorated the atmosphere and highlighted the course’s history. The local golfers have a strong bond with the municipal course and Andy wanted to highlight that. “Every single day, I hear a story about how much this course means to them from one of our golfers.” “Brown Deer just has this bond with our customers,” says Andy.

Andy even found a 1930 map of the golf course land from the Milwaukee County Park Commission when he started looking around. Apparently it was covered in bird poop and tossed in an old shed. He found someone to restore the piece and today it hangs proudly in the bar and restaurant area. It’s a cool thing.

Given it’s close proximity to Milwaukee, Brown Deer Park is a great addition to any Wisconsin trip as you head to explore the golf landscape. Or in my case, it’s a great last round before you jump on a plane yelling “Goodbye Wisconsin!”

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If you are interested in creating your own Wisconsin magic, the journey starts with Visit Milwaukee. I would also recommend staying at the hotels below as they were centrally located and spectacular.

  • American Club - Only a short drive to both Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, this hotel is my go to destination when visiting Kohler.

  • Kimpton Journeyman - Centrally located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward District, this hotel has outstanding accommodations and the best rooftop hangout in the city, The Outsider.

Prince Edward Island

Through the golf gossip grapevine I heard about this magical place in Canada where the fairways are lined with gold, the lobsters grow on trees, and it rains cookie dough ice cream. This land of enchantment was called Prince Edward Island (PEI). Needless to say, the expectations were high as I stepped off of the plane at the small airport in Charlottetown on PEI.

As it turns out, the lobsters grow in the nearby sea, the fairways are lined with manicured bent grass, and they serve ice cream at COWS creamery. So the rumors were not entirely inaccurate. The official tag line for Golf PEI is “Over 400 fairways closer than you can imagine.” The statement is a fitting one because the golf is good, it is plentiful, and all of the courses that we played on this trip were within a 30 minute drive from our boutique accommodations at the Hillhurst Hotel.

The 2nd hole at Glasgow Hills Golf Club

The 2nd hole at Glasgow Hills Golf Club

As I sat in the restaurant of the Hillhurst Hotel getting ready for our early morning round at Glasgow Hills, a gentlemen across the way asked “Are you Patrick?” “Why yes I am.” I replied. It turns out that this man was no gentleman. It was the sometimes reclusive and often eccentric “Bogey Train Bobby.” Bobby hails from Bali and has a passion for mediocre golf on high end golf courses. He strives for excellence but is perfectly content with lipping out for par and tapping in for 5. The bogey fist pump is alive and well with this man and I was excited to document the magic of his passion for mediocrity. We jumped right into the golf action at the nearby Glasgow Hills.

Head Professional, Woody Bishop showed us the ways around Glasgow Hills.

Head Professional, Woody Bishop showed us the ways around Glasgow Hills.

Bogey Train Bobby gets the bogey party started at Glasgow Hills.

Bogey Train Bobby gets the bogey party started at Glasgow Hills.

Below you will find our first block of Instagram stories from Bogey Train’s PEI adventure. The man loves oysters and eats lobsters with no regard for human decency. On his home land of Bali, he is referred to as the “Lobster Man” because of his passion for the delicious sea crustacean.

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The next course on our PEI agenda was another little gem called Andersons Creek. We never figured out who Anderson was but we enjoyed his creek thoroughly. We even made a couple of golf ball donations. I think Bogey Train put 3 in the creek on #4. The course is scenic and a lot of fun to play.

Things heat up on the 3rd hole at Andersons Creek.

Things heat up on the 3rd hole at Andersons Creek.

Bogey Train hammers one into the trees on the right of 15.

Bogey Train hammers one into the trees on the right of 15.

The 2nd hole at Anderson Creek.

The 2nd hole at Anderson Creek.

Rain threatened but never showed up for our round at Anderson Creek.

Rain threatened but never showed up for our round at Anderson Creek.

After several rounds in the books for Bobby and I, it was time to welcome the rest of our PEI crew. This group was rowdy and ready to go.

  • Sarah Moodie - Nicknamed Smooderoo on the gram, she’s not an alcoholic golfer, she just plays one on Instagram.

  • Sean Ogle - Founder of Breaking Eighty, breaks eighty… sometimes.

  • Klea Armstrong - Amazing golf ball whacker girl.

  • The Weekend Golfer - If it’s a weekend, you know what he’s doing.

After an unbelievable dinner at Fishbones Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill, we headed out for 36 holes at the Dundarave and Brudenell River Golf Courses. Both courses are on the same piece of land but they play very differently. The Dundarave course is a Hurdzan and Fry design that opened it’s doors in 1999. With a number of spectacular holes along the river, the course is a must play when visiting PEI.

The signature hole on the Dundarave course is a short yet challenging par 4.

The signature hole on the Dundarave course is a short yet challenging par 4.

The finishing hole on Dundarave.

The finishing hole on Dundarave.

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The Brudenell River course opened up in 1969 and is a local favorite with just about everyone. If there was a golf popularity contest on the island, Brudenell would easily win the popular vote. The golf course is more scorable than the Dundarave course and the two courses make for an excellent day of 36 holes.

The finishing hole at Brudenell river is short and sexy.

The finishing hole at Brudenell river is short and sexy.

The opening hole on the Brudenell River Golf Course

The opening hole on the Brudenell River Golf Course

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Sarah Moodie rips one down the middle on the penultimate hole at Brudenell River.

Sarah Moodie rips one down the middle on the penultimate hole at Brudenell River.

Up next we have our second installment of the Bogey Train Bobby highlight reel from Instagram stories. The hot tips and clutch bogies flowed freely from Bobby. I tried my best to sit back and soak up the experience, the pearls of wisdom were coming fast and furious. I hurriedly scribbled down as much knowledge as I could on the inside of the scorecard.

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At this point it is important to pause and recognize the deliciousness and abundancy of the lobster on PEI. I set a new personal best by having lobster for dinner 4 nights in a row. Since, I did not have lobster even once in 2018, I was pretty stoked about the situation.

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When most people think of golf on PEI, they think of one course in particular, The Links at Crowbush Cove. The Thomas McBroom course debuted in 1994 as Canada’s best new golf course and has since hosted a number of premier events. The most notable being the 1998 Skins game featuring Mark O’Meara, Fred Couples, John Daly, and Canada’s own Mike Weir. Crowbush is recognized as the premier golfing experience on PEI and our crew was eager to play.

Things get sexy as you turn towards the ocean on the 6th and 7th holes.

Things get sexy as you turn towards the ocean on the 6th and 7th holes.

The 8th and 15th holes at Crowbush

The 8th and 15th holes at Crowbush

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Crowbush eases you into the round for the first 5 holes or so and after that it’s a golfing experience that you won’t soon forget. The course edges out to the ocean several times and comes back inland again providing a nice flow all the way through to the finish. We played right up until sunset and then headed back into town to experience another amazing dinner at Sims Steakhouse.

The 9th hole at Crowbush was one of my favorites.

The 9th hole at Crowbush was one of my favorites.

The 16th hole at Crowbush is one of the best on the property.

The 16th hole at Crowbush is one of the best on the property.

As we prepare for the recap of our final round of golf on the island, let’s take another dive into the world of Bogey Train Bobby. This man misses more putts for par than anyone I know and quite frankly, doesn’t give one damn. It’s all about the experience for Bobby. “Yeah, I do make some pars from time to time, but a bladed wedge over the green allows me to visit a part of the course that most people don’t get to see.” It’s apparent that Bobby just doesn’t feel comfortable riding a hot 2 hole par streak. “When I put together 2-3 good shots in a row, my body just naturally shuts down and the next thing I know I am hanging up a smooth 6 on the scorecard,” says Bobby.

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For the Prince Edward Island finale we were scheduled to take on Green Gables Golf Club. After such a high at Crowbush our crew wasn’t expecting another stunner of this magnitude. I might even put the round of golf at Green Gables above Crowbush. Absurdity you might say, but Green Gables has such a cool classic feel to it that I was instantly a huge fan.

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The deliciously fun 5th hole plays over a small creek.

The deliciously fun 5th hole plays over a small creek.

The Weekend Golfer golfing on a Wednesday!

The Weekend Golfer golfing on a Wednesday!

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The 18th and final hole of our  Golf PEI  adventure at Green Gables

The 18th and final hole of our Golf PEI adventure at Green Gables

Because Prince Edward Island is so much more than just great golf, it was fitting that the adventure ended with one of the most fantastic dining experiences that I have been a part of. World renowned Chef Michael Smith has put together something that he calls the Fireworks Feast at The Inn at Bay Fortune. The experience starts with a guided farm tour, moves into an oyster hour at 6pm, and culminates with the Fireworks Feast in the evening. I was expecting bottle rockets and M80’s but instead I got a stomachful of delicious goodness. As an amateur food critic I don’t believe that my food palate was capable of doing this event justice.

Chef Michael Smith gave an inspired toast and posed for pictures with Sean and I.

Chef Michael Smith gave an inspired toast and posed for pictures with Sean and I.

The 6pm oyster hour… easily the best oysters I have had.

The 6pm oyster hour… easily the best oysters I have had.

The fire altar is serious business.

The fire altar is serious business.

If a trip to Prince Edward Island comes across your plate, I would highly suggest that you jump on the opportunity. Lush fairways, great people, and plenty of amazing food await your arrival. Your golfing destination starts here with Golf PEI.

Scotland Vloggers Challenge 2K19

When I visited Scotand for the first time, I left the country with one thought… I need to go back to Scotland. The golf is so good that it will actually change the way that you view the game. With golf being such a huge part of my life, one could deduce that Scotland has changed my life. So when the opportunity came to participate in the 2019 Golf Vloggers Challenge hosted by Scotland. The Home of Golf. I ran across the room with my hand raised.

The format for the challenge was really creative. It consisted of 3 different groups of 3 golfers each. Each group was scheduled to take on a specific region of Scotland. Each individual would play for themselves in a stableford scoring format. In between those stableford rounds, there would be unique challenges to earn additional points. These challenges were not just unique, they were hitting golf balls off of castles unique.

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Highland and Aberdeen Team:

Fife Team:

  • Matt Fryer - Teaching professional in England. Taught us a thing or five.

  • Zac Radford - Can hit a stinger a quarter mile. Nicest guy in Nashville.

  • Lloyd Greenaway - Didn’t take his golf glove off the entire trip.

Ayrshire Team:

  • Brodie Smith - Frisbee legend and serious pounder of the golf ball.

  • Ollie Neglerio - Seriously talented photographer…. not just average talents, serious talents.

  • Garrett Clark - Arousing trick shot artist and amateur hair model.

Like any good journey, the trip started off with some excitement. Unfortunately, that excitement was the airline losing our golf clubs. Fortunately, the fine folks at Brora Golf Links came to the rescue. Ryan was set up with a nice rental set and one of the pros lent me their golf clubs. The staff even found a pair of goIf shoes for me to wear. I would have golfed in my sandals if necessary, but the staff at Brora made us feel like VIPs. It was business as usual for these guys.

Note the electric fence around the green.

Note the electric fence around the green.

Sheep questions my 7 iron call on 15.

Sheep questions my 7 iron call on 15.

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There are 75 things that I love about Brora but I was able to narrow it down to the three things that make Brora a special experience.

  1. Sheep - The sheep at Brora are everywhere. They roam the fairways and graze the rough. The course belongs to them. Cows are there as well.

  2. Electric Greens - There are electric fences surrounding every green at Brora. This is done to keep the sheep and cows off of the greens.

  3. Wild - My favorite word to describe Brora is wild. It’s been there for 200 years and it just feels wild and natural.

McQueen gets off to an early start on her golf model training

McQueen gets off to an early start on her golf model training

This was Mr. Tripp’s first visit to Scotland and he birdied the very first hole.

This was Mr. Tripp’s first visit to Scotland and he birdied the very first hole.

After an exciting intro to Scottish golf, we took a stroll down the road to take a peak at the world renowned Royal Dornoch golf club. We didn’t have time to play the golf course, but I gave McQueen her second lesson in golf modeling. The occasion called for some bunker angels and Rachael performed like a champion.

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The next morning it was time for our first Vloggers challenge at Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club. It was a 100 yard shot from the lighthouse back onto the extremely difficult 5th green. Just holding the green would turn out to be a real challenge. We each had 3 attempts and the closest to the pin would take home a big 10 points.

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After a handful of attempts to keep our golfballs on the green from 100 yards, I managed to clip one just right and it nestled just inside 4 feet. Ryan and Rachael would try to best my shot, but they would not come close. Just like that, I jumped to the top of the leaderboard. However, my lead was slim with the other regions competing hot on my tail.

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That afternoon, Rachael pulled some strings and we found our way out to the highly acclaimed Castle Stuart Golf Club. This was easily one of our favorite rounds on the trip. The course was co-designed by managing partner Mark Parsinen and golf course architect Gil Hanse in 2009. Dubbed as a modern links, the golf course feels like it has been around for 100 years and fits very nicely into the Scottish golf landscape. The links terrain and bunkering is some of the most unique that I have found in Scotland.

The 2nd hole really gets things rolling.

The 2nd hole really gets things rolling.

Rachael continues the bunker modeling.

Rachael continues the bunker modeling.

The Castle Stuart at Castle Stuart

The Castle Stuart at Castle Stuart

The par 3 8th hole at Castle Stuart

The par 3 8th hole at Castle Stuart

The Art Deco clubhouse at Castle Stuart

The Art Deco clubhouse at Castle Stuart

After a great walk around Castle Stuart, we retired to our quarters for the evening at Meldrum House Golf & Country Club. This place blew all of us away. The service, food, and accommodations were unbelievable. Rachael even had a television that rose from the foot of her bed. Our group would stay at some spectacular places, but this one may have been my favorite of the trip.

While we did not have time to play the golf course, I managed to take some pictures before we headed out for our afternoon round. While the course at Meldrum House is not a links course, the conditions are immaculate and It looks like a ton of fun to play. Even the local Highland cattle or “Coos” add to the ambiance.

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The Highland Coos. Not cows… coos.

The Highland Coos. Not cows… coos.

I wanted to grab my clubs and start golfing.

I wanted to grab my clubs and start golfing.

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With all of the dust now settled from the trip, I can assuredly say that Murcar Golf Links was the course that exceeded my expectations by the largest margin. I had barely even heard of the golf course when I saw it on the agenda and the instant that I laid my eyes upon the property, I was smitten.

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With tight fairways on just about every golf hole, Murcar is one of the more challenging links courses that I have played. When the wind blows at this place, even good shots can be swallowed up by the tall and lush fescue grasses. We were fortunate to catch Murcar on a relatively benign day of weather and managed to only lose a handful of golf balls.

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Some of the best things about golf in Scotland are the unique things that you find on the golf course. The country is filled with history and if you take a quick look around, you will find some pretty interesting landmarks. The old ice house above was used by fisherman hundreds of years ago and still stands on the property as a remnant of the land’s history. Scotland is filled with this sort of stuff.

The par 3 16th was a fan favorite

The par 3 16th was a fan favorite

The 2nd hole at Miurcar. Shameless plug: I would hit my 2nd shot to 3 feet right after I took this photo.

The 2nd hole at Miurcar. Shameless plug: I would hit my 2nd shot to 3 feet right after I took this photo.

After 3 putting for bogey on the 18th hole, I walked off of the green with a resounding “Man, that was fun!” However, we still had an afternoon to kill and we decided to head on down the street to get a quick look at Royal Aberdeen. Murcar Golf Links and Royal Aberdeen actually share a property line. If that doesn’t scream “Day of 36,” I don’t know what does.

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At this point, I am thinking, “This is one of the greatest days of all time, it can’t get any better.” But that is when Scotland usually surprises you. We headed down the road for a quick visit to Dunnottar Castle. Perhaps I forgot that I was in Scotland because I thought to myself, “Whatever, probably just a bunch of rocks in a field.” That was clearly not the case. Dunnottar Castle is awesome.

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Our accommodations for the evening were at Maryculter House & Hotel. Steeped in history dating back to the order of the Knights Templar in 1227AD, the hotel drips with historic ambiance. Apparently the Knights used to hang out in the basement and do secret society type stuff.

As soon as I heard the word Knights Templar, I immediately thought of The Da Vinci Code and started the search for the Holy Grail. I quickly received a hot tip from the staff that there may be “undiscovered treasure” on the property. However, it felt inappropriate to start digging in the hotel lobby. I marked an X on my treasure map and vowed to return.

BONUS: Impromptu Aberdeen University (nicknamed Babe U) modeling class.

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The next morning we woke up and found ourselves with another closest to the pin Vloggers Challenge. This time it was from the courtyard of the Maryculter Hotel across the banks of the Dee river and onto the nearby Peterculter golf course. Like last time, we each had 3 shots. Rachael was up first and she set the bar high with a shot to 8 feet from 150 yards. Ryan came close to taking the lead but his 9 iron only managed to crawl to 10 feet. It was up to me to stuff one and take home another 10 points.

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After poor shots on my first 2 balls, things were looking good for Rachael and bleak for me. However, I had my distances dialed in and knew exactly what I needed to do with my 3rd ball. Just like Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1989 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference First Round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, I hit the shot that was required to win the game.

As it nestled to a foot, I resisted the urge to fire off 4 fist pumps like MJ but I did allow a smile to come across my face. I was certain to maintain my lead heading into the final day of competition. Before the finale, we had another day of golf planned at Trump International Aberdeen. This was more of an exhibition round and did not count towards the point totals.

The holy grail is near… I can sense it.

The holy grail is near… I can sense it.

Another Vloggers Challenge Trophy for yours truly.

Another Vloggers Challenge Trophy for yours truly.

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Despite what you might think about Donald Trump, one cannot deny that Trump Scotland is an outstandingly good golf course. Not surprisingly, the design has a similar feel to Trump Doonbeg. The dunes are bold, the bunkers are perilous, and the fescue rough is penalizing. We caught the links on a day of intermittent rain followed by sunshine.

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After our round at Trump Scotland we hustled across the country to meet up with the other two groups competing for the final competitions. When we arrived at Murrayshall Country House Hotel & Golf Club, we had another Vloggers Challenge waiting for us. This challenge was a team game.

We had to play the 9th hole at Murrayshall Golf Club which is a 190 yard par 3. The goal was to complete the hole as quickly as possible playing an alternate shot format with your 2 team members. Someone hits the group’s tee shot and then the next team member either chips or putts the 2nd shot. Your 3rd member would then hit the next shot and if the ball still isn’t in the hole, the turn loops back to the first team member. The team with the fastest time wins 10 points to share!

The 9th hole at Murrasyhall was the scene of the team speed golf competition.

The 9th hole at Murrasyhall was the scene of the team speed golf competition.

Our team was up first and I was designated the golfer to hit the tee shot for our team. Like a seasoned speed golfer I fired one low and right at the flag. Rachael immediately hit the 2nd putt to a foot and Ryan tapped in for our par. It was all over in 10 seconds. The bar was set ridiculously high and both the Ayrshire and Fife teams would fold under the pressure. It was off to the finale with a pretty big lead.

That finale would fittingly take place on Gleneagles Golf Club. As a host of the 2014 Ryder Cup, this venue was no stranger to competition and high stakes drama. Aside from the golf, there are also a wide range of activities at Gleneagles. They have a shooting range, tennis, riding, archery, cycling, fishing… heck, they even have gundogs and falconry. That is right, gundogs and falconryI

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Gleneagles also has a Kings and a Queens course as well as a pitch and putt option that they call the “Wee Course.”

Gleneagles also has a Kings and a Queens course as well as a pitch and putt option that they call the “Wee Course.”

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I had a 6 point lead over Garrett Clark going into the final round. That lead would evaporate quickly as I began to pile up the double bogies in a big hurry. By the time that back nine came around, my lead had vanished. That’s when Garrett stepped on the gas, made some birdies, and zipped across the finish line.

Thousands of fans crashed the 18th green and carried Garrett off into the sunset. Meanwhile I was crying over in the rough. My victory charge had turned into a hot pile of burning trash. Ok, so the sunset thing was made up, but the trash pile analogy was real.

Even though I had blown the lead in the final round, it was clear that the visit was not at all about winning the competition. it was about exploring the country of Scotland, making new friends, and sharing the experience with the world. When it came to doing those three things, Team Highlands and all of the Scottish Vloggers were true champions.

The final hole of Scottish golf was Gleneagles 18th hole.

The final hole of Scottish golf was Gleneagles 18th hole.

The only bad thing about golf trips to Scotland is that they always end before you want them to. The good times roll quickly and before you know it, you have to jump on a plane and head back to reality. Unlike the USA, almost all of the premier courses in Scotland are open to the public. I love the fact that anyone can enjoy these golf courses and experiences. Start your golfing experience and escape with VisitScotlandGolf.com

Goat Caddies!

When I first heard that there was a magical place in Oregon where goats carry your golf clubs, I stopped everything that I was doing and booked my trip immediately. Yes, that’s right, they have goat caddies in Oregon. In case I don’t have your attention I will type it in capital letters…. GOAT CADDIES. The good news is that these goat caddies do not come alone. At Silvies Valley Ranch you have first class hospitality, a massive cattle ranch, and 4 different golf courses. Oh and also, caddies that are goats… GOAT CADDIES.

Bruce the goat caddie gives me the stink eye after a missed short putt.

Bruce the goat caddie gives me the stink eye after a missed short putt.

To fully understand the story of the goat caddies, we must first go back to the 1880’s when a French Trapper named Silvie entered the land that would later become Silvies Valley Ranch. He had come not for goats, but to trap the go to commodity of the 1880’s… beaver. The removal of these beaver would shape the landscape over the next 120 years eventually making way for the Campbell family to purchase the property in 2007. Over the last dozen years or so, the 60 square mile ranch has been ecologically restored and countless improvements have been made.

One of those improvements is the establishment of a very unique golf resort. Located in the remote town of Seneca, Oregon, Silvies has created a wildly fun an interesting place to play golf. Unfortunately, the ranch is not an easy place to get to, but once you arrive on the property, you will be instantly glad that you and your friends made the voyage. The staff immediately welcomes you to the property and makes you feel like you are part of the family.

With a dining lodge, spa, and spacious rooms, the golfer has everything that they need for several days of golf and related shenanigans. Each guest has their own personal golf cart to drive around the property and since there is no cell phone coverage, they give you walkie talkies to request anything that you might need from the staff during your visit. We used it to broadcast movie quotes and have conversations like this classic exchange from the movie Airplane. I am not joking.

Now, when I mentioned four different golf courses at the beginning of this post, I was serious. Not only are the golf courses different from each other but they are different from most of the other golf courses in the United States. Here are the vital stats on the courses at Silvies Valley Ranch.

  • Hankins Course

    • Dan Hixon Championship 18 hole course

    • 7075 yards

    • Played odd # days

  • Craddock Course

    • Dan Hixon Championship 18 hole course

    • 7035 yards

    • Played even # days

  • Chief Egan Course

    • Par 3 golf course

    • 9 holes, 875 yards

    • Goat Caddies available

  • McVeigh’s Gauntlet

    • Challenging executive course (par 2’s 3’s and 4’s)

    • 7 holes, 1177 yards

    • Goat Caddies available

The opening hole on the par 3 Chief Egan Course

The opening hole on the par 3 Chief Egan Course

Sunset on the Egan.

Sunset on the Egan.

On the drive up into Oregon from California I phoned my friend Sean, from BreakingEighty. I hadn’t talked to Sean in a while and I wanted to get the latest on his adventures.

  • Sean: “Hey Patrick, what’s up?”

  • Me: “Ah, not much man, just driving up to Silvies Ranch in Oregon.”

  • Sean: “You’re driving to Silvies Ranch in Oregon? I am driving to Silvies Ranch in Oregon!!”

That is the story of how Sean and I found out that we were on the same Silvies’ agenda for the week. We had no idea that we were scheduled to visit at the same time, but it was a welcome surprise. If there is one thing that I love more than golf it is beating Sean Ogle at golf.

Since we arrived in the afternoon, we started off the fun on the Chief Egan par 3 course. Sean had brought his friend Jamie and we decided to go with a 2 on 1 skins death match. After Sean and Jamie took the first two skins, I decided to get serious and stormed back to win the match with some clutch putting. Sean and Jamie would get used to this sort of devastation.

The 2nd on on the Egan course

The 2nd on on the Egan course

Up next we took on the heart of the Silvies Golf Resort, the Hankins and Craddock courses. Both of these 18 hole championship golf courses were designed by Dan Hixon. Named after the early pioneers of Silvies Ranch, they are also the most similar of the four golf courses on the property. That is because they are played on the exact same piece of land.

Yes, that’s right, I am talking about a reversible golf course. The Craddock course is played on even numbered days and then the routing is reversed and the Hankins course is played on the odd numbered days.

The 15th hole on the Craddock course is the 3rd hole on the Hankins course. It is my favorite green on the property.

The 15th hole on the Craddock course is the 3rd hole on the Hankins course. It is my favorite green on the property.

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The 4th hole on the Craddock Course

The 4th hole on the Craddock Course

The two courses share a majority of the green sites with 27 green complexes in total. The 9 additional greens provide completely unique golf holes for each of the two courses and adds great variety to both the Hankins and Craddock golfing experiences.

The most important aspect of the two designs is that you absolutely do not feel like you are just replaying some of the same green sites. You approach the greens from completely different angles and usually from a different length, making each approach feel like something brand new. It’s also pretty fun to uncover the routing and see just how different the course unfolds playing the other way.

The 12th hole on the Hankins course is also the 5th hole on the Craddock course.

The 12th hole on the Hankins course is also the 5th hole on the Craddock course.

#16 on Hankins or #2 on Craddock

#16 on Hankins or #2 on Craddock

The sun sets over #16 on the Craddock course.

The sun sets over #16 on the Craddock course.

The par 5 5th hole on the Hankins golf course

The par 5 5th hole on the Hankins golf course

The fine folks at Silvies Valley Ranch believe that golf should be fun. The best part about this belief is that they just don’t sit around believing it, they actually do something about it. In addition to the varied golf courses at the Ranch, they also offer a number of fun challenges that golfers can take part in. You can win prizes in the golf shop by accomplishing these challenges. It is a shining example of how to make golf fun.

Nailed It

The 18th hole on the Hankins course is at 5000 feet elevation, it is downhill, downwind, and very dry. If you know anything about golf ball aerodynamics, you know that this is the perfect setting for bombing a huge freaking drive. The hole has been designed to inspire the long ball and if you manage to hit the longest drive of your life they will provide you with a Silvies Valley Ranch “Nailed it” flask filled with whiskey. Since this is golf, Silvies goes on the honor system.

As was expected, both Sean and I swung like a couple of madmen on the tee box and actually made some pretty solid contact. Sean’s drive measure 358 yards and mine came in at…… 366 yards. Neither of us could remember a time when we hit one further so the flasks were gifted upon us.

If you complete any of these challenges, you also get to sign the “Book of Winners.” I signed my name right next to tour player Graham DeLaet… who hit his drive 390 yards.

The “Nailed It” flask on display.

The “Nailed It” flask on display.

One-Putt Challenge

The final four holes on the Hankins course offer a similar challenge in terms of putting. If you manage to one-putt all 4 of these holes, you will earn a round of the course’s signature drink, “The Horseshoe Nail,” for your foursome. We immediately managed to 3 putt like a bunch of fools and spoiled our chances.

Fortunately, the challenge also allows the golfer to one-putt the 18th green to earn their own personal drink. I decided to hole out from off of the green and Sean hit the flagstick to tap in for his drink. I donated my “Horseshoe Nail” to Jamie and continued my journey of sobriety for another day.

One putt the 18th and you are drinking for free in the clubhouse.

One putt the 18th and you are drinking for free in the clubhouse.

Lucky 7

The final challenge takes place on the McVeigh course. Complete all of the challenges below and you get to play for free golf at Silvies Ranch for an entire year. Good luck with #7.

  1. Complete score on all 7 holes

  2. Use less than 7 clubs

  3. Use less than 7 balls

  4. Drink less than 7 beers

  5. Complete the course in under 77 minutes

  6. Birdie the par 2 Bonus Beer hole, (which has a 7.7 inch cup)

  7. Have a score of under 17

No one in our group even came close to finishing within 17 strokes. I don’t think we even kept score. We were too excited about our new friend Bruce... THE GOAT CADDY.

Bruce the goat caddy arrives to the first tee with his goat handler, Hadley.

Bruce the goat caddy arrives to the first tee with his goat handler, Hadley.

From the moment our group set eyes on Bruce, he was immediately part of the team. He strode right up onto the first tee and all of the appropriate introductions were made. This was by far the most excited that I have even been about a caddy (sorry, Shuster). You could tell that Bruce was eager as well, but I got the feeling that he would have been just as content to sit there and eat the bushes for an hour.

By the second hole, Bruce would get into the flow of the round and easily keep pace with our group. In no time, he was handing out clubs left and right while dispensing golf balls like the veteran goat caddy that he is.

I asked Bruce for advice several times during our round and both times he just kind of glared at me. I could read it all over his face. “You know what club to hit Koenig, just step up and pull the trigger, you pansy.” Bruce is a no nonsense type of goat caddie and has little tolerance for indecisiveness. I stepped into line quickly.

Front view: Bruce The Goat Caddy

Front view: Bruce The Goat Caddy

Rear view: Bruce The Goat Caddy.

Rear view: Bruce The Goat Caddy.

Bruce is outfitted with a custom made double bag goat saddle from Seamus Golf. It has got all of the pouches and accessories that one would want from their caddy. We only put 6 clubs in each of Bruce’s bags and they fit nicely. Bruce carried it with ease.

Even though Bruce was stealing the show, McVeigh’s Gauntlet was certainly holding our attention as well. The course is designed to be so difficult that it’s fun. The greens are sloped, tiny, and elevated onto hill tops. If you miss your target even slightly, you will face a tough up and down from a potentially precarious situation.

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The wildly difficult 3rd hole on the McVeigh Challenge Course.

The wildly difficult 3rd hole on the McVeigh Challenge Course.

The view from the tee box on the 1st hole.

The view from the tee box on the 1st hole.

Bruce keeps his eye on the paparazzi as I hunt down flagsticks.

Bruce keeps his eye on the paparazzi as I hunt down flagsticks.

Bruce the Goat Caddy Facts:

  • Bruce has done 4 loops in one day.

  • Bruce does not accept cash tips, he only accepts peanut tips.

  • Bruce has appeared on Good Morning America.

  • Bruce is not easily impressed.

  • Bruce’s selfie game is strong to very strong.

  • Bruce has a goat caddy buddy named Mike.

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Silvies Valley Ranch ranks as one of the most unique and fun golf destinations that I have visited. While the emphasis is on the goat caddies, the golf and the entire experience is first class. As my friend Evan Schiller would say, “Go for the goat caddies, the golf is not baaahhd either.”

I will leave you with the link to my Instagram story on the goat caddy experience. You will want to click on it..

Top 20 Golf Destinations in America

This is the first official pjkoenig ranking of America’s best public golf destinations. I urge you not to take this lightly. All of the spots listed here MUST be considered when planning any proper golf buddies trip. Maybe your brother is getting married, or maybe your best friend from college just got divorced. Perhaps you just want to get weird with your golf buddies. In all of these situations, a golf trip is required and it is a big deal.

For this ranking, only public destinations are considered and all private golf clubs will be completely ignored. When planning a trip for 8 or more golf buddies, It would be foolish to assume that greater than 1% of the golfing population can put together a day of 36 holes at Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links on Long Island. As you can imagine, this caveat eliminated a lot of great golf destinations.

This list is much more than a quick slideshow of the traditional destinations. This list has been carefully calculated and avoids bias as much as humanly possible. I even managed to overlook the food poisoning that I received at Pinehurst in 2018.

I simply filled in the numbers and let the destinations fall where they may. The list below takes the following 5 criteria into consideration and they are weighted accordingly. The full matrix is at the end of this post.

  • Golf (50%) - As it should be, the actual golf is the most important criteria on this list. Quantity and quality of golf are both of premier importance.

  • Entertainment (20%) - From live music to local dive bars, you gotta find something to do after the sun goes down. A wide variety of options is also important. Not everyone likes to get blacked out drunk and line dance to country music.

  • Value (15%) - Most large groups of golfers span across a pretty good income range. A destination is going to move up the list if you can bring your hilarious, but homeless buddy Steve and still manage some good golf.

  • Convenience (10%) - Getting to the destination and getting from course to course is considered in this criteria. Nobody wants to ride with your buddy Bill while he farts in the car for 7 hours. A lot of big cities were eliminated given the difficulty of keeping the trip golf centric.

  • Golf Experience (5%) - How cool are the overall golf vibes? Does the destination have a fun short course? Are there goat caddies? It is the unique and fun aspect of the game that is measured here..


#20 - Michigan

It could actually be a crime to put an entire state this good at the bottom of any list. However, it is important to keep in mind that even making a list this exclusive is a massive accomplishment. When it comes covering the state of Michigan, you have a handful of great golfing areas. Here are the hotspots.

  • Arcadia Bluffs - perhaps the most scenic golf course in Michigan has a new friend with the new south course opening in 2018.

  • Boyne Highlands - The Heather & Arthur Hills both deliver some heat.

  • Forest Dunes - Tom Doak’s reversible golf course, The Loop, and Tom Weiskopf’s classic design.

  • Grand Traverse - Jack Nicklaus’ The Bear

Depending on how you set up the trip, there can be a decent amount of traveling involved on a buddies trip to Michigan. I scoured the entire state over two weeks on the RGV Tour. Check out the recap here.

The aptly named Arcadia Bluffs in Michigan.

The aptly named Arcadia Bluffs in Michigan.

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#19 - Coer D’Alene, ID

I told myself, I wasn’t gonna do it. Don’t use the floating island green as the poster boy for this destination. But I did it anyways. It’s just such a cool thing that everyone should experience. It’s not just the floating island green that will get your attention, all of the par 3’s at Coeur D’Alene Resort are top notch. A round at nearby Circling Raven makes this a serious destination. Aside from the golf, you have a casino nearby and one of the country’s most beautiful lakes available for water sports. There is also a quaint little downtown for eating and shenanigans. We rocked the karaoke scene pretty hard. You can read about the full experience on the blog recap here.

The floating 14th at the Coeur D’Alene Resort Course.

The floating 14th at the Coeur D’Alene Resort Course.

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#18 - Streamsong Resort, FL

Although this little slice of golf heaven is rather difficult to get to, it holds everything that a group of golf buds could desire. Most importantly, it has some seriously good golf. The new Black course by Gil Hanse adds to an already impressive lineup of the Red and Blue courses designed by Coore & Crenshaw and Tom Doak, respectively. With on course lodging, Streamsong ups the convenience factor with stay and play options for booking.

Gil Hanse’s Black course at Streamsong

Gil Hanse’s Black course at Streamsong

The red course shines.

The red course shines.

The Blue course’s signature 7th hole.

The Blue course’s signature 7th hole.

#17 - Myrtle Beach, SC

For good reason, Myrtle Beach has been on the golfer’s map for decades. With options for beach activities and summer time goodness, you will have a swinging good time in Myrtle Beach without playing any golf at all. Fortunately, there is plenty of good golf to find in the area. Here are my go to courses in one of my favorite states.

  • Caledonia and True Blue - Two outstanding Mike Strantz designs. If you can only play one, play Caledonia.

  • Barefoot Resort - Fazio, Dye, Norman, and Love designs await your golf party.

  • The Dunes Golf & Beach Club - One of RTJ’s finest designs. Private club that allows unaccompanied play through www.myrtlebeachgolf.com.

You can read about these courses and more on my RGV Tour journey through South Carolina.

Mike Strantz’s Caledonia.

Mike Strantz’s Caledonia.

#16 - Kiawah Island Resort - SC

Number 16 on the list is a personal favorite of mine. Ever since I first played the Pete Dye designed Ocean Course as a kid, I have been smitten with the bold oceanside layout. If you only play the Ocean Course itself, your group is guaranteed to have an experience that they will remember for years. Fortunately, the resort has 4 other great options to round out your golf experience with Cougar Point, Osprey Point, Turtle Point, and Oak Point. The point is… there is plenty of good golf to play at Kiawah Island.

Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.

The front nine of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

The front nine of the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

Alligators are plentiful at Kiawah Island

Alligators are plentiful at Kiawah Island

#15 - Big Cedar Lodge - Branson, MO

The Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, MO is an up and comer on the list of golf destinations. With a lot of the construction coming in the last several years, the finished product will be a serious golf force on the golf trip list. Check out this hot fire course lineup.

  • Ozarks National - Coore & Crenshaw design

  • Payne’s Valley - Tiger Woods design

  • Buffalo Ridge Springs - Tom Fazio Design

  • Top of the Rock - Jack Nicklaus designed par 3 course

  • Mountain Top - Gary Player designed short course

Since Big Cedar Lodge is technically a Wilderness lodge, golf is not the main focus. A quick scan of the “things to do” section revealed about 20 non golf related activities.

A giant sinkhole has been excavated in front of the range at The Top of The Rock.

A giant sinkhole has been excavated in front of the range at The Top of The Rock.

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#14 - Palm Springs, CA

When you look at Palm Springs from an airplane, you see a desert landscape punctuated with seas of green. As you examine those green seas closer, it becomes very clear what the city’s priorities are. Hundreds of golf courses tell you that Palm Springs love it’s golf. With so many options to chose from, how do you decide? Here are my top 5 public Palm Springs golf courses.

  • The Classic Club - An Arnold Palmer design that has hosted the Bob Hope classic numerous times.

  • Escena Golf Club - A high quality Jack Nicklaus design

  • Desert Willow Golf Club - The Firecliff course is one of my favorites in the area.

  • Silver Rock Golf Club - An Arnold Palmer design set right up against the mountainside.

  • Indian Wells Golf Club - The Celebrity and Players course. You know which one you are.

Silver Rock is one of my favorite picks for Palm Springs golf.

Silver Rock is one of my favorite picks for Palm Springs golf.

#13 - Sand Valley, WI

Sand Valley is a part of the Dream Golf umbrella that includes places like Bandon Dunes and Cabot Cliffs. So it is safe to say that the formula for success is alive and well at Sand Valley. With 2 championship layouts and a short course already in place, this destination will only improve as time moves forward and new golf is added. The lodging is also deliciously close to the golf courses and the dining is just as tasty. On my last visit, I had the cheese curds for three consecutive meals. Check out my full recap from my latest visit here.

Coore and Crenshaw’s Sand Valley

Coore and Crenshaw’s Sand Valley

#12 - St George, UT

Some of the most visually striking golf courses in America are in the St George, UT area. With amazing National Parks nearby, you’ve got a pretty cool opportunity for an all world golf destination.

  • Sand Hollow - The top of my list. The back nine is like nothing else in the country.

  • Wolf Creek - If there is such a thing as a golf roller coaster, this course would be it.

  • Sky Mountain - Sleeper pick alert!! Views this good do not come under $50. I walked it for $32.

  • Coral Canyon - Another good looking gem.

The 14th hole at Sand Hollow

The 14th hole at Sand Hollow

The golf roller coaster, Wolf Creek

The golf roller coaster, Wolf Creek

VALUE ALERT: Sky Mountain.

VALUE ALERT: Sky Mountain.

#11 - Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail - AL

Throughout the fine state of Alabama you will find a sprinkling of high quality golf courses all designed by Robert Trent Jones. It is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and It is without a doubt, the greatest value for golf in the entire country. There are 10 golf courses in total and you probably won’t have time to play them all, so you will need to plan your route accordingly. You can read about my selections and the time we spent on the trail here.

We decided to parlay our golf trip with an Auburn v Clemson football game. It was tailgates, Motel 6’s, and too many visits to the Waffle House. It was a slammin’ Alabama good time.

The opening hole on Capitol Hill’s Judge course. One of my RTJ favorites.

The opening hole on Capitol Hill’s Judge course. One of my RTJ favorites.

#10 - The Greenbrier - White Sulphur Springs, WV

The Greenbrier is the oldest resort on this list and it’s a great place to soak up some golf history ambiance with your golf bros. The Greenbrier is the site of the 1979 Ryder Cup and is the old stomping grounds of Mr. Sam Snead. It’s also one of the few places that the public can play an original Seth Raynor design. For the golf architecture fanatics in your group, this should be a big deal.

Head on out to Slamming Sammy’s after your round on the Old White TPC or the Meadows course.

The Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier.

The Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier.

#9 - Silvies Valley Ranch, OR

At Silvies Valley Ranch they have caddies that are goats. That is right I am talking about goat caddies. This fact alone should be enough for you to start planning your trip. But Silvies takes it a step further by providing some incredible golf to go along with those goats. Dan Hixson has designed a reversible championship course that plays wildly different depending on the day. There is also a challenge course and a 9 hole par 3 course. The only bad news is that this destination earns the honor of the most difficult destination to get to. You can read the entire story on the resort here.

Bruce the goat caddy eyes and assesses the golf action.

Bruce the goat caddy eyes and assesses the golf action.

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#8 - Bend, OR

It’s the second destination in Oregon on this list and if you know anything about golf destinations, you know that it won’t be the last. There is a ton of really good golf packed into the Bend area. The top hits are below.

  • Pronghorn Resort - Nicklaus has designed a real beauty in the high desert.

  • Brasada Ranch - When golfing with your bros at Brasada, It’s customary to say “Hey nice shot, Brosado!”

  • Tetherow - You will either enjoy the challenge of this David Mclay Kidd design or you will curse his name and throw your clubs in the lake.

  • Crosswater - A big and bold Cupp and Fought design.

  • Sunriver - Two beauty’s with the Meadows & Woodland Course

You can view the full list of Oregon courses here. I got em all covered.

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn.

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn.

Brasada Ranch

Brasada Ranch

The finishing hole at Crosswater.

The finishing hole at Crosswater.

#7 - Las Vegas, NV

As much as you might want to ignore Las Vegas as a serious golf destination, you simply cannot do it. Aside from the neon lined fairway called Las Vegas Blvd, there is a lot of high quality golf to be played in the area. Here is my quick list of the places that should be considered on your Vegas golf blowout. I would also recommend throwing your hungover buddies into a rental car and driving the hour out to Wolf Creek. If you can’t find some fun afterwards on the boulevard, then I don’t know what to tell you.

  • Coyote Springs - Underrated Nicklaus course but worth the hour drive.

  • Shadow Creek - $500 green fee and must stay at an MGM property. Time to cash in your blackjack winnings.

  • Cascata - The nearly $300 green fee will set you back, but at least it’s not $500

  • Paiute Golf Resort - The Wolf, The Sun, and The Snow: 3 Pete Dye designs worthy of the 30 minute drive.

  • Bal Hai - Close enough to see the strip but not close enough to slice your drive onto it.

Tom Fazio’s Shadow Creek

Tom Fazio’s Shadow Creek

Paiute’s Wolf Course

Paiute’s Wolf Course

Nicklaus’ Coyote Springs

Nicklaus’ Coyote Springs

#6 - Pinehurst, NC

Even at #6, I was surprised that Pinehurst didn’t finish higher than it did. With the resort recently making improvements to course #2 and the opening of a great little par 3 course called The Cradle, the resort has really brought itself up to speed with the modern golfer. In addition to the resort, which has 9 golf courses, there is also a wealth of other options that I would list as must plays.

  • The Dormie Club - Coore & Crenshaw design. Never heard one bad word about it.

  • Tobacco Road - A bold and fun Mike Strantz design. Might be the most fun golf course in the world.

  • Mid Pines - Donald Ross masterpiece.

  • Pine Needles - Another Donald Ross masterpiece.

Pinehurst gives you a nice little carry bag to use for your round at The Cradle par 3 course.

Pinehurst gives you a nice little carry bag to use for your round at The Cradle par 3 course.

Pinehurst #2 has been returned to its sandy Ross roots.

Pinehurst #2 has been returned to its sandy Ross roots.

The golf in and around Pinehurst will get you excited.

The golf in and around Pinehurst will get you excited.

#5 - Scottsdale, AZ

Golfers like to visit Scottsdale for the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Open in January or Baseball’s Spring Training in March. Either way, Scottsdale is an obvious destination of choice for those stuck in the doldrums of winter across the rest of the country. With so many courses to decide from, I am here to make things easy.

  • We-Ko-Pa - Two of the best public golf courses in the desert await. This is my top of the list.

  • Troon North - The Pinnacle & Monument courses are often referred to as the best public options for golf in Scottsdale. Troon doesn’t disappoint.

  • Wickenburg Ranch - Don’t forget to play the short course, Little Wick as well.

  • Ak Chin Southern Dunes - This one is worth the 30 minute drive.

  • TPC Scottsdale - Go for the final four holes. You won’t remember the first 14.

  • Quintero Golf Club - Some seriously fun and scenic golf holes from Rees Jones

4 years ago, I wrote one of my first blog posts about a golf bros trip to Scottsdale. Read it here.

A double rainbow over the 11th hole at Southern Dunes

A double rainbow over the 11th hole at Southern Dunes

Wickenburg Ranch

Wickenburg Ranch

We-Ko-Pa is my go to option for public golf in Scottsdale

We-Ko-Pa is my go to option for public golf in Scottsdale

#4 - Lake Tahoe, NV

Scoring high in the value and entertainment categories is the stunningly blue Lake Tahoe. However, the location is perfectly suited for a serious golf buddy blowout. Just rent a house in the area on VRBO or AirBNB and golf your little heart out. With casinos in the south lake area and a more reserved, quiet vibe up north, Tahoe works for just about everyone. Lake Tahoe is a serious powerhouse destination. You can read about my latest visit to Tahoe here.

  • Edgewood Tahoe - Home of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. A true Tahoe gem.

  • Old Brockway Golf Course - Former hang out of Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin. Scene of the first Crosby. A 9 hole must play.

  • Old Greenwood - A solid Jack Nicklaus design. A local favorite.

  • Grays Crossing - A Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy designed championship golf course.

  • Coyote Moon - Some fun holes, some weird ones, great views abound.

The 16th hole at Edgewood Tahoe

The 16th hole at Edgewood Tahoe

#3 - Pebble Beach, CA

With green fees consistently over $300 for the top golf courses on the Monterey Peninsula, this destination does not score high in the value category, but quite frankly it didn’t matter. It’s Pebble freakin’ Beach. Dubbed by many as the greatest meeting of land and sea, Pebble Beach is every bit as good as you have heard it to be. Here are the must plays in the greatest zip code in golf. It’s 93953 in case you were wondering.

  • Pebble Beach Golf Links - Probably worth the $550 green fee.

  • Spyglass Hill Golf Course - I’ve heard many local caddies say that they believe Spyglass is better than Pebble Beach.

  • Pacific Grove Golf Links - The front nine will leave you wondering, the back nine will blow you away. $39 for twilight is a ridiculous deal.

  • Bayonet & Black Horse - Not on the Pacific Ocean, but close enough.

  • Spanish Bay Golf Links - Listen to bagpipers pipe their bags as the sun goes down over the Pacific Ocean.

  • Poppy Hills Golf Course - A renovation in 2013 brought back Poppy Hills into relevance.

The 17th at Pebble Beach Golf Links

The 17th at Pebble Beach Golf Links

The 2nd and 3rd holes at Spyglass Hill

The 2nd and 3rd holes at Spyglass Hill

The 14th hole at Spanish Bay

The 14th hole at Spanish Bay

Pacific Grove Golf Links is on my list of must plays in Monterey.

Pacific Grove Golf Links is on my list of must plays in Monterey.

#2 - Destination Kohler, WI

Wisconsin is the best state for public golf in the United States. It’s got the premier golf courses, the unique courses, and several value courses all in the mix. I just can’t get enough Wisconsin.

Right at the epicenter of the Wisconsin golf storm is Kohler, Wisconsin. You have the Straits and Irish courses at Whistling Straits and the River and Meadows courses at nearby Blackwolf Run. If that’s not enough to satisfy the golfer’s soul, here are 3 other locations that deserve a visit.

  • Erin Hills - US Open stunner

  • Lawsonia Links - It’s gotten some well deserved attention in recent years, but this classic design should not be missed.

  • Sentry World - The world famous flower hole will blow you away.

You can read about my first visit to Wisconsin here.

The flower hole at Sentry World features a new floral design each year.

The flower hole at Sentry World features a new floral design each year.

The 16th hole at Erin Hills

The 16th hole at Erin Hills

The 16th at Whistling Straits

The 16th at Whistling Straits

#1 - Bandon Dunes

At the top of the list it’s Bandon Dunes in a runaway victory. With the anticipated addition of Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch in 2020, Bandon Dunes is only getting better. It’s gonna take a golf miracle to oust this destination from the top of the list any time soon.

Bandon checks all of the boxes and checks them hard. Let’s closely examine the winning performance in our five categories.

  • Golf - Bandon Dunes has outstanding variety mixed with tremendous quality.

    • 4 top 100 golf courses all in the same place.

    • The Punchbowl - A massively fun putting green course

    • Bandon Preserve - The country’s best par 3 golf course.

  • Entertainment

    • The Bunker Bar

    • McKee’s Pub

    • If you are feeling really adventurous you can head into downtown Bandon. Arcade Tavern is where the action is.

    • The fire outside of McKee’s

    • Night golf

  • Value - $250 per round with a replay rate of $125. Your 3rd round of the day is free and Bandon Dunes will give you $100 if you manage to play a fourth round on that same day.

  • Convenience - Not hard, but not easy to get to. Once you are on the property, everything is quick and easy.

  • Golf Experience - Everything about Bandon Dunes is tailored to be about the game of golf. It’s golf as it was meant to be.

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O Canada 2.O

After a recent visit to Kamloops in Canada, I decided to take exactly one day off before returning to Canada for more golf action. This time I was bringing friends. These are not just your normal friends, these friends have some serious golf firepower.

Josh Strukoff hydrates before pounding one deep.

Josh Strukoff hydrates before pounding one deep.

Luke Elvy sends one right at the flag

Luke Elvy sends one right at the flag

  • Tisha Alyn - Golf Model, The Influencer among Influencers

  • Luke Elvy - CBS Golf Commentator, Australian accent, Chief Fun Haver

  • Patrick Koenig - Local Golf Idiot, Director of the fancy shirt department

  • Josh Strukoff - Golf is Mental blogger, Water Drinker, Golf Grinder

Koenig smiles as he sends one into the woods.

Koenig smiles as he sends one into the woods.

Tisha Alyn reacts to a near ace.

Tisha Alyn reacts to a near ace.

Our crew was set to take on 7 golf courses in just 4 days in the Kimberley and Cranbrook area of British Columbia. Like many people, I had not heard of the destination before so I was excited to explore some new golfing lands. The hits were going to come fast and we were going to make sure that they were furious.

The Kimberley tour kicked off at Kimberley Golf Club.

The Kimberley tour kicked off at Kimberley Golf Club.

Kimberley Golf Club has been around since 1924 and is a local favorite for golfers. Green fees start at $45 and is easily one of the best values in the British Columbia Rocky Mountains.

A sign of the activities to come in Kimbereley and Cranbrook.

A sign of the activities to come in Kimbereley and Cranbrook.

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Just golf, trees, and mountains at Kimberley Golf Club.

Just golf, trees, and mountains at Kimberley Golf Club.

After a rousing good morning at Kimberley Golf Club, it was time to head out to Trickle Creek Golf Resort. When I first saw Trickle Creek on the itinerary, I knew that there were going to be some great opportunities for captions. It turns out that the caption game with Trickle Creek was more difficult than anticipated. Perhaps I just like the word trickle.

One thing that I would not struggle with at Trickle Creek was my high kicks. With the wet rock and the small landing area, this is what I would consider a high risk kick. The good news is that I am now considered a professional high kicker and I train for this sort of stuff. Do not attempt at home.

The divot of the trip came on the front nine at Trickle Creek.

The divot of the trip came on the front nine at Trickle Creek.

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Trickle Creek Golf resort is located in Kimberley, British Columbia which has the highest elevation in the province at just above 4,000 feet above sea level. So our golfballs were flying far and sure. The Les Furber design offers golfers options and provides a lot of interesting and fun golf holes. The course is located right next to the North Star mountain and provides plenty of dramatic views.

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With one successful day of golf in the books, it was time to lock and load for another day of 36 golf holes. We started out with the first Gary Player design in Canada, Wildstone Golf Course. We braced ourselves for some wild times at Wildstone. The highlight and lowlight came with another close call on the ace cam on hole #16. Just another tap in 2 for this ace hunter.

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The 17th hole at Wildstone was one of our favorite holes of the trip.

The 17th hole at Wildstone was one of our favorite holes of the trip.

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Push-ups completed

During the first two days of competition we did not play for cash, we played for push-ups. Push-up bets are a great way to ramp up the fun and get jacked at the same time. As you can see below, Tish out push-upped us all. Since I was dominating the field with my stellar play, I had no push-up debts to settle. I decided to do a few anyways as I was feeling left out..

For the afternoon round, we found ourselves amongst the trees of Cranbrook Golf Club. Our group would attack those trees with only 3 clubs for the 3 hole, 3 club challenge. When deciding what clubs you will need for a 3 club challenge, it is important to look at the holes themselves. Is distance a concern? Can you putt with your 7 iron? All angles and scenarios must be considered. I decided to go with a 3 wood, 6 iron, and a 56 degree wedge.

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With Tisha and Josh dropping out of the race early on, Luke and I emerged as the likely favorites to take home the 3 hole 3 club victory. I was draining putts with my 56 degree wedge and Luke was hitting his 7 iron like Jesus himself. On the 3rd hole, I had a 3 foot putt to take home the victory. The putt with my wedge never stood a chance, it sailed wide right and I found myself locked into a sudden death duel with Mr Luke Elvy. For the next two holes Luke and I would trade bogies in a showdown of thrilling mediocrity.

On the 3rd playoff hole of the the 3 hole, 3 club showdown, Luke faced a downhill 20 footer for the victory. Like a seasoned 3 club professional, Luke bladed his wedge into the back of the cup with tremendous ferocity and celebrated like an animal. Luke promptly thanked his parents, his sponsors, the fine city of Cranbrook and it’s citizens for believing in him.

I have never won anything like this in my life
— Luke Elvy - on his 3 hole 3 club playoff victory
The scene of my missed 3 foot putt for the victory

The scene of my missed 3 foot putt for the victory

The scene of Luke’s birdie victory

The scene of Luke’s birdie victory

The next course on the docket was Bootleg Gap Golf Club and it would quickly become one of the group’s favorites. Aside from the excellent name, the golf course is also wildly fun. The Les Furber design plays along the St Mary’s river and offers many impressive views of the nearby mountains.

In one of the dumbest bets in the history of sports betting history, Josh and I spotted Luke and Tish a 7 hole lead on the day’s match. Not 7 shots, 7 freaking holes. That’s right, we would have to win the first 7 holes just to get back to even. It was certainly not a wise wager but it was the inaugural playing of the 7-up Cup… and probably the last.

The 2nd hole at Bootleg Gap takes you right up to the  hoodoo’s  edge.

The 2nd hole at Bootleg Gap takes you right up to the hoodoo’s edge.

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Even though the outcome was partially decided before a golf shot was even struck, we attempted the come back of all come backs. The result… an 8 & 7 victory for Luke & Tish. This situation called for some serious heckling of the winner’s press conference. This video was my favorite of the entire trip.

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The signature par 3 12th at Bootleg Gap.

The signature par 3 12th at Bootleg Gap.

The 6th, 9th and 18th holes at Bootleg Gap.

The 6th, 9th and 18th holes at Bootleg Gap.

The golf party kept rolling that afternoon at St Eugene. Another Les Furber design, St Eugene rolls from the open fields to the woods and along the St Mary’s River. Dramatic views of Fisher Peak are visible from just about everywhere on the golf course.

The 17th hole features a golf teepee behind the green.

The 17th hole features a golf teepee behind the green.

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The 8th green with the 9th hole playing along the St Marys River.

The 8th green with the 9th hole playing along the St Marys River.

With a trip to the airport looming, we had just enough time for one more round of golf. The stage was set for the finale at Shadow Mountain and a showdown with the course’s signature 17th hole. Nicknamed ‘The Monster’ the 17th plays 606 yards from the back tees and features a 100 foot elevation drop from the tee box. I would pump one right into the trees en route to a disappointing bogey.

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The view from behind the 17th

The view from behind the 17th

The 2nd hole at Shadow Mountain.

The 2nd hole at Shadow Mountain.

One of the finer things about the Kimberley Cranbrook area is the airport. With only an hour remaining before my flight, I was just finishing up on the 18th hole. Normally I would have missed my flight by a good margin, but with the Kimberley airport, I had some time to spare.

The final photo from a inspiring 4 days of photos.

The final photo from a inspiring 4 days of photos.

Trickle Creek Time

Trickle Creek Time

Parking lot posers

Parking lot posers

Post bet burpees

Post bet burpees

Josh wins the award for trip MVP. This guy never stops the grind!

Josh wins the award for trip MVP. This guy never stops the grind!

All of the golf that our Canadian super squad played on this trip was on public courses and would rank as some of the best value golf courses that I have played. When you consider the exchange on the US dollar, you have got yourself a serious golf deal. During our visit we stayed at the Northstar Mountain Village Resort and all 7 courses are within a 24 minute drive from the resort. When you start considering the hot tub in every condo, you have got a serious golf buddies trip idea.

If I only could figure out a way to Hot Tub Time Machine myself to my next destination.

South Bend Bound

On January 4th of 1980, I entered this earth at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. In 2019, I would return to South Bend and so would the US Senior Open. Just think about all of the details over the past 39 years that had to fall into place to align these two events. But honestly, who cares!?! I was here to explore some of the golf in South Bend, cover the US Senior Open and take on the Warren Course at Notre Dame. It was time to Visit South Bend.

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Jake from Visit South Bend escapes the sand.

Jake from Visit South Bend escapes the sand.

My partner in crime for the week was Jake from Visit South Bend. Jake plays to a solid 6 handicap but in terms of a golf sidekick, he is a scratch player. Since Jake and I had decided that we needed to warm up our own swings before watching the professionals, we headed out to nearby Blackthorn Golf Club.

Designed by Michael Hurdzan, Blackthorn Golf Club opened up in 1994 to critical acclaim. Like many of Hurdzan’s designs, it was an instant success. Golf Digest ranked it as the #4 best new public golf course in the country that year.

Considered by many local golfers to be the #1 public golf option in the South Bend area, Jake and I tackled the golf course with enthusiasm.

The finishing hole at Blackthorn requires two well placed shots if you want to think about putting for eagle.

The finishing hole at Blackthorn requires two well placed shots if you want to think about putting for eagle.

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After finishing the 12th hole at Blackthorn, the golfer is treated to a golf barn ride on the way to the 13th tee box. That’s right! The cart path goes right through an old rustic dairy barn! The golf course property used to be an old farm and the dairy barn has been converted into a golf barn. I would rank it in the top 5 golf barns that I have seen.

Golf Barn alert!!!

Golf Barn alert!!!

When I originally wrote this post, I decided to put these golf barn photos on Twitter to see what other golf barns people enjoy. It turns out that there are many folks that get into a good golf barn. This thread is worth a look if you a golf barn type person.

Another member of my top 5 golf barns is at nearby Cog Hill.

Another member of my top 5 golf barns is at nearby Cog Hill.

The current #1 golf barn is at Sun Country Golf Course in Cle Elum, WA

The current #1 golf barn is at Sun Country Golf Course in Cle Elum, WA

After managing to break 80 at Blackthorn, it was time to go watch the pros break 70 at Notre Dame’s Warren Course for the US Senior Open. Steve Stricker was the man in charge that day. He grabbed a hold of the early lead with a smoking good 62. He would follow up that 62 with a 64 to move to -14 and threaten the US Senior Open scoring record books. As I would later find out, the course isn’t really that easy.

Jimenez mentally prepares himself to hit a laser beam down the left side of the fairway.

Jimenez mentally prepares himself to hit a laser beam down the left side of the fairway.

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Retief Goosen and Tom Watson chat it up.

Retief Goosen and Tom Watson chat it up.

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Jeff Sluman gets animated for the camera.

Jeff Sluman gets animated for the camera.

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Jimenez eats something

Jimenez eats something

I was not shy about flashing my fancy media VIP credentials.

I was not shy about flashing my fancy media VIP credentials.

It was pretty much like Wayne’s World but with more golf.

It was pretty much like Wayne’s World but with more golf.

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Convinced that we had actually learned something from the professionals at Notre Dame, Jake and I hit the course early the next morning. This time we were headed to Elbel Park Golf Course. Located right next to the Mud Lake Wetlands, the course was not as muddy as we expected it to be. Instead of mud balls, we found mud birdies.

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That afternoon, our group decided to gang up on Jake and beat him badly at golf. There was no real reason why we decided to go after Jake so hard, but it was our stated goal to “make Jake cry.” We threw everything we had at him, but Jake would not budge, he holed clutch par putts and hit fantastic iron shots down the stretch. Not only did he hold onto his wallet but he also defended his golf honor valiantly. That sunny day in South Bend, we did not make Jake cry.

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Usually, I hate Canadian Geese, but these fellas were oddly polite.

Usually, I hate Canadian Geese, but these fellas were oddly polite.

The 2nd green at Elbel Park Golf Course

The 2nd green at Elbel Park Golf Course

That afternoon, we headed back to The Warren Course for some more Senior Open action.

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Going into the final round, Stricker had built himself a 6 shot lead and it looked like Sunday was going to be a victory walk for the 52 year old. Jake and I decided to take a walk of our own around the Eberhart Petro Golf Course in nearby Mishawaka before catching the conclusion of the golf tournament. The golf course opened in 1929 and plays across the mighty St Joe River 4 times.

The 4th green at Eberhart Petro lacks sand but it does not lack character. I am a fan.

The 4th green at Eberhart Petro lacks sand but it does not lack character. I am a fan.

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The tee box on the 3rd hole at Eberhart requires a precise drive over the St Joe River.

The tee box on the 3rd hole at Eberhart requires a precise drive over the St Joe River.

After another great round of golf at Eberhart, it was time to head back to Notre Dame to catch the final round of the US Senior Open.

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After making birdie on the first hole, Stricker opened up a 7 shot lead and never looked back. The victory lap was on and we happily followed along for the ride.

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Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown made a visit to the media center.

Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown made a visit to the media center.

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Steve Stricker plays his shot into the 3rd hole.

Steve Stricker plays his shot into the 3rd hole.

This volunteer is concerned, Steve Stricker is not.

This volunteer is concerned, Steve Stricker is not.

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It was barely a two man race with Jerry Kelly trailing Stricker by at least 5 shots all Sunday.

It was barely a two man race with Jerry Kelly trailing Stricker by at least 5 shots all Sunday.

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An excellent display of friendship unfolds on the 72nd hole.

An excellent display of friendship unfolds on the 72nd hole.

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After watching Stricker stroll around the Warren Course like it was a pitch and putt, I figured that I could probably break 80 on this golf course myself. Fortunately, I was going to get the opportunity to try. Playing from the same tees with the same Sunday pins as the pros, could I break 80? I asked this question on Twitter and Instagram. 61% of the audience voted that I could break 80. I knew there would be some disbelievers, so I decided to record every single one of my strokes. In the end, there would only be 77 of them. The video below is for the 61% of you who believed. The other 39% can go fly a kite.