Sunday, June 05, 2016

Upcoming Majors

Summer approaches and with  it the majors save Augusta - which doesn't really fit the mold of the rest as I see it because of its odd selection process. There's a bit wrong with ANGC and all the control about the Maters, but it is so well-loved no one ever dares criticise it. So I usually refrain from commenting much partly because it usually is entertaining the last day. It is a wonderful Rite for all golfers, the annual re-awakening and unveiling of a new Fazio-design.

This year 2016 and The Major Championships - let's get the curmudgeonly stuff out of the way.

The 2016 USGA Open

Go see it at Geoff Shackelford if you care, you won't find anything about the course here. He's doing two holes at a time.

A rather charmless brute, an homage to the un-fun, penal golf beyond the interest of completing a round, perhaps even bothering to make the turn. "The U.S. Open is supposed to be hard", repeat that mantra over and over and over. It's supposed to make the world's best play as we regular golfers do day-in and day-out.  I must admit that once I did buy into this concept and as an American I defended my country's Ruling Body for Golf and their posterchild of Tournament Golf. Oakmont does everything possible to make golf slow. Ironically the USGA face of "While we're young" program is none other than the Iconic Arnold Palmer - so strongly identified with Oakmont, especially after what was to be his Coronation in 1962 utterly ruined by the Greatest Major Player of all-time Jack William Nicklaus. Tied in regulation 72 holes, Palmer was never ahead in the playoff and was nearly ceremonial, albeit the most loved golfer perhaps of all time, in golf after that. (1966 at Olympic just deepened the misery of Palmer fans to abysmal levels)

Time has taught me otherwise, after such events as the persistent non-control of implements, lengthening golf courses by necessity, the disconnect of "Game Improvement Advances" ironically much more helpful to the more skilled golfer than the regular handicap man and woman intended to be the target of such advances. Average Handicaps (By the awful cheat-ridden methodology that is GHIN) have not risen or dropped significantly over the last 25 or so years, remaining about the proverbial Bogey Golfer among those who play regularly with some enthusiasm and financial commitment. Introduction to regular Links golf, not the faux version available in the USA also has had a profound influence on what I've felt a proper golf tournament should be. I am a proponent of dropping the PGA Championship in favor of an Australian Major played on Couch/Bermuda requiring the special skills required to play on that surface. It would also lend a credence of the US PGA Tour and US PGA not having such a stranglehold on the "Majors". So personally the USGA Open has fallen mightily in my eyes. They do however excel in Amateur golf.

Back to Oakmont. Built in the most mean-spirited way and made worse by narrowing fairways and deepening rough, I hear so mny golfers lately excited for this upcoming Major. The idea that the greens are slowed by the USGA for the US Open is laughable. To paraphrase Mae West "Too hard is never hard enough". Fast, sloping greens, absurd bunkering schemes, landlocked with often sweltering heat and little wind, little resemblance is borne to golf's origins. I'd pay not to play there.

Oakmont is the USGA on steroids, its pin-up course for "Par is Sacred". Johnny Miller despite winning there with a record (tied) 63 final round score in 1973, his sole US Major has oft opined that he'd be happy with the USGA Open played alternately at Pebble Beach and Shinnecock with something else thrown in every so often just to break it up. Can't call him a homer on that one, he won on a wet, soggy, toothless Oakmont. (UGH say the brass).

I have very little to say about Oakmont except that the Women's Open won by Paula Creamer was the most painful excuse for a golf tournament that I have ever attended. That was the last time I was on property, likely my truly not only last but "final visit".

The probability of a  first-time winner of a Major is greater than 50-50 but it will not be Dustin Johnson. THE BIG THREE make up the other 50% as I see it unfolding.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Monday, December 15, 2014

Streamsong Red in Photos - December, 2014

A recent visit to Florida yielded an eagle two at the tenth hole at Hunter's Run South in Delray Beach, but most of you don't care as much about that as the photos to come.  Given a choice, it might have been nice to have a holed shot at Streamsong, but another one in the books is just fine.

Occasion also smiled to allow me to spend a couple of days with my little brother Martin at the upper central part of the state.  He was at the House of the Mouse as well as the other attractions in Orlando, but it worked out nicely to give him a birthday present of his first Coore & Crenshaw design. I really turned out to be a fine day with just the tow of us and no caddie or other interference, just us and our Rickshahs out on a nice sunny day.

Without too much ado here are the views.

First Hole: One - Par 4

Indicating the hole number and simultaneously leaving no question about which hole or who is seemingly the world's fave living designers these days.

 An interloper
 about 150 out
Not your typical starter by most folks design style.  Most architects now want to get you into a round with a gentle start, this can only be described as a long par 4 with a perched green to make it play longer. A very wide fairway, but just getting to the green is the demand so there is no strategic variety to the tee shot.  Three shots for most, not much compelling here. A different loosening up, getting into the round hole …. Meh, long Par 4’s bore me as much as long Par 3 ‘s in the last 3 holes. So, this is probably C&C's most stern opener by a decent margin. Driver rescue, ran up the front edge a little but settled in the front right bunker, a long hole for most a par 5ish.

Second - Par 5
Tom Fazio has made a career out of this hole and a lot of architects use it.  You will hear most people call it a Cape Hole, but it’s not mostly because no one really knows why a true Cape is called a ‘Cape”.  A “cape” (as in capes & bays) is what that “finger” sticking into a bunker is, it’s a geographical terminology if you want to be technical.  What it means to most is “bite off what you can chew” and Macdonald’s Cape (5th at Mid-Ocean) had and still has both features.  Since the fairways here are generous, you should be pretty safe if you know your game – this hole moves left to right as do most of the move play holes at the start.  Two bunkers – one short and one tight right with an enormous green reminiscent of ripples in a stream greets you.Still strikes me layout-wise as I've opined before, but a lot more interest up by the green than I mentioned, sort of a waterfall effect in a way. The classic Cape tee shot, not the Cape hole per se, the fairway is deeper for a pull than it looks (as I found out) and works for most to be very fair
 Over by the big left fairway bunker a very nice approach to the green or to a 30-100 yard lay-up shot.  The greens don't tend to let you run-up much, a problem at most american linksy courses except at Bandon Resort.
 Backwards from the big dune right of green
Three - Par 4
Medium Left to Right dogleg with a shelf above the left side of the green which releases almost none.  Right side of fairway always gives you the best angle into the green, a bunker right protects you from the lateral hazard. I definitely liked this one both times and maybe respect it more the second time.  Although there is strategy, it is not flexible; best effort will leave the drive on the right side of the fairway to allow a most direct approach. This is the elevated most back tee with a nice general view as well as of the hole itself.
Landing and approach
Some emphasis on contours

Four - Par 4
The first really intriguing hole, a nearly drivable Par 4 with a sort of Principal’s Nose – Lion’s Mouth kind of bunker making for some rather segmented portions of the green and making you think about playing the hole right from the start.  A long central bunker (but not creating a true “Bottle”) makes you think about your layup tee shot and also about your two-cheek driver off the tee. The green coupled with the bisected fairway make this a superior short hole and one that would probably be the most interesting hole on the property to play over and over on different days with different pin positions.  This is the duo at their very best. Fourth hole is a short, attractive, probably not drive-able Par 4 that most people get really excited about.  The visuals are quite high and the challenge certainly is in the green.
 Lovely green contours, but based upon cups and sand build-up from the bunkers, the pin is in the very narrow and very sloped middle far too often. If it's there, the play is long.
Five - Par 4

The hole is such that there is much room to play the hole.  In a number of ways the tee shot demands are very similar to three, but the landing area is fully in view and the do or die nature of the lake edge is far more cut and dried than the gunch to the right of number three.
 This green really feeds very much from left to right.  It is apparent and inviting from te fairway, and yes, I did pull off the shot but missed the 10 footer.  Short.

Six - Par 3
6 – A short to medium Par 3 with an enormous green.  A fine dune behind the green makes this hole visually spectacular.  The large green is simple to hit, but the task is to hit the proper portion of the green. I’m a little mixed about this hole for all but a few really cool pins, I’d call it a post card shot.
A nice little hole, near the clubhouse on a returning six hole loop, seemingly added to the original routing (to be shown later) in which one first glimpses again the Blue course with the eighteenth green adjacent and between the gap when one comes back to the seventh tee, A massive green, a short iron for most.
This view is actually up from the middle of the tees and is about 120.

Seven - Par 5

Very classically recognizable as a Coore & Crenshaw par 5 with all the sailing (tack-style) options to get to the green.  A large bunker on the right shoulder directs the tee shot, either play over or left of it to get your position.  No reason ever to go left on this tee shot, even in a hurricane.  For a three-shot Par 5 it will all come down to a precision wedge shot.  As a two-shotter, without a monster drive, you will need a curling shot to get it on in two, but it will need to be only for specific pins. I found this hole rather inviting and birdied it with a very challenging pin position first time out.  As a three shot hole, the second shot winding up in the left quarter of the fairway will almost always give you the preferred approach.  Second play, I missed my birdie putt.  A very friendly likeable hole if you just do what the visuals tell you to do. This looks way harder than it actually is.  Make birdie here.

Left edge of this bunker is just fine
 A nice little green complex with plenty of complexity.  With gravity at work, left sided pins are far more in play for the two-shot approach.

Nice transition from seven green to eight tee.
Eight - Par 3
A Gem of a Par 3 hole, mostly a short shot with a differing angle front (straight on) to angled (from the right). Lots of pins, again like number 4 another hole you’d like to play every pin position. Another birdie with another wedge to 3-4 feet first time out, missed 9 footer second try.  Another birdie hole.  Front third of the green probably most interesting shots with the angle form the back.

Nine- Par 4
Pin position and short grass short par 4, be cautious about the slopes, cute hole, nothing more, no strategy, all defence, left for left pin, right for right.  False left front.  It can be called unfair by some very easily.  Doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a par 4. I generally liked this hole, probably would lay it up to 50 – 120 if I wanted to guarantee a score. Don't go over, it's death. Fun but driving is a fool's errand.

11 – Hitting it in the bunkers unless you are against a forward lip is not a penalty, strange double fairway, to the right adds so many clubs and left doesn’t work for left green, so I guess you can call it a “Backwards Bottle” template.  You have to execute a more difficult tee shot to have a longer iron in.  Rees Jones built a version this hole as #11 at Huntsville National in the suburbs of Scranton, PA.  Doesn’t feel good either place, because it is backwards. Makes little sense.  I felt better playing out of the bunker that I would have up top because it was 3-4 less clubs.
12 – A bit awkward in a good way but another hole that probably will come off as unfair as the fairway slopes and the corner cannot be cut.
13 – A bunker to mess with you off the tee, but it’s irrelevant because you must have the angle on the third.  Not a two-shotter for many.  All these details get lost in the shuffle if everything about the hole dictates that teh hole must play in from a very small area.
15 – Another three shot Par 4, meh.  For most it is humourless and a tedium with no real strategy possible.  It is very long, plays uphill and has a perched green as well.
16 – So the property built a “Biarritz”.  Over the water, just like France.  But, it’s a silly one I’m going to rip apart because it has faults a public golfer should not encounter in his or her first Biarritz. If you hit the green I suppose you’re in the swale a lot.  The front pins, you might wind up there because you don’t want to be short.  The front is massive, OK.  The swale is deep.  OK.  The rear – there is a kicker on the back left that ruins many shots getting up there because they have no spin in most folks hands if it’s run up on the back tier, will come back to the swale. Couple this with only the back tee having a straight go at the green, every other tee comes from the left so if you are weaker, you more likely slice so the back tier is ridiculous for you. This hole was backed up both days and I’ll bet is backed up for the first group.
17 – Tee shot is a lot like the 16th at Pine Valley but not so in the forced carry aspect but in picking your carry line.  As you go right you are rewarded with a nicer angle.  It works, it’s quality architecture, it’s definitely one breather.
18 – Probably the most reachable Par 5 on the property by going with sheer abandon.  A feel good ending.  There is even a shorter way left of the massive left bunker, but hitting it in that bunker doesn’t keep you from making birdie, you can hit a lofted fairway wood like a 5 or a lofted rescue as you are likely to roll away from the face.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Nutshell American Resort Planning List

Bandon Dunes Resort –Four great courses, fine food, value

Turning Stone Resort – Three fine courses, lots of value, great lodging & food

Streamsong Resort – Two Very good courses, easy to reach, great food, coming up

Pinehurst Resort – So many courses, expensive

Kiawah Island Resort – Excellent main course, great lodging & setting

Broadmoor Resort – Solid Courses, Expensive, beautiful

Pebble Beach Resort – Very good courses, absurdly expensive

Greenbrier Resort – All round does well

Sea Island Resort – Location shines, over-service, decent courses

American Club Resort – Top course not the one you think, poor value, worth doing once

Turning Stone Resort - My Sleeper Choice. 2 courses, two good, 1 not so, value, great lodging