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Review: Streamsong Resort

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If you haven’t heard of Streamsong Resort yet, it won’t be long until you do. The saying “if you build it, they will come” seems to hold true for golf courses such as Sand Hills in Nebraska or Forest Dunes Michigan, gems plopped in the middle of nowhere. The secret is… if you build it well, we will come.

Streamsong is a simply magnificent, modern day golf resort — also in the middle of nowhere. It’s one of the best luxury golf getaway options available and maybe best of all, it’s in sunny Florida so you can play golf in the dead of winter.

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Along with two world-class links-style golf courses, which are discussed in more detail later in the review, Streamsong offers everything most guests will need for their stay. That’s a blessing, because it’s also in the middle of nowhere.

There are two large buildings on property, the largest of which is the Lodge (above). It has 216 rooms, four restaurants, conference rooms and amenities including bars, fitness facilities, a spa, a pool and retail stores.

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The Lodge

There’s also a building called “The Club House,” which is much more than what usually stands beside a golf course. It has 12 guest rooms, more conference rooms, a lounge, a golf shop, a locker room, and “Fifty Nine,” which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It specializes in steaks and seafood, and offers an impressive wine list.

streamsong resort

Streamsong has a shuttle that runs throughout the resort, so there was no need to drive once we valeted the car on arrival. After checking in, we immediately knew we were at the right place. Guests were walking through the lobby with their carry bags strapped to their back as if the lobby was the 3rd hole — a nice welcome for diehard golfers. You can check your bag and it will be stored at the course, or if you’re like us, you can bring the clubs back to the room so they’re handy at all times.

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A typical room. Free WIFI and a new 42-inch LED HD TV.

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We were pleased not to hear much noise from the surrounding rooms.

We flew into Tampa and rented a car for a nice drive to Streamsong. The two courses on the 16,000-acre campus are “Red” and “Blue.” They reminded us more of Ireland’s Tralee or Ballybunion than Florida courses, as there’s not a tree or house on the property.

The Red and Blue are built on an old phosphate mine complete with craters and mounds that look like they were purposefully placed, yet are the result of many years of mining. Our experience was that the Red and Blue are two of the best courses you’ll play in your life.

Follow along for a more in-depth review of the Red and the Black, with on-course photos of each.

Red Course

The Red course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and tips out at 7,148 yards with a slope of 122 to 130 depending on the tee. Coore and Crenshaw courses are known for their minimalistic approach to golf course design, and Streamsong Red is no different.

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Red Course: Hole No. 5

One thing that was notable about the course was the number of half-par holes that Coore and Crenshaw weaved into the routing. We counted as many as 10 par-4 and par-5 holes that were either short and reachable or very long and unreachable for most golfers. These “half-pars” allow for more birdie chances, but also more tough pars, which means they’re generally played better when the player throws the concept of par out the window.

You’ll see what we mean.

The round starts with a very tough, long, uphill par-4 measuring 464 yards (from the black tees) that is very hard to reach in two shots. Then, on the second hole, you get a 508-yard reachable par-5 that gently doglegs to the right. Hole No. 3 is a reasonable-length par-4 of 391 yards, but then you get to the 4th hole, a fantastic risk-reward, drivable par-4 that’s 316 yards. The 5th hole is another great short par-4 at 344 yards.

After the mid-length, par-3 6th, which measures about 150 yards to a huge green, the player is confronted at the 7th hole. It’s a sweeping dogleg left, reachable par-5 that plays 521 yards. The 8th is another great par-3 with a very long green that can play under 100 yards or more than 150 yards. Next up is the tempting par-4 9th. At 271 yards, it begs long-hitters to try and drive its memorably and difficult green.

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The back nine starts with two difficult, long par-4s at 434 and 408 yards, respectively. The par-4 12th (471 yards) is followed by the reachable par-5 13th (505 yards). The good player should be happy to walk away from those two holes in nine strokes no matter how they occur.

After the excellent par-3 14th hole, golfers get back to the half-par holes. The long, uphill par-4 15th measures 454 yards. The 16th is a standout par-3 on a course with a fantastic set of par 3’s, but it plays very difficult at 184 yards and uphill. The 17th is a mid-range, 380-yard par-4 and the golfer finishes on another half-par, a par-5 that’s 505 yards. There’s plenty of opportunities for birdies, but you’ll have to grind out tough pars as well.

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Walking the Red course is very easy; the terrain is not flat, but the greens and tees are generally right next to each other. The greens are all very interesting and well-contoured without being too undulated. Many of them have organic shapes that are different than the normal square, rectangle or circular shaped greens golfers see on most courses. The landing areas are generous off the tee and somewhat forgiving on small misses around the greens. Large misses are punished, but generally the punishment is well-deserved.

Blue Course

The Blue course, which tips at 7,176, was designed by Tom Doak, who is also a minimalist designer. The two things that stood out the most to us on the Blue course were the great mix of short holes and the large, severely undulating greens.

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Blue Course: Hole No. 7

The 1st, 6th and 13th are all standout short par 4s, and the 5th hole is a fantastic, character-filled par 3 with a very large green that can play one of a 100 ways depending on the hole location and wind.

The greens are large but missing them, even by a small margin, can create very difficult recoveries. I found walking the Blue course to be a little more difficult, especially the 7th hole where golfers are forced to walk across a bridge to the green and then basically retrace their steps to get to the 8th tee. The course has a mostly natural appearance, though some abrupt landforms from the mine are a little jarring.

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Railroad tracks are used as tee markers to remember the phosphate mines that once occupied the property.

The ground game is an option on many of the holes as they are open coming into the greens. The course has some standout holes, but also a few that we didn’t like as much.

Summary

In comparing the two courses, we found that we preferred the Red over the Blue, though we definitely enjoyed both. We enjoyed the walk on the Red, and it’s a little easier to play with a better flow to it. We also preferred the greens on the Red, as we found them to be more reasonable. Some of the greens on Blue were a little too much for us, while the greens on the Red felt more like an older, golden-age course.

Both courses had a great mix of holes, and Blue has a few of my favorite holes on the property including my favorite three-hole stretch: holes Nos. 4-6. If given the chance to play 10 rounds, I would split them 6-4 in favor of the Red course.

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Wonderful landing areas and fabulous green complexes.

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Generous fairways make for more fun in the designs.

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The forced carry on this par-3 will make for memories.

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No trees and all heather. Just a touch of links in middle Florida.

The greens were in great shape in early March. We didn’t have a stimp meter, but we were told they were running at an 11.

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Ahhh… for real? Yep, and she was a biggy. Looked like a small elk for breakfast.

Streamsong has one of the better caddie programs golf has to offer. The cost is $80 to $100 per bag, plus gratuities. If golfers choose a cart, they’re required to have a forecaddie, which cost between $25 and $50 per bag plus gratuities.

We walked all four rounds, played 36 holes one day, and finished each round in 4 hours or less — no complaints here! One of our group members actually hoofed his own gear for the 36-hole day. Another registered 33,302 steps on his FitBit, and it’s still his record of steps for one day.

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The professional caddies will add frosting to the Streamsong cake.

I know many caddies from great northern clubs go south in the winter looking for loops. Streamsong is not a bargain, so they must know the clientele will be strong. We kept the same caddies for our entire stay, got to know them well and by the end of the battle we felt as if we had developed new friends. They probably all carry single-digit handicaps as well, and were great guys who certainly made our trip that much better.

Lastly

All this for nothing? Not quite. With rooms starting above $300 a night, many golfers will balk at the price tag to stay on site. If they can afford it, they might want to reconsider. The convenience of being a shuttle ride from the first hole and range is worth something.

Still, rooms are pricey, and a round of golf will cost $100 to $225 depending on the time of year. We can say, however, that it was one of our better golf experiences. Well-traveled golfers looking to play as many holes as possible will love Streamsong, where everything is ridiculously convenient and they won’t need to leave the property.

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The crew. The masochist that carried his own bag for 36 holes in one day is Ari on the right.

We suggest golfers make their plans well in advance, especially if they’re are thinking of playing 36 holes per day during the winter months. It requires marquis tee times, and those need to be planned accordingly.

Streamsong is also planning for the future. Construction has begun on the Black Course, which is designed by renowned architect Gil Hanse and scheduled to open in 2017. Hanse has said it will have a “linksy” feel like the other courses on property. Personally, we can’t wait, and there are rumors of a fourth course right after it.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Jeremy

    Nov 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I am fortunate enough to only live a little over an hour away from Streaming. I have only played once but what a top notch facility! I can’t comment on lodging and misc. activities but for golf, you simply can’t beat it. It gets a little pricey after you pay for green fees, caddie and tip but definitely worth checking it out. This would be a great long weekend destination!

  2. Imanoff

    Nov 16, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Very nice review!

    That particular par-3 looks familiar to me. Is that the one that featuring Justin Rose/Ashworth ads?

  3. Al Snow

    Nov 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

    You definitely have to keep your eyes on the Streamsong website. While in season (December through Easter) you will pay a premium on golf and resort rooms, but bargains are to be had during the shoulder seasons and during the summer months. Florida residents also receive some great pricing outside of the peak season.

  4. Jerry K

    Nov 15, 2015 at 7:36 am

    I agree that Streaming is pure golf very similar to Bandon with better weather. I believe the caddie fee quoted is for a forecaddie when taking a cart while the carry rate was at least double that. Should also note that carts have significant restrictions during the season.

  5. JH Holmes

    Nov 14, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Not sure where you got that caddie cost but I played there in June and it was $80-100 per bag. And thats whats currently listed on their website. Definitely worth it though – every caddie we had was A+.

    But it seems like this review is for a trip actually in early March – so maybe the prices changed.

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Nov 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      JH,

      Thanks for letting us know. We have updated the review to reflect Streamsong’s current caddie prices.

  6. Michael

    Nov 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    I’m going to be visiting family in Orlando in May next year. It will be my first visit to Florida. I’m hoping to convince my wife that I need to make the journey to Streamsong. This review will hopefully help sway her. From what I’ve been told and read it is definitely worth the expense and effort to get there. The two courses look magnificent. Fingers crossed.

    • Paul Seifert

      Nov 15, 2015 at 11:14 pm

      Your wife will love it! Unlike Bandon and many other world-class golf resorts, Streamsong has a fantastic infinity pool, spa and food/beverage experience that the non-golfing spouse looking for leisure will absolutely love.

      Get it on the books. While the golf experience is phenomenal, the resort is every bit as good!

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Courses

Branson, Missouri Continues to Evolve as a Golf Destination

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If you think you know Branson, Mo., it’s time to think again. While the live music venues that put the bucolic Ozark Mountains town on the map continue to thrive, its reputation as a top notch golf destination has grown … and continues to evolve.

Heck, golfers who’ve visited just a few years ago will find the scene almost unrecognizable. Sure, the awe-inspiring Top of the Rock — designed by legendary Jack Nicklaus and holding the honor of being the first-ever par-3 course to be included in a professional PGA championship — is as striking as ever, but its sister course, Buffalo Ridge, has undergone a metamorphosis.

No. 15 at Buffalo Ridge

Designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio and originally opened in 1999, Buffalo Ridge has done the unthinkable – make its list of previous accolades pale in comparison to what now graces the land. In conjunction with owner and visionary conservationist Johnny Morris, Fazio has exposed massive limestone formations, enhanced approaches and added water features to make every hole more memorable than the last.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio masterpieces not enough? Gary Player has stamped his signature in the Ozarks with the recently opened Mountain Top Course. This 13-hole, walking-only short course is unlike anything you’ve ever played.

Strap your bag to a trolley and let your imagination dictate your round. There are stakes in the ground with yardage markers nearby, but they’re merely suggestions. Play it long or play it short. Play it from different angles. The only mandate is to enjoy the course, nature and camaraderie.

No. 10 at Mountain Top

The Mountain Top greens are huge and as smooth as putting on a pool table. Nearly as quick, too. And the bunkers are as pristine as the white sands of an isolated Caribbean beach. Capping off your experience, the finishing hole plays back to the clubhouse and the green boasts multiple hole locations that enhance golfers’ chances at carding an ace. Hard to imagine a better way the end an already unforgettable round.

It shouldn’t take you much longer than two hours to get around Mountain Top Course. If it does, you were likely admiring the stunning panoramas. One notable addition to those views is Tiger Woods’ (TGR Design) first public access design — Payne’s Valley (named to honor Missouri golfing legend Payne Stewart) — which is full speed ahead on construction and scheduled to open in 2019. As a treat, the 19th hole was designed by Morris. Named “The Rock,” it’s a short par-3 that promises to be amazing.

Payne’s Valley will be both family-friendly and challenging. It has wide fairways and ample landing areas along with creative angles and approaches that shotmakers love and expect from a championship course.

If two years is too long to wait for new golf, then Morris and his Big Cedar Lodge have you covered with the yet-to-be-named ridge-top course by the industry’s hottest design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. With all the heavy lifting complete, the Ozarks is scheduled to be unveiled in 2018.

The Ozark Mountains form the backdrop on No. 5 at Buffalo Ridge.

Once opened, this par-71 (36-35) track will play “firm and fast” and offer multiple avenues into each green. Both Coore and Crenshaw bristle at the notion that there’s only one way to approach the playing surface. Bring it in high or run it along the ground. Considering the exposed nature of the course and propensity for high winds, the latter may be your best option.

There’s more. Tiger won’t be finished with Branson when he wraps up Payne’s Valley. He’s also designing a family-friendly par-3 course on the grounds of Big Cedar Lodge. There isn’t a date attached to this project, so stay tuned.

These new tracks join the likes of Thousand Hills, Branson Hills and Pointe Royale Golf Village to make Branson a powerful player on the golf destination scene. Combine that with world-class fishing and camping, as well as countless museums, restaurants and points of interest and this bustling Ozarks town is a must-visit spot in Middle America.

Learn more or plan your trip at explorebranson.com.

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Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club

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Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.

All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.

A view from the ninth fairway

Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.

Trees, or no trees?

The 18th tee

The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.

The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.

Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.

A good variety

Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16.  What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14.  These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set.  The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.

A view of the ninth fairway from across the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s tempt the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.

Green complexes are…complex

The green on the 18th hole

Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world.  They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.

The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a decent lie.

Ari’s last word

All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.

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Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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