Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trio to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

  • 5.0 stars from 5

    Whistling Straits

    "Still one of my top golf experiences ever"

    This is the second time I've played the Straits Course, and I feel the same way about it as I did before: It's beautiful and difficult, but not as difficult as one would think. In other words, it's visually intimidating, but there really is ample room to hit the ball, especially off the tee. And I say this having not played it nearly as well as I did the first time. With that said, if your handicap is over 20, you'll have a difficult time out here. Despite its links look, you're not going to run many shots up to the greens. And you definitely want to try to avoid the bunkers (some are more reasonable than others). Most of all, though, the Straits Course is one of the most unique golf courses in the world. It's contrived, but so what? It's a visual feast from the first tee to the 18th hole. The par 3s are spectacular. And if you didn't know better, you'd think you were on the ocean. Yes, it's expensive to play, but they charge that because they can get it. more »

    4.0 stars from 5

    Blackwolf Run Golf Course

    "The most playable of the four courses at Kohler"

    if you're looking for a break from the difficulty of Whistling Straits or the River Course at Blackwolf Run, this may be it. The fairways are more generous, and it's a little more straightforward. But it isn't easy, especially if you don't play the right set of tees. There's also plenty of water hazards on the course. It's also gorgeous and when I played it, in great shape. The greens were very fast, but easier to negotiate and make putts on certainly than the courses at Whistling Straits. Overall, Blackwolf Run is a beautiful facility. more »

    5.0 stars from 5

    The Northwood Club

    "Tripp Davis hit a home run with renovation"

    I'm sure the Northwood Club looked great when Julius Boros won the 1952 U.S. Open there, but I doubt it looked any better than it did when I played it earlier in the week. This was fresh off of Tripp Davis' magnificent restoration of the course, where he brought back the contours and sizes of the old greens and most certainly enhanced the William Diddel-designed course as well. In fact, with modern turf varieties, it's probably in way better condition than it was in 1952. Simply put, this is how parkland golf is supposed to be – interesting, walkable, challenging and never boring. I pretty much liked every hole, the par-3 ninth (plays over a creek with trees on the left side) and the par-5 14th in particular. The latter features one of the coolest and most unique tee shots you'll play anywhere. It actually starts out below the fairway, where you have to hit over a deep gorge and creek out to a plateau. Hit it too far right and you can be blocked out by the trees. Try to bite off too much, and you might be re-teeing. Hit it perfectly, and you've got a birdie opportunity. I managed to hit a perfect drive on the hole, and almost made birdie. What a fun hole. What a fun golf course. more »

    5.0 stars from 5

    Portstewart Golf Club - The Strand

    "Front nine is breathtaking; rest of course hold its own"

    Portstewart Golf Club's Strand Course has long had the reputation of having one of the most spectacular front nines in all of golf. And that's definitely true. From the opening elevated tee shot, with views of the seas and the dunes below, it doesn't get any better. And it's a fairly difficult test, too, as you work your way up and down the dunes. Throw in the wind, and you've really got to be on your game. The back nine doesn't match the scenery of the front, but it's also quite good, and challenging, too. The last couple of holes, compared to the opening holes, might not have that wow factor, but they are solid nonetheless. And again, they're certainly not easy. more »

    5.0 stars from 5

    Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Links

    "Sandy Hills Links is one fun ride"

    I don't know that this was my favorite course during a terrific week of golf in Northern Ireland and the north coast of Ireland, but it was certainly a great way to end the trip. The course plays through the massive dunes next to Sheephaven Bay, which makes for one fun rollercoaster ride. Best of all, with generous fairways and decent sized greens, the course is very playable, though it's pretty easy to get distracted by the views. This is a course where if you miss a shot by a couple yards, it's possible to recover in most cases. On one hole, I actually missed a fairway by 40 yards, luckily managed to find my ball in a reasonable lie and still made par. That won't always be the case here on wayward shots, but at least it's possible. The 36-hole resort also has a large clubhouse with a really well-stocked golf shop as well as a bar and restaurant upstairs leading out to a large patio that overlooks the other course. All-in-all, if you can make it to the area, this is a can't miss experience. more »

    5.0 stars from 5

    Whistling Straits

    "Don't skip the Irish if you come to Whistling Straits"

    While Whistling Straits gets all ink and accolades, the Irish Course is no slouch, not by a long shot. What it misses in views of Lake Michigan, it makes up for in quality of holes. In many ways, it's more straightforward than Whistling Straits, but I'm not sure it's any easier. There are definitely quite a few bunkers you want to avoid at all costs, and if you can do that (and if you play the right set of tees), you're going to have a great time. One recommendation is to walk this course instead of taking a cart. We took a cart because of the threat of heavy rain, but there are certain holes where you wind up carrying your bag to your ball anyway because the cart path is so far from the fairway and your ball isn't even visible over the mounds. Ideally, take a caddie, but that part isn't as critical as it is at Whistling Straits, where you're going to need a little more guidance. more »

    5.0 stars from 5

    Ballyliffin Golf Club

    "Glashedy Links is beautiful, playable and fun"

    There are two courses at Ballyliffin, and both of them are stunning, including the newer of the two, Glashedy Links. There is so much to like about this course, which is slated to host the 2018 Irish Open: It's in superb condition, it's interesting, it's very playable and the views from the high points of the course are terrific. My favorite might be on the par 3 fifth hole, which plays down to a green guarded by four pot bunkers. Best of all, you can see Pollan Bay in the background, including Glashedy Rock Island. Two holes later, there's another dramatic par 3, but this one is entirely different as it plays down around 150 feet to a green flanked by a pond. Although I didn't get to play the other 18 holes at Ballyliffin, the Old Course, it seems like Ballyliffin has a great one-two punch, well worth the drive to the northern most part of Ireland. more »