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by Edward Kiersh
Villa Castagnola Italy – The adventure begins by first snaking past long-abandoned border outposts, into and out of Switzerland and Italy every few miles. Houses and small hillside farms also seem to be forsaken, and that’s understandable. The one lane roads here, twisting and turning, are mean and harrowing, edging precariously close to cliffs dropping off into oblivion.
It wasn’t easy leaving the comfortable confines of the five-star, Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola, an 1880-built getaway once home to a noble Russian family that sits wondrously right on Lake Lugano. Instead of braving “mad” Italian drivers hurtling through hairpin turns, it would have been far less blood-curdling to sit at one of the Villa’s bars smoking a Cuban cigar, dining in the Michelin-starred Gallery Arté al Lago restaurant, or simply watching the world go by in the Castagnola’s sculpture garden.
Within our region, there are over 85 golf courses to suit every level of skill, and the majority are much more affordable than the GTA or Muskoka. Depending on your budget and location, there are 9-hole courses with green fees starting at $15, and championship courses like Blairhampton, that will test your skills. No matter your choice, our courses offer a relaxed environment with a lot less intimidation factor.
I was ten when I first swung a club, and I was hooked. I’d collect balls at the driving range and caddy, but I was in my twenties before I took my first lesson, one of my few regrets. If you have children who show an interest, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the many opportunities we have to teach them when they’re young.
Most of our courses offer group and individual lessons for adults, but I would suggest you enroll your kids in a summer golf camp. It will teach them patience, manners, respect, honesty and most importantly, perseverance.
by Jane Finn
I’ve listened to hundreds of TED talks and paid big bucks to listen to motivational speakers, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been as inspired as I was today after having lunch at the 18th with José Quesada.
José is a natural redhead, a spitfire, a bundle of energy, and a force to be reckoned with, who just happens to be the PGA Director of Golf for Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort. When José is not dreaming up innovative destination events or making improvements to an already exceptional course, he’s giving back to the community and that is the focus of this post.
Golf is an amazing game and a challenging sport for those of us who are able bodied. Just imagine how much more challenging it would be if you were blind, had autism or Down’s syndrome, were missing a limb, or were completely paralyzed.
Twelve years ago, after a close friend became disabled after an accident, José set out, with the support of his employer, on a mission to help people with physical or mental disabilities find hope to overcome their difficulties to not only survive but thrive.
By David Theoret
It’s getting to be that time of year again, the time of year when all eyes in the golfing world stare directly at Augusta, GA and the PGA Tour’s first major of the season.
Augusta, GA is certainly a well-known golf destination. Outside of that course that very few will ever have the privilege of playing, there are a number of great local tracks that the public does have access to. One of these courses is Forest Hills Golf Course, an 18-hole Donald Ross masterpiece that has been repeatedly named “Best Public Course” by Augusta Magazine.
Ross designed Forest Hills in 1926, and then in 1984, the Arnold Palmer Company redesigned several holes to accommodate construction of the Augusta University Athletic Complex. In 2004, the course was restored to its original design and has remained that way ever since.
There’s a lot of history behind Forest Hills; it’s where Bobby Jones started his Grand Slam of Golf in 1930. It’s also home to the 2010 NCAA Division I National Champions Augusta University Men’s and Women’s Jaguar Golf Teams, a feat which the Men’s Team repeated again in 2011. Several PGA Tour Professionals also played here during their college careers including Phil Michelson and Davis Love III.
By Mike Johnny
Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is one of the top courses in Canada. Arguably one of Stanley Thompson’s finest works, this course sits adjacent to the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the Bow River. The layout is majestic, the views expansive with the river and the mountains providing a stunning backdrop. It may well feature the greatest opening nine I have experienced and possesses numerous signature holes. Leading Canadian Golf publications place this course well within their top 10 and the Top 100 Golf Courses of the World currently ranks it #5 in Canada.
On a cold spring morning, I was fortunate to play as a single where I could take my time, take lots of pictures and enjoy a unique golf experience. The starter advised me holes which I should have my camera ready – 4 and 14. He may have said all 18 of them.
By Tim Cotroneo
The Central American country of Costa Rica has an unusual way of helping golfers get over first hole jitters. At the Guanacaste region’s plush Westin Golf Resort and Spa, golfers at the Reserva Conchal Golf Course are often greeted by the startling treetop growl of howler monkeys either before, during, or after your backswing.
Monkeys aren’t the only back-to-nature ambassadors greeting golfers at the Westin’s serene Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed course. Iguanas, crocodiles, Coati-Mundi, and white throated Magpie all make spontaneous appearances during the course of 18 spectacular Reserva Conchal golf holes.
If you’re not star-struck by the wild kingdom aspect of Reserva Conchal’s 7,000-yards of jungle splendor, the sheer environmental radiance of your golf round can take your breath away.
As we make our way across the tarmac, I can hear my stomach rumbling. I had passed on the nondescript airplane lunch knowing that within minutes of clearing Mexican Customs I’d be seated at El Cuchupetas, ready to tuck into some of the best seafood you’ve ever tasted. Located in the small town of Villa Union, this 300-seat restaurant is far from fancy, but it’s always packed because the service is friendly, the prices more than reasonable, and the food is fantastic! Try the shrimps wrapped in bacon or the robalo – a whitefish – seasoned and grilled to perfection, but make sure you order the scallops. They may be the biggest and tastiest anywhere. Welcome to Mazatlán and your first taste of Sinaloa.
Another short ride and we arrive at the Las Villas Hotel at Estrella del Mar, a tranquil resort perched along 3.5 miles of pristine shoreline only 10 minutes from the airport. From here we were about 22 minutes from Mazatlán’s historic district and her vibrant Zone Dorado – Golden Zone. You’re close enough to enjoy the culture, cuisine, and party atmosphere, but far enough away to relax and escape some of the stress of big city living and play some excellent golf.
By David Theoret
If you’re into golf, The World Golf Village in St. Augustine FL has everything your heart desires. From world class golf on their two championship courses designed by four Golf Hall of Fame members, to the World Golf Hall of Fame and the acclaimed Renaissance World Golf Village Hotel, golf enthusiasts will leave thoroughly impressed and content. Need to improve your game? The PGA Tour Academy is also on site and ready to put the latest technology to work to help cure your swing woes.
The Renaissance World Village Resort has received a AAA Four-Diamond rating and is located next to the extraordinary World Golf Hall of Fame. The resort offers 301 Colonial Asian-designed guest rooms which feature spacious spa-inspirited bathrooms complete with granite countertops. In the sleeping area you will find comfortable beds, a mini refrigerator, coffee maker, sink and a 37-inch, flat panel TV. Each room provides a great view of the property, whether it’s the Hall of Fame or the golf course. High speed Internet access is also available in each room. Downstairs you will find the Villagio Italian Grille, which features fresh seafood, great steaks, traditional Italian cuisine and more. If you’re looking to catch your favorite sporting event, odds are you’ll find it on one of the 7 televisions. There’s also a complimentary shuttle service to and from historic downtown St. Augustine for registered guests as well as a gift shop where you can pick up World Golf Village memorabilia.
By John Mooshie
7 years in the development and a brainchild of Canadian developer Frank Stronach, Adena Golf CC, located just north of Ocala, should easily rival the heralded Streamsong golf courses.
Opened in July 2015, the initial thrust to build a world class golf course began back in 2008 and was carefully crafted yard by yard by Stronach, himself, who is neither a golf course architect nor a landscape designer. No, there is no pedigree of a well-known architect. Rather, Stronach is a man of vision, of purpose, and has the financial wherewithal to see his concepts evolve.
The name Adena refers to what were probably a number of related Native American societies sharing a burial complex and ceremonial system. Stronach, amassed his fortune in auto parts manufacturing, founding Canadian giant Magna International, a $35 billion automotive parts supplier. Owner of several racetracks, including Santa Anita in California and Gulfstream Park in Florida, Stronach is a successful thoroughbred horse breeder with farms located in Central Florida and throughout the USA.
By Tim Cotroneo
It’s not hard to imagine Thomas Jefferson’s formative years occurring just a block from the first tee box at the freshly redesigned Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, VA. This patriotic flashback is triggered once you catch the revolutionary costumes, muskets, and Fife and Drum team standing less than a chip shot away. You’re immediately swept up in the realization that Colonial Williamsburg is a storied setting for golf.
Williamsburg is a landscape dripping in heritage and history. In fact, several 1700s-period last will and testaments revealed goff clubs and sticks handed down through the generations. This appreciation for legacy reinforces why the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation chose Rees Jones, the famous son of Robert Trent Jones, for the redesign of their renowned 53-year-old golf course.
The first day re-opening of one of Virginia’s most decorated courses showcased perfect fairways that hadn’t seen a shot in a year, lightning-fast putting greens inspected by Jones at dawn, and meticulous play-it-forward tee boxes that are worthy of a visit from Queen Elizabeth.