'I've Golfed Everywhere' - Well Almost: A Recap of 2009

By: Steve Habel

From the desert of Arizona to the coastline of Cape Cod and scores of points in between, it's been a stellar year of golf and travel for this journalist.

Along the way I have met some of the greatest people and seen some wonderful things off the course, but most of the really magnificent memories I will take from 2009's journeys will be of wonderful routings, fantastic greens complexes and tight, tree-lined fairways as seen from thousands of tee boxes of the 105 tracks I have played during the past 12 months.

With apologies to the immortal Hank Snow (who sang the first North American version) and Johnny Cash, whose version is the most iconic, I bring you a few verses of my rendition of "I've Golfed Everywhere." Here goes - sing along if you want.

"I've golfed everywhere, man; I've golfed everywhere, man; crossed the desert bare, man; breathed the mountain air, man; I've traveled like I've had my share, man; I've golfed everywhere…

"I've golfed in Phoenix, Wickenburg, Kerrville, Arlington, San Antonio, Lakeway, Kyle, Lake Jackson, League City, Galveston, Houston, Washington, Maryland, San Antonio, Boulder City, Lake Mead, Las Vegas, Austin, Wimberley, Irving, Duncan, Thackerville…

"I've golfed everywhere, man; I've golfed everywhere, man; crossed the desert bare, man; breathed the mountain air, man; I've traveled like I've had my share, man; I've golfed everywhere…

"I've golfed in Durant, Grapevine, Fort Worth, Las Colinas, Osage Beach, Lake Ozark, Camdenton, Sunrise Beach, Versailles, Eldon, Warsaw, Universal City, Prescott, Horseshoe Bay, Breckenridge, Keystone, Shawnee, Blanco, Bastrop, Laramie, Casper, Buffalo, see what I mean…

"I've golfed everywhere, man; I've golfed everywhere, man; crossed the desert bare, man; breathed the mountain air, man; I've traveled like I've had my share, man; I've golfed everywhere…

"I've golfed in Sheridan, Fredericksburg, Brewster, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Dallas, Glen Rose, Oklahoma City, Edmond, Norman, Memphis, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Gunter, Port Aransas, Rockport, Harper, Kingsville, Spicewood, Jersey City, Burnet…

"I've golfed everywhere."

Indulge me, if you will, as I recount a handful of my best recollections of 2009.

Best Course at a Dude Ranch

Los Caballeros Golf Club in Wickenburg, Ariz. - about an hour's drive north west of Phoenix. Constructed in 1979 by Greg Nash and Jeff Hardin, this high-desert masterpiece features rolling terrain, two beautiful lakes, strategically placed bunkers and a layout that calls for virtually every shot in your repertoire. Here a 20,000-acre dude ranch meets country club and you can swap spikes for spurs and a horseback ride through the Sonoran Desert. What a great combination.

Best Course that Surprised Me But Shouldn't Have

Riverhill Country Club in Kerrville, Texas. All you need to know about the course are these few and choice words, delivered by none other than one of the greatest golfers of all time - the immortal Byron Nelson: "If I had only one golf course to play it would be Riverhill." I didn't expect to enjoy Riverhill as much as Nelson, but I am right there with "Lord Byron" - if there is one course that I would play every day if I could, it would be this track.

Best Scoring Round of the Year

This would have to be the January round at Lakecliff Country Club, in the Austin suburb of Spicewood on the banks of Lake Travis. This Arnold Palmer-designed track, now owned by former MLB star Jeff Kent, has always brought out the best in my game. On this day, On this day I played 27 holes and shot 33-35-32 (front, back, front), one of the best rounds of my life.

Worst Day on the Course

And it had nothing to do with the way I was playing. In a March round at Falconhead Golf Club near Austin, I was driving a cart down an embankment toward the cart path on the short, par-4 16th when a squirrel jumped out of the rocks that border the path and ran in front of my cart. I swerved to the right to miss the animal and drove off the path, over a curb and down some four feet into a rock-filled ditch. I was a little banged up, but there was about $700 worth of damage to the cart, which hurt even more.

Hardest Course (Spring version)

That would have to be the PB Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville, Md., some 45 minutes north and west from Washington D.C. On the day I played this 7,036-yard beast, it was under cart-path-only conditions due to several days of rain, the rough was tall and thick and the wind was up, making the 140 slope from the back tees play about 10 points higher. Perhaps the hardest hole of the day was the 223-yard, par-3 eighth, which is played uphill and was into the wind with the pin in the back left corner. Wow!

Most Opulent Course

Without a doubt, the Cascata Golf Club - a sumptuous Rees Jones-designed track owned by Harrah's Entertainment set in Boulder City, Nev., just outside Las Vegas - would take that prize. Usually an amenity for the casino's high-rolling gamblers, we quickly understood what over-the-top luxury golf is all about. Highly-acclaimed and often talked about in hushed words, Cascata opened in 2000 and is considered among the world's top courses. Here is where a 418-foot, man-made, switch-it-off-and-on cascade plunges down the side of a mountain to form a thundering river that flows through an amazing 37,000-square-foot clubhouse. The course involves desert, the 3,600-foot Red Mountain - over which you play and return (all the holes go north to south, or vice versa), verdant fairways, sparkling lakes and crystal-clear streams.

Best 40 Holes of Golf in One Day

In June I played virtually sunup to sundown - with a little time for a quick lunch - at the wonderful Prescott, Ariz., development called Talking Rock, a private, high-country master-planned community wrapped around a splendid Jay and Carter Morrish-designed golf course. With Prescott National Forest in its backyard, Talking Rock has seen little change from the days when native tribes occupied the land or when stagecoaches rumbled across area trails. Playing two rounds and a few extra holes to jump around and stay out the way of the members on the course was a wonderful - and full - day of golf.

Best Round at an Older Course in Austin

In the middle of the blazing and bone-dry Texas summer, I played 27 holes at venerable Onion Creek Club outside Austin. For 11 years, beginning in 1978, Onion Creek conducted the celebrated Legends tournament at this course designed by Jimmy Demaret and founded by Texas amateur golf legend Jimmie Connolly in 1974. The history of the event and its legendary players are still on display in the clubhouse and rustle through the huge trees that stand sentinel over the fairways and greens of the original 18-hole layout and its nine-hole addition, unveiled in1996. After playing Onion Creek Club, you'll understand why the great players of past generations enjoyed it so much. It's a track for the ages - all ages that is - with a kindly nod to the past.

Hardest Course (Summer)

In July I tested the fantastic 27-hole layout - comprised of the Beaver, Bear and Elk nines - at Breckenridge Golf Club in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Overlooking a beautiful valley, the clubhouse sits at an elevation of 9,324 feet. Each nine at Breckenridge offers a mountain golf experience, panoramic vistas and densely wooded areas that open into native grassland and wetlands. I was a bit frustrated with my score, as I played better than the total showed. When I looked a little closer at the scorecard I discovered that from the Nicklaus (back) tees on the Elk/Beaver rotation, the course stretches 7,145 yards and has a course rating of 73.5 and a slope of 151, giving this duo the second-toughest course rating in all of Colorado.

Best Golf Trip

During the summer I began doing some media coordination work for World Golf Hall of Fame player Tom Kite, and I was a part of his team that traveled to Jersey City, N.J., to promote Liberty National Golf Club, which was designed by Kite and Bob Cupp and hosted The Barclays, the first event of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoff series. Being inside the ropes with Kite and Cupp for two days and seeing this amazing course right across the river from the skyline of Manhattan and this close to the Statue of Liberty was an experience I will never forget.

Best Western Journey

I spent five days in Wyoming in September and played the Three Crowns Golf Club in Casper, Powder Horn and the Kendrick courses in Sheridan and the Buffalo Golf Club in - where else - Buffalo. I had never been to Wyoming before and I found the landscape - where rolling golden prairies meet jagged mountains, the sky (so clear you think you can touch the stars) and the people (as friendly as the day is long) very welcoming and warm. Look for my report in Cybergolf on these Wyoming golf courses in the New Year.

Best Media Tournament

Every year I am invited to play in a handful of media golf outings, and the only one that I promise I will make every year (at least until the tournament moves to a different site) is the one preceding the AT&T Championship at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio. Oak Hills, a wonderful A.W. Tillinghast design, ranks up there with my favorite golf courses, and the event is run in a friendly and professional manner.

Most Confounding & Confusing Golf Hole

In November I was privileged to play Rockport Country Club in the south Texas coastal town of Rockport. This Bill Coore-designed course is really great except for one hole - the 335-yard, par-4 16th. The problem is that the tiny green is fronted on the right by a huge tree that hovers over the green and is surrounded by a donut-shaped bunker; there is absolutely no way to get your ball to the putting surface in regulation except a run-up shot that finds its way past the tree and the sand. I just didn't understand it.

Hardest Golf Course

Oak Tree National in Edmond, OK. I heard the stories about Oak Tree National: expect to be humbled even if you're at your best. That's the way the course was designed by Pete Dye, whose directive in 1974 was to make Oak Tree Golf Club (as it was named then) the "hardest golf course in the world." Teeing it up on the course - which carries a 79.3 rating and a 155 slope (the maximum) from the tips - can be even more daunting. The track has everything a real golfer wants: sand and water and trees and length and thick rough and fiercely contoured greens and, because this is central Oklahoma, constant wind. Miss the putting surfaces by just a little and you'll pay a price, either from the water hazards or the deep bunkers, but mostly from downhill and uneven lies played to elevated greens.

If 2010 bears as many memories as 2009, I'll be one lucky golfer.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Business District magazine in Austin and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com), which features news on golf and the Longhorns.