Along the street, home made signs were plastered, for buying and selling tickets. Guys with big beer bellies were sitting on their lawn chairs, drinking beer at 8am in the warm Georgia sun. Cars would stop, buy and sell tickets, and move on, sometimes sharing a beer with the scalpers. The Masters is a way of life here, no matter what side of the tracks you live on.
As I passed the Waffle House, Kenny Rogers Chicken, Arby’s, and Dairy Queens, I finally saw the sign that said, “Masters Parking”. I turned in to the big dirt lot, only to see John Daly and Davis Love’s huge motorhomes in the parking lot. Walking to the entrance, a guy asked me if I had an extra ticket. He perked up when I told him that I did, as my son was not able to make this trip with me. He asked how much, and I decided I needed some karma, so I gave it to him.
Walking through the gates, the excitement I felt kept building, until I saw the merchandise tents and toilets. First order of business, get rid of some coffee. Second order of business, buy some Masters souvenirs. I went a little crazy, as I bought things for my son, my friend Mike, and myself.
Then I had to take a look at Magnolia Lane, where members and participants drive up to the venerable clubhouse. I saw several players arrive, like Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal. Of course, Augusta National has members such as Warren Buffett, Jack Welch, and Bill Gates, though I doubt any of them have time for golf.
Then I had to see the huge oak tree behind the clubhouse, where the television and radio interviews take place. Then I meandered over to Butler Cabin (quite small), where the green jacket ceremony takes place for the television broadcast. But I wanted to walk every hole of the course. I wanted to see what I have seen on television since I was a little boy, before I even understood golf, or knew about Palmer and Nicklaus.
The course is magnificent, a soft carpet of green, surrounded by Georgia pines, completely blocked off from the urban blight of Augusta. The azaleas were in full bloom, creating a sea of color matching the best gardens in Sunset magazine. All of a sudden, I did not seem to care that this Southern white boy club excluded women and most minorities.
As I walked the course, I stopped many times to watch the players, and observe the crowds. I was not the only one to come from far away. I saw New Yorkers, Midwesterners, foreigners, and lots of Southerners. I saw Dads with their sons. And grown men with their Fathers, drinking in the glorious sunny day at the Masters.
Among the many things that distinguish the Masters from other golf tournaments: the refreshment stands and toilets are permanent buildings! Only the merchandise tents were portable here. Everything else stays here, year after year, as no other tournament does.
Then, the moment most of us weekend golfers wait for, the first view of Amen Corner, and to hear the roars echo through the Georgia pines. The first time was around 10am, and kept repeating itself throughout the day. This is indeed, the pinnacle of the golfing world.
Around 11am, I got hungry and headed over to the nearest refreshment stand. I bought a tuna sandwich for about $2, but was impressed to see they still sold pimento sandwiches. They also sold headache powders! No fancy jalapeno nachos, pizza, gyros, or falafels here. Just the basics, at 1950s prices.
I know I will visit again, but with my son Matt. We will watch the tournament, and we will play some golf in Georgia and South Carolina. And I want him to see and feel what I did on that glorious day in April. But I was able to parlay my practice round tickets into Thursday, 1st round ticket. Fancy that!!!!
Our timeshare, the Marriott Ocean Club is located here on Kaanapali Beach, just north of the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui. Few people know this was Hawaii’s first master planned resort. Back in 1962, the Royal Lahaina Resort opened. I was a sophomore in high school.
Many resorts and high rises followed, creating what is now a popular, luxurious, and rather crowded area of west Maui. Over the years, we have stayed at several. By 2003, Kaanapali Beach was rated the #1 beach in America. It is now rather difficult to believe this was a deserted beach at one time.
For one, a horse racing track covered much of the resort area, attracting both Hawaiian royalty and island business people. And sugar cane dominated the crops, now replaced by housing and coffee plantations. And the Black Rock, called Puu Kekaa, is where the King of Maui practiced leaping into the sea, a sport known to locals as lele kawa.
Today, the Black Rock forms a barrier between the two beaches, Kaanapali to the south, and Kahekili or “airport beach” to the north. Kahekili is a popular snorkeling spot, and also boasts plenty of public parking. And starting around mid day Friday, Aloha Friday, for those of you on the mainland, locals begin their ritual of weekend barbecues, children’s birthday parties, and Friday night relaxation.
Serious surfers head elsewhere, but beginners find Kaanapali a great place to learn and practice. The largest swells run from 6 to 8 feet, winter or summer. And we do see a few fishermen in the area as well.
On a clear day, sounds like a song. But during winter months, whales can easily be seen from shore. Though we have taken the ferry to Lanai, and gone on whale watching tours, we enjoy spotting whales from our balcony. And maybe with a cold beer or glass of champagne in our hands.
One nice, simple, and free activity each morning is to take the Beach Walk from our resort up to the old Royal Lahaina Resort. It seems everyone else is doing the same thing, while it is cool, and quiet on the beach.
My brother and his wife have joined us here, in an ocean view, two bedroom condo. My cousins from California are also here. We plan a big bbq one evening with them. Other than the snow on Haleakala crater, some road closures, and lots of cold beer, we are suffering through days of 75 to 80 degrees with intermittent rain.
Tomorrow, the vacation begins for all of us. Just don’t tell them we were already here, first in Honolulu, then Kauai to visit dear friends!!! @loha!!!!!
Added bonus: who cares about the NBA or NCAA basketball. And best of all, this is a BIG blue state!!! No evangaculates telling us what to do or think.
As much as we love it here, we might try the new Marriott condo at Kauai Lagoons in two years!!!
In reality, Kauai is probably just about everyone’s happy place, if you have been there. Many people I know do not venture much beyond the madness of Waki Waki (Waikiki Beach in Honolulu), and the increasingly mad and bustling island of Maui.
But Kauai has been special for us, since our first visit together, over twenty years ago. Why? We met our now dear friends, Rey and Corinne during a round of golf at Princeville, on the north side of this small island paradise. While I do not remember much about that round of golf, save for a birdie here and there, we made lifelong friends.
Quite unusual in that both are natives of the island, as are their parents and family. Over the years, we have enjoyed many meals, rounds of golf, social activities, and family outings. But there is one thing that stands out about Rey and Corinne after all these years. They are just fantastic people!
Another unique part of Kauai is that everyone on the island knows everyone else. And of course, we can hardly go anywhere without running into one of their friends or family. I even ran into a fellow at the Padres-Giants game, who brought his Little League team to San Diego. Of course, he knew Rey!
So, along with the great scenery and peaceful vibe of the island, our friends make the island feel like home. I think that is the best way to describe the feeling we have when we visit. And it is our happy place!!!! Thank you, Rey and Corinne!
When travelers mention Hawaii, everybody says Waikiki, Kauai, Big Island or Maui. Few say anything about the island known for pineapples, Lanai, just a short ferry boat ride across the Auau channel from Lahaina, Maui. We were talked into a day trip to Lanai by our dear friend, Debbie, several years ago. We had just met her on a golf course a few days prior. She invited us to join her, her ex husband Tom, and another golfing couple. We jumped at the chance, although I had to prepare for the ocean voyage with my sea bands, patch, and meclizine tablets.
Lanai is the 6th largest island in Hawaii, and has only one town, Lanai City. It is only 140 square miles, and has only about 3100 residents. It is best known for its pineapples, and the Dole Company of David Murdock. It is not a separate county, and lies under the control of Maui County. Only three hotels are located here, the large Four Seasons Manele, and Lodge at Koele, and the small, rustic, Lanai Hotel. The big attractions here are the golf courses at the two large resorts. Before the resorts were built, only day trips to Lanai were allowed.
We caught an early morning ferry from Lahaina Harbor and met up with the two golfing couples. I managed to stay well for the trip over and back, as it seemed a miracle for me. The best part of the ride over: spotting some whales, and being guided by a large school of dolphins crisscrossing over our bow. I soon forgot about motion sickness, and started to enjoy the trip.
We landed in little Lanai Harbor, and caught a small shuttle bus to the Lodge at Koele. There is not much to see on the way there. Some pineapples are still grown, but much of the land is vacant. We passed little Lanai City, and got some snacks and sodas. As we approached the Lodge, we saw a herd of deer in the trees. The Lodge is an imposing sight on an island without any tall structures. It almost looks out of place here.
We then were dropped at the Koele Golf Course, and went out as a five some, with Sheri driving my cart. I managed to keep up with Tom and the other guy, even though they were better golfers. Debbie was much better than the other lady, but we had a great round, even when it misted a little. The ladies decided to take the shuttle back to the hotel after 18 holes, dry off, and have some coffee or a drink.
Meanwhile, Tom and the other guy talk me into a little wager for 9 more holes. Both were better players, but I reluctantly said I would play them straight up, in other words, they were not giving me any strokes. All of a sudden, like magic, I am playing better. We get to the 325 yard 8th hole, where our second shot must go over a large lake to a small peninsula shaped green. During the first 18, I tried to drive the green, only to splash a few feet short.
Since we had such a huge bet, drinks in the bar after, I decided to lay up with a 6 iron, then go for the green. It was my lucky day, as I stuck the ball about 3 feet from the pin, made the birdie, and assured myself the win. Little did I know how fortuitous this would be.
We finished the 9 holes, and went back over to the hotel to meet the girls. We took a quick tour of this magnificent hotel, and settled into the bar. We were the only ones there. Tom and the other guy had to buy the drinks. Though Sheri and I had a soda, the four of them opted for big time drinks. Each round was about $50!!! We had 3 rounds before the shuttle bus came to take us back to the harbor. The drinks cost more than the day trip and golf.
We plan to go back someday and stay at this luxurious, and empty hotel. It would be completely ours, as only 7 couples were registered there. It is a little pricey, but worth a one or two day splurge and a visit to their spa.
Meanwhile, on the dusty road back, the guys want to stop in Lanai City for some beer. We invaded this little mom and pop store, and bought some 6 packs for the 20 minute ride. I opted for my second soft drink of the afternoon.
Here is the best part. With so much intake, we had to do a little output. So, we ran over to the outdoor toilets in a nearby park near the harbor. Dusk was well upon us, and we had no lights or enclosures on this slight upgrade from an outhouse. I had to stand guard with my back to the toilet so the girls could go potty. We truly went from the penthouse at the Lodge to the outhouse at the park.
We ran to catch the ferry and were the last ones on board. It was the last ferry of the day, so we really cut it close. The dark ride back was smoother than the ride over. We sat alone on the top deck, beer in hand, memories intact. It was a great way to spend the day with a friend who would become so dear to us through the years. Thank you Debbie.
Phuket is a small island south of mainland Thailand. We went there on our very first trip to SE Asia. It is called Asia’s most popular beach destination. Of course, this was before the Big Tsunami a few years back. It faces the Andaman Sea, that everyone became familiar with after the tsunami. It is beautiful, blue, and peaceful sea most of the time. By the way, Phuket is pronounced pooh-kett. Forest, rubber and palm oil plantations cover 60% of the island. The western coast, where we were headed has several sandy beaches, while on the east coast beaches are more often muddy. The island is mostly mountainous with a mountain range in the west of the island from the north to the south.
We took the flight from Bangkok, only an hour away on a big 747. It was full of tourists, and businessmen. On the hour flight, Thai Airways serves both a beverage service and a meal. We are lucky in the states to get a soft drink these days. We decided to stay away from the touristy and cheesy Patong Beach. We opted for Karon Beach instead. Karon Beach, featuring a long stretch of squeaky white sand, is less hectic than Patong but still offers a full range of facilities, dining and activities. While it’s a fast-growing area, Karon is spread out and rarely feels crowded.
Karon is concentrated around three main areas: The Karon Plaza area on the south end features a number of budget guesthouses, restaurants and bars. The side sois are worth exploring, particularly the one that leads to a small art community, where some budding Thai painters have built a complex of huts, pubs and art galleries in which they live and work.
Our first day, we met in the hotel bar. Our friend Mike was already there with a cold beer, teaching English to a nice young Thai busboy. They were almost inseparable for the next four days while we were there. The busboy practiced his English with Mike helping him. He also made sure plenty of cold beer was available. We ventured down to a beachside cafe for dinner. Naturally, seafood was the big attraction. We found very few Americans. It seemed most of the lighter skinned visitors were Swedish. It turns out that many years ago, the Swedes bought up timeshares there. This may also have been the meal that caused some intestinal discomfort for us.
We walked into the little town of Karon, just to walk off dinner, try to cool off, and see what we could see. The first thing we saw was a string of three young elephants walking down the main street with their trainer or mahout. All of a sudden, the trainers have the elephants sitting down, and turning 360 degrees. It was meant to be entertainment for us tourists. We were also expected to give a small tip, which we gladly did. It turns out that tourism actually helped save the elephants. They were being phased out as workers in construction, in favor of tractors and other heavy equipment. But when they found out that tourists wanted to see, ride and learn, they made a big comeback. The trainers actually make more money than the tour guides.
Mike and I went golfing the next day. We wanted to play where Tiger usually plays when he visits his mother’s homeland. But we settled for the Laguna Country Club, about 40 minutes up the coast. We had to rent clubs, but brought our own shoes, golf balls, and gloves. They assigned two female caddies to us. Mine was kind of young, and attractive. Mike got a grumpy older lady. How is that for good fortune?
When we teed, off, that was the last time we touched our golf ball. From that point on, the female caddies did everything. Besides clubbing us, and cleaning the golf ball when we got to the green, they lined up putts, took care of the flag, and pulled our ball out of the cup. They carried our bags to the next tee, and teed up our ball. I did not touch the ball again until she handed it to me on the 18th green.
It was a rather warm, muggy day, but bearable. We played halfway decently with the rented clubs. About the 4th or 5th hole, the refreshment cart came around. Mike and I each got a beer, and offered the caddies a cold drink as well. What do you think they chose? They both chose a cold bottle of milk!!! They did this again two more times. Now I don’t know about you, but when I am hot and thirsty, I would take water, beer or soda. They wore bluish-green uniforms that looked like surgical scrubs, and a bonnet to keep the sun off of their beautiful and flawless faces.
When we finished, we gave them their customary tip. We also gave them our leftover golf balls, and another bottle of milk. I have never seen happier caddies in all my life. It turns out they can sell the American golf balls for more than the Thai made golf balls. We had a few more beers and a sandwich before heading back to our hotel.
We were so tired, we decided to relax in the afternoon. Mike and I ordered a massage before dinner. The typical Thai massage is quite vigorous. My body does not respond well to their pretzel making skills, so I opted for a gentler Swedish massage. It was so good that I felt like a dish rag after. The five or six beers did not hurt anything either. Did I tell you how good Thai beer tastes on a warm day? We were so spent that we had dinner that night at the hotel dining room and called it an early evening.
The next day was a total relaxation day. We had to catch a plane later, but Mike headed to the famous limestone karsts or islands on the east coast of Phuket island. He had a long van ride, then another two hours on a long tail boat. I am glad we passed on this little trip. He said it was quite grueling, and he almost got seasick. Me and the sea are not the best of friends. If I was born Hemingway, I would not have been able to write “The Old Man and the Sea”.
Phuket is a place to visit just once, despite the beauty. It is very poor, as we saw along the little beach towns. An entire family rides on a single motorbike. Trucks rumble by with fifty people catching a ride on the back. I imagine they want tourists there after the tsunami. But we found the culture there to be somewhat different than the Thai mainland. We found out from locals, like our busboy friend that it wasn’t just our imagination. It turns out that Phuket has a much higher (30% vs less than 10% on the mainland) percentage of Muslims. While still friendly, they were more distant than the Buddhists. We could feel it at the hotel, and the restaurants.
While this is not the case in a place like Malaysia, it is quite evident here. In Malaysia, the Chinese, Buddhists, and Muslims intermingle quite peacefully and easily. But local merchants are very receptive to Americans. We did feel welcome most everywhere, especially in bars, and at the golf course. I readily volunteered to come over here after the tsunami through my employer. But they needed big fixes, like sanitation engineers, and architects, heavy equipment operators, and city planners, not a lowly pill pusher.
People have told us that the other islands are as beautiful and not as touristy. Maybe our next trip will be to Samui or Phi Phi, both a little more remote, and much smaller. We enjoyed the Malay islands of Langkawi and Penang so much more. But who knows, you never know until you try.
Another trip for golfers on the must do list are the fairly new golf courses in Bandon, Oregon. The resort and golf complex is owned by and developed by the American Greeting Card owner, from Chicago. In fact, we can see him fly in from Portland on his private helicopter when he visits Bandon. There are three courses here now, with a fourth and fifth being planned. The two courses on the ocean, Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes are the jewels of the Oregon coast. Both are already listed in the top 50 courses in the U.S.
My faithful friend Mike and I drove up to Bandon in his new Corvette. It is an 8 hour drive, up Interstate 5, then across to the city of Bandon. The other option is to fly to Portland, and take a puddle jumper to a city called North Bend, not far from Coos Bay. Coos Bay is the home of the late Olympic distance runner, Steve Prefontaine. I hear they are starting direct flights on Alaska Airlines from SFO soon.
We checked into the Lily Pond condos, basically two bedrooms with a sitting room and fireplace. The lodge also has rooms in the main building, much like a hotel, or condos that will handle an entire foursome or families. Little did we know what a good meal we had in store. Since Mike drove, I suggested and bought dinner at the Gallery Restaurant in the main lodge. When it was described as the finest in northwest cuisine, we thought it was all hype. But it turned out to be one of the best meals we have ever had. The rack of lamb was superb. The wine list was memorable, and the waitress a real delight.
We started out the next day with a tee time at Pacific Dunes, my favorite of the two. When they built the course, very little sand was moved. It is a very natural, links style course on the ocean, very much like those in Scotland. In fact, the gorse, a green. spiny, shrub that grabs golf balls like Velcro, grows wild here, and in greater abundance than Scotland. Plus, golfers must walk and take a caddie. This is more like Scotland each minute!!!!
The round contained many of good shots for both of us. Mike even birdied the first hole. It also contained a few that we have long since forgotten. But it was enjoyable, our caddie was a real treat, and 18 holes went by way too quickly. It is amazing what can happen in the right environment. We made some shots that just seemed impossible. And we made bunches of one putts. It must have been the negative ions at the beach.
After this great round of golf, and a few beers in the clubhouse, we headed back to our condo and got ready for dinner. We were headed into the small fishing village of Bandon for a seafood dinner. The town is mostly a one street town with souvenir shops, and a few odd businesses. There are maybe a dozen seafood places dotting the shore. It is not a place to spend more than 30-45 minutes browsing or walking. The town closes up early.
After a very disappointing seafood dinner, we headed out for the proverbial ice cream cone, much like we did in Wisconsin. Bandon is not Sheboygan, and Oregon is not the dairy state of Wisconsin. The best we could do was a small grocery store with some ice cream bars. Two tired golfers made their way back to the resort.
The Bandon Dunes, original course, was on our schedule for the 2nd day. We arranged for the same caddy. They actually do help. I made so many one putts that I would not normally make. It was worth the $50 each day for this advice. I also think walking the course provides a better feel for the course. Somehow, I am able to focus a little more than when I ride a cart.
Again, we had our moments in the spotlight, or as I say, a few moments in the penthouse vs the outhouse. It was a little easier course than Pacific, not that we scored that much better. But it had to end, gloriously as the day neared an end. We had to drive all the way back to California that night.
As we traced our journey back to I-5, we both realized what a special treat these golf courses presented. Their theme is “golf as it was meant to be”. There are only 160 true links courses in the world. We just played two of the best. I would go back anytime.
If you think the trip is over, you must be kidding. A brand new red Corvette on I-5 must have a story or two in it. It goes this way. We are headed down a long downhill run on I-5 in Oregon, at about 100 mph, along with everybody else. As I doze off, Mike gives a yell. Oh xxxx, the highway patrol is right behind us. About 6 or 7 cars immediately slow down and begin to expect the worst. All of a sudden, the patrol car makes a U turn in the middle of I-5, and heads back north. When you live right, it pays off.
Another good place to stop on the way up or back is the Black Bear Diner. It is somewhere near Redding I think. We also have a new one in Walnut Creek, and we have been to one in Reno near the Nugget. They serve a very hearty breakfast (on the way up), and a gigantic burger (on the way back). Other than a stop for gas, eight hours later we were home. Another noteworthy golf trip in the books for all time.