Where you can train this winter
Golf’s Hottest Destination
The hottest golf destination in America right now is Bandon Dunes, home of three great courses with the most buddy-trip-friendly accommodations I’ve ever experienced. Bandon provides true links golf, with fairways full of quirky mounds and punitive bunkers, fescue rough giving way to ball-eating gorse, huge greens that reward creative approach shots and carefully-paced putts while heartlessly laughing at anything else. The dominant feature of play, though, is the Pacific wind. One day, we faced vicious 50-mile-per-hour gales, which is like hitting a nine iron while you’re standing in the back of a pickup truck zooming up the Hutch.
The jewel of the resort is Pacific Dunes, a spectacularly challenging, delightfully fun, and diabolically hazardous place to play the game. From the short (370-yard) first hole with a fairway landing area the size of a beach towel to the 591-yard massive-into-the-wind eighteenth, you face every challenge of golf. The namesake course, Bandon Dunes, features four breathtaking holes along the Pacific. Bandon Trails is the newest. It winds inland among towering spruces and picturesque madrones and manzanitas. Greens fees are $195 to play the first round of the day, $100 for the second, and no charge for a third—just in case you can’t get enough.
Courses are walking-only, but caddies ($55 per bag, plus a minimum $25 tip) are exceptionally well versed, and you’re assigned the same looper for your entire stay. Mine was 31-year veteran Ron Anderson, one of some 200 caddies recruited from courses in LA, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas.
Rooms are spacious but well short of luxurious. We stayed in a two-floor, four-bedroom suite with a great ocean view at $1,600 per night. Individual rooms start at $180. There are grills at all three clubhouses and a pub next door to the main lodge. The Gallery Restaurant offers unimaginative Pacific-fresh seafood and mediocre steaks. A better choice is Trail’s End, which serves Oriental-fusion cuisine at tables with great views of the Pacific sunset.
Stay in the Game—All Winter
Even when Westchester’s fairways are covered with snow, there are ways to hone your swing so you’re ready to beat your buddies’ brains in when the courses finally open in April.
“It’s important to keep using the same muscles you use playing golf,” says Rob Davis, head professional at Anglebrook Golf Club in Lincolndale. “Even if it’s just swinging a broom in the garage, use those golf muscles.” He also points out that there are a few indoor or heated driving ranges in the area (list follows) where you can groove your moves.
Where to Hone Your Game
Pelham/Split Rock Golf Course
Bronx, NY (718) 885-1258
Weekend Greens Fees: $47.50
Fairview Golf Center
Elmsford (914) 592-1666
Best deal: Early Bird Special before noon,
204 balls, $11; 36 heated, covered tees
Mount Vernon (914) 663-2323
Best deal: Unlimited balls for 1 hour, $18
24 tees inside a dome (before 3:30 pm only)
Yorktown Golf & Baseball Center
Mohegan Lake (914) 526-8337
Best deal: Early Bird Special before noon, 204 balls, $11; 18 heated, covered tees
GOLF TRAINING AT HOME
Golf conditioning specialist Peter Marino of Fitness 3 in Briarcliff will come to your home and help you stay in shape during the winter ($105/hour). “One of the best things any golfer can do is train with kettlebells, which are like iron cannon balls with handles,” Marino says. “You can also use specialized resistance tubing that has a golf club grip attached to it.”
Dave Donelson expects to spend the winter diligently working on his putting stroke in hopes of banishing the dreaded three-jack from his scorecard next year.