Dream Destinations: For 2014 Summer Golf Travel
There are few things more exciting than planning your next golf trip. Where in the world should we go? What destination do we want to check off my bucket list this year? FORE asked golf travel expert and international director of Premier Golf, Bill Hogan, to give us his thoughts on the hottest destinations for summer golf travel in 2014. Having played in most states and in 50 countries around the world, there are few more knowledgeable golf travelers than Bill. Following are his recommendations.
The Scottish Highlands
For years, American golfers visiting Scotland would concentrate on the East Coast with St Andrews and Edinburgh, or on the West Coast with Turnberry and Royal Troon. Great destinations, but too few of us Yanks have explored the beautiful Highlands up north.
With the recent addition of the great — and I mean great — links courses at Castle Stuart and Trump International, the Highlands is now a bucket list golf destination of its own. I recommend you base yourself in the Inverness area for part of a week and play Royal Dornoch, Nairn and Castle Stuart. Then drive over to Aberdeen, playing Cruden Bay en route, with Trump International Scotland and Royal Aberdeen nearby the city.
If you love links golf, The Highlands is a spectacular area and normally about two-thirds the price of the more famous southern destinations. The scenery is the best in Scotland, less than 10 percent of their population lives up there, there is a single malt whisky distillery around every turn and you can enjoy about 19 hours of daylight in the summer.
Oh, and the Haggis is fresher up there too.
The Dairy State
Have five to seven nights and looking for a great summer trip? Fly to Milwaukee and spend two nights at Erin Hills GC, site of the 2017 U.S. Open. It’s as big and bold as any course you can play, sort of like the Midwest’s version of Bethpage Black. In fact, I predict that on one day at the U.S. Open in 2017, the USGA will stretch the course to more than 8,000 yards, just to say they did it. The Erin Hills accommodations are a mix of four-bedroom cottages, suites and lodge rooms, and the dining is really superb. Best of all, everything is priced at a very reasonable rate so the value is terrific!
Then, head north and spend some nights in Kohler, and play Whistling Straits, Irish Links and Blackwolf Run River Course. At Kohler, stay at The American Club if you are with spouses, or The Inn on Woodlake for more affordable rooms. Mix in some good Wisconsin beer and brats, caddies at all the courses, inexpensive replay rates, Bob Uecker on the radio for a Brewers baseball game, and you’ll discover why summertime in Wisconsin is a little bit of heaven.
The days of civil strife in Northern Ireland are long gone, and now golf tourism in this part of the Emerald Isle is hotter than ever. With ambassadors Graeme MacDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke doing so well on the professional tours, Northern Ireland has received a lot of publicity. What travelers find are a host of magnificent golf courses, with Royal County Down and Royal Portrush leading the pack. When you add the links at Ardglass, Portstewart, Ballyliffin (just across the Republic border) and the great new resort at Lough Erne GC, a week in Northern Ireland can be easily filled with a superb golf experience every day.
The most optimal itinerary would start at Lough Erne Resort for some pampering after the flight across the pond, followed with a three- or four-night segment at The Bushmills Inn to access Portrush, Ballyliffin and Portstewart. Wrap up your trip with a couple nights at The Slieve Donard and golf at Ardglass and, if at all possible, two rounds at Royal County Down.
If time allows, spend a weekend at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast, among the coolest hotels in Europe and one of the most popular with the jet setters and celebrities. A Black Taxi tour of Belfast is a rewarding experience too!
Been awhile since you last visited Bandon Dunes? May and June are ideal months to visit this iconic Oregon golf resort, which I think is the best on the planet. Where else can you play four world top 100 courses at the same resort? Where else in America can you play true links golf? Where else can you sip a fine Willamette Valley Pinot Noir while downing the famous Grandma’s Meatloaf in McKee’s Pub?
The great debate about Bandon Dunes is which links course is best. If you went with a group of eight people, I bet you would get five or six different rankings of the courses. They are all that good! And the new 13-hole Bandon Preserve par-3 course, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, is probably the best of its kind in the world. At Bandon Preserve you can take a few clubs in a loaner carry bag, grab a cocktail at the on-course bar, and play a “gangsome” with your whole group. That’s as fun as it gets!
If you need more excitement, ask about playing the Sheep Ranch holes and make up your own course as you go, crossing fairways and mounds to “that flag over there.” For my money, Bandon Dunes is the best golf resort on the planet.