Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

  • 5.0 stars from 5

    Royal New Kent Golf Club

    "Thankful to have Royal New Kent back online"

    I first played Royal New Kent a little more than three years ago with the golf staff there. They shepherded me around all the blind shots, and I realized when I was through, that it was much easier than it looked. Since then, I have also played the much-heralded Tobacco Road near Pinehurst, so I'm starting to get the genius of Mike Strantz. This time around, I was more prepared. What surprised me is that I remembered every hole, so I had a little better idea of what to do off the tee. What didn't surprise me is that I loved it. Part links, and mostly Strantz, I put this course right up there with Tobacco Road. First of all, with the new owners restoring and improving this course, it's in better shape than the last time I played it. And it has all the charm I remember. And it's a course that I would never get tired of playing. For me golf is all about enjoyment, and Royal New Kent is one enjoyable ride. And yes, I understand that that there are golfers who believe this course has too many blind shots, etc., but I would counter that the landing areas are wide open, so it's plenty fair. And if you don't like blind shots, you probably don't like Irish links golf, because the great courses across the pond have plenty of them. My favorite holes? It would depend on the day, I suppose. But if I had to pick one on the front nine, it would be the par-5 fifth, which is beautifully framed and most scenic off the tee. On the back, I'd pick the short 14th, a drivable par 4 for long hitters. It plays to a most interesting elevated green. Overall, Royal New Kent is a fun ride from start to finish. As a golfer, I say thanks to the Wingfield Group for bringing it back to life. more »

    4.0 stars from 5

    Plantation at Kingsmill Golf Club & Resort

    "Plantation good warm-up for Kingsmill's River Course"

    Though it's just under 6,400 yards from the back tees, the Plantation Course at Kingsmill Resort is plenty challenging for a resort course and offers a nice complement to the championship River Course at the resort. Designed by Arnold Palmer, it presents an unusual amount of left-to-right tee shots. They're large, so they are not overly difficult, but you if you get carried away with trying to fade the ball (for right-handers) trouble in the trees definitely looms. Mostly, though, the course is fun. Rolling hills and interesting greens make this a great warm-up to the River Course at the resort. And afterwards, you'll want to check out the Eagles Restaurant and Bar inside the clubhouse, which is a great place to grab a sandwich, crab chowder and local craft brew on tap. more »

    4.0 stars from 5

    The Club at Viniterra

    "Viniterra has a really nice collection of holes"

    The Club at Viniterra is a perfect example of why you should "make sure you play the right tees." If you’re a plus handicap and a long hitter, then go ahead and play the back tees. At 7,500 yards, it's all the golf course you want and then some. But then again, how much fun would that be for anyone? So for most players, unless you're in some kind of high-level event against flat-bellies, avoiding the back tees is probably a good idea. I would suspect it's a lot of work from there, even for the best players. Fortunately, there are six sets of tees at Viniterra, so there really is a golf course for everyone. When you're playing the white tees you pass up three other sets before you get to yours. But you quickly get used to that, even if you're a single digit player, and realize that this Rees Jones gem is plenty challenging, scenic and interesting, even from 6,100 yards with a rating of 69.8 and slope of 129. Many of the tees at Viniterra are elevated, and the fairways are very generous. The key to scoring is to avoid the fairway bunkers (there are plenty of them) and find the large greens, which have plenty of undulation. That's easier said than done, of course, since the greens are well protected as well by large bunkers, but it's a good goal nonetheless. As for the holes, there's great variety, and they’re memorable. There are no homes that come into play either. The only drawback to the course is the distance between holes, which certainly prolongs the round. There is more than a half-mile of bridges between holes for cart paths. Viniterra is also getting a new clubhouse, which should improve the overall experience. When I played the course, the clubhouse was almost completed and scheduled to open in a couple of weeks. more »

    5.0 stars from 5

    Golden Horseshoe Golf Club

    "A must-play if you're in the Williamsburg area"

    Truly one of the most fun and interesting courses in Virginia, the Gold Course at Golden Horseshoe is a must-play if you're anywhere near Colonial Williamsburg. First of all, it's in one of the most historic parts of the United States, so if you can pair it with a stay at the Williamsburg Inn and a little sightseeing, you've got quite the complete vacation. But the golf course stands out quite nicely on its own, thank you. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout, which opened for play in 1963, has been renovated twice by son Rees Jones (the first time in 1998 with Greg Muirhead), most recently in 2016. The results of the latest round of improvements are more fair greens and a golf course that's simply more playable, while losing none of its charm. I went into this round having heard that the Gold Course had the best collection of par 3s in the state, and I wasn't disappointed. All of them are dramatic and quite challenging, punctuated by the 16th, which features an island green. The rest of the golf course doesn't lack character either, and I thought the par 5s were particularly intriguing, starting with the second, which plays down to a green fronted by a pond, setting up a compelling risk-reward situation if you hit a good tee shot. And inside the clubhouse, the fun continues with a most friendly staff from Kemper Sports, well-stocked golf shop, grill overlooking the 18th hole and a golf museum as well. Inside you'll find historic photos of RTJ, legendary pros and presidents who have played the course over the years. There are also some familiar replica trophies (Ryder Cup and PGA Championship, for example) that were crafted by a local silversmith in Colonial Williamsburg. more »

    4.0 stars from 5

    The Golden Eagle Golf Club @ Tides Inn

    "Golden Eagle was well worth saving"

    It's easy to see why Golden Eagle Golf Club is a good venue to test the best players in the game. Host of multiple state opens, this George Cobb design has narrow holes with doglegs, water hazards and some relatively small greens (compared to newer courses). You have to be accurate off the tee, and the ability to work the ball both ways is a good trait as well. Carved through hillsides of Virginia pines, the course has plenty of scenery, and it can be daunting as well. For example, the par-5 second is fairly straightaway, but you have to hit it straight to avoid the forest on both sides as well as a series of fairway bunkers. The course never lets up. The centerpiece of the course a large lake. The fifth hole makes good use of it, for example. The tee shot is fairly lengthy over water to an island fairway. The second shot is also over water, and at 445 yards from the back tee, it's no wonder it's the no. 1 handicap hole on the course. Golden Eagle also finishes strong. The 17th is an uphill par 3 that plays more than 200 yards. The 18th is a beautiful 382-yard par 4 that plays downhill off the tee in front of a lake, followed by an uphill approach over the water. As it turns out, Golden Eagle is the only remaining golf course in Lancaster County. Last October, the nearby Tides Inn resort announced the course was going to close, but thanks to the efforts of some members of the semi-private club as well as the resort, the course has remained open and has been improving, reminding players of what it once was and will be once again. more »

    4.0 stars from 5

    River at Kingsmill Golf Club & Resort

    "River Course is fun, memorable and challenging"

    The River Course is another example of a Pete Dye layout that really is very player friendly. The fairways are wide, the bunkers aren't too penal and the greens really aren't that severe. It's not a pushover, by any means, but it really is enjoyable for most players. The course is perfectly suited for the upcoming Pure Silk Championship on the LPGA Tour. Last year's event was won in a playoff by Ariya Jutanugarn, who was 14-under-par through the first 54 holes. The year before Lexi Thompson went 20-under, so there are lots of birdies out there for good players. While the course is enjoyable throughout, the finishing stretch is one of the more memorable you'll ever play. The 16th is a downhill left-to-right par 4 with a green perched in a precarious position that makes your approach shot critical. Any miss below presents a challenging up and down opportunity, to say the least. The 17th, is a beautiful par 3 that runs along the shores of the James River, and the tee shot on the par-4 18th, all carry over a lake that then runs down the left side of the fairway, is among the most difficult on the course. more »