Teeing off6 min read . Updated: 30 Aug 2012, 09:26 PM IST
Golf courses combine the best of both pastime and tourism. Some of the world’s greatest golf courses are astonishingly picturesque and make for splendid holidays for the whole family. A selection.
THE KIAWAH ISLAND OCEAN COURSE
Where: Kiawah Island, South Carolina, US
The Ocean Course designed by Pete Dye in 1991 has hosted the Ryder Cup (1991), the 1997 World Cup, the 2007 Senior PGA Championship and the 2012 PGA Championship s won by Rory McIlroy with a record eightshot margin. It literally hugs the Atlantic Ocean and is positioned on the sand dunes between the beach and the marsh.
An island for the rich and famous, the legend of Ocean Course grew as it featured in the film Legend of Bagger Vance starring Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron.
VALDERRAMA GOLF CLUB
A prized masterpiece by the late Robert Trent Jones Sr, the Club de Golf Valderrama opened in 1983. Its ancient trees form a fortress to fairways and greens, testing the best of golfers. It has played host to the Ryder Cup and later became home to the European Tour’s Volvo Masters, which in 2008 was won by India’s very own Jeev Milkha Singh.
Why Valderrama and Spain?
One of the most enchanting vacation destinations in the world, it has vigour, beauty and a love for life. Add golf and the great Seve Ballesteros, and it makes for a dream holiday.
Spain has more than 350 courses, but many of its golfing gems still are a mystery to the world. There are 60-odd courses near the resort town of Marbella, with Picasso’s birthplace Malaga nearby. This coastline called Costa del Sol, is also referred to as The Costa del Golf with its 60-odd golf courses within a 50-mile radius. And yes, the country also has amazing art and architecture, museums and monuments, and its nightlife with bars and nightclubs is almost infectious.
THE PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS
Where: Monterey, California, US
Going back to 1919, when Jack Neville and Douglas Grant designed it, the positioning on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean makes it quite easily the most picturesque golf course in the world. Its par 3 seventh hole is one of the most photographed holes in golf. Just over 100 yards, players hit straight out into the Pacific with literally nothing in background except for the violent surf crashing into the craggy shorelines.
It has hosted the US Open no less than five times. Champions include Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Tiger Woods, with Graeme McDowell winning when it was last held here in 2010. It also hosts the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, played over three lovely courses—Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills and Pebble Beach, with the final round again at Pebble Beach.
Why Pebble Beach and Monterey?
Neville and Grant meant to position as many holes as possible along the beautiful Monterey coast, achieved it by using a ‘‘figure 8" layout.
The first couple of holes are inland and the third is towards the ocean, with the next two along the coast. Then the peninsula is made use of for seventh and the lower ‘‘loop" of 8 is formed by holes 9 to 13. The ninth and tenth do not return to the clubhouse, and then 14 and 15 are inland. The 16th runs along the third to complete the figure 8. Then is the dramatic finish with the par-3 17th on a smaller peninsula, where Nicklaus and Watson played amazing shots to win in 1972 and 1982, and the 18th runs along the Pacific coast for a remarkable finish.
There is a lot else to golf in Monterey.
Quite accidentally, I stumbled upon the place where John Denver’s plane crashed in 1997. Denver, the singer-songwriter of ‘‘Take me home, Country Roads" and ‘‘Rocky Mountain High", crashed while flying near Pacific Grove and a plaque marks the site.
For those suffering from a literary bug, Monterey is where John Steinbeck set many of his works. Born in 1902 close to Cannery Row in Monterey, the author of Grapes of Wrath (1939) won the 1962 Nobel Prize for literature and 17 of his works were made into Hollywood films.
Where: Fife, Scotland
For sheer history, one has to visit and play golf in Scotland and at St. Andrews in particular.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews runs the game everywhere except the US. Characterized by large double greens—there are seven of them—the Old Course has two holes named after Bobby Jones and Tom Morris. The course can be played in either direction—clockwise or anticlockwise. Seldom are bunkers famous as they are at St Andrews.
The 10-ft deep Hell Bunker on 14th and the Road Hole Bunker on the 17th are as famous as golf itself. Only during the Dunhill Links and the final day of the men’s and women’s open championship, besides some other occasional big events, is the course open on Sundays.
Why St Andrews and Fife?
Scotland is without doubt the home of golf.
The area also has a number of other amazing courses such as Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and a few smaller ones. Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews together form co-hosts for an event each year.
Finally, if you love golf, you cannot not want to play at St. Andrews and Scotland.
MACAU GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB (WESTIN RESORT)
This is not a golf course you will find in most selections. But when you want a holiday with fun, frolic and a bit of gambling thrown in, Macau is the place. This is the only place where you can wake up to the gently rolling South China Sea, gaze across the bay and the beach, tuck in a lazy breakfast, and then take the elevator up (yes, up) to get to the golf course.
It is a spectacle. The Westin Resort is an eight-storey complex and its terrace leads into a mountainside with the Macau Golf and Country Club, which virtually forms the rooftop for the hotel.
If you cannot get to Las Vegas to gamble or to Pebble Beach to see and play the spectacular seventh hole, then Macau is the place to be in. It has both.
Most golfers don’t have spouses and families as obsessed with golf as they are, and hence a venue that is more vacation than golf. Sure, the golf course too is inviting, to say the least. For those not fortunate to have seen the seventh at Pebble Beach, come to Macau and see the par-3 17th. The 239-yard hole has an elevated tee some 140ft above the big green, which is hemmed in by cliffs and scrubland to the right. The South China Sea is to the left, and errant shots can result in disaster. But that’s for the pros. For the amateurs, the tee still offers a similar challenge, though not as big or spectacular.
The course is set against some of the most amazing views of Coloane Island, the South China Sea and the picturesque Hac Sa Beach. You don’t need to play golf to love this.
V. Krishnaswamy is a golf writer who has travelled to cover and enjoy the sport for the last three decades. The views and selections are personal and are based on sheer beauty and aesthetics, the golf feel and the holiday experience of the course/resort and the area around it.