Ask Travelin' Joe: Scotland, Nevada and North Carolina

Wednesday July 16th, 2008

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If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at [MAILTO "askjoe@golf.com" "[BOLD "askjoe@golf.com"]"]."]

Dear Joe,
At the last minute, my wife decided to have us attend a wedding in Dunbar, Scotland. I have about three or four days before the wedding (it's July 12) to play golf. Other than Muirfield, whose reputation makes it an obvious choice, are there two or three other courses nearby you recommend?

Dennis Fried, Encino, CA

You're right, Muirfield is an obvious choice, but they don't really throw out the welcome mat to strangers. The doors aren't nailed shut, but they are certainly hard to open at short notice. Try anyway at muirfield.org.uk. Now, assuming you're not going to drive around the Firth of Forth to St. Andrews, three coastal gems await. For sheer quirky, memorable fun, it's hard to top North Berwick's West Links ($130-$170; northberwickgolfclub.com). The famous, much-imitated par-3 15th called "Redan," is the main attraction for design buffs, but there are plenty more highlights on this delightful rack. Gullane No. 1 ($170-$200; gullanegolfclub.com) is the region's most underrated course and is notable for the sea views and shot-making challenges on the front-nine holes. Finally, don't neglect Dunbar Golf Club ($60-$120; dunbar-golfclub.co.uk; 30-60 pounds), a cramped but utterly compelling links that dates to 1856. \n

Dear Joe,
A friend of mine (20 handicap) and I (9 handicap) are heading to Mesquite, Nevada this summer. Do you have any good and bad ideas for where we should play?

Calvin Walker, via email

Wolf Creek ($85-$125 in summer; golfwolfcreek.com) is the showstopper in Mesquite, but it's so relentlessly hard that your pal better play from an appropriate set of tees or he'll need an extra box of balls to finish. You'll both require vertigo pills, because the elevated tees never stop. There's no shortage of downhill plunges either at the Oasis Golf Club's Palmer course ($30-$85 in summer; theoasisgolfclub.com), but it's more playable, if less mind-blowing than Wolf Creek.

\nDear Joe,
I'm going to the Emerald Isle on North Carolina's Outer Banks this month and was wondering if you had any suggestions for two or three rounds of golf. The golf 'expert' at the rental company suggested putting it off until we get there. I'd like to go ahead and make tee times.

Gene Jackson, Mt. Vernon, Ohio

There's good reason that North Carolina's Central Coast — or Crystal Coast, as the local marketers call it — flies under the golf radar screen: There's not much there. Star Hill Golf Club ($65; starhillgolf.com) in Cape Carteret offers three enjoyable, if bland nines, while Silver Creek ($36-$52; golfemeraldisle.com) and Brandywine Bay ($34-$49; brandywinegolf.com) are acceptable choices, too. A most promising newcomer is the North River Golf Club ($40-$60; northrivergolfclub.com), a watery, 7,151-yard residential layout in Beaufort that opened in September. Still, I wouldn't sweat the tee times. There aren't any "must-play" hidden gems in this mix.

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