Monday, July 29, 2019

Becoming Enchanted From Afar - Royal Porthcawl

I travel a few times a year chasing golf courses and as part of my travels I do a ton of research, often on areas of the world I might never travel to. I often create itineraries in my head, "well if I ever DO make it to the Caribbean, here are the courses I am going to play" and I always tune in to the TV if a professional tournament is playing at one of those far-flung areas I've been researching.

There are a thousands golf courses in the world each offering their own variation on the fantastic game of golf. Golf can be set amongst the pines, or the desert or beautiful parklands.

For me, the ultimate golf course has to involve the sea. I love salt air, really enjoy wind and don't mind the rain (what am I made of sugar?). Given all of those elements, links golf is the ultimate golf for me.

In all of my research, there is one golf course I keep coming back to time after time and that is Royal Porthcawl in Wales, UK. Every so often I stumble across something on the web that reminds me about RP and then I fall down an internet rabbit hole and research the course all over again. This time around it was Mark Crossfield's excellent video about playing the course

The more I think about it, the more RP checks all the boxes I am interested in for a golf course. It is nestled right up on the coastline of Wales assuring me all the salt air and wind I can handle and sea views on every hole. It is also ranked in the Top 100 in the world by Top100 which is no small feat. Watching it on TV it looks like it has a great variety of architectural features that are fun and could keep me interested during repeated play of the course.

It is also drop-dead gorgeous

(picture via Links Magazine:

It is also under the radar and seems very chill for a Top 100 course. After watching The Open last week, of course I want to play Royal Portrush but the shoulders slump a bit when hearing the news that they are booked up on visitor play seemingly through the next year (!?!).  Porthcawl has a great pedigree with tourneys (hosting several Amateurs, a Walker and Curtis Cup along with a British Senior Open) but doesn't have the looming capacity issues that Portrush has.

Of course, my mind also wanders to the thought, well what if you play it, fall in love and then want to play it every year? If it really does live up to the hype that I am seeing through my screen is there any world which my mania would extend into membership?

Aside from being a 13 hour flight from LA, there is a lot of mystery about the club (and clubs that have a "royal" in them). Unlike private clubs in the US, the "private" clubs of the UK/Ireland are upfront about their membership requirements and fees. Often these clubs offer a very reasonable membership since they are heavily subsidized by foreign visitors. The royal clubs including RP play all of this close to the vest which makes the starry-eyed golf researcher who has dreams of an overseas membership wonder if there is even a chance of membership happening.

First things first, I want to play the course. When am I going to go to Wales? I have zero idea. When I get there, do I just play RP for like 7 straight days or do I also wander over to P&K, Southerndown, Royal St. David's, etc. that Visit Wales suggests to make it a proper Welsh getaway? Probably, although I would want to earmark at least 2 rounds if not more at RP (considering I am devoting an entire blog post to the club).

There are some golf "breaks" for a Welsh tour that look interesting via Wales Golf Holidays:

Since I don't know the hows or whys or whens for now I just check out RP's course via their awesome first tee webcam.

Do you have any courses you are enchanted by but have never played? Let me know in the comments!

For more information about Royal Porthcawl check out this link:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Airlane Golf Club Review

There are tons of good golf courses in Nova Scotia. Some public, some private but all ones I want to play some day. If you are going on a golf trip to Cabot and fly into Halifax you may be tempted to play some of these other tracks but you may not have the time to do so.

Enter Airlane Golf Club, a passion project of two friends in the 1960s and makes for a great warmup to your Cabot adventure. Located about 10 minutes on the East side of the Halifax airport, Airlane has 9 holes with some great doglegs but is not too taxing on you as prepare for the other courses in the province.

One of my favourite (Canadian spelling) holes has to be this par that is an uphill dogleg right that leads to this awesome green framed by Canadian pine trees.

The course doesn't have a lot of water but where there is H2O it makes for some challenging decisions. The course has a lot of width so you can swing it out wide to the left, like I have done here or challenge the water with a shorter approach to the green to the right. Either way this is a fun hole.

There are plenty of straight ahead holes as well but with the greens being as large as they are, there are multiple pin positions that are possible.

I am not trying to build up this course more than it is, it is an unevenly mowed, parkland-style golf track with not the best POP on a Saturday afternoon but it is affordable and was clearly grown from the passion of two guys and their families which I totally dig.

You are already going to spending an arm and a leg playing at Cabot, why not get some golf kicks for appreciably less at Airlane?

For more information on Airlane check out this link:

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Cypress Point Quest - Day 1581

And so the grind continues. Here we are, well on our way to 2,000 days of actively trying to play Cypress but no luck thus far. I haven't been super aggressive over the last few months, just hoping the universe places some people in my path that can help me out.

I did decide to shake a few things up in the karma department though. On eBay, there was a sale of Titleist golf balls branded with the Cypress Point logo.

I took this as a sign and a challenge. I am going to fill my golf bag with these balls (phrasing) and I am going to play with them until they run out. My goal? To play Cypress Point before the balls run out. I figure the golf balls will act as a defacto hourglass to help me get my butt in gear.

Part of that is I have to start getting back up to the NorCal area. I had a trip to Pasa which needed to be rescheduled due to weather and I am hoping to take a quick jaunt up there in the Fall to play a few private courses in SanFran. The closer I can get to Cypress, I feel the odds of me meeting someone with a connection there will increase.

If you spend any time in Monterey you start to wonder how they could accommodate all the people attending the Pro Am. 17 Mile Drive is often blocked off for shuttle buses and there isn't a lot of parking for the attendees. This problem had to been doubled for the recent US Open there. It sounds like though a lucky few got their fill of Cypress while parking!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Cabot Resort Review

Let's face it, getting to Inverness Nova Scotia takes some effort. The closest major airport is Halifax which still puts you at a 3-plus-hour hour drive to Cabot Links (you could fly into Sydney which puts you 2 hours out but from what I hear Halifax is the better option). So if you are coming from anywhere other than Boston, you are going to have expend time and effort getting there.

Once you get there though...whoa doggy is it worth it! I have not stayed at Pinehurst or Streamsong but having stayed at Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley, I can confidently say that Cabot is the best golf resort I have stayed at so far!

The people there are very friendly and helpful. Big shoutout to Tyler and Jeremy in the golf department and all the friendly staff I met along the way. They bent over backwards to accommodate my group (as they would for any guest) and that type of service goes a long way.

Also, perhaps the best caddie I ever came across was Stephen at the resort. The guy is amiable and even though he wasn't my caddy, I considered the guy one of the gang and highly recommend him to anyone looking to head to Cabot.

First let's talk about the rooms.

The Golf Villas are definitely the best I ever stayed in. They combine the elegance of Sand Valley with a very Scandinavian feng shui with some inspired design choices like a great kitchen, fantastic porch and killer individual bathrooms. The villas where I stayed could easily accommodate a guys group, a couples trip or just the single golfer. All the lodging is currently laid out at the Links course but that is changing with major construction happening near the Cliffs course to really put in a ton more infrastructure in the next 2 years.

Next, let's talk about food. The Links has 2 restaurants (an upstairs, sightly more formal dining area and the downstairs pub area) and also owns the Cabot Public House where you can get some similar food and some different dishes as well.

All the food is excellent, from the lobster rolls,

to the seafood chowder

to the poutine.

Almost all of the beers they serve are local to Cape Breton-Nova Scotia and I tried most of them, particularly liking the beer made specifically for the resort, the Cabot Ale made by Garrison.

If you are traveling to Nova Scotia, get yourself some seafood and local spirits!

The Cliffs course is still in its infancy regarding amenities. There are two yurts which act as gift shop and small cafeteria (with new permanent buildings opening this summer) but the reality is you are going to be spending most of your time back at the main lodge at Links.

My major overall impression is that Cabot is a low-key Bandon (in the best possible way). The rooms were booked at Cabot but you never felt overwhelmed by the amount of guests crowding the fairways or the eating places. It wasn't nearly as "bro-y" as Bandon can sometimes get (I saw women, old people, every different type of category at Cabot which was great). Everything felt much more laid back and less resort-y. While the resort lacks some infrastructure in a few areas (especially over on the Cliffs side, where construction is ongoing as they build a short course and full, permanent clubhouse facilities) Cabot it is already one of my favorite places to stay on the planet - and I imagine it will be even more so once Phase II of the building takes place.

Staying at Cabot is WORTH the energy to get there. The resort, people and food are all top notch and you couldn't ask for anything more then what Cabot gives you!

For more information on the Cabot resort, check out this link:

Monday, July 1, 2019

Cabot Cliffs

Cabot Cliffs is jaw-droppingly beautiful. If you want to check out my full report, be sure to click the link to my sister site!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Cabot Links Review

There are plenty of faux links courses in the US. If there is a links-style courses in Las Vegas you know they are everywhere. Heck the best links-style course in the US is often tabbed as Sand Hills in Nebraska (and I am not one to argue!). Still, when one travels to Nova Scotia, Canada to play the Cabot courses - and especially the Links, a "true" links course - you really see what you have been missing when playing the faux links courses.

The course just feels connected to the sea in a way these other courses can only approximate. The bunkers feel carved out of the dunes. The cape hole on the sixth hole actually go around an actual cape-cove!

I played Cabot Links in 20mph winds in the morning and utterly calm conditions in the afternoon, making it two completely different courses (as all good links courses will do). In short, I felt I was playing in Scotland, yet here I was in North America - truly a transcendent experience.

The Links (like its sister, Cabot Cliffs) starts off with a gentle handshake of a par 5.

After a longish par 3 second with a crazy swale in the middle

the fun really begins on the short par-4 third hole with crazy swamp danger off to the right.

The 4th hole is my personal nemesis. Playing uphill this hole is just hard, triply hard in that aforementioned wind. In either condition I was struggling to get up there but once you gain the high ground you have one of the most beautiful views on the course.

Holes 5 and 6 are fantastic playing along the cove with lobster boats (or at least I thought they were lobster boats - I was so obsessed by lobster on this trip that I turned everything into lobster).

The 8th hole is just a brute. A long forced carry over marshland, then an uphill shot to a double green making this par 5 a real tester.

The course has a lot more teeth than a typical resort course (more on that in a bit) and it shows it in full with the 8th hole.

The fun picks up again on the 10th hole, a fantastic short par 4 with a blind tee shot over a hill to a downhill green. I loved every bit of this hole, it is quintessential links golf and so much fun to play!

The course has a long stretch of holes coming up with super long par 5s and 4s which you think are tough until you get to the par 3, 14th hole which will test your nerve like no other at only 90 yards straight downhill.

This hole was so devious that when I played it, only one person hit the green of a foursome. So fun, so pretty, so ridiculous (in a good way)!

The last stretch was very reminiscent of the last stretch at Bandon Dunes. Play along the water for 16, start to turn in-land for 17 and then 18 is playing back to town/the resort with the folks eating at Cabot's restaurants getting a full view of your approach shots into 18.  Of the three holes, 16 along the coast is the favorite due to the eye candy but I added bonuses points for beach access right by the 16th green (if you have time to dip down to the Atlantic, do it! ).

Overall, Cabot Links is a great course. I love that you don't have to fly all the way to Scotland to play a Scottish course - and the sea views are amazing. I wish the routing of a few holes was softened a bit because the course has too much of an edge for the typical resort golfer, and it would be great to get the greens running slightly faster (they were still working to overcome some tough agronomic issues coming out of a tough winter) but those are minor quibbles to an overall fantastic experience at Cabot.

For more information on the Links, check out this, well, link!:

Monday, June 10, 2019

Desert Aire Course Review

When you travel to the high desert in California you may pass through the towns of Palmdale/Lancaster. There you will see desert scrub brush as far as the eye can see but occasionally your view will be broken up by a stand or two of cottonwood trees. One such stand contains the funky but fun course of Desert Aire in Palmdale.

For years I have been wanting to play Desert Aire because of their email game. Getting semi-weekly emails in my inbox telling me about too good to be true deals, fund leagues and skins games and generally imparting a vibe that 9 holes in the high desert can be an awfully fun time.

I finally got to check out the course on a hot weekend taking advantage of a 2fer Saturday (in the afternoon it was 2 for 1 greens fees and 2 for 1 food and drink). The course is a pretty straight ahead parkland style course with trees framing the holes but there was challenges to be had.

You have to be smart with your driving as the cottonwood trees (and some Joshua trees!) really influence your second shot. Indeed the 9th hole has tree placement slightly reminiscent of Pebble's 18th. The greens are also a little tricky as they keep them longish to protect against the desert heat but they get baked out and sometimes it almost feels like you are putting in Scotland.

At the end of the day, the conditioning of the course and the routing isn't fantastic by any stretch but if you lived in Palmdale and were just new to golf, this course would quickly become your favorite place to play. Some of the holes (particularly the 5th and 6th holes) have some challenge and teeth to them and the rest of the holes give you enough of a challenge that I was glad to have played 2 rounds of 9 holes here.

Golf needs more courses like this, 9 holes for a quick, cheap round and while the golf won't crack any top 100 lists it serves a purpose of getting golfers out and about and that has a value all its own.

For more info on Desert Aire, check out the link: