Little River: Affordable Golf Just Four Miles from Pinehurst 0 28

(CARTHAGE, N.C.) May 23, 2012 — While playing my way through Virginia and North Carolina recently, I was directed from Pinehurst up the road toward Carthage, N.C., along U.S. 15/501 to the Little River Golf Resort – and what a find this gem of a place is!

Call it the working man’s Pinehurst with a friendly, affordable daily-fee vibe. Little River Golf Resort features 18 holes of firm, fast greens and fairways, a lively alehouse and refreshingly welcoming staff.

To prove my point, who did I run into on the course but Rob Henry, my caddie from Pinehurst No. 2 from the day before – which says a lot about the place. Play where the caddies play, I say.

You can’t go wrong with a resort that posts an aerial skydiving team’s video of themselves jumping out of planes over the golf course and landing on the practice green, set to head-banging music that would make me want to jump out of a plane, too.

But to the heart of the matter, this Dan Maples-designed parkland-style golf course is a relaxing test, where the relative openness of the front nine sets up the more picturesque and challenging back nine. Immaculate and fast greens reward great putting. Built in 1996, the course is a mature routing across 200 feet of elevation change.

General Manager and PGA Professional Marvin Waters, local boy returned home from Palm Beach a few years ago, does a great job getting large groups on special outings, buddies’ stay-and-play groups and individual daily-fee players around Little River at a good clip.

The smiles must be contagious. On an incredibly busy Saturday, I did not run into single Little River staff member who did not smile and greet me from 10 to 15 feet away.

The lodging is virtually new, spotlessly clean and featuring full-kitchen, two-bedroom, two-bath suites that contain four queen-size beds  — leaving plenty of room for guys on the low-end of the buddy-trip totem pole to sack out in available roll-away beds.

The clubhouse’s Derby’s Ale House is cozy and unpretentious and serves up an affordable menu. A recent weekend-night special got me a 16-ounce Yuengling draft, cheeseburger and fries for $9.50. No wonder caddies come here. The adjoining banquet hall is a hub of wedding activity, due to proximity to nearby Fort Bragg.

High-season stay-play packages at Little River go for $369 for two nights. That includes unlimited Little River golf with cart, breakfast, range balls, drink and gift vouchers, plus an 18-hole round off-property at one of several nearby daily-fee courses. Rates are based on quad occupancy.

Summer packages start at $219. Low-season golf only can hit $45 while a high-season round can reach $145.

Some of my golf writer brethren have been through Little River Golf & Resort in the past and had glowing things to say. I’ll say I have not seen a better mix of price,  courtesy and accommodations in any part of the country in a long time. Little River ranks right up there with other buddies’ trip locales I’ve visited. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who wants to take a break from the high-dollar golf down the road in Pinehurst.

— Dan Vukelich

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Los Cabos’ Quivira: Pebble Beach in Mexico 0 174

Quivira Golf Club No 6

Nicklaus Tested by Beautiful, Severe Baja Terrain

“Have you ever walked the golf course,” I asked Quivira Golf Club Los Cabos’ director of golf, Antonio Reynante.

“My assistants and I tried it once, but we couldn’t get past Number 6,” the fit-looking 35-year-old former mini-tour player told me. “We had to call the shop to come out and take us back in golf carts.”

It wasn’t an indictment of his staff’s physical conditioning so much as a testament to architect Jack Nicklaus’ ability to design a golf course that starts at 30 feet above sea level and climbs to nearly 400.

Quivira Hole No 15 “I thought it was a very challenging yet spectacular piece of property,” Nicklaus said when the course opened in 2014.

“I hope most people will think it’s the most spectacular golf course and the best golf course they have ever seen. And yes, some other people will say, “You have got to be kidding.

That’s an honest appraisal. A cynic might say that Quivira is just a clown’s mouth or windmill away from goofy golf, but in my mind Nicklaus cast aside his usual highly engineered approach; instead, he let Quivira’s landscape dictate an appealing compromise between playability for the vacationing player, visual impact and sustainability.

The result is a track that Golf magazine named “Best New International Course” in 2014. In 2016, Golf Digest gave it the magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for best golf resort in Mexico or Central America.

The Challenge

Part of The Golden Bear’s solution to the challenging elevation changes at Quivira is the longest cart path I’ve ever ridden – 1,500 meters, or just shy of a mile – switch-backing its way 250 vertical feet along the flank of a massive dune-topped granite ridge rising above the ocean.

The ride is both exhilarating and relaxing, much like the first long ascent on an amusement park roller coaster. As you climb between Nos. 4 and 5, the views of the receding golf shop, beach, and the occasional humpback whale breaching well beyond the surf break are reasons enough to pat yourself on the back for choosing Cabo.

Quivira Golf Club Hole No 5Cresting the last switchback to the No. 5 tee box brings a truly vertigo-inducing view – the kind that snaps your senses to full alert, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and announces in no uncertain terms that, yes, your golf vacation has finally begun.

To the left: the Pacific Ocean and a sheer drop of 280 feet. To the right: the ridge rising higher still. To the front: a narrow ribbon of grass leading to an unseen green dangling some 100 feet below the layup spot in the fairway. The putting surface itself is perched 125 feet above the surf.

It’s not often I’m thankful to see a “Cart paths only this hole” sign, but this was one of those times. The thought of our cart launching us a la “Thelma and Louise” into the ocean fleetingly crossed my mind.

Quivira No 6 holeThe Par 3 6th is no less spectacular. I’ll let the course description do the talking: “The tee shot must find and hold a long narrow green that drops off to a cavernous bunker and oblivion on the left.”

“Oblivion” would be the Pacific. From the back tee box, the putting surface is but a speck of green 180 yards away, sky blue above, ocean blue to the left, granite brown to the right.

Multiple Personalities

Quivira Golf Club No 13Once the course turns inland, the rest of Quivira’s holes range in personality from those you’d find on the sandy links courses of Scotland to those you’d find in Scottsdale or tucked in the folds of the hills and ravines of Northern California.

What you’ll likely not find elsewhere, though, are Quivira’s four staffed, on-course food and beverage stations, where complimentary beer, wine, tacos and other hand-held fare are freely offered. The halfway house, called the Oasis, features regional cuisine and a full tequila bar.

Pueblo Bonito Hotel and poolQuivira is part of the Pueblo Bonito family of resorts, which has three Cabo hotels, the Pacifica, an adult-oriented beach-side hotel, the Sunset Beach, a family-oriented hotel sited next to a 161,000-square-foot central food market, and the Greco-Roman-themed Rose Resort. For those seeking extra privacy, affiliated residential communities offer condos and freestanding ocean-view villas for rent.

If You Go

What: Quivira Golf Club Los Cabos, Pueblo Bonita Resort

Where: Cabo San Lucas, Baja Sur California, Mexico

When: Moderate temperatures year-round

How much: Greens fees, $227-$370, depending on season; $213 per round as part of a three-round stay-play package. Rooms start at $466 a night.

All the Pueblo Bonito properties in Cabo offer activities that include swimming with the dolphins, whale-watching, jet skiing and guided fishing trips. All offer a variety of spa treatments.

Getting to Cabo San Lucas is a snap, with easy connections through Phoenix. One wrinkle you should know about: For a reason no one I asked could explain, you can take golf balls in your carry-on baggage on the flight to Cabo but Mexican authorities will confiscate them before you board on your return.

 Dan Vukelich is the senior editor at ABQ Free Press, a former editor at Sun Country Golf magazine and editor of newmexicogolfnews.com. Reach him at dan@newmexicogolfnews.com.

Phoenix’s West Valley Gets a Winner with Victory Club 1 1039

Verrado Victory Golf Club

Rocky Foothills Now 7,258 Yards of Emerald Fairways

The Phoenix Metro just got another great new golf course — the Victory Course at Verrado Golf Club in the West Valley — that can be had for an introductory rate of $99, with a replay for $25.

This one’s a must-play for Spring Training fans flocking to the Valley of the Sun to see Cactus League baseball in a couple weeks. It’s off I-10, about 12 miles northwest of the Metro’s western-most Spring Training venue, Goodyear Ball Park, where the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds train.

Designed by PGA Tour player Tom Lehman, the Victory Club was built on a former proving ground for Caterpillar heaviest and toughest earth-moving equipment.

Victory Club at VerradoLehman called his new layout “surreally beautiful.” He said the rugged rock environment dramatically contrasts against “immaculately maintained fairways and greens.”

In every way, he said, “We’ve truly used whatever the land has given us and left the terrain all natural, so it looks like the course has been built right into the land. In fact, I can’t think of another course in Arizona that is quite like it.”

The Victory Club is the first course to open in the West Valley since its sister course, Verrado, opened in 2002. Its opening coincides with Arizona’s peak golf season.

“Because Victory’s debut is so special, we wanted to do something special for our guests, too,” said Doug Foss, director of marketing for Verrado Golf club. “We know there has been a lot of anticipation about the course opening, and I think what people will find when they come and play it is that Tom Lehman has really added another true gem to the Arizona golf scene.”

The Victory Club is 32 due west of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, hard against the White Tanks Mountains.

To play Victory now for just $99, and get the replay, which the club is calling “the bounceback round,” for just $25, visit www.verradogolfclub.com or call (623) 388-3000.

Dan Vukelich, former editor of Sun Country Golf magazine, in Albuquerque, N.M., is the editor of ABQ Free Press, an alternative newspaper. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers Association. Reach him at dan@freeabq.com.