World Cup of Golf shines light on Melbourne Sandbelt

The Metropolitan Golf Club is in pristine condition entering this week’s World Cup of Golf. (photo by Gary Lisbon)

While the 2018 portion of the current U.S. PGA Tour season concluded last week on frosty Sea Island, Ga., there’s still professional action on the schedule in the final weeks of the year.

The ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf begins Wednesday Night in South Victoria, Australia. Golf Channel is televising the entire 72-hole stroke play event which features 28 two-man teams representing countries from around the world. The first round coverage is from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time. Rainy weather is in the forecast for the first two rounds, which feature a round each of fourball and foursomes.

Host country representatives Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith enter the tournament on form and heading the short list of favorites. Leishman won the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour last month while Smith tied for seventh at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges and is ranked No. 33 in the world.

PerryGolf is thrilled to offer multiple options for guests wishing to travel to Australia.

The English pairing of Tyrell Hatton and Ian Poulter will also be a formidable duo, as will American representatives Matt Kuchar (who won with Gary Woodland in 2011) and partner Kyle Stanley. The U.S. has 24 World Cup victories while Australia and South Africa are next with five apiece.

The Metropolitan Golf Club was designed by J.B. MacKenzie in the early 20th century, saw modifications from Dr. Alister MacKenzie in 1926 and underwent a back nine renovation by American architect Dick Wilson in 1959. The course is consistently ranked top 15 in Australia and is yet another gem in the Melbourne Sandbelt, which also offers Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Victoria, among others.

The par-3, No. 11, measures only 154 yards for the participants in the World Cup, however the well-bunkered undulating green is certain to puzzle even the most polished professional.

 

PerryGolf guests enjoy a refreshing beverage after a round at Metropolitan Golf Club.

 

PerryGolf takes you Down Under with the Best of Australia Escorted Tour in 2020. 

Greens mown sharply into bunker edges is a distinguishing characteristic at Metropolitan and a prevalent feature throughout the Sandbelt, which is a favorite golfing destination of the American star Rickie Fowler, among others.

The affable Leishman, ranked 21st in the world, shares a strong affection for the strongest golfing region of his home country.

“It’s one of the best golfing destinations in the world. You hear of Bandon Dunes, or trips around Scotland, or Pinehurst and places like that but Melbourne rivals them all. In terms of a golfing holiday, you couldn’t get much better, particularly at that time of year if you’re an American fan. Get out of the American winter and get into the Aussie summer and enjoy yourself.” – Marc Leishman

 

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The Presidents Cup will be held at Royal Melbourne in December 2019, with the International squad aiming to break the Americans stranglehold on the biennial matches. Ben Everill, a staff writer at PGATour.com and an Australian, makes a compelling case on why Americans – or any other golf loving travelers – would be wise to plan a trip to Melbourne on a golf holiday. From penguin parades to fantastic dining, coupled with beautiful scenery and friendly, engaging citizens, it’s a wise choice indeed.

5 Sights to See in Melbourne, Australia

PerryGolf’s Howie Knodt claims Super Senior title

Turning 65 earlier this year opened a new chapter for Howie Knodt in competitive golf as he resumed playing and quickly returned to a familiar place – the trophy presentation ceremony.

Knodt, a PerryGolf Customer Relations Representative, won the Southern California Golf Association Super Senior Championship last month, firing 68-72-140 at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa for a three-shot victory.

Despite a distinguished amateur record, the San Diego resident played a limited tournament schedule in recent years. Becoming eligible for the Super Senior division, however, motivated him to practice. He delivered, withstanding the final round pressure of leading the tournament and holding off two-time defending champion Kemp Richardson.

“It was a chance to see a lot of guys I haven’t seen for a long time,” Knodt said. “I’m kind of surprised because I haven’t been playing any tournaments. Guess it shows I still have a little gas in the tank.”

Then again, no one in Southern California should be surprised.

Knodt dominated the Senior Division a decade ago, earning Player of the Year honors in 2009 and 2010 as he won the SCGA Senior Amateur and twice claimed the SCGA Senior Match Play title. He’s also a four-time San Diego Senior Am champion and 10-time club champion at San Diego Country Club, which was founded in 1897, has been at its current Chula Vista location since 1921 and has the reputation as the best conditioned course in the region.

In recent years, Knodt has focused on serving as a liaison between PerryGolf and the First Tee, organizing fundraisers for the 150 chapters nationwide. PerryGolf is a Silver Corporate Sponsor of the First Tee, which reaches more than 5 million kids annually, using golf to teach core values and develop healthy, productive citizens.

Knodt also hosts webinars for PerryGolf and escorts guests on a Tour on occasion, impressing several guests with his shotmaking and golf skill on a recent Escorted Tour to Australia and New Zealand.

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Knodt brings a wealth of travel industry knowledge and experience to PerryGolf. Prior to coming on board six years ago, he spent three decades as the managing partner of Carefree Travel, overseeing a half-dozen retail stores across the San Diego area. He also owned and operated Special Event Cruises, providing continuing education programs at sea for doctors and dentists.

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A strong player since college, Knodt received a unexpected stroke of good fortune while playing in a tournament in his mid-50s. He won six free golf lessons with San Diego instructor Bob Madsen and the partnership drove him toward improving his golf fitness and forming a plan that ultimately produced his early senior success.

“He turned out to be an amazing instructor and coach,” Knodt said. “He sat down with me for 2-3 hours and asked me what I wanted to try and accomplish. He laid out this plan to try and accomplish these goals. He had an unorthodox approach. The first two or lessons I never hit balls and he never put my swing on video.”

Knodt advanced to match play in the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur at Shady Oaks, the legendary home of Ben Hogan in Fort Worth, Tex., finished top 20 in the British Senior Amateur at Walton Heath and dominated the competition around San Diego County and Southern California.

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After selling his travel agency, Knodt’s relationship with PerryGolf began via email correspondence and subsequent two-hour phone conversation with president and co-founder Gordon Dalgleish

“I love Gordon and the whole group over there,” Knodt said. “They’re such a joy to work with and I love their business philosophy.”

Winning the SCGA Super Senior earned Knodt exemptions into several of the association major championships next year. He’ll play in four or five of those and continue his work with the First Tee, volunteering locally in San Diego and also helping coordinate the golf package auctions which raise money for the individual chapters.

And if you happen to run across him on the course, be certain to take the full allotment of shots your handicap allows. Chances are, you’ll need everyone of them.

Meet the PerryGolf Concierge Drivers: Neil Cruickshank

 

PerryGolf’s Concierge Drivers play an essential part in any Customized or Escorted Tour. They fill many roles during your trip abroad – from recommending restaurants to sharing nuggets of local history and culture while also making certain every part of the Tour from the airport to the hotel to the first tee runs smoothly on schedule. This post is the first in an ongoing series, during which we’ll profile the devoted, diligent Concierge Drivers who help PerryGolf guests, Play the Game. See the World.    

One of Neil Cruickshank’s first encounters with golf occurred in 1977 at Turnberry.

Armed with a degree in hotel management, Cruickshank landed a job at the famous hotel adjacent to the course in Scotland where American legends Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus staged their epic Duel in the Sun in The 106th Open.

The evening after the final round, Nicklaus, accompanied by wife Barbara, entered the hotel’s main dining room. They received a standing ovation and hearty round of applause from the other diners and guests, Cruickshank recalls. Minutes later, Watson entered to a polite, yet somewhat muted response. Perhaps the young American had yet to fully win the hearts of Scotland; their special mutual relationship accelerated that day, however, as Watson’s second consecutive 65 nipped Nicklaus and earned his second Claret Jug. He finished his career with five, tying the modern record, and, at age 59, missed a sixth by inches at Turnberry in 2009.

The storied Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry, as it’s known today, remains one of Cruickshank’s favorite places to take his PerryGolf clients. He’s spent the last two years as a Concierge Driver, after enjoying a long, successful career in the hotel and service industry. A golfer for 50-odd years, he’s never played the game particularly well but that hasn’t curbed his enthusiasm for rounds on legendary links like Royal Dornoch or Turnberry, which he feels is even better following architect Martin Ebert’s massive renovation in 2016.

Regardless the destination, Cruickshank, 59, enjoys his role as Tour host because of the friendships and relationships built during the week-to-10-days spent together.

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“It’s two-fold,” Cruickshank said in a phone interview. “We’re making the trips a trip of a lifetime for a guy, seeing their enjoyment and excitement of the trip. We deal with all the detail. That’s all it takes and seeing all that is exciting. Meeting the new people and going back to old style hotel keeping where you are really taking care of your customers.”

Cruickshank possesses enormous pride in all portions of his native Scotland, from the rich culture to the natural beauty and certainly the golf which is beyond compare. He’s also a particularly fervent supporter of the national rugby union team and plans to travel to Japan to support them in the World Cup in 2019.

Then again, traveling is old hat for Cruickshank. Clad in a kilt, he was a volunteer greeter during the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and ranks that as perhaps the ultimate sporting experience. The journey to Minnesota also enabled him to reconnect with former PerryGolf clients who reside in the States and have become friends through the years. It’s not unusual for Cruickshank to receive a photo text message when one is playing a top 100 layout on a particularly pleasant day, trying to make him a touch jealous – all in good fun, of course.

These relationships are the backbone of the experience for Cruickshank.

“It’s strange how quickly it does develop,” he said. “When you meet them at the airport they are so excited, like children at Christmastime or in a candy store. They are a joy to be with and that becomes infectious.”

“You get caught up with their excitement, just think about the next round of golf and talk about their previous round of golf, get to know them really quickly. There’s no barriers, away from their home environment, it’s quite amazing how much you learn about them and their family. You’re with them for big chunks of the day, really do build a bond with them.”

6 Nights, 6 Rounds in the Scottish Highlands and St. Andrews

Cruickshank relies on decades of experience in the service industry to determine the ideal agenda for each set of guests. Some might desire the fine dining options available across Scotland while others simply seek sustenance to survive until the next round of golf. Whatever their preference, his role as concierge driver demands that the clubs and luggage are always safe and secure while golfers arrive at the course well in advance of their starting time.

“Everything is labeled and I always check how many bags they have,” he said. “Many of our hotels have a golf storage. Each morning we get the clubs out and off we go. I check with the golf courses to make sure everything is in place. If caddies have been requested … we pride ourselves at PerryGolf on being one step ahead.”

The seasonal schedule (April – October due to daylight restrictions in the spring and fall) serves Cruickshank well at this point in his life. Married with three children, two of whom live in Glasgow and one who lives at home, serving as Concierge Driver on roads and in towns he knows so intimately enable him to provide a comfortable experience for all clients.

Memories lasting a lifetime are made on these trips to golf’s most hallowed grounds. Links that have tested the greatest golfers through the generations accompanied by dozens of hidden gems make every trip unforgettable and golfers anxious to return. Years like this one, which have been dry and seasonably warm, only amplify the expectations. With drivers like Cruickshank behind the wheel, clients feel confident they’ll be steered around Scotland in the best of hands.

PerryGolf Destination: Australia

Royal Melbourne West is the prize of the Sandbelt. The Alister MacKenzie masterpiece is a consensus top 10 in the World layout. PerryGolf can take you there on a Custom Tour or Escorted Tour. 

As summer turns to fall in Australia, one of the nation’s most beloved and respected champion golfers returned home and played the two courses he considers his favorite in the world.

Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open Champion, and a veteran member of the CBS Sports broadcast team, took advantage of the network’s coverage break in advance of The Masters and headed Down Under to play Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

IBF posted this beautiful aerial shot of Kingston Heath (and additional photos from his trip) to his Instagram account earlier this week, making it easy to understand why he has such strong affection for the layout, which was ranked No. 20 in Golf Magazine’s 2017-18 Top 100 Courses in the World.

 

 

Via Custom Tours or Escorted Tours, PerryGolf brings golf enthusiasts from around the globe to the glorious Melbourne Sandbelt – and beyond – each year during the Southern Hemisphere’s ideal weather months (October – March).

For example, The Best Golf of Sydney and Melbourne features seven rounds in nine days.

Kingston Heath was originally designed in 1925 by the Australian professional Dan Soutar. The renowned Scottish architect Alister MacKenzie (Cypress Point, Augusta National) visited three years later and raved about Soutar’s routing. MacKenzie added the layout’s characteristic bunkering, the identifiable feature of his gems in the Sandbelt region.

None other than Greg Norman described the course’s four par 3s as the best set in the world. And while they deserve every breath of praise, it’s the short par-4 No. 3 – measuring only 295 yards from the back tees – that earns the respect of another Champion Golfer of the Year from Australia, the great Peter Thomson, who won the Open Championship five times between 1954 and 1965.

“Holes of this length are not built any more – a pity. This one is a gem,” Thomson said. “In this day and age it can be driven, although the possibility must be ten or more to one against. For this reason the penalties for missing the target should be more severe, this enhancing the challenge.”

Thomson, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, also designed dozens of courses around the globe in an architectural career spanning 50 years.

Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen found Kingston Heath to their liking in the 2016 World Cup of Golf, shooting 20-under-par for 72 holes to bring the trophy home to Denmark.

The journey Down Under to play Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne and the many, many other courses which are among the world’s best, is a special and unique offering. When you go, be certain to take advantage of this tax break, offered to tourists on certain items. To learn more about the majestic courses in Tasmania and on King Island, enjoy these stunning photos and observations from Gordon Dalgleish, the PerryGolf Co-Founding Director and President. 

Dates and details should be finalized soon for PerryGolf’s extremely popular, The Best of Australia Escorted 2019. If you’re interested in playing these delightful gems and learning more about the trip, be sure to contact us.

Top 5 Reasons for a PerryGolf trip to Italy

The Best of Italy 2016 - PerryGolf Escorted Tour
Italy stands alone in our portfolio for the greatest range of course styles and the most fascinating collection of cultural marvels. Narrowing down to just five reasons for a golf vacation to Italy is nearly impossible; however, we’ve done our best to highlight 5 of the reasons why we think you’ll love a visit… Read more “Top 5 Reasons for a PerryGolf trip to Italy”