Hilton Waikoloa Village
by Bruce Levinson
Hawaii conjures up images of romance, a uniquely exotic paradise. The reality is
that Hawaii is comprised of seven islands, each with its own distinct character. The
largest does not have Honolulu dancers or sunken battleships, and is called The Big
Island, a misnomer since we’re talking the size of Connecticut. However, it is not overly
developed, which is a plus. The natural beauty is unsullied, there are no throngs in
thongs, and the pace is tropically mellow.
My base of operations on The Big Island was the exquisite Hilton Waikoloa Beach
Resort, a short drive from Kona International Airport. The trip introduced me to lava in
an almost surreal landscape formed by volcanoes, emblematic of the fury and beauty
of the natural world. (Don’t even think of taking some home.) Waikoloa Beach Resort
sits atop tamed lava on the western coast, replete with its own lagoon, beaches and
perches for unobstructed sunsets. And the dolphin encounters at the hotel are the best
I was greeted by scarlet macaws in the lobby, and rode a water taxi to my room,
which had a large balcony and spectacular ocean views. The spa was close by to
soothe me and myriad hot tubs and pools soaked away my cares. A wide variety of
restaurants, from casual to world class, were sublimeand as I imagined, the fresh
fruit and fish were the real deal. One of my favorite discoveries was the waterside
Mexican eatery called The Boat Landing Catina, where avocados were transformed into
guacamole right at my table. And whatever the spa and hot tubs had not done for me,
the smoothies and pina coladas did.
After all the pampering, water jets and fine repasts, I was still ambulatory and able to
enjoy some golf. Waikoloa Beach Resort boasts two fine coursesdramatic, beautiful,
and incorporating lava all along the fairways. The Kings course offers distant views
throughout, and the Beach course has a signature 7th hole, bordered by the Pacific,
that anointed me with ocean spray. Mongoose and mynah birds joined me for the
When I left my clubs in the bag for a day to explore the Big Island, I discovered
that the western portion is lava desert, while to the east is lava rain forest and the
extraordinary Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Some volcanoes are active as the
earth’s plates move, and at night the orange glow of molten emissions, set against a
star-filled sky, is unforgettable.
Lastly, I decided that I could not miss the whale watching, and made last minute
arrangements at the resort. The intelligence of humpback whales is manifest in their
coming to the Big Island from Alaska every year. The boat gets up close and personal
with mothers and calves, males fighting for dominance, and much spouting and
breaching. Did you know young nursing humpbacks can gain seven pounds an hour, or
that whales’ spouting exhales mucous at 300 miles per hour? Admit that you didn’t.
And if you can also accept into your heart that you could learn to love lava, the Big
Island of Hawaii is for you.
by Steve Ellis
I admit to some apprehension before my recent trip to Riviera Nayarit, midway
down Mexico's Pacific coast. But from the start, the concerns many of us may
feel about travel to Mexico were quickly put to rest, in spectacular fashion.
I felt completely safe at all times, the food was inventive and delicious and
the accommodations, spas and service were among the finest I've ever
experienced. Even the golf was world class.
Punta Mita is a gated resort and residential community 40 minutes from
the Puerto Vallarta airport. It's a self-contained vacation oasis with two Five
Diamond luxury hotels, the Four Seasons Punta Mita and St. Regis Punta Mita,
and two oceanside Jack Nicklaus courses, the Bahia and Pacifico. I stayed at
the Four Seasons Punta Mita, which has a well-deserved reputation as one
of the brightest stars in the Four Seasons family, quite a feat to say the least.
I also visited the equally chic St Regis for drinks on the beach and a superb
dinner in Carolina, its Five Diamond restaurant.
The Nicklaus courses at Punta Mita are two of Mexico's best, designed to
be fun for the casual golfer and a challenge for more accomplished players.
Pacifico even has an "optional" hole with the world's first natural island green,
accessible only at low tide. And there is more spectacular golf at the El Tigre
course just a few miles away. Other championship options in Riviera Nyarit
include a third Nicklaus course and designs by Tom Weiskopf and Greg
My next stop was the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, yet another of the region's
Five Diamond resorts. The Grand Velas is all-inclusive, which is even more
extraordinary considering their world class spa and superb restaurants, two of
which have Four Diamond ratings.
Indeed, "diamonds" are sparkling brightly at Riviera Nayarit.
Sweet Home Alabama
by Bruce Levinson
Mobile, Alabama. Drawing a blank? You haven't been there, you're
pronouncing the name wrong (it's Mo-BEEL), and you don't associate it
with anything—certainly not great golf, great down home cooking, and great
attractions. Well, pack the clubs and prepare for a destination that has a charm
and character all its own.
I could have stayed right on the Gulf of Mexico, where the opulent Grand
Hotel Marriott Resort is known to pamper its patrons in a style reminiscent of
the finest four-star Caribbean lodgings. However, I wanted to be in the heart
of downtown, and chose the historic and gracious Battle House Hotel, which
perfectly melds the new and the old. It put me within walking distance of the
beautifully-restored Saenger Theatre movie palace, the A&M Peanut Company
(where I bought incredibly fresh nuts in bulk), and Three Georges Southern
Chocolate (where I would leave in bulk—and happily so.)
Golf? I played the Azalea course at the Lakewood Club, as well as Magnolia
Grove, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (an incredible collection of 468
holes of championship golf on 11 different courses across Alabama). Both are
challenging, beautiful, and host a wide variety of native flora and fauna. Seeing
a magnificent live oak completely swallow my errant tee shot was a sight to
behold, easing the pain considerably.
Mobile has a number of one-of-a-kind attractions, none of them more aweinspiring
than the USS Alabama, a 45,000 ton World War II battleship, the likes
of which they just don't build anymore. (The adjacent museum has a world
class collection of military aircraft.) Equally impressive is the Hank Aaron
Childhood Home and Museum, located next to the Mobile BayBears minor
league ballpark where real baseball and nascent talent are florishing in a fun
and intimate setting.
Mobile also offers glorious food in casual settings. Callaghan's Irish Social
Club, an unassuming corner joint in an otherwise completely residential
neighborhood, serves up extraordinary cheeseburgers. But my culinary life
would not be complete without some finger-licking ribs from Saucy Q Bar B
Cue, and the blackened catch of the day at Wintzell's Oyster House.
Mobile, Alabama? Absolutely.
Swinging through India
by Andrea DaRif
With the world's fourth largest and second fastest growing economy, India is
enjoying unprecedented prosperity in industries from film to software. Golf is
no exception. The sport has a rich heritage in the country, going back to 1829,
when the first golf club outside the British Isles was established in Kolkata.
Now it is once again on the upswing.
In New Delhi, The Oberoi reflects a spirit of tradition and cosmopolitan flair.
Convenient to shopping and tourism, the luxury hotel overlooks the historic
Delhi Golf Club, its fairways dotted with ancient monuments. Ananda Spa,
perched high above the Ganges River in the majestic Himalayas, is renowned
for its mix of ancient and modern rejuvenation therapies—and guests can
enjoy a round of eco-friendly golf on the challenging 6-hole, par-3 course.
Some of the best golf in India is found in the area around Bangalore—known
as the Silicon Valley of India. The 18-hole course at Eagleton The Golf Village,
a self-sufficient golfing oasis, is considered one of the best new courses in the
country, while the five star Leela Palace makes a perfect base for a round at
the famed KGA Golf Course, redesigned by Peter Thompson.
Samba and Golf in Brazil
by Colin Sheehan
Brazil has everything the discerning globetrotter might desire—accented by exotic beaches, samba music, the annual Carnival festivals and, of course, the potent caipirinha, a national drink made from cachaca, sugar and lime. And golf in the 2016 Olympics. Golf had never really factored into Brazilian itineraries, but in recent years a quiet yet sudden transformation has been underway, thanks largely to the impressive designs of American Dan Blankenship, a former shaper for Pete Dye. His best designs—Buzio, Terravista and Comandatuba—are exceptional resort courses showcasing Brazil’s tropical coastlines and exotic flora. A visit must begin in Rio de Janeiro, one of the great cities of the world.
Guests of the Hotel Intercontinental may schedule a round at Gavea, a must-play course and Brazil’s oldest and most exclusive club. A trip north to Buzios, near a seaside resort town, is also highly recommended. And Hotel do Frade, three hours to the south, should not be missed—the beachfront resort boasts a scenic course memorable for its fragrant scent of wild honeysuckle and the aguna patrolling the fairways. A flight north is necessary to call at the Hotel Transamerica, a beachfront hotel on the island of Comandatuba. Its Ocean course, the best course in Brazil, cuts back and forth between the beach and palm forest, and features massive waste bunkers, an obvious Dye trademark. Elsewhere in Bahia, golfers should try Terravista, especially since its new course—built along the crumbling cliffs 50 feet above the beachbreak—is every bit as good as Comandatuba. Direct flights are available on Varig Airlines from New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
Big Hitters in the Dominican Republic
by H. K. Pickens
A favorite destination for golfing cognoscenti is the Dominican Republic, which has become one of the hottest spots to tee off in the Caribbean. And little wonder. The country has an outstanding array of world class golf courses and exclusive resorts set amidst breathtaking white sand beaches and vistas of unspoiled natural beauty. Casa de Campo in picturesque La Romana boasts three courses designed by Pete Dye, including the legendary Teeth of the Dog and the newer Dye Fore, a 7,770-foot masterpiece featuring a 300-foot deep river gorge.
Punta Cana Resort & Club, a spectacular beachfront enclave created by Frank Ranieri, is home to the La Cana course. Designed by P.B. Dye, it is a brilliant mix of visual splendor and “Dye-abolical” layout. A 15 foot waterfall and indigenous coral formations distinguish the challenging course at Guavaberry Golf & Country Club, designed by Gary Player, while Playa Grande, a Robert Trent Jones layout, is considered the Pebble Beach of the Caribbean, with ten holes laid out along stark oceanside cliffs. And the luxurious Cap Cana Resort features Punta Espada, designed by Jack Nicklaus, yet another course generating great buzz.