Monthly Archives: April 2015

May Southland: Golf & Go Coastal Cruises

May Southland

Golf fans attending the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in June will arrive by land, air and now even sea thanks to a new Orange County golf cruise company.

Golf and Go Coastal Cruises is booking two sailings with itineraries that include stops at Chambers Bay during the tournament. Other cruises they are offering up until the Open include stopping to play Chambers Bay.

Golf & Go owner Jamie Austin says there’s a lot of excitement around Chambers since it’s a new U.S. Open venue. According to Austin, a similar cruise to the British Open last year sold out in two weeks.

“It’ll be interesting to see if it sells out as fast as the British Open,” she says. “We’ve had lots of calls. And to be able to golf it around the same time is just as fun.

“It’s a beautiful course. You won’t be disappointed.”

Founded last year, Golf & Go is the only American cruise company specializing in golf cruises, which are more common in Europe, Austin says.

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The company, based in Laguna Hills, has partnered with elite courses up and down the West Coast – Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, Spyglass Hill, Half Moon Bay, to name a few – to combine world-class golf and destination for trips of three, four, seven and nine days for groups of 50 or 60 per ship. Their destinations range all the way from Vancouver, BC, Canada, to Ensenada, Mexico.

Having the U.S. Open on the West Coast this year is a unique opportunity for the company and golf fans, Austin says.

“We’ll have tickets available for your guests,” she says. “And the great thing about going via cruise is that you don’t have to worry about staying and finding a hotel. You just go, get back on the ship and resume your cruise.”

And you’re likely tee it up the next day. The cruises are designed to be golf-intensive, although they also offer itineraries for non-golfing spouses as well.

A teaching pro travels with each group to provide, among other things, on-ship instruction utilizing the last teaching technology – swing simulators, etc. Celebrity cruise lines even has a ship with an upper deck comprised of natural turf to allow for short game and putting practice.

The touring pro also accompanies the golfers to the course and monitors their progress.

“They are there as mentors and want to help you,” Austin says. “They’ll help you figure out what works and what doesn’t to try to help improve your game.

“Getting yourself more into golf is what the golf cruise is all about. And you don’t have to think about anything else. When you get off the ship, your clubs are waiting for you.”


Austin has always been into golf, but not so much into cruising. Austin is a cruise convert, which says makes her an ideal promoter of the experience because she understands the objections and misconceptions.

“I was asked to go on a cruise several times and kept saying no. I didn’t like the claustrophobic thought of being stuck on a ship with a bunch of people I didn’t know,” she says. “Those are the things that stick in your mind when you’re not a cruiser and you don’t understand it.”

A trip to the Caribbean completely changed her perspective.

“It was a real eye-opener,” Austin says. “It was so much different than I expected.”

Among other things, the quality of the food and the level of activity far exceeded Austin’s expectations. She noted that it’s now common for wine tastings, cooking classes, shopping trips, and dancing and fitness classes to be part of cruise itineraries.

The primary concern the Golf & Go faces about a golf cruise is how to accommodate a spouse who doesn’t golf. Austin says this is addressed through a separate itinerary that combines ship activities and opportunities in the port cities.

“We work on itineraries through conversations with the group and through research of what’s going on at the port city, be it tours, festivals, concerts or whatever else might be going on at the time,” she says.

“We want to take advantage of everything our destinations have to offer, be it on the course, the ship or in the city.”

Golf & Golf is looking forward to offering the best both the golf and cruises industries have to offer. In particular, Austin hand-picked the courses the golfers will play.

“We chose these courses because I know people who’ve played them and I gathered a lot of information beforehand,” Austin says. “We’re excited to offer these courses to our clients and take them there on ships that are rich and luxurious.”

For more information on Golf & Go Coastal cruises, go to To a book a cruise, contact Jamie Austin at 800.494.4067 or

Maderas: Chris Mayson Lesson No. 3 – Playing A Fairway Bunker Shot

Chris Mayson’s third lesson on KUSI is about playing a fairway bunker shot from 50 yards and in. See the clip, and the awesome result, below:

Thanks to Rick Willis and KUSI for sharing their video content.

Maderas and the Drought: Four Ways We’re Being Water Wise


As California moves into a fourth year of severe drought, unprecedented government mandates and restrictions are taking effect to deal with the state’s water shortage.

Maderas Golf Club has taken measures to restrict its use and continues to coordinate with local agencies and authorities to address the situation as it evolves.

“Our position on water is that we want to work with the City of Poway and the San Diego Water Authority to be the very best stewards during this drought for the golf course and the community,” Maderas General Manager Michael Flickinger says.

Some conservation efforts at Maderas you may notice, while others you may not. What follows is a list of some of the ways Maderas is adjusting its water usage:

1. Water in the restaurant is by request only.

2. Melt water from cart coolers is being repurposed to irrigate plants.

3. Watering of driving range has been restricted to tee boxes and targets.

4. Overall watering of the course has been made more efficient through maintenance and upgrades to the irrigation system and practices such as targeted watering. Technologies are being pursued to make the system even more efficient in its hydration of turf and the ability to control water application and eliminate excess.

Referring to the turf-reduction programs some Southern California courses are undertaking, Maderas Director of Agronomy Patrick Reilly noted Maderas’ irrigated acreage is actually quite small compared its overall size.

“We irrigate about 88 acres and our property is 188,” he said. “We have a lot of native areas and non-turf. Many other golf courses have much larger footprints and have excess areas they can eliminate.”

To that end, Flickinger says that Maderas was designed to be sustainable under the current conditions.

He says, “Our course was designed with conservation and water use in mind back when it was constructed in 1998-99, and that’s why it has a tight footprint.”

The Maderas blog will keep you posted about further developments as the situation unfolds, but we appreciate your understanding and support of our efforts to maintain the Maderas golf experience you’ve come to know and expect under the existing climate scenario.

Questions about Maderas’ water conservation efforts can be directed to Maderas Director of Agronomy Patrick Reilly at

Maderas: A Maderas Weddings Q & A W/Wedding Specialist Katy Arrington

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In the three years since Katy Arrington took over as Senior Catering Sales Manager, Maderas Golf Club has become an increasingly popular wedding destination in San Diego.

In fact, 2015 is primed to be a record year for Maderas as the club is on pace to host, even exceed, 50 weddings for the first time. And bookings are already taking place for 2016.

Arrington took some time recently to provide some insight into weddings at Maderas and what makes them special.

What are a few reasons Maderas has become more popular as a wedding venue?

We’ve been consistently renovating the facility since I was brought on as a wedding specialist. The Maderas experience is highly personalized. We’re emphasizing that with each client, and we’re a rare venue that the catering manager stays with you from the beginning to the end.

What does that entire process encompass?

I sell the wedding and then stay with you through the whole process, meaning tastings, planning, diagrams and everything. I’m your one point of contact throughout the entire event so I establish really good relationships with all the clients. And the planning can be anywhere from six months up to 18 months. The bigger the wedding, the more in advance people tend to plan, and I’m happy to be a resource for them.

That relationship building extends beyond the wedding as well. We’ve celebrated people’s anniversaries and them having babies. They become endeared to the club.

What are a few wedding trends you are seeing?

People are choosing other days of the week besides Saturday. We’re seeing Friday weddings and Sunday weddings. We give small incentives for people to book on other days besides Saturday. But there’s not the stigma of Saturday only anymore. Saturday is definitely prime, but sometimes Friday or Sunday can work just as well for a wedding.

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What role is social media playing in the wedding experience now?

We’ve really increased our emphasis on the web site – – with a focus on social media. We frequently update our photos and we have a sales assistant posting to Pinterest so people can see photos of the great new things we’ve done. We’re also encouraging our photographers to post and all of our vendors – florists, etc. – to post their work on Pinterest.

Amazingly, brides look at that a lot. It really helps them visualize their special day and gives them ideas. They can request things they like, including vendors, who they’ve seen online.

Maderas can host weddings for anywhere from 50 people up to 250. What about Maderas’ size makes it unique for a wedding venue in San Diego?

Our size is a huge selling point for us. We’re at a size where it’s affordable enough for some people to buy out the club for the day and have full reign of the club. A lot of brides don’t want to see other brides on their wedding day so it allows our whole staff to focus entirely on them and their event, which makes their day very, very special.

And we’re one of the few locations that actually thinks about the groom. We do a nice little area for him and the groomsmen. They can watch sports and relax, or golf. We have lots of golfers. They sometimes even the golf the day of – if the bride allows it. (Laughing.) We’ve actually had several grooms golf, shower and go to their wedding.

We offer a private experience, and the parking is easy, and our staff is really focused on the couple. It’s a welcoming environment. We don’t do hundreds of weddings a year here, so each one we do is special and you get the VIP treatment.

And the range of weddings, culturally, that Maderas can host is unique as well …

We’ve done Ethiopian, Persian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hispanic – basically any ethnicity you can think of. And kosher. We’re a kosher facility. That’s a big one, especially when it comes to catering. A rabbi comes in and supervises the cleaning of the kitchen and the cooking of the food. Everything has to come in brand new and sealed, including dishware. We have a rental company that helps us with that. It’s very encompassing. It’s a two- or three-day process. There are dietary considerations as well.

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Finally, the next update to Maderas wedding experience is the bride’s suite. What can you tell us about the project?

We have a bride’s suite we call La Casa, the little house. It’s a space where the bride and her bridesmaids can ready for the day in privacy.

There will be a makeup counter, a makeup chair and a form where the bride can hang her dress which she gets ready and does her makeup. The form keeps the shape of the dress is great for photos. We’re adding some nice patio furniture, an umbrella and fire pit outside as well.

We’re also upgrading all the kitchen appointments, including a new coffee maker so it feels like their little home, their little house. And we’ve ordered a bunch of furniture and décor. It should be completed by mid-May and will be a great photo opportunity for the bride and the bridal party.

To contact Katy Arrington about booking a wedding or event at Maderas, call 858.217.2564 or email You can also find more information at

Four Observations About The Playing Experience At The Palms GC

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When you’re a golf writer in Southern California and you haven’t played in the desert, that’s what they call a gap in your resume.

Fortunately, an invitation from The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta earlier this year allowed me to finally have the experience – and what an experience it was.

The Palms is a private club in La Quinta where some 50 PGA and LPGA [pros are members, including Fred Couples, who designed the course. So you’re playing at one of the homes of the pros. They winter here.

The collective achievement of the club’s professionals are celebrated in a huge display case in the clubhouse and on place mats in the dining room that give you an overview of the titles won by its professional and amateur members as well as other accolades. A too brief overview: six Masters victories; 19 Ryder Cup appearances; four members of the World Golf Hall of Fame and 131 PGA Tour wins.

Their impressive professional membership roster is part of the reason the Palms has the lowest club handicap in the desert and the nation. Yes, they take their golf seriously here, thus there being a most impressive short-game practice area and no pool.

Palms Director of Golf J.D. Ebersberger hosted me for a practice round and tour. Ebersberger has been with the club since it was being built and gave me insight into the inspirations of the designers. This was a treat for me, because I love course design, and there’s plenty to admire here on a course that has more palm trees than any I can recall. The Palms is indeed aptly named.

When you go online to read about the Palms at its web site,, you find something under “pace of play” that causes you to do a double take. It says the average round here takes just over three hours, which brings us to our first observation …


1. The Fastest Golf in the West – The pace promise was one of the first things I asked Ebersberger about and he assured me our round would hold to it. “Unless we get done sooner,” he said. “We play fast here.”

The course also doesn’t have tee times. It’s the ultimate ready golf.

Having slogged through my share of pokey public rounds, you forget golf can be played this way. The best part is that the pace just happens organically. There’s no one pushing you. The players just play the right way and with a group commitment to keeping it moving.

The pace certainly helps your game, but it isn’t so fast that you feel rushed, which is great because there’s much to see and appreciate here. And speaking of fast …

2. The Fastest Greens in the West? – The greens at The Palms are immaculate, but they’re also undulating and challenging with several false fronts. And the day I played they were faster than a BWM on the I-10 in LA. It took me five holes before I stopped blowing my putts a mile past the cup.

After my first putt raced past the hole and back down into the fairway, Ebersberger informed me: “They were rolling 13.5 yesterday. We dialed them back.”

Had I played the day before, four-putts would’ve been a real possibility. As it was, I probably set a career record for three-putts and putts into the fairway. It happened again on a downhiller on the back nine.


3. Inspired By The Classics – The course has elements of three of Couples’ favorite courses – Augusta National and Riviera as well as Oakmont in Ebersberger’s home state of Pennsylvania.

The Augusta holes present them on the front. There’s a hole with a meandering creek that reminds you of Rae’s and then you play a long par 4 to green guarded by a lake, which is by far the biggest water feature on the course.

The creek crossings on this hole are stone bridges that resemble those at Augusta. They’re even brown. Ebersberger painted them. They also match the course’s mountain surroundings. This attention to detail stirs your golf soul when you’re standing on the tee.

The only thing missing to really put you amongst the pine trees at Augusta is the white sand bunkers. There’s a reason for that.

“Yeah, I did a test bunker,” Ebersberger says, explaining that Masters sand contains crystals. “I got in there in mid-July and it was 140 degrees, and I couldn’t see.”

For the record, the day we played in February, it could’ve have been more pleasant. But we all know what it can be like in the summer. Ebersberger says Palms members play there mostly eight months out of the year and then seek cooler-climate courses during the high heat.


4. Palms Aplenty – Besides having more palm trees than any course I can recall, The Palms also has the most unique collection of them.

They grow every which we way here and there a couple where you wonder how they’re standing. Others are just unique in ways that just have to be seen to be truly appreciated. The course was built on what used to be a date farm so it inherited those trees and the club bought more.

When choosing the trees, Ebersberger accepted some trees that were deemed less-than-perfect palms by the nursery. Those trees now add a great deal of character to the course.

And Ebersberger protected some trees the construction crew wanted to remove, such as one behind the green on No. 10. Members call it “the snake tree,” because that’s exactly what it looks like. It’s a palm that grew downward, then turned up, like a snake raising its head.

“They wanted to push the green back farther to lengthen the hole. I told them to leave it and put the green in front of it.”

I gained the added appreciation of having to chip over it.

There are other places in the course where the trees are growing in such clusters that you’re not sure how many there actually are in the bunch. And there’s a small citrus orchard on the back nine, adding another cool character quirk.


As we walked off No. 18, Ebersberger asked me, “How did we do?” He wasn’t asking about the scorecard. He wanted me to check the time.

Sure enough: three hours flat.

Great golf played quickly in a destination where discovery awaits you on every hole, just as golf should be. In that way, The Palms is its own piece of paradise in a place that has a lot of it.

For information about membership, you can contact Ebersberger at

SD Tourism: Five Camera-Phone Worthy Golf Holes in San Diego


Editor’s note: This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority – – promoting golf in San Diego.

With nearly 90 courses to choose from, golf in San Diego is a veritable feast for your game – and your senses.

From jaw-dropping elevation changes and stunning sweeping vistas to breath-taking ocean views and brilliant botanical beauty, San Diego courses have all.

The following is all-too-brief list of some of the most camera-phone worthy holes in San Diego.


1. No. 3 (South Course) at Torrey Pines (La Jolla)

This iconic par 3 on the South Course, site of the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Opens, is San Diego’s most famous golf hole. Golfers worldwide make the pilgrimage just to hit this elevated tee shot and watch their ball soar into the blue horizon of the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop. There’s also the captivating view of La Jolla in the distance. Played mostly from 160 or 149 yards, this isn’t the toughest hole at Torrey by any stretch, but it’s certainly the most memorable – and photogenic. Its sister par 3 is No. 6 on the North, which features a nearly 200-foot drop to the green and plays directly into an ocean breeze. A birdie on either hole is a bonus. A whale sighting is a double bonus.

No. 6 at Journey

2. No. 6 at Journey at Pechanga (Temecula)
After playing irons shots at Torrey, it’s time to pull out driver to play this awesomely elevated par 4 at Journey at Pechanga. Trust us when we say you will remember the first time you get glimpse of this tee shot. You’re basically hitting the ball off the side of the mountain and watching it soar like a dimpled seagull to the dogleg-left fairway below. The backdrop is a vast overview of Temecula that makes it seem like you can see all the way to wine country. And cheers to you if you hit a big one here. You’ll feel like Paul Bunyan.

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3. No. 14 at Aviara Golf Club (Carlsbad)

Aviara, which is literally an 18-hole botanical garden, has several worthy candidates, but we have an affinity for No. 14, which is in the most remote part of the course. Like holes No. 3 and 11, 14 is an impeccably landscaped and elevated par 3 played over water. The green here is huge and gives you a second scenic treat when you reach it. To the left is a beautiful waterfall complex that’s home to an array of water birds splashing in the pond and soaring in the skies. A Golf Channel announcer said of No. 14 once, “If this hole doesn’t make you want to play golf, I don’t know what would.” Our sentiments exactly.

No. 3 at Coronado

Photo courtesy of

4. No. 3 Coronado Municipal Course (Coronado)

The setting of the Coronado course – surrounded by San Diego harbor – makes it unique, but the glimpse you get of the Coronado Bay Bridge, a San Diego landmark, on holes 2 and 3 in particular is something special. We’re going with hole No. 3, a par 4, for the list because it gives you the most unobstructed view. As you progress through your round, you’ll also catch glimpses of passing Navy ships, downtown San Diego and the Hotel Del Coronado. Being perfectly flat, it’s an ideal course to walk and take in the evolving scenery around you.

No. 7 Encinitas Ranch

Photo courtesy of

5. No. 7 at Encinitas Ranch (Encinitas)

The view at the par-4 7th at Encinitas Ranch isn’t so much about what’s in front of you as what’s behind. Looking back from the tee box, you can see a sweeping view of the two previous holes and a familiar blue hue in the background (the ocean). The scene is a pleasant surprise the first time you play the course and something you forward to when you return. And a bit like No. 14 at Aviara, this hole offers two distinct visual experiences. Your downhill approach is to a green accented by two star pines and a vast view of the valley beyond. When walking off the green, don’t forget your clubs – or to take a picture.

Photo Post: Ben Brown’s Golf Course In Laguna

I made a completely pleasant golf discovery last weekend that I wanted to share with you.

I was invited to play the nine-hole Ben Brown’s Golf Course at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. This is one of those local-secret courses, but it’s too good not to share. From the online description, I gathered little about the course I was about to play after being invited. I recalled a course sign being where this supposedly was – a mile from the ocean off PCH, just past Dana Point – but I’d never heard anyone talk about it.

Finding it is the first issue, though my phone app. got me there no problem. But the turn-in is sparsely and confusingly signed (what’s Aliso Creek?) and easy to miss, especially if you’re still fixated on the ocean.

But what you discover will surprise and amaze you. It’s a beautiful nine-hole layout that wanders through an incredible canyon setting. Every hole is a discovery of fun golf and wonderful scenery, including caves, that’s best taken in on two feet as this course, a SoCal rarity, is completely walkable. In fact, hardly anyone rode the day we played.

The course stretches to 2,221 yards from the blues and presents a fun mix of alternating par 3s and 4s that makes you work through most of your bag. The course and greens were in impeccable shape and provided enough tough holes to keep things interesting. There are at least two holes, both involving creek carries, here you’ve got to play at least twice to figure out how to club right. And I definitely recommend looping this course twice, mostly because it’ll take you no time at all. The pace was terrific here, too.

Oh, and when you arrive you hear rumors about deer. Sure enough, we saw them on our second nine. Deer in Laguna. Who knew?

Anyway, this is where I power down my fingers and let the photos do the talking. Here’s a glimpse of a great, and somewhat undiscovered, south Orange County golf experience.


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(Zoom in if you can’t see the moon.)

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9th at Laguna

Maderas: Chris Mayson Lesson Series Debuts On KUSI


Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson’s 26-week lesson series has debuted on KUSI’s Saturday evening newscast. His first lesson was about hitting your 3-wood.

Check in on Saturday nights for Chris’ next tip.

Thanks to Rick Willis and KUSI for sharing their video content.

Maderas: Masters Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction


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For the majority of the country who knows what it’s like to take a mandatory climatological break from the game, the Masters represents the annual rebirth of golf.

On the coast, where clubs never stopped swinging and multiple professional tournaments have passed through, the Masters doesn’t have quite the same significance, but it’s no less meaningful. This is the tournament that makes you fall in love with the game all over again, no matter what you shot in your last round.

For us golfers, this is the best week in sports, when the true competitive juices of the game at the professional level flow again. The scenery, the history, the pageantry (the Par 3 contest, honorary starters, etc.) – we watch for all of it.

And, as usual, there’s no lack of storylines at the Masters in 2015 and “major” history is in play, although likely not of the Tiger Woods variety. Making a run right now for Tiger is considered making the cut. And another blow-up round like what we saw in Phoenix might have people talking retirement.

But Tiger does make the cut for our top storylines going into Augusta.

1. Rory’s Run at History –
Golf history is teed high for Rory McIroy, but will be able to take advantage in a year where his game has yet to quite come together?

Besides giving him a third straight major win, a victory would earn McIlroy the rare and coveted career Grand Slam by age 25. He’s the favorite though he’s never won here. He’s most remembered at Augusta for squandering a four-shot lead on Sunday in 2011.

But McIlroy has come a long way since then and masters major moments now far more than shrinks from them. His game at its best is the best in the game, but will he be at his best at Augusta?

History is waiting to find out.

2. Bubba Has Mastered Augusta National – Having won two of the last three Masters, Bubba Watson’s game clearly sets up well for the course. It seems he should be in contention every year here as long as his putter shows up, and after the way he dominated last year, would it really surprise anybody if he eventually won four or five green jackets? Since the course changes, the layout is increasingly friendly to lefties, which brings us to …

3. Paging Mr. Mickelson – After his quietest year ever on Tour, some are pulling for Phil Mickelson’s game to come out of hibernation at Augusta, where the premium will always be on the short game, his forte. Mickelson’s game showed signs of life last week at the Houston Open, where he led early before settling into a 17th-place finish. Can Phil muster enough Masters’ magic for a fourth victory here? His putting, which has dogged him all year, will likely have something to say about it.

4. Has Tiger Tamed His Game? – Everyone will be watching when Tiger plays his first competitive round in nine weeks on Thursday to see he’s still fighting the short-game demons that have dragged his game to a career low. Even the most optimistic outlook has Tiger being more subplot than plot at Augusta. Him just making the cut is being touted as a major achievement. By the way, Tiger now hasn’t won here since 2005. The only history he’s guaranteed is his 20th Masters start.

5. Major Momentum – After a year when three of the four majors were runaways (only the PGA Championship was close), the Tour could use something akin to the Watson/Oosthuizen dual of three years ago to get the major season off to a competitive start and stir TV interest. TV rankings for most of the majors slumped a year ago.

Rory in contention would certainly turn on television sets as might a breakthrough win by someone such as Jordan Spieth. A Tiger scenario seems far-fetched, but Mickelson making another run isn’t out of the question. The tournament hasn’t truly had an outlier champion since Charl Schwartzl in 2011. In a Tour era where seemingly everyone can win, little truly surprises you anymore.

Chris Mayson prediction:

1. Jason Day: I picked him for the Farmers (he won) and I’m sticking with him. Day has always liked Augusta and played well there. He has prodigious length and hits the ball extremely high, which is very beneficial on the hard and fast greens. With the fairways playing soft after this week’s rain, his high ball flight and long carry should suit him even better. He already won at Torrey Pines this year, another very long and difficult course, and he has to be one of the favorites for this year.

2. Jordan Spieth: There is a saying on tour that if you want to find the winner of this week’s event, look no further than the top five of the previous week. Spieth finished second in Houston and also second last year at The Masters and has been playing very well all year. With a point to prove from last year, he won’t be far off the lead come the back nine on Sunday.

3. Dustin Johnson