Famed aquatic explorer Jacques Cousteau helped popularize the Great Blue Hole in Belize as a scuba-diving attraction. But this group of adventure-seekers decided to approach the hole from an aerial perspective:
Last July, while the golf press feasted on Phil Mickelson and his Muirfield miracle, I got the brave idea that just once I should visit Scotland during Open Championship week and not wade through a sea of bazooka cameras to retrieve the tepid golf quote. I vowed to take the cart path less traveled.
Unfurling the familiar map -- Selcraigs hail from Lower Largo, not far from St. Andrews -- I saw a canvass of splendid golf and favorite toons. Inverness in the Highlands, along the Moray Firth, is the perfect camp for playing incomparable Royal Dornoch and the newly brilliant Castle Stuart, the best new Scottish course in decades. (Oh, Donald, we hear your wails.)
On the East Coast, beloved Cruden Bay still remains a mystery to me. County Fife offers two memorable Old Tom Morris designs defined by the North Sea, Crail and Elie, and another half-dozen starlets not named St. Andrews. Or I could have stayed so close to Muirfield that I would smell the beer tents, yet spend my golf hours at enthralling North Berwick and mighty Gullane.
That's the Scottish golf dilemma. In every direction there awaits a week of exceptional golf full of century-old links and large reputations. But I was searching for something entirely different. I wanted a week of quirky. I needed off-the-grid, honesty-box golf with lots of nine-holers and newly mown pastures.
I asked David Connor, VisitScotland's able golf manager, to recommend something that if not quite undiscovered, was at least unfamiliar to most of the golf world.
He mulled. "Would you fancy a ferry and perhaps the world's oldest 12-hole golf course?"
Ah, the man can bait a hook. Every golf trip should start with a ferry.
The Isle of Arran is a kidney-shaped and kidney-named mountainous island off the southwest coast of Scotland, 40 miles from Glasgow as the puffin flies, guarded from the full Atlantic by a famous finger of land called Kintyre. (The tip of that peninsula, the Mull of Kintyre, inspired the 1977 hit song by Paul McCartney, who owned a ranch nearby.) Arran is often called "Scotland in Miniature" because its coastline and terrain – mountains in the north, lowland forests and farms in the south – nicely mimics the mainland. There are fewer than 5,000 full-time residents on Arran, but as the fine website, GolfonArran.com, suggests, most of them play golf.
Flying in from London Heathrow, Glasgow glistened like new china. Perhaps you remember how extraordinary the weather was in Scotland during what we can, back home, call the British Open. It was like a cloudless Colorado summer morning for two straight weeks, and a London tabloid screamed, "England Driest in 247 Years."
"I've lived here all my life," a Glaswegian bartender told me, "and this is the first time I've ever actually planned a barbecue for next week. We're Scottish. We never plan anything outside for tomorrow, much less next week."
More rambunctious than studious Edinburgh, Glasgow and its stunning architecture, refurbed warehouses, pubs and music venues deserve your full attention for a weekend. But I hustled through the airport, leaped into an Arnold Clark rental and barely made the Ardrossan ferry for its hour-long trip across the icing-smooth sound to Arran. (The ferry runs five times a day; about $50 for cars.)
Even on one of Scotland's warmest summer days, the deep open water required my wool and Gore-Tex. Invigorating, yes, but all this land-loving Texan could imagine were the intrepid lifeboat rescue teams that patrol the brutal Scottish coast. You see their plastic donation boxes in restaurants all over the country. Honestly, how does anyone do their job?
We docked at Arran's tourist hub, Brodick, and were enveloped by what felt like a village-sized, open-air REI store. Blow-ins and Brodickers alike all seemed to be toting kayaks, backpacks and serious walking sticks. One guesses the mayor might be L.L. Bean. For the next several days, I learned to crest blind roads a bit slower than usual for fear I would plow into healthy Canadians trudging on the shoulder, or energetic Dutch couples cataloguing kestrels and gannets.
I got a quick seafood chowder at one of the dockside restaurants and headed out for the Brodick Golf Club just up the road. Tucked along the seaside marshlands beneath what local author Jean Glen describes in the course's centennial book as "the soaring granite peaks and graceful sweep" of the bay, Brodick GC (formed in 1897) is an unassuming but endearing course steeped in great history. Glen writes that in 1652 infamous British military hero Oliver Cromwell -- Catholics have termed him a genocidal dictator -- fought and lost a battle against Arran men on the very ground beneath the current golf course.
I was drawn immediately to the white-washed, living room-size pro shop and the very peculiar Scottish accent from behind the front desk.
"Yes, that is a South Carolina drawl," confessed the smiling Jackie Browning, wife of the redheaded pro, James.
"Hilton Head, actually," she continued. "I met James when he came to the University of South Carolina to play golf and then I just sort of married into the game. I'm the only American who lives full-time on the island."
The couple lives in a storybook cottage nearby, built in 1897, when the golf club was founded. (All seven Arran courses were built pre-1900.) Even with the snows, the floods, the force 8 gales and the social insularity of an island that can be circumnavigated in 55 miles, they do appear to be one of the happiest golf couples on earth.
"It is an incredible way of life," said Jackie. And when James walks up a moment later, he speaks glowingly of the community's welcoming volunteer spirit and the many grateful junior golfers he gets to coach. A native Edinburgher, James came to the States when he was 15 and still displays some of the game that won him a Gamecock scholarship.
The leafy parkland course costs about $40 to play in the summer and is small by any modern standards – 18 holes, 4747 yards, par 65, only two holes over 400 yards – but the par-threes and fours are so fun, and the tight greens so Loch Lomond-ish good that you quickly forget not needing to hit 300-yard drives. You'll not pry any hole-by-hole descriptions from me. The whole Arran golf experience should remain a surprise for you. Forget counting strokes and instead count the salmon and otters splashing in the Rosa burn as it wiggles through the course.
Wave to the kayakers as you loft a little wedge over their oblivious noggins, then revel in playing a beloved community course of which Jean Glen wrote: "Neither wars nor the mighty sea itself have stopped this club going forward and constantly improving."
James and I played late into the summer evening, still bright at 9, and I dragged my jet-lagged bones into the nearby Auchrannie Resort, a thoroughly-modern restored estate with luxury lodges and three stylish restaurants.
The next morning I was energized to play the island's other six courses, but unbeknownst to me, I was about to reach the pinnacle of Arran golf on the second morning, when I stumbled upon one of the world's few 12-hole golf courses, the wondrously idiosyncratic and scenic Shiskine Golf Club.Full Story >>
During the preseason, eight NBA teams are playing a total of eight games in six countries across the world. And of all the players on all those teams, we can say with near certainty that Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is having the most fun on his trip.
Noah, the All-Star seven-footer, has an international background, as his mother is from Sweden and his father is from France. Over the offseason he's also traveled to China and Cameroon. Simply put, the dude loves to go abroad.
From the moment Noah stepped off the plane in Brazil, he's been having a blast.
Bulls arrived at team hotel and Noah said he ran across street and jumped into ocean. Of course he did. #NBAGlobalGames
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 9, 2013
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 9, 2013
Noah had been to Rio one time before, when he was 14, and he says he couldn't wait to get back.
"Brazil is like one of those places -- I’ve always wanted to come here -- the people are just full of energy," Noah said. "The culture is so cool, they’ve got great food, and it’s just an unbelievable culture with great people. So just to be a part of this, I couldn’t be happier."
The Bulls' game against the Wizards on Saturday will be the first in a South American country, and there is a lot of anticipation for the matchup in a country where basketball is very popular. Noah is doing all he can to match the fans' energy. Just check out his awesome entrance to Fan Appreciation Day.
Unfortunately for basketball fans in Brazil, Noah may not even suit up for Saturday's game. He has been held back the past few weeks by a groin injury and was deemed "questionable" by coach Tom Thibodeau.Full Story >>
In case you were wondering how LeBron James' first few days as a married man is going, here are some pictures he has shared with the world of his honeymoon.
"Wow what an experience!" he wrote. "The Colosseum up close and personal. #BucketList #Rome #MaximusAriliusDecimus #AreYouNotEntertained"
The Miami Heat star married his longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson at a private ceremony in San Diego last week. British newspaper The Daily Mail also published some paparazzi shots of the two walking through Rome during the trip.
James, shortly after the wedding, added this Instagram photo:
The Vendee Globe Sailboat Race is known for its difficulty, and it is easy to understand why. The rules are simple but brutal. Sail solo around the world in three months with no stops allowed. This is more than just competing. It's risking your life.
The first race was held in 1989, and now, like the Olympics, the race is held every four years. The most recent event ended in January.
HBO's "Real Sports" takes a closer look at this grueling event through a profile of British sailor Alex Thomson. The latest episode premieres 10 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday. Here's a preview:
Every sports fan in the country should be jealous of Kevin Durant.
Not just because the 24-year-old is one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA, although that is certainly a fair cause for envy. People should be jealous of Durant because this weekend he got to live out the dream of just about every red-blooded sports fan.
The Oklahoma City Thunder star, a Washington, D.C., native who attended Texas for one year before bolting for the NBA, was on site to watch both his college and his pro team.
Durant got the weekend started on Saturday in Austin. He watched his Longhorns get clobbered by Ole Miss 44-23, but at least it looks like he had a good time.
Then Durant traveled to Wisconsin, where he was on the sidelines at Lambeau Field to watch his Washington Redskins take on the Green Bay Packers. Things didn't go much better for Durant on Sunday, as his team got smoked by Aaron Rodgers and Co., 38-20.
But Durant still managed to enjoy himself:
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) September 15, 2013
Kevin Durant greets RGIII on the sidelines at Lambeau Field: pic.twitter.com/k6pgjugJri
— Beyond The Buzzer (@BeyondTheBuzzer) September 15, 2013
During the summer we hear about lots of current and former NBA players making trips abroad. Many times these trips are to promote the sport, a product, or both.
One trip that may have flown under the radar was Derek Anderson's journey to Belize, where he gave motivational speeches and promoted his new book, "Stamina."
Anderson overcame no shortage of hurdles -- including fathering a child at age 14 and mourning the death of his sister by his father's best friend -- to achieve the highest success at both the collegiate and professional levels. He won an NCAA championship with Kentucky in 1996 and 10 years later won an NBA title as a member of the Miami Heat.
Because of his difficult upbringing, Anderson says he can emphasize with the struggles of young people in Belize.
Anderson traveled to Belize as a guest of the United States Embassy. In addition to giving a pair of speeches, he toured the country and got to enjoy its magnificent beauty.
— Derek L. Anderson (@DerekLAnderson) August 10, 2013
Below is an interview with Anderson from during his time in Belize:
DeAndre Levy has to face Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Aaron Rodgers a total of six times each year, but those tasks pale in comparison to the challenges with which Levy was confronted during the offseason.
Levy, a four-year starter at outside linebacker for the Detroit Lions, ventured to South Africa and Botswana last year and continued his offseason globetrotting this year when he spent several weeks roughing it in South America.
He hiked the Inca Trail leading up to Machu Pichu and camped out in the Amazon rainforest. As if this didn't sound like an episode of "Survivor" already, Levy told John Niyo of the Detroit News that some of his meals consisted of frogs and rats that he speared himself. He also slept with a machete at night, just to be safe.
If you think Levy sounds crazy, you're not alone.
"Most of [my teammates] think it's crazy," Levy told Niyo. "They found out I went skydiving and they thought that was crazy. They thought the Amazon was nuts, eating frogs and rats and piranha and stuff like that."
For Levy, getting to the Amazon was a lifelong dream.
"Ever since I was little I've wanted to go to the Amazon,” Levy said. "And the way I went about it — I didn’t want to go on a cruise or to a resort or anything like that -- I was just out there."
Now that he's accomplished that he can move on to bigger and better things, literally. He says Mount Kilimanjaro and Kenya are his next destinations.
(H/T to For The Win)Full Story >>
Remember driver's ed? The utter fear of failing your final test because you hit the brakes too hard, didn't signal that left turn, or hit a pedestrian (which wasn't on purpose and those charges were totally dropped)? Well, fear driving instruction no more, because adventure retreat Gateway Canyons Resort wants to teach you to drift, turn, and jump through crazy mountain terrain in a Pro-Baja truck. Get ready to strap in.
The package includes a choice of luxe accommodations at Gateway Canyon Resort & Spa in Western Colorado, which, amazingly, was established by the founder of the Discovery Channel. Get your rest and be sure to eat your comp breakfast in the morning, because what lies ahead...
... is a FULL day of taking these Pro-Baja trucks off-road for crazy aerials and sick drifting maneuvers. You'll take expert instruction from professional Baja drivers, showing you how fast to hit a curve and how fast you can lose your comp breakfast.
Once fully acclimated, you'll take on this two-mile desert training facility for a solo off-road runabout.
And if the idea of flying gloriously over a hill in not-so-slow motion doesn't get your heart pumping, this video showing exactly what you're in for should do the trick.Full Story >>
The good people at Hatchet Caye Resort in Belize are fed up with the Lionfish -- the population is exploding, it's not even indigenous to their waters, they're eating up all the much prettier fish, and they're basically ruining EVERYTHING. So they're asking for your help to keep the species under control. Your mission: Jump on a plane down, grab a speargun and guide, scuba over to where those aquatic assholes are lurking, and pump a blade into their faces.
This is Hatchet Caye, the tropical, Richard Branson-esque private island where you'll greet your fellow hunters and sleep BEFORE you're with the fishes.
One more island shot, just so you realize how ridiculously gorgeous this joint is.
Oceanfront cabanas will be your vacation dormitory, even though this will be thousands of miles from anything like Spring Break.
The mighty whale shark: just one of the many native species NOT DOING ITS JOB.
You also don't want to spear this local loggerhead turtle, partly because it's adorable but mostly because it's illegal.
Here he is. Indigenous to the Pacific, this species has overrun the Atlantic due to voracious eating and rabbit-like mating habits. More than likely, it made its way over due to some irresponsible Floridian aquarium owner, which is speculation, but is also probably true because Florida is the worst.
Zapped. Now that you've hooked that poisonous peacock, keep him as far from your body as possible, considering their venomous spines have been known to cause paralysis of the limbs, heart failure, and even death.
Wait, and now you're eating him? Yes, you'll take that carpetbagger back to the aptly-named Lionfish Bar & Grill, where they will clean and prepare him before, once again, you take a blade to his face.
Here Are Some Other Things You Might Find Lurking Below The WavesFull Story >>