Saturday, March 12, 2011

LaCantera is primo place to stay

Just got back from one of my favorite places in the world to hang my hat and rest my weary body -- the incomparable Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio.

Despite the openings of other and bigger resorts in the San Antonio area, La Cantera remains pertinent because of the care taken at the property, the customer service and the continual feeling that you are top on the world -- which you really are since you are on the top of a hill in North SA.

Staying here never gets old, and the credit for that must go to Tony Cherone, La Cantera's general manager, and Greg Haugland, the resort's director of sales and marketing. Having Steve Shields of Troon Golf run the golf course operations at the resort is a huge plus as well.

These guys and their staff know how to book the right customers into the right rooms and stage the right events, three things that are crucial in today's hospitality market. La Cantera makes no pretense at being anything more than what it is -- a great place to stay, to eat, to relax and to play golf.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Golf business news in the Central Texas area

There has been plenty of things going on on the business side of golf in the Central Texas area the past few days.

Here's a few of the happenings:

1. The owner of the 1,618-acre Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay golf course and residential project filed for bankruptcy protection after its lender had moved to foreclose. The bankruptcy attorney for Skywater's owner said the filing would not alter plans for the development, including the completion of the almost-ready-to play Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. There's Jack on the right.

2. Williamson County developer Robert Wunsch has put more of his holdings into bankruptcy, including the Golf Club at Avery Ranch (below). The 18-hole public golf course, designed by former Nicklaus designer Andy Raugust, remains open. Wunsch's projects include the Avery Ranch residential community in Northwest Austin, Berry Creek in Georgetown and the Texas A&M Health Science Center in Round Rock.

3. Plum Creek Development Partners announced Wednesday the purchase of the Plum Creek Golf Course, which is located in the mixed-use, master-planned community of Plum Creek in Kyle.
The course was purchased from OneWest Bank in a foreclosure-related auction. The original owner of the course was Middleton Properties, Inc., a Missouri-based company. The 18-hole, approximately 200-acre Hill Country course has the distinction of having a layout where no two fairways touch. A new clubhouse, including a pro shop, locker rooms, a grill room and a banquet room accommodating up to 360 people, opened at the Plum Creek course in 2009. Golf course operations will continue under the management of General Manager David Curwen.

That's a lot of news for just a few days, but the good thing is that all three courses should survive.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I am back...the best places in stayed in 2010

During my extensive travels in 2010, I spent 94 nights in hotel and resort rooms, guest condos and private homes and ventured to far-flung locations such as Southern California, northern Michigan, South Padre Island, Texas, New York City and Fajardo, Puerto Rico. To those people I met on the road, I say thanks and much obliged for your patience, your efforts on my behalf and – especially – your fellowship.

As part of my year-end wrapup of golf destinations I penned for Cybergolf, I put together a list of the Best 10 Places I Stayed in 2010:

1. Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain, Marana, AZ –

How does everyone at the Ritz know your name? Top quality and off-the-charts service.

2. The Waldorf Astoria Boulders Resort, Scottsdale, AZ – My casita was built into the mountain among the resort’s namesake boulders.

3. JW Marriott Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV – Great spot away from the glitz of The Strip.

4. The Venetian Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, NV – You want glitz and the total Vegas experience? Stay here.

5. Hotel Roanoke, Roanoke, VA – Great historic hotel in a great historic town.

6. JW Marriott San Antonio, San Antonio, TX – As big as Texas and almost as spectacular.

7. Four Seasons Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ – Another great casita just steps from the gleaming pool, which calls to you after a round of play in the desert.

8. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale, AZ – Huge complex abuts the TPC Scottsdale Tournament course; just a walk around the property at night will take your breath away.

9. The Battle House, Mobile, AL – Another great historic hotel, this one downtown and just steps from Mobile Bay.

10. Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, FL – Grande dame of Southern golf resorts still has what it takes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Watching the Super Bowl in Louisiana...again

Having just spent the last three hours in a hotel room by myself watching the New Orleans Saints win Super Bowl 43 over the Indianapolis Colts, I was taken back to another NFL championship game some 19 years prior.

That game -- in which the New York Giants beat Buffalo for the title in 1991 -- was also viewed by yours truly alone in a hotel room, although the inn I stayed in back them can not be compared to the digs I am enjoying today.

Back in 1991, I was still in college at Texas State and -- as the sports editor for the University Star and a cub reporter -- covering a three-game basketball road trip to the Pelican State along with the Bobcats' men's basketball team. The road trip included a 20-point loss to Northeast Louisiana (now called Louisiana-Monroe)in Monroe, a 4-point victory over Northwestern State in Nachitoches and a 12-point win over Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond in the school's University Center (below).

I think I spent the night of Jan. 27 in a Best Western in Hammond, but I couldn't tell you for sure. This time around -- with a super room at the opulent L'Auberge du Lac casino resort (pictured below)in Lake Charles -- I will for sure remember where I was when the Saints came marching in with the Lombardi Trophy.

There was an aspect of the Saints' Super Bowl win that wasn't really talked about a lot: how the team came together in the preseason after owner Tom Benson flew the head coach Sean Payton and entire offensive unit and several other team members to Austin last summer for the memorial service for the mother of NO quarterback Drew Brees (below). Drew's mom, Mina, was ruled to have committed suicide with an overdose of prescription medications while visiting her older son Reid in Colorado. Having such team unity in such a time of hurt and crisis for Brees made a huge difference in the makeup of the team, and it showed in the final minutes of the Saints' victory.

Lot's of revelry here in SWLA -- I sure you could multiply that atmosphere by 1,000 and it still wouldn't be anywhere near the kind of party that's going on in NOLA right now.

I am here in this part of the world to play and write about two of the top-notch golf courses in the area -- the Contraband Bayou GC at the L'Auberge (above)and the new National Golf Club of Louisiana, just up the road a bit in Westlake.

Keep an eye out for my stories on these two courses on the Cybergolf website (

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

All things in SoCal were for the result of the BCS Championship Game

Just got back from Southern California, where -- in a matter of five very busy days (two that were essentially all travel) -- I played 72 holes of golf, enjoyed an afternoon of horse racing and covered the biggest college football game of the season.

By now you all know that Alabama beat Texas 37-21 in the BCS Championship game, contested at the Rose Bowl Stadium (above) Jan. 7 before a crowd of nearly 95,000 people. The game -- which had all the makings of a real classic -- was robbed of a bit of its luster when Longhorns' quarterback Colt McCoy (a Heisman Trophy finalist the past two season) hurt his throwing shoulder on a freak injury early on and was forced to watch from the sidelines. The Horns still put up quite a fight and -- behind the stellar second-half play of true freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert -- cut a huge Alabama lead to just three points with 3:17 to play but could not withstand the vaunted Tide defense at the end (below).

After covering the game I ventured north some 35 miles to the Comfort Suites in Stevenson Ranch, a hamlet just outside the town of Santa Clarita. In the morning I headed out to the nearby Robinson Ranch Golf Club (below), where I teed it up for 36 holes -- on two separate courses (the Valley and the Mountain) designed by Ted Robinson (who fashioned such tracks as Indian Wells Country Club in Southern California, Salhalee Country Club in Washington, the Experience at Koele on Lanai in Hawaii and Lakewood Oiso in Japan) and his son Ted Robinson, Jr. Great golf on a gorgeous track made for a memorable day; look for my travel feature about the courses this summer on the website.

On Jan. 9 I flew back to San Antonio and was struck dead in the face by the cold weather that has its clutch on the rest of the country. I am glad to be home but still dreaming of SoCal and remembering the great trip I had to the West Coast.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

SoCal is awesome in the winter

I have been in Southern California since Jan. 5 to cover the BCS National Championship Game for Horns Illustrated and to compile some info on a handful of golf courses for Cybergolf travel features that will run in the late spring. I have never spent a lot of time here -- after all the Austin area is really heaven, isn't it? -- but the past few days have been so fine they are like a dream.

I flew into Bob Hope Airport in Burbank (below), where it was sunny and 75 degrees. There I picked up my luggage at the only outside carousel I have ever seen. You actually went out of the airport to pick up your bags in a shaded area -- only in Cali I guess.

Then I made the hour drive across town on no less than six different freeways to Newport Beach to pick up my media credentials for the big game at the Marriott down there. The lobby and meeting areas (all of which had been taken over by the approximately 3,000 members of the media that are here covering the game) at the hotel was really nice, but the infrastructure of the guest rooms was a bit aged. I went up to my buddy Kevin Robbins's room to see his eighth-floor view of the next-door Newport Beach Country Club -- from the balcony you could see much of the pristine track as well as the ocean in the distance and the hundreds of million-dollar yachts in the bay in between. It is quite a sight.

I finally headed east to where I would spend the next two nights, at the posh and really cool Pacific Palms Resort in City of Industry. You can see the resort hotel on the top of the hill out there from miles away (above), and my room -- on the top floor overlooking the first, tenth and 18th holes of the Eisenhower Golf Course (below) at the affiliated Industry Hills Golf Club -- was a fine place to stay. Can't say enough great things about the resort, the room, the golf courses (there is a second track at Industry Hills as well, called the Zaharias Course, after Babe)and the friendliness of the people over there. Thanks for letting me stay and for all the hospitality.

I had a great Swedish massage at the resort's Spa that first afternoon, then ventured down the street for dinner at La Pollo Loco, a famous California chicken place. Both had me ready for the next few days activities, which included rounds of golf at both the Industry Hills courses and a glorious afternoon of horse racing at Santa Anita Park (below).

On Jan. 7 -- after a round of golf at The Babe -- I high-tailed it over from east of LA to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl for the BCS Championship Game, college football's version of the Super Bowl. This year the showdown is between Texas and Alabama. You'll know pretty soon about who won and captured the national title.

After the game I am heading north some 35 miles to Santa Clarita, where I will spend a few nights at the Comfort Suites and play golf at Robinson Ranch, a 36-hole facility in the valleys and mountains that surround the town. I will give you an update on that part of the trip on the way home.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Blog to chronicle travels to begin in Jan. 2010

Welcome to my new blog, which will chronicle the travels I have taken in the past few years and give my followers an idea of where to go to have fun and play golf around the good old US of A.

In the year that will end in just a few days, I have spent nearly 90 days (that's about three months) in hotel, motel, condo and resort rooms and stay-and-play homes while writing about golf course in locales as far flung as Sheridan, Wyoming, Cape Cod, Mass., Wickenberg, AZ, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri and Jersey City, NJ. Pushing me along those trails was also my coverage of University of Texas football (the Horns had games this year in Wyoming, Missouri and Oklahoma).

I have stayed in some great places and seen a lot of cool things. Check back as the new year begins to start reading about them and to get updates on the current year's travels -- which begin Jan. 7 with an assignment in Pasadena, Cal. to cover the BCS Championship game.