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My Golf Story

Based in the heart of golf country, Scottsdale, Arizona, I have traveled on assignment to the world’s best— and most exotic— golf destinations. I’ve teed it up in Marrakech, played through the cobras in Penang, and navigated fairway bomb craters in Biarritz.

It couldn’t have worked out better if I had planned it. But I didn’t. It’s the best job imaginable, if you love golf. Yes, it is a job. I actually get paid. And it has led me to Scottsdale, where I met a wonderful man and got married on the practice green at a private club. This is how it all happened.

Little miss plays big

My family developed golf communities in northern California. I used to follow my dad around as he laid out golf holes. He would motion the giant Caterpillar D-9 tractor to follow him while he tied white handkerchiefs to tree limbs, meticulously routing fairways and greens. Water hazards and bunkers came later.

I played in junior golf tournaments around the state growing up, soon realizing I didn’t have the dedication to be a professional but falling in love with the game just the same. Golf took a backseat while I was in college at University of California, Berkeley, and as I was building a career in real estate investments in San Francisco.

Massive earthquake hurled me into the fray

Rabbit survived tee shot

When the magnitude-7 Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco, it knocked buildings off their foundations and did the same thing to me. I decided to give up real estate and take up travel writing, although I lacked journalism experience. I joined a writers group and was one of several members invited to France. They must have golf there, I figured, and called the editor of a well-known golf magazine to see if he would assign a story. Yes, he said. Later I discovered that it was “Not OK” to call editors directly and pitch a story. So what? I had landed a story in a national magazine and was suddenly in demand as one of the few female golf writers in the country.

After France, worldwide assignments opened up. They seemed to arrive in geographical clusters: golf resorts in the Caribbean, like Aruba and Puerto Rico; then Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico; and Canada, from Banff and Whistler all the way to Mont Tremblant in Quebec. I was invited to write about the Hawaiian Islands many times, and Maui became my second home.

Take us to the casbah via the golf course

Cori interviewing Arnold Palmer at Wailea, Maui

The golf properties I reviewed were usually the best and the newest. I played the courses and explored the entire area to get the full flavor of the place. In Puerto Rico we sailed out on a pitch-black night to enter a shimmering bioluminescent bay. While snorkeling underwater in Maui, I was able to hear the eerie sound of whales’ songs. Also in Maui I had the honor of conducting a lengthy interview with “The King,” Arnold Palmer. We talked about his love of flying and how he traveled to most golf events by piloting his own plane.  I always enjoyed hearing people’s stories and developed the skill of being a good interviewer.

My assignments got even more exotic when I became a regular member of the press corps assigned to the King of Morocco’s annual golf tournament. For nine years I traveled to Marrakech, in the south, and the capital city of Rabat, in the north, and locations in between.   I loved the golf courses, the people, and the ancient cities. We explored the narrow, winding streets through the souks and bargained for handmade treasures, often sipping sugary mint tea from dainty filigreed glasses, offered with a smile of generous hospitality. I always felt safe.

Club-wielding chick meets her match

I discovered the golf culture is remarkably similar all over the world. The courses themselves, the equipment, the rules, the clothes, all lend a familiar feeling to the experience, even in such a foreign destination as Morocco—or Asia.

Almost a hole in one

Starting with an assignment in Kuala Lumpur, I entered a period of multiple assignments in Asia. My initial task was to write about the top five golf courses in Asia. First I had to identity them. Not easy, with such a vast area and many award-winning courses from which to choose. I assembled a panel of experts and narrowed down the list, then visited the destinations to gather information. In Singapore I played with the president of one of the five winning clubs.   He was very friendly but grew increasingly quiet as the round continued. Finally I was pulled aside by an aide and sternly informed, “Not good idea to hit ball farther than president.” Oops.

I found Malaysia to be quite mysterious, starting with the food. Have you ever heard of a Malaysian restaurant? I can’t think of a single one. Yet the food is delicious, with contributions from Chinese, Hindu, and Muslim cuisines. I interviewed famous golf architect Robert Trent Jones Jr, who built one of my five courses, which happened to be in Penang, Maylasia. Before I played it, he told me he had paid off the snake charmer at the temple near the entrance during construction, in order to control the cobras. However, every morning I was there, the caddies went out at 5 a.m. to beat the rough with sticks and drive away the cobras. Apparently, the guarantee had expired.  I II loved sharing stories like this on my travel blog, “Where in the World is Cori Brett?” which I wrote for five years for the Arizona Women’s Golf Association.

 

China is the name of my sister

Cori with caddies at Mission Hills Haikou, China

One of my most exciting assignments was Mission Hills China, the largest golf resort in the world, with 12 courses in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, and 10 in Haikou, on Hainan Island.   Those beautiful courses were all designed by famous golfers and built by the Scottsdale firm of Schmidt & Curley. Both the Shenzhen and the Haikou locations are massive and luxurious. Mission Hills’ Dongguan clubhouse covers an area of more than 600,000 square feet. I traveled several times to Mission Hills and was part of the team that created an official Sister City relationship between Haikou and Scottsdale. From Malaysia to Mazatlan, from Cabo to China, my love of golf continues to carry me to new and exciting adventures.

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Cori Brett - writer, editor and public speaker

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