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Smoker's Heavens

Cigar Aficionado's well-traveled golf writer picks his favorite golf courses to smoke cigars in the United States and around the world
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Morgan Freeman, Mar/Apr 2005

(continued from page 1)

This is a great place for a short cigar, one that might last only a couple of holes. During normal play this tee often gets backed up. The eighth is the toughest par 4 on the course for the average player, since the second shot requires a long carry over a small cove to get to the green. Since there is little room to bail out and there's at least one lost ball in every group, it can take close to 20 minutes to play the hole, and this can cause as much as a two-foursome backup on the eighth tee. In that case, by all means pull out a cigar and sit down at the back of the championship tee. It's a perfect place for a soothing smoke.

Club XIX at The Lodge at Pebble Beach has an ambitious cigar program. Because of California law, cigars must be smoked on the terrace, certainly not a bad place to be with its views of the 18th green and the ocean. The cigar list is as heady, and expensive, as you will ever find. How about a Gurkha His Majesty's Reserve for $450? To go along with it, how about a glass of Hardy's Perfection Cognac for $525, a bottle for $6,500? There are rare Scotches, ryes, gins and an enormous vertical listing of Opus One wine. Club XIX will even set up a table for you near the 18th green with cigars and drinks.

Of course, you can bring your own cigars and consume far more modestly priced drinks. There is no need to go over the top. The substance of the occasion is being at Pebble Beach, and whatever your choice of sustenance, you will be just fine.

Men's Locker Room, Seminole Golf Club
The Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida, is one of the most private and coveted clubs in the United States. The membership roll is filled with influential businessmen, industrialists, financial wizards and entrepreneurs, as well as past presidents of the United States Golf Association. Seminole doesn't have wide public recognition because it doesn't host professional tournaments and isn't a venue for made-for-television golf.

Like Augusta National, however, all the great players have come to Seminole. Ben Hogan spent many a winter during the off-season practicing at Seminole and called its sixth hole one of the world's great par 4s. Like Augusta National, you are going to have to find a member to get you in.

Among the cognoscenti of the golf world, Seminole is revered for its Donald Ross course that sits along the Atlantic Ocean, and for its old Mediterranean-style clubhouse, a throwback to the days when a golf clubhouse was about golf and not about catering.

The Seminole men's locker room is decidedly part of another era. The room is a long rectangle with a high ceiling crossed by cypress beams. The wooden lockers run along the two long walls with a continuous bench for seating. Other wall space is taken up with placards that give the results of various club championships and invitationals, such as the Coleman Cup. In the middle of the room are deep armchairs and sofas, the perfect place of repose for a glass of beer and a cigar after a round at Seminole. You will also realize that you've arrived at the inner sanctum of the game. Smoke 'em while you can.

18th Hole, Bethpage State Park Black Course
While Augusta National and Seminole are ultra-private, the Black Course at Bethpage is ultra-public. For less than $40, a golfer can play one of the truly great parkland layouts in the United States, an A. W. Tillinghast course that hosted the 2002 U.S. Open. It was such a rousing success with the USGA's bank account and with the players that the Open will return there in 2009.

The Black, part of a five-course complex on Long Island east of New York City, is a muscular challenge, a course that tests the swing, the physique and the psyche. An extensive remodeling by Rees Jones in advance of the 2002 Open brought the course up to date, added length and restored bunkers, and extensive tree removal and pruning opened up the views. It is a lovely, and often strenuous, walk in the park. And walk it is, since no golf carts are allowed.

Anyone can play Bethpage Black, by making a telephone reservation or walking up for the available open tee times. On weekends, this has often meant an overnight sleep in a car, especially now that the course has become nationally known because of the Open. At the end of the long wait, at the end of the long round, everyone agrees it was a worthwhile, often sublime experience.

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