An updated, more exclusive version of the traditional time-share, these clubs represent one of the hottest trends in real estate: Instead of buying a vacation home outright, members purchase three to five weeks' use of a private resort property per year. Fractional-interest sales nearly tripled in 2004, reaching $1.2 billion—"incredible growth," says Dick Ragatz, president of Ragatz Associates, a resort consulting firm.
With most residence clubs, members can divide their vacation time among ski, beach, urban and, increasingly, golf destinations—from Los Cabos to Kiawah Island. The lodgings come lavishly furnished, the kitchens stocked in advance. And, perhaps most important, a concierge can arrange tee times at any number of top-notch courses nearby.
HOT GOLF GETAWAYS
In speaking with a number of travel-industry experts, we identified several places—some familiar, others less so—that are heating up in 2005.
Scotland: The most famous golf destination in the world, hot?Apparently so. This year there's a big spike in travel to Scotland in general and St. Andrews in particular. "Whenever the Open is held at St. Andrews," says one travel agent, "Americans want to go. And there are bragging rights to having played the course in advance of the event."
Mornington Peninsula, Australia: The scenic area south of Melbourne, Australia, is becoming "a real hotbed of golf." The premier drawing cards are Tom Doak's new Gunnamatta course at St. Andrews Beach (a second course, the Fingal, is on the way) and the Peppers Moonah Links Resort, featuring Peter Thomson's Open course (host of the 2005 Australian Open) and a second course, The Legends. Golfers are also adding a few days in Tasmania (an easy commuter flight from Melbourne) to see what the Barnbougle buzz is all about.
South Africa: Another Southern Hemisphere hot spot, increasingly in demand among those who have already toured the British Isles extensively. Fancourt got a big boost from the 2003 President's Cup and is often packaged with golf at the Sun City Resort as well as safaris and/or wine-tasting tours.
Bandon Dunes: With the opening of Bandon Trails, you can't get any hotter than Mike Keiser's seaside resort. We can't wait to see what's next.
HOT COURSE OPENINGS
The Abaco Club
Great Abaco, Bahamas; 888-303-2765, theabacoclub.com (private; Donald Steel)
Bandon, OR; 888-345-6008, bandondunesgolf.com (resort; Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore)
Bayside Resort GC
Selbyville, DE; 877-436-9998, golfbayside.com (resort; Jack Nicklaus)
Hingham, MA; 781-741-5123 (private; Gil Hanse)
Playa del Carmen, Mexico; 800-540-6088, mayakoba.com (resort; Greg Norman)
Lake of Isles, North
North Stonington, CT; 888-475-3746, lakeofisles.com (resort; Rees Jones)
Marquette GC, Greywalls
Marquette, MI; 906-225-0721, marquettegolfclub.com (public; Mike DeVries)
Soldier Hollow GC, Gold
Midway, UT; 435-654-7442, soldierhollow.com (public; Gene Bates)
Stone Eagle GC
Indian Wells, CA; 760-568-9800, stoneeagleclub.com (private; Tom Doak)
Sunday River GC
Newry, ME; 207-824-4653, sundayriver.com (resort; Robert Trent Jones Jr.)
Wynn Las Vegas CC
Las Vegas, NV; 888-320-7123, wynnlasvegas.com (resort; Tom Fazio)
HOT STROKE: The Claw
To purists, the concept of the claw might reek like a beach of rotting crustaceans, but for Chris DiMarco, Mark Calcavecchia, Peter Lonard, Tom Kite and countless duffers coast to coast, turning the right hand into a lobster pincer has eased the knock in their knees on the greens. Since picking up the technique from Skip Kendall ten years ago, DiMarco has become the grip's poster boy. More recently, Lonard jumped fifty-five spots in the putting stats the week he converted at the Heritage, clawing his way to his first Tour victory.
As unsettling as the grip looks, it essentially settles the stroke by removing the right hand—and all that can go wrong with it—from the motion. When properly executed, the left hand pulls the club through impact, while the right only guides, steadying the stroke, which makes it an effective defense against—hold your ears—the yips. "The stigma once attached to less-than-standard putting styles is gone," explains CBS analyst Peter Kostis, "and that certainly includes the claw. Guys are willing to use whatever they can to make more putts." In other words, they'd rather claw their way to the top than scratch their heads in disbelief after yet another putt lips out.
HOT CONCEPT: "Flogging"
Bobby Jones once described Jack Nicklaus as playing a game with which he was unfamiliar, and Nicklaus later would say the same about Tiger. But the combination of hot drivers and hotter balls in the hands of the Tour's big hitters has transformed the game into something so alien that Johnny Miller coined a new term for it: "flogging."
The idea is simple and so effective that it's turned course mismanagement into a conscious strategy: Drive the ball as far as you can, whether it ends up in the fairway or not. After all, accuracy is irrelevant if you're playing your approach to a 475-yard par four with a gap wedge. "As long as you miss in the correct spots," Woods said, "it's fine."
The stats tell the story. Through the first third of the season, the Big Four are all in the top twenty-five in driving distance, but only Vijay Singh is in the top 100 in driving accuracy. However, all four remain in the top twenty in greens in regulation.
Golf's royalty is not amused. "Technology is killing professional golf," says Gary Player. "Tiger missed five fairways a round last year. Hogan never missed five fairways in a month." The floggers have found a different "secret," but one need only look at tennis to recognize the potential danger. When the finesse game was buried in an avalanche of 130 m.p.h. serves, interest in the pro game dwindled. Flogging may not have the same effect on golf—unless the next generation starts bombing it distances with which Tiger is unfamiliar.