Blogs > DSG's Affordabili-TEES

News-Herald Staff Writer David S. Glasier has been playing golf for over 50 years and writing about it for over 30. Always operating on a tight budget, Glasier is on a lifelong quest to find good courses to play at affordable prices.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brunswick Islands, N.C. trip, Days 3 & 4

Farmstead Golf Links
541 McLamb Rd., NW, Calabash, NC 28467
      Par, yardage: 72; 4,998 (red); 5,638 (gold), 6.097 (white); 6,566 (blue); 7,242 (black)
      Greens fees: with riding cart, variable, $49 to 89
      Phone: 910-575-7999; 866-749-7277
      Tiger's Eye at Ocean Ridge Plantation
360 POcean Ridge Parkway, Sunset Beach, NC 28469
      Par, yardage: 72; 4,502 (red); 5,136 (gold); 6,120 (white); 6,628 (blue); 7,014 (black)
      Greens fees: with riding cart, variable, $80
      Phone: 910-287-7227; 800-233-1801  
      Hurricane Fleet Marina
      Calabash, N.C.
      Phone: 910-579-3660; 800-373-2004
      Stay-and-play info
      Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority
      In golf as in life, it's always best when a balance is struck.
      So it was on Days 3 and 4 of the four-day golf media trip to the Brunswick Islands area of North Carolina.
      After playing 18 holes on Day 1 and 36 holes on Day 2, the schedule on Day 3 called for a deep-sea fishing excursion in the morning on the Hurricane 2, followed by 18 holes at Farmstead Golf Links. The dock for Hurricane 2 and Farmstead both are in Calabash.
      Although I've spent a fair amount of time boating and fishing on Lake Erie, I'd never been fishing in any ocean.
Thanks to the 4-hour jaunt aboard Hurricane 2, now I can say I've wet a line in the Atlantic Ocean.
On a spectacularly nice morning, we made out way from the dock down the inland waterway and out about 20 miles away from shore. Thanks in large measure to the efforts of "Captain Sharkie'' and his crew, we caught a lot of fish and had a heckuva good time doing it. The main catch was sea bass, a good eating fish that currently is out of season and must be released when caught.
      We got Farmstead at 1 p.m., had lunch and got back to golfing on a fine, links-style layout designed by William Byrd.
The feature hole at Farmstead is the par-6 18th. It plays anywhere from 635 yards to 767 yards. With a nudge from director of golf and playing partner Jason Monahan, we played from the tips. It's a great hole, not gimmicky in any way. There is water along most of the left side of the hole, which doglegs left.
      As Monahan is fond of telling first-time visitors, the 18th is so long it takes two states to hold it. Farmstead straddles the state lines of North Carolina and South Carolina. The 18th hole does, indeed, roll through both states.
      There is more to Farmstead than the 18th, much more. There are plenty of top-notch holes, great greens and a design that is pleasing to the eyes.
      The trip ended on a decidedly upbeat note at Tiger's Eye, one of four courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation. As a group, the courses are called "The Big Cats.'' The others are Leopard's Chase, Lion's Paw and Panther's Run.
      Ocean Ridge's director of marketing, Bill Long, said that Tiger's Eye is the easiest of the four courses. I'll take his word for that, but I thought Tiger's Eye was a superb test in every way.
      As fond as I am of golf in North Carolina, I've made a promise to myself to return to Ocean Ridge soon to play the rest of "The Big Cats.''
      For that matter, I'd love to return to the Brunswick Islands area for second  visits to all of the courses we sampled on this trip and as many of the area's other 30 or so courses as humanly possible.
      As for the aforementioned balance, I'll also carve out time to stroll on the ocean shore, visit some of the restaurants and shops and chill out in this laid-back neck of the woods.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Brunswick Islands, N.C. trip, Day 2

Sandpiper Bay Golf and Country Club, Sand and Bay nines
800 North Sandpiper Club Drive, Sunset Beach, NC 28468
      Par, yardages: 71; 4,755 (red); 5,547 (gold); 5,428 (gold), 6,242 (white); 6.195 (white); 6,641 (black)
      Greens fees, with riding cart: Variable, $66 to $90
      Phone: 910-579-1920
      Brunswick Plantation and Golf Resort, Magnolia and Azalea nines
380 Brunswick Drive, Calabash, NC 28467
      Par, yardage: 72; 5,654 (gold); 6,076 (white); 6,397 (blue); 6,868 (black)
      Greens fees, with riding cart: Variable, $40 to 80
      Phone: 910-845-6935    
      Stay-and-play info
      Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority
      Opportunities to play 36 holes in one day are few and far between. When such an opportunity presents itself, however, I am all in. That's especially true when you hear as many good things as I did about Sandpiper Bay and Brunswick Plantation, two of the five courses I visited on a media trip to the Brunswick Islands area of North Carolina.
      Both courses lived up their advance billing, and then some.
      There are three 9s at Sandpiper Bay - Sand, Piper and Bay. We played Sand and Bay, and I really enjoyed both.
I'm wracking my brain, and I can't remember a hole I didn't like. On the Sand, the par-4, 393-yard 4th holes and par-4, 412-yard 9th holes were highlights. On the Bay, the par-3, 193-yard 3rd and par-4, 397-yard 8th holes were impressive.
      My playing partner at Sandpiper Bay was general manager and professional Tim Tilma. He shared plenty of local knowledge from tee to green.
      The same as Sandpiper Bay, Brunswick has three 9s. We played the Magnolia and Azalea, bypassing the Dogwood.
The playing experience at Brunswick was every bit as enjoyable as Sandpiper Bay. All of the holes were straightforward and challenging, starting with the par-4, 370-yard 1st hole on Magnolia and finishing with the par-5, 460-yard 9th hole on Azalea. As for the greens, the putting surfaces were nothing short of spectacular.
      Dennis Radke, the condo manager at Brunswick, was in our foursome. Our media group stayed in some of the 30 condos on the grounds set aside for visiting golfers. They are one of the prime selling points for the resort.
      Go to the website to check out the prices for Brunswick’s stay-and-play packages and what's included in the packages. It isn't cheap, but it is affordable given the quality of the golf and the available amenities.
      Golfers who choose to stay at Brunswick also are in close proximity to other top-notch courses in the area.
      At the end of the second round, I was tired but wishing there'd been enough daylight to have played the third 9 at both of these first-rate layouts.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Brunswick Islands N.C. trip, Day 1

Cape Fear National at Brunswick Forest
1281 Cape Fear National Drive, Leland, N.C. 28451
      Par, yardages: 72; 4,802 (green); 5,603 (silver, ladies; 5,428 (gold), 5,603 (silver, men); 6.195 (white); 6,686 (blue); 7,217 (black)
      Greens fees, with riding cart: Variable (details in story)
      Phone: 910-383-3283
      Stay-and-play info
      Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority
      Comfort Suites Magnolia Greens
1020 Grandiflora Dr., Leland, N.C. 28451
      My interest was piqued by an invitation to a golf media tour of North Carolina's Brunswick Islands.
      For one thing, I'd never been to Brunswick County, tucked away in the southeast corner of North Carolina astride the Cape Fear River and Atlantic Ocean.
      For another thing, the trip promised five rounds on five courses over four days along with a half-day deep-sea fishing excursion.
      I was in without hesitation.
      The trip began in satisfying fashion at Cape Fear National at Brunswick Forest.
      Designed by Tim Cate and located just a short drive from the Wilmington Airport, Cape Fear National opened in 2010 to rave reviews.
      The place well could be called Cape Fear Natural, given Cate's decision to use natural grasses and links-style design elements to make sure the course harmonized with the surrounding area.
      Cape Fear National is easy on the eyes but it is a tough, tough course. Luckily, my playing partner was assistant professional Adam Clark. The 28-year-old Tennessee native offered timely tips on how best to steer clear of the water and other trouble spots. He also pointed out preferred landing areas on the large, quick greens.
      At my request, we played from the white tees. From any of the six tees, the par-4, 395-yard 4th hole is a handful. Ditto for the par-4, 375-yard 13th hole.
      Both of the nines at Cape Fear National end with a par-3. It's a rare design feature but one that works here. For my money, the 156-yard 9th hole, with water all along the left side, is no worse than the fourth-best hole on a course loaded with good holes.
      Another of the winning design features here has some of the cart paths routed through waste bunkers.
      The walk-in greens fees at Cape Fear Natural range from $80 to $100. That's on the high side, so I went looking for stay-and-play packages to being the course into the realm of "Affordabili-TEES.'' Using the two websites listed above, it took only a few minutes to find packages at the Comfort Inn Magnolia Greens priced at $418 for two days and $577 for three days.
      These packages include rounds at Cape Fear Natural and nearby Magnolia Greens Golf Course, a 27-hole complex with walk-in greens fees of $44 and $30 after 3 p.m. The packages include lodging, golf, complimentary breakfast, check-in gifts and 20 percent discounts on evening meals at nearby restuarants.
      Crunch those numbers, and the cost for playing at Cape Fear National is substantially reduced from the walk-in fee.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Great threesome: Madison CC, Black Brook GC, Powderhorn CC

Madison Country Club
6131 Chapel Rd., Madison, OH 44057
      Par, yardages: 71; 5,288 (red), 5,428 (gold), 6,145 (white), 6,487 (blue)
      Greens fees, with riding cart: $25 (through May 15)
      Phone: 440-428-2888
      Black Brook Golf Course
8900 Lake Shore Blvd., Mentor, OH 44060
      Par, yardages: 71; 3,540 (yellow), 5,015 (red), 5,838 (silver), 76,073 (white), 6,320 (blue)
      Greens fees, with riding cart: Mon.- Fri., $27.50 (Mentor resident), $28.50 (non-resident)
      Phone: 440-951-0010
      Powderhorn Country Club
3991 Bates Rd., Madison
Township, OH 44057
      Par, yardages: 70; 4,881 (red), 5,679 (white), 6,004 (blue)
      Greens fees, with riding cart: Mon.-Thu, $21; Friday, $27; Saturday, Sunday morning, $32
      Phone: 440-428-5951; 800-863-3712
      If the subject comes up, my wife Marcia will tell you heaven, Earth and all points in-between will be moved by yours truly to accommodate a weekly round of golf.
      In recent weeks, this single-minded crusade has taken me to the three courses profiled in this installment of "Affordabili-TEES.''
      Two months ago, it was with great sadness that I wrote a story for the news section of The News-Herald about the demise of Madison Country Club as a private entity.
Banks and creditors had foreclosed on the venerable club to the tune of nearly $3 million. The place was closed for about three weeks while a court-appointed receiver put it up for sale and pondered his next move.
      I am pleased to report Madison has re-opened as a public course. Kevin Laymaster (formerly of Thunder Hill) is running the overall operation while longtime Madison employee Mel Walker minds the golf shop. The course is in great shape, although the greens aren't running nearly as fast as they did when the course was private.
      Laymaster told me the $25 greens fee will hold through May 15. After that, the rate will rise slightly, probably to $29. Seniors (50 and older) will continue to pay $25.
      The driving range and short game practice area are open. So is the snack bar.
      About the only melancholy note I detected during an otherwise splendid afternoon at Madison was the closure of the main clubhouse.
      Who knows what will happen if a buyer steps forward and meets the asking price for all grounds and buildings. Maybe the new owner(s) will elect to keep it open as a public course and stick with the affordable price structure.
      Until there is final resolution of the foreclosure, local golfers would be wise to take advantage of the opportunity to play this top-notch course for such reasonable greens fees.
      Black Brook is in its usual fine shape and sporting the revamped practice area adjacent to the No. 2 tee.
      Head professional and longtime friend Tim Ausperk, featured in the accompanying video, gave me a tour of the new practice area the other day. It's a huge upgrade on the old driving range and will have a positive effect on Black Brook's bottom line.
      I've played Black Brook many hundreds of times since I took up the game almost 50 years ago, but I don't get tired of the place. It's familiar, friendly and challenging enough to deliver gratification on those occasions when you post a good number.
      Although I've made Powderhorn a part of my personal course rotation only in the last six or seven years, I'm starting to feel the same way about it as I do about Black Brook.
      A final note about Black Brook and Powderhorn...the snack bars at both places are really nice!