For the non-believers, golf is a silly game, populated by old men wearing oatmeal coloured pants, driving around in clown cars, who waste entire afternoons chasing a little white ball into a little round hole. But for the faithful — and there are millions of us, both men and women — golf is the ultimate game full of heartbreak and glory. Even better, we get to tee the little white ball up in incredible destinations all around the globe. Here are some of the most exotic spots to while away your afternoon:
Above: The emerald fairways at Wold Creek jump out from the stark Nevada desert landscape.
The last time I was in Las Vegas, I had a chat with the starter at Wolf Creek. He was from the Midwest and spoke fondly of his grandkids. He didn’t look much like a risk-taker, more like a guy who sold life insurance for a living. However, when he retired, he left winter behind and moved to Nevada to become a professional poker player. I’m no gambler, but I admired him. I like the idea that you can take a chance at almost any age. I am also a fan of his golf course. (Wolf Creek is about an hour from The Strip. Altogether, there are 60 courses within a 60 minute drive of downtown Las Vegas.)
Wolf Creek is a startling layout. Green strips of fairway curl through deep and dusty gulches and basins. There is a definite outlaw vibe and I kept expecting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to come busting around the bend. The back tee of the second hole corkscrews 11 storeys above the Strip and the ball seems to float a day and a half before settling on a stretch of emerald that is wedged between a pair of cliffs.
Above: Quivira clings to the Pacific coast on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
You can argue around the clock about who is the best golfer of all time, Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, but when it comes to deciding who is the most successful designer, the winner is clearly the Golden Bear. Nicklaus has been involved in about 400 projects around the globe, including the Quivira Golf Club, which sits on the tip of Mexico’s fabled Baja Peninsula. It’s a mystical place, the spot where the cresting waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez slip together and where whales come to breach and feed. Ironically, the area is also famous for its manmade fun and the area’s beachside restaurants and bars make Los Cabos one of the world’s top party destinations.
Quivira kicks off at the edge of the Pacific and then climbs up cliffs and hop-scotches across canyons and stretches of desert. It’s fifth and sixth holes are on the edge of the ocean and it looks like a good sized sneeze would send them sliding into the water. Golf Magazine voted Quivira the best new international course of 2014 and named Jack Nicklaus as architect of the year.
Above: High rollers take a helicopter from Hong Kong to get to Kau Sai Chau golf course.
A couple of years ago on a trip to China, our foursome was scheduled to play at the Kau Sai Chau golf course, pictured left, a public, 54-hole facility in Hong Kong. All three courses are located on a single island (two of the layouts were designed by Hall of Famer Gary Player) and the fairways all wind through hollows and ridges that tower above the South China Sea. The usual way to make the trek to the golf course is by a ferry that leaves from the fishing village of Sai Kung. But if you have a little extra cash, book a helicopter from Hong Kong’s airport to the island. You zip through a horizon of glass-faced sky scrapers and then descend to a straight dotted with olive coloured islands. As the commercial says — priceless.
Above: With a stunning coastal backdrop, Kauri Cliffs is one of the loveliest courses in the world.
Wonder Down Under
In the early 1980s, American Julian Robertson started a hedge fund. By 2015, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $3.4 billion U.S. Robertson has become a noted philanthropist, especially in the fields of medicine and education. But he’s also devoted a slice of his fortune to buying up chunks of New Zealand. In 1995, he purchased about 5,000 acres of shaggy farmland and stunning coastline on the North Island for what he described as “the cost of a modest New York apartment.” That property is now home to Kauri Cliffs, above, a spectacular resort that overlooks Matauri Bay and the Cavalli Islands. The resort is also home to a terrific golf course and six of the holes zig-zag along the cliffs that rise high above the Pacific Ocean.
Above: Cuisinart makes reliable appliances and now has a state-of-the-art golf course.
Most foodies know that Cuisinart is a leader in kitchen appliances, producing everything from panini presses to popcorn makers. However, the company has expanded its menu to include a Caribbean resort that comes complete with a Greg Norman-designed golf course. The CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa in Anguilla, right, tucked next to the island of St. Maarten, is home to the island’s only tee times. The course stretches to more than 7,000 yards and snakes through a series of saltwater ponds and channels and peaks over Rendezvous Bay. The first hole, with its stunning views of St. Maarten, is a feast in itself.