I am tremendously fortunate to get to do what I do for a living.
Spending chunks of college Economics classes perusing golf courses on Google Maps may not have seemed like a sound career move, but it’s worked out alright so far. Like our Managing Editor Jason Scott Deegan, I get to travel the world in search of satisfying, unique and interesting golf experiences, and then I get to write about them for our discerning audience of millions of golfers. It is an honor.
My travel ramped back up considerably in 2022, though not quite to pre-pandemic levels. But I’m a different person than I was in the late 2010s. I got married in February 2020 and became a father in June of 2021, so even though it is still fun to fly off to a destination and play a bunch of golf, it is more exciting to return home to my incredible family. I’m a little pickier about my travel opportunities lately. What’s more, every day brings me a day closer to getting to share the game of golf with my daughter. My favorite golf purchase of the year by far? A size-2T navy-and-white-striped polo in the Pinehurst Resort pro shop.
Some other highlights of 2022:
* After the 2021 edition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the modest-but-scrappy 2022 PGA Merchandise Show felt like a return to normalcy. I can’t wait to get 2023 underway in Orlando in late-January.
* In March, I had my first GolfChannel.com byline: a profile of 2022 Latin American Amateur Champion Aaron Jarvis, who hails from the Cayman Islands, an unlikely source of young golfing talent. Jarvis competed in the 2022 Masters and made the cut in the 2022 Open Championship.
* On a gorgeous Masters Sunday, my wife and I brought our daughter to the quiet end of the driving range at Sandridge Golf Club to crawl around, eat chocolate and oranges and see Daddy hit a few golf balls.
* In early June, two firsts. One of them: a bucket-list round at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. The other, that very evening: my first-ever public-speaking gig, a 15-minute presentation on the history of golf in Charleston, S.C., to a group of company business partners. I was nervous, but I got through it and received a couple of compliments.
* In July, a much-anticipated return round at Pinehurst No. 2, which I had last played 16 years earlier, well before its transformative restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw in 2010.
* In August, my first-ever trip to Nebraska. Being among the first golfers to play Tad King and Rob Collins’ much-hyped 18-hole debut Landmand Golf Club was a special experience. Even though I failed to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Amateur a few days later in Omaha, it was a great first visit to the Cornhusker State.
* I teamed up with local pro Zac Courtenay in the Mayor’s Cup, an annual two-person event here in Vero Beach that brings together the local golf community. We came up a couple of shots short but had a great time.
* In October, I got a glimpse of a new way for golfers to “play” bucket-list golf courses from their living rooms when I demoed Golf+, a virtual-reality video game stocked with remarkably accurate Metaverse versions of Pinehurst No. 2, Pebble Beach Golf Links and more.
* I ventured up to Hilton Head Island for a few days, including a reunion with a friend I hadn’t seen since my wedding and a couple of rounds with him and his father at Colleton River Club, one of the best golf communities I’ve visited.
* A first-time trip to San Diego, during which time I played more different forms of golf than I have in any five-day stretch. The more I see of Southern California, the more I like.
It has been a fun year, and I’m looking forward to 2023. But before turning the calendar, here are some nominations of the best of golf I experienced in 2022:
Top-Ranked Courses Played
Having spent a lot of time in the Carolinas, I was thrilled to have a bit of a Carolinas-centric year when it came to highly-ranked courses played. Going by Golfweek Magazine‘s lists of the top Classic (pre-1960) and Modern (since 1960), The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is tops, at #13 on the Modern list. Fittingly, #2 is Pinehurst No. 2, at #16 on the Classic list. Then comes Harbour Town Golf Links, at #54 Modern. If you asked me to rank the three courses by which one I’d most want to play again, I would actually go in the reverse order, though I am already counting the days until my next tangle with each of them.
Once again, the rankings may have it a little different, but I just love Harbour Town, so it gets the nod from me.
Best International Golf Course
With only one trip outside the U.S. this year, the Cayman Islands’ North Sound Golf Club wins by default. It’s not a world-beater golf course, but my round there may have been my favorite of the year, as I got to tee it up with 2022 Latin America Amateur Champion Aaron Jarvis, his brother Andrew and their friend Payten Wight. I profiled Aaron for Golf Channel before he played in the 2022 Masters and Open Championship, and talked about how Payten and Andrew helped establish their small country – with only 27 holes of golf – as an unlikely source of strong amateur golf talent. Fascinating place, great people.
I didn’t play a ton of private courses this year, but Colleton River Club’s Dye Course is the clear winner. I need to start saving my pennies so I can retire there. Honorary mention goes to the stately, graceful Cardinal Course at the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst.
Colleton River Club’s Nicklaus Course has several holes that drift along the marshes off Bluffton, S.C. While I prefer the design of the Dye, “The Nick” has the (slightly) superior views.
The Grand Golf Club lives up to its name, with a spacious clubhouse that is also home to California’s only triple-Michelin-starred restaurant, Addison. The indoor/outdoor locker-room/patio setup is excellent.
Landmand Golf Club wins by a mile. Never mind that it’s 90 minutes north of Omaha; it’s a borderline-bucket-list destination golf course with a great vibe.
On my way out of town, I was joined by a friend for a dew-sweeping walk around San Diego’s The Loma Club. Playing the drop-shot 6th hole while the sun came up over the city skyline is a top-5 golf memory of the year.
I knew it would be good because I respect architect Andy Staples’ abilities to elevate an existing layout into something interesting, but San Vicente Golf Resort northeast of San Diego blew me away. At less than $70 to play (and $200 per month to be a member), it is one of the best golf values I have ever encountered.
On my annual Thanksgiving trip to see my parents in Connecticut, I seized a 50-degree day to play the great Keney Park, one of the country’s gems of publicly-owned golf. Honorable mention goes to New Smyrna Golf Club in coastal Central Florida.
San Vicente wins in a romp, but I also thought highly of the well-maintained Benson Park Golf Course in Omaha, where I paid $26 to walk on a lovely August day.
I got my teeth knocked in by The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, but I can’t wait to give it another try.
I’ve stayed at some nice places this year, but Pinehurst Resort is the one that checks the most boxes for overall golf-vacation happiness.
I tend to prefer off-course eats because there are only so many ways to present typical 19th-hole fare like club sandwiches and hamburgers, but golf course chefs have raised their game lately. The Deuce, Pinehurst Resort’s sports bar within the main golf complex, got me to love brussels sprouts; theirs are flash-fried with bacon and served with a side of Ranch dressing. I also really liked the pimiento cheese and country ham sandwich I had at the Ryder Cup Bar at Kiawah Island after my round on the Ocean Course
Don’t tell my bosses, but I often do as much research on where I’m going to eat as where I’m going to play on a given trip. My food obsession paid off handsomely this year in several places, but two stand out. First, the best fried chicken I have ever tasted: at Dirty Birds in downtown Omaha. Second, a roadside hole-in-the-wall that is a mandatory stop anytime I’m driving north on I-95: Chickin’ Lickin, in Hardeevile, S.C. Yes, their fried chicken is great as well, but the oxtails I had in October – joined on the styrofoam tray by dirty rice and fried okra – were sublime.
I had an out-of-body experience at San Vicente Golf Resort. On the par-4 7th hole, I canned a three-quarter gap wedge from 106 yards for eagle. On the 18th hole, I sent a 9-iron on target from 148 yards. It smashed the middle of the flag and dropped down the stick into the cup for my second par-4 deuce of the day, capping off a round of 65 (-7). I’m not expecting to ever replicate my two hole-out day, but I plan to have fun trying for the next several decades.
What were the highlights of your 2022 on the golf course? Drop your favorite courses, best shots and cherished memories in the comments!