Orange County’s Best Golf Courses

Orange County's Best Golf Courses

June 14, 2019

There are few places in the world nicer than Orange County, California. The Pacific lined stretch from Huntington Beach down through Dana Point is scenic. Filled with world-class restaurants and shopping, it’s bordered by wide, soft-sand Southern California Beaches. When people say they’re traveling to Newport, they typically mean this heavenly belt of Orange County, the geographic center of which is Newport Beach.

Not only is the area gorgeous and brimming with culture and activity, but the golf here is simply impeccable. While courses are sprawled throughout the vast 791-square-mile county, it’s the links in the southern region that everyone raves about. There are courses along the water with ocean-resort ambience and inland courses with a tranquil, rural farm feeling just miles from the coast. There are enough world-class courses in the area to fill your next golf vacation—or two.

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, the area experienced a boom of upscale, daily-fee courses. Twenty years later, many of these courses have matured nicely into beautiful and challenging layouts for all skill levels. Plus, they’ve been well-maintained all along: The golf facilities do everything they can to keep golfers coming back. And the draw is difficult to resist. Add in the fact that the average Newport Beach temperature is 68 degrees year-round and you quickly realize you have the perfect golf climate, no matter when you want to play.

Pelican Hill is the area’s crown jewel, but there are other outstanding courses in the area, too. Here, we detail three of the finest courses in Orange County to entice you toward your next golf getaway. We’ll give you the lay of the land, but if you want to know which way the greens break, you just have to find out for yourself.

Monarch Beach Golf Links: This 6,601-yard, par-70 gem in Dana Point—just south of Newport and Laguna beaches—is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design modeled after a typical Scottish links-style course. Its quick, small, rolling greens and tight fairways are challenging, no doubt, and the sloping rough gets thick, which can balloon some scores.

That said, the course is a destination of sheer beauty. Two holes play right down to the ocean, but all 18 have some view of the Pacific. And there’s a perpetual breeze that somehow brings alive the entire experience. Back in 2001 and 2002, Monarch Beach hosted the Hyundai Team Matches with top players from the PGA, LPGA, and Senior PGA tours. That’s when Tom Watson compared the greens to Augusta National’s. Yep, they’re that good.

Pace of play is emphasized here, so you will likely see marshals driving about during the course of a round to keep this moving. If the course and its jaw-dropping, sweeping ocean views aren’t enough of an attraction, then consider that the 1,200-square-foot pro shop has been named among America’s Top 100. The grand clubhouse is also a perfect place to watch a post-round sunset while enjoying a drink. Best of all, the course’s friendly staffers treat everyone like they’re members for a day.

Strawberry Farms Golf Club: While the entire Newport Beach area can sometimes feel like a bustling big city, there are several nearby escapes for golfers. Locals love this par-71, 6,700-yard, Jim Lipe design in Irvine, just inland over the hills from Newport Coast. Located in peaceful farm country—complete with big red barn—this course truly feels like another part of the country. Set amid canyons and wetlands, the rural-style course affords golfers picturesque views across a 35-acre reservoir on the back nine, plus massive undulating greens throughout that are enveloped by wildlife and natural vegetation.

Surrounding hillsides are replete with large boulders and natural waterfalls. The course itself is player-friendly, with no overbearing hills or drastic doglegs to combat. Five holes on the back nine play alongside the lake. Chances are you’ll score well as the course plays with a tendency of forgiveness. And it’s perpetually in good shape.

The facility was developed by Doug DeCinces, a former California Angels infielder. When opening the venue in 1997, he insisted that it house a good restaurant. And in this case, he hit a home run. The Farmhouse Grill serves some of the best breakfast burritos and burgers in town and is frequented by non-golfers for breakfast and lunch.

Oak Creek Golf Club: Tom Fazio-designed courses have a reputation for being forgiving to golfers of all skill levels. Balls hitting the edge of the fairway seem to roll back toward the center. Those straying into the rough never become completely buried. And putts tend to roll truly, without surprise breaks.

All of that is encompassed in this par-71, 6,834-yard Irvine course that meanders around a former orange grove with rolling, well-manicured fairways, bull nosed bunkers, guarded greens, and serene lakes. Since the venue opened in 1996, the dynamic trees and flora have matured with such grace that the course feels like it has been around for decades. It’s a true sanctuary that was built with environmental sensitivity and preserves a trace of the past— exhibited by the fact that you never see a house nor a road from any hole. You may, however, catch an owl, hawk, egret or heron, thanks to Oak Creek’s participation in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.

The first few holes can deceive you into thinking you’re bound for a personal best, but hang on as the layout gets increasingly more difficult throughout the round. The state-of-the-art practice facility–which has been rated by local publications as the finest in the county–features 65 natural turf tees, a nine-acre all terrain landing area, two practice greens, and a large practice bunker. There’s also a club-fitting company permanently housed at one end of the range. Truly … what more do you need?

Never Stress at the Airport Again with This Travel Tip

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Never Stress at the Airport Again with This Travel Tip

June 7, 2019

Your vacation should begin from the moment you step out of your front door and leave your everyday world behind. This is the moment your travel adventure begins, and upon your arrival at the airport, your excitement should only be building. Yet oftentimes, the unpredictability of the experience looms ominously in the back of travelers’ minds. If they knew what to expect from a day of air travel, they could relax from that first moment on.

Flying on an airplane is an experience so profound that it should incite a feeling of childlike awe, so why do many travelers, who are on their way to engage in the modern miracle of flight and the bliss of a vacation, feel a low-grade stress about this necessary part of the travel experience? It’s because there are countless opportunities for discomfort and confusion along the way. 

For travelers interested in a frictionless airport experience, here’s the one tip you need: join CLEAR and move through the airport with ease.

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At the airport, travelers must know the rules and follow them closely, particularly through security. Your boarding pass won’t load on your phone? You forgot about that water bottle in your carry on? You don’t have your driver’s license? With so many potential stressors, it’s no wonder airport anxiety is higher than it’s ever been, but with CLEAR, you can have peace of mind every time you head out for your flight.

Airport security, a part of the experience that’s typically slow-moving, consists of two steps: first identity verification, then security screening. CLEAR members complete the first step in a separate lane where they use their fingerprint or iris, known as biometric authentication, at a kiosk rather than waiting in line to interact with a TSA agent who has been charged with verifying their identity manually. Experienced travelers choose CLEAR knowing they’ll move quickly and easily through this part of the process, so they’re able to relax from the moment they arrive.

CLEAR replaces the need for physical ID cards, eliminating the opportunity for discomfort due to forgetfulness or misplacing your ID once you reach the front of the security line. CLEAR isn’t an alternative to TSA PreCheckit’s a complementary service that helps members move quickly through a notoriously stressful part of the airport. Click here to sign up for a free trial today and experience the difference on your next vacation.

Once a CLEAR member’s identity has been verified, they are personally escorted by a CLEAR Ambassador to the security screening area, further expediting the process. This is why CLEAR members don’t have to arrive at the airport multiple hours before their flight. With time to spare after going through security, they’re even able to leisurely grab food or relax in the lounge.

Traveling parents, knowing the trials of air travel better than anyone else, also feel the immediate relief of a CLEAR membership. When members are traveling with their families, their children under the age of 18 are welcome to use the CLEAR line with them free of charge.

This expedited security program has already made its way into 30 airports with more to come. If you’re curious about how it would feel to eliminate airport stress and have a frictionless experience on your next trip, CLEAR is offering travelers a free trial of their membership for a limited time. With predictable speed moving through security that you can count on, you’ll be able to relax long before you’re boarding at the gate.

Picture it. It’s the day you leave for vacation, and the moment you step out of your front door, the vacation bliss can begin because you’ve prioritized moving quickly and easily through the airport by joining CLEAR. You don’t have to wait until you’re laying on the beach to unwind because you eliminated potential airport stressors before they had the opportunity to ruin your day.  

With CLEAR, airport anxiety is a thing of the past, and the wonder of flying adds to the joy of every vacation. Experience the ease on your next trip by becoming a member with this free trial today. And when you join, you have a lot to look forward to. CLEAR is always innovating and coming up with new applications for their biometric technology so that one day, you’ll be the only ID you need.

Research Shows That Travel Spending Can Indeed Buy Happiness

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Research Shows That Travel Spending Can Indeed Buy Happiness

May 20, 2019

Research shows that, if spent correctly, money can buy happiness. Mark Twain nailed it: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Looking back on their past decisions about whether to purchase experiences, one study shows 83 percent of people sided with Mark Twain, reporting their biggest single regret was one of inaction, of passing up the chance to have an experience when the opportunity came along. The opposite was true for material goods; most people’s biggest regret was buying something that they wish they hadn’t.

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Spending money on experiences— food, travel, entertainment—over material goods doesn’t just inoculate you against regret, but can also make you happier. Think of purchases you’ve made with the goal of increasing your own happiness. Consider one purchase that was a material thing, a tangible object that you could keep, like a piece of jewelry or furniture, some clothing or a gadget. Now think about a purchase you made that gave you a life experience—perhaps a trip, a concert or a special meal.

If you’re like most people, remembering the experience brings to mind friends and family, sights and smells. In study after study, people are in a better mood when they reflect on their experiential purchases, which they describe as “money well spent.”

But not all experiences are created equal. Research conducted over the last decade suggests that trying something new might make you happier than your old favorite. How many times has your family faced a decision: dine at your favorite, tried-and-true restaurant, or take a gamble and try somewhere new—say, the sushi fusion or vegan tapas place? Or perhaps the choice is between the beautiful Caribbean island you’ve been to three times, where you’ve got a favorite beach, restaurant and snorkeling spot, or an island you’ve never been to?

If you’re like most, you typically opt for your familiar favorite experience. It’s comfortable and the outcome is reasonably predictable—you’ll enjoy it as much as you have in the past.

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But don’t you want something better? In one of my research projects with Elizabeth Dunn, with whom I co-wrote the 2013 book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, we worked with Ferran Adrià, the brilliant chef of the former Spanish restaurant elBulli, the only restaurant to be named the world’s best restaurant five times by Restaurant Magazine. He and his team designed two different meals for diners. The “nostalgia meal” included dishes like ham croquettes and steak tartar. The “surprise meal” had dishes like a mojito sandwich and smoke foam. For dessert? Either tiramisu or upside down coffee. (You can guess which dessert was the more surprising.) Although diners often choose nostalgia when dining out, it turns out that our “surprise meal” offered a unique and peak experience for diners.

So go ahead and take a chance the next time you’re faced with a decision. The possibility of experiencing the extraordinary can make you happier than a guaranteed average experience.

Experience Chicago Like a Local

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Experience Chicago Like a Local

May 13, 2019

I worked pretty damn hard to get to Chicago for the first time. I was cycling across the country, from west to east, with a group raising funds for global hunger relief, and we didn’t have a day off between Salt Lake City and the Windy City. With each pedal push across Nebraska, Iowa and finally Illinois, Chicago—with its famed barbecue joints, soul-satisfying blues music and the jewel that is Wrigley Field—got a little closer.

The “City of Big Shoulders” as poet Carl Sandburg called Chicago, did not disappoint. As luck would have it, my hometown San Francisco Giants were in town to play the Cubs at Wrigley on July 17, 1986, and when a Cubs official heard we were riding across the country, (I think our police-escorted entrance into town made the local news), he promptly offered us free tickets above third base.

Walking to Wrigley for the first time made me feel like a kid with off-the-charts anticipation. There it all was: the big red sign out front reading “HOME OF CHICAGO CUBS,” the ivy-covered outfield walls, the classic green scoreboard with an analog clock on top and the buildings beyond the bleachers where people picnicking on rooftops watched the games for free.

“What makes Wrigley Field unique to me is the location. It’s a neighborhood ballpark that suddenly appears amid the brownstones,” says Carrie Muskat, author of Banks to Sandberg to Grace: Five Decades of Love and Frustration with the Chicago Cubs. “If you go to a game and have a sense of baseball history, Wrigley is even more special,” adds Muskat, who covers the Cubs for MLB.com. “Babe Ruth played there; Ernie Banks wanted to live there. And someday, the Cubs might win a World Series there.”

Wrigley Field has been showing its age, but that’s part of its charm, and a new Jumbotron installed this year adds 21st-century technology to the creaky yard. Mark Gonzales, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune notes that baseball is “deep-rooted” in Chicago and that loyalty is passed down through the generations. “You can always sell hope, and hope remains strong with the Cubs.”

That hope is captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1948 painting The Dugout. It focuses on a slump-shouldered bat boy with dejected Cubs players sitting in the dugout behind him. Above are several jeering fans, but there’s one smiling kid, thrilled just to be at the game. That’s the symbol of the true Cubs fan.

My 1986 visit to Wrigley was a day game, a couple of years before the ballpark installed lights. I soaked up sun and suds, cheering as my favorite pitcher, Vida Blue, hit a home run and pitched the Giants to victory. Welcome to Chicago.

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A human-scale park (not a stadium) that holds about 40,000 people, Wrigley opened in 1914, and, astonishingly, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in the century they’ve played there. Their last champion- ship came in 1908. The closest they’ve come in recent years was in 2003 when they were five outs away from reaching the World Series. A fan interfered with a foul ball that may have been caught; then the floodgates opened. The Cubs lost that game and the next, ending their season.

Across town two years later, however, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series, and South Side fans, including an Illinois senator who’d be elected president in 2008, rejoiced.

Chicago knows how to celebrate. “This is possibly the last city in the world where you can see blues seven nights a week,” says Marc Lipkin, a spokesman for Alligator Records, a Chicago blues label. He ticks off the city’s famed blues clubs: Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted, Rosa’s Lounge and Buddy Guy’s Legends, which opened in 1989. Guy typically plays a series of dates at his club in January. At other times of the year, if he’s not touring, Guy often joins whoever is on his stage for an impromptu jam. “To see Buddy at his own club is spectacular,” Lipkin says.

People in this traditionally blue-collar city have worked hard and danced into the wee hours at clubs featuring some of the best blues music in the country. It’s music that comes from the Deep South, songs meant to ease hardship and bring joy. “When people from the South got to Chicago, they electrified,” says Ed Williams, a Chicago native and bluesman known as Lil’ Ed. “Electrified blues gave people a lot of feeling—that’s what made Chicago blues so special. And it was up-tempo too. The south blues was slow. In Chicago we started to put a little buff on it.”

Williams, the nephew of the late blues legend J.B. Hutto and front man for Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, laughs easily and smiles often. “Musicians like to see people have fun, so blues is not all about just cryin’ and woo-woo-in’ and talkin’ about my baby’s gone, but a lot of blues is about gettin’ up and shakin’ your tailfeather,” he says. “Most people that’s got the blues, they’re looking for a way out. If you give them that way out through music, that helps them along because people don’t want to be miserable all the time, they want to be happy.”

In the 1940s and ’50s, when the acoustic Delta blues of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon moved north to Chicago, the musicians plugged in “to compete with the volume level of the city,” says Alligator Records’ founder Bruce Iglauer. “You couldn’t play an acoustic guitar under the L tracks and expect to be heard.”

Iglauer calls Chicago blues the “toughest, hardest-edged, most visceral style of electric blues, because it grew out of the acoustic Delta blues sound which was the hardest, most rhythmic, most intense of the blues styles around the country. So Chicago, being a rough, tough city, nurtured a rough, tough blues sound.”

Billy Branch, a blues harmonica player who played with Willie Dixon in the late 1970s and early ’80s, believes most people don’t understand how much Chicago blues influenced rock music since its beginnings. He calls Dixon “one of the most influential musical composers of modern times,” but says that he’s not as well known as he should be. “You look at all these Led Zeppelin records and Rolling Stones songs, most of their early music was covers, including a few Willie Dixon songs. That’s not common knowledge to the general public.”

Branch hopes to spread awareness about Dixon’s contributions at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival, a free event held in Grant Park. “We are bringing back many of the musical players that are still around that played with Willie,” Branch says, but “that’s not a lot.”

Dixon and fellow blues legend Muddy Waters were born in 1915. The City of Chicago is honoring the centennial of their births at this year’s blues festival, says city spokeswoman Mary May. Some sources say Muddy Waters, whose real name is McKinley Morganfield, was born in 1913, but no definitive records exist. “Muddy said he was born in 1915 and that’s the date on his tombstone,” which is good enough for the city, May says.

Two of Muddy’s sons will be part of the tribute, she says, and Buddy Guy will headline the festival. The setting is ideal, she adds, with views of Chicago’s skyline and Lake Michigan. And because it’s free, some people who can’t go to blues clubs can enjoy the music.

Branch notes that Muddy Waters defined the Chicago blues sound in the mid-20th century, and that it’s this sound that so many rock bands sought to emulate. He recalls that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards named their band after Muddy’s song “Rollin’ Stone” and in 1981 came to Chicago’s Checkerboard Lounge to pay homage to him and serve as his backing band.

Gospel and soul singer Otis Clay, who like so many others journeyed to Chicago from the South as a teenager, says blues isn’t the only roots music in Chicago. “When they talk of Chicago as being the blues capital of the world, it’s hard to say that without thinking of it as the gospel capital.” Clay says blues has borrowed heavily from gospel, the music of Southern church- es. “You’ve got to follow that path from the South,” Clay says. “When they brought the blues in here, they brought the gospel as well.”

The transcendent gospel singer Mahalia Jackson came to fame in Chicago, Clay recalls. Chicago disc jockey and oral historian Studs Terkel was credited with “discovering” Mahalia because he played her records on his radio show, but he dismissed that, noting that she was filling black churches and concert halls in the city before most white people had heard of her.

Ultimately, Clay says, good music is good music, whether it’s soul, gospel or blues. “So when people start defining this music, it’s not an easy thing to do, I wouldn’t even try to do it. You know, if you like it, good.” Alligator’s Lipkin says that even people who think they don’t like the blues change their minds when they come to Chicago. “When somebody says, ‘I don’t like blues’ and you put them in front of a live blues band, they will leave that club a blues fan. It almost never fails.”

The blues scene in Chicago has certainly changed since the days when Muddy and Dixon played to predominantly black audiences, and Bud- dy Guy and Junior Wells jammed at the now-defunct Theresa’s. “I do feel something has been lost,” Iglauer says. “When I used to go to blues clubs on the South Side or the Westside, the people in the audience and the people on the stage were basically the same people. They all shared a culture. Most had grown up in the South; they were working-class people, and they were sharing a style of music they have been listening to their whole lives. They had an ownership of the music. Even if they didn’t play it, it was their music.”

In sharp contrast to big arena shows, at blues halls you can get close to the performers. At B.L.U.E.S., “you can sit three feet from the stage,” Iglauer says. “At Kingston Mines you can sit 12 feet from the stage. At Legends, if you get a good table you can put your feet up on the stage. It’s music that is right there. The music is not showbiz; Chicago blues is the opposite of slick.”

Which is a fitting way to describe the barbecue and soul food that gives Chicago’s cuisine its distinctive flavor. This is down-home food, meant to satisfy hard-working people without breaking the bank.

Soul food and barbecue have been “hugely important in keeping Southern traditions alive,” says Adrian Miller, author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. “What we understand as soul food is really the immigrant cuisine of the African-Americans who left the South. They did what any other immigrant group does: You land in a new place, and you try to re-create home.”

Otis Clay offers this advice for finding good soul food: “If it’s a soul food restaurant, it’s gotta have a woman’s first name.” The soul singer says he used to eat at Edna’s or Alice’s several times a week. Al- though their namesakes have passed on, Clay says, “sometimes I still go back; they left good recipes. They’re still going well.”

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Miller agrees. “After eating my way through the country, I think Chicago has the best soul food scene outside of the South. What’s special about Chicago is that it’s a close approximation of what people were eating in the South.”

He also appreciates the barbecue options and says the city’s iconic dish is rib tips. Decades ago rib tips, which can be tough and chewy, were so unpopular that meatpackers would trash them or sell them for pennies per pound, so they became a staple for those with limited means. Today they’re a delicacy.

At Lem’s Bar-B-Q on the city’s South Side, manager Lynn Walker can spare only a minute to talk—she’s busy making sure the boisterous crowd that’s already arrived at the restaurant at 5 p.m. is getting fed.

What makes Lem’s ribs and tips so special? “It’s the sauce,” Walker says, “and the seasoning. They’re smoked, and you can feed your family with them.” Then Walker turns away to serve the next customer in the squat brick building with the big neon sign. Ribs and tips, because they’re not naturally tender, need to cook for a long time. But what once seemed like a curse turns out to be a blessing, as the slow cook- ing infuses the meat with smoky flavors.

Barbecue has come a long way from its roots as affordable meat. Carson’s, founded in 1977, elevated barbecue to fine dining “when no one else was doing that,” says Carson’s owner and operator Dean Carson. He says Chicago is a “great food town” especially for meat. “Everything went into Chicago alive, and everything left Chicago butchered to parts everywhere and unknown,” he says, recalling the town’s role in meat processing. “Chicago is a meaty town in all ways.”

And like all the best barbecue purveyors, Carson’s has a credo: “We stand firm in this: We do not boil or steam our ribs in any way; we do not bake them; we do not marinate them. We do not put a dry rub on them. To me those are euphemistic words for chemical tenderizer. End of story.”

Carson notes that ribs aren’t cheap anymore. You can pay as much for a plate of ribs as for a steak, but the lines out the door at his restaurant show many people are happy to spend the money.

I ask the owner to recommend his signature meal: “Cornbread, coleslaw, slab of ribs, au gratin potatoes,” all made on the premises, he says. When I ask about sauces, Carson stops me. “I got one sauce. I always think that if I go to a restaurant and they have eight different kinds of barbecue sauces that maybe they don’t have one great one,” he says. The bill for this abundant feast is about $25 and worth every penny.

With so many great chefs and bluesmen having passed, some may wonder if the traditions that have given Chicago such visceral vitality can live on. Muddy, Mahalia and Willie are long gone, yet traditions are being kept alive by Chicago stalwarts such as Lil’ Ed, Otis Clay and Buddy Guy, and so many others who learned from the masters.

Blues players and the people who put out their records are confident the music will endure because it keeps changing with the times. Lipkin, the spokesman at Alligator Records, notes that artists such as Lil’ Ed are “playing the blues the way it’s supposed to be played,” writing lyrics that are “meaningful now.” To this day, Lipkin adds, Chicago blues remains “a sound that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”

Lil’ Ed himself remains optimistic about the future of Chicago blues: “A lot of people say that the blues might die away, but I think blues, all blues, will last forever,” he says with a smile. “You know why I say that? Because everybody has the blues, and the blues is going to be here all our lives. Even the young generation has got the blues. It’s something that will never go away.”

Then Lil’ Ed ends on a hopeful note. “You might be sad today, but the grass is always greener on the other side.”

How to Dial in Your Golf Game and Enjoy the Season

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How to Dial in Your Golf Game and Enjoy the Season Even If You’re Not a Pro

April 30, 2019

For most amateur golfers sneaking in a quick 9 holes after work or looking forward to that early Sunday morning tee time, the primary goal is just to enjoy the game. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to chip away at that handicap too. You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the benefits of becoming a better golfer. Here are three pro tips to help you dial in your golf game and enjoy the season like you never have before.

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Lock in on your short game.

Stop three-putting that par 4 by picking a putting drill to practice before and after every round. Sticking to a practice routine is a simple way to see big results. Start small and be consistent. For the biggest impact, tighten up your performance on the greens by spending extra time six feet and in. Short putts are a part of your game that can improve drastically with just a little extra practice, so take the time to dial in your short game and watch those scores drop

Think straighter not further.

With the latest lineup of young guns like Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Wyndham Clark hitting longer off the tee than ever before, there’s more pressure on the amateur golfer to prioritize distance. But if you can’t control the ball, it’s going to hurt your game. Distance doesn’t matter much if you’re always hacking your way out of the rough or spending all your time digging out of that bunker.

 If you need evidence, look at Tiger’s latest win at Augusta. He patiently and strategically picked his spots, avoided the big mistakes that sunk his competition, and pulled out one of the greatest comeback wins in sports history…and he’s not even close to the powerhouse he was 11 years ago when he won his last major. So, forget about that guy in your foursome who drives it 350 yards and focus on location. Think straighter not further this season, and you’ll find yourself leading that four man scramble.

Use the right clubs.

Golf technology has come a long way, and treating yourself to a set of custom golf clubs built to help you dial in your game will be the best way to enjoy the season like a pro. Companies like PXG set out to designs clubs unlike anything else. With more than 280 patents on the books, PXG has introduced a full line of high-performance clubs that are the best on the market.

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If you’re prioritizing high performance this season, you need a set of PXG clubs that are built by hand and unique to you. And when you see your game improving, you’ll have your new clubs to thank, and you’ll have more fun too. If PXG clubs are good enough for golf legend Gary Player, Masters Champion Zach Johnson, and two-time major champion Lydia Ko, they can help you play your best game too.

So whether you’re a pro, an amateur, or somewhere in between, get the most out of this season by dialing in your golf game with the right gear. You’ll be surprised by how much more you enjoy playing by employing the three tips above

Why Nantucket Is a Vacation Oasis

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Why Nantucket Is a Vacation Oasis

April 22, 2019

In the summer the prevailing winds blow across coastal Massachusetts and Cape Cod from the southwest. The gentle morning sea breeze often builds throughout the day into a stiff wind that wafts across the exposed crescent that is the is- land of Nantucket. The Wampanoag were the first to ride these winds and settle Nantucket, the “far away land” in their language. European explorers used these winds to sail past the island in the 17th century, and the great whaling ships that once chased sperm whales across the globe called Nantucket harbor their home port. While this glacial remnant that juts out of the ocean 30 miles south of Hyannis is now known for its sandy beaches and stunning vacation homes, sailing—more than anything—defines the Nantucket way of life.

When spending time on the island, it is impossible not to feel the urge to hop aboard a boat and hoist the mainsail. The best place to get a sailing lesson or send the kids to sailing school is Nantucket Community Sailing, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching and providing sailing opportunities. Once you learn how to sail, the waters around the island open up to a whole new world.

Oddly enough, Herman Melville had not set foot on Nantucket before writing Moby Dick in 1851. But he knew the history of the infamous whaling ship the Essex from Nantucket, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific. And his book, hailed by some as the Great American Novel, foisted both sailing and the island of Nantucket into the national consciousness.

Nantucket was the hub of America’s whaling fleet from 1715 until the eventual demise of commercial whaling 150 years later. (The last whaler reportedly left the harbor in 1869.) At its peak in the mid-19th century, 72 whaling ships listed Nantucket as their home port. The ships had three masts that hoisted square-rigged sails; three-dozen crew-members would board and set sail from the island on expeditions that lasted as long as three years. That’s quite the contrast from the fleet of recreational day sailors that flit about the harbor or swing with the tide on moorings today.

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Nantucket took to its present-day incarnation as a vacation oasis not long after those whaling ships faded into history, with visitors flocking to the island for the same reason as the original settlers—rugged yet picturesque beauty and a large protected harbor.

The island is actually part of a glacial moraine, formed at the forward edge of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that retreated at the end of the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago. It left behind a 50-square-mile chunk of land in the shape of a crescent moon off the coast of Cape Cod. Melville described it in Moby Dick as an “elbow of sand,” but that’s not exactly right. Parts of the island’s sandy shoreline are still littered with boulders and rocks from the leftover glacial till. Much of the island rises up from the beaches in the form of vast bluffs that provide high vantage points for gazing far across the surrounding waters. The opening to Nantucket Harbor sits in the middle of the crescent, facing north into Nantucket Sound and across to the Cape. There is always at least a little wind.

“Nantucket Sound is just a glorious sailing location,” says Diana Brown, the chief executive of Nantucket Community Sail- ing. “There are steady breezes every day and the water is clear.”

Founded in 1994, Nantucket Community Sailing is dedicated to teaching sailing and making it accessible to people who live in or visit Nantucket. It offers weekly classes for children in season, all taught by instructors certified by US Sailing. Adults and kids alike can sign up for private lessons. “Our primary focus is children,” says Brown. “But we work with sailors from age 5 to 95.”

Youth classes range from absolute beginner all the way up to advanced racing level, and adults can sign up for private lessons at all skill levels. There’s also a woman’s sailing clinic and an adult racing program. Last year, the organization provided sailing opportunities to more than 1,000 kids and 2,000 adults over the season, which lasts mid-June through August, with rentals available through mid-September.

For rentals and lessons, head to Jetties Sailing Center, where Community Sailing keeps its boats. It’s on the beach just off Bathing Beach Road, about a mile from downtown and the docks for the ferries from Oak Bluff and Hyannis. Prospective sailors can rent or take lessons in small one- to two-person boats such as Sunfish and Lasers or larger Rhodes or Marshall Cats or take a trip with a captain aboard a J/105.

All of Jetties Sailing Center’s introductory sailing lessons, as well as rentals, stay inside the protected waters of the harbor. From the center, you can sail past the historic Brant Point Lighthouse, first established as an aid to navigation in 1746. The interior harbor offers protected water where first-timers can learn basic skills such as how to set and trim a sail so that it works to move the boat no matter the wind direction, how to tack and jibe, control the centerboard and how to come about, which is how you change direction.

A lesson aboard the 35-foot J/105 can involve leaving the harbor and exploring the waters surrounding Nantucket. And there is no better way to see the island than from the deck of a boat.

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Heading west along the shoreline leads to the smaller Madaket Harbor, which is more exposed to the elements but offers the best view of Nantucket’s sunset. Sailing farther west and to the north provides the best opportunity to see the privately owned summer community on Tuckernuck Island, or sail beyond to the neighboring Muskeget Island to view the largest population of grey seals in the United States. (Don’t try to swim near them; it’s illegal to get within 150 feet of one, and seals attract sharks.) An article from the Cape Cod Times described the seal-viewing experience this way, “On a foggy day you can smell the island before you can actually see it.” But the chance
to see roughly 3,000 seals in the wild is worth the olfactory assault.

Heading north and east outside of the harbor entrance leads to the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, a pristine stretch of grassy sand dunes and marshes that juts north into the ocean, protected at its tip by the Great Point Light, built in 1785 to guide sailors in from Cape Cod. As Ezra G. Perry wrote in his 1898 book A Trip Around Cape Cod, “The long-drawn sandy shores of Great Point are among the first land of the real island sighted on the trip across,” from the Cape. This is another place to watch seals flopping on and off the beaches into the surf, as well as several species of migratory shore birds like American oystercatchers, piping plovers or snowy egrets.

The south shore of Nantucket is exposed to the whims of the Atlantic Ocean, and subject to much larger seas. (It holds great surfing spots, if you want to try that.) But on calm days sailors can cruise along the sandy beaches and observe the famous Nantucket summerhouses perched atop the bluffs.

Sailors with serious experience can venture about 20 miles offshore to the whale feeding grounds, where it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the massive humpback and finback whales that pass through these waters throughout the summer season. And whale watching brings the Nantucket experience back full circle to its days of Captain Ahab and the majestic whaling fleet.

As Melville wrote in Moby Dick of the Nantucket sailor, “For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires.”

Florence’s Best Tour Guide Shares Her Favorite Spots

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Florence's Best Tour Guide Shares Her Favorite Spots

April 16, 2019

“What I love most about Florence is that it was the birthplace of the Renaissance, the time period from the 14th to 17th centuries that was the crucible of modern European culture,” says Silvia Ponticelli, 49, and a charming and impressively erudite Florence native who holds a degree in art history and attended an interpreter’s school before deciding to become a professional tour guide 16 years ago. “I like to share my passions with people,” says Ponticelli, who speaks four languages (Italian, French—her mother is French—English and German) and has a wonderful sense of humor. “A city like Florence, which has over 61 different museums and so many other extraordinary things to see and do can be a bit overwhelming. So I’m here to help craft perfect days or weeks in the city in such a way as to avoid the malady that befell the great French writer Stendhal.”

Stendhal, the pen name of 19th century French writer Marie-Henri Beyle, author of the famous novel The Red and the Black gave his name to the mild psychosomatic illness, Stendhal’s Syndrome, he experienced while visiting Florence in 1817. As he explains in another one of his books Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio, following a visit to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried and the walls are covered with frescoes by Giotto, “I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty… I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations… Everything spoke so vividly to my soul.”

In plainer words, poor, old Stendhal was just plain floored by the aesthetic richness of Florence, a reaction Ponticelli says she’s witnessed many times. “This is why I advise people that it’s better to enjoy a smaller number of special, carefully chosen experiences than to think that you see everything during a single visit to the city. I’ve lived here all of my life and I’m still discovering new things!” she says. Here is a selection of her Florence favorites.

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Favorite Work of Art

The Michelangelo Crucifix in the Basilica di Santo Spirito“The year 1492 was very important in Florence, because Lorenzo the Magnificent, the great statesman and patron of the arts, died. This meant Michelangelo lost his patron, which is why he moved to the Basilica di Santo Spirito, where he did anatomical studies on corpses brought to the church for funerals. The knowledge of the human body he gained is powerfully expressed by the remarkably lifelike wooden crucifix he produced while he was living at the church,” says Ponticelli. 

Tip for Museum Visits

“Few people know that both the Uffizi Museum and the Accademia Gallery can be visited outside of their normal opening hours. These special hours are announced as ‘news’ on the websites of the respective museums,” advises Ponticelli. 

Hidden Places

“I like to create itineraries that include a mixture of venues. So after mu- seums and churches, I’ll take people for a walk to the Giardino Bardini, a beautiful Italian garden that just recently opened to the public. There’s a spectacular view over the city from this garden, too.” 

Favorite Artisans

Lastrucci: Mosaics made with semi-precious stones“This is a typical Florentine handicraft,” says Ponticelli. “The mosaics are made today in the same way that they were when they were chosen by Grand Duke Cosimo I to decorate the Medici chapels. These mosaics are meant to last forever. They work by commission, and what I most enjoy about visiting the studio is to see the way they work. There are only two or three apprentices in the studio, so this is a craft that may disappear one day.” By appointment only.

Ippogrifo: Hand-made etchings. “Etching was the first way of printing beautiful images,” explains Ponticelli. “At Ippogrifo, you see the whole process of creating an etching. First, a copper plate is coated with protective wax, then the artwork is drawn in the wax. Next the plate is immersed in acid, which consumes the exposed copper to create the etching plate. It’s an absolutely fascinating process.”

Galleria Romanelli: Bronze sculpture and statues. “This studio produces statues by using the traditional lost wax technique. You can see the whole process in their atelier, where they work with molten metal. It’s very dramatic.” 

Paolo Penko: Jeweler. “Paolo Penko is a craftsman who is often inspired by the art of the Renaissance in his jewelry designs. He is a master goldsmith known for working in white and yellow gold together, which is part of the great jewelry making tradition of Florence.”

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Places for Lunch

Panini at Ino A. They’re only open for lunch, and they make the best panini in town. Try the Pecorino with pistachios, tapenade with anchovies or Tuscan salami with gorgonzola. Convenient location, too, between the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. 

Il Magazzino. This easygoing place in the hip Oltrano neighborhood does great wine and cheese boards with Tuscan-style bruschetta, fresh pastas and great vegetable dishes. 

Top Phone Apps You Need for Your Next Trip

The Top Phone Apps You Need for Your Next Trip

April 11, 2019

Embrace your seasonal wanderlust—and be sure to embrace your smartphone, too. Whether you’re looking for great local dishes or want to create your own panoramic photos, your device packs a punch when you load it with these incredible apps.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, panoramic photos speak volumes. Microsoft’s Photosynth app is perfectly poised to create them. Photosynth uses your Apple device’s camera (or photos stored in its memory) to stitch together multiple photos into one panoramic shot that can then be shared on Facebook and Twitter. The app’s interface makes it easy to keep track of your progress, composing the panoramic photo before your eyes and giving you the ability to make adjustments as you go. It’s a winning companion for cataloguing your adventures—every angle of them.

The Foodspotting mobile app puts the communal spirit back into your dining experience. Once you download the app, you can snap pictures of your favorite dishes in any restaurant in any city and share your thoughts. Then, users (yourself included) can search for specific dishes, take a peek at how they look and who recommends them, and find the nearest restaurant that serves the dish. Looking for the perfect paella in Madrid? Maybe the best burger in Chicago? Foodspotting is a fun and intuitive way to find good food fast—with a little help from your virtuals.

Previously, LUXE city guides developed a reputation as smart, savvy and no-holds-barred books that offered only the crème de la crème of regional dining, attractions and nightspots. Now, that same approach has gone mobile. The travel guide producer’s mobile city guides cover some of the globe’s hottest destinations, including New York, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Venice and London. Each mobile city guide app delivers key information and expert recommendations (with LUXE’s trademark snark) at the touch of your smartphone screen. For $5.99, the price is right to learn everything there is to know about your destination metropolis—and you’ll get free updates to each guide you buy for a year.

Never again worry about forgetting something when you pack. That’s something many would pay dearly for, but with the Packing Pro app, it’ll only cost you $2.99. Packing Pro lets you create completely customizable packing lists for multiple trips right on your smart device. Much more than a simple list, Packing Pro’s supercharged functionality will total the weight of each item, toggle between unpacked items and your entire list, all while sorting items into different categories. The app’s expert list assistant will even create lists for you based on how many people are going on your trip, their gender and the length of stay—automating all your packing needs and eliminating the headaches that accompany forgotten essentials.

This fun application puts the sense of wonder back into travel, whether it’s for work or pleasure. A smartphone-powered social network, Trover lets you snap pictures of new discoveries (be it a cool-looking restaurant or stunning wall graffiti), add a note and post it for other Trover users to see. Using the app’s search function, you can discover hidden gems around your current location, get directions and visit them on your own—while keeping an eye out for more to share on your way.

You may have every luxury and relaxation planned for your big trip, but what happens on the way? Loud airports, uncomfortable seats and innumerable distractions wear you out before you even arrive. The SleepStream 2 Pro app prevents that. The sleep and relaxation app plays atmospheric audio, relaxing natural sounds, hypnosis audio tracks and binaural beats to turn any situation into a soothing nap opportunity or meditation session. Not only will you sleep better and deeper with the app’s sounds in your ear, but you can also run custom sound combinations to aid focus, improve your mood or begin a meditation session. Become well rested, lower your blood pressure and enjoy a cheery mood, all on the trip out? Check-check-check.

The Ultimate Euro-Vacation: 6 Countries in 23 Days

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The Ultimate Euro-Vacation: 6 Countries in 23 Days

March 27, 2019

This past summer, I found myself in a sticky dilemma. Our middle daughter had just graduated from college and her travel plans with friends were not panning out. As her mother, I felt awful that none of her friends or her boyfriend could take time off from jobs, committed internships, or other travel to celebrate.

That’s where Inspirato’s California team stepped in and helped me plan an epic mother-daughter adventure, taking us through Europe, all while staying in beautiful hotels with bespoke planning and attention to detail. In retrospect, this was the best decision I made about the trip.

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We began with a four-day biking trip and excursion in the Netherlands followed by a train to Bruges, Belgium, for two nights in a 500-year-old hotel within walking distance of the town square. From Belgium, we flew to Zurich and stayed at the Park Hyatt in an incredible suite with amazing concierge staff that set us up with a day excursion to Lucerne. We loved eating fondue in the historic section of town, seated along the water from where we could watch the beautiful swans and busy tourists.

Next was a train to Geneva, where we stayed on the lake at La Réserve. From Lucerne we took a day-trip to Chamonix, France, and rode the Mont Blanc cable car up to an altitude of 12,600 feet for a stunning view from the top of Europe. There’s no other view like it in the world.

Next were Florence, Tuscany, and Rome, with many sights in between. We rented a car and drove along the Italian coast. We stopped in Siena and passed acres of sunflowers. Baha, our concierge at the Portrait Firenze in Florence, was fabulous with his suggestions for restaurants, places to shop, and the best gelato, along with securing museum tickets, train tickets, and arranging for our rental car. From Rome, we flew to Split, Croatia, and visited friends for a few days before traveling to our final destination, Paris.

Highlights for us were Italy’s food and art, architecture and sights in Croatia—especially Plitvice Lakes National Park—and Switzerland’s beautiful, scenic landscapes, especially viewed from the windows of our train. We also loved our cooking class in Florence and limo ride in Rome for a day of sightseeing.

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We had a blast and there was never a dull moment—it felt as if we were contestants in the Amazing Race TV show with the intensity of our itinerary. Back home, we were thrilled to learn that we inspired another mother-daughter duo to contact Inspirato for their own version of our trip. Now my younger daughter expects me to do the same when she graduates from college. I say, “Let’s go!”