Where To Golf Next

So many choices, but where to begin?

As a result of the pandemic, Morning Read’s Alex Miceli is counting the days until he feels safe to travel and play golf again. Perhaps of more importance, though, is where will he go

Where do I go first?

Since the pandemic began, I’ve been scared to get on a plane. And even if I was comfortable with the idea of getting on a plane, most of the places I want to visit won’t let me in — Scotland for one.

So, as I think about when the virus is gone — or at least a safe vaccine is available — and travel restrictions lighten up, I have been considering where to go first.

In my mind, the options are Scotland, Bandon Dunes or Cabot Links. And my most viable options at the moment are here in the United States.

Let’s first look at Bandon Dunes, where I have been the most and have always enjoyed my time.

I love each of the resort’s courses, though maybe not Bandon Trails as much as the rest. That’s because I’ve been told the better player likes Trails and I’m not a better player anymore.

Alex Miceli — Bandon Dunes
Morning Read's Alex Miceli stands aside the 11th hole at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort's Pacific Dunes as the sun rises on his round.

My favorite is Old Macdonald, which I’ve been told is a ludicrous choice to have as a favorite course. I just look at my naysayers and say, “To me Old Mac is the closest to playing in Scotland.” I love the course’s big greens, which remind me of St. Andrews’ Old Course, but have more undulation and movement than what Old Tom Morris worked on in Scotland.

I’ve walked Sheep Ranch, but only during the formative stages when it was under construction by course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. So I am looking forward to playing it since the pictures I have seen are spectacular.

I love Bandon so much that I actually put together a list of my favorite 18 holes, including the 13-hole par-3 Bandon Preserve course, but not including Sheep Ranch. Unlike most courses, I have six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. Remember, it’smydream Bandon experience.

Alex Miceli’s Dream Bandon Course
Par 3s: Bandon Preserve, 9 and 11; Bandon Trails, 2 and 5; Pacific Dunes, 10 and 12.
Par 4s: Bandon Dunes, 16; Old Macdonald, 1, 3 and 13; Bandon Trails, 15; Pacific Dunes, 2.
Par 5s: Bandon Dunes, 13; Old Macdonald, 15; Bandon Trails, 9 and 16; Pacific Dunes, 3 and 12.

So, a week’s trip to Bandon as soon as possible is on the top of the list.

Cabot Links - Cabot Cape Breton
Cabot Cape Breton: “Golf the Cabot Way.” (Courtesy of Cabot Cape Breton / Photo by Jacob Sjoman)

Cabot Links is closer to where I live in Massachusetts, but unlike Bandon, the courses in Nova Scotia are not open much past October and don’t open back up again until May. That could potentially force my hand as I don’t know if I can wait that long. Cabot is such a different experience than Bandon, but well worth the trip, even though it is off the beaten path.

For me, what makes a trip to Cabot ideal is that I can drive there and experience some of the other venues in Nova Scotia, specifically Highlands Links, where I was scheduled to visit, but couldn’t make the trip.

Like Sheep Ranch, I visited the relatively new Cabot Cliffs (the course opened in 2016) while it was still under construction. I spent some time walking the property with designer Bill Coore, so I’m anxious to play the course.

Obviously, I cannot drive to Scotland. Physically, since I would be travelling from the U.S., I’m waiting for the 14-day self-isolation period upon arrival to be lifted. Psychologically, I need to get my head around the idea of flying, in this case a long distance, again.

Once those two things occur, planning a month-long trip to Scotland — what I consider to be God’s country — is on tap.

St. Andrews, Old Course — Hole No. 18
A golf trip to Scotland would not be complete without a stop at St. Andrews’ Old Course, known as ‘the home of golf.’

If flying into Edinburgh, then I would head straight for St. Andrews, but not before a stop at the nine-hole course at Anstruther Golf Club, which offers great views and a different experience. Also, the best fish and chips in Scotland — if not Britain — are at the Anstruther Fish Bar.

Once I arrive in St. Andrews, the playing options are endless and include Crail Golfing Society, Kingsbarns Golf Links, The Duke’s Course and the plethora of courses at St. Andrews, starting with the Old Course and then expanding out to New, Jubilee and Castle. The Fife peninsula is also the home to the new Dumbarnie Links, which is on the way from Edinburgh to Anstruther.

From St. Andrews, the trip can go in any direction. Go west and visit to
Western Gailes Golf Club, Turnberry Golf Club, Royal Troon Golf Club and Prestwick Golf Club. To the north there is Cruden Bay, Royal Aberdeen and Murcar golf clubs, along with Trump International Golf Links. And to the upper northwest there is Royal Dornoch Golf Club — with Tain and Brora golf clubs being worthy stops. There is also Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Cullen or Nairn to consider. Then on the way back to Edinburgh there is Gullane, North Berwick and Dunbar as playing options.

Now, I just hope I can get there before my game deteriorates any more.

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