Isleworth Golf & Country Club – Windermere, FL

#22 Best Golf Courses in Florida 2019-2020 – Golf Digest

Golf at Isleworth is something out of this world… in fact it is a world in and of itself once you get beyond the gates.  I found myself in Orlando for a family spring break in March of 2019.  A few weeks before we left for Florida, a friend of mine who is a member at Isleworth invited me to play in his Stag event which happened to be on the Thursday that I was going to be in town.  I gave my wife the quick sales pitch which involved rambling about Tiger Woods, Shaquille O’Neal, and the fact that you don’t turn down an invite to Isleworth, she was nice enough to let me sneak away and play.  Thanks Steph!

Security is very tight at Isleworth.  My information was given to the gate attendant in advance, who checked my ID to make sure it matched with the info they had.  I don’t know why, but I was nervous when I passed through those gates!  I arrived around lunchtime and promptly met my friend on the practice putting green.  I didn’t even see him at first because I was staring at the bull statue and taking in everything around me.

We grabbed a quick lunch in the clubhouse which reminded me of a European castle.  The food was some of the best I’ve had at lunch event at a club.  After lunch, my host asked if I wanted to “take a tour of the neighborhood” which I of course couldn’t wait to do!  I had been wanting to see Tiger’s old house, so we headed that way in a golf cart.  Tiger didn’t live “on” the golf course my host informed me, rather he was down the street right across from the practice facility.  He preferred to be close to the range so he could walk out, hit balls, and return home.  I was expecting to see some huge epic mansion, but really it was a pretty modest looking home.  Now granted it was definitely a multi-million dollar pad, but it wasn’t as loud or over the top as most of the homes in the neighborhood, or even the ones that were under construction.

We were to tee off at 1PM and after a solid range session I was ready.  The group behind us were standing on the tee as we got started, one of them donning his Pine Valley gear.  I had the jitters.  Somehow though, I channeled my inner “Tiger” and hit a straight bomb down the middle of the fairway… which invoked immediate heckling from the group behind us.  That felt pretty good.  I hit my approach shot into the green side bunker, and couldn’t get up and down, I walked away with a bogey but was still jacked from the tee-shot.

We rounded the corner towards the next hole and my host promptly exclaimed, “Welcome to one of the hardest par 3’s in America”.  He wasn’t kidding.  We weren’t playing the Tiger tees, but were at the next set back, the Palmer tees (just over 7000 yards). This hole played just over 200 yards, and as you can see below there is little to no room for error. I struggled on this hole but damn was it a fun one.

We settled into the stag event nicely and really enjoyed ourselves as we made our way around the course. The golf course has a fantastic layout, and its history as an old orange grove was fascinating. The course sits on about 600 acres of land that is interweaved throughout a chain of lakes. Designed by Arnold Palmer, frequented by Tiger Woods and too many other PGA and LPGA tour players to name, it just felt special to be playing the golf course, and it was.

Isleworth was immaculately groomed, and the conditions were flawless.  Think about the conditions of your home course when they have it dialed up for the Club Championship or the Member-Guest.  Think about how good the greens are.  Now imagine all of that on steroids and you might get close to what Isleworth is like (and I was just there on a random Thursday in March)!   The greens were very fast, but fair.  I really enjoyed hitting off of the Bermuda fairways.  This course is such a treat to play.

The par 3’s were long, the par 5’s were longer.  This course can definitely accommodate the big bombers of the PGA Tour.  Getting off of the tee with a good drive was critical playing from the Palmer tees, otherwise you’d have a ridiculously long iron into a basic par 4.  It was so fun.

Interesting note: I mentioned that golf at Isleworth is out of the world. I have a funny memory from playing that day.  We were heading down the fairway on one of the back nine holes, and laying there smack dab in the middle of the fairway was a fish.  There was no water close by.  Just a fish laying in the middle of the fairway.  We had a chuckle and headed towards the green.  After putting out, my host and I were walking off the green towards our cart and there laying on the ground is a crisp one-hundred dollar bill. I look at my buddy and say, “Where the hell am I?  You guys have fish and hundreds just laying around on the golf course?”… he looks at me, laughs and says “Welcome to Isleworth”.  I politely let him grab the C-note!  🙂

What was especially fun was hearing about how the PGA Tour Pros approach playing the different holes.  To see where they aim off the tee boxes, where they typically carry their drivers to from the Tiger tees, it’s insanity.  The layout of the golf course is really spectacular, Palmer did a great job with the routing and the green complexes were perfection.

This was a day that I did not want to end.  18 holes went way too fast.  Fortunately enough for me, my host invited me back anytime.  Our next family trip to Orlando is already booked, and you can guess where I’m going to tee it up.  Can’t wait!


Grayhawk Golf Club (Raptor) – Scottsdale, AZ

I played at Grayhawk while in town for the Phoenix Open in 2018. This was our first round on the books after a long flight in from Michigan. We were due to tee off right around 2pm, and made it to the golf course with about 20 minutes to spare. After hitting a few shags on the range, we made our way to the first tee.

At the time I stood on the first tee, Golf Digest had the Raptor Course ranked in the top 25 courses in the state. At the time I’m writing this, it is no longer on the top 25 list.

Overall, I wish my experience had been a better one. The course was PACKED and pace of play was a major issue. We were making the turn at just shy of 3 hours, and waiting on every shot. After paying over $250 for this round, we were all pretty hot that they jammed that many people on the course and weren’t moving them along well enough. The 10th hole had guys on the tee-box, in the fairway, and on the green, with no sign of us teeing off for the next 30 minutes at least. The pro shop could’ve cared less. Not kidding. In fact, their response was “That’s what it’s like during Phoenix Open week”. What a crock of shit. Well if they are going to take over $1000 per foursome for the round, you should be warned, plan on a 6+ hour round. I played Troon North the next morning and that pace of play was fine. Sadly, it’s my opinion that Grayhawk used the Phoenix Open as a money grab and put way too many people on the golf course. They recommended that we sneak off the back nine of the Talon course, which none of us wanted to do. We were there to play the Raptor. Nonetheless, it was our only option to get in as many holes before we ran out of daylight, which we did.

The first 9 holes were decent. The front 9 on the Raptor is typical desert golf. Strategic bunkering and length were common, and most of the greens were elevated or crowned, and sloped back to front. It was really hard to get into a rhythm playing in 3 hours time. We were all frustrated and tired (from getting on a 6am ET flight). As you would imagine, the course was pretty beat up from having so much play. I can’t fault the golf course itself for my bad experience. The layout was nice and I think it would’ve been fun to play on a normal day. Simply put, the staff and operations ruined the day.

We played about 5 or 6 holes on the backside of the Talon course before we ran out of daylight. $250 down the drain.

Unless somebody else is footing the bill, I probably won’t be back. Sorry Fazio!

Medinah Country Club (#3) – Medinah, IL

#3 Best Golf Courses in Illinois 2017-2018 – Golf Digest

Host of 3 Western Opens, 3 U.S Opens, 2 PGA Championships, the 2012 Ryder Cup, and the 2019 BMW Championship.

I woke up at 5:00AM the day I was going to tee it at Medinah (with a 2:00PM tee time). To say I was excited was an understatement. My excitement for Medinah started a couple months before I played, when the tee-time got lined up with a very gracious member of whom I was introduced. As you can imagine, I spent too much time researching the holes of the #3 course, and watching replay footage of some of the famous shots to take place on the golf course.  I couldn’t wait to tee it on the Rees Jones redesign of the Tom Bendelow original #3 course.  On top of it all, a good buddy of mine who happens to be my annual Member-Guest partner was able to make the trip with me, it was going to be a good day.

The day started out with a stop at the casino in New Buffalo, MI, the Four Winds. My buddy and I met at the bar to have a “cran” (slang for Tito’s and cranberry) and start talking about the day ahead. We were way ahead of schedule so killing a little time at the bar couldn’t hurt. Luck was on our side that day, as my friend inserted a $10 into the video poker machine at the bar and hit for $130 on his first $.50 cent bet… he happily paid for my drinks.

We arrived at Medinah just before 1:00PM. What had been a beautiful sunny day thus far had turned dark very quick. As soon as we hopped off the highway and as we were pulling into the country club, the sky went very dark and it looked as if the heavens were about to open up. The forecast now showed a 100% chance of rain, the question was “how long” was it going to last. Neither of us packed any rain gear as the forecast showed NO rain whatsoever, so we were going to tough this out!

We arrived and were greeted by the valet attendant who ushered us to the men’s locker room. I’ve never stepped inside any locker room that had more buzz than that of Medinah. This place was nuts. First of all it is HUGE. It’s a massive locker room with hundreds upon hundreds of lockers, common areas, shower/steam facilities, etc. I spotted probably a half dozen attendants on staff.  We were greeted by Eladio, our locker room attendant, who promptly had two fresh “crans” in our hands. Our guest lockers were donned with banners welcoming us.

We sat in the lounge adjacent to the locker room and enjoyed lunch as our member arrived. They had a pretty decent spread available! Although the taco bar looked amazing, it was recommended that we try the burger, which didn’t disappoint.

After lacing up, we made our way to the practice facility to hit some balls. That’s when the rain started. It wasn’t much, maybe a light drizzle at most. We were determined to get this round in however. No turning back.

We teed off on the first hole, a straight away par 4, and I was thrilled to put one down the fairway and in play with my opening drive. What I did with it after that however was disappointing, and I walked away with a bogey on the first.

The second hole is the first of many iconic par 3’s that are hit over the lake at Medinah.  It’s an all carry shot, about 172 from the silver tees typically into the wind.  I was happy to make it over safely.  After the benign first hole, the second introduces you to the length and challenge that is Medinah #3, and it is awesome.

We made it through 7 holes when the rain started pouring and the horn blew shortly thereafter.  The sky was black, it was coming down in sheets and the storm looked pretty intense.  We ended up hanging out in the memorable halfway house with a ton of other golfers, watching it pour outside.  I will say that the snacks in there were awesome, especially the cracker station where you can make mini PB&J sandwiches on a cracker.

About an hour and a half later, the place was pretty cleared out as many went home because the forecast was so bad.  We were just waiting for the bad news that we wouldn’t be able to go back out.  Finally, we were told that we could proceed on foot if we wanted to finish.  No question.  We started with carts, and finished with a caddy, the way golf should be played!  It was still raining pretty good but WE WERE AT MEDINAH!  On we went.

#13 is the next par 3 that really stands out, as you play back across the lake again.  I really thought the bunkering was exceptional at Medinah, especially on the par 3’s.

The par 3’s really stand out at Medinah, and they are so fun to play, but my favorite and most memorable hole is actually number #15 par 4 with a challenging collection area that funnels down from the right side of the green to the water.  You will see how close this comes into play with where the pin was the day that we played.

#17 was another fun par 3 to play, with of course another all-water carry to a bunkered green.  This in my opinion was the easiest of the “water” par 3’s.  It was sad to walk off of this green, because we knew the round was nearly over.

We finished up the day, tipped our caddy, and went to the pro shop to buy some memorabilia.  Unfortunately, because of our late start and long delay, it was already closed so we went empty handed.  I may have made up for it by grabbing a handful of matchbooks in the locker room before we departed.

The night was capped off with my good friend eating bone-in filets at Gibson’s and drinking a great bottle of Cabernet.  I can’t wait for my invite back, the idea of playing Medinah #3 on a sunny day is at the top of my list!

Tullymore Golf Course – Stanwood, MI

#12 The Best Golf Courses in Michigan – Golf Digest – 2017-2018

No. 1 New Upscale Public Golf Course – Golf Digest – 2002

Top 15 Public and Resort Courses in America – Golf Digest – 2007-2008

Top 100 Greatest Golf Courses in America – Golf Digest – 2007-2008

Five Star Rating – Golf Digest – 2008

Although only less than 40 minutes from my driveway, public, and easily accessible, somehow I had never played Tullymore!  That had to change right away, so on a sunny Friday morning in May, a couple of buddies and I made the short drive north to check it out.

Tullymore is a young course, having only been open since 2002.  It was designed by Jim Engh, and gained accolades as the number one new upscale public course in America by Golf Digest.  Simply put, this golf course was a TON of fun to play.

The layout is pretty solid.  Most of the par 5’s are long, and the par 3’s are memorable.  The bunkering is very strategic, and the green complexes are better than what you would think at a resort course.

The 9th hole features a bunker called “Patricks Purgatory” which I chuckled about quite a bit because two of my buddies spent a considerable amount of time in this bunker.  As they say, it looks like heaven but is hell to get out of.

The par 5 18th was probably my favorite hole, bringing water into play off of the tee and on the second shot if you want to go for the green in two.  The hole wraps around a large lake on the left hand side, and presents an awesome risk reward scenario for the finishing hole.

I’d love to play this course again, and will.  I learned something about every hole after playing it, that will make the round more enjoyable next time.  At the end of the day, the course was in great condition, greens were rolling nicely, the layout was entertaining, the weather perfect, and the company even better.  It was a great day!


Golf Club at Dove Mountain – Marana, AZ

#24 Best Golf Courses in Arizona 2017-2018 – Golf Digest

I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Marana, AZ (just northwest of Tucson) this past January, and while on a business trip was lucky to be able to sneak in 36 holes at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain. If you haven’t been to Dove Mountain, it’s a great spot to visit. I stayed at the Ritz Carlton there, and the property is absolutely gorgeous. Set up outside of town up into the mountains, the views are amazing, and the landscape is stunning. Mountains, cactus, and wildlife surrounds a luxury resort which is flanked by a pretty darn good golf course.

Let’s start with my only frustration to get it out of the way: The greens were ridiculous. I cannot tell you how many times I hit a good drive into the fairway only to see the pin placement and think to myself “How the hell am I going to make par from here?” To make matters even more difficult, the greens have many different undulations and challenges, but the surrounding landscape of mountains and hills creates a “mountain effect” that none of us in the group could ever figure out. When you are surrounded by mountains, which mountain pulls the ball in its direction? That was the question we asked ourselves for two straight days on the golf course. Couple that with the extreme quickness of the greens and some difficult (almost humorous) pin placements, it was a tough day with the putter (and the short game for that matter). It was hard to get too frustrated though, because you are constantly surrounded by an extremely amazing landscape, with some breathtaking views.

A Jack Nicklaus design, the Golf Club at Dove Mountain has 27 holes to choose from, and I was lucky enough to play all three nines during my stay. This was my first round of the year, and really the first round since October because I had been dealing with Michigan weather. I had some major winter rust but was getting off of the tee surprisingly well which kept me alive. Desert golf is unique because you really cannot spray it around off of the tee and salvage any kind of a round. When the ball goes into the desert, you are lucky to find it and even more lucky if you can hit it out of wherever it went… very different from hitting it out of the trees in Michigan. More reasons why I was happy to keep the ball in play off the tee at Dove Mountain.

The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is a freaking long golf course. Playing at 7240 yards from the tips, when it hosted the WGC Accenture Match Play, it was one of the longest on the tour.  I played the Copper tees at 6811 yards on the Saguaro/Tortolita.  The next day I played Tortolita/Wild Burro at 6753 yards (7250 from the tips).  I managed only 1 birdie in 36 holes, so you can imagine the sight of my scorecard.  I was able to make a birdie on the Wild Burro #8 which was a par 3 playing at 161 yards.

After playing the first day, I was dumbfounded by the greens, and how difficult they were.  It seemed the greenskeeper was picking the most unbelievable spots to place the flagstick.  After doing some research on the course that night, I found that many on the PGA Tour felt the same way and so many were disgruntled by the greens at the course that they switched the WGC Accenture Match Play to another venue.  That was relieving to see that it wasn’t just me!  Don’t get me wrong, the course is really well laid out, I just think the greenskeeper could’ve given us a break with some of those pins!

All in all, it was a great couple of days.  The course was in fabulous condition, the views were unreal, and the company was great.

Troon North Golf Club (Monument) – Scottsdale, AZ

#25 Best Golf Courses in Arizona 2017-2018 – Golf Digest

Golf Channel’s “Top 10 Arizona Resort Courses”, #1 – Troon North Golf Club

Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play” for 2014 – Arizona:

  • #1 – Troon North Pinnacle Course
  • #4 – Troon North Monument Course

Sitting just North of Scottsdale in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, lies Troon North.  Troon North is carved out of the natural ravines of the Sonoran desert and definitely captures the beauty of desert golf.

This was day 2 of a buddies golf trip.  We were very excited to check out Troon North for the first time.  We visited in January of 2018, and were attending the Waste Management Phoenix Open the next day.  We had a morning tee-time, and arrived early to warm up.  The weather was looking perfect for the day.  It was a cool desert morning, but we knew it would be in the high 70’s later in the day – perfect for us being in town from Michigan.

Designed by Tom Weiskopf in 1990 and re-routed in 2007, Troon North stretches out to 7039 from the tips.  The golf course is surrounded by granite boulders, multi-million dollar real estate, and gorgeous desert views.  The first thing I noticed was the condition.  This place was in good shape.  The fairways were impeccable.   The bent-grass greens were absolutely flawless.  It was apparent how much attention to care and detail went into keeping this course in great shape.  It didn’t “feel” like a public golf course, the condition reminded me of a private club.

We were enjoying a great morning on the golf course while partaking in quite a competitive 2-man best ball match.  Pace of play was great, and we rarely saw anybody else in front of us… again it felt like we were at a private club.  And this was the Thursday of the Phoenix Open week.  I know the tee sheet was full, so that speaks to the quality golf operation they run.

The layout is fun, as there are some unique holes that stand out.  The par-5 third hole displays a large “monument” boulder in the middle of the fairway.  Target golf is definitely the play here, as the desert is very unforgiving if you stray from the routing.  There are two drive-able par-4’s that were memorable, as our group definitely ripped Driver and played aggressively.  The greens rolled very true, quick but fair.  I was blown away by the condition, it really was stunning.

I will definitely return to Troon North to play the Monument again.  They also have another 18 holes on property (Pinnacle) that I’d love to check out.  Traveler tip: Stay at the Four Seasons Resort (Scottsdale at Troon North).  You will find yourself no more than a few hundred yards from the entrance to the golf course, and the resort is amazing.  I’ve stayed twice and will definitely return again!





Kingsley Club – Kingsley, MI

#4 Best Golf Courses in Michigan 2017-2018 – Golf Digest
#18 Best Modern Course – Golfweek
#133 America’s Second 100 Greatest Courses
Top 20 Best Damn Club’s Around – Golf Digest

I could play Kingsley Club every single day and it would never get old.

I didn’t sleep well the night before Kingsley, I was so excited to play the golf course and see what all the buzz was about.  For weeks I spent ample time reading about the holes in advance and plotting out my commute about 2 hours north to the club.  I woke up plenty early as if it were Christmas morning.  We planned on teeing it at 1PM at Kingsley, so I was going to arrive around noon.  I left with plenty of time to spare and took my time driving north.  I spent the majority of my drive listening to my audiobook of Zen Golf, hydrating (it was upper 80 degree temps), and visualizing my drive on the first hole that I’d seen pictures of and heard about from my buddies that have played.  I was jacked to say the least.

Finding the course is exactly how it is described by those that have played, it’s in the middle of nowhere.  Yes, at one point I did question whether or not the dirt road I was heading down was the right direction but I trusted my map and then there she was; The lone sign pointing me towards Kingsley.  It was going to be a good damn day.

My host was running just a little late becuase he ended up playing Crystal Downs that morning with none other than Mike DeVries, who is the architect of Kingsley Club.  Our brief delay allowed me plenty of time to hit some shags on the range and roll some putts.  I was taking it all in.  And yes I did have a Jameson and soda to calm my nerves.

The Kingsley Club is pure golf in it’s truest sense.  Their motto, “In the Spirit of the Game” rings true in just about every aspect of the golf experience.  Let’s start with the clubhouse.  It was made for golfers, not country clubbers, which being a member of a country club myself I can appreciate.  This is a place to escape to so that you can focus on golf alone.  You won’t find a ballroom.  You won’t find a tennis court or pool.  You’ll find a trailer.  As you walk up the steps you find a stash of sunscreen and bug sprays on the porch, and you enter to find the small but adequate pro shop (which would make up the living room of the trailer).  Just past the counter is a trailers kitchen to the left and to the right of that is a living room with a sofa and the golf channel on TV.  The one bathroom of the doublewide serves as the clubs main facility and the two bedrooms of the trailer are offices for the staff.  Taped up on the walls in the main room are plans for a simple but impressive clubhouse that they plan to break ground on in the Fall of 2017, according to my host.

The kitchen is small, but don’t let that fool you, the food that the chef pumps out of that area is nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced from a club before.  I’ll tell you about that in a bit.

When you walk out the clubhouse around the putting green and get your first glimpse of the golf course it is stunning.  Kingsley Club is cut out of some absolutely gorgeous wooded and hilly property just south of Traverse City, in Northern Michigan.  Although I’ve never played links golf in the British Isles, Kingsley Club is said to represent the same challenges as those tracks.  The fescue fairways are something I’ve never played on before, and was a very unique experience.  It is said that only three highly regarded courses in America (including Kingsley) feature fescue fairways.  The bent grass greens are quick yet true.  I believe they were rolling to about a 10 or 11 when we played.  The routing of Kingsley through the rolling hills of the “middle of nowhere” location is stunning.  You get to play a links-design course in the most remote and rugged location that you wouldn’t think possible.  It’s obvious that DeVries didn’t have to move much dirt in designing the golf course as the track is geniously layed out through the natural terrain.  The bunkering is natural and beautiful.  The trees don’t really come into play except for on borders of a few holes.  What is really cool is that Kingsley is routed somewhat like a maze on some of the holes, so you can strategically check pin placements of many holes before you play them.  What you will find out is most people haven’t heard about Kingsley.  It’s kind of a best kept secret, and I’m pretty sure they want to keep it that way.  I understand why.  This place is all about golf, and I freaking loved it.

When my host arrived we made our way to the first tee and I was ready to go.  I had ripped some drivers on the range and was puring my irons.  My host was playing at a +3 that day, and I was playing at a 10, so I defintely had some nervousness to play well so I didn’t slow him down.  The other two in our group, friends of my host, were from Grand Rapids, MI and Orlando, FL.  We played the Gold tees (tips) the entire time at Kingsley and on the first hole, a big drive is a welcomed accomplishment.

The first hole is a 571 yard par 5 that has an amazing view from the teebox.  There is a large mound of long fescue and bunkers in the middle of the fairway and you have the option of hitting to the split fairway on the right, or the left, or going big and hitting it over the mound.  With the way I was hitting it on the range there was no question, I was going over and that is just what I did.  I mashed a drive with a nice little baby draw right over the middle and was sitting about 5 yards from my host in position “A”, just in the left rough, as the ball rolled down and through the fairway.  I had’t been hitting my 3-metal very good so I didn’t go for the green in two (we were about 250 yards out), rather I grabbed a 5-iron and hit one up to about 60 yards in the center of the fairway facing the green.  So far, so good!  I had a half-gap wedge to hit the green in regulation, and the gap wedge was my money club.  I was going to hit down on it and create a litte juice so that it would stop beautifully on the green on the upper tier.  The first green is severely tiered, and the pin was up above.  The entire green slopes back to front.  I hit it well but just took a little too much divot, and the ball stopped right on the crest of the first hill and sucked back down to the bottom tier.  Now I had a challenging 2-putt for an opening par.  What do you think I did?  I underestimated Kingsley.  My first putt up the hill I didn’t hit hard enough, it made it to the crest and then started to roll back down to me.  Shit.  I had a longer putt than my first attempt.  I wasn’t going to leave that short.  I blew it up the hill to about 10 feet past the hole.   Missed that bogey coming back.  Yes, I FOUR-PUTTED the first green at Kingsley for double-bogey.  We all had some laughs becuase I literally don’t remember the last time in years that I had four putted anywhere, and I do it on the first hole at Kingsley.  Nice double bogey, jackass.  We were on to the second hole, and I needed to get my act together!

The second hole is a 155 yard par-3 with one of the most intimidating tee shots I’ve played on a par-3 before.  Imagine having to hit an all-carry shot to a two-tiered green with severe trouble on all sides (bunkers and overgrown fescue), and multiple spots to set up the tee boxes surrounding the hole.  Playing the tips we had a view that required an extremely accurate shot. It should be noted that we were elevated above most of the golf course so it is very beautiful at the same time.  You have to hit the green here, or you are screwed.  I walked away with double bogey.  This was when I started to realize I needed to pull myself together to survive the round.  Even though I told myself I didn’t care what number I posted that day, I certainly didn’t want to make my +3 cart partner watch some douche making double bogeys all day on his course.  I’m happy to say that things turned around, thank the Lord.

Amidst my awe of the golf course and my panicked efforts to focus on hitting better golf shots, I forgot to take many pictures of Kingsley, so that is why I have so few here.  When I go back I’ll be sure to make up for that.  I started scraping up some pars and was having a blast.  The golf course features hole after hole of true golf, and it was damn fun.  Every hole I found myself saying, “Wow how did he (Mike DeVries) have the vision to layout this hole here”?  Kingsley provides a golf nut like myself an amazing display of what good golf course architecture looks like, in it’s most classic form.  It is such a treat.

The ninth hole almost made some magic for our group.  Hole 9 is a 140 yard par-3 that looks back directly at the clubhouse.  I hit a beautifully pure shot and stuck it to about 3 feet to the kidney shaped green that is guarded by bunkers on the front.  I was feeling good now.  The next guy in our group steps up and sends one right at the stick, it lands just short right and starts rolling at the hole.  We all became quiet.  It rolled right to the cup and promptly hit the wooden flagstick and sat about an inch outside.  We all thought it was going to drop, but it didn’t.  It was an exciting moment to say the least.  Sadly, I missed an easy look at bird and walked away with par.  My putting really sucked at Kingsley.  I had a handful of good looks at bird all day and was left with tap-in pars, but I was having so much fun.

My host informed me that Kingsley is never busy, as a huge chunk of membership is national and play when visiting Northern Michigan.  I did a little research and the national membership is impressive to say the least, with members from places like Pine Valley, Cypress Point, and Crystal Downs just to name a few.  We never had a group in front or behind us the entire time playing Kingsley.  It was like we had the entire place to ourselves.

When we finally made it to 18, I got to experience a little Kingsley tradition.  18 is a 422 yard par-4 that is pretty straight away.  I learned however that you take two shots off the tee here, and they are both enjoyable.  The first is a big drive down the middle (which I happily accomplished) and the second is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey which is hidden in a mailbox in a rock wall if you know where to look!  Two days before I played Kingsley, Jimmy Walker of the PGA Tour played and tweeted a picture of himself taking a healthy pull from the Jameson Bottle.  I hit the same bottle with authority!

After we finished 18 we headed up to the clubhouse to sit down for a 5-course dinner that was out of this world.  Our host had the chef put together a dining experience that knocked our socks off.  Chef Ben informed me that his goal was to have the food reflect the same quality as the golf course, and he didn’t disappoint.  The first course was a pork dish of some sort, and it was awesome.  Then we moved on to a quinoa salad.  After that Chef Ben brought out the best duck that I had ever had.   We were all marveling at the tendernous and flavor.  After the duck we were stuffed.  The Chef asked how we wanted our filet mignon (main course) cooked and we started laughing.  None of us could comprehend eating any more.  There was no better option than to go play 3 holes and work up an appetite!  We hit the course again for some evening fun.  We returned to dinner and polished off our steak and all had to take our cherry cobbler to go in the golf cart as we wanted back out onto the course.  We played until we couldn’t see anymore, and it was a perfect summer night for golf.  We literally played 30 holes all the way up to 10:00PM, and I could’ve kept going for hours if we had more daylight!

We played the Par 71 tips from 6956 yards and I shot 88 on our first 18 holes.  I had a two-hour drive back down to Grand Rapids, MI in the dark, and I was thinking about Kingsley the entire time.  I cannot wait to go back.

Victoria National G.C. – Newburgh, IN

#42 America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses – Golf Digest 2017-2018
#1 The Best Golf Courses in Indiana – Golf Digest 2017-2018

Victoria National was the first bucket list course in Indiana that I played, and was a pretty special one coming in ranked as the #1 course in Indiana (both public and private) and being listed in the top 50 courses in America. There is a pretty neat pic of the mural in the locker room below.

My buddy Matt and I flew on a 6AM flight to Detroit and arrived in Evansville around 11:30AM.  Exhausted, we met up with our hosts (members at Victoria National) and discussed the day over some Chick-Fil-A.  We had a 2PM tee time and arrived at the course about an hour early to get warmed up.  It’s amazing what a few hours on planes and in airports can do to your body, evidenced by my first few swings on the driving range.

One of the first things to note:  When I think of “Indiana Golf”, what I picture is NOTHING like what Victoria National actually is.  Simply put, it is beautiful.  Rolling hills, winding rivers and creeks, elevation changes, natural rock walls, it’s truly amazing.  Victoria National is a Tom Fazio course carved out of an old strip mine.  I literally was in awe for the first 5 holes as I took in the landscape.  That and I was also in a state of utter shock as I had probably the worst 5-hole start in the history of golf.

Victoria National was easily the most challenging golf I’ve ever played.  We played in May, a little less than a month after the tour event took place.  The course conditions were insane.  Fazio really liked to create a lot of Risk/Reward type shots on the golf course, and I’m an aggressive player so I took just about all of them I could, and paid for it.

The second hole was where I took the first risk.  After coming off an opening bogey, I stepped up to a 323 yard par-4, slight dogleg left that literally follows the cliff line of a strip mine with a beautiful river below.  This hole was visually stunning.  The easy shot off the tee is an iron or hybrid out to a generous fairway.  The risky shot is to take an aggressive line over the water and follow the edge of the cliff down the left side to cut the corner and go for the green off the tee.  We had a little wind at the back so I went for it, and of course I pulled my drive into the shit.  Of course to make matters worse I took my drop and stuck an 8-iron to about 3 feet and of course what was next?  3-putts.  I kind of forgot how quick the greens were as I didn’t have to use my putter on the first hole.  I blew it by and missed the 8 footer coming back.  Nice double.  Thanks Victoria.

The rough was insane and literally was a penalty stroke in and of itself if you found it.  It was extremely dense and deep, and I couldn’t figure out any distances out of it.  To make it even tougher, that rough finds itself VERY close to the greens.  There really isn’t much of a collar, and with some of the tucked pins, it comes into play big time.  The greens were hard and fast.  They may have been the quickest I’ve played on.  I had a hard time holding greens.  I hit a lot of good golf shots into greens that just didn’t hold and ended up in the green side rough which was almost impossible to get up and down out of.  Getting up and down was very very tough.  I only managed to hit 9 fairways on the round, and 3 greens in regulation.  To say I was struggling to get up and down in those conditions would be an understatement.

The last 4 holes I had read quite a bit about, as they are well known to be an absolute bitch and some of the toughest finishing holes in Indiana.  I actually played them decent for as tough as the round was treating me.  On the par-5 530 yard #15 I hit the fairway and green in reg, and of course 3-jacked for bogey.  #16 was a 168 yard par 3, and a completely gorgeous hole. The pin was tucked right (pic below).  I hit an 8-iron right at the stick and it just couldn’t bite.  It found the green side rough and I walked away with bogey.

I hit the fairway on 17, but again missed the green in the rough and took a bogey there and then stepped up to #18.

The view from the tee box on #18 was absolutely gorgeous.  18 is a par 4 that doglegs to the right around a large mass of water.  It actually reminded me a bit of #18 at Bay Hill.  I took a pretty aggressive line and hit a big bomb that left me about 80 yards in the middle of the fairway.  Sitting there in the middle of the fairway, all of the couples eating dinner in the very nearby clubhouse were looking down on me.  I had to stick this next shot to impress them after the drive that I hit so perfect.  Chunk.  I came up short of the green about 10 yards and then of course couldn’t get up and down.  Nice bogey finish knucklehead.

On the day I shot my handicap on the number with 4 trout balls, 38 putts, 9 fairways, and 3 greens.  I was exhausted.

If you play Victoria National try and get hooked up to stay in the cottages (below) that overlook #18. We stayed in them and they are very nice and would make a great guys trip hangout. Not to mention sitting at the fire pit overlooking the course is a perfect way to end the day! I cannot wait to go back.

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge – Orlando, FL

Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge serves as my first course write-up, and is a fitting one!  To date, I would say this has been my most memorable golf experience.

I played Bay Hill on Tuesday May 2, 2017 with my father-in-law.  After doing some research on the club, I discovered that access to the golf course can be obtained by staying at the lodge.  That was a no-brainer!

The days leading up to Bay Hill were a rollercoaster of anxiety as I constantly tracked the weather forecast.  Storms were in sight.  The night before the round, I remember looking at my phone and seeing a 100% chance of storms starting at 7:00AM, lasting all day.  I crossed my fingers for good luck, said a prayer, and went to sleep.

The morning of Bay Hill when my alarm went off I immediately looked outside and checked the forecast.  It was not raining, and it showed only a 50% chance of storms closer to noon.  I cannot tell you how excited I was!

We arrived at Bay Hill an hour before our tee-time.  Driving in I had goosebumps knowing that these were fairly sacred grounds that the King himself frequented for many years.  After getting checked in and situated, I headed to the practice range.  I hit about a dozen 8-irons, and was absolutely puring them.  From there I started hitting 50 degree wedges and was feeling great.  We were hitting off of an artificial surface which I wasn’t too comfortable with at first, but got used to it eventually.  As I took a step back to take a breather I found myself looking at the end of the driving range where Mr. Palmer himself used to setup and hit balls.  It was surreal.  Just as I grabbed my driver I felt the first raindrop.

The rain arrived early, but it was just a light sprinkle.  It was the storm clouds looming in the distance that had me concerned.  I spent about 10 minutes on the practice green, to get a feel for the speed, and then I heard my name announced over the microphone that I was next on the tee.

As I approached the tee box, I was happy to meet our Forecaddie, Hector.  He was a great guy with a fun sense of humor.  He says to our group, “First hole, par four, easy hole”.  I stepped up to the tee box with a ton of confidence because I was ripping driver on the range.  I stuck my tee in the ground and placed a brand new ProV1X on top of it with the logo “Jack’s Dad” happily in view.  I looked up to the sky for a brief moment during my practice swings as a sign of respect to Arnold Palmer and said a quick prayer dedicating the first shot to my grandfather “Papa” who would’ve been thrilled to hear about this day.

I hit a big drive down the left side where some sparse trees come into play.  I wasn’t in the middle of the fairway but I was in decent shape.  Then the first horn blew.

After hitting our tee shots we were called off for thunder and lightning so we headed into the clubhouse to kill time.  The staff in the golf shop let us know that it could be noon before we got back out (our tee time was at 9:30AM).  Although bummed to be off the course so quick, my father-in-law and myself spent a lot of time walking through the Club & Lodge and taking in all of the history that covered the walls.

Arnold’s contributions to the game of golf couldn’t be summed up by what hung on the walls and remained in the clubhouse, but to say it was a special experience to walk the halls and take it all in would be an understatement.  I’m from Grand Rapids, Michigan, so to see this picture hanging was pretty neat!

The delay was shorter than expected and we were back on the course in about an hour.  I’m sure the pro shops at famous clubs love rain because we did spend a little extra money on logo merchandise!  We resumed play with our group and moved on.  I was just starting to get in a rhythm and then while on the 5th green, the horn blew again.  We returned to the clubhouse for round 2.  This round included a couple Kettle and Cran’s while we talked with other players that were anxiously awaiting their return to the round.  After about another hour, we headed back out to hole 6 to resume play.  Luckily this was the last delay we would have to experience.  After a few more holes we regained our rhythm and made the turn feeling excited and grateful to be on the golf course.

One of the things that stood out to me about Bay Hill is how “in play” the water can be  on some of its famous holes.  The design creates some definite “risk/reward” holes and I’m not going to lie, I lost 3 balls in the water that day.  Holes 3 and 6 are a lot of fun to play, but I was the victim of water on hole 3 after pulling my approach shot.  The water is just a couple of feet from the green, so playing to the center is critical.  We had a pin that was back left and I went for it aggressively and paid the price.

I’m proud to say that I made par on hole 6 (par 5).  That is a pretty intimidating and exciting tee shot to hit.  I blasted a drive down over the water and was the only one in our group to find the fairway.

The highlight of the day was on 18 when I made bogey.  Yes bogey.  Bear with me.  18 is a par 4 that many would recognize from pictures and TV.  It is a 461 yard par 4 with massive water along most of the right side of the hole.  The green wraps around the back end of the water, and depending on where the pin is, can create a pretty stressful “all carry” shot.  I hit a bad drive off the tee and left myself a long shot, all carry about 225 yards into the wind over the water.  I hit it short about 10 yards and dunked it.  I had to take a drop back about 150 yards out and hit my 8 iron to about 20 feet.  I had that putt for bogey.  The rest is history.  I hit the best putt of the day, with a perfect pace.  Thanks to the great read by Hector, it found the bottom of the cup for bogey.  We all celebrated greatly as nobody was making long putts that day.  The pictures below show the putt that my father in law caught on camera, right as I hit it and just before it was about to drop.  I love how you can see Hector starting to celebrate as the putt is ready to go in.

Hector’s sense of humor can be summed up in his statement after I dropped the putt: “Great Putt… Better Read!”

The day was made even better by driving back to our rental house in Orlando to see my 18-month old son and bring him his first Bay Hill sippy cup.  I traded my father-in-law for my wife and headed back to the Lodge for our evening stay.
Staying at Bay Hill Club & Lodge was just as great as golfing there.  The lodge is simple, humble, classic and refined all at the same time.  Hanging out at the club was amazing and the staff were very welcoming and accommodating.  Our room was very nice and it overlooked the practice green (picture below).

My wife and I enjoyed heading into the bar and grabbing some cocktails and walking the grounds.  The statue of Arnold Palmer that graces the first tee is a sight to be seen, and the atmosphere of this club in the evening is hard to put to words.

Our bartender was a nice lady who was just coming up on her 20th year with the club.  She told us stories of her interactions with Mr. Palmer over the years, and even served us some of his personal favorite drinks.  I was definitely caught off guard when she invited us to come back after dinner for a “hummer”.  A hummer was Arnold Palmer’s favorite night-cap drink, and basically tastes like a chocolate milk shake, but of course is loaded with Kettle One.  The bar is exactly what you would want a bar at a golf club to be like.; comfortable ambiance, welcoming leather chairs, and a warm fireplace.  

When we returned to our room I turned on the tv and set back to relax and fall asleep.  The “lodge channel” is set to play hours of different specials and documentary programs about Arnold Palmer.  I never had to even switch to the normal TV channels.  I passed out watching the story of Arnold’s life, and fell asleep a happy man.

I cannot wait to go back.



Golf Digest – The Best Golf Courses in Indiana (2015-2016)

Courses I’ve played are crossed off!  Links go to directly to blog posts!

  1. (1) Victoria National G.C., Newburgh †
  2. (2) Crooked Stick G.C., Carmel †
  3. (3) The Pete Dye Cse. at French Lick Resort (above), French Lick † √ ★
  4. (4) Sycamore Hills G.C., Fort Wayne Δ
  5. (5) Wolf Run G.C., Zionsville Δ
  6. (6) The Donald Ross Cse. at French Lick Resort, French Lick √ ★
  7. (12) South Bend C.C., South Bend
  8. (9) Brickyard Crossing G. Cse., Indianapolis ★
  9. (8) Rock Hollow G.C., Peru ★
  10. (7) Prairie View G.C., Carmel ★
  11. (-) Broadmoor C.C., Indianapolis
  12. (-) Birck Boilermaker G. Complex (Kampen), West Lafayette ★
  13. (13) The Sagamore Club, Noblesville
  14. (11) Woodland C.C., Carmel
  15. (14) The Fort G. Cse., Indianapolis ★


† 100 Greatest Golf Course

Second 100 Greatest

100 Greatest Public

Open to the public