PALM HARBOR, Fla., September 7, 2011—Traveling to the most noted golf courses in the world broadens players’ opportunities and experiences in the sport. Golf vacations give golfers the chance to create new relationships and to play on courses graced by the best golfers in the world. Comparing your performance on a hallmark course to, say, Tiger Woods is a once in a lifetime experience. No matter where you travel in this large world, golf can make it feel smaller.
I try to plan a golf getaway once a year. Being a golf instructor, I constantly meet golfers from different parts of the world who have traveled all over. I always ask the question: “If time and money weren’t an issue, where would you go based off where you’ve been?” The overwhelming response has been Australia, unless they have traveled to New Zealand, which takes top word-of-mouth honors.
So I put New Zealand on my 40th birthday bucket list. I was fortunate to put together a 13-day trip that visited eight golf courses including Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers, which hosted the Kiwi Challenge. Cape Kipnappers, rated by Golf Magazine in 2009 as the fourth greatest golf course in the world, still remains my favorite golf experience. The breathtaking course sits along the eastern coast of the north island of New Zealand. Golf holes are carved in and out of the cliffs overlooking Hawke’s Bay with plenty of wildlife and panoramic sights. The high winds coming off the coast make it challenging to clear natural ravines and hit the greens surrounded by bunkers on the edge of cliffs 140 meters from sea level.
While checking in at Cape Kidnappers, it turned out the head professional and I had mutual friends of 23 years, which is surprising when you are so far away from home. The course’s architect, Tom Doak, is also responsible for Sebonack in Southhampton, NY. Sebonack, which I also have on my golfing resume, was rated the Best Private Course in 2007 by Golf Digest and will host the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open.
When you play a golf course linked with a professional tournament, the experience is priceless. When I went to Kohler, Wisc., I played Whistling Straits prior to the recent PGA Championship. Having been in the bunkers that cost Dustin Johnson the tournament, I could relate to how difficult a challenge they really are. When in Ireland, I played the K Club, which hosted the Ryder Cup. I teed off from the same location that Thomas Bjorn managed to hit three tee shots in the water during the European Open before getting on the fairway and taking a score of 11. My caddy had me give it a try and I hit the fairway on the first attempt and managed a bogey.
Ireland defines golf and many golfers travel there on a yearly basis. Playing there has broadened my connections in the sport. While playing at Royal Dublin, I had a conversation on the course with Christy O’Connor—Ireland’s equivalent to the famous Arnold Palmer— without realizing it until the next day. My time in Ireland also gave me the opportunity to meet well known golfer Lynn McCool, a past touring professional who is the Director of Golf and Head Professional at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen. Lough Erne Resort, a Faldo design, was listed as Golf World’s Top 100 Courses in the UK and voted Golfweek’s seventh Best Modern Classic course in Great Britain and Ireland. It’s also represented by this year’s U.S. Open Champion tour player, Rory McIlroy.
Not only did my stumbled upon friendship with McCool give me the chance to play incredible golf courses in Ireland, but it also opened many wonderful business relationships in Europe and the US. All of this was created just by visiting a golf course during vacation.
Anytime you can plan a golf getaway to a new destination, your golf round will only be a small part of a big memory. The stories are endless and the experiences are priceless.
Dawn Mercer is the Director of Instruction at the Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort. Golf for Women magazine rated her a Top 50 Female Golf Instructor in 2001 and the Innisbrook golf school has been rated “Best in the South” and “Top 25 golf schools” by Golf Magazine and “Best Instruction” by Zagats. Follow Dawn on Twitter @DawnMercerGolf or email her at email@example.com. For an Irish experience contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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