Welcome to GOLF’s Travel Mailbag, a weekly, interactive GOLF.com series in which members of our staff field your course- and travel-related queries. This week, before we get to answering your questions, we’re providing somewhat of a table-setter for your golf year. To motivate you and your buddies, we asked nine staffers where they plan on taking golf trips in 2021. Here’s what they said. Have a question for a future mailbag? Tweet us at @golf_com.
Jessica Marksbury, multimedia editor: Here in Arizona, there are some awesome summertime deals at area resorts, and this July, I’m branching out to Tucson, which is less than two hours from my home in Phoenix. I have a boatload of unused Hilton points, so the plan is to stay at the El Conquistador Tucson, which, aside from a gorgeous setting in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains, looks like it has something for everyone: 45 holes of golf, five pools (including a 143-foot waterslide, yeah!) and plenty of opportunities for some scenic hiking.
Josh Berhow, managing editor: I, like many golf fans, have recently become smitten with Big Cedar Lodge. I’ve long known of the resort and had been somewhat familiar with its courses, but watching Tiger/Rory/JT/Rose in the Payne’s Valley Cup — the TV event that showcased Woods’ first public design, Payne’s Valley — really put the place on my radar. I don’t think I was alone. (That’s what you call good advertising!) Anyway, it’s a place my group can drive to and has five courses to pick from. There’s lots of other things to do there, too, although I’m guessing our schedule will be pretty packed with golf. A nice change-up is that two of the five courses are short courses — perfect for a group of friends looking for laidback rounds.
Tim Reilly, director of social: I’m in more golf-centric group texts than I can keep track of these days. It feels like ALL of my friends have the golf bug. The most common topic discussed is a 2021 trip, and the most common suggestion is Bandon Dunes. Not a day goes by where I don’t scroll through an eye-popping photo from Bandon on social media. Hell, each time someone from our staff returns from their Bandon trip, the first thing I do is ask a dozen questions. It feels like everyone at GOLF has gone aside from me. In that sense, I’ve already done all the research. I know the travel tips. I know where to stay. I know what courses to play on the same day, and which not to. Now it’s time to stop putting the trip off.
Sean Zak, senior editor: I’m most likely to take a similar trip to one I took in 2020: Da U.P.! Seriously, there is some extreme value for golf on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — Greywalls, Sweetgrass, Sage Run, Timberstone. You can find mid-week rounds at each of these courses for $100 or less, and they’re all great. There’s the quaint, lovely town of Marquette, the hoppin’ casino in Harris and one of the most beautiful lakeshore drives in the Midwest on Highway 35. It’ll be worth the trek!
James Colgan, assistant editor: Back when we were students at a certain frigid ACC school, my buddies and I grew an affinity for road-tripping to the greener (read: warmer) pastures of North Carolina. The state is beautiful, cheap and fun, particularly for a group of young bachelors. This year, we’re running it back and heading to the home of (American) golf, Pinehurst, for the buddies’ weekend of a lifetime. In between the bars, restaurants, award-winning short courses and major championship venues, we’re taking the short trek up the road to Raleigh to see our alma mater take on NC State. To answer your next two questions: yes, you can squeeze a football game into a golf weekend, and yes, we will be wearing that immutable orange with reckless abandon.
Alan Bastable, executive editor: After months of hibernation, I’m aching for an adventure — read: Ireland or Scotland. Feels like a lonnnng shot in 2021 with quarantines still in place, but a golfer can dream! For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll go with a quick jaunt to Southwest Ireland, which, with some careful planning, can be done in five days. Ballybunion Old has long been on my short list, so we’ll start there, then head south to Tralee before closing out the trip with a doubleheader at Waterville and its exciting new neighbor, Hogs Head (and not just because it has what might be the best logo in golf). If I’m bound to domestic travel, I’m keen to pay my first visit to Streamsong. The whole place — 54 holes strong! — looks like a blast, and I love the idea of a shortish flight and shortish drive to get to relative golfing remoteness.
Ashley Mayo, editorial director: I know I likely won’t be able to take this trip in 2021, but I can certainly start planning for it. A golf-filled weekend in Iceland has been on my bucket list for years, and I’m finally going to start mapping out logistics and building an itinerary. The majority of courses are located in the southwest corner of the country, making it easy to experience them in just a matter of days. I know I’ll want to build my trip around Reykjavik Golf Club, which, from what I’ve seen in photos and videos, is a true stunner. And if my trip has me landing in Iceland on a Thursday morning and departing on a Sunday night, I’ll want to play at least seven rounds of golf, considering you can tee it up there around the clock during the summer. Planning for a trip is almost as fun as taking it, and I’m going to savor every moment of planning my Iceland golf adventure.
Emily Haas, project analyst: My best friend and former teammate is in her first year of residency at Penn State Hershey, which doesn’t allow her much time to take a vacation. So, this year, I’m planning on taking the vacation to her! Back in the day, we used to play our conference championship at Hershey Country Club’s East Course — one of my all-time favorite tracks. (Being the chocolate enthusiast that I am, it’s really no surprise.) A weekend stay at The Hotel Hershey gets us access to both the East and West courses and the esteemed Chocolate Spa (sold!) for a long-overdue weekend of relaxation and nostalgia.
Nick Piastowski, senior editor: Vegas. Vegas! There are courses no matter the roller you are, and desert golf is a breed unto itself. Among my favorite courses in the area are Revere Golf Club, Paiute Golf Resort, Rhodes Ranch and Aliante Golf Club, where we once played with a man who hit every shot from 100 yards in with one arm and never — never — dropped his cigar throughout the round. On the high end, I’ve been lucky enough, no pun intended, to play Shadow Creek and Cascata, where our forecaddie told us he once saw Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge hit one 450-plus. And, oh yeah, there are casinos and pools and shows and restaurants and bars. (Although, a trip to In-N-Out Burger after a round is fun, too.)
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