Aug/Sept Expanded Content: Travel
Great golf desitations that hide in plan sight and never go out of style.
Everybody loves the new, the fresh, the hot resorts and destinations that get all the buzz. In the June/July issue, The Met Golfer looked at some of the latest that are well worth a visit. Bust since when in golf has "new" been the be-all and end-all?
The College Course at SUNY Delhi
Once upon a time, New Yorkers who fled the un-air-conditioned city in the summer flocked to the Catskills for bungalow life, Simon Says by the pool, and intramural basketball that featured NBA stars of the future like Wilt Chamberlain and Lenny Wilkens. For golfers, the big draw was the famed “Monster” course at the Concord Hotel, a behemoth that challenged and brutalized anyone who dared take it on from the 7,650-yard tips.
Much has changed in the former “Borscht Belt” of the Catskills, but the region is still filled with exceptional natural beauty and boasts an increasing number of options for the golfer on getaway. The Emerson Resort and Spa, in Mt. Tremper, combines rustic comfort with modern design and conveniences; it sponsors the Woodstock Open at nearby Woodstock Golf Club, an event that has hosted the area’s best pro and amateur players since 1932. The Emerson’s renovated spa offers the latest in beauty, health, and wellness treatments, and the contemporary cuisine of its Woodnotes Grill features fresh local ingredients and creative cocktails. The Emerson is home to a former silo that has been converted to the world’s largest kaleidoscope, and can make tee-time arrangements for its guests at Woodstock, Wiltwyck, and Lazy Swan Golf Clubs.
Some of the future keepers of our fairways and greens are learning their trade at SUNY Delhi; its College Course is one of the best and best-maintained public tracks in the area. The Hanah Mountain Resort has a challenging 18-hole course providing magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, and also boasts a comfortable lodge and a golf school under the direction of Herm Keiser Jr., son of the 1946 Masters champion.
And the ghosts of the old resorts are rising again: Grossinger’s Golf Club has been upgraded as part of an effort to revive the hotel featured in “Dirty Dancing,” and Rees Jones has been hired to revitalize and re-envision the Monster Golf Club in conjunction with the recently-opened Resorts World Catskills complex in Monticello, on the grounds of the former Concord.
Simon says, Stay and play!
The Old White TPC at The Greenbrier
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
If there were ever a chance that the sprawling Greenbrier Resort would become an overlooked destination, that possibility was put to rest when Jim Justice purchased the resort and brought the PGA Tour there for an annual stop. The first Greenbrier Classic in 2010 was memorably capped by Stuart Appleby’s final-round 59, but that only added to a history that included Sam Snead’s first Tour victory, the 1979 Ryder Cup, and the 1994 Solheim Cup.
A tourist destination since the 1770s, the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., has hosted 27 of the 45 U.S. presidents and celebrities galore to its 11,000 acres in the Allegheny Mountains. Golf has been featured for more than a hundred years; there are four eighteen-hole courses that have either been recently renovated or are in the process of being updated after severe floods in 2016, and a nine-hole short course is scheduled to open this summer. A fifth championship course was announced with great fanfare thanks to its architectural pedigree: It was to be a unique collaboration among Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino, all of whom attended the ground-breaking in 2015. But after the same 2016 floods that caused the one-year cancellation of the Classic, construction has been postponed until the restoration work is completed on the other courses.
For those who believe there’s more to life than golf (is there really?), the Greenbrier offers nearly every activity under the sun or its indoor equivalents. Its roster of facilities includes trails for hiking and biking, ziplines, a climbing tower, croquet lawn, all-weather off-road vehicles, tennis and pickleball courts, paintball terrain, indoor and outdoor pools, bowling alleys, a fitness center, and much, much more. More indulgent ways to spend time can be found at the world-renowned mineral spa and the 100,000-square-foot casino billed as “Monte Carlo meets ‘Gone With the Wind.’” A host of culinary options range from fine dining in jacket and tie to coal-fired pizza and sports bar classics at the nineteen restaurants and lounges around the resort.
Ten years shy of its sestercentennial, the Greenbrier is well poised to entertain and pamper visitors for another 250 years. If Pinehurst is the spiritual home of American golf, this West Virginia grand dame is the ancestral home of American leisure and luxury, the nation’s quintessential resort.
Dorado Beach, Dorado, P.R.
Robert Trent Jones set the bar for golf in the Caribbean with his design of the Dorado Beach East Course, and six decades later this Puerto Rican gem remains a superb and immensely satisfying experience.
Jones built the course for Laurance Rockefeller as part of the original RockResort at Dorado Beach that opened in 1958. In 2011 his son Robert Trent Jones Jr. was brought in to renovate the iconic tract.
“We basically cleared out a lot of trees, opened it up so it could breathe and you could see the vistas,” says Jones. “We kept to his theme of elongated tees, bracketing bunkers, elevated greens. We really didn’t change any greens other than to re-establish pin positions, and we moved some fairway bunkers out. We polished off the masterpiece.”
After an extensive overhaul and modernization of the hotel and residence facilities, the resort is now a Ritz-Carlton Reserve and Dorado East is now part of the TPC network. The course design plays along the beach and up into the hillside, then back down again as you sweep near the ocean on the way home. It’s about 7,200 yards from the tips, a very friendly 6,100 from the whites.
The defining hole is the fourth, a double dogleg par 5 played over one pond off the tee, bending left, then around a second pond bending right (unless you are in position and brave enough to carry your second shot straight away to the green).
The devastating Hurricane Maria left massive destruction across Puerto Rico last September and the East Course lost some trees. A recent report from the pro shop says the course is in excellent shape and even more vistas have been revealed.
The legendary pro Chi Chi Rodriguez has long called Dorado Beach home, tooling around in his yellow Rolls-Royce of a golf cart. He began there in the late ‘50s as a caddie and a kick-about pro before becoming one of game’s most entertaining performers. Dorado East is part of his heart and soul.
“It’s one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played,” says Rodriguez. “Not only the beauty, but the challenge of it. From the back tees it’s as good a course as you can play. I’ve played it for way over 50 years. I know a good golf course when I see one.”