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Azuri – the nine

For a course that’s less than 3 months old, the condition was surprisingly really good to play.

Designed by IMG, the opening and closing holes were the most interesting.  The longest hole , no. 6 played from 135 to 190 meters, depending on your chosen tees.

We loved the huge dual flag greens to enable 18 holes of play.

Whilst we really did enjoy ourselves, we think the course needs to settle in and grow into its natural and manufactured habitat.  The sight of the works around the course where houses will be built, was a bit of a scar on the overall appearance – A little more time would heal this.

If we had to chose one, the most fun hole was 9, over the water to a TPC Sawgrass esque green, but we also enjoyed the bunkers with their consistently gritty nice easy to play sand too.

The clubhouse comfort and menu choice was really good with great tasting quality food too.  Again, great staff in the bar and restaurant area, with a lovely view overlooking the course whilst you dine or enjoy a cocktail.

We’ve scored an overall of 4 and a quarter out 5, we would definitely like to play it again once the houses have been built around the course.

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break whilst on holiday.

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Bowood Hotel Spa & Golf Resort, Wiltshire, UK

An imposing wall looms as the car (and driver) expertly thread their way through the apparent decreasing gap.  A little breath in does little to help the width of the car, but does make me feel better with the walls closing in as we transcend into the grounds of Bowood.

On the other side, in tardis fashion the grounds open up and that split second of claustrophobia is quickly cleared as the drive through trees and past the golf course brings a smile to my face.

Drama over, we’d arrived at Bowood in Wiltshire for 18 holes of golf and an overnight stay.  The covered floodlit driving range and a cute little 3 hole course which swept up and down the hills, offering in itself a quirky challenge with decent sized greens.

Pro shop staff were expecting us, the welcome was as warm as the small plate of food and drinks before we set off for our game of golf in the late autumn sunshine.

This Dave Thomas design was completed in 1991 as the official PGA course and Academy in South West England.  Every hole was covered by bunkers for the approach with hole 3, a par 5 488/568 yards SI1/3 having a double crescent in front of the green.  Being a par 5, you could always lay up and go for the fly over this double tier of bunkers, unless you like sand, then you can hop from one to the other before popping onto the green feeling slightly frustrated and a bit grittier than when you stood on the tee!

Bunkers were in play, but on hole 4 it was bunkers left and water right, narrowing the approach for this back to back par 5 460/573 yard SI7.  Accuracy is your friend on this hole.

A shared green greets you on hole 5.  With the green looming large, the bunker left shouldn’t really come into play if you favour the right hand bank, which gently slopes to the left on the approach.  That said be mindful of the green sloping back to front and the pace of the greens.  Luckily for us, the greens had been tined so laying up short was another way to score well on this high SI15 hole.

The other side of the shared green is hole 14, a par 4 SI14/12 308/412 yards.

Playing up 9 with the hotel and golf buildings to greet you in the far distance is always a pleasing sight, couple this with a comprehensive half way house, made a good end for the front nine which I can sum up with dog legs, water, sand, a bit more sand, the odd path crossing over and good fairways and decent greens.  

Hole 11 with its little meandering brook to the right and slightly across the fairway to the almost dog leg right.  Out of bounds to the right, which wasn’t really in play unless you decided to take on the corner, which in itself would be a risk and reward shot as the angle of the dog leg isn’t as acute as 90 degrees! 

The short par 3 12th is an uphill shot, an extra club is needed to reach this two tier back to front sloping green, the short fairway is dissected by a brook, which, if you don’t have a range finder, can be misleading as it appears to shorten the holes length.

I did enjoy hole 15, from its elevated tee position.  Not too dissimilar to 11, but instead playing 497/542 yards this par 5 SI2/6 was almost a 90 degree dog leg right.  Hitting to the middle of the dog leg is optimum, but upon reaching the corner the course sweeps round right and a large tree is in the middle of the fairway.  That said I loved these elevation changes and trying to keep the ball right, ie to the left of the tree, through what seemed to be the narrowest part for the shot to the green, was a good test of accuracy.

Hole 16 saw a big advantage for the forward tees, which played 355 yards as opposed to the back black tees at 449 yards. A tricky hole in so far as the forward tees took away any uphill shot or dog legs, however the back tees had it all in play for a blind shot to a sloping right to left fairway.

Homeward bound on hole 18, the end is within sight, the fairway quite wide and the water left as the fairway slightly shifts course to the right.  A number of splodge bunkers and no time to rest on your laurels, even if the bar is within touching distance!

In summary, the course played well, the condition, even for that time of the year, was very good and the bunkers were plentiful!  The tee boxes could do with some tlc in places, and as the greens had just been tined, were in the process of recovery, although they still kept their line.  The elevation changes make this course more interesting and I’m sure it plays totally different in the height of summer.

Dinner bed and breakfast in the hotel that night was comfortable.   The only negative I might throw out there was the cost of the drinks in the bar was quite high.  The dinner was covered in the package, and whilst you could afford a starter, main and dessert, it was all the lower valued dishes.  That said the food was plentiful and very tasty

Just before heading home the next day,  we visited the onsite Performance Centre.  Our group of 4 were given the opportunity to play some games against each other, which created a fun atmosphere.  There were named courses to select and play too.  Harry was our coach, he cajoled and laughed along with us – which was great to have him involved.  Going on the body balance told its story, so armed with the information I need to transfer to my left foot more, there is no stopping me the next time I play golf!

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Youngstown Country Club

Home from home

A club with history, Youngstown was designed in 1911 by Walter Travis and redesigned in 1924 by Donald Ross.  Walking into Youngstown I felt immediately comfortable.

No welcome committee, no open clubhouse, but just a sense of belonging.  It would have been great to see the clubhouse with the heating on, in full swing to soak up the warmth and atmosphere that I could only imagine.


With the exception of cart paths mapped out like grey capillaries around the course, the course itself was akin to many English courses.  Not that this was a problem –  in fact it was quite nice to see the broad selection of golf courses available in Trumbull County and along the Penn Ohio Golf Trail.  

Although there were slight elevation changes and carts were in use, I did think Youngstown would make a good walking course.

Hole 1 is a strong opening hole.  An elevate tee box to a narrowing green between humps to a reachable in regulation par 4 hole of 390/375 yards.  Once through the humps, the clubhouse blends into the background never to be see again until the 9th. 


As many courses of that era, the course played nine out, nine in.

The sun was shining but not offering a lot of warmth that day.  With the mottled skies whose cloud ranged from white to grey to blue were an artistic backdrop to the varied tall trees often lining the fairways.

Structural stone walls shape the 7th tee, giving a slight rise and of course the sense of being able to hit long and down the middle of this 312/512 par 5 SI 1/7 hole.  A little water to the left of the tee came into play on hole nine.  

Whilst not obsessed with bunkers, they were plentiful as shallow grainy patches in ball capturing landing positions, usually on the approach!

On reaching hole nine you understand the enormity of the water dissecting the tee box to the green.  At only 94/145 yards the water was in play for most of the distance, offering a little bale out between the tee and the water.   With such a big target green going for it was the way forward.  However, hit too long meant a challenging putt back – downhill towards the water.  Shallow bunkers right and left meant accuracy was also key.  Once you’ve played this hole, don’t forget to look back towards the tee, and note the planting, spelling out the initials for Youngstown Country Club on the bank below the tee.

Youngstown was shaping up to be a really nice course.

The back of the 12th green, another par 3 was a large sculpture depicting the CYC logo – clearly thought had been put into the placement of such artwork to maximise the playing experience yet reminding you where you were.

Hole 13, whilst fairly nondescript off the tee came into its own the closer to the green you got.  A narrowing as they fairway swayed first left then right before being met with a necklace of bunkers protecting the green.  Offset by the changing colours of the trees made this a good visual hole to enjoy.

The 4th par 3 of the course came at hole 16.  I’m choosing to mention this hole as it was a bit silly with its big green that sloped back to front and the hill being difficult to stop your ball on made putting a bit of a joke.  I walked away with a 5 after going back and forth up and down the hill with one ball rolling back to my feet. 

Everyone seems to remember the closing hole, and the 18th at Youngstown was no different.  A par 4 of 279/455 yards, this SI4/8 hole was a good steady hole to finish. Tree lined and another large green with a protective bank behind.  The clubhouse, of mock Tudor style eves stood on the hillock behind the green’s rear to welcome the golfers in – sadly we were whisked off and not given the opportunity to enjoy the clubhouse.

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The Grand Resort, Avalon Lakes, Squaw Creek, Ohio, USA

A lovey hotel and two great golf courses – nothing new about that – so bear with me whilst I try to explain why THIS particular golf resort is worth considering?

Playing part of the Penn Ohio Golf Trail, we were given the chance to stay at The Grand Resort in Warren, Ohio – given a rather grand name we are interested to see whether it lived up to its name.

White, sprawling and imposing – yep – Grand by title and Grand in statue.  The opulence continued into the reception area, through the cigar bar and out the back to the pool side restaurant with the golf course beyond, before continuing the circle back through reception with a restaurant off to the left.  A comprehensive wine cellar, tennis and a fitness centre is also available at The Grand.

The Golf

A clue in its name, Avalon Lakes golf course has, well, lots of water.  But not too much that it became a slog, more an eye-pleasing vista which the water helped shape.  Dating back to 1967, the course was redesigned and renovated by Pete Dye in 2001.  With Dye’s intervention the course changes were drastic, moving 300,000 yards of earth and changing a flat course into one with more interest with gradients and undulations.

The day we played it was wet underfoot, the ball didn’t roll well giving relief or extra yardage off the tee and the atmosphere was damp.  However, wet as it was, the greens held their own.  They were pure with gentle, in places unsubtle sways were there to conquer.  I guess the only niggle for me was the pin positions, with some being on top or part way up rises.  Not at all easy to stop on the top before it came rolling back down the other side, or worse still came rolling back towards you.  The greens were quite large though and getting to them was probably just as problematic that the actual putting.   With the Pete Dye earth movement came mounds. Singularly or sometimes feeding into each other like upturned ice cream domes melting into one.  Some mounds were a barrier for the approach to the green shot.  Clever in its design, the mounds undulations and slight twists all rolled this up into a good thinking course.  

Whilst there were many good holes, I would like to highlight a couple.

Hole 8, a par 3 of 129/244 yards SI 2/4, looked so innocuous off the tee.  The green looked like a nice big target, but water left encroached into the fairway for the approach, narrowing its entrance.  Going for the green was the only thing to do – hoping not to pull it left into the water.

I liked hole 11.  A par 5 with its tee positions taking on the stretch of water.  Standing on the tee, hitting it straight over the water along its shortest route is probably the most sensible thing to do, before dotting along the fairway and carefully plopping the ball on the green.  But once crossed over, the strip of water laid along the fairways length on the right, it was just so inviting to try and close that watery angle and land further up the fairway. A good risk and reward shot with so many connotations.

Strong closing holes in 17 in 18. My notes of the par 4 17th; water right to a hidden green below, behind some bumps.  The ball rolls towards the water once on the green too – pretty much sums it up.  I thought this was a great hole, despite being blind for it approach.

On hole 18, a par 4 measuring 295/502 yards, a gutsy tee shot is required through the narrowing of trees on both sides, before the fairway opens up.  The bunkers, water and the ever welcome clubhouse taunting you as crowds descend onto the green watching your near perfect approach shot land a foot from the pin – then you realise its just your golfing buddies watching and waiting to throw friendly banter.  Interestingly, 18 is my first mention of bunkers – and what a hole to mention them on – as they were plentiful along the right hand side. Despite there being a few to navigate or avoid, none of them were that big!  

Back to the hotel.  We had a large suite to sprawl out in.  Decorated in punchy browns with a back lit shimmer and accented with white woodwork to add contrast, made for a relaxing space.

Squaw Creek is the second course at The Grand Resort, only second in number though.  We were shuttled the short distance to the course.  With Avalon Lakes having the water, Squaw Creek has – you guessed it – creeks, like veins pulsing through the course.  That said, even creeks end somewhere – and here was no exception as they filter into the odd lake which comes into play on a couple of the holes.  The course opened in 1922 and is the oldest championship calibre course in the Mid West.  Designed by Stanley Thompson, this parkland course is a great compliment to the Grand offerings.

The ground was very wet underfoot and cart path play was in force.   An established true lined course has its disadvantages in the wet though.  With the ground being so soft, it wasn’t unusual to lose a plugged ball in the ground.  Large trees were a dominating feature of Squaw Creek, in fact so much so that on hole 7, a par 4 312/425 yards there was a large tree in the way of the optimum route of play from the forward tee, I noticed this on a couple of holes. 

The greens were in great condition and rolled really well with nice subtle breaks.  Again, as per Avalon Lakes, they too were not small.

In my opinion, the opening few holes were some of the best.  Elevated tees, dog legs and creeks dissecting the undulating fairways.   In contrast, whilst memorable, the 18th, a par 3 over water was, outside of the challenge of taking on the water, quite bland in appearance.   The green sloped towards the water, so the skill here was to get over the water but land it short of the pin for an uphill putt.

On any other day, with it being so wet underfoot, I think this course would rank much higher than the day we played.

One thing to note, the green keepers had done a great job in clearly challenging conditions and their attention to detail was noted by their desire to make things look nice as well as play well.  Careful considered planting was in place around the course which gave its overall appearance a softer appeal.

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Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland – may be best known as the medical capital of the world?  Well maybe, maybe not. But no injuries were sustained in the writing of this article or filming for our You Tube channel – so we honestly couldn’t tell you whether that is right or not!

Cleveland is in the North East of Ohio and sits on southern shores of Lake Erie.   Canada is just the other side of the lake – not that close really, as Lake Erie is huge!!

Driving to Cleveland, near Akron is the beautiful unspoilt Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  A welcome break on the short journey to Cleveland to refresh and align in nature.  Being on the Cuyahoga River, peace is personified as the water passes in and around the park being interrupted only by the train noisily chugging into various stations for visitors to disembark and explore the park.

Naturally there are historical places to visit, Hale Farm & Village is one such place where buildings have been preserved dating back to pioneers days. A vague familiarity ensued with visions you see on television.   Clapboard structures, and large porches wrapping around the house embracing its warmth in one big hug.  Being a living museum there were people spinning wool and guides dressed in period costume offering tales of the buildings, the living conditions and the families themselves.  Happily this wasn’t done to excess, just enough to give you a feel and appreciation. 

In stark contrast we have Stan Hywet Hall and Garden, a clear display of wealth and good fortune. Amusingly to us, parts of this brick built house was modelled on a house we used to visit with our children with a picnic on our bikes sitting in the ground of Ockwells Manor.  A predetermined route takes you on a journey around Stan Hywet making sure you see pretty much everything.  Another source of amusement was, on hearing our accents the discussion soon turned to … wait for it… Harry Potter! 

The gardens were a delight though clearly taking inspiration from Italy, England and of course adding their own personality too.

Arriving into Cleveland we checked into the Kimpton Schofield Hotel.  On the surface of it, this could have been any business mans hotel, with Betts bar and restaurant to the side.  Despite its small reception area, the rooms were comfortable and a good size and surprisingly not that noisy even though we were in the thick of things in Cleveland city!  We loved the bathroom with it dual access centred around a shower in the middle.  Two basins, one either side of the shower was good way to use up a long space.  But maybe not so great when you share a toothpaste giving two options – splash through the residual water from the shower, or go around through the bedroom to the other door to retrieve it.  Good fun though.

It seemed every type of museum is in Cleveland, making it a place to satisfy all family members. Our first stop was to the Baseball Heritage Museum. A quick interesting tour then out on to the field at League Park- not as big as it looks on television, but just as impressive in other ways.

Little Italy springs up in many towns and Cleveland is no exception.  Lunch was at Maxi’s Restaurant and to be honest some of the tastiest Italian food Ive ever eaten.  Like a veneer ending carousel the food kept appearing  through those kitchen doors, one tasty dish after another, until we were ready to walk it all back off again!

Then onto the Cleveland Museum of Art.  A big imposing white building and a wonderful way to pay homage to the variety and diversity of art – we didn’t really have enough time to take a good look around, but it seemed every category, age and type of art was available for the curious.

The Cleveland History Centre was next and again a bit of a whistle stop tour.  First appearance is of the life-size carousel in the window.   Notably the lower floor was home to a large display of cars little boys and girls dream about.  From Morgan to DeLorean – all polished up, ready to go.

Next up the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  A building over multiple levels going through the history of rock and roll.  Themed music aiding the transportation from one era to the next as you were dazzled along its route.   Cleveland is a rock and roll place in many ways, there are even large guitars dotted around the city, all telling a story.

That evening was one to remember as Steve’s first baseball game and it was a biggie with the Cleveland Guardians playing against the Kansas Royals to reaffirm their place in the play-off’s.  The atmosphere was electric as one interval followed the next and concessions of every variety was on offer.  During one interval instructions were given to stand and stretch out- funny, but on reflection, quite sensible as you’re sat on hard seats in the cold for a time!  Even though we may not know the rules or intricacies of baseball, the atmosphere alone carried us along for an enjoyable evening as the sun set in a spectacular fashion over the stadium.

As the sun set in the distance you could make out the former Ohio Bell, now AT&T, building.  It is rumoured to be the inspiration of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who grew up in Cleveland as the iconic Daily Planet skyscraper in the famous Superman stories.

A great end to a long but enlightening day.  Being country folk, Cleveland was growing on us.

After a good nights sleep, day two yield a breakfast selection in Betts, the cafe/restaurant in the lobby of the Kimpton Schofield Hotel.   A quick walk across the road to the Heinen building was an easy start.  We could see this building from our room and it spiked interest with its imposing stone structure and domed roof.  The inside of the dome with its coloured glass and a balcony circumnavigating it came alive with the bright sunshine outside.   Off the circular balcony, like an octopuses tentacles reaching, out was a wine selection from all around the world.  Downstairs were up-market shopping stalls skilfully displaying all manor of treats and more.

A quick scout around the West Side market and city farm – enough time to buy some jerky and embrace the sights and sounds of this bustling indoor market, before a hearty lunch at Lakes Brewery, a modern gastro pub style restaurant with really nice food.

Sadly the Metropark sailing experience was abandoned due to the high winds, so no scheduled walk and no getting into the boats on Lake Erie.  Instead we were given a lecture about the history of the art deco building and the organisation, which in that cold building did seem to go on a bit – but was interesting – in small doses.

By now we were getting quite cold, so a quick and sensible change of plan took us to West Bank Golf Club, and indoor centre for some golf on the simulators.  As we were golfers, this suited us all very well, that and the accompanying doughnuts gave us some rest time to reflect on Cleveland.

Our final dinner was at Mabel’s BBQ.  Famed for its BBQ sauces, we relished the hosting and cocktails served alongside a hearty BBQ selection.  Such a great final night in a large, almost industrial, restaurant built to entertain with its shared trestle tables.

We took a divert to enjoy a weekend in Cleveland, but if you’re going for golf, there are around 60 in the area, and of course more on the end Ohio Golf Trail

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Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio, USA

Firestone Country Club

Akron, Ohio

As we were in the area playing the Penn Ohio Golf Trail, we took an overnight diversion to Firestone.

Firestone is in Akron County and is very easy to factor in when playing the trail, although not part of it.  Arriving we were shown to our room – when I say room, it was one a few in a separate building – there were a number of these building dotted around the estate and each housed good quality, large rooms all within a short walk of the main clubhouse.

Our room overlook the North Golf Courses.  There are three 18 hole golf courses on site with building already underway to create a multi storey, Big Shots indoor fun driving range experience for all.  Arrival day was our main drone filming day.  Just as we finished filming the heavens opened – not just a gentle sprinkle but a torrent by the bucket load the water fell from the sky in a tropical rainstorm fashion.

Firestone golf as founded by Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tyres fame when he commissioned the park for employees.  The South Course was complete in the same year.  The Original Bert Way design was given a facelift by Robert Trent Jones in 1960 in readiness for the PGA Championship.  RTJ added a further 50 bunkers and 2 lakes and extended the course yardage to 7,400 yard, just as it is today.

We only played the South Course.

The iconic water tower, which itself resembles a golf ball on a tee, poked its head above the prolific trees as an omnipresent icon for all in the area.  In 1959 this 125 foot structure was completed – after the clubhouse was destroyed by fire.  Holding 50,000 gallons of water, the tower was drained in the 1990’s – however, the structure remains to this day as an iconic landmark and a nice reminder for Firestones groundbreaking history when bring golf alive on television.

It was an early start which exaggerated the cool morning dew as the sun reluctantly rose and eventually broke through the haze clinging to the ground, hanging over from the previous days rain.

Despite this atmospheric mist biting at our ankles, nothing else could dampen our spirits as we set off down the 10th hole.  It’s always a bit disconcerting when you start on the 10th, but fortunately, we had been able to do some filing the day before, so we’d got a good feel for the course layout.

Looking at the back of the score card, the course does look a bit ‘uppy downy’, but in reality when playing it, you really didn’t get that sense at all as the course guided you along its routing.  Slight dog legs left or right came into play but otherwise the course was reasonably straight – of course that didn’t mean we played it straight!


As the sky blued up and the sun started to lend some heat the course came alive.  Enhanced by the slight change in colour for the trees, this was fast becoming a course I could understand why it has such positive accolades.

Despite the wet ground underfoot, the greens rolled exceptionally well – and quick with just subtle, hard to read movements, they were in great condition. 

This course had the type of bunkers others would aspire to – nice soft sand of such good, easy to play quality.  An analogy that was shared by the fore caddy when questioned about the sand condition, he said, ‘the sand is less table salt and more Himalayan crystal salt’  Whichever way you look at it, the sand played consistently nicely.


The infamous16th hole, Firestones signature hole.  With the equally iconic Arnold Palmer bridge which crossed over the dark water to the green.  This par 5 measured 465/667 yards with a 12 handicap.   With the approach shot having the stretch of water in play, there was no option than to just go for it, so we did – with mixed results.  Steve stuck his approach next to the pin, I stuck mine in the water!  Understanding now how this hole has been nicknamed ‘The Monster’ by Palmer himself and three time winner in 1957, 1962 and 1967. 

As we reached our half way point, the water tower came back into sight, signifying an end, or in our case, half way round the game.

Playing 18, a small plaque reminds us of Tiger Woods ‘Shot in the Dark’ 167 yard 8 iron at 825pm… That superb shot straight at the pin and an easy tap in, brings him the win, 11 ahead of the rest of the field at the NEC Invitational.

The wide fairway theme continued into our second nine, wide fairways with trees embracing varying stages of autumn – large but not dense woodlands, the trees framed the fairways as if marking a landing strip.

The enthusiasm and knowledge of our fore caddy made the day special, he expertly divided his time between us, yet seemed to be on hand for each of us, despite the scatter gun approach of our differing playing abilities.  A quality player in every way.


Hole three, a relatively easy par 4 of 323/442 yards carried a 15 handicap.  With it came more water upon which slight ripples were starting to form.  But over the water you must go to reach the green and this time I triumphed over Steve.  An arch bridge traversed the expenses of water as the white fluffy clouds fringed with grey went shooting by.  Even stood onto 4th tee, a glance backward give its own rewards for golfers to treasure with the reflective water, the bridge, the lush green course and trees and the blue and dotted white sky.

As if entering a fire station, the big bold numbers framed in red stood by each tee, simple – yet elegant. In contrast the almost black in colour of the wet tree trunks stood out against the vivid blue and greens of the course.  A kaleidoscope of colour to tackle your senses.

Little history making stories bring Firestone alive, but more than that, it appeals to all golfers, old and new.

Firestone still lights the fire for many golfers and is set to continue to do so for many more years to come.

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Raintree Golf Club, Akron, Ohio, USA

A huge imposing stars and stripes flag was wafting above the tree line, towering over and dominating the car park on arrival.

Guiding us through and into the clubhouse, which it has to be said did resemble a working mans cafe rather than a plush clubhouse, we were ushered into the pro-shop, to we had hoped, meet the manager.  Sadly it seemed the manager didn’t want to come out of her booth and greet us,  Although, through an internal window, she could see us, and we could see her.  She was alerted to our arrival via an internal call to which she responded by giving instructions to her colleague in the pro-shop.  The lady in the pro-shop was so friendly and helpful this bitter rebuff was lessened.

Raintree is a public course and looking at the course with the clubhouse behind us, it looked as good as any others with its clever usage of shade over the tee boxes from the overhanging tall trees, the striking green of the fairways and the complimentary planting.

With no ‘starter’ on the first, we were told to wander down and start playing.  As we were close to our tee-time this suited us anyway, so off we trot.

Once we were away from the clubhouse, the course took on a rather less appealing appearance.  The holes were invariably flat and uninspiring and as we’d caught up with the group in front of us we could see we were in for a long round.  It turned out, three groups in front of us were a four ball – three were walking and one was riding in a buggy – this group became the bane of the day with their extraordinary slow play which certainly lessened the enjoyment of our playing experience without compromising our course review.  

Bearing in mind there is a course for everyone and being more tolerant and charitable, it was a Friday afternoon and I’m sure being a public course, did get people finishing work early to go and play golf.  That said a course marshal would have made ours, and the groups around us who were also held up, better about being there.

So whinging done, what was the course really like?  

The greens were large and in amazing condition but, it has to be said the front nine didn’t inspire us, the fairways were patchy and seemed like they had seen better days.  Or in contrast, the fairway grass was so long the ball didn’t roll and was thick enough to be problematic too.

Although the sun was shining and it was dry, it was a cooler day.  Maybe the chill was enhanced by the waiting on every shot?  The 5th was the first hole with a little more interest with its sweeping fairway around a small pond to a narrow entrance to the green.  The water was in play for a few of the holes with the 7th again allowing for play over or around the water to a fairly guarded green – with an out of bounds lurking.

Just as we were about to lose the will to live, we turned and took on the back nine, vowing if it was the same, we’d cut our losses and walk in.

Hole 10, a par 4, 250/355 yards was a dog leg left of almost 90 degrees.  I know some don’t like such doglegs as it can spoil the big hitters drives, but it was actually a nice change.  The driving range on the right with little or not protection from any wayward golf balls ended up on the 10th .  This made it quite the lottery to find your ball, if you’d played safe to the outside of the dog leg.

Glad to say things did improve on the back nine, in fact it was as it it was a different course.  But it seems that whilst you’re starting to win in one way, you get knocked down again in another – the highway was really noisy on the 13th – so much so, I had to shout for the microphone – ok I did exaggerate the shouting and caused lots of giggles, but it was a real shame that the constant drone spoilt such a great hole.  This par 4 of 321/461 yards had a ditch guarding its approach to make it a little more challenging.  

Certainly the back nine was shaping up to be the stronger nine with the 14th also a nice hole cut in and around the long grass right.  Sadly the heavy rain had made the surface on the left a bit like a watery blister as it rippled underneath your feet.  Some cart drivers not paying attention (or not caring?) had churned it up as they happily sped along, seemingly oblivious the damage they were causing.

On the reverse of the noisy highway and the bubbly fairways we saw deer, red and black squirrel and a chipmunk (we think!) enjoying themselves as they happily shared this green space with the golfers.

The 17th was also a good hole and as the end was in sight, our spirits were lifted knowing this arduous game was coming to an end.  And end on a high it did, with the 18th being probably one of the better holes on the course.

A slight dog leg right off the tee with water at the front and right of the green.  A small stream dissected the fairway along its length, careful navigation to make the green in regulation is needed.  The large shaded green was nestled in a sunken hollow.   Such a nice closing hole.

And what of the club manager when we’d finished our game? – oh well, she had gone home.

Of the ones we’d played, Raintree seemed to be the poor relation of the Penn Ohio Golf Trail, that said, a good selection of golf course is always great to encourage more participation and diversity across the board.

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The River Club, Johannesburg

Sometimes, just sometimes, you’re given the opportunity to play a course that sticks in your mind for months afterwards.

The River Club in Johannesburg is one such place.

It is an exclusive golf club that is revered within the local golfing community, so when we were given the opportunity to play it, we jumped at it.  

So well hidden is it, that our relatives who have lived in that area for many years, weren’t exactly sure where it’s entrance was.  Driving past one luxury house after another, it was hard to believe that this course could even exist and how it could be as good as they say when in the middle of, to put it bluntly, a housing estate.

Once inside the grounds, a bit like the tardis, the area opened up leaving the houses behind in favour of crisp sways of green thoughtfully edged with striking contrasting planting.

The clubhouse is decorated in neutral and earthy shades which was a great backdrop for the photos, certificates and tasteful artwork on display  The inside sung in harmony within its surroundings as the eye is drawn through the building to the expanse of manicured green beyond.

Harry was our caddy, he was a little quiet to start with but soon cracked a smile at our antics and occasional good golf.  The first hole with its wide fairway and lush green grass – the shade of green a child would have chosen when drawing their perfect house; four windows, a door in the middle and inviting green grass all around.

Getting to test the bunkers on hole one isn’t normal something you’d be happy to share, but as they were fluffed up and the ball was playable in the not too soft sand, it’s one I’m happy to talk about – in fact all the bunkers we visited were the same even good quality.

So why is the River Club still playing on my mind all these months later?  It isn’t an old established course; the type that usually gets me excited.  It was actually established in 1967 by designer Bob Grimsdell – this is not even a course designer I know much about.  Rob O’Friel came in 1998 to do some upgrades, again not a name I know a lot about.  But despite The River Club not rated in the Top 100 (through choice), it is rated as one of the best in South Africa, so why?

To me the main one being, it is playable.  Often courses are designed to be played from the tips, with little regard given to all the tee box positions, I’ve known some clubs simply plonk forward tees somewhere down the middle of the fairway.  The River Club doesn’t do that, it seems to cherish and embrace all golfers of all abilities, giving each tee position a chance at some good golf yet doesn’t punish you if it isn’t quite right on the day.  It has balanced the risk and reward evenly yet is not a walk in the park, although with the green expanses, flowers and local birds, in other ways it did seem like a walk in the park!

Tee boxes were even, I know that sounds silly, but I cannot tell you how many tee boxes I’ve stood on, more often from the forward tees, and they have been like mini mountain ranges as you try to find your footing!

Sure it is in a rich ‘tropical’ setting with the river running alongside some of the holes, but it is also in the middle of Johannesburg, which seems almost a contradiction to the club and course offerings.  That said Johannesburg has changed in the 30 odd years we’ve been visiting.  As with most places, there are taboo areas but these are fewer and further between – they even have an open top bus tour of downtown Jo’burg! 

Whilst taking in this super course and enjoying all it could throw at us, with some mixed responses! the half way house came far too quickly.  Although it was on the 12th hole and past half way, it seemed like the blink of the eye and we were sat there enjoying drinks and a snack in the invitingly sculptured shade with windows through the overhanging canopies of the trees to the course.

On hitting onto the fairways, the bounce was fair – it wasn’t so dried up that the ball bounced for miles, exaggerating any wayward shot and punishing you unnecessarily.  On the reverse the fairways didn’t plug either – stopping the ball from any forward roll or gain.


Despite its location, there was barely any road noise, and no houses, that I can remember, overlooking the golf course either – it was as if an invisible barrier had grown around The River Club, a barrier only a select few could penetrate, but once through.…

When the large greens give some bite on the approach shots, then roll perfectly, whilst offering enough break to make you think about it, you know the greenskeepers took pride in their work.

Greenskeepers were plentiful – all diligently working at different tasks from tending the flora on most tee-boxes, to grass cutting, to the caddies making sure the bunkers were returned to the fluffy surfaces once again.

On finishing your round, the 18th green sits just below the clubhouse.  The large terrace of the clubhouse is dotted with tables and chairs and of course spectators for your approach shot on this final hole.  

One side of the clubhouse was opened up to give the inside diners uninterrupted views of the course.  A small lake to the right of the  approach on the 18th green meant you could go over the lake, or play safe to the left.

The River Club gives choices.  I’m not talking about the amazing menu choices!  Choices whilst playing your game, choices that can give the rewards yet gently allow you to become too big for your boots.

In all, a class act, and one we’d like to repeat at some time and importantly, definitely one we’d recommend.

You can book your golf round directly through the River Club.

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Sarah Forrest

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Trumbull Country Club

There certainly was a rumble in Trumbull on the day we played with the grey skies threatening rain.

Trumbull Country Club is part of the Penn Ohio Golf Trail.  Driving down the long driveway, into a welcoming neighbourhood setting with the course on the right and residences on the left.

Further along the driveway and the mock Tudor style (in places) clubhouse sitting comfortably in it surroundings behind a good sized practice putting green.  The flag pole proudly flying the stars and stripes alongside the state flag.

It has to be said that the clubhouse doesn’t reveal all until you venture inside and realise that this place is not only comfortable and relaxing but a place for all – golfers and non golfers alike.  Families are encouraged to get involved and there is a nice, almost familiar atmosphere about the club.

After an incredibly hearty lunch and our first taste of the long discussed wedding soup*, we then had to try and play golf on a full stomach.  Not only that we had to race against the threatening rain looking menacing in the distance.

With the course undergoing new routing and a few more changes, you could go slightly awry due to the lack of signage. But a good course of action was to follow your nose, well, the cart path, so we did find our way around the course OK. This is only a temporary blip, awaiting new signage.

The first takes you away from the clubhouse on a friendly unassuming opening hole, which we both parred.  Now bearing in mind I was 0.5 and Steve 1.5, I knew today was an important match in the early days of our Penn Ohio series!

So off we trundle, or would that be Trumbull!   Keeping a watchful eye on the weather and playing the best we both could; whilst also assessing the course, taking photos and videos and enjoying this lovely established parkland (woodland in places) course.  

With roots dating back to 1915, Canadian course designer Stanley Thompson put his mark on this course alongside seven more courses in Ohio.  Not really a course designer I knew much about before this trip, it was great to see Thompson had adopted the traditional style of golf : playable if sensible!

Knowing sensible isn’t always my style of play, it remained to be seen what this game would bring, especially as the course was tight in places!  

Being a woodland  x parkland style course, playing off the 4th tee was like playing off bubble wrap, with its acorn potted tee box as you tried to get a good stance.  In many respects playing Trumbull Country Club was very similar to playing golf courses in the UK, and most probably why we endeared to it.

The 9th fairway dissects the entrance road in, but stood on the tee of the 9th, you don’t really get the feel the road is in the way or even in play.  A par 5 from the forward tees and a par 4 from the rest of the tee positions, there was plenty of space, so long as you were going forward and not sideways into the trees!  Crossing the road to the large receptive, but fairly flat green certainly showed the clubhouse in it’s full glory on the left.  All the greens were in great condition.

Maybe at this point we should have taken refuge, but looking down 10, it looked far too inviting.  A fairly straight par 4 with a little pond to the right of the tee, we decided to carry on, heading towards the darker skies, with our fingers crossed.

The 10th sits alongside the entrance road the course, as such the houses sat on the other side of the road and weren’t really in play.  Somehow we managed to put them (rather their gardens) in play as we found Steve’s golf ball in the front garden of one residence.  Gingerly walking across the open plan garden, we bought it back into play by placing it back on the fairway and carried on – quickly!

Got to say Steve wasn’t haven’t his best golfing moments on the back, and as we’d halved the front nine, I wasn’t going to make it worse by “helping”

Hole 12, a lovely par 3 over water at only 101 yards forwards tees and 130 for mid tees, water in front and the busy main road to the right, the rain started to become a little annoying.  On the green in one and two putts made me the winner of this hole.  With a blob and the rain pouring down now, the game was over in more than one way for Steve.

We did actually tee off 13, but the rain got the better of us as we scooped up the balls and made a beeline to the clubhouse, sodden.

We stopped after playing 12 with the promise to return if we could find a gap in our schedule for the remainder of our trip.


Sadly we didn’t get that opportunity, so the win was chalked up to me and the Penn Ohio match now again all-square at 1.5 to 1.5

In summary, I wished we had got the opportunity to return, as playing Trumbull Country Club wasn’t just about the nice course.  It was about the whole experience; from the friendly welcome in the pro-shop, to the great food and club atmosphere in the clubhouse. 

Sarah Forrest

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*Wedding Soup

Peculiar to Ohio and Pennsylvania, although it can be found in other places.

Wedding soup or Italian wedding soup is an Italian soup consisting of green vegetables and meat. It is popular in the United States, where it is a staple in many Italian restaurants

The name wedding comes from the Italian phrase minestra maritata which means ‘married soup. ‘ Why is it married? It’s the marriage of ingredients, and the resulting delicious flavour, in the soup! All wedding soups are going to have green vegetables and meat and as we discovered varies from one restaurant/household to the next!

Olde Stonewall Golf Club

Olde Stonewall, Penn Ohio Golf Trail, Pennsylvania.

Skipping over to the Ohio border into Pennsylvania to play Olde Stonewall, second in our Penn Ohio series and part of the Penn Ohio Golf Trail.

Met with an imposing castle like structure, stone built and very much in your face in a Disney esque way.  If you can divert your eyes away and towards the golf course, you’ll be immediately struck by the Clarice Cliff style hillocks as they duck and dive sweeping into each other into infinity.  With the odd golf flag showing its head flapping bravely in the wind commanding attention as if drowning in a sea of green, to be lost as the wind drops.


Dots of trees cling to the edge of the fairways, just starting to show the true colour of autumn.

The magical mystery tour of Olde Stonewall golf doesn’t stop there – the water comes into play from hole four – a shortish par 4 299/434 yards, SI (handicap) 4.  It’s dark reflective water mirroring the early autumnal scene.  The hole plays alongside the water on the right, then the green takes a little turn into the middle of the water forcing you to re-think your approach.  A green, albeit large, with water on three sides takes some nerve.

By the eighth hole the sun came out, underfoot started to dry out and the layers started to be peeled off.  The course took on a whole new look as the back nine beckoned.

First thing I noticed about the back nine – there were no par 5’s, doesn’t lead you into thinking about the course as having much imagination or options.  But you’d be wrong, in fact the back nine was more spectacular than the front, with its elevation changes, shots through trees and overall appearance of ‘come and get me’ holes. 

Long grass, akin to a links style framed the tee box of the ninth and by the eleventh, an elevated tee gently entices you to shoot for the perfect diamond cut fairways then taunting you as the ball rolled sharply left to right on the slope.  The green itself was large, as others had been, this one also had subtle breaks as it sloped back to front.

Then you climb higher up to the twelfth to a plateau shooting towards large green spaces of fairway interspersed with longer grass towards another large green.  On reaching thirteen, you’re taken in, Olde Stonewall has cast its magic spell with this elevated par 4, followed quickly in succession with the par 3 fourteenth.  Even from the elevated tee the green looks huge.  Back to back par 3’s the 15th is such a pretty golf hole – again that elevation, and again the feeling I can do this as I took my shot which bounced off the left edge of the green and into a deep bunker.  I played the middle position tees on this hole as they were just more interesting and challenging at 164 yards.  Not really appreciating how low this bunker was, my mind was focussed on getting on with it but I was stopped in my tracks as I approached the bunker as I saw a large rodent type animal.  This turned out to be a ground hog who proceeded to saunter out of the bunker at leisure and squat on my golf ball on route!  Not sure if it was trying to hatch it or mark it, but left me in fits of giggles as I got the ball out to a few feet of the pin for an easy par.

The sixteenth also bought pleasures of its own.  The  elevated tee not only gave you that sense of whack-ability but nudged you into taking stock and appreciating how pretty Pennsylvania is with this tee shot being through a gap in the canopy of the trees to a large sweeping fairway below.  

As you descend down towards the closing holes, it was good to look back and wonder what on earth happened up there as you marvel at the trees hugging the hillsides and the golf course plotting itself around them.

The only downside to Olde Stonewall was the lack of care and attention – the greenskeepers were plentiful, all were cutting the grass, but sadly the bunkers were left un-raked and the greens were rarely repaired.  Such a shame for such a great course, that said, we’d definitely go back – not least because Steve won and now took the lead following our first game half at Pine Lakes!  It’s still all to play for – I kept reminding myself with six more courses to play!

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Sarah Forrest

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Pine Lakes Golf Club – Ohio

Part of the Penn Ohio Golf Trail

Staying at Julias’s B&B couldn’t be better located when playing Pine Lakes golf course which is just a quick walk across the car park.

Not the most salubrious of club houses but the friendly welcome from members and staff alike gave us a warmth to our visit that no fancy clubhouse could buy.

Slightly wet underfoot, the rising sun soon burned off any residual ground dew and let the course wake up to be an inviting and beautiful course shown off with the late summer heat.  Watching the ground staff whipping the greens was quite mesmerising as they prepared for the early bird golfers.  The consistency of the greens was evident throughout, although they did roll faster than we were used to – or was it a rush of adrenaline as we soaked up the Ohio sunshine.

Hole 3, a downhill 100-153 yard SI7/9 reminded me of the movie ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, with its covered bridge over a small lake.  Whilst not a long hole, accuracy was needed to reach the good sized back to front sloping green.  A hole that has everything from a challenge to a unique view.  Gladly this bridge comes into view whilst playing hole 10 and 17, so a punchy start a punchy middle and a punchy end.  

Of course the down side to any water on the golf course is the visiting geese and the inevitable remnants they leave behind.  Treading carefully is a game all in itself and adds a whole new meaning to strategically plotting your way around!

Being in the US, one isn’t tied to playing a particular tee position, in fact I tend to look at the overall distance before deciding, at Pine Lakes I opted to play some forward tees and some the next step back, which meant I played between 4822 and 5525 yards.  The back tees measured 6612 yards with a couple of options between the forward and back tees.

There were some slight elevation changes on the course and some raised greens which all added to this lovely parkland course.  

Hole 8 being SI 1 of 282/398 yards is a fairly straight hole with a little fairway turn right towards the green.  With water on the inside of the turn and a two tier green to contend with, a good short game would be hugely beneficial.

Being slightly wet underfoot, the first cut was thick and required some commitment with your shot.

With the scrub snaking around the edges of the 10th fairway and the covered bridge coming back into view means I’d like to play this hole again – with the golfers immortal words of  ‘if only I’d known!” to enable me to play it better next time!!

Other notable interests are hole 13, a par 4 280/385 yards, SI6/8 with its strong parkland feel, elevated tees to a banked up green, or the the 14th with its irregular shaped enticing green.

The course appearance changes slightly as you leave the trees behind in favour of a more open approach on the 16th, water in play all along the right hand side – and plenty of those geese!  It almost seems our of character with the other more tree lined, established holes.  But turn away towards 17 and you’re back into the thick of it again and of course back to the romantic bridge as you approach the green.

Such a lovely unassuming parkland course welcomes the visitors playing the Penn Ohio golf trail or those who just happen to

When looking for golf to play  in Trumbull County, don’t forget to consider Pine Lakes

Sarah Forrest

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Peterhead Golf Club

Craigewan Links


As the golf course comes into sight so does it access.   Unusually over a footbridge traversing the River Ugie to a low built clubhouse beyond.  You could be forgiven to thinking that this is a new golf club, and you’d be right, in some ways, and completely wrong in others.

In fact Peterhead is the 18th oldest golf club and has a chequered history which includes land feuds, fire insurance claims (alleged), multiple re-built clubhouses and two new foot bridges all bringing the back story to life.   Erosion has played its part in shaping the current golf course too with the golf course being re-routed and the clubhouse being repositioned on more than one occasion.

An historic piece of land with multiple uses, including cattle and sheep grazing and some less obvious such as artillery range with the latter being the reason for a new hole being built to ‘avoid inconvenience and danger when volunteers were shooting targets’  – there is no mention as to what the targets were!

Some traditions have remained such as the annual presentation of the Gold Medal which dates back to 1841 and is inscribed as having been presented by the ladies of Peterhead.  The clubs history has also shaped its membership numbers which resembles a heart beat monitor of peaks and troughs.  It is noted that the course condition seems to follow the trend of the membership – which makes perfect sense as money is either tight or in full flow.

Peterhead was one of those courses that was enjoyable to play, not as sharp in places than neighbouring courses but when you understand its history, somehow the experience becomes more enjoyable.

Not quite as isolated as the lone footbridge would lead you to believe, there was a faint hum of traffic being present for the first few holes.

The welcome breeze as you climb the second, a par 3, to a recently top dressed putting surface.  The breeze was welcome on that hot sunny day, possibly not so welcome on a winters day when shelter would be sought for a different reason.  

When arriving at the forth tee, the landscape seems to change, taking on a more rugged links feel with the vast North Sea now in full view.  Nature working her magic on natural hollows adding more depth to the course as it plots its way around.  It is said Peterhead Old course is an original, owing little to man’s heavy handed work in its creation.

Fine sand sprays in your face as the ball comes cleanly out of the bunkers.  Sand clad and thinking of times as a child being given jam sandwiches on the beach – jam sandwiches with a dash of sand of course!

With the heat of the day, it felt like Death Valley as we transcended down between the hillocks.  and out of the wind from hole 9.  Whilst not a flat or uninspiring links course, the dunes were not huge hairy ones either.

But don’t be fooled with the summer day we had, subtle reminders this is a links course are deep cut burns with ball retrievers so heavy, they themselves tell the story of the usual windy conditions.

Subtle shaped greens, not overly large in size made for some target golf.  No major undulations just gentle reads for the putt.  

The 17th, a short par 4 was as good as any hole.  Being a blind shot off the tee takes some nerve.  No brief glances or sneaky looks before you commit

Despite the bare patches on the summer burnt fairways, the ball did react favourably – in the main anyway!  

Our experience of playing Peterhead has since been enhanced by understanding its back story and appreciating its current journey in its next steps of its evolution.  Peterhead is a survivor .  It might not be the big names of its neighbours but it does command  a place in golfing history.

Sarah Forrest

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The Wandering Golfers

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