What a year for me and all of us at World’s Best Golf Destinations. A big shout to the team that runs this machine: Andrew Wood, co-publisher and director of global galivanting; Katie Kearney, travel editor; Patrick Clark, beer snob/development and John Eidikot retired hacker/programming.
For me, this year was dominated by two destinations: Thailand and Mexico. Without further ado, here are my top five moments of 2018.
5. Scratch Tortillas and Mexican Breakfast
Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula is one of our favorite places in the world. The warmth of the people there is something you have to experience to understand. I spent a few days at Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos back in September. The large resort is an all-inclusive with a luxury boutique feel. The fish tacos, margaritas, sushi and steak were good, but it’s the tortillas from scratch at the Mexican breakfast station that will live forever. Each morning the goddess of tortillas takes post and spreads the love one tortilla at a time.
4. It’s a Small World
Golf’s rewards reach far beyond the golf course. There’s comradery, friendships and the game offers a unique look at the local way of doing things.
I was playing the Cabo del Sol Desert Course alone on a Tuesday afternoon back in September. It’s a Tom Weiskopf design and a lot of fun to play. I spoke briefly with the marshal on the fourth hole. We met again later on the twelfth. His name was Tom and he was from Miami, Florida. He appeared to be the same age of my late great friend Walter Sackett, also from Miami. Walter AKA “Wally” is the father of two of my good high school buddies and Walter was like a second dad to me. I figured it was worth a shot so I asked, “Hey Tom, any chance you knew a guy named Water Sackett from Coral Gables High School?” He did know “Wally,” they were friends and proceeded to tell me a few stories from good times at the 12 Hours of Seabring race. I recorded the stories and shared them with my friends. Amazing that Wally is still remembered today – even on the golf course in Mexico.
3. A Transatlantic Love Story with a Happy Ending
Summer 2017 golf with Ireland and Germany was a joy, but my best set of sticks (particularly the Miura irons) didn’t make it back to the States. After six rounds of golf in Ireland, I “Ryan Aired” down to Belgium for the Tomorrowland music festival and more good times with friends in Paris. The plan was to return to Dublin for a few days, retrieve my clubs from my friend and fly back to the U.S. Well, when I returned to Ireland my friend was on holiday in Germany, I was deep into the Temple Bar pubs and the golf clubs were left behind. My friend tried to coordinate transport for a few months – it didn’t happen. I then suggested he take my clubs to the Portmarnock Hotel where I’d stayed. The hotel concierge was fine with it and I’m forever thankful to them. From there I hired the good people at Luggage Free, paid $225 and a few days later my clubs were home.
1b. Thailand Golf
Almost two weeks in Thailand proved to be one of the greatest golf trips of my life. We played Loch Palm Golf Club, Blue Canyon Country Club and Red Mountain Golf Club in Phuket and Alpine Golf Club and Royal Gems Golf Club in Bangkok. Red Mountain and Alpine were the best conditioned golf courses, but every round of golf in Thailand is amazing. The terrain is spectacular, the people are so incredibly generous and the overall experience is unlike any other in the world. Each player is in a cart which is driven by a female caddy delivering unrivaled customer service. Cold towels, sun blocking umbrellas and cold drinks appear at the most appropriate times without mention. These caddies are indeed the nicest people in the world. A heart of gold – all of them. Like Georgia has tall pines – Thailand has massive banana trees and bamboo. The out of bounds jungles are thick with foliage and vibrant green. Insects and animals makes noises you’ve never heard before – particularly the cicada bug. Thailand golf courses have everything we want as golfers and the adventure we seek as explorers.
1a. Thailand Flavor
The best thing about a terrible round of golf is the cold beer and good food to follow. It is possible to play poorly on a golf vacation and have the time of your life – I speak from experience. I didn’t play well in Thailand and don’t care. I love golf more than anything, but it’s lunch after golf at Blue Canyon I remember most. We sat down at Laem Sai Seafood Restaurant in the Thalang District of the Phuket Province. The first course was mussels in a mega-spicy bird’s eye chili bath. Then came the wok fried fish, lobster and fresh vegetables. It was local and it was amazing.
Dinner at Blue Elephant Phuket was also magic and the buffet at the Le Meridian Hotel in Bangkok was brilliant. From start to finish – Thailand cuisine is as good or better than any destination in the world.
The joys of golf travel touch us in so many ways. Of course golf is typically the centerpiece of the trip, but it’s the interesting people, amazing food and local lore that stays with us forever.
What were your favorite golf travel moments in 2018? Click Here to comment.