Tuesday, February 27, 2018

New Jersey State Update

Here's a revisit to an Old Post

Americans are by and large fascinated if not obsessed with lists and of course "The Best". I've rated courses for years, contributed to lists and defined groups of my own, finding it hard to say that course A is better than B if they are of similar merit. Top 100 lists for the world and the US more or less come out reasonably correct in the wash if many people contribute to them and biases go mostly by the wayside. Individual lists are to be taken with a grain of salt, they always reflect positive and negative preferences of the compiler.

The lists that are the most suspect are state by state lists as they are compiled for the major US magazines. The biggest fault is that they are far too heavily weighted by where the voters are A) Told to go and B) Choose to go. Choice A because someone has pre-selected the choices and B because of three separate but not so distinct reasons. One is that newer courses get disproportionate visits by first or casual visitors to an area and then those with established histories of being great and/or preferred architects get disproportionate endorsement.

Here’s a state I know pretty well my playlist is probably over 130

Golf Digest panelists (Must find latest iteration and edit)
(1) Pine Valley G.C.
(2) Baltusrol G.C. (Lower)
(3) Baltusrol G.C. (Upper)
(5) Somerset Hills C.C.
(4) Plainfield C.C.
(6) Ridgewood C.C.
(7) Galloway National G.C.
(9) Bayonne G.C.
(8) Liberty National G.C.
(16) Mountain Ridge C.C.
(12) The Ridge at Back Brook
(10) Essex County C.C.
(11) Trump National G.C., Bedminster (Old)
(14) Metedeconk National G.C.
(17) Hollywood G.C.
(13) Hidden Creek G.C.
(18) Trump National G.C. - Bedminster New
(15) Hamilton Farm G.C.
(19) Forsgate C.C. (Banks)
(20) New - Arcola C.C.,

2010 - Genesis of original topic
Pine Valley
Baltusrol Lower
Galloway National
Sommersett Hills
Ridge at Back Brook
Ridgewood (E&W)
Baltusrol Upper
Hidden Creek
Liberty National
Trump (Old)
Hamilton Farms
Atlantic City
Mountain Ridge
Pine Hill
Neshantic Valley
Shore Gate

This Humble Observer's View:
Pine Valley – inarguable world #1?

Plainfield – most unappreciated great course in America even with the maligned Tunnel Holes. Perhaps Ross's best set of greens, blows away the unending tedium of Mountain Ridge's Greens

(2a?) Sommersett Hills – Tillie’s quirkiest - but for me the second nine has a certain repetitive flow twice and #12 just doesn't thrill me at all so for me takes #3

Essex Coounty CC
Ridgewood (Championship)- below R@BB??? In what universe?
Hollywood – among very best “flat” courses
Galloway National – uneven but solid, worst greenhead flies in USA
Morris County - nice template course done in a very effective manner, a joy
Atlantic City – nice interpretive restoration - #GreenheadCentral
Hidden Creek – You've played them ...

(Now by alpha)
Alpine – deserves more respect
Baltusrol Upper – far more interesting than more famous bottom half
Bayonne – engineering feat. So what? Biggest US Flag anywhere?
Forsgate Banks - (Would be better with fairway bunkering)
Trump (Old) –Trump’s best, very good Fazio
Canoe Brook (N) – sorta fits in about here
Manasquan River
Montclair – four (4!) “nines”
Mountain Ridge – has its fans, wild unendingly tedious greens, overall uneven, 2nd nine blech land
Royce Brook West

Better than below +/- equal to above

Baltusrol Lower - famous and maladapted to 2018
Canoe Brook (S)
Echo Lake
Metedeconk – 27 holes of “Hard”

Better than below:
Fiddler’s Elbow (Forest)
Royce Brook East
Sand Barrens – 27 solid holes at shore
Scotland Run - somewhat modest public, far better than Shore Gate

- Others (ALL original top 25 GD)
Hamilton Farms – incredible mish-mash of design - very posh
Liberty National – nearly universally panned despite very posh
Neshantic Valley – nice neighborhood public Doak 3
Pine Hill (Now Trump NJ) – every Fazio cliché in the book Doak 4 at best
Ridge at Back Brook – very posh, Doak 4, but posh
Trump Bedminster New - Joyless - modern, politically correct tournament design

Booby Prize:
Shore Gate – definition of hideous - not posh, don't get this one at all

Monday, February 26, 2018

Update and Upcoming

Streamsong - Black 

Coming this week or next.

Gil Hanse gets to add his work next to the enfant terrible and the Gods of Architecture from a shared routing adventure.  Gil's Courses and the opinions of them are all over the map. I've known him almost 20 years, been a member of one of his best clubs, think he truly revels in pushing the envelope and creating controversy. He does it well.

I'm most looking forward to finding the plethora of unfairness that reportedly exists on the Black Course.

Concept of the Day: Non-Linear Punishment -  lack of proportionality for missing a shot. Miss little, punish little, miss a lot, punish a lot. Golf isn't meant to be fair, a part of its charm is the greatness of the recovery shot. I have five aces, but I'd prefer to tell you the story of my five best recovery shots (Given my game, there is way more than those five). But I digress as I often do.

Hanse along with Steve Smyers to a lesser degree each has probably taken the mantle of proponent of this concept from Pete and Alice Dye. Sometimes Steve's course are just plain hard, but often I say that Hanse and Smyers build the hardest courses yard for yard today.  Gil is on fire with business, Smyers, less so although Hanse has been doing a ton of renovation/restoration/re-interpretation work. At the other end of the spectrum is the all there in front of you/linear punishment which is ironically shared by Tom Fazio and The Gods of Design, whose names cannot be spoken.

Just kidding, it's Bill Coore - Ben Crenshaw. Their names can be spoken. And of course you knew who I meant. What each of these two design teams provide you with is a lack of controversy, a certain safeness, predictability, linear punishment, and a modicum of boredom because of all that. I rarely dislike any of their courses, but rarely does the blood boil or the heart stir. One moves too much dirt, one moves too little. Gil moves it so you cannot tell it's been moved.

Much dirt moved to build this:

What I expect to find at Streamsong Black is non-linear punishment.

Here is some Pete and Alice Dye for you. I don't have anything from L.A.C.C. for you, they don't like that.


Saturday, October 07, 2017

Back to the Home of Golf - Crail Old Comments


Been too long, but spent two weeks in Scotland. Highlights today and comments for Crail Balcomie, but more specifics to come. I will probably finally profile the Colleton Courses as the Nicklaus is about to re-open from re-grassing and a few very peculiar changes post Matthew to "Maintain Integrity" - I see a certain personal stamp -  by architect on retainer Jim Lipe. I have never somehow offered the Dye Course, but must take a few more photos prior.

So for Scotland - Coming or today:

  • Old Course at Crail (Balcomie) Here today
  • Walking the Old Course on a Sunday
  • Prestwick
  • Cruden Bay - even better than expected with high expectations
  • North Berwick West Links - also even better than remembered
  • Re-do at Alisa - very disappointing, I'm in minority, but will tell you why it's a fail for golf
  • (.....)Turnberry Hotel renovation -  a fail for SPG
  • Nicklaus CRP
  • Dye CRP
So, in two weeks, I didn't play much, haven't been walking much because of a wonky knee. Tested it out at Pine Valley when evacuated for the hurricane and it did OK. Without being too technical, not amenable to a scope not really a TKRA problem, but other than getting sore and swollen, even took two days in a row.

Balcomie Crail

Sub 6000 yards with six Par three holes, but not a pitch-and-putt affair by any standards, it probably is a hickory payer's dream. The Old Course at Crail is as fun and quirky as ever, a good first stop, Gil's Course happily and very popularly booked solid, more than glad to play the Old because sole previous play was the same day as playing St. A's Old with Renee for her first time that same day. (R&A was in St. A's plus Dunhill prep prevented any golf at St. Andrews, original play for first 3 days) Two Medals were being contested, so it was a little slow giving ample time for a look-see. I'm not taking as many photos any more and Crail suffered the fewest photos because of being the first Course and low light. Seeing what was there on the ground proved how much a disservice playing 36 in a day on two different 18-hole courses really can be. Crail sanely keeps these greens no faster than nine. I'll be back again any time.

The Par 3's - Rather Notable
The Par three holes at Crail offer so much.

Starting with the blind third where having the knowledge of contours is invaluable, as well as a requirement to bring it in from the left (Sanely away from water's edge. Brilliant hole! A modified punchbowl affair, but far more interesting due to the contours. The hole had stuck so well in my memory, that I hit it in the right place and came up 8 feet short on line off the tee. Just lovely contours, perfect for a blind shot over a dune, this is truly a great hole and a major exhibit why blindness should remain a part of the game. Back pin from 2007 seen on 12 tee here:

The seventh at the first turn is a relatively modest and raised green affair, the least memorable of the six. Be sure to hit it far enough. Bunkering left keep you honest, still a fine hole many courses would gladly swap for on of their threes.

Everyone remembers the elevated and often into the wind 13th, short with a driver (I'm 66 now). A steep escarpment and elevation can make it seem impossible and it is for an ill-struck shot, you'll be in the organic matter of the face. Rather a small and contoured green considering, a four is just fine here.


Immediately following is "The Cave (Unforgettable and following the hole) a drop-shot hole with a crested or saddled green which is magnificently fronted by a very receptive bunker. At 145 yards, into the bunker, I was pleased with a four. One can hit the green and the ball can still easily find the bunker A hole to study for all architects considering another mundane drop shot hole, you CAN build a great one, come study how the green (Which cannot be run at 13 on the stump) makes the hole and is far better than anything that runs a fast green speed. See below (2007):

The Famous Spion Kop is the sixteenth, an uphill, often into wind hole that requires a truly committed shot. The shape of the green again determines play. Being domed as well as 1.5 clubs uphill, the ball does not really run up you must carry boldly.

Eighteenth Quarry is a fine and demanding finishing hole with Gorse right and a plethora of bunkers left, one other example along with Pasatiempo and Boston Golf Club for how a Par 3 eighteenth can test you. So easy to lose it right here and even if you hit the green.

The Par 5's - Pleasant Enough - and a twist
The second, from the medal tees is actually quite a hole with an angled tee shot and North Sea hard right. Even the visitor's tee provides you the thrilling blindness of second shot. Proximity to two other holes left gives one a fair bailout to the left, but a large dune on the left of the fairway and shared bunkers complicate matters. Coincidentally, the 11th and 12th, the other Par 5's are the shared fairway. A rather clever bit sharing the width of the three long holes. on two, long can be dreadful. Very clever hole

Eleven is up the hill from a somewhat lowest point to one of the highest in that particular part of the course, first thirteen or so holes. Plays long uphill and shares a double green, the back of which is a Biarritz-y manner for the Par 4 eighth, a superb hole. Shared fairway right with 12 over to two, clever. Remember this is the sixth oldest course in the world! Scene of tee with great width from 2007 (there is a real Loo, not a porta-potty now for the sharp-eyed)

Twelve plays back down the hill and a burn comes prominently into play about 100 out from green front. Green set a bit on a table top sort of ploy, very modern holes still use this strategy as if it were fresh. The twist of course is the triple fairway on the three longest holes allowing forgiveness ona hard swing - fun matters here.

The Par 4's - a few highlights
The first is potentially reached with driver but a burn and a cavernous bunker in a grassy dune makes you think again and play hybrid - wedge. Big green, semi-blind very deep on the right. Perfect starter, tasty, making you hungry for more.

Four is the classic "(False moniker) Cape" tee shot. Greed is a lost ball, a lesser hole, but still fun. Birdie ....

Five - Again - classic "(False moniker) Cape" tee shot. Greed is a lost ball, the elevation is deceiving. too far left and you're yelling fore to the Par 3 sixth players where greenside bunkers double as fairway bunkers on this hole. Clever. Hard. This is a bitch to par. From 2007:

Seven - very clever land use, a plateau drops off 60+ feet  with 150 to go, but you can drive the green over the wall (all blind). You don't tee off until you see players on the next tee. Said wall integral and pithy. Not so well-defined in the 2007 photo here.

Eight is the architectural masterpiece of the fours. Left-turning elbow hole to the aforementioned double green, a Biarritz from this side. Simply thrilling.

Nine & Ten show the variety of truly excellent holes available under 350 yards and still fun and challenging due to ANGLES.

Fifteen reached by less than driver at 265 rather often. Or not. Hole high right yielded a birdie.

Seventeen tee is the Blog header photo from the previous visit with Gorse in full bloom.

That's it for today.

Routing - **
Overall quality of individual holes, par 3's, 4's  and 5's- 3 -** 4 - *, 5 - *
Cohesion of the course - **
Green Complexes - **
Bunkering schema - *
Conditioning - **
Appropriate Vegetation - ***
Ideally - **
The rest of the Club - **
Milieu - **

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rory In, Tiger Out, Clubs and balls

Rory McIlroy, #2 OWGR but the real #1.  News from my friends at Callaway Golf that one Rory McIlroy is playing GBB Epic Zero (That's the lowest spin model), fairway woods and Apex custom irons without compensation. Whether this is experimental, his choice or working on a permanent deal, he seems to be using them well. I would assume that the Vokey wedges and Titleist Pro V1x balls aren't leaving the bag any time soon, if ever. It is also confirmed that the market share report which tracks all golf products 7 of the last 8 months Callaway Chrome soft is the top selling ball.

Bridgestone has started to run ads featuring Tiger Woods, I figure because he had promised them that he'd be back by now. Most of you know that I've doubted his ability to return at all at this point, medically speaking. First off, you just don't have back surgery for back pain, it's just not the treatment. Bulging discs don't cause back pain, it's been proven by peer-reviewed studies by reputable back specialists using "Evidence-based" studies (The highest accuracy, specificity and reliability) to be factual. Three surgeries suggest serious complications up to and including chronic infection, but we will never know. In 2008 I was called racist, #hater, etc. for suggesting it would take him two years to win another Major  He surely proved me wrong. Their 4 premium balls allow the most precise choice.

I've been ball testing as usual and have some latest release Pro V1 and Pro V1x, direct from the rep and found the x 5 yards longer of the two off the tee. Both are great balls and neither spins too much where the Pro V1 used to spin too much, the other day 18 holes in the wind, it was not a problem as the old V1 had been.

Callaway Chrome Soft and Callaway Chrome Soft x have been excellent balls with a clear difference being that the "x" model spinning higher. This is one of two balls I mostly play, the regular Chrome Soft ball. It's very versatile, the compression being very low (60) appeals to nearly all golfers, although most need not spend the money for a premium ball. The x spins a bit more for workability and higher ball flight.

The other ball that regularly finds its way into my bag is TaylorMade. TP5 and TP5x are the current release, the preferred  and Preferred X being the last release. As with other balls, the x tends to be "Harder/Firmer" and spins less.

Srixon testing is over, the pair of the Z-Star and Z-Star XV are also very durable if both comeout on the firm side, probably even the Z-Star too firm for my tastes.

The Kirkland ball was short-lived as it sold out quickly but will likely be back as it has gotten all lawyered up and that story isn't over by a long shot.

Titleist is the #1 ball in USA golf because every aspiring professional gets free balls and starting at $500 cash. That's why so many stick with them.

So ... For you premium ball-seekers  - Bridgestone (4 premium balls!), TaylorMade (including Lethal - a top ball with slight loss of distance - available in a 50-pack for $100 USD garage box), Callaway, Srixon even Kirkland if it returns makes zero difference in game.You will like what you like, but You do not get any more ball for that $5 USD/dozen to play the Titleist. If you are a professional, your bank account balance may vary.

One of the best, most consistent low-handicap club golfers I know, not afraid to play you for more money that I can afford to lose will pull out Callaway SuperSoft balls. Don't call him out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Down South

I went down south for a bit. It's a different kind of Golf than Boston , Lehigh or the CalClub, but I learned to play on Bermuda surface and love it.

Did you know Bagger Vance (on TGC last nite) was filmed at the Colleton River Dye Course?

I will show more soon as I feel it is not really well-known, and despite living on it; feel I ought ought to show it off.

Stay tuned.

This is on the second tee

 This is from the clubhouse to the ocean, We have 11 holes you can see to the ocean.

Kick me in the rear so I get on it ...