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Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE

Caddytek offers a full line of reasonably priced golf push carts, and the CaddyCruiser ONE is their first four-wheeled model. The CaddyCruiser ONE is the first cart we’ve tested with a suspension on the front axle, which did a great job of keeping the cart rolling smoothly even when we wandered into a gopher-cratered wasteland.

The CaddyCruiser ONE folds extremely flat, which is a big plus as it makes it possible to fit both the cart and a golf bag in the trunk of a small car. The cart unfolds in a jiffy, and has sufficient storage space to fit your entire menagerie of fuzzy animal head covers.

It’s not the flashiest of carts, and the plastic wheels don’t exactly knife through the thick rough, but the CaddyCruiser ONE’s combination of features and functionality make it a solid value.

SCORE
91
GRADE
A-
Size/Weight
92
Ease of Set-Up
96
On Course Impressions
91
Storage/Accessories
91
Style
85
Value
93

Pros:

  • Folds into a flat and compact shape
  • Easy to fold and unfold
  • Front axle suspension makes for a smooth roll

Cons:

  • Plastic (EVA) wheels don’t roll as easily through the rough
  • Ho hum looks

Retail price: $189.00
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE V3


92 / A-

SIZE/WEIGHT

Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE

Click for larger image

At 16 pounds (as tested), the CaddyCruiser ONE is a little lighter than the average push cart in our tests (compare this to the lightest cart, the Tour Trek Tahoe, at 10.5 lbs., and the heaviest cart, the Sun Mountain Speed Cart V2, at 20 lbs.). The CaddyCruiser ONE is a slim 13.4 inches tall when it’s folded, trailing only the Sun Mountain Micro Cart (12.5 inches tall). This makes for easy storage in the trunk of your car.


96 / A

EASE OF SET-UP

Assembling the Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE took 14 minutes, and was simple enough, although the instructions left a little bit to be desired. The manual fails to tell you that when shipped, the axle of each wheel has a little rubber cover on it that needs to be removed before you pop it into the hole. Secondly, unless you read the “Package Contents” part of the manual, it isn’t obvious that the front wheels are a bit smaller than the rear wheels – at least until you install them in unmatched pairs. In any event, solving those problems doesn’t require a PhD from IKEA, and serve as mere bumps in the road.

The CaddyCruiser ONE is deserving of the “ONE” moniker, as it unfolds in a single step. Just put your foot on the front wheels and pull up on the upper part of the cart until the cart clicks into position. Voila, you’re finished! You can further adjust the handle height at that point, but you don’t have to.

Folding the CaddyCruiser back up is a 2-step process: push the release button on the handle, and then push down on the handle. The cart will fold in upon itself and will click into a retaining bracket when complete. The CaddyCruiser’s retaining bracket holds the folded cart together relatively well, and there is less danger of the cart drooping and beginning to unfold when you pick it up with one hand.


91 / A-

ON COURSE IMPRESSIONS

The Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE has the same EVA plastic tires as the CaddyLite ONE, which don’t roll as smoothly as foam or air tires. The extra effort required to propel the cart isn’t overwhelming, but you’ll notice it when trekking through heavy rough. The advantage of having four wheels is that the cart stays pretty stable on the course. With our CaddyCruiser test cart, we didn’t experience any of the creakiness that we found in the CaddyLite – maybe somebody just did a better job of tightening the nuts and bolts!

Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE

Click for images
  • Caddytek doesn’t make much ado about the suspension for the front axle, but we loved it. The “give” that it affords smooths out the ride over bumps or into gopher holes, and helps reduce the jarring that usually occurs when a cart is pushed over concrete curbs.
  • The bungee straps for securing a bag to the cart (there are upper and lower straps) are easy to hook together, and keep the bag snugly in place.
  • Caddytek uses a foot-activated brake system in its carts. Located just inside the left rear wheel is a pedal. Pressing on the pedal with your foot will activate a spring that inserts a pin into the nearest notch to stop the wheel from rolling. Pressing on the pedal a second time will activate the spring again and release the pin. Where reaching the pedal was awkward in the Caddytek CaddyLite, it’s much more accessible on the CaddyCruiser, due to a different handle angle. There are only nine total notches into which the brake pin can extend, which means that the cart will continue to slide a bit forward or backward before the brake catches it.
  • As mentioned above, the wheels are made of solid EVA plastic, so there is no danger of winding up with a flat.
  • The handle pivots up or down to fit the height of the user. While a little gauge on the side of the adjustment knob only indicates four handle positions, there are actually more than that (the adjustment knob features a number of gear teeth). At the same time, the accessible angles are somewhat limited. The ridges of the rubber grip on the handle are much nicer than those on the CaddyLite (which were a little rough on the hands).
  • The alignment of each the front wheels is adjustable to the extent that you find that the cart is veering in one direction. An Allen wrench is necessary to make these adjustments (it’s included with the cart).

91 / A-

STORAGE/ACCESSORIES

The storage and accessories available on the Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE include:

Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE

Click for images
  • a mesh storage basket suitable for holding head covers, a jacket, six-pack, or any of the other miscellaneous stuff that golfers like to carry around. We initially worried that the open end of the basket might lead to things falling out, but everything seemed to stay inside over the course of our test rounds.
  • a small valuables tray with a magnetic lid. The tray wasn’t large enough to fit our “test case” of 2 golf balls, a GPS device (we tried it with a Skycaddie SGXw and a Garmin G6), an iPhone, a set of keys, and a wallet – we were only able to get the lid to close if we excluded the GPS device. The tray has 3 indentations that are meant to fit golf balls, and has a small elastic strap, which seems to be made to secure a phone (an iPhone fit perfectly in it).
  • a plastic clip attached to the lid of the valuables tray that is designed to hold down a scorecard and secure a pencil.
  • an umbrella mount that holds an umbrella upright to provide you with shelter when it’s raining or if the sun is beating down on you. The umbrella mount quickly screws into a hole on the handle. One nice feature is that there are two knobs that can be used to adjust the angle at which the umbrella is held (one for forward/backward and the other for left/right), resulting in pretty good coverage. The umbrella mount clips on to the cart’s frame for storage and access during play, and stays secure even when the cart is folded.
  • a moderately-sized cup/bottle holder that will hold most bottles. The bottom of the cup/bottle holder is nylon webbing, which can be velcroed up or down to keep the cup or bottle snug
  • five holes for storing extra tees
  • two holes for storing ball markers
  • a stencil cut-out for marking a straight line on a ball

85 / B

STYLE

Four wheel carts are stereotypically less stylish than their three-wheeled cousins, and the CaddyCruiser ONE doesn’t really break from the pack. The bag sits more upright in the CaddyCruiser ONE, giving it more of a stolid look.

The CaddyCruiser is available in black or white. The wheels are black with red trim on both the black model and the white model we purchased (although we note that in Caddytek’s marketing photos, the white model is shown with yellow trim)


93 / A

VALUE

The Caddytek CaddyCruiser ONE retails for $189, placing it as the third least expensive golf push cart we tested, and generally seems to be available for even less at Amazon, The Golf Warehouse (TGW) TGW and other retailers. At that reasonable price, it comes with features not found on higher priced carts, including the extra storage basket and the suspension on the front axle.


Sun Mountain Micro-Cart Sport

Sun Mountain slightly updates their popular Micro-cart for 2013 with the new Sport. The Micro-cart Sport provides all of the advantages of the original Micro-Cart, with the addition of new colors (spice things up with yellow, lime, blue or red). The cart retains it’s four-wheel design, compact folded footprint and light weight. Stay tuned for our detailed review.

Retail price: $189.00
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Sun Mountain MC3 Micro-Cart

Demo video, anyone?


Nike Golf Travel Cover

The Nike Golf Travel Cover is one of the lower-priced travel covers in our test and while it offers reasonable value for the money, nothing makes the bag stand out in the crowd. It’s a basic but well constructed travel cover that provides good protection for your clubs, with a number of adjustable straps on the outside of the bag to secure your clubs nicely. The marketed differentiators are the molded shell at the top of the bag that provides additional protection for club heads, and the dual-zippers running the length of the bag that allow for easy loading and unloading of your golf bag.

The Nike Golf Travel Cover only has two wheels, so you’ll need to pull it behind you through the airport, which can be a strain on the arm and shoulder. The wheels are not the traditional in-line skate wheels; rather they are slightly notched and look like they are ready for off-road use. While they spin easily, the notches on the wheels result in annoying vibrations and are louder when pulling the travel cover across smooth airport surfaces. Two additional feet at the bottom of the bag combine with the bag construction and the two wheels to allow the bag to easily stand vertically on its own during travel (provided you don’t throw the weighting off with additional goods you pack).

This bag is an acceptable choice for the traveler that is looking for a brand-name travel cover at reasonable cost, but if you are willing to pay a bit more, we would recommend looking at the differentiating features offered by the competition.

SCORE
85
GRADE
B
Design/Construction
86
Travel Impressions
85
Value
84

Retail price: $220
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


86 / B

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

Marketed as “PVC free”, the Nike Golf Travel Cover is made of a molded shell for the base and back of the case (27″ in height) to provide a solid foundation for the bag and some pretty hefty protection, and a molded shell covering the top 21″ at the front of the bag to provide a shield for your clubs. In addition to the molded shell at the top, the bag has a small amount of padding on the back of the shell, a reasonable amount on the back of the bag opposite the shell, and just a hint of padding on the interior side of the two external pockets (whatever items you put in the pockets will likely provide more protection for your clubs than the padding itself).

Nike Golf Travel Cover

Click for more images

There are four adjustable compression straps with buckles at the top of the bag, which do their job quite well to lock the top of the bag and clubs into place. The lower pair of straps that are attached toward the center of the bag, however, don’t sit flush against the bag when the case is loaded and strapped down, which gave us pause to wonder if the straps would ever get caught in airport machinery. Time will tell.

The cover will hold clubs to 48″ and easily holds one carry bag. The cover is 17″ x 15″ x 52″ in size, and weighs 10.2 pounds.

The design of the Nike Golf Travel Cover includes:

  • a slot with for a business card (a prime Critical Golf marketing opportunity for the airport carousel),
  • a pair of external pockets opposite each other toward the base of the bag,
  • one internal strap to secure your golf bag,
  • in addition to the four external compression straps to secure your golf bag at the top of the case, there is one more adjustable strap in the bottom half of the bag crossing at the center of the external pockets,
  • four handles: one on the back of the bag at the top, one on the top of the bag, one in the front center of the bag, and one at the front base of the bag,
  • two heavy-duty wheels for use when pulling the bag, and two fixed feet on which to balance the bag when it is standing vertically,
  • color options to match your Model-T: black or black.

There were no noticeable defects in the travel cover we purchased, and we haven’t experienced damage to any parts of the Nike case during our travels. The bag appears to be as durable as the other soft travel bags we’ve tested (with the exception of the Club Glove Last Bag, which stands out as a true stalwart).


85 / B

TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS

The Nike Golf Travel Cover was perfectly functional, but nothing about it struck us as exceptional. As with some other bags, the Nike Golf Travel Cover tapers at the top of the bag to snugly fit around your clubs. It easily held a carry bag and some extra clothes, and has room for a pair of shoes in the dual external pockets, accessible only from the exterior of the cover.

The Nike Golf Travel Cover doesn’t have the interior space of some of the other travel bags we’ve tested, so if you want to load up your golf travel bag with clothes for a long weekend, you may find it to be too small. The plus is that this creates a very compact travel cover that snugly holds your bag and clubs. Its design allows for easy loading and unloading of the bag through the dual-zippered cover – essentially the center section of the bag lengthwise can be peeled back, allowing for greater accessibility. One byproduct of this design is that it will be a bit more difficult to stuff clothes at the top of the bag, where the zipper spreads out to the sides around the center molded shell.

With the compact shape and hard base, the bag is designed to be able to stand vertically on its pair of wheels and feet. As there are only two wheels, the bag can’t be pushed when in a vertical position, like the Samsonite Hardside. And with no additional wheels or extendable legs like the Sun Mountain Clubglider, you’re left to pull the case behind you, which can create quite a strain on your shoulders when you’re traversing long distances (such as from the baggage carousel back to your car). While there are two handles to choose from, we struggled to find a position that avoided smacking our knuckles or forearm into the harder sections of the bag.

The wheels don’t pivot, and they are designed as “heavy-duty” wheels. We didn’t see any immediate benefit to this (the airports we frequent don’t have dirt floors), and instead found that the notched design of the wheels (picture mini off-road tires of hard plastic) created an annoying amount of sound from the vibration as the bag is pulled, particularly over smooth surfaces.

Like other soft bags, the Nike Golf Travel Cover has a little “give” to it, which makes it easier to finagle into the trunk of a taxicab.


85 / B

COST/VALUE

At $220, the Nike Golf Travel Cover is one of the less expensive travel bags we tested. What the Nike lacks, however, is any standout features that separate it from the pack, with competitors offering integrated legs, a hard case, pivoting wheels, and a heavily-padded and bulletproof case. The Nike has all the basics, plus the slight additional benefits of the molded shell and compression straps, but the main reason to choose this bag are the Nike brand. There are other bags from lesser-known brands that provide the same features at a lower price.

Retail price: $220
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


OGIO Mammoth Golf Travel Bag

OGIO is not afraid to think big when it comes to naming its golf travel bags – and thus they present us with the Mammoth. The Mammoth tips the scales at 17 pounds, making it the heaviest travel bag we’ve tested (exceeding hard cases such as the Samsonite Hardside and the SKB Deluxe). But everyone knows the old adage of “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” – and it holds true in this case…literally, as it takes a fair amount of preparation work to avoid the Mammoth’s propensity to tip over.

The bag provides a nice amount of protection for your clubs, has plenty of storage room, and introduces some useful gizmos like a crush-resistant pocket to hold caps and a removable shoe bag. But OGIO doesn’t deliver on the promise of being able to easily roll the Mammoth standing upright on its four spinner wheels, as the soft case sometimes struggles to stay balanced. The saving grace for the Mammoth is that it also has two in-line skate wheels, so you can drag it behind you.

What ultimately turns the tide against the Mammoth is its steep $309.99 suggested retail price, the second highest in our test group. To justify that level of pricing, you need a real differentiator, and we couldn’t find anything in the Mammoth that really stood out.

[Editor’s Note: We revisited this review after taking the Mammoth on a second trip and improved the ratings based on finding the secret of how to get the bag to stand up – you must cinch the internal and external straps as tightly as humanly possible. See, contrary to what our wives think, we DO have an easier time admitting when we’re wrong than the Fonz does!]

SCORE
83
GRADE
B
Design/Construction
83
Travel Impressions
84
Value
80

Retail price: $309.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


83 / B-

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

The OGIO Mammoth is a soft case made of a weave of nylon and polyester. The entire bottom of the bag is hard plastic, which extends up the rear of the bag to provide stability and structure. OGIO calls this the SLED (Structural Load Equalizing Deck), and at nearly 31 inches long, the plastic back consists of more than half the length of the Mammoth and is longer than that found on competitive soft bags such as the Club Glove Last Bag (approximately 28 inches).

The SLED is purportedly weighted to keep the Mammoth balanced when it is stood up on its base. The ability to stand the bag up, of course, is a key factor in taking advantage of the four spinner wheels mounted on the bottom of the bag. As described below, we had mixed results in getting the bag to stay standing up, and when it’s sagging in one direction or another, the spinner wheels are essentially rendered useless.

OGIO Mammoth Golf Travel Bag

Click for images

OGIO is generous in providing additional protection for your clubs. The 40% of the back of the bag that extends above the SLED is reinforced with a thin layer of plastic, providing some protection for your club heads. This is supplemented with a thick protective pad (described below). The remaining surface area of the bag (the front panel and parts of the side panels) features light padding. Dual two-way zippers run the length of the bag, providing easy access to the contents.

The design of the OGIO Mammoth includes:

  • a thick cushioned pad for protecting club heads– the pad attaches to the interior with Velcro and can be removed to fold the bag over into a more compact shape for storage in the garage or in a closet
  • five handles: one at the top of the bag, one on each side, and two along the spine. Surprisingly, there isn’t a handle on the base of the bag, which, given the weight distribution on the Mammoth, would make lifting it into the trunk of the car a little easier.
  • a detachable oversize shoe pocket on the front panel that quickly unzips from the bag, providing an elegant way to schlep your footwear into the locker room
  • a second accessories pocket on the front panel
  • a plastic window to hold a business card or other ID tag
  • an internal bowl-shaped crush-resistant pocket designed to pack golf/baseball caps
  • two adjustable internal straps to secure your golf bag (but see our complaint about this in “Travel Impressions” below)
  • two external straps to help secure the contents even tighter
  • two in-line skate wheels for pulling the bag behind you
  • four additional spinner wheels on the base for rolling the Mammoth in an upright position
  • one color option – black

84 /B

TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS

The Mammoth’s SLED design is supposed to provide structure and enable you to stand the bag up and roll it on the four spinner wheels mounted on the base. On our first trip, however, the SLED was more of a SLOUCH – Slumping Lifeless OGIO Unbalanced Crumpled Heap. Despite our best efforts, the Mammoth would consistently lean to one side or the other when we stood it up, and we were left with no choice but to resort to pulling it behind us on the two in-line skates. An overdose of caffeine while packing the Mammoth for our second trip, however, amped us up so much that we yanked the internal and external straps tighter than Sergio Garcia on the 17th hole at Sawgrass. And voila – the Mammoth stayed standing up, albeit a little slumpy. When the Mammoth is willing to stay erect (insert your own Michael Scott joke), the spinner wheels can be rolled over smooth surfaces – uneven ground, however, was always challenging, and would lead to us tipping it on the side and using the in-line skate wheels.

As befits its name, the Mammoth weighed in at a hulking 17 pounds (as tested), making it the heaviest bag we tested by about two pounds (exceeding the Samsonite Hardside and the SKB Deluxe, both of which are hard cases). But why should you care about the weight anyway? Well, aside from the ease of pulling the bag, airlines are now generally imposing excess weight penalties for bags that exceed 50 pounds – so you’ll have to be efficient in choosing what you will bring with you in the Mammoth.

We tested the OGIO Mammoth with a standard golf carry bag. As noted above, there are two internal straps in the Mammoth that enable you to secure your golf bag. Cinch them tight, my friends! Note, however, that these straps don’t come with simple clips, but instead require that you thread and unthread them through the buckle each time you stow or remove the bag. Seriously?

OGIO Mammoth Golf Travel Bag

Click for images

The interior of the Mammoth provides plenty of room to pack clothing for a trip. The bag has relatively generous padding, so we didn’t feel a real need to position items to provide protection for our clubs. There aren’t many pockets to help in organizing the contents, so our general packing strategy was just to roll things up and layer them around as evenly as possible, putting heavier items toward the bottom of the bag.

The removable shoe bag mounted on the front panel of the Mammoth made for easy storage of a pair of shoes, and had room for more. We liked the pocket for caps – our Wynn logo cap arrived at our destination in perfect condition.

The in-line skate wheels rolled nicely, but after having experienced the glories of four-wheeled golf travel bags, we found it difficult to transition back to a standard two-wheeler. In addition, the width of the bag (the Mammoth is essentially in uniform in its width, as opposed to the Club Glove Last Bag, which is narrower at the top) also resulted into it banging into the back of our legs on a fairly regular basis as we navigated our way through the airport and parking lot.


80 / B-

COST/VALUE

At a retail price of $309.99, the OGIO Mammoth is the second most expensive travel bag in our tests. If you could count on rolling it either standing upright or pulled behind you, the premium might be justified, but uncertainties about that turn it into a basically standard travel bag, making the price seem to be too dear.


Clicgear MITT

The Clicgear MITT (yes, all caps, and yes, we wish companies would quit doing this) is designed for the die-hards who venture out on Dawn Patrol before the sun even peeks out over the horizon. When your hands are cold, the harsh reverberations of a skulled shot last for what seems like a lifetime. While it doesn’t do anything for your ability to hit the ball cleanly, the Clicgear MITT will keep your paws toastier, and thus less susceptible to the jangling feeling of an early morning mishit.

The MITT is secured around the handle of a golf push cart with a couple of Velcro straps. Don’t let the singular name fool you – there are separate mitts for each hand. Like a typical pair of mittens, there’s a chamber for your thumb, and another for the rest of your fingers.

The MITT is oversized, providing easy access to slide your hands in them to push the cart and pull your hands out when it’s time to take a shot. The exterior of the MITT is made of waterproof nylon, and the interior is some form of furry fleece that does a reasonable job of keeping your hands warm. After trying the MITT, we’ve decided that the $20 investment is much better than the alternatives – the “Pec Push”, where you stuff your hands into your pockets and try to guide the cart forward with your chest, and the “Mow and Blow”, where you alternate shoving the cart hard and blowing on your hands for warmth.

While it’s marketed as a Clicgear product, the MITT was compatible with all of the carts we have in our testing fleet.

These are the kinds of accessories we love – simple in design, reasonably priced, and yet incredibly useful. If you’re a pushcart user who plays early in the morning (or if for some foolhardy reason you have chosen to live somewhere that actually gets chily in the fall/winter), get the Clicgear MITT. Your hands will thank you.

Retail price: $20.00
Amazon.com: Check price now

And a little marketingese:


Clicgear SEAT

The Clicgear SEAT (WE ARE NOT SHOUTING AT YOU – SOMEONE AT CLICGEAR JUST THOUGHT THAT ALL CAPS WAS A GOOD NAMING CONVENTION) attaches to any model Clicgear cart (we tested it on the Clicgear 3.5+), providing a perch upon which you can relax and ponder your next shot. The SEAT is not compatible with non-Clicgear push carts. While the plastic seat isn’t exactly a luxurious recliner, it will support up to 220 lbs., so if you’re the average American man (coming in at 195 lbs.), go ahead and add bacon to that cheeseburger.

Some assembly is required – a bracket must be mounted on the left axle of the cart. It took us about 30 minutes to complete the process, which doesn’t require the use of a tool more sophisticated than a wrench or a screwdriver.

So what’s not to like about the SEAT? For one, it isn’t particularly comfortable – the SEAT stands on a single leg, so it wobbles a bit, particularly when the cart is on uneven terrain. It won’t actually tip over, but it’s unsettling until you get used to it. A little bit of padding also would’ve been nice – the seat itself is made of hard plastic. And while we’re complaining about comfort, the seat itself is positioned relatively low to the ground, so you may feel like you’re sitting at the kid’s table at Thanksgiving dinner.

Clicgear SEAT

Click to enlarge

Perhaps more importantly, the design of the Clicgear SEAT is such that it cannot remain attached to the cart when the cart is folded, so you’ll have to remember to pack both the cart and the SEAT in your car on the way to the course, unfold the cart and install the SEAT when you get there, and then reverse the process when you’re done with the round. While the SEAT snaps in and out of the mounting bracket easily enough, we have already established that we’re average American men, and it would follow that we’re somewhat lazy. Which means that we have a tendency to abandon using products that require us to utilize any more effort than absolutely necessary (for example, the motion of twisting a key in a car door lock is apparently so taxing that we’ve now universally adopted remote keyless entry systems).

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the SEAT – if you own a Clicgear push cart, it’s nice to have the option of sitting down when play ahead of you slows to a standstill. But the inconvenience of needing to install and remove the SEAT for each use, combined with the not insignificant $49.99 price tag, leads us to question the overall value of the product.

Retail price: $49.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Most players will know Torrey Pines as host to the Buick Farmers Insurance Open and as the site of Tiger’s 2008 win at the second municipal course to host the U.S. Open. But a little less well-known is The Lodge at Torrey Pines, located adjacent to the Torrey Pines Golf Course with a view of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. A mere 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego in La Jolla, California, The Lodge is easily accessible from the San Diego International Airport. Doormen in traditional kilted Scottish attire welcome guests to the Lodge, which features two restaurants, a full-service spa, pool, and 36 holes of golf right outside the door. The Lodge sits on six and one half acres and, for you architecture buffs, was built in 2002 to replace a 1960’s era motel on the site and modeled after the Gamble and Blacker houses in Pasadena, California, the craftsman style of architecture practiced by Greene & Greene in Southern California in the early 1900s. Picture shingles, sandstone and brick, with rich dark woodwork.

The Lodge features 170 guest rooms and 8 suites, ranging from 470 to 2,500 square feet. Our Palisade Room offered a good-sized deck and a view across the croquet lawn to the 18th green of the South Course, with the Pacific Ocean farther off on the horizon. The Lodge is consistent in its craftsman design throughout, including artwork and wallpaper, some of which looks like something that might be found at your grandmother’s house. Dark wood is a dominant theme, accented by fireplaces, leather chairs, muted colors and dimmed lighting via the omnipresent stained glass.

We took advantage of The Lodge’s two restaurants, A.R. Valentien and the Grill & Bar, where we enjoyed excellent service and food. Aside from playing golf, eating, and sleeping, we made sure to squeeze in some time at The Spa at Torrey Pines. The 9,500 square foot indoor spa features a handful of rooms for massages and special treatments. It’s a simple spa, and not surprisingly is accessible without any additional fee for all guests, regardless of whether they are having treatments or not. And if you still have time left over, there is a croquet lawn, outdoor pool and hot tub.

This isn’t a bright, shiny glass and chrome accented hotel, and there is no DJ spinning electronic dance music in a nightclub stocked with supermodels. The Lodge is designed to look and feel like a comfortable (albeit grand) residence, as opposed to the crisp lines of a contemporary Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons. At The Lodge at Torrey Pines you’ll get a very high level of service, good food, and the ability to sleep soundly in your room knowing your confirmed tee time awaits.

SCORE
89
GRADE
B+
Service
95
Accommodations
93
Fitness Center
84
Spa
84
Pro Shop
96
Food
90
Integration
85
Value
87

Expedia: View The Lodge at Torrey Pines offers

Pros:

  • Just steps from both courses at Torrey Pines
  • Access to Torrey Pines Golf Course tee times
  • Exceptional service

Cons:

  • Room rates on the high side
  • Lack of integration with golf course
  • Watch your bill!

95/ A

SERVICE

Don’t let the laid-back San Diego sunshine lull you into thinking that service at the Lodge at Torrey Pines has an overly relaxed vibe. Quite to the contrary, the hotel staff was among the best that we’ve encountered, from the first bellman we met to the front desk staff to restaurant waiters. The team was extremely polite and pleasant and seamlessly worked together to provide a high level of attention. Not everything went right on the trip, but the way that the staff responded to the problems was exemplary.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Click for more images
  • Reservations. Golf packages can’t be booked online, so we had to call the hotel to arrange our stay. The reservation agent was quite polite, but seemed distracted, asking three times for the dates of arrival and departure during the conversation. We weren’t surprised then when our confirmation e-mail had the wrong dates for arrival and departure. Thankfully, the golf tee times were correct! Now about that pesky detail of having a place to sleep…Fortunately when we called to point out the error, rooms were still available on our desired dates, and the Lodge was able to quickly make this change, with apologies.

    We called back a few days later to make dinner and spa arrangements. Lines were busy and while the Lodge representative said they would have someone call back in 5 to 15 minutes, the return call didn’t come until 40 minutes later (at which time we weren’t able to pick up the phone). No matter, we dialed them up again and the agent assisted with dinner arrangements at the upscale A.R. Valentien restaurant at The Lodge, although the available time slots were limited even several weeks in advance. The spa has a completely separate system for appointments, so we were transferred to the spa to make arrangements. They weren’t able to attach the appointments to our room reservation, and we had to leave our credit card information with them as well. This seems to be a strange hiccup in integration given that it’s all at the same resort.

    We did appreciate the call two days in advance to remind us of our spa appointment (a good way to avoid any penalties in case you forget) and the day prior for our dinner reservation.

  • Checking In. We took a cab from the San Diego airport and were greeted upon our arrival at the Lodge by a bellman in traditional kilted Scottish attire. There was no line at the reception desk so we stepped right up. The front desk clerk was extremely pleasant and quickly checked us in. The only snag occurred when they presented us with sign-in paperwork specifying a higher rate than was quoted in our reservation confirmation letter (it was clear from their reaction that the confirmation letter had an error). The front desk clerk handled the situation gracefully, never challenging our position and instead politely asking if she might be able to check into it and get back to us. The next morning she left a message stating that they would honor the lower rate, and thanking us for bringing the discrepancy to their attention.

    One nice touch was that we were provided with a small packet with little cards for each reservation we had made for dinner and golf (although no cards were included for our spa appointments). The clerk also efficiently assisted with changing our dinner plans at the Bar & Grill on the evening of our arrival, taking our request for a revised time when we were checking in and coordinating seamlessly with the restaurant, which then called us in our room just a few minutes later to confirm our new reservation.

  • Housekeeping and Services. The room was well kept upon arrival, and nicely maintained by housekeeping during our stay. There are two services, one each in the mid-morning and early evening. They also responded very quickly to a request for a toothbrush, arriving in just minutes.

  • 93 / A

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    There were relatively limited room options when we booked our room a month and a half in advance, so we selected the Palisade Room (budget didn’t permit us to consider suite options; please consider purchasing more products through Critical Golf so we can do so in the future). Our room was 600 square feet, quite comfortable and in very good condition. As with the rest of The Lodge, the rooms are craftsman in style, from the light at the entryway to the extensive dark wood and Tiffany lamps within. We would guess that the um, “classic” wallpaper in the bathroom may not suit everyone’s taste, but it is consistent with the building and period.

    Our Palisade Room included:

    • two queen beds
    • a chair and desk
    • an easy chair and ottoman
    • 32″ flat screen TV
    • gas fireplace
    • a good sized bathroom with double sinks, separate tub and shower, and a separate room for the toilet
    • Bose Wave Radio/CD player
    • coffee maker
    • minibar
    • The Lodge at Torrey Pines Spa branded toiletries

    There is an outdoor patio with two lounge chairs, two smaller wicker chairs and a table – certainly large enough for two people to spread out for basking in the sunshine or a room service meal. Our room and patio looked out over the croquet lawn, and past that to views of the Torrey Pines South Course and some nice sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The additional cost of the Palisade Room gets you golf course views and the outdoor patio. The Reserve and Signature Rooms instead have views toward a central courtyard and are a bit smaller at 470 to 550 square feet.


    84 / B

    POOL AND FITNESS CENTER

    The Fitness Center at the Lodge is relatively small and unfortunately lacks any windows. There is no charge for use of the Fitness Center.

    The Lodge at Torrey Pines

    Click for images

    Features include:

    • a rack of dumbbells next to flat, incline and decline benches
    • a small collection of 5 weight machines
    • 2 elliptical machines
    • 3 treadmills
    • 2 upright bikes
    • 2 recumbent bikes
    • Bose Wave Radio/CD player
    • coffee maker
    • minibar
    • The Lodge at Torrey Pines Spa branded toiletries

    Each of the cardio machines is equipped with its own television. There is a water cooler and complimentary fruit, and towels, cold towels, and headphones are all provided for your use.

    It’s a bit of a spartan experience (and the lack of natural light is a bummer), but completely functional if you need to get in a quick workout.

    If the gym isn’t your thing, the resort also has a croquet lawn (available unless there are events on the terrace, as there was one night during our weekend visit), and an outdoor swimming pool with a hot tub.


    84 / B

    SPA

    The 9,500 square foot Spa Torrey Pines is a full service facility offering massage, steam rooms, saunas and aromatherapy inhalation. Use of the spa is complimentary for all guests, regardless of whether you are having a treatment or not.

    The spa “lobby” welcomes you with retail goods, and not surprisingly the selection of products is primarily focused on the ladies. We checked in at the welcome desk with a receptionist who didn’t seem overly interested in our arrival, who then gave us turn-by-turn directions on how to navigate the men’s locker room and where to meet our massage therapist. There was no male attendant to provide a tour, so we were left to explore on our own.

    It would’ve been nice having a guide – in addition to a smallish changing area with lockers, the men’s area of the Spa had a steam room, a sauna, and an aromatherapy inhalation room. We had no idea what the aromatherapy inhalation room was for (it’s just labeled “Inhalation Room”), nor how to even turn it on. Subsequent research reveals that it is used for aromatherapy and deep breathing or meditation, and filled with the scent of clary sage, which helps with anxiety and fear, menstrual-related problems such as PMS and cramping, and insomnia. Feel free to create your own joke about clary sage next time your buddy leaves his putt short of the hole.

    Just outside of the locker room is a men-only seating area with lounge chairs, one TV and assortment of magazines – SI, Golf, Forbes, Men’s Health and the like. From this small room you exit into a two-room coed waiting area where you are met for your massage. There is a fireplace in one of the rooms, but otherwise the two are similar, providing lounge chairs, water, tea, fruit and some snacks while you wait, along with more magazines. It’s straightforward but not fancy, and feels somewhat enclosed, perhaps due to relatively low ceilings or because this review comes on the heels of our experience at massive spas and resorts with outdoor seating areas.

    The 50-minute Swedish massage ($140) was performed in one of the handful of treatment rooms. The spa has not only individual massage rooms, but also a couples massage room and specialized rooms for scrub treatments, wraps, and “water therapies”. The rooms are quiet, with only the sounds of the soft music and the continuously running air vent. The quality of the massage was fine, but both members of our review staff independently noted feeling a bit rushed through the process during their massages (apparently there’s a lot of stuff to get through in 50 minutes!). Of course almost any massage is a good massage, so we’re not expecting any pity, but the Spa at Torrey Pines probably isn’t worth making a special trip.


    96 / A

    PRO SHOP

    The Pro Shop, which is situated between the Lodge and the golf courses, is one of the best we have visited, with an immense selection of different brands of clothing – shirts, shorts, pants, sweaters, vests, jackets, hats, belts, socks and shoes. Brands include Adidas, Peter Millard, Travis Mathew, Antigua, Oakley, Cutter and Buck, Greg Norman, Ashworth, Polo, Nike and more. The Pro Shop even has a healthy women’s clothing selection, and a section of kids golf clothes to boot!

    There is an above average amount of golf equipment available as well. This includes putters, wedges and woods. Aside from clothing and equipment, there are golf carry bags and travel bags, gloves and balls, umbrellas, glasses, towels and Torrey Pines flags, and, because all golfers like to drink (right?), shot glasses, wine and pint glasses, and coasters. If you’re in need of some gear, they most likely have it here (sporting a Torrey Pines logo, of course).


    90 / A-

    FOOD

    The Lodge at Torrey Pines offers two dining options – A.R. Valentien (named after an early 1900s California artist), which is their signature restaurant, and The Grill & Bar (named after its grill and bar). We found the food to be very good at both restaurants and service to be a strength.

    A.R. Valentien
    serves “contemporary California cuisine” with a focus on seasonal local ingredients. A.R. Valentien is located just off the main lobby of the hotel, and has a cozy bar and lounge with leather chairs, fireplace and bar. The main dining area itself has two small rooms, as well as an outdoor patio overlooking the pool. The ambience is the more formal of the two restaurants, with white tablecloths and a number of customers in jackets and ties.

    Our first meal at A.R. Valentien was for breakfast, and even though there are white tablecloths, it’s still California casual. Our Bed and Breakfast Package included a $40 credit each day, but with two people each ordering juice, a breakfast entree, and a side added on top, we went over our limit ($48). The dried fruit brioche french toast was nicely done, none too heavy, and the scrambled eggs and potatoes with a side of ham received a thumbs up. The Mulberry coffee cake (hey, it was in season) was a standout – but it’s hard to go wrong with cinnamon and sugar. We also enjoyed the strawberry-orange juice at A.R. Valentien – a nice combination of flavors with the texture of traditional orange juice.

    Since you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a restaurant by its breakfast, we returned to A.R. Valentien for dinner as well. The menu was a bit heavy on restaurant jargon, forcing us to resort to the faux pas of pulling out iPhones at the dinner table just to understand our options – mizuna, tuile, feuillete, galette…anyone?

    We were treated to an amuse-bouche of lobster salad on crostini, which was spectacular – the sweetness of the lobster really came out and was complemented by the crunch of the crostini. If it had been on the menu, we might have ordered another 8-10 of these. The Alaskan halibut on a bed of peas and risotto ($38) was splendid, as was the oak-fired roasted Niman Ranch pork loin ($32). Desserts were fine, but not memorable (we had the mulberry galette and the strawberry rhubarb bread pudding), but they made up for it with complimentary bite-sized morsels of mini-donuts and other pastries. At $128 for two (with no alcohol) the pricing is not inexpensive, but about on par for a hotel of this caliber.

    The Grill & Bar offers a more casual environment. It’s located a few steps outside of the hotel, adjacent to the practice putting greens, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Grill room is informal and contemporary in look, with an open kitchen and counter and a selection of booths and tables. One nice bit of local flavor is that each table has a little Torrey Pines bonsai tree on it, which is the rarest pine species in the United States (at one time there were only around 100 trees surviving!), growing only in San Diego County and on one of the Channel Islands. Hey, we are here to educate as well. Live music was provided by an acoustic guitarist – when’s the last time you heard an unplugged version of “Here Comes the Sun”? Attached to the Grill room is the Bar, which has a handful of tables, a full bar, and three televisions. Both rooms serve the same fare.

    Once we were seated we were served complimentary homemade potato chips…with sour cream and onion dip! The dip may be old school, but it was delectable (and rapidly devoured). The fried asparagus ($9) and the smoked salmon salad on butter lettuce ($14) were just okay, but the beet salad with raspberry compote ($11) turned things around. Entrees are available in small and large sizes, and the smaller sizes are more than adequate if you’re having salads and/or appetizers. Our waitress warned that the pappardelle with slow roasted Niman Ranch brisket and mushroom cream ($18) was heavy, but we were undeterred. She was absolutely right, and although the cream sauce was too powerful for us, the brisket was still delicious. The strozzapreti with sun-dried tomato, garlic and cream was also rich, but extremely tasty. There was a split decision on dessert, as the fruit crisp pleased and the angel food cake with carmelized pineapple and whipped crème fraiche disappointed. Dinner for two, with one glass of wine and dessert was $125.

    Reservations aren’t always necessary at the Grill, but are advisable for dinners on weekend nights. On our Friday night visit, the place was hopping – there was a fair amount of ambient noise, and it was clear that some diners were having trouble getting the attention of their servers. Our server was responsive, so perhaps we just missed the rush.

    Breakfast at the Grill & Bar was a similarly casual experience, but the restaurant was much quieter than during our prior visit for dinner – we would have thought more players would stop in for pre-round breakfast. While the breakfast menus for the Grill & Bar and A.R. Valentien were extremely similar (with prices at the Grill & Bar lower by a few dollars on entrees), they are clearly run by different chefs, as our order of strawberry orange juice was completely different, coming out with the thickness of a smoothie. The food was just as good, however, and the blueberry muffin, pancakes with bananas, and eggs benedict were all extremely satisfying ($40).

    We also sampled lunch at the Grill & Bar, enjoying a sunny but breezy meal out on the patio next to the practice putting green, where we had the Drugstore Burger (which they describe as their signature dish, and which came highly recommended by the two locals with whom we were paired as playing partners) and the Sloppy Joe. Both sandwiches were truly exceptional – the burger was perfectly cooked, juicy and full of flavor, and the Sloppy Joe was just plain delicious. With a couple of sides and sodas, the total ran us $41.


    85 / B

    INTEGRATION WITH GOLF COURSE

    The Lodge is located just steps away from the 1st Tee of both the North and South Course, so getting to the course couldn’t be any easier. Of the resorts we have reviewed to date, this is the closest our room has been to the tee box, and allows for either a few more minutes of sleep or a bit more time to digest your omelet before heading to the course.

    The Lodge at Torrey Pines

    Click for more images

    Aside from the proximity, another draw for The Lodge is the access to tee times at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Guests at The Lodge at Torrey Pines benefit from the block of tee times allocated each day to Lodge guests, and we had a good selection of options from which to choose when we booked our room. An additional perk for Lodge guests is that there is no need to check-in for your tee time. The greens fees are added to your hotel room bill, so you can walk directly to the starter shack at the first tee. It’s curious that nobody at The Lodge mentioned this to us, as it is a nice benefit.

    Which leads us to our greatest problem with the integration between the Lodge and the golf course – a lot of the employees of the Lodge don’t seem to know much about the golf course and its related services. While the bellman at the front desk said he could take our clubs for us when we arrived (just the clubs by the way – they won’t store the travel bag cover), we deferred as we had our cases packed with clothes as well. The next morning we made the short walk from our room to the course carrying our bags. We were a bit surprised at the end of our round when we couldn’t figure out where to leave our clubs to be stored overnight. We checked at the Grill & Bar, where the hostess rang the front desk for us (she was unable to find anyone when calling “Golf Services”). They informed her that The Lodge could store our clubs overnight, though to do so we would need to bring the clubs to Guest Services at the front of the hotel. With our room virtually the same distance from the 18th green as Guest Services, we made the decision to just carry our clubs back to the room after each round. The joke was on us later when we learned that the small virtually unmarked building between the Grill & Bar and pool is the “Golf Services” building. Our guess is that you need to leave your bag at that building, then later let the front desk know you have left your bags there to be stored (more on that later!).

    Another misstep was when we called the front desk to ask if there was a driving range. Sorry, but no, we were told. Surprise! There actually is a full range, just a short walk from The Lodge at the end of the golf course parking lot.

    Seems like they just need to hold a single 30 minute training session with the Lodge staff to get this all ironed out…


    87/ B+

    VALUE

    While golf packages are occasionally available, we were out of luck for our travel dates, and thus opted for the Palisade Bed & Breakfast Package instead ($600 per night), which included a Palisade room (a bit of an upgrade from the base Signature rooms, which weren’t available for our desired weekend) with 2 Queen beds and a daily $40 credit for an American breakfast. If you drive, parking will cost another $22 per night if you self-park ($27 if you valet). The $40 credit for breakfast gets used up pretty quickly (two of us ate more than $40 in total both days), but to save a bit we would recommend dining at the Grill & Bar over A.R. Valentien.

    Rooms start in the mid-$300s, so our selection was at the top-end of the range. Suites are available as well if you need up to 2,500 square feet to spread out for the weekend (the thought of a Suite larger than a house is something). We booked within a month and a half of our stay, and had relatively limited room options. Always best to plan ahead!

    Not directly pertaining to value, but important to note was the absolutely bizarre billing that we experienced at The Lodge. All we can say is that guests should be extremely thorough when reviewing their bill. As mentioned earlier, we found a $75 per night discrepancy between our confirmation note and what we were told upon check-in (The Lodge adjusted our rate to what was in the confirmation letter).

    When you book your tee times through The Lodge, the golf fees will appear on your hotel bill. We were billed $8 per day for “golf porterage”, which is an automatic charge for storing clubs overnight and bringing them to the course the next morning. That’s pretty funny, since we were explicitly told by a staff member that this service wasn’t available. We were also charged $38 per round for a cart, although we didn’t use one either day. These charges were reversed when we found them at checkout.

    In addition, we were confused to see that the charge for each round of golf on our bill differed from what we were quoted in the confirmation letter we received at the time of the reservation. The front desk clerk explained that what looked like confirmed rates in our confirmation letter actually aren’t, and golf greens fees can fluctuate based on demand. And thus while our confirmation letter stated that “[y]our tee times are confirmed…on the North Course…at the fee of $170 per player…and on…the South Course…at the fee of $240 per player”, in the end we were charged $150 and $259, respectively. While the total cost remained the same (actually we gained a buck, great!), this “A.Q.” pricing is utterly bizarre, and it would make for a much better guest experience to have The Lodge simply commit to the greens fees in advance. This plus the corrections that needed to be made to our bill made for a somewhat rotten final experience.

    The $675 (tax included) nightly rate is higher than most alternatives in the area. For out-of-towners it may be worth the price of admission just to guarantee a tee time on the one of two municipal courses to host a U.S. Open. But not to worry, you won’t feel like you are getting fleeced in order to play the course – The Lodge at Torrey Pines has exceptional service, very good food, is well maintained, and situated in a beautiful and convenient location. It is not the brightest and shiniest hotel, so know what you are getting: craftsman-style, through and through. We enjoyed our stay, and if you like that early 1900s vibe, hop in your Duesenberg and come on over.

    In case you would like a little marketing video:


Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

If you’re looking for a hotel with golf course on the California coast, you would be hard-pressed to find something closer to the water than the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. Located 25 miles southwest of the San Francisco International Airport, the Ritz offers a gorgeous setting with 36 holes of golf, spa, several dining options, and fire pits overlooking the Pacific. And if you would like to bring your pet, the guest houses available a short walk away from the main hotel, are pet friendly. Keep an eye out for our detailed review coming in 2014.


Critical Golf Visits The Golf Show

Critical Golf sat down with Dean Millard of The Golf Show on Edmonton’s Sports Radio TEAM 1260. We talk about the origin of Critical Golf, some of our favorite devices, and whether we get nastygrams from companies that aren’t happy with the Critical Golf reviews of their products (spoiler alert: we do).

Listen below to the full conversation, or if your browser isn’t able to digest this audio player, head on over to The Golf Show on TEAM 1260 to listen to the May 9, 2013 show.

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