It snows in Scotland? Nobody told me! Flying into Glasgow yesterday, I looked down on a rumpled, white blanket that could have been the Rockies. And when I collected my suitcase and four-club quiver at baggage claim, I noticed that there were no hulking golf-travel bags on the carrousel. Not many bags at all, for that matter. (Or travelers!) One young couple had skis. They were either just back from Switzerland or arriving from the Canary Islands and headed for the ski lifts at Carnoustie.
“Call Prestwick,” I told Gustov, my traveling secretary. “Cancel today’s round.”
I guess I should have talked to my old friend, Joe Passov, before signing up for my “Highlands and Islands Low-Season Golf Package.” “Travelin’ Joe,” as he is known to the readers of GOLF Magazine and Golf.com, is the world’s foremost authority on golf travel, having played, by his own count, 1,423 courses — only half of which are within twenty miles of his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. A true globetrotter, Joe knows Scotland and Ireland like the back of his hand. He would have warned me about the ice and slush surrounding the Glasgow Marriott.
Speaking of Joe, he penned a Golf.com column last week called “Travelin’ Joe’s Wish List: 10 Courses I Need to Play.” Number 1 on his list was Pete Dye’s “Teeth of the Dog” course at Casa de Campo — which I have not played, either — and Number 10 was Friar’s Head, a Crenshaw-Coore design in Baiting Hollow, N.Y., which I only mention because I love the sound of “Baiting Hollow.”
The surprising thing about Joe’s list? It includes two courses that I have played: Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., currently No. 14 in the Top 50, and Prairie Dunes Golf Club in Hutchinson, Ks., No. 6. Here’s Joe on Seminole:
Perhaps the finest routing Donald Ross ever did, this ultra-exclusive Palm Beach-area enclave also features one of the greatest clubhouses in golf. Hogan used to practice here every day for a month leading up to the Masters. I’d just like to do it once.
Ha, ha, Joe! I have done it … once!
Here’s his take on Prairie Dunes:
All that’s missing is an ocean at this linksy-looking layout in landlocked Kansas, which played host to the 2002 U.S. Women’s Open (Juli Inkster) and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open (Allen Doyle). I question if the wind and rough make it unplayable for 10-handicaps.
Having covered both those tournaments for Sports Illustrated (and currently playing to a 10 handicap), I can assure Joe that my favorite mid-continental course is more than kind to second-tier golfers, thanks to fast, flawless greens that practically funnel the ball into the hole. But he’s right about the absent ocean. And it’ll take another thousand years of climate change to fix that.
Anyway, since I can’t play golf this afternoon, I think I’ll sit down with a notepad and a bottle of Diet Irn-Bru and try to compile my own Top-10 list of courses that have eluded my grasp. I’ll post that list from the next stop on my winter golf itinerary: top-ranked Askernish.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Jonathan Byrd bagged his second consecutive PGA Tour win at last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, held on Maui’s Plantation Course at Kapalua, No. 34. The AP report of his win makes no mention of snow.