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    Minneapolis MN
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    Interests include golf, adventure travel, gardening, photography, downhill skiing, dogs and the great outdoors.
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  1. The Boulders Resort – Newly Refreshed Carefree, AZ desert hideaway is bolder than ever The Boulders Resort and Spa. Jay Morrish designed golf. Carefree, Arizona. Combine these three landmark names and what you get is a resort experience unlike any in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Or anywhere in the Southwest for that matter. Add in a multi-million dollar makeover (more about this later) and you have an experience of a lifetime. Overview For over 30 years the Boulders has been recognized as a world class destination with impeccable service, a wonderful spa, championship golf plus excellent dining, lodging and tennis (and so much more). Spread out over 1300 acres of Sonoran Desert foothills just 30 miles north of the Phoenix airport, the resort has more the feel of a small village than a hotel property. The resort's newly remodeled main lodge, 33,000 square foot spa (that is not a typo) and golf clubhouse complex are separated by a short walk or complimentary golf cart ride from each other. The 160 totally redone casitas and an additional 60 villas are sprinkled around the main facilities each with impressive views of the iconic boulders mounts, desert or golf courses. Add in multiple dining options, three pools, hiking paths, free fitness classes and a myriad of other activities and you will understand when I say this somewhere you will want to return to again and again! Golf For decades the Boulders Jay Morrish designed North and South courses have been rated as two of the finest in the country. This scenic high desert terrain is made for golf. Paired with the stunning boulder formations that define the property this is an unparalleled golf experience. Under the leadership of Tom McCahan (Director of Club Operations) and his 24 year tenure the Boulders remains a mecca for golf. The two courses are shared by club members and resort guests. Play is alternated between the two courses. Guests play the North one day and the South the next. The courses also share a very nice pro shop, clubhouse, grill and an excellent driving range and short game practice area. Some say choosing between the South and North layouts is like opting between the lobster or the filet. Both are sumptuous yet each has its own flavor and allure. I suggest the Surf and Turf…play them both! While different in taste and feel, these two layouts share tremendous visual interest, outstanding conditions and pure fun. What I can say about the South course is this: It is beautiful! The course winds its way around the incredible boulder mount and through other smaller, but no less impressive, rock formations on a rollicking and picturesque journey unlike any course in the area. There are few forced carries, a great variety of hole designs, limited amounts of target style golf and amazing visual interest. The South starts innocently enough with a slight downhill dogleg right with a landing area that narrows the further you dare hit it. Safely negotiating the tee shot leaves an approach to the first of many greens and tees guarded by the ever present rocks. The South ends with a beautiful yet dangerous Par 5 whose green sits protected behind a pond. In between are sixteen unique holes capped by the resorts signature hole…the Par 5 fifth. A split fairway off the tee is only the beginning of this amazing hole as it gently climbs toward the green. Looming in the distance is the 12 million year old boulder formation from which the resort gets its name. And tucked right up against this strange and indescribable structure of granite lies the fifth green. Awe inspiring. Incredible. Photo mandatory. The North course is every bit the challenge of the South. While a bit wider off the tees and not quite as close to some of the boulder formations it is a true test of golf for players of every ability. It starts with a very pretty yet challenging Par 5 that requires three well placed shots to reach the green. A small wash separates your first two shots and your approach must navigate a well protected green. From here you will find an array of long and short holes that climb, fall, dogleg both left and right and challenge every club in the bag including your putter. With incredible open views of the surrounding “mountains” it is hard to concentrate on the task at hand. One of my favorite holes is the Par 3 sixth. While not particularly long it is exceptionally pretty with seemingly every kind of native cactus, tree and bush lining the hole. Get your camera! Much like the finishing hole on the South course the eighteenth on the North is a dramatic finish right below the clubhouse patio. This swooping dog leg right Par 4 is guarded to the left of the green by both water and sand. Par here is an excellent score and just steps from a rewarding refreshment while you tally your score. Resort Renovations Over the summer of 2015 all of the casitas and the entire main lodge have been totally redone. The casitas were stripped to the studs with only the wooden beams in the ceiling spared. These large new rooms feature high ceilings, a patio or deck, a mini wet bar, wood burning fireplace, small walk-in closet and stone floors throughout. The luxurious bathrooms have double sinks, glass enclosed showers with floor to ceiling river rock walls as well as a separate tub. To say these casitas are nice is a vast understatement. The main lodge building has undergone an equally dramatic transformation including an all new lobby and reception area. The old Latilla restaurant is now the Latilla Ballroom. The Palo Verde dining room has been renovated as has the main pool area. Perhaps the most dramatic change is to the Discovery Lounge. It now is much larger and features soaring floor to ceiling and wall to wall windows that frame the view of the iconic boulder mount. Those who have been here will not recognize the place. The Spa, dining and more The spa at the Boulders is one of the largest and nicest I have seen. It is situated a short walk from the casitas and the main lodge and also has the boulder mount at its' backdoor. Guests of the resort have full use of the spa facilities at no extra cost and I used them at least once a day. The spa encompasses three main areas: an active wing, a quiet wing and the outdoor spaces. It has everything you might need to relax, exercise and sooth your mind, body and soul. The active side features a yoga studio, fitness center, Spa Café, movement studio and more. A myriad of free classes are held here every day and include yoga, spinning, stretch, Zumba and water fitness to name a few. The quiet side of the building houses separate but equal Men's and Women's lounges, a quiet room, 24 treatment rooms and a full salon. The lounges deserve special mention as each has a large spherical warm soaking bath, a fully tiled circular steam room (with a cool shower right in the room), sauna, showers and lockers. They are fully stocked with bath products, plush towels and everything else one needs to clean up after a day of relaxation or exercise. The outdoor space is perfectly nestled between the spa building and boulder mount. The large adults only pool and hot tub offer both a soothing retreat and amazing scenery. Adjoining the pool area is an herb garden, a meditational labyrinth and quiet patios for your relaxation. The Zen like feel and feng shui elements of this entire setting induce a sense of peace and tranquility rarely found at most resorts. Dining at the Boulders features a number of varied and distinct options. There is the newly remodeled Palo Verde restaurant in the main lodge, the Spa Café, the Grill Kitchen and Bar at the golf clubhouse, the Spotted Donkey Cantina at the adjacent Pedregal shopping area as well as the pool pavilion and of course room service. Summary The Boulders Resort and Spa has been ranked one of the best golf resorts in the U.S. since its inception 30 years ago. With the recent renovations it is bound to stay that way for the next thirty years. The outstanding location, incredible scenery, championship golf, wonderful lodging, exemplary service and amazing spa make this a must visit place for anyone with room on their bucket list. I know I will be going back soon!!
  2. No two words in all of golf elicit such praise and reverence as these…..Pebble Beach. Ask anyone who has played there, or even anyone who has watched glued to their television, and to a person this is the Holy Grail of golf. Heaven on earth for those who play the game. A once in a lifetime experience for those lucky enough to have walked its hallowed grounds. And a dream yet to come true for the majority who someday hope to tread these seaside links on the Pacific shores of the Monterey Peninsula. From the moment you arrive, hopefully via the famous 17 Mile Drive, the suspense builds. The gleaming white clubhouse and the small gathering of shops, cafes and the Pro Shop nearly envelop the practice putting green and first tee. You smell the salt water, stare at the Rolex starter clock, and if you are lucky, try to settle your nerves as you greet your caddy and fellow players. The first hole is a short 377 yard dogleg right Par 4 but the tee shot may be the most nerve wracking you will ever have on any golf course. People in the shops, cafes and Pro Shop stand in silence and watch as you attempt to put a swing on the beginning of what may be the most memorable round of golf in your life. If you survive the first few inland holes intact be prepared for what lies ahead. The fifth through tenth holes all front the Pacific and Monterey Bay and contain some of the most iconic holes in all of golf. The postcard 7th hole is a downhill Par 3 of only 106 yards from the tips. It plays to a tiny green set on a peninsula jutting out into the bay. Many call this the most beautiful hole in all of golf. With no wind it is an easy wedge. If the ocean breezes are blowing this can play three or four clubs longer! The 8th hole tee shot features a wide flat fairway that ends precipitously at the edge of a towering chasm. Another small green beckons from far below you and across a gaping watery grave for golf balls. This is one of the most heroic and intimidating shots on the course (or any course for that matter). And on it goes. Holes nine and ten continue along the ocean which swallows any wayward shots to the right. Now the course turns inland again and back towards the safety of the clubhouse. Holes gently rise and fall amongst tree lined fairways and the 17 Mile mansions of the rich and famous. Finally you've reach the famed 18th tee box, seemingly perched out in the water, overlooking perhaps the most well recognized golf hole on the planet. The ocean lines the entire left side. A large tree sits menacingly in what seems to be the middle of the fairway exactly where you need to hit your drive. Take some time to admire the view from the tee as it may be the last opportunity to relish one of the most incredible finishes of any golf course you will ever set foot on. Then thank the golf gods that the comforts of the clubhouse await your return. When your last putt drops, wave to the imaginary crowds, shake hands with your caddy and playing partners and take one last glance back at the famed finishing hole. Then go inside and have your beverage of choice in The Tap Room and reminisce over what was or could have been.
  3. I am a freelance writer specializing in stories about the best golf courses, resorts and vacation destinations in the US, Mexico, Hawaii and beyond. My feature length articles are all based on my personal travel to each destination and give you the REAL story on what you can expect. Look for my features in the Golf Course Review section under the Forums tab.I hope you enjoy my features and I encourage you to comment and respond. I look forward to posting more soon.
  4. If you always thought that going to Puerto Vallarta meant only sun, surf, sand, and margaritas then think again. This area is now one of Mexico's newest hotspots for excellent golf. Puerto Vallarta golf can best be divided into three locations: Puerto Vallarta the city, east of town in the Sierra Madre foothills, and north of town in the Nuevo Vallarta and Punta Mita areas. In the marina area of downtown Puerto Vallarta is the Marina Vallarta Golf Club. This par 71 layout by Joe Finger is a championship style track hard by Banderas Bay with excellent views of the Pacific shoreline. While it may lack the varied topography of the Vista Vallarta courses it makes up for it with lagoons, lush vegetation and native wildlife. Its close location to town makes this a convenient and playable option for all. Vista Vallarta is home to two championship layouts: The Nicklaus Signature Course and the Tom Weiskopf golf course. Located in the Sierra Madre foothills just east of town, both of these designs feature dramatic rolling terrain and wonderful vistas throughout the round. The Weiskopf course is a bit tighter than the Nicklaus eighteen and is set in a denser more jungle like setting than the Nicklaus counterpart. It rolls over hills, through arroyos and along ridge tops that offer exciting elevation changes and plenty of challenges for golfers of all abilities. The Nicklaus course is a bit more forgiving from the tee but features more undulating greens that will surely test your short game. As with the Weiskopf course, rolling foothills of dense forest dominate the amazing vistas. To the north of town lies Neuvo (new) Vallarta with its array of all inclusive properties, shops, restaurants, and golf. This newer development is a self contained community about 25 minutes from town. It lies along the Pacific ocean and features the El Tigre and the Mayan Resorts Nuevo Vallarta courses. These courses will remind you of many layouts in southern Florida as they are more open, have less elevation changes but do feature plenty of watery challenges. Factor in the potential for wind and you will be faced with enough challenges to test any level of play. The Nickalus private course at the Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita is probably the tops in the area. The 25 mile drive from the international airport circles Banderas Bay and leaves you wondering where thus all leads to. The answer is a very private and magical destination with a hotel, spa and an amazing golf course set in a 1500 acre natural reserve. The Pacifico Golf Course features eight sea or bayside holes with white sand beaches, the Sierra Madre foothills and the occasional migrating whale thrown in to distract you. All in all, Puerto Vallarta is an amazing destination for sun, surf, and championship golf with enough variety to keep you coming back for years to come.
  5. Just north of Tucson, nestled against the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, awaits a wonderfully luxurious old school golf resort and spa – Loews Ventana Canyon. While not on the ocean like Pebble Beach, or nearly as large as the enormous Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, this resort's is a hidden gem. The terrain has the feel of Troon North in Scottsdale or the Vista Vallarta golf course in Puerto Vallarta. The resort itself may conjure up visions of classic American resorts such as the Arizona Biltmore, also up the road in Scottsdale. Don't be misled, this is a modern, up to date, “has it all resort”. By “old school” I simply nod to the architecture, beautiful grounds, not too big size (398 rooms), friendly staff, and excellent service. Swimming pools are large yet peaceful with no waterparks or man-made rivers in sight. Add on two Tom Fazio designed championship golf courses a tennis center, spa, excellent dining options and you have just begun to experience all there is to do here. Ventana Canyon is only a 30 minute drive from the Tucson airport but a world away as you climb north from the desert floor into the Catalina foothills. Ventana Canyon begins as the road is about to end at the base of the mountains. Loews at Ventana Canyon sits nearly camouflaged as you approach its commanding site high above the Tucson valley. The Golf The Loews Ventana Canyon resort shares the Mountain and Canyon golf courses with the private Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club. Play is alternated each day between the two courses. I highly recommend you play them both. The courses are blessed with a great site including elevation changes, arroyos, rock outcroppings, trees, cacti, lakes and myriads of other distractions and attractions. The Mountain Course has its famous Hole #3, a 105 yard Par 3, with a tee shot over a ravine to a green that looks to be no bigger than your average backyard swimming pool. My favorite might be the next hole, the Par 5 fourth. From the elevated hillside tee, a swooping dogleg left beckons. Desert and sand guard the corner. The second shot offers no breather as the fairway narrows and water now comes into play. This liquid disaster guards the entire right side all the way through the green. Great hole! The Canyon Course is equally challenging as it rolls around and through its many ravines, hillsides, cactus and undulating terrain. There are many fun holes and a really nice collection of 3 Pars. The Canyon Course culminates just below the resort lobby where an island green, complete with waterfall and even a few spectators, lays waiting at the end of this challenging Par 5 finishing hole. The extras Besides great golf, the resort has the intimate Lakeside Spa (with its own private pool and Jacuzzi), exercise classes, tennis center and a fitness path that meanders between the golf courses. The Flying V Bar and Grill is just one of the resorts dining options. It occupies the top floor of the spa building and offers amazing views of the 18th hole and the valley below. Dinner here is resort casual yet sophisticated and the guacamole made table side is amazing. Nearby hiking and biking trails are just the start to the myriad of outdoor activities in the area. Loews Ventana Canyon is just minutes from the excellent shopping, dining and entertainment found throughout this modern north side of Tucson. Be sure to visit Shlomo and Vito's New York Deli and Gavi's Italian restaurant. Tell them Gordy sent you. All in all this is one of my favorite spots for great golf, peace and quiet, as well as all the other amenities one might need for a great vacation.
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