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Len Ziehm On Golf

Rochester is the best bet for golf getaways in New York

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There are good reasons why Rochester should come to mind when you consider golf destinations. After all, the legendary player Walter Hagen grew up here and one of the most prolific course designers, Robert Trent Jones Sr., was not only born in Rochester but his very first design, Midvale, is also within the city limits.

Then there’s the venerable Oak Hill Country Club in suburban Pittsford. Its East Course is a Donald Ross design that dates back to 1901. The course has hosted three U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships (a fourth one is coming in 2023), two U.S. Amateurs, two Senior PGA Championships, one U.S. Senior Open and the 1995 Ryder Cup. The LPGA has played several of its majors at another Rochester club, Locust Hill.
Chicago’s own Jeff Sluman also developed his game in Rochester before becoming a fixture on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.
Golf in Rochester, though, is about a lot more than major championships, top players and course designers. The Rochester area is also a great place to visit just for the purpose of just playing golf. Not only are there plenty of good courses, they’re also affordable and the distance between them is manageable.
Those are some big pluses, and they weren’t lost on Rod Christian, who created the New York Golf Trail. Christian’s trail is the largest in the country in terms of courses (34). He has divided it into eight regions and, he says, “the most popular of the regions is right here (in Rochester).’’

Four of his New York Trail courses – The Links at Greystone in Walworth, Ravenwood in Victor, Bristol Harbour in Canandaigua and Mill Creek in Churchville – are around Rochester and they also form the Finger Lakes Golf Trail. If another course is needed to accommodate those trail packages 27-hole Deerfield, in Brockport, gets the call.

Christian operates his trail in regions to facilitate travel for participating golfers. That sets New York apart from many of the other trails, most notably the more well-known Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama.

“There’s a lot more driving on that trail,’’ said Christian. “Rochester is a great place to work with. Here you plant yourself in one (hotel) location and there’s no more than a 20- to 30-minute drive to the courses.’’

The best course on our visit was a trail course — The Links at Greystone, a facility owned and operated by the Odenbach family. Its top greens fee is $67 – a bargain given the quality of the sport course with intriguing elevation changes.

Golf has been a labor of love for three generations of the Odenbach family, who opened a quarry and mining business in the Rochester area in 1920. Using equipment from that business, the Odenbachs built three courses between 1979 and 1995, sold them in 2000 and then bought them back 16 years later. They now operate two of the courses with family members playing a variety of lead roles.

Brothers John and Gardy Odenbach own The Links at Greystone. John’s son Alex is general manager and Gardy’s son Dusty is the director of golf. John’s wife Julie, a well-known high school coach of both boys and girls teams in the area, oversees the gardening and floral arrangements at the course.

“Our family tree is large here,’’ admitted Dusty Odenbach. The superintendent, Tim Hahn, may as well be a family member, too. The son of a one-time superintendent at famed Oak Hill, Hahn has been at Greystone since it opened.

“Golf started as a sidelight for us,’’ said John Odenbach. “There was always a lot of ground around our quarries, and my Dad (also named John) loved to build golf courses.’’

The Odenbachs ventured into golf by building Shadow Lake in Pennfield in 1979. It’s a 27-hole facility with Pete Craig the designer. Craig was also the designer of Shadow Pines, which was built nearby several years later.

Craig Schreiner, who worked with the Hurdzan Design Group, collaborated on courses with tour players Larry Mize and Nick Price and produced his own designs in 10 states. The Odenbachs hired him to create the Greystone Golf Club.

“At that time there were about 40 golf courses in and around Rochester,’’ said John Odenbach. “Now there’s about 80, so there’s lots of competition.’’

In 2000 the Odenbachs sold everything – the quarry business and the three golf courses — to Old Castle Materials, an Irish company, to settle a family estate. Family members, though, continued to run both the quarry company and the courses.

Four years ago Old Castle wanted to get out of the golf business, and the Odenbachs wanted to stay in. John and Gardy bought Greystone and another brother, Fritz, became the owner of Shadow Lake with a partner. Shadow Creek was built on land that was more valuable for development rather than golf. It is now a park.

Since the re-acquisition the family has re-branded Greystone, and that included the name adjustment.

“Originally there was a lot of traditional links-style to it,’’ said Dusty Odenbach. “We’ve made several improvements to enhance the links roots. We took out a lot of trees and added a starter’s hut on the first tee.’’

Ravenwood is good, too, and probably a better tournament course. It has hosted the New York State Amateur twice and its top green fee is $65 in the summer months. Mill Creek, in Churchville, has one of the longest public facilities in the area at 6,861 yards from the tips, and its top fee if $50.

The city of Rochester has 12 golf facilities within its borders and three are municipally owned. Oldest of the courses is Country Club of Rochester, built in 1895. Like Oak Hill, it’s a private club, but Genesee Valley — one of three facilities operated by the Monroe County Department of Parks — has two seasoned 18-holers. One opened in 1899 and the other in 1925.

RICH, HERE’S THE SEGMENT ON NON-GOLF ATTRACTIONS THAT MIGHT APPEAL TO VISITORS USING ROCHESTER AS A GOLF DESTINATION.

The Rochester area has other attractions that are also appealing – especially if you schedule your visit during the annual Rochester International Jazz Festival. It keeps the downtown area hopping with its series of free concerts.

Of the year-around offerings, The Strong National Museum of Play most accurately bills itself as “the ultimate play destination for all ages.’’ It has the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls, board games and electronic games and its Toys National Hall of Fame honors such innovators as Milton Bradley, Walt Disney, Jim Henson and George Lucas.

Then there’s the George Eastman Museum. Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, was a pioneer in the photography and motion picture industry and the museum is housed in his mansion. It has one of the oldest film archives in the U.S. and its artifacts include the world’s largest collection of camera technology.

If you want a non-golf outdoor activity take a guided cruise down the Erie Canal on the Sam Patch, a replica of the boats that traveled in the canal after its opening in 1825.

Dining is more than ample, too. We tried out The Cub Room, which specializes in American fare but has nothing to do with Chicago’s baseball team. We also sampled the Italian dishes at Branca Midtown, the unique atmosphere of the Genesee Brew House and the wines at the Casa Larga Vineyards.

All made for a great escape but the golf was in the forefront.

Iconic Harbour Town is just one reason for golfers to hit Hilton Head

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, South Carolina – The Harbour Town Links, with its iconic lighthouse behind the No. 18 green, may give Hilton Head Island most of its international exposure, but this golf destination is more than just Harbour Town.

A lot more, in fact.

While Harbour Town — home of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage tournament — celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, the rest of the island also enhances the area’s reputation of being a golf mecca.

Harbour Town, along with Atlantic Dunes and Heron’s Point, are all part of the Sea Pines Resort. Atlantic Dunes was the National Golf Course Owners Association 2018 Course of the Year.

“We’re the drivers of why people come here,’’ said Cary Corbitt, president of the South Carolina Lowcountry Golf Course Owners Association and vice president of Sea Pines, “but not everybody wants to just play Harbour Town and Atlantic Dunes – and we’re fine with that.’’

Fee to play Harbour Town generally tops $300 and at Atlantic Dune’s it’s upwards of $150. Both are extremely well-conditioned courses that draw about 30,000 rounds annually, but there’s also perfectly fine public courses nearby that charge less than $100.

Those numbers are just fine with Corbitt, who came to Hilton Head when he was in college to work as a volunteer at the first Heritage tournament (won by Arnold Palmer), returned when he was done with college in 1974 and started at Sea Pines in 1978.

“Sea Pines is a family destination resort. We’re not bashful about what we charge, but we don’t feel we’re uppity or better than anyone else,’’ said Corbitt. “The other courses help round everything out.’’

Hilton Head has 40,000 full-time residents. They benefit from the island’s beautiful beaches as well as the golf, as both attract tourists. So does the nearly 300 restaurants – many of them solidly upscale – on the property.

Lodging is more than ample with more than 6,000 villas, condos and homes on the rental market and more than 20 hotels and inns also available. Custom-built golf packages are no problem.

The non-golf attractions are also plentiful. They’re highlighted by the tennis academy at Sea Pines that is run by the legendary Stan Smith who won titles at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Hilton Head got its name because a ship owned by William Hilton first spotted the island over 300 years ago. Charles Fraser, son of one of the families that owned most of the island, started it on its way as a tourist destination when he drew up a master plan for a resort community in 1956. Hilton Head was incorporated as a town in 1983 but golf had arrived in 1962 when the Ocean Course opened.

Golf grew rapidly after that, but not without some major developments along the way. The Ocean Course was totally renovated by Davis Love III is now called Atlantic Dunes. Famed architect Pete Dye, who designed Harbour Town with consulting help from Jack Nicklaus, also is responsible for Sea Pines’ other course, Heron’s Point. That course started under the name of Sea Marsh.

Now the golf landscape is spread around. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has three courses on its 2,000 acres that are bounded by three miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline on one side and a sheltered Intracoastal Waterway on the other. This resort’s featured course is Palmetto Dunes, which has one hole on the ocean and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1967. The others at the resort were creations of George Fazio (the island’s only par-70) in 1974 and Arthur Hills in 1986.

There’s also the Heritage Collection, seven courses and 81 holes spread over three clubs. Oyster Reef, a Rees Jones design with – at least arguably – the best putting surfaces on the island, is not to be missed. Sixteen courses are on the island and there’s also 13 off-island layouts close at hand.

All the courses are beneficiaries of the recently-expanded Hilton Head Island Airport. Last year it started twice weekly (Saturdays and Sundays) flights directly from O’Hare, so Chicago golfers could step right off the airplane and be on the first tee at many of the courses in a matter of a few minutes.

Even without that luxury transportation getting from Chicago to Hilton Head isn’t a problem. Many more flights are available to the Savannah Hilton International Airport, which is just 45 minutes from the island.

And then there’s the hurricanes. No doubt, they can be a problem but not even one of the strongest – Hurricane Matthew in 2016 – kept golfers off the Hilton Head courses for long.

Atlantic Dunes head professional Bobby Downs has worked in the golf industry on the island for 36 years. After 22 seasons at Palmetto Dunes he was eagerly awaiting the opening of Atlantic Dunes when Matthew struck at a most inopportune time.

“The Ryder Cup had just finished, and we (the U.S. team) had won,’’ recalled Downs. “We had a great Grand Opening and Davis (designer and U.S. captain Davis Love III) was to be here on Sunday with the trophy, but three days prior we got hit by the hurricane and were shut down for three weeks.’’

Tree damage was extensive, but Atlantic Dunes bounced back quickly, just like the Hilton Head courses have done for decades.

“In the end we were better off because a lot of trees that weren’t meant to be there after 50 years were weeded out,’’ said Corbitt.

Mission Inn isn’t one of Florida’s biggest golf resorts — but it’s one of the best

No. 17 at Mission Inn’s El Campeon course may be the toughest par-5 in Florida. It’s a double dogleg with the approach to the green requiring a third shot over a pond — plus you must either go over or around a tree in the middle of the fairway that can block a shot to the putting surface. That infuriating tree has been confronting golfers for over 100 years. That’s why the hole is called `Devil’s Delight.’


HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, FLORIDA – Florida is loaded with golf courses – about 1,500 of them – and the state’s golf resorts include such famous multi-course meccas at PGA National, PGA Golf Club, Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass, Innisbrook and Doral.

In contrast, Mission Inn Resort & Club on the outskirts of Orlando has just two courses but, make no mistake, it is as special a place as any of the others.

Mission Inn is just a bit different. It has one of the Sunshine State’s oldest courses, now called El Campeon, that is rich in history. Its companion course, 27-year old Las Colinas, isn’t exactly new but is a nice complement to El Campeon, which dates back to 1917.

As old as El Campeon is, the layout still holds up just fine in top-level amateur tournaments. That’s rarely the case for layouts of similar vintage, but El Campeon is the tougher of the two Mission Inn layouts. Both are well-conditioned and used regularly for the Florida high school championships. They’ve also hosted many, many college tournaments, U.S. Golf Association qualifiers and small professional events.

The par-3 eighth is the most historical hole on El Campeon. It’s the only hole that has maintained its same spot in the rotation since the course opened in 1917.


Mission Inn’s big tournament resume is surprising, considering that neither course permits walking except in extraordinary circumstances. They’ve just withstood the time as good shot-making tests for measuring which player is the best on any given day or in any give competition.

El Campeon’s history is extraordinary. George O’Neil, a Chicago teaching pro who dabbled in course design, created the course for William Howey – a citrus magnate who wanted something to entertain some of the visitors to his estate that was built just before World War I.

O’Neil is known more for his teaching than his architectural efforts. He gave lessons to such luminaries as former President Warren G. Harding, Charlie Chaplin and John D. Rockefeller. Golfing greats Harry Vardon and Chick Evans also were tutored by O’Neil.

The fifth hole is the shortest of the four par-5s on the Las Colinas course.


The 6,300-yard course was originally called Chain O’ Lakes and there was no grass on its greens from its opening in 1917 until 1938. The putting surfaces consisted of well-oiled sand and the rest of the course, without the benefit of irrigation systems, was unkempt. Visitors stayed at the Bougainvillea Hotel until it burned down in 1920.

A Scottish architect, Charles Clarke, refurbished the course while the Hotel Floridian was built to replace the lodging lost in the fire. The course continued as an attraction and its players included Ben Hogan, Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias before Nick Beucher bought the facility in 1964 and gradually transformed the place into a Spanish colonial- themed resort.

The beauty of the resort provides a stunning backdrop for golfers finishing their rounds.


Beucher started a successful career as a salesman while living in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette. That came after he had fulfilled a life-long dream when he and a friend made a 39-day, 1,400-mile horseback ride from Del Rio, TX, to Mexico City. They stayed in missions along the way, and the horseback adventure led to Beucher’s renaming efforts at the resort.

The golf course, stretched to 7,015 yards, was revived and re-routed and became El Campeon. The resort and hotel became Mission Inn and it now includes El Conquistador, a fine upscale restaurant; La Hacienda, a good dining spot for breakfast and lunch; Spa Mirabella; the El Cornedor Fitness Center; a beautiful outdoor bar/gathering place called Plaza de las Palmas; and hotel segments tabbed San Angel, San Diego and San Miguel.

El Campeon has 85-foot elevation changes — some going up, some going down – on six holes and its No. 17 hole, a par-5, is one of the toughest anywhere. A double-dogleg dubbed Devil’s Delight, the green is fronted by a live oak tree in the center of the fairway and a pond. More than a few Mission Inn golfers wish that the tree would be hit by one of the hurricanes that occasionally visit the area, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Las Colinas isn’t nearly as interesting. Former PGA Tour player Gary Koch created the original design for the course’s opening in 1992 and veteran Florida architect Ron Garl made some major changes in 2007. The result is a course that is more typically resort style and user friendly than El Campeon.

This courtyard fountain is another example of the Spanish influence at Mission Inn.


The 1,100 acres that comprise the Mission Inn property contain much more than the two golf courses. There’s 30,000 square feet of conference space with 19 meeting rooms and two large ballrooms. The 176 guest rooms, suites and villas are supplemented by two lounges and a poolside bar. About 75 percent of the lodging and corporate rooms have golf course views.

Beacher passed away in 2005 at age 88 while residing in what is now the penthouse suite of the hotel. He passed on his enthusiasm for the place to his six children, however, with one son Bob the resort president and another, Bud, the vice president and general manager. Two daughters also play prominent roles in the resort’s operation.

Diners at the upscale El Conquistador are greeted by this imposing figure in a suit of armor at the front door.


The staff more recently added a significant non-family member. Roy Schindele, executive director of sales and marketing at Bay Hill, now is in a similar role at Mission Inn.

The Howey mansion and mausoleum are located across from Mission Inn but it not part of the resort property. That land, though, does include the Marina del Rey Pavilion on Lake Harris. It includes 50 slips that are used by residents and the result has two pontoon boats and one fishing boat that get heavy use in waters that are great for bass fishing.

There’s also four clay courts and two all-weather courts for tennis and two more courts for pickleball. All have lights to allow for night play. Team-building facilities, which include a rock-climbing wall, are also part of the marina area. Boat rides to Mount Dora, a quaint little town with its own unique attractions, and a short trip to nearby Tavares – the self-proclaimed “Seaplane Capitol of the World’’ – are also readily available.

The Marina del Rey provides another recreational dimension for Mission Inn guests.

Want the best golf options in Michigan? Head to the north

Thanks to a series of expansions Crystal Mountain Resort has created the look of a village plaza.


THOMPSONVILLE, Michigan – The state of Michigan is loaded with great golf courses. That’s no secret.

With over 800 public facilities in the state, it might be challenging to find the right area for the best courses – but fear no more. Northern Michigan is that spot. You can’t go wrong there.

In 2013 course operators in that area made a bold claim, declaring their terrain “America’s Summer Golf Capital,’’ and very few have disputed it. The “Capital’’ now includes 10 resorts and 33 courses, most within 45 minutes of each other. And membership does not include nearby Arcadia Bluffs, billed by many as the state’s best course, or Arcadia South, the new companion course to the Bluffs.

“Most of the members have been pretty consistent,’’ said Brian Lawson, director of public relations at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. “Us, Manistee National, Grand Traverse Resort, Treetops, all the Boyne resorts, LochenHeath — have been there from the beginning. A few others have been in and out, but we’re always looking to expand.’’

No. 17, a downhill par-3 on the Mountain Ridge course, may be Crystal Mountain’s most popular hole.


The “Capital’’ started as basically a website, and it still is without a headquarters location. Golf packages, however, can be booked on the website, www.americasgolfcapital.com, and Charley Olson is available as the group’s marketing administrator.

Here are the golf options provided in America’s Summer Golf Capital:

BAY HARBOR — Four courses are available in the Petoskey-Charlevoix area – Bay Harbor, The Quarry, The Links and Crooked Tree.

BOYNE HIGHLANDS — Located in Harbor Springs, this resort has 72 holes plus a par-3 course. The 18-holers are The Heather, Arthur Hills, Donald Ross Memorial and Moor. The Heather was named National Course of the Year for 2019 by the National Golf Course Owners Association.

BOYNE MOUNTAIN – Located in Boyne Falls, this resort has the Alpine and Monument layouts.

CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN – Another two-course facility, this one offers Mountain Ridge, home of the Michigan Women’s Open for the last 17 years, and Betsie Valley. A lot has been happening at Crystal Mountain. We’ll get to that later.

FOREST DUNES – This well-regarded resort is Roscommon is in expansion mode. In addition to its established Tom Weiskopf-designed layout Forest Dunes has a unique reversible course, called The Loop, and a putting course. A par-3 course is under construction.

GRAND TRAVERSE – Located in Acme, this resort’s Bear, Wolverine and Spruce Run courses have been popular for years. The Bear is a Jack Nicklaus design.

A sunset view of Grand Traverse Bay from the Cherry Tree Inn is something special.


LOCHENHEATH – Steve Smyers designed the lone course at this location, which is located on Grand Traverse Bay in Williamsburg and its minutes away from downtown Traverse City.

MANISTEE NATIONAL – Canthooke Valley and Cutter’s Ridge are both par-71 layouts located in a beautiful forest setting.

SHANTY CREEK – Cedar River (Tom Weiskopf) and The Legend (Arnold Palmer) have well-known designers on this site in Bellaire. The other courses there are Schuss Mountain and Summit.

TREETOPS – The Gaylord hotspot has five courses, among them The Premier – the only Tom Fazio design in Michigan. Rick Smith designed both the Signature and Tradition courses and Robert Trent Jones Sr. provided The Masterpiece. Treetops also features Threetops – one of the best par-3 layouts in the U.S.

TULLYMORE — This resort in Stanwood has two great 18-holers – the Tullymore and St. Ives layouts.

Many of these places started as ski resorts and still thrive in the winter months because of their slopes and chairlifts. Golf, though, has been the heart of summertime activity there for over 50 years and each year there’s something new at one place or another to entice golfers.

The new rooftop bar (above) has been a big hit at Crystal Mountain this year. The view from it (below) is stunning. It showcases the fire pit and game area with the ski slopes as a backdrop.



Our latest of many trips to Northern Michigan focused on Crystal Mountain. That’s been where most of the action has the last four years. Our last visit was in 2015, and we hardly recognized the place upon our return. That’s what a $12 million expansion and the hiring of a quality course superintendent can do for a place.

Jason Farah, formerly at U.S. Open site Oakland Hills, took over superintendent’s duties in 2014 and Crystal Mountain’s Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley courses have never looked better.

Greg Babinec, Michigan’s Golf Professional of the Year in 2018, has also factored into the golf upgrades. He spent 11 years at Arcadia Bluffs and has now been at Crystal Mountain for the last nine. In addition to serving as host professional for the resort’s biggest golf event, the Michigan Women’s Open, Babinec made a noteworthy executive decision in the last year.

The Mountain Ridge course may have been the only one in the country to have its first hole designated as the No. 1 handicap hole. Players didn’t like that, so now the No. 1 handicap hole is No. 13 – a long tough par-4 – and No. 1 has been dropped to No. 6 on the scorecard for handicap purposes.

That’s just a fun detail for what’s been going on at Crystal Mountain. After a series of cottages were added a much bigger deal was the expansion of the Inn at the Mountain. Because of it a pedestrian-friendly village plaza has emerged as the centerpiece of the resort.

“We doubled the size of the Inn and added 25 new hotel suites,’’ said Lawson. A rooftop bar, which is also used for receptions, also has opened. All the rooms are themed after local or national attractions.

The bottom line is, Crystal Mountain has even more options than it had four years ago and can entice a wider variety of visitors. It now has – among other things — Michigan’s only alpine slide, a water park, a climbing wall, 14 miles of bicycle trails, the Michigan Legacy Art Park and facilities for pickleball, tennis, kayaking and Disc Golf. The Wild Tomato is great for breakfast and the Thistle Pub & Grille in Kinlochen (where the pro shop is also located) has lunch and dinner menus.

“We’re different things to different people,’’ said Lawson. “We’re a family resort, a golf resort, a spa, a ski resort. And, they almost all require separate marketing plans.’’

Want to go off-site for other attractions? There’s the Iron Fish Distillery, which is also in Thompsonville, and Mawby Sparkling winery in Suttons Bay. If you want to stay away from the resort there’s wide variety of lodging available in Traverse City. We used the Park Place Hotel and Cherry Inn & Suites on our stop.

If you’re looking for non-golf activities in Northern Michigan, David Wallace’s Iron Fish Distillery, in Thompsonville, and the Mawby Sparkling winery, in Suttons Bay, are interesting diversions.

New Yorker Welch is Myrtle Beach’s latest World Champion

William Welch of West Islip, N.Y., claimed the World Champion trophy at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Course.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — August is the biggest month of the golf season – and not just because big professional events like the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs are contested then. The PlayGolf Myrtle Beach.com World Amateur Handicap Championship was different but every bit as impressive.

Staged for the 36th time on 55 courses in this South Carolina golf mecca, the World Am wasn’t just older than any of that month’s tour events, it also had more players. Many more, in fact..

The entry count hit 3,215 from 49 states (only Alaska was missing) and 20 countries. There were 161 international participants with Canada leading with 51. The internationals traveled approximately 500,000 miles to get here. As far as the U.S. states are concerned, South Carolina led with 312 players and Florida had 307.

Though multiple courses were used, organizers claim the World Am is “the world’s largest single-site tournament’’ – the “site’’ being the general Myrtle Beach area.

The player coming the farthest was likely Steve Muller, who lives in Brisbane, Australia. Muller and his wife Karen were 24 hours in transit to get to Myrtle Beach for the first time.

Muller learned about the World Am via a Google search in January and made travel plans even before the tournament was accepting entries. He believes his home club in Australia, called Carbrook, is the only one with sharks in its ponds but Australia’s `Great White Shark,’ Greg Norman, has never played there.

Australians Steve Muller and wife Karen enjoyed their first taste of the World Am.

So, why did Muller enter?

“It’s golf, so why not?’’ he said. “Nobody from my club had heard about it but there’ll be at least four from there here next year.’’

The World Am had more winners than the August pro events, too. In addition to the 67 flight winners, there was an overall champion – William Welch of West Islip, N.Y.,’ a Gross Division winner – Christopher Reina of Frisco, TX.; and a Senior Gross Division titlist – Steve Humphrey of Ocala, FL.

Welch shot a net 69 (gross 85) to win the Flight Winners’ Playoff at the Barefoot Resort’s Dye Course. That made Welch the 2019 World Champion. Reina shot a 75 to win the Gross Division and Humphrey a 76 en route to an eight-stroke victory in the Senior Gross Division.

The World Am is never about winning, though. It’s about participation, fun and socializing, but there’s of golf played. Myrtle Beach’s biggest event consists of 72 holes on different courses for players in nine age groups, and there’s also a “Just for Fun’’ division. The handicap procedure is strictly supervised, and that’s a big reason for the event’s annual success.

Not to be forgotten regarding this event’s popularity is the World’s Largest 19th Hole, a nightly feature at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The big party featured music, food and beverages from a variety of Myrtle Beach restaurants and appearances by various Golf Channel personalities.

Tournament director Scott Tomasello called the World Am “a bucket list event for recreational golfers.’’

“It is more than just a tournament to our players,’’ said Tomasello. “It’s an event. From what happens on the course to the World’s Largest 19th Hole, the World Am becomes part of the annual calendar for our players.’’

This year’s version was blessed with great weather. Thirty-three courses hosted play each day and 55 used for at least one round. The World’s Largest 19th Hole, staged nightly in a 120,000 square foot area of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. included a 70-exhibitor golf expo and featured attractions included billiards legend Ewa Laurance.

Next playing of the World Am will be Aug. 31 through Sept. 4 of 2020.

This World Am golfer is used to playing with sharks

Australians Steve Muller and wife Karen are experiencing a new version of golf at the World Am.


MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina – This 37th Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship has 161 international players among its 3,215 entries, and Steve Muller may have come the furthest to get here.

He is one of eight players from Australia in the tournament, and the only one from Brisbane. Oh, yes, he’s also the only golfer in the field with a home course that has shark-infested waters.

Carbrook Golf Club is located on the Logan River in a suburb of Brisbane. Sharks started surfacing there after a flood several years ago. Now there’s four or five of them.

“We’re the only golf club in the world with sharks in its lake,’’ said Muller. “If you hit it in the water at No. 15 you’re not getting the ball back, and at No. 12 you can sometimes see them up close chasing other fish.’’

Club members have embraced the sharks. They have their own version of the Shark Shootout challenge the last Wednesday of each month. The legendary “shark,’’ Greg Norman, is from Queensland, Australia.

“Our Shark Shootout is pretty awesome,’’ said Muller. “Greg hasn’t played our course yet, but he’s more than welcome to give it a go.’’

Muller, who has a 13 handicap at Carbrook, was in 16th place in Flight 9 of the 49-and-under men’s age group through two rounds. He arrived here with his Karen, his wife of 23 years. They have two children – a 21-year old son and 17-year old daughter in Australia. Karen is not playing in the tournament.

The Mullers spent 24 hours in transit to get to Myrtle Beach, thanks in part to a stopover in Los Angeles, but long-distance travel is nothing new for Steve.

“I work for an American company in Connecticut as its international sales director, so I travel the world,’’ he said. “When I travel for more than a weekend I always play golf somewhere in the world.’’

He’s in his fourth continent in a four-week stretch for the World Amateur, having been in India, Australia and Europe previously. Getting his golf fix on the road isn’t always easy. He’s a left-handed golfer and clubs aren’t always available when he needs to rent a set.

Though he lived in Cleveland from 2014-16 Muller had never heard of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur until he searched Google for tournament possibilities in February. He made travel arrangements for this one before entries were even being accepted.

“I googled `world amateur championship’ to see what would come up, and there were quite a few,’’ he said. “This one seemed the one most of the world would come to play in. No one from my golf club had heard about it, but there’ll be at least four of us here next year.’’

So, why go to all this trouble, expense and time commitment?

“It’s golf. Why not?’’ he said. “It’s all amateurs. Let’s see if an Aussie can win it.’’

He’s never played in an event remotely close to the World Am.

“The Queensland PGA runs like a mid-amateur for guys in my handicap division, but’s it’s nothing like this,’’ he said. “It’s just one golf course over two days.’’

The week-long World Am experience has been a good one for the Mullers so far, as Steve has had some ideal playing partners.

“I’ve met some fantastic guys,’’ he said. “The mates have been friendly, encouraging, supportive. I’ve exchanged numbers with a couple guys. Maybe it’s just my accent, being from Australia, but I hope not. They’re just been good blokes.’’

There are some differences between golf in Brisbane and golf in the U.S., however.

“Golf in Australia is completely different than here,’’ he said. “It’s different grasses, different layouts. Here I have to hit at least one club longer than I would back home. And we measure in meters, not yards.’’

The golf clubs are different as well.

“In Australia you have to be a member of a club to play golf.,’’ he said. “They’re all private clubs. And at mine the members own the club. That’s a little different. Plus, the men and women are integrated in the tee times.’’

Arcadia Bluffs’ new South course will attract its own devotees

Arcadia’s South course (top) and Bluffs’ layout couldn’t be more different — and that’s a good thing.


ARCADIA, Michigan — For years I had been told that Arcadia Bluffs and Forest Dunes were in a battle for best golf course in Michigan with Bluffs usually getting the nod. I’ve now played them both, and I’m not so sure about that.

The Bluffs definitely has the scenery. Its waterfront views of Lake Michigan are extraordinary and its on-course mounding and elevation changes are spectacular. I don’t know of any course, anywhere, that could top that.

As for it being “the best,’’ however, views aren’t everything in judging a golf course. Never one to give much credence to the course ratings offered by industry publications, I don’t think determining “the best’’ is very important anyway. Golf is such a subjective thing. Over the past 34-plus years I’ve had several “favorite’’ courses in Michigan — a state so extraordinary in golf options that it can defy the imagination.

For awhile my favorite Michigan course was The Bear, at Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. Then it switched between the Tom Weiskopf-designed Cedar River course at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire, The Heather at Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs and Tullymore in Stanwood.

Deep bunkers are part of both Acadia courses, but they’re deeper and steeper at the Bluffs.


I was also intrigued by Threetops, the memorable par-3 layout at Treetops, in Gaylord.; the captivating par-3s at Island Hills, in Centreville; and Paul Albanese’s drumlin-focused design at Sage Run in Harris. There’s also fond memories of Harbor Shores, in Benton Harbor; Greywalls, in Marquette; and Crystal Mountain, in Thompsonville.

That list could go on, as the golf landscape in Michigan has gotten more impressive every year and I’ll never get to play all of that state’s great courses.

What’s intriguing in the Arcadia Bluffs-Forest Dunes scenario is what’s been happening lately. In an era where the golf industry nation-wide has been struggling with economic issues the two Michigan hotspots have been making major upgrades.

Some of the bunkers on the South course encircle rectangular putting surfaces.


Forest Dunes, in Roscommon, started it. One course – even a great one designed by Weiskopf in 2002 — wasn’t enough to keep players in town there, so owner Lew Thompson not only increased lodging but also brought in Tom Doak to design the highly unusual reversible course, called The Loop. Play its Red course one day from tee to green, then go back the next day and play its Black layout, which reverses those same greens and tees. Both layouts have been well received.

Since opening The Loop Thompson has also added the Hilltop putting course and a 10-hole 957-yard par-3 layout, designed by young architects Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb, will be ready soon.

Despite all that good work, Arcadia Bluffs hasn’t been outdone. Its lodging options were also increased and late last year the South course was added to the Bluffs. The 18-holers don’t share the same clubhouse – the South is about a mile away from its predecessor – and the courses couldn’t be more different.

Arcadia Bluffs has been one of Michigan’s very best public courses since it opened in 1999.


The Bluffs, designed by Warren Henderson and Rick Smith and opened in 1999, is far more challenging than the South, though the ratings (75.7 for The Bluffs and 75.6 for the South from the tips) are almost identical. A Dana Fry/Jason Straka design, the South — at 7,412 yards — is 112 yards longer than the Bluffs but there’s a big difference in slope. From the back tees the Bluffs’ is 146, the South’s 132. Both are par-72s for men, while the women’s par on the Bluffs is 73. The Bluffs has four tee placements for men and two for women. The South has five tee placements for men, three for women.

Those are just numbers, though. They don’t mean much once you hit your first tee shot on either one. Needless to say, I really like the South. Unlike the Bluffs, it has no water views and very wide fairways. The South comes in two nine-hole loops, meaning each nine finishes at the clubhouse. The Bluffs doesn’t.

While the South has 112 bunkers, it is more user friendly. The bunkers aren’t as deep as those on the Bluffs but they were similar. The putting surfaces are extensive on both courses, but the undulations were more tricky on the Bluffs.

Again, which is better – Arcadia or Forest Dunes, or the Bluffs or the South? Who knows, and who cares (other than perhaps the operators of those facilities)?

One thing is certain: both facilities are so good that all serious golfers should give them a try, then form their own opinions.

Arcadia Bluffs (above) has a lodge (right) near its clubhouse while the South course (below) has chairs available in the back of its clubhouse for visitors who wants to see players finish their rounds.

World Am Handicap tourney puts the golf spotlight on Myrtle Beach

The excitement is building at Myrtle Beach as World Amateur participants check in.


MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — August might be the biggest month of the golf season – and not just because big professional events like the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs are contested then.

The PlayGolf Myrtle Beach.com World Amateur Handicap Championship is different but every bit as impressive. It is older and has many more players. The 36th staging of the event tees off on 59 courses in the Myrtle Beach area. The entry count hit 3,226 for this year with entrants from 49 states (only Alaska is missing) and 20 countries.

There are 161 international participants with Canada leading with 51. The internationals have travelled approximately 500,000 miles to get here. As far as the U.S. states are concerned, South Carolina leads with 312 players and Florida has 307.

Myrtle Beach’s big event consists of 72 holes on different courses for players in nine age groups, and there’s also a “Just for Fun’’ division and a Flight Winners Playoff at the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort to climax the competition on Friday. There are 67 flights in the first four days of the competition.

The handicap procedure is strictly supervised, and that’s a big reason for the event’s success. I know, because I’ve played in the World Am and am back again this year.

Not to be forgotten regarding this event’s popularity is the World’s Largest 19th Hole, a nightly feature at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The big party features music, food and beverages from a variety of Myrtle Beach restaurants and appearances by various Golf Channel personalities.

Tournament director Scott Tomasello calls the World Am “a bucket list event for recreational golfers.’’

“The World Am is more than just a tournament to our players,’’ said Tomasello. “It’s an event. From what happens on the course to the World’s Largest 19th Hole, the World Am becomes part of the annual calendar for our players.’’

The World Am will also benefit the military. It’ll come in the form of Royal Crown’s Purple Bag Project, in which non-perishable items will be gathered and sent to deployed military personnel as a means of showing gratitude and support for their services.

Myrtle Beach’s busy schedule doesn’t slow down after the World Am. Nancy Lopez will be featured at the Mentor Cup on Oct. 26 at Tidewater Golf Club. It’s a two-player team event (nine holes of scramble and nine holes of alternate shot) that benefits Gene’s Dream Foundation. The Short Par 4 Fall Classic follows from Nov. 17-21 and the 51st George Holiday Memorial Junior Tournament is Nov. 26-30 at Myrtle Beach National.

Myrtlewood’s Palmetto Course, in Myrtle Beach, is scheduled to re-open on Labor Day weekend. Architect Dan Schlegel has supervised a summer-long renovation project that includes the installation of Sunday Bermuda grass greens and the restoration to their original dimensions. That means there’ll be an additional 18,00 square feet of greens space when the course re-opens. Changes were made on every bunker on the course as well.

Have golf bag, will travel: Our latest tour of the Eastern U.S.

AS PUBLISHED IN CHICAGOLAND GOLF, AUGUST 2019.

You can’t try this at home, that’s for sure.

While we continue to write about all things golf for this publication (and a few others), we’ve taken a special liking to Travel Destination pieces in the last 10 years. There’s nothing wrong with playing most of your golf close to home. In fact, we’ve always encouraged that.

Taking your game on the road, though, can be refreshing as well as educational. That’s our job – to find interesting places with golf courses that we think you’d like to visit. We check things out for you, and sometimes that takes considerable time on our part. A couple of our trips over the years have put us on the road for several weeks at a time, and this latest one took up almost all of the month of June.

On this one we headed to the eastern states — the first time we’ve ventured further in that direction than the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Trying to stay close to Interstate 95 we left our Florida home and passed through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Maine.

Our trips are all driving ones, and this one took three weeks and covered slightly over 3,000 miles. Crazy, you’re thinking? Maybe so, but it was a lot of fun experiencing golf in states that we had basically never even visited.

We didn’t play in all the states that we passed through, and planning our trip was much more difficult than it had been for our previous journeys. Thanks to the efforts of Bruce Vittner, publisher of Southern New England Golfer and executive director of the Golf Travel Writers of America, we were included in a three-day writers’ familiarization trip to a golf destination in Maine. That triggered planning other stops that might be on the way or even beyond.

Here’s what we came up with:

GREENSBORO, N.C. – First stop was at the Grandover Resort, a great place that, we learned once we got there, plays a role on the PGA Tour. It is the headquarters site for the Wyndham Championship, which is held at the Sedgefield Country Club nearby. Interesting that a tournament sponsored by a hotel chain used a non-affiliated resort for such a key role in its showcase event, isn’t it?

Grandover has two good courses, the East and West. Both were designed by the architectural team of David Graham, an Australian who won both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, and Gary Panks.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Colonial Williamsburg has more to offer tourists than golf, what with all its historical attractions. They’re well worth visiting, but the golf there is on the upswing, too. The well-known Kingsmill Resort isn’t the whole show golf-wise.

We hit three facilities – Royal New Kent, The Club at Viniterra and Williamsburg National – that were in full revival mode. Royal New Kent, designed by the late Mike Strantz, was Golf Digest’s Best New Course of 1997. Tough economic times led to its eventual closing but it re-opened in May after a $2 million rehab.

Viniterra, a Rees Jones design that opened 11 years ago, never closed but it carried on without a much-needed clubhouse. A new one opened the day after we played the course. Williamsburg National has two courses. Its Jack Nicklaus design, Jamestown, was closed for awhile and its Yorktown course needed work. Now both courses are in full swing.

KENILWORTH, N.J. – Our friends at Chicago-based KemperSports manage Galloping Hill, an interesting place that is one of the few public facilities to host the New Jersey State Open. It has 27 holes and, unfortunately, we could only look at them from the clubhouse. We got caught in horrendous traffic jams going through Washington D.C., and to cancel our scheduled tee time and then had to move on to make our next destination on time. From the clubhouse, though, you had an extraordinary view of many of the holes and it was a busy place.

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. – This stop involved play at only one course but was a natural destination as it will be the host of the 30th annual International Network of Golf Spring Conference next May. We wanted a sneak preview.

The five-day long Spring Conference, which rotates around the country every year, includes two golf outings. Usually more courses than one are involved, but not here. Raven’s Craw will be the site of both. A fun course designed by owner Ed Shearon, it grabs your attention from first tee shot because there’s half of a house on the edge on the No. 1 fairway. Why it’s there, who knows?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This was an eye-opener. Not only is Rochester a nice to look at, it’s also an outstanding golf town. We had stops at Ravenwood, The Links at Greystone and Deerfield. All are located in the suburbs of Rochester and are involved with the Finger Lakes and New York Golf Trails. The New York trail is the biggest in the country in terms of courses participation. It has 30 spread across the state.

Best of the trio on our schedule was The Links at Greystone, a Craig Schreiner design that opened in 1996.

POLAND, Maine – The Maine Golf Trifecta is one of the best golf packages we’ve seen because it offers a little bit of everything for a great price — $349 for three rounds of golf with two nights lodging and four buffet-style meals.

Poland Spring Resort, which dates back to 1797, has a Donald Ross course that opened in 1896. It’s short and user-friendly. Spring Meadows at Cole Farms is a fun layout with its array of elevation changes and Fox Ridge will challenge even the best of players. The latter two don’t have lodging so Trifecta participants stay at Poland Spring.

HOMEWARD-BOUND: No more golf on this trip, but we did experience some history. Vittner took us on a car tour of Newport, R.I., and that included a quick stop at Newport Country Club, the site of the first U.S. Open in 1895.

The end result was a lot of driving – sometimes it did seem like too much – but we could see the change in courses as we drove from state to state. Doing something like this takes some planning and a significant time commitment. We were tired when it was over, but it was a golfing adventure that we’ll never forget.

Rochester is — at the very least — the heart of the New York Golf Trail

Ravenwood is a featured course on both the New York and Finger Lakes golf trails.


ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There are good reasons why Rochester should come to mind when you consider golf destinations. After all, the legendary player Walter Hagen grew up here and one of the most prolific course designers, Robert Trent Jones Sr., was not only born in Rochester but his very first design, Midvale, is also within the city limits.

And then there’s the venerable Oak Hill Country Club in suburban Pittsford. Its East Course is a Donald Ross design that dates back to 1901. The course has hosted three U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships (a fourth one is coming in 2023), two U.S. Amateurs, two Senior PGA Championships, one U.S. Senior Open and the 1995 Ryder Cup. The LPGA has played some of its majors at Locust Hill.

Golf in Rochester is a lot more than major championships, Hagen and RTJ Sr. (For the record now Chicago’s own Jeff Sluman developed his game in Rochester before becoming a fixture on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions).

Rod Chrlstian’s New York Golf Trail has more courses (34) than any of the other U.S. trails.


Rochester is also very much a place to visit for the purpose of just playing golf. Rod Christian created the New York Golf Trail, which is now the largest trail in the country in terms of courses (34). He has divided his trail into eight regions and, he says, “the most popular of the regions is right here (in Rochester).’’

Four of his New York Trail courses – The Links at Greystone in Walworth, Ravenwood in Victor, Bristol Harbour in Canandaigua and Mill Creek in Churchville – also form the Finger Lakes Golf Trail. If another course is needed to accommodate trail packages 27-hole Deerfield, in Brockport, gets the call.

Christian operates his trail in regions to facilitate travel for participating golfers. That sets New York apart from many of the other trails, most notably the much more well-known Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama.

“There’s a lot more driving on that trail,’’ said Christian. “Rochester is a great place to work with. Here you plant yourself in one (hotel) location and there’s no more than a 20- to 30-minute drive to the courses.’’

And those course are not only good, they’re affordable.

The best course we played on our visit was The Links at Greystone, a family owned and operated facility with a course designed by Craig Schreiner in 1995. Its top greens fee is $67 – a bargain given the quality of the course.

The family-owned Links at Greystone has my vote as the best of Rochester’s public courses.


Greystone is a three-generation labor of love for members of the Odenbach family, who opened a quarry and mining business in the Rochester area in 1920. Using equipment from that business, the Odenbachs built three courses between 1979 and 1995, sold them in 2000 and then bought them back 16 years later. They now operate two of the courses with family members playing a variety of lead roles.

Brothers John and Gardy Odenbach own The Links at Greystone. John’s son Alex is general manager and Gardy’s son Dusty is the director of golf. John’s wife Julie, a well-known high school coach of both boys and girls teams in the area, oversees the gardening and floral arrangements at the course.

“Our family tree is large here,’’ admitted Dusty Odenbach. The superintendent, Tim Hahn, may as well be a family member, too. The son of a one-time superintendent at famed Oak Hill, Hahn has been at Greystone since it opened.

Ravenwood is good, too. It has hosted the New York State Amateur twice. Its top green fee is $65 in the summer months.

The George Eastman Museum is located in the exotic mansion of the late founder of Eastman Kodak.


While the golf at the approximately 60 public course within a 20-mile radius of Rochester is enticing, the area has other attractions that are also appealing – especially if you schedule your visit during the annual Rochester International Jazz Festival. It keeps the downtown area hopping with its series of free concerts.

Of the year-around offerings, The Strong National Museum of Play most accurately bills itself as “the ultimate play destination for all ages.’’ It has the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls, board games and electronic games and its Toys National Hall of Fame honors such innovators as Milton Bradley, Walt Disney, Jim Henson and George Lucas.

The Genesee Brewery, which doubles as a popular restaurant, has been operating in Rochester since 1878.


Then there’s the George Eastman Museum. Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, was a pioneer in the photography and motion picture industry and the museum is housed in his mansion. It has one of the oldest film archives in the U.S. and its artifacts include the world’s largest collection of camera technology.

If you want a non-golf outdoor activity take a guided cruise down the Erie Canal on the Sam Patch, a replica of the boats that traveled in the canal after its opening in 1825.

Dining is more than ample, too. We tried out The Cub Room, which specializes in American fare but has nothing to do with Chicago’s baseball team. We also sampled the Italian dishes at Branca Midtown, the unique atmosphere of the Genesee Brew House and the wines at the Casa Larga Vineyards.

All made for a great escape but the golf was in the forefront.

Next to golf, the Strong Museum may be Rochester’s best attraction. It has something for everyone.