Luke has been the face of Network Ten’s golf coverage and hosted The Pro Shop a weekly golf show with former PGA Tour player Paul Gow. He freelances for the Golf Channel and PGA Tour Entertainment, and contributes to golf publications around the world.
Monterey Peninsula, California
It’s true, one of the great perks for a golf writer is getting privileged access to some of the best courses. I’ve had the pleasure of playing 72 of the world’s top 100; it really is bucket list stuff.
My favourite thus far is California’s Monterey Peninsula, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s home to the rich and famous (Clint Eastwood was once the mayor of the town of Carmel) but it also boasts some of the world’s best courses – Pebble Beach included.
There are about a dozen courses in the region and many, like Spy Glass Hill, Spanish Bay and Poppy Hills are public access, while Monterey Peninsula Country Club is private but has two great courses. However, Cypress Point Club is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown.
This Alister MacKenzie masterpiece sits on 17-Mile Drive (a scenic road that winds through the peninsula, hugging the Pacific coast) and is arguably the number one course on the planet. It’s such a secret society that even Greg Norman once struggled to get a game.
The day I played it, the flag above the clubhouse was at half-mast. Walking up to the 18th hole I asked my caddy “do you know who died?” He said, “I don’t, but someone will be happy.” With only 250 members, it’s one of the most exclusive clubs in golf… and it literally is a case of one in, one out.
A game at any of these courses is a treat, but if you ever get to play Cypress Point you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Wrapped around the 18th green, The Lodge has been welcoming guests since 1919. Most rooms have wood burning fires for cool California nights and views are over the course or the ocean. Rooms are priced from US$765 (about A$824) per night and suites from US$1,915 (about A$2,063) per night.
An award-winning freelance sports journalist from Sydney, Matt regularly contributes to local and international golf titles.
St Andrews, Scotland
It’s 4am and dawn’s first tendrils are revealing the curves, bumps and beauty of the Old Course, St Andrews. We’re overlooking the famous Road Hole (the 17th hole on the course) through a floor-to-ceiling window from the five-star Old Course Hotel. It’s one of the great views in golf. The promise of it…
We breakfast on black- and white-pudding and tasty haggis-looking stuff that is indeed haggis. There are pots of tea and smoky bacon and slabs of bread with butter.
On the first tee we’re shaking; it’s the Home of Golf, the most famous, best links in the world. The Road Hole is so famous passers-by (the Old Course is a public links) may nudge each other, Look – he’s playing the Road Hole. Let’s watch. And if you hit one close, they may applaud. Why? It’s the Road Hole! It’s the nose-less bit on The Sphinx. It’s the top brick in the Great Pyramid.
The course is a melange of gorse and dunes and rolling fairways with bumps and canals they call burns (and pronounce b’r’rrns), and fiendish, small-round pot-bunkers with steep, riveted faces. Salty rain can whip in on the wind. Your ball may bound through the undulations like a pinball across a frozen green sea. Populating the place are squinting old Scots, caddies with yarns and sage advice, and marshals who sit on stick-seats wearing Tam o’Shanters and smoking pipes and asking players to “hurry along, please”, rolling their Rs like boulders tumbling down a hill.
Afterwards you may drink a pint in The Jigger Inn; enjoy a delicious Cullen skink (a seafood chowder); explore the town, a charming old grey thatch of haunted houses and cinder blocks; and arrange to do it all again.
Old Course Hotel
The hotel overlooks the famed 17th Road Hole and the plush interiors have been designed by French architect Jacques Garcia. For non-golfers there’s the only Kohler Waters Spa outside the US on site. Rooms are priced from £325 (about A$588) per night and suites from £780 (about A$1,412) per night.
Documentary maker and writer Peter covers golf for Business Traveller and GQ, and also writes for Golf International, ABTA Golf and Arnold Palmer’s Guide to the Majors.
You gather the idea Mauritius was made first, and then heaven,” mused Mark Twain after his 1896 visit to this Indian Ocean gem. Having recently sampled the island’s spectacular golf offering, this writer is inclined to agree. St Andrews and Pebble have long been fixtures in the golfing firmament, but the game needs new stars, and Mauritius is one of the very brightest.
Part of the soigné Four Seasons resort, Ernie Els’ 2004 masterpiece Anahita is the jewel in the constellation. Built over a one-time sugar plantation on the island’s east coast, the challenging hole-routings move through exotic trees, around ancient stone walls and along the ocean’s edge, giving players excellent variety and magnificent views of the paradisiacal surroundings. Extensive practice facilities, attentive teaching staff and fine dining at Le Club bar and restaurant round out the outstanding package.
A few miles south, the impossibly beautiful if unfeasibly difficult Bernhard Langer-designed Le Touessrok weaves its magic over and around several small islets. On the same coastline, the two 18-holers at Belle Mare Plage regularly host professional tournaments. Further south, the more elevated Heritage Golf Club and lagoon-side Paradis Golf Club are both world-class, with the rocky Tamarina perfect for a quick tune-up.
Today’s itinerant golfers consider Mark Twain remarkably prescient.
Four Seasons Mauritius at Anahita
This sprawling resort has 123 villas dotted around islands and inlets. The design is tropical-modern with sleek metal, glass and wood, and all guests can play unlimited rounds of golf for free. Villas are priced from €830 (about A$1,195) per night and residence villas from €1,500 (about A$2,160) per night plus taxes.