Saturday, October 27, 2012

Green Springs Golf Course-St George, Utah

In my opinion, Green Springs Golf Course is the most challenging course in St George, Utah.  From the blues, it has one of the highest slope ratings in the state.  From the whites, it is still a challenge.  That said, it's a course I love to play.

What makes Green Springs challenging is its length, fairly narrow fairways and false fronts on many of the greens.  But it's fair.  I never get the feeling that the designer did something unnatural just to try to impress the golfer by its difficulty.  Rather, you just finish the course and look back on your score card and realize holes 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13 were really tough pars.  And 14 and 17 weren't easy either.  The par 5s on the course offer some risk reward and the opportunity to make up some shots.

Hole #6 at Green Springs has been ranked as the toughest hole in the state of Utah.  From the whites it's 230 yards to the end of the fairway with a 100 foot ravine all down the right side.  At the end of the fairway, the next shot is a 160 yard shot back across that ravine if the ball is ideally sitting at the end of the fairway and on the far right side, bringing the ravine in to play.  However, if your ball is sitting in the middle of the fairway or on the left half of the fairway, the approach shot can be 180 to 210 yards-all carry.  The green is wide, but only about 15 yards deep.  It really requires 2 perfect shots just to hit the green and a challenging putt.  Bottom line, it's a challenging par.  All this said, I have pared #6 a couple times.  I have only pared #11 once and for me, that is the toughest hole on the course.

Complaints:  The first is that the tee boxes aren't in the greatest condition.  The second is that the club house restaurant is somewhat limited.  That only matters because I love to re-round at Green Springs and take advantage of their all day rates.

Positives:  On the plus side, the greens are always in great condition.  The fairways are in good shape.  There are some beautiful views of Pine Valley Mountain on the front 9.  Green Springs usually offers great all day rates.  As an example, I just played during peak season and paid $82 for an all day rate.  Even with in October with limited daylight, we managed to get in 54 holes.  Also, I can usually make my way around the course at a pretty good speed with the highly popular nearby courses of Sand Hollow and Coral Canyon taking a lot of pressure off Green Springs.  It's a great course.

Hole #5 at Green Springs Golf Course

Hole #11 at Green Springs Golf Course

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sand Hollow Golf Course-St George, Utah

I just got back from my annual "mancation."  Usually I head out to on a golf trip with a couple buddies each year as the last hurrah for the golf season.  This year we went to St George, Utah to play some old favorites: Valderra Golf Club, Green Springs and Sand Hollow.

Sand Hollow is my all time favorite course played anywhere.  It has been awarded the best public course in Utah 2 years in a row.  It's just a few miles outside of St George and sits a top bluffs that offer amazing views of the surrounding red rocks, Pine Valley Mountain and even Zion National Park.

The lay-out of the course is deceptive.  With very open fairways and huge greens, it appears the course will be quite easy.  However, the undulation, wind and yardage can make this course quite difficult.  It is a course that the designer describes as "every hole is a very difficult birdie and fairly easy bogie."  Many of the par 4 holes are over 420 yards from the blues.  The wind tends to pick up every afternoon.  And there is no perfectly flat lie on any fairway or perfectly straight putt on any green.  The course designer did an amazing job of taking advantage of the natural landscape and it almost has a feel of little to no use of earth movers in creating this course.  It feels more like the course just laid down some grass and used every natural mound, elevation change and natural rock that were found.

The condition of Sand Hollow is perfect.  It may be the best manicured course I've ever played and that includes several that host PGA events.  Every tee box is perfectly flat, there are no pitch marks on the greens and fairways are perfectly mowed. 

The back 9 of the championship course is unlike anything I've ever played.  Several of the holes hug a cliff line to a valley a couple hundred feet below.  It is from these tee boxes that Zion can seen off in the distance.

If you're in St George area and a golfer, you have to play this course.  If you're in Vegas and a golfer, it's worth the day trip.
View from #1 Tee Box at Sand Hollow

Sand Hollow Cliff Side Hole

#17 at Sand Hollow Golf Course

Sand Hollow Golf Course

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blue Canyon Country Club-Phuket, Thailand

Any time I can play a course the pros play, I jump on it.  Blue Canyon Country Club in Phuket was one of the best golf experiences I've had.  It has been ranked as one of the top golf courses in all of Asia.  There are two 18-hole courses at Blue Canyon's 700+ acres, the world championship Canyon Course that has twice hosted the Johnnie Walker Classic Tournament and the Lakes Course, for the days you're more interested in an easy going round.  I chose the Canyon Course.

So Thai hospitality is legendary, but that hospitality is amplified by the caddies at Blue Canyon Country Club.  All caddies are female and wear jumper suits like the caddies for The Masters Tournament.  On the first hole, my caddie sat my bag down next to the green, scampered onto the green, marked my ball, washed it and set it down with the ball perfectly lined up.  She then stepped back and looked at me saying, "hit medium."  I put a medium stroke on the ball with my putter and sure enough watched it bend 6 feet from left to right and then drop in the hole from over 20 feet.

The service continued throughout the round.  There was one moment in particular that I found amazing.  Literally my brain had just fired the chemical synapses that I was thirsty when my caddy looked at me, handing me a water bottle and said, "you look thirsty sir."  It was a great afternoon spending my time with this lady who had caddied for golfers from around the world and took great care of me.  Her course knowledge was incredible and it took her about 2 holes to understand my abilities and limitations and make club and shot recommendations.

The course itself was challenging.  It was also very beautiful.  There were perfectly flat tee boxes that were surrounded by wild orchids.  There was a surprising amount of elevation change.  And at sea level and in that kind of humidity, it makes a 380 yard par 4 a challenge for an average golfer like myself.

The value to play a course of this level is amazing.  That is what makes Thailand the best vacation spot in the world, the service, the beauty and the value.
Awesome Thai Caddy at Blue Canyon Country Club

Hole #1 at Blue Canyon, makes you think it's going to be easy

Challenging Island hole on Blue Canyon Country Club

Perfectly manicured course of Blue Canyon Country Club

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Best and Worst Airlines We've Flown

There are many airlines we haven't flown with, so this is certainly an incomplete list.  Perhaps this isn't fair, but my opinion can't help but take into account the hub airport for some of these airlines as well.

#5 Worst: Southwest aka Southworst.  The cattle call thing sucks.  Who wants to make 4 mini flights to get to the other side of the country?  Rewards program...I'm not impressed.

#5 Best: Delta.  This was debatable because by putting Delta I had to leave off JetBlue.  I needed to include a domestic carrier and Delta is about as good as we have and the domestic airline our family typically uses.  Plus with their acquisition of Northwest, and partnerships of Korean and KLM, Asia and Europe are covered.  We use the Delta American Express card and have cashed in several thousand dollars of free tickets through the years.

#4 Worst: Skywest.  This is a personal beef-if you're not from Utah you won't understand.  Skywest operates the regional Canadian jets out of Salt Lake.  There terminal is in a basement and it seems that 1 in 3 passengers is a screaming baby.  That coupled with the constant barrage of the speakers practically begging passengers to sell their seats due to the massive overselling of flights leaves my head throbbing.

#4 Best: Hawaiian.  Maybe this has to do with the fact that if you're on a Hawaiian flight, chances are good you're going somewhere beautiful.  But I've also been impressed with the planes and service.

#3 Worst: American.  Total speculation, but if you hated the United States and wanted to target an airplane, wouldn't the plane called "American" be the one you go after?  I'm sure statistics don't back this up, but still a fear.  Plus, their planes suck.

#3 Best: SAS.  Scandinavian Airlines just has that Scandinavian sophistication.  Nice planes, delicious breakfasts of cheese, fresh fruit and yogurt, and great last minute deals.  Stockholm and Copenhagen have lovely airports that aren't super crowded.  We've also noticed that Stockholm is often the least expensive European city to fly in and out of.

#2 Worst: Malaysian.  The KL airport is beautiful, too bad their airline doesn't match.  Asia is famous for great airlines with totally modern airplanes along with great meals and service.  Perhaps that is why I judge Malaysian Airlines even harsher.  We had a flight cancelled-no notice.  They put us up in a hotel-cock roach infested.  Planes-crappy.

#2 Best: Emirates Airlines.  Everything from the UAE is supposed to be better right?  This was by far the most leg room we've ever enjoyed in economy.  The food was great.  They give great assistance to families traveling with kids.  The satellite TV had more channels than any flight I've ever been on.  I also liked the added touch of stars on the ceiling when they put the cabin lights out.

#1 Worst: Ryanair.  What a deal...not!  You want to fly from Paris?  Be prepared to pay for a shuttle bus to some airport 2 hours from Paris.  Got a good deal on the ticket?  Be prepared to pay big money for every ounce of weight on your luggage.  Tired after a long flight?  Be prepared to take a long shuttle from some ridiculous airport at your "city of arrival" to your actual city of arrival-which you pay for.

#1 Best: Korean Airlines.  Our overall best flight experience.  The planes are top notch.  The flight attendants are super attentive.  The food was excellent.  The Seoul Airport is very modern and nice and even has a few quiet play areas for families to rest and a place for arts and crafts.  Plus they tend to really take care of Skyteam travelers by opening up Frequent Flyer seats.

Honorable Mention: Bangkok Airlines.  This is the domestic airline of Thailand and affiliated with Thai Air.  The prices are amazing and meals are included on even the shortest of flights.  Plus the new Bangkok airport is impressive.

Most Overrated: Singapore Airlines.  I did say I was taking into account the airports and in Singapore Airline's case, their airport is a huge plus.  But the flight and leg room and customer attention, at least in economy, was not impressive.  In fact, we were disappointed because our expectations were so high.
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