Garmany’s Hogan certainly knows what golf travel is all about

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – If you’re ready, willing and able to travel to satisfy your golf appetite you should meet Bill Hogan.

Having been hired in October, Hogan is early into his first year with Garmany Golf, which also made its first appearance at the biggest show in golf. Garmany — with offices in Austin, Texas; Los Angeles and Edinburgh, Scotland — is starting its 10th year as a luxury golf travel business.

“Bill might be a rookie with us, but he’s not a rookie in terms of traveling the world,’’ said Bud Garmany, the company’s founder and president.

Hogan is Garmany’s senior vice president of sales and – if experience means anything – he knows his stuff. Hogan has played golf in 60 countries. Initially that seemed a staggering number for a U.S.-based golf enthusiast, but the PGA Merchandise Show had exhibitors and visitors from 83 countries. That indicates how widespread this great game is.

“There’s a lot more than 60 countries where golf is played,’’ said Hogan. “I have at least two more on my bucket list that I haven’t played. I try to keep the number of countries above my age, so I’ve got to keep adding to my list.’’

Hogan began his serious traveling in 1981, when – as a 20-year old – he moved to Europe to attend a college in Austria.

“That started my wanderlust,’’ he said, “and when I went to graduate school in Germany that really got me going.’’

Hogan returned to the U.S. in 1988 and took a job with Wide World of Golf, based in California. In his first week there his boss asked Hogan if he had a passport. He answered in the affirmative and within a few days he was off on a 28-day trip.

“Obviously I’ve been to a lot more than 60 countries, but that started me playing golf on my travels,’’ said Hogan. “I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand about a dozen times, and I’ve been to Scotland and Ireland 50 times.’’

He’s also become a panelist for Golf Magazine’s ranking of the top 100 courses in the world.

“It gets in your blood,’’ he said. `I love experiencing these kinds of things. The great thing about golf is there’s a chemistry around the world. You meet people, and they know somebody, so you’re only two- or three- degrees of separation from any golfer around the world. That’s a special treat.’’

Bud Garmany, the company’s founder, evolved into the golf travel world more slowly that Hogan did.

“I grew up in East Nashville, Tenn., a tough neighborhood,’’ he said. “If you wore golf clothes there you got beat up.’’

Garmany opted for work in the solar energy business in California. He stayed there for 14 years, until he reached his mid-40s. Then he decided to look for something more fulfilling.

“I went to Scotland by myself, without an agenda,’’ he said. “My family thought I was having a mid-life crisis. I immediately had a love affair with golf, and I saved the last five days of the trip for St. Andrews – the soul of the game. Then I knew that I’d do something in golf for the rest of my life.’’

After returning to California he contemplated his golf options with a friend, who suggested entering the golf travel business.

“It was one of the worst times in the world to start a luxury golf travel business,’’ said Garmany, but he did it anyway.

In preparing for the PGA Merchandise Show Garmany and Hogan developed a Hot List for golf travel destinations in 2019. Only one U.S. destination – Wisconsin – was on it.

“You can fly to Milwaukee, stay six days and play a Ryder Cup and PGA Championship course (Whistling Straits), A U.S. Women’s Open course (Blackwolf Run) and a U.S. Open course (Erin Hills). There’s also a fine new resort (Sand Valley).’’ Said Hogan. “We’ve been looking for new places that people aren’t talking about, and people might overlook Wisconsin.’’

If they’re from America, though, they would be more likely to overlook other golf destinations on the Garmany list – places like Vietnam, South Africa, France, New Zealand, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The list also includes Northwest Ireland, Melbourne, Australia and Tasmania and South Korea.

Hogan’s bucket list for his own new travel destinations include Qatar, Laos and Cambodia.

“In Qatar they’ve built some zillion-dollar courses that not many people know about, ‘said Hogan, “but they’re off the charts. In Laos and Cambodia they’re building an infrastructure to go after the North American market. You can fly to some of these places and stay for 10 days for about half of what it’d cost to go to Ireland. You may need an adventuresome spirit to go there but the value is tremendous and the quality resorts are absolutely gorgeous.’’


VIETNAM – Vietnam takes your breath away with its beauty, history, culture and great courses. Hoiana Shores and Greg Norman’s newly-opened Kam Ranh are special.

NORTHWEST IRELAND – It’s hard to match the rumpled topography of Balllyliffin’s two courses and County Sligo, Carne, and Enniscrone are unforgettable.

WISCONSIN – Sand Valley’s two courses — the latest’s David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes – fit right in to the golf explosion that has swept through this Midwestern state in the last two decades.

FRANCE — Le Golf National, site of last year’s Ryder Cup, is just the beginning of a golf boom here. There are six world-class courses within driving distance of Paris.

SOUTH AFRICA – Links at Fancourt, Leopard Creek, St. Francis Links and Pearl Valley Golf Estate (one of Jack Nicklaus’ best designs) mix well with this country’s safari parks.

NEW ZEALAND – Heart-stopping Kauri Cliffs and Tom Doak’s cliff-top Cape Kidnappers are must-play courses in this country with a rich golf history.

DUBAI AND ABU DHABI – Yaz Links, which looks like Scotland’s Kingsbarns without the water, might be the best golf experience between the United Kingdom and Australia.

AUSTRALIA (MELBOURNE) AND TASMANIA – There may not be a better concentration of great courses anywhere in the world than around Melbourne. Kingston Heath, Metropolitan, Victoria, Yarra Yarra and Huntingdale are just some of them.

SOUTH KOREA – China and Japan may have had more attention from golfers in Asia, but Korea’s courses (particularly Nine Bridges and Whistling Rock) are incredible.

South Korean Ji wins in a unique season opener for the LPGA

Eun-Hee Ji led a one-two finish by Korean golfers in the LPGA’s season opener.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL. – The LPGA opened its season with what its organizers billed as “the most unique event in golf.’’ Well, it might well have been that.

The field for the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions did have 26 players who had won tournaments on the LPGA circuit in either 2017 or 2018. Since the circuit tried limited field Tournament of Champions events at various sites from 1994 to 2007, bringing its winners together wasn’t all that unusual.

This latest attempt again brought out the best in LPGA talent, but it didn’t spotlight their skills for an obvious reason. There were more players from other sports or entertainment areas (49) than there were LPGA players (26) competing. That’s what can happen when you try to combine a tour event with a celebrity event. It’s no a perfect mix.

South Korean Eun-Hee Ji was the best on the LPGA side, shooting a 14-under-par 272 that concluded with a 70 on Sunday, when play was conducted in 50-degree weather with wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour.

John Smoltz, the pitching great who was also a good enough golfer to qualify for last year’s U.S. Senior Open, ruled the celebrity side. It was conducted with a Stableford format, Smoltz accumulating 147 points — one more than runner-up Mark Mulder, another one-time pitching star.

The celebrity component boosted the galleries and helped get the tournament on more than just The Golf Channel (NBC also provided weekend coverage). At least the two segments got along well.

“A lot of the fans that came, they weren’t for us (the LPGA). They were for the celebrities,’’ said China’s Shanshan Feng, who tied for fourth on the LPGA side. “They weren’t for the (LPGA) players. They were for the celebrities, which is good because that brought them to the tournament.’’

“They (the LPGA players) were wonderful to us,’’ said football great Sterling Sharpe, who tied for fourth among the celebs. “The language barrier could have been a little difficult, but it wasn’t. I hope I’m back next year.’’

While the LPGA players liked the event – the first time since 2015 that the circuit has opened a season in the U.S. – there was a little something lost in the interest of innovation.

“It felt more than a normal, official tournament because in other tournaments we wouldn’t have music on the 18th tee box,’’ said Feng. And that finishing hole at the Tranquilo course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando was a par-3. Very few significant competitions end on such a short hole.

One thing wasn’t so unusual. Koreans finished one-two in the Tournament of Champions, an immediate indication that that country’s domination of the circuit won’t end soon. Ji held off Miram Lee to take the $180,000 first prize from the $1.2 million purse offered for the LPGA players in the 72-hole no-cut event. American Nelly Korda was a shot behind Lee in third place.

Ji, 32, is by no means the best of the huge group of Korean stars on the LPGA circuit. Sunday’s win was her fifth on the circuit, to go with two victories on the Korean circuit and two more in Asia since turning pro in 2007.

Winner of the 2009 U.S. Open, Ji has $6.3 million in career winnings. She’s also had near misses in two other majors — the Women’s PGA (tie for second in 2012) and British Open (tie for third in 2008), but 12 Koreans are ahead of her in the Rolex World Rankings.

The celebs played for $500,000, with Smoltz earning $100,000. He won a celebrity event on the same course in 2014 when the LPGA wasn’t a prominent factor. This year the tournament was designated as an official LPGA event, the first of 33 tournaments on the season schedule. The next four are in Australia (two), Thailand and Singapore) before competition returns to the U.S.

LPGA looks to stars for season-opening Tournament of Champions

You’ve got to give LPGA commissioner Mike Whan credit for at least one thing: he’s not afraid to take chances. And, he has been quick to admit, “When you’re innovative you’ve got to be willing to strike out some times.’’

The LPGA begins its 69th season this week with a new, innovative event – the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at the Tranquilo course at the Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, FL. It tees off on Thursday (JAN 17)

This season-opener is more than just an event for LPGA players. It’s being combined with a celebrity tournament. Thirty-six winners on the LPGA circuit over the last two seasons will compete over 72 holes for a $1.2 million purse and 45 celebrity golfers will compete at the same time in a Modified Stableford format for $500,000.

Good idea or not? Time will tell. With the celebrity element, the focus won’t be just on the women’s game. That’s not so good.

Mike Flaskey, chief executive officer for Diamond Resorts, wants the celebrity component for one big reason. “The celebrity side moves the needle for TV rankings,’’ he said. No argument there, but the quality of the golf usually isn’t anything special.

Flaskey has tried other versions for the event over the previous four years. It was strictly a weekend pro-am the first year. Then, to entice TV coverage, a challenge season event dominated by players from PGA Tour Champions was created. Last year 32 touring pros competed in a Modified Stableford event and four of them – Brooke Henderson, Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang and Gerina Piller – were women. Henderson finished seventh and none of the other three could crack the top 20.

This year represents a big step forward for both the women and the event itself. The LPGA will bring more good players for a no-cut tournament. It’ll be an official event so the money earned will count in the season totals. Players had to earn the right to play in the event; they didn’t get in via invitation. And the event will take a step forward by adding a more meaningful competition and a bigger purse.

The PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions have already opened their seasons with limited field events. Now the women will, too – but with celebrities also in the mix. Flaskey has called it “the most unique golf tournament in the world.’’

The celebrity element can be a funny thing, though. Will people come, or tune in to TV coverage on The Golf Channel and/or NBC, to watch the celebrities? That’s usually determined by the name recognition of those participating in the tournament. The Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions has stars from other sports along with recording artists Lee Brice and Colt Ford.

The stars from other sports include Roger Clemens, John Smoltz, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholtz, Josh Donaldson, Terry Francona and Tom Glavine from baseball; Marcus Allen, Larry Fitzgerald, Brian Urlacher, Richard Dent and Mark Rypien from football; Jeremy Roenick from hockey; Ray Allen from basketball and Mardy Fish from tennis.

Whan has arranged a season opener a week earlier than last year and there won’t be another event in the U.S. until the Bank of Hope Foundation tournament in Phoenix, which runs from March 21-24. There’ll be four tournaments — played in Australia, Thailand and Singapore — in between the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and the LPGA’s first full-field event of the season in the U.S.

The second LPGA tournament, the ISPS Vic Open in Australia, is also a new event with an innovative format. Men on the Australasian and European PGA tours will compete concurrently with women from the LPGA and Australian women’s circuit. Also new to the LPGA schedule is the Aon Risk Reward Challenge. It’s a season-long competition on both the LPGA and PGA Tour with the winners on each receiving $1 million.

This LPGA campaign offers 33 official events in 12 countries plus the Solheim Cup team event. A record $70.55 million in official prize money will be on the line. The season will end where it will begin, in Florida. The season-ending CME Group Tour Championship will be played in Naples in November. It’ll have a $5 million purse with the winner getting $1.5 million – the largest single purse in the history of women’s golf.

Horseshoe Bay wants to be golf’s No. 1 resort — and not just in Texas

Horseshoe Bay’s most famous hole is this par-4 on Slick Rock. It has a 35-foot waterfall.

Golf is a little different in the Texas Lake & Hill Country — especially at Horseshoe Bay — a resort where big things are happening.

Horseshoe Bay has operated since 1971 with a relatively low profile. It has three courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. He’s the late father of today’s prominent architects Robert Trent Jones Jr. — the name attached to Alabama’s popular golf trail – and Rees Jones, who gained the moniker of “the Open Doctor’’ for his frequent callups to get courses ready to host major championships.

Jack Nicklaus designed the fourth course at Horseshoe Bay. It opened in 2012 as a private club that is rarely made available to resort guests. Nicklaus’ course is called Summit Rock. The three Jones designs are Slick Rock, Ram Rock and Apple Rock and Ram and Apple are operated together under the title of Cap Rock.

There’s a lot of Rocks, to be sure, and nobody could quite explain why. What was explained in detail by Holder and director of agronomy Ken Gorzycki was the ambitious plans the resort ownership has for the future. That future isn’t far away, either. Holder said the golf aspects of an overall $70 million renovation should be completed by July of 2019.

“Our goal is to be the No. 1 golf resort in the state of Texas, and eventually expanding that to the nation,’’ said Anthony Holder, the resort’s director of golf. “With that comes the updating of your facilities, making sure we can deliver. Our ownership has put a wad of money into all the touching points.’’

Holder grew up in Dallas before spending 14 years at prominent California destinations Mission Hills, Indian Wells and PGA West. He’s been at Horseshoe Bay just a year but is already caught up in the enthusiasm for what’s been happening there.

Horseshoe Bay has basically had just two owners. Norman Hurd and his cousin, Wayne, got the resort started in 1971. Morris D. Jaffe has been the owner since the mid-1990s and he more recently has gotten an investment partner, IBC Bank. That enabled all the upgrades to be tackled in relatively short order.

Slick Rock, which opened in 1971, is the most user-friendly and most heavily played of the courses. It also has the resort’s most famous hole – the par-4 14th which plays anywhere from 236 to 361 yards. This eye-catcher is called “the Million Dollar Hole’’ because of the elaborate 35-yard waterfall that greets players at the tee. They have to clear the waterfall with their drives, then get to see the attraction up close when they drive to their approach shots.

The renovation of Slick Rock was completed in the spring of 2016. The renovation of Ram Rock, the second course to open at the resort in 1981, was a $3 million project and required the most work. It was completed in May of 2018.

“It was our least-desired golf course because it was so hard, the greens were small and it was heavily bunkered,’’ said Gorzycki. “It was considered as the hardest golf course in the state, and we made changes to make it more playable for higher handicap players. Those changes have been extremely well received.’’

The Bermuda grass on the greens was replaced by 007 bentgrass and diamond zoysia collars were installed around the greens to keep Bermuda from creeping into the bentgrass. The practice was part of all three renovations. So was the extension of cart paths.

Because of the invasion of the Bermuda on the greens at both Ram Rock and Apple Rock had been shrinking dramatically.

“A lot of greens had no hole locations left,’’ said Gorzycki.

While the greens were being expanded the bunkers were restored to the size and appearance that Jones had originally created. To make sure of that Robert Trent Jones Jr. – son of the original architect – was involved in the renovation.

“He helped us with the process to maintain the integrity of his Dad’s designs,’’ said Gorzycki. Austin design consultant Mark Voss was also involved in that process.

Jones Sr. was an architect well ahead of his time. His work at Horseshoe Bay is a testament to that.

Apple Rock, the prettiest of the Jones courses, opened in 1986 and has the best water views. Lake LBJ impacts the layout at the 11th and 12th holes. The in-process renovation a $2.5 million project that is to be completed by May 1.

Like Ram Rock, the putting surfaces were extended. When the renovation began the course had less than 65,000 square feet of greens. When it re-opens it’ll have up to 87,000 – which is slightly more than Ram Rock’s 84,000.

When Apple Rock opened it was selected the No. 1 new resort course in the nation by Golf Digest. That came in the heart of the golf boom, so the accomplishment was particularly noteworthy. (Summit was similarly honored but the boom had subsided by then and only two or three other courses were considered for the honor).

As part of the renovation work the bunkers on those courses received new drainage and the sand area became 40 percent less than what it had been.

Horseshoe Bay also has the most impressive 18-hole Whitewater Putting Course, which surrounds 360 Sports Bar. It’s all grass and is set apart from other such courses in that the scorecards gives measurements to each hole in yards, not feet. The whole course is 1,712 yards so obviously some putts are really long ones.

“The ownership sees the potential of this area and wanted to sink its teeth into it, to see how far it can go,’’ said Holder. “Not a lot of properties can offer the array of amenities that we can. This opportunity has a lot of upside, and they have seen a return on their investment so far.’’

The recent financial support has also led to the building of two clubhouses. It’s not all done yet, but the end is near. The clubhouses need just a few more months and Apple Rock is the last course to get renovated. The work there is scheduled to be done by May 1, 2019.

When all is said and done Apple Rock and Ram Rock will share a new clubhouse, pool, cabana, pro shop, pavilion and indoor-outdoor addition to their practice range. A new clubhouse will also be built at Summit Rock. Hotel room are also being upgraded.



Location: Horseshoe Bay, TX., near Marble Falls.

Phone: For general information, 877-611-0112; For Apple Rock and Ram Rock courses, 830-598-6561; for Slick Rock course, 830-598, 2561; Whitewater Putting Course, 830-598-3909.

Golf Policy: Only resort guests can play at Apple Rock, Ram Rock and Slick Rock. The private Summit Rock is occasionally available for resort guests. Green fees vary by the season but the basic prime time rate is $150.

Website: For questions,

Facebook: @Horseshoe Bay Resort

Twitter: @hsbresort

Instagram: #horseshoebayresort

Jan Stephenson’s new golf course provides a boost for veterans, first responders

Jan Stephenson has taken a hands-on approach to reviving her Tarpon Woods course.

PALM HARBOR, Florida – Jan Stephenson is about to go into the World Golf Hall of Fame. That’s not surprising given that she won 16 LPGA tournaments including three majors, among them the 1982 LPGA Championship and 1983 U.S. Women’s Open. She also has 41 world-wide wins including 10 titles on the LPGA’s Legends circuit. That’s a lot of wins – but there’s more.

She’s also involved in tons of outside projects, more – in fact – than virtually every other touring pro, man or woman. And, one of those projects is particularly special. On April 1, 2017, Stephenson – through her Crossroads Foundation – bought a golf course.

It’s not all that surprising for a touring golf professional of Stephenson’s stature to own – or at least partly own – a course somewhere. Again, though, Stephenson’s course is particularly special. She bought it to help others. That’s why it is officially owned by Stephenson’s foundation.

Diane and Michael Vandiver and service dog Eddie are all part of Jan Stephenson’s Crossroads Foundation team in her newest golf venture, the Tarpon Woods Golf Club.

“We wanted to make it a veterans’ golf facility,’’ said Michael Vandiver, executive vice president of the foundation. “We didn’t acquire it for personal gain. We wanted a facility to accommodate veterans and first responders.’’

Many of Stephenson’s golf memorabilia items have been used to decorate the clubhouse but there’s much more to her involvement than that.

Though her purchase of Tarpon Woods Golf Club was no secret, Stephenson has doubts that even her fellow members of the LPGA Legends Tour realize just what the purchase meant.

“I’ve always had a charity,’’ said Stephenson. “I had a junior program before this, but now juniors are well taken care of. There’s lots of programs for them. I had been an ambassador for the disabled and the blind and this is for the veterans. “I would like to teach them all about golf and to even help them to have a career. This place became available, and we could devote it all to them.’’

Improvements to the outdoor garden dining area are part of the Tarpon Woods’ upgrades.

Tarpon Woods was built as a high-end private club in 1971 with Lane Marshall the course designer. In the 1990s it was called the Lost Oaks of Innisbrook and owned by the flourishing upscale Innisbrook Resort about eight miles away.

Over the years it was particularly popular when the New York Yankees held their spring training nearby. The Yankees’ owner, George Steinbrenner, particularly liked to play the course. It remains a par-72 that measures 6,613 yards from the back tees but lots of things changed, and not for the better, as Tarpon Woods was converted to a public venue under different owners.

The club was certainly no hot spot when Stephenson’s foundation took it over.

“It was a sand pit. It had no grass,’’ recalled Stephenson. “No one was playing it, and it was losing a lot of money. Its reputation was bad. The maintenance irrigation system didn’t work and the clubhouse had only two lights that worked.’’

Then things got worse. Hurricane Irma hit, and that slowed down the restoration efforts. Those were being done by with a hands-on approach that even included Stephenson coming over to trim hedges and pull weeds. Her brother Greg, who is a first responder, spent a few months painting the clubhouse.

It’s out with the old and in with the new on Tarpon Woods’ ongoing bunker renovation.

Vandiver, who is also president of club manufacturer Razor Golf, and his wife Diane are also deeply involved in the day-to-day operations. Stephenson is also part owner of Razor Golf and Vandiver also works with Jan Stephenson Events – a side business that puts on concerts and other entertainment events.

Tarpon Woods is another of their joint ventures, and it’s been a rewarding one as public play is picking up and thousands of veterans have already benefitted from visiting there.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but people have thanked us for what we’ve done already,’’ said Stephenson. “We’ll probably get 1,400 rounds a week in the winter. A lot of people wouldn’t have played here, but now they’ve seen it’s in pretty good shape and it’s a value ($46 per round in peak season). ‘’

The club has all brand new golf carts, and veterans and first responders get 20 percent off on greens fees as well as discounts in the restaurant and well-stocked pro shop.

Stephenson has organized monthly clinics for the disabled and about 50 – ranging in age from 14 to 80 – turned out for a clinic designed for blind golfers. She has also hosted a fund-raiser – the Jan Stephenson Invitational Pro-Am – that included Robert Gamez and Cindy Figg-Currier, a couple of former tour players.

Vandiver is tackling a bunker renovation in an innovative way. He’s trying to raise $90,000 via corporate and individual donations. He says one bunker can be renovated at a cost of $2,360 but he’d like to find 18 corporations willing to donate $5,000 for the project. The bunker renovation isn’t just for a cosmetic improvement. The bunkers need to be re-designed to accommodate the disabled golfers.

The Australia-born Stephenson, who has lived in nearby New Port Richey the last seven years and obtained her U.S. citizenship the same month she acquired the course, has another goal for Tarpon Woods. She wants a building to be built specifically for teaching golf to the veterans.

Q-and-A: Paul Albanese

Paul Albanese is a Michigan golf course architect who burst into prominence when one of his designs, Tatanka in Niobrara, Neb., was named Golf Magazine’s Best New Resort Course of 2015.

In July a similar Albanese creation, Sage Run, opened in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Both projects were done while working with Indian tribes and were designed to upgrade casinos in small communities.

Now in partnership with Chris Lutzke, a long-time Pete Dye associate, Albanese has put the spotlight on a relatively new term in golf course design with his unveiling of Sage Run. It’s built on a drumlin.

Never heard of a drumlin? Neither had most every golf writer making early visits to Sage Run. Let Albanese explain what it’s all about.

QUESTION: OK, what is a drumlin?

ALBANESE: It a geological formation created by glaciers.

Q: Is it something new in the world of golf?

ALBANESE: By no means is it unknown in the golf architecture world. A large ridge is a drumlin.

Q: Does a golf course have one drumlin, or a bunch of them?

ALBANESE: Sage run doesn’t have a series of drumlins. It’s one big long ridge.

Q: How unusual is that?

ALBANESE: I used one when I designed Mill Creek in New York. It opened about 10 years ago. Drumlins aren’t everywhere, though. There’s not a lot in the south. There are some in Michigan and some, like the one at Mill Creek, in Upstate New York.

Q: Are drumlins a good thing?

ALBANESE: They create a great land form for golf. A drumlin gives you elevation change and it adds a lot of character. It looks like an upside down spoon, and they’re usually above flatter land.

Q: How did you find this one, for Sage Run?

ALBANESE: The tribe (Potawatomi) handed me a typographical map, and then we decided on where to build this golf course. The acreage covered was in the thousands, and we wound up building Sage Run on about 300 acres.

Q: Your very well received Tatanka course didn’t have a drumlin. Is it in any way similar to Sage Run?

ALBANESE: Both have a more rough and ragged flavor. That comes through on both courses. Conceptually we used the natural ruggedness of the terrain. And, we created teeing areas – not tee boxes – on both courses.

Q: What’s the difference between a teeing area and a tee box?

ALBANESE: Tees are usually shaped to be flat. We wanted to shape our teeing areas like we shape greens. We wanted to give the teeing areas the same flavor of a green complex.

Q: In the case of Sage Run, it’s the second course at Island Resort Casino. You also designed the first course, Sweetgrass, and it was well received – especially within Michigan. Any similarities?

ALBANESE: We didn’t want to force that. They’re built on completely different properties. They’re like red wine and white wine. They’re two different styles.

Q: You have worked with Indian tribes before, and not just in Nebraska and Michigan. What’s that like?

ALBANESE: The tribal leadership wants us to utilize their people to build both courses. We wanted them to have a stake in building the golf course and to take pride in it. That’s been amazingly successful.


Location: Hollister, Mo.

Course architect: Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw.

Opened: Nov. 1, 2018.

Par 71

Tee – Yard/rating/slope

Men: Tips 7,036/73.9/131; Gold 6,510/71.3/126; White 5,903/68.6/118; Red 5,025/64.6/112.
Women: Gold 6,510;77.4/132; White 5,903/74.0/128; Red 5,025/69.2/117.

Green fee: Preview play in November is $150 with a replay rate of $100. In December the prices drop to $125 for preview play and $85 for a replay.

Caddie service: Limited for now.

Walker friendly: Yes.

Fairways: Zoysia.

Greens: Bentgrass.

Rough: Buffalo grass is dominant, and getting in it can mean big trouble.


Starter: Golf-wise big things have been happening in the Missouri Ozarks and the opening of Ozarks National is the most recent. Payne’s Valley, a Tiger Woods design, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019 next to Ozarks National. Coore/Crenshaw, though, is one of the most respected architectural teams in the world and any of their creations merits attention. This one opens to public preview play on Nov. 1, and it’ll continue through Dec. 15 before the course is closed for the winter months.

Play because: Though it’s not official yet Ozarks National is expected to be one of the courses used in the Legends of Golf event on PGA Tour Champions next April, replacing neighbor Buffalo Ridge Springs. Grand Opening festivities at Ozarks National are planned to coincide with the Legends of Golf event. It’ll be one of the most talked about courses of 2019.

Takeaway: The course is in a gorgeous setting with beautiful vistas and not much water. It has an unusually diverse collection of holes, and they’ll keep your attention throughout. Though the course is ready for play many more things are still to be done. A spacious clubhouse is expected to be ready sometime next spring and a 15-acre practice range, a putting course and two additional practice greens will also be added eventually.

Ratings (1 to 10 scale, 10 being highest)

Food/beverage: 8

Pro shop: 8.

Clubhouse: 9 (This is on the clubhouse at Mountain Top, the Gary Player-designed 13-hole par-3 course that is being used for Ozarks National guests until a new clubhouse is completed in the spring).

Course difficulty: 8, but choice of tees is critical. From the tips it’s definitely a championship-style course.

Pace of play: 10 (But, then, our group of two foursomes had the course all to ourselves).

Overall score: 9.2


Best Par 3: No. 12, 254/213/175/133.
Rarely will a par-3 be the No. 2 handicap hole on any course, but this one merits it. It’ll takes its place among the best long par-3s in the country. The small, uphill green is protected by a ravine on the left and trees on the right. There’s very little room for error here.

Best Par 4: No. 5, 352/306/248/161.
I love this hole. It is a true short par-4, one that’s reachable for all levels of players if they use the proper tee. There are tougher par-4s on the layout but this one perfectly fits what this course is all about – a fun but still meaningful challenge that you’ll remember once the round is over.

Best Par 5: No. 9, 597/549/516/453.
The course’s No. 1 handicap hole comes right after somewhat of a breather at the par-3 eighth in the rotation. That dramatic transition may accentuate the difficulty of the longer hole. Still, this winding hole is the longest on the course – definitely a three-shotter.



Phone:. 417-339-5420.



Twitter: @GolfBigCedar

Rated by: Len Ziehm

Tapping into Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – This is no secret. Michigan has been a golf hot spot for, well – almost forever. The state has over 850 public courses, more than any other state in the nation.

Grand Rapids is part of the state’s golf mix. The city in the western part of the state has a population of just under 200,000. It has its share of golf courses well worth playing, but there’s much more in Grand Rapids.

Beer, for instance.

There are about 40 breweries in the immediate area of Grand Rapids and over 80 show up on the well-mapped Beer City Ale Trail. That’s why Grand Rapids has earned the designation of Beer City USA in a nation-wide poll and USA Today’s readers have also honored Grand Rapids as Best Beer Town as well as for having the Best Beer Scene.

You could go there for the golf and stay or the beer – or vice versa. Either way you’d come out all right.

Let’s hold off for a while on the golf part. After all, October is the month for Octoberfests. Most every community in and around Grand Rapids honors that tradition in one way or another. Golf can wait.

An Englishman opened the first brewery in Grand Rapids in 1836, and the Grand Rapids Brewing Company – the oldest of those still in existence – dates back to 1893.

Brewery Vivant has the most interesting location. It’s housed in a refurbished funeral home.

Founders is the most prominent brewery in Grand Rapids now. It puts on a most informative in-house tour for those interested in more than just how a beer tastes, and Founders for the last six years has run ArtPrize – an art competition that results in the winners getting their designs on the beer cans that Founders produces.

Golf packages play in important promotional role for golf communities and resorts. Well, some of the hotels in Grand Rapids have a takeoff on that. They offer Beer Tour packages. Pub crawls are regular attractions and beer trolleys run most every day. That’s a good thing for those who opt to sample more than than they should.

Beer-drinkers’ hot spots are numerous and varied, but two of the best are The Knickerbocker, known for its pinwheel appetizers as well as its beer offerings, and City Built Brewing Company, which has a unique selection of beers to go with its Puerto Rico-inspired food menu.

As for the golf, the courses aren’t nearly as well-seasoned as the breweries, but they have their charm, too.

One of the best is Pilgrim’s Run, located in the outlying town of Pierson. It has an interesting history. The Chicago-based Van Kampen family bought land for the course and had family members and friends design the holes. That was a start before Mike DeVries, a well-respected architect from Traverse City, Mich., stepped in.

DeVries worked with more nationally-known designers Tom Doak and Tom Fazio before tackling Pilgrim’s Run. Teaming with superintendent Kris Schumacker, DeVries routed the course and constructed in the greens. Since its opening as an 18-holer in 1998 Pilgrim’s Run has been one of Michigan’s most popular public courses.

Most notable hole is the short par-4 18th – one of the best finishing holes in the state. A great risk-reward hole with water protecting the green, No. 18 can play anywhere from 221 to 358 yards. It’s a thought-provoking, fun way to finish a round on a course that can play as long as 7,093 yards.

DeVries’ design credits also include The Mines, Greywalls and the Kingsley Club in Michigan. The Mines is also in the Grand Rapids area with a history worth noting. Sweeping elevation changes and undulating greens are major characteristics of The Mines and location-wise the course is near the downtown area, where the bulk of the beer-drinking hangouts are located.

The Mines was built about 150 feet above gypsum mines that had been utilized as early as the 1860s and throughout the 1900s. Some features of The Mines were incorporated into the construction of the course. The No. 8 hole is located where a natural sand pit was used for the mining operation. Directional signs were also made with wooden timbers from the mining process.

Another unusual feature of The Mines was that it has back-to-back par-3 holes at Nos. 7 and 8. The course is a par-70 with two tough par-5s, the longest being the 607-yard fifth. The only problem with this layout is its blind shots. There’s a few too many of them.

The Golf Club at Thornapple Pointe isn’t bad, either. Clearly the locals like this Bill Newcomb design that opened in 1997. It’s located along the Thornapple River on Interstate 96 near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Newcomb’s stature in Michigan golf course architecture started earlier than DeVries.’ Newcomb, who attended the University of Michigan, was a nationally-ranked amateur golfer with wins in both the Michigan Amateur and Indiana Open and a competitive appearance in the Masters.

If a 30-mile drive from downtown Grand Rapids isn’t too taxing, there’s another good track — the Arnold Palmer-designed Ravines in Saugatuck. Ravines has only three sets of tees but lots of forced carries. The most eye-catching features are the tall pines that dramatize the longest hole – the 626-yard 14th – and the Orchestra Pit at the par-3 17th. There’s a deep dropoff in front of the green at No.17, which accentuates the putting surface as a stage and gives the hole its name.

Playing those courses might give you a thirst to try more of the area golf layouts, but in Grand Rapids it might be more enticing to find more beer drinkers’ hot spots instead – and there’s plenty of them around.

Blalock drops CEO title, changes her role with LPGA’s Legends Tour

After years of campaigning the former stars of the LPGA finally had two major championships to play in this year. The USGA staged its inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in July and the Senior LPGA Championship was played for the second time at Indiana’s French Lick Resort in October.

All is not rosy for those former female stars who have reached their 45th birthday, however. The Legends Tour, which was virtually their only source for tournaments and other golf-related business opportunities, is in a state of flux following Jane Blalock’s decision to step away as the circuit’s chief executive officer.

While the PGA Tour long ago embraced its older players with the creation of what is now PGA Tour Champions, the LPGA – other than declaring The Legends its “official’’ senior tour — didn’t do the same for its older stars. That was left up to Blalock.

She rounded up 25 charter members to form the Women’s Senior Golf Association. It grew into The Legends Tour, which has 120 members. This year the circuit had an eight-tournament schedule, which included the two majors.

Blalock, 73, was one of the LPGA’s top stars prior to her retirement as a player in 1987. She made a record 299 consecutive cuts and notched 34 professional wins, 27 of them on the LPGA circuit. She was named to The Legends Hall of Fame in 2014, continued to play in its Honors Division events and downplayed her decision to drop the CEO title.

“We moved things around a little bit,’’ she said. “I made the decision that, as opposed to remaining as CEO, my company (JBC Golf) would continue to do the marketing and all the business parts of the tour. The only thing that has changed is my title.’’

There’s a little more to it than that, however. President Gail Graham and vice president Allison Finney also resigned their board positions. Christa Johnson will serve as interim president until an election is held in the next two months.

Blalock conceded that she was not altogether happy with her board members or the LPGA.

“I got frustrated. Outside of the title, the board doesn’t do much,’’ said Blalock. “The board focused on minutiae rather than growing the tour. Now I can focus on getting more events rather than the politics.’’

While the 2019 schedule has not been announced Blalock said a tournament in Minneapolis has been added, the existing tournaments will continue and a pro-am has been added to the ANA Inspiration event.

Legends players will also participate in another event with the Symetra Tour — a new tournament in Janesville, Wis. Some of the tour’s top players urged the creation of more tournaments during the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick.

`We don’t want to play every week, but if we had six tournaments and four pro-ams that would be perfect,’’ said Juli Inkster.

England’s Trish Johnson has campaigned overseas for the creation of a British Senior Women’s Open.

“If we could get one, that would be great,’’ she said, “but who knows when? I’m sure it will happen eventually.’’

Blalock believes that 12 events – be they three-day tournaments combined with some smaller ones and pro-ams – would be ideal. The 36-hole Legends events with up to 40 players typically have purses between $200,000 and $250,000 with the winner’s take being $25,000 or $30,000. Blalock would like an increase to $350,000 with 50 players competing. The winner would receive $40,000 and all the players would have a payday, as there are no cuts on The Legends Tour.

`We’d like to give the players the opportunity to make enough (money) so they don’t need to have other jobs,’’ said Blalock. “We also need others (notably the players using their own contacts) to get us tournaments. I’ve been the only one who has done that.’’

She’s hopeful the enthusiasm created by this year’s two majors will build momentum for the creation of more tournaments. As for The Legends’ relationship with the LPGA, though, Blalock said the creation of a senior championship hasn’t created much of a change.

“And it should have,’’ she said. The LPGA, though, didn’t take that stance. The circuit declined to have any of its personnel quoted in this piece. Speaking for the LPGA, a high-ranking LPGA official said the second Senior LPGA Championship was an indication that the older players were not being ignored. He also pointed out that the events in which Legends players are part of Symetra Tour stops have been beneficial to both circuits.

The bottom line apparently is that women’s sports continue to be challenged to find the financial support that their male counterparts enjoy. The LPGA doesn’t have the resources that the PGA Tour does, and that’s why PGA Tour Champions is thriving while The Legends are hopeful of building off this year’s successes.

Two majors aren’t enough for players on the Legends Tour

FRENCH LICK, Indiana – This was a big year for the older women golfers who labored on the LPGA tour. After years of campaigning they had two major championships to compete in during the 2018 season and there was no doubt who the best player was.

England’s Laura Davies dominated. On Wednesday she was a wire to wire winner in the second Senior LPGA Championship on the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind. In July she won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club by a whopping 10 strokes. That’s a Grand Slam, as far as that age group and gender is concerned.

The question now is, where does golf for these women’s stars of the past go from here. They finally have their long-coveted major championships, but not much else.

“If we could get a British Senior Open, that’d be great,’’ said Trish Johnson, the champion in the first of those senior majors at French Lick in 2017. “Who knows when that’ll be, but I’m sure it will happen eventually.’’

At least the two existing majors appear in good shape. The U.S. Senior Women’s Open, a big hit at Chicago Golf Club, has another quality venue for 2019 in Pine Needles in North Carolina. The Senior LPGA Championship is set at French Lick for three more years.

French Lick chairman Steve Ferguson and director of golf Dave Harner have shown their commitment to the senior women professionals, even taking the step of creating a Legends Hall of Fame in the West Baden Springs Hotel near the Pete Dye Course – a spectacular venue no matter who is playing on it.

For the momentum to grow, though, The Legends Tour will have to step up. The circuit created by Jane Blalock and 25 of her former LPGA colleagues in 2000 hasn’t had it easy. While the men’s PGA Tour was quick to embrace its aging stars, the LPGA has not.

While PGA Tour Champions continues to thrive for the men 50 and over, the LPGA – other than scheduling its one senior major championship – has steered clear of the players on The Legends circuit, which is open to former tour players who have reached their 45th birthday. Blalock played in the Honors Division of the second Senior LPGA at French Lick and then went home. None of her staff was utilized in the tournament’s operation, and their presence could have been helpful.

If progress is to continue for the senior women professionals it’ll apparently be up to The Legends Tour to carry the load. This segment of players needs more than two major tournaments to play in.

“I think we’ve got a good thing going,’’ said Juli Inkster, who won The Legends Championship in her first start in the circuit in 2015. “If we had six tournaments and four pro-ams that would be perfect. We don’t want to play every week.’’

The Legends had eight events on its 2018 schedule but two were pro-ams and two others were team events. Only the majors could be considered full-fledged tournaments. That’s not enough.

The greatest woman star of the recent past, Annika Sorenstam, hasn’t played a tournament since 2008 and Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon, Amy Alcott and Betsy King have rarely ventured into Legends events. The shortage of tournaments is certainly a factor. Why work hard to get your game ready for just a couple tournaments?

Some appearances by the best of the stars of the best – most notably Sorenstam — would help The Legends cause.

“A lot of our players have taken 20 years off. They just want a chance to compete,’’ said Inkster. “It was impressive at Chicago Golf Club, having the people come out to watch. Stuff like that is really special.’’

There’s enough who can still play competitively, though, and they’re a global bunch. In the final round of the Senior LPGA only three of the nine players in the last three groups were Americans and the three majors were all won by Europeans. Unlike previous years, they now have a couple of showcase events to demonstrate their talents, but that isn’t enough.