The world is filled with great golf destinations and resorts, but some trips turn out better than others. From St. Andrews and Scotland, to Bandon Dunes and even Thailand, Brandon Tucker shares some of his best trips to date.
Golf trips are seldom a bust. They usually range from good to great.
And every once in awhile, they're special. In my relatively brief career in the golf-travel business, five trips come to mind that rank above the rest.
In some cases, I've played better golf courses than the ones listed, but trip memories are often about the whole over individual rounds. To make this list, it takes a little luck, some phenomenal golf and a few good folks to share it all with.
East Lothian and St. Andrews, Scotland
When golfers make their first trip to Scotland, it's usually a wild goose chase all over the country in hopes of playing everything, from Turnberry to Royal Dornoch Golf Club and everywhere in between.
I made the same rookie mistake on my first 16-day trip to Scotland in 2006: lots of golf and even more navigating through endless countryside. All the driving caught up with me, resulting in wrecking the left side of my rental car while trying to turn around in a little village in Fife.
The next time I went to Scotland I kept the trip as compact as I could: six days in golf-loaded East Lothian outside Edinburgh, then three more rounds across the Forth Bridge in St. Andrews.
I had a chance to meet or tee it up with lot of great characters in East Lothian like Gullane's local legend Archie Baird at the History of Golf Museum - all while playing some of the finest links in the land: North Berwick, Gullane, Dunbar Golf Club and Renaissance Club to name the best.
Then, I conquered old demons on the Old Course in St. Andrews, played the new Castle Course, Duke's Course and laid my head at an Old Course Hotel Suite overlooking the Road Hole.
After nine days, I only fueled up my car once, leaving plenty of time to drink as many Belhaven beers as I could get my hands on. I'd recommend this itinerary in a heartbeat to anyone wary about spending too much time stuck on the road around Scotland.
Alberta's Canadian Rockies
Travel marketing (and writing, for that matter) can often hype up destinations to the point it can't possibly meet expectations.
But when the golf courses and resorts of Alberta's Canadian Rockies prepare you to "meet the wild side," it delivers spectacularly. It sure did on this particular week last July.
Wild animals like elk and deer strolling alongside us had become commonplace by the second day. But during our final round, we let a grizzly bear and cub play through at Kananaskis Country Golf Course's Mt. Kidd course.
Each course, such as Banff Springs Golf Club, was well worth the travel from our respective civilizations up into the Rockies wilderness, but sometimes getting to the course was the best part.
We took a helicopter over the Rockies to Kananaskis, and transportation on Ian Hipkin's luxury motor coach (LuxuryMotorCoach.ca) through the spectacular Icefields Parkway made the drive from Jasper Park Lodge to Banff go by in no time.
Check that, I think it was about a four-to-five Kokanee-beer drive.
Being a native Michigander, I've been up north a lot, but last summer may have been the best to date, if only for the mix of sheer number of holes played and the mix of courses.
In perfect weather all week (first time that's happened in Michigan), we played most of the top shelf courses we all know about: Tullymore Golf Club, Bay Harbor Golf Club, Forest Dunes Golf Club, Treetops Resort and Boyne Highlands.
But I also discovered a couple new ones I've raved to everyone about since: Dunmaglas Golf Club, just a few minutes from Bay Harbor Golf Club, and True North Golf Club.
On a perfect Michigan summer day, sometimes playing just 36 holes makes you wonder if you could have played more. On this particular trip, we played 153 holes over five days, and on many evenings, we eased the golf muscles with Michigan's pride of summertime: Oberon seasonal wheat ale from Bell's Brewery.
This is the best way I can describe the benefits of a Thailand vacation: In other golf destinations, we must exercise a little restraint: maybe just one massage during a trip or only one five-star golf course - or maybe you stay in a two-star hotel to stay under budget.
In Thailand, you don't have to make a choice. You can do anything you want and really never worry about tapping into your 401k. Play the best course in town, spend all night getting into trouble along Pattaya's Walking Street or Bangkok's Soi Cowboy district, get a massage (or two) daily, and drink and feast like the king.
Wake up the next day and do it again.
And the golf product is polished as anywhere, from championship designs and top-notch conditions to extraordinary service and caddies to clubhouses that put your home club to shame.
I played some of my best golf of 2009 in Thailand. Given my state of mind, I don't think it was a coincidence.
Visiting Oregon for the first time back in the late spring of 2008 was an eye opener into just how many faces the state can offer. I drove around playing golf for about two weeks, starting in Portland and hitting Bend's high desert, the Cascade Mountains and out to the links of Bandon.
You could play three golf courses in Oregon within a few hours of each other and think each is in a different hemisphere -- all highlighted by Bandon Dunes Resort, as good of a pure golf retreat as a resort can deliver. In some ways, it has Scotland beat.
By the end of the trip, I had met so many friendly people and seen so much great golf, I was seriously considering moving to Portland. Not only are there great coffee shops and drive-through espresso shacks on every corner to get your engine running for the day -- or to simply stop for a chat -- Oregon is the union's best beer state, from Deschutes Brewery to McMenamin's over two-dozen funky watering holes.
And did I mention I like beer after my golf?