Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Kiawah Island Club

Talk about a great home club to play golf. Two radically different architectural approaches with two outstanding efforts. One of the best Fazio golf courses The River Course and Tom Watson's collaboration with Charles Arrington known as Cassique. Add to this reduced cost access to the Ocean course by Pete Dye - arguably the best, certainly top 5 public access USA courses - and you have a great two fer plus a bonus. Not done yet, a sister course in Ireland Doonbeg completes a pretty solid offering.

I'll apologise early for the quality of the Cassique Photos as the day of play was fairly hazy, they had to be massaged pretty firmly.

There are those that prefer Fazio's River to Watson's Cassique, the club is better for the choice. I fall into the Cassique camp. Having the same architect build a pair of courses is more common, but I think the better modern offings have split the architectural duties. I have gained appreciation for just how much effect the owner/developer has on the outcome. I still have huge issues with the routing of Fazio's courses in general for which there is little if any excuse when that team's courses are "created" in Old Tom's own words, straight from his book. Very loosely translated, whatever features there are on site is bulldozed away to allow a clean canvas for construction whereas some architectural teams go to the opposite and sometimes self-defeating end of using what is on site and not enhancing the property enough to create an even better golf course (see sidebar). This routing shines and is fully walkable and a very professional caddie corps is available at both courses.

At the River Course a very interesting set of greens is created in a fairly similar way to greens created by the Fazio team elsewhere. Many small internal contours might escape the casual glance.

There are a forgiving area or two on many of the greens, but having recently toured the River Course with literally 18 show-off pins in one seating, how to look at greens on courses on any given day was our gift. It can be revolutionary in one's architectural education. Hard isn't necessarily good, but it's so important to look at green contours for future plays.

In general terms, the greens on River are not classically strategic in the sense that play angles create reward to certain pins, but rather that distance control and overall precision into large greens is the strategy. This is in keeping with the tenets of the modern American game. Many times, best illustrated on the 480 yard long seventh, one finds a deep green perhaps 55 yards or so with crossing or intruding ridges. These are sometimes fully across sometimes not; they create subtle parcels of green which are so rewarded.

The fairway, however being perhaps 65+ yards wide really offers little reward for a particular tee shot placement on any given day. Eventually, your finishing point on the green, with attendant knowledge of internal green contours, is what the demand is and on a private course with a wide variety of handicap separation, this is a great idea to satisfy all. It certainly is more egalitarian in many ways.

We therefore find very fast, very true greens with flat areas, but several Sunday spots wherein more micro contours come into play. It certainly is a wonderful way of getting the job done if fast, firm conditions and good turf quality is in the budget. This cannot be done cheaply or under varying conditions, it is absolutely paramount to have conditions for a design ideation in these circumstances.

Cassique on the other hand uses much more severely sloping and contoured green complexes to get the job done. This approach is far less dependent on a single set of agronomic parameters to test players of all skill sets. This can lead to a misconception that I have heard from many a player including those who have played each of these courses many a time. That would be "Cassique is not as hard as it looks". I would say that if conditions are soft and benign and the pin positions more forgiving, than this is true. However, if slow receptive greens are present on the River course that it would be the less demanding as the smaller features would not be as dramatic nor severe under those circumstances. Two very distinct ways of getting the job done

The River Course architecture at the finish bogs a little as three parallel holes are built in faux dunes with less visual variety, especially after playing the stunning par 5 13th.

Par 5 #13 - one of the best on the course due to second shot options. Location of tee shot not as critical, but driving down the left side gives biggest boost and best approach for a two shot try. Challenge teh bunker and reap a reward.

14 and 15 tees

Par 5 sixteenth

Seventeen, including a show-off pin

Heading Home to the magnificent clubhouse

The exciting seventeen-eighteen finish likely removes that bit of blandness in design from most players minds.

The Fazio Team has a strong following for the "Framing" given the golfer. The idea is to guide the player around a course and provide a road map for play. Landscape Architectural ideals achieve maximum beauty and that is a strong positive for Fazio designs which one will find on virtually every one of their efforts with the concept of providing the owner/client eighteen "signature holes" (Again from Fazio's own book.) . The most interesting Fazio courses add further details such as I have noted as regards the green contours.

An interesting design concept is to often provide trouble in the form of bunkers and other hazards as a message to go the opposite way where strategic concepts might often dare a golfer to go as close as possible to said hazards for maximum rewards.

The eleventh hole as an example provides a bunker complex on the right which saves the golfer from a worse fate wherein the left side of the fairway provides a more preferred approach.

The integrity of hole-to-hole design quality at Cassique only suffers from a mild case of deja vu as regards the green contours on the par threes - and I am being very tough in rendering that opinion. There is variety of club and degree of severity and size of steps there, but a general staircase shape of the par 3 greens is seen in the last three examples at Cassique.
Seven is seen further below
The Thirteenth

The Sixteenth

Wind direction adds variety from day to day for sure and overall the two course quality levels are indiscernible to the individual not well versed in architectural principles which is the overwhelming majority of golfers - interestingly including most highly proficient players. That's an essay all in itself and I am walking away from that sleeping cur right now!

Personally, I think I would prefer Cassique day-in-and-day-out, but that's me. There is no right answer, just your own.

I will show the "The Cape Hole". Not to be pedantic, the prototypical hole that is considered a Cape is the fifth at Mid Ocean in Bermuda. It has two very distinct features but in common lore and even to most who fancy themselves a bit architecturally savvy it is the less obvious that has been labeled "Cape".

"Biting off what you can chew" is a good description to what most think of as a Cape. That part is a tee shot that allows a myriad of choices that require distance and direction precision to safely hit the fairway. That is what is generally known as the Cape Hole. However where the green sticks out as a cape into the water or other hazard is the true cape. Similarly a "tongue of grass jutting into a bunker" is the "cape" of a "cape and bay" bunker arrangement.

The Cape tee shot is what is usually seen. Most golfers think a Cape green is too demanding, so we rarely see it in its natural state. The old 17th at Congressional where Tom Lehman lost his USGA Open is a great example of a cape green.

At River the carry pretty much determines all as there is much bailout room to the left or safe side of the fairway; at Cassique, this is not at all the case, missing long can cost you a full stroke or more with your tee shot. This is however traded off for the player as if one tries to carry to the fairway and fail, fairly receptive waste bunkers may give you a heroic chance at redemption (that greatest of all golf outcomes - the successful recovery shot). Short at the cape tee shot at River and it's re-tee.

17th at Cassique - a panorama from the tee showing a myriad of tempting options. The bush is key to selection and is a good reference. Sergio Garcia directly drove and held the green from the back tees on his visit. A carry of some 300 yards.

From the forward tee the shape of the fairway is clearly seen and this tee still offers a very nice set of options for the player who plays those tees (something the short hitter or woman often laments - lack of strategic intent - is handled very well here). Note carefully the shape of the shore as it relates to the position of the bush seen from the panorama creating highly varied options even without the wild card of changing winds.

A good view of the last 70 yards or so emphasizing a bit of buffer which exists. It yielded the redanman a birdie from 155 the last visit.

Make no mistake, this is a powerful one-two punch as good as any private club has to offer. A few photos of great features are included from each course.

Featuring more Cassique:
Cassique #5 - This is one of an alternate pair in a different sort of routing. An elevated tee and windswept conditions make for extraordinarily exacting shot requirements. Brilliant.

Cassique #7 - First look at the low country, a very demanding shot, perhaps a long iron or rescue for most with an obliquity to the green contours increasing with tees of increased length. Add wind and you're on your own and a bit clenched.

Cassique #8 - a wonderful short and even drivable par 4 but execution is a must.

seen on approach from a conventional tee shot

Cassique Eleven is illustrated as a very fun and interesting mostly three shot par 5 that I think is fun for all skill levels to play. The tee shot offers strategic options including carrying all the left trees and bunkers (at least 295 from the back tee) to various degrees of playing more or less to the right to allow maximum angle to the chosen second landing area. The green is well-contoured as are all at Cassique and placement of second for approach provides reward for the club golfer who can keep a good mental picture of the green contours. Water is in play over the back left, but that can be taken out of play with skillful strategic play. Overall the tee shot is fairly forgiving with an interesting second and third shots unless you want a two shot approach. Then that layup must be tackled carefully.

Cassique Eighteen with a backdrop of the lovely English Arts and Crafts Clubhouse, one of the absolute finest I have ever visited and one of my personal favorites anywhere. It is of superior architectural design and detail.

Routing: Cassique - follows a fairly interesting progression around the property. Some housing on the back, but unobtrusive and a nice walk requiring a short cart ferry from 9 to 10. Well integrated and devoted to the two disparate styles, it works well for a very pleasurable walk. River - several tunnels to reach a few pods of holes (e.g. 3-5) and the simple run back-and-forth through the faux dunes. In addition to the 9-10 cart ferry, one is used between 7 and 8 and some walks such as 9 tee are backward. More homogeneous in consistency of course character, certainly the more conventional of the two and one of the Fazio studio's better routings.

Overall Quality of Individual Holes: Rather high overall even compared to only other new private courses. Again, what a pair of courses.

Par 5's: Cassique - a very good set with two or arguably three links inspired and one memorable low country hole. I prefer 15 the most and it also is most demanding with ever present wind. A persnickety drive and lay-up with a severely angled green is all that waits. Very terse questions are asked and in dormant season, only the biggest bombers have a shot in two. Then, consider a very intriguing green complex with a burn, a spectacle complex blinding the green and this is a super set. River - Fazio's cape tee 8th is a classic of this type and one of the team's favorite design done well. Generally the fives reward the longer driver. The exception is the exceptional thirteenth well-documented. Perhaps one of the team's best fives, a drive left yields more safety and length for all who go that way and perhaps the most rumpled green on the property awaits. Water dictates a clear go-no go decision, perhaps too black and white for some. Being critical in discussion may suggest a too-long approach for the third (laid up short of the water) as being penal for the shorter player.

Par 4's: Cassique - Ranging from the potentially drivable eighth to several mid to long fours, the overall distribution is tilted toward the interest of strategies and variety without going for the seemingly required super-long "strong par 4" characteristic of the modern game and design. Most of the greens dictate angles rather than long approaches. Given Watson's love of Links, this is not a surprise. The personal favorites of mine tend to back this concept up as the fours as a group are tightly bunched in appeal. River - Fairly and solidly distributed throughout the length spectra, the greens generally tend to be more demanding the shorter they get with some of the longer par 4's having enormous greens where hitting the green is no an absolute reward. I must admit that I'm not particularly a fan of long par 4's; true to form seven stands out as relatively uninteresting to me. Make no mistake - this a very fun set of fours to play.

Par 3's: Cassique - five available for play, the downhill version of the fifth is my favorite as the shot is short (accessible to all), very demanding and exposed to the slightest breath of wind on any day. The looks of the remaining three are all quite varied even if the green prescription is somewhat similar. Range short to rescue clubs. River - quite a remarkable set with #3 having a modified Biarritz influence with an added right-to-left tilt. It may be too demanding for some tastes with a tree almost dictating the required fade shot needed to get close. Two water holes and a marsh hole complete the set; range of clubs is mid to long and depth of greens can dictate even longer. An interesting shortie requires some finagling on a given day but is doable. Very demanding set.

Course Cohesion: Cassique - two distinct styles transition well given their disparate origins, as well done as possible due to feature styles, actually a treat. River - Other than the back and forth faux dunes section, very much solidly maintained and a great experience.

Green Complexes: Perhaps the most defining difference. Cassique - Larger sweeping and more severe slope changes, but likely challenging at all green speeds. River - Many micro contours that more and more define the difficulty as green speeds increase. A rather interesting set of modern championship greens, among Fazio's top sets.

Bunkering Schema: Cassique - Generally strategic, rarely penal, varied with the inherent hole style. River - Many well-placed bunkers to enhance shot values of ever-increasing difficulty. All the bunkers fit well into their respective styles.

Conditioning: Ridiculously good. Even with dormancy, seemingly never a bad lie or bumpy putt.

Trees: Cassique - the demanding short par 4 8th and par 5 11th have trees in play on otherwise very high risk shots requiring even higher precision from the most skilled players. Links style holes appropriately very much open and devoid of foliage. River - Double hazard of an enormous oak and inside dog-leg bunker on 18. Tree on par 3 third described above, otherwise superb specimen trees used for framing throughout.

Rest of Club: Unparalleled pair of clubhouses. Why ever go home?

As I began, this is a tough club to match up against. Place this on the wildlife sanctuary that is Kiawah Island with its 10 mile unbroken south-facing beach and it's a breathtakingly good place for all ages. (Don't forget the Ocean Course is more or less included, too.)

This is arguably America's broadest appealing and finest golf community.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Post your comments on Preference here

Personally, given all things equal, I'd rather walk and push or pull a trolley as I cannot really carry more than 4-5 clubs, without killing my back. Unless I know the caddie or get a kid who is just a mule, they mostly get in the way and try to over-serve you. However had two good one recently one at a private course and .... I had a great one at The Ocean Course who very recently retired from the NSA and was willing to talk ......

Add your comments, please!

Travels - almost reached my limit

I love to travel, always have, but due to two professional meetings, an anniversary and a get-together I have stayed appx. 25 hotel nights in the past six weeks or so. Part of this was a trip to Charleston , S.C. (never been before) and Kiawah Island and I'll have a little report or seven from that. I also spent a few days in NYC separately without an overnight stay.

Things that I have learned from this trip or have had further reinforced by the trip:

1-The best hotels are several orders of magnitude better than very good hotels. Recent stays at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, CA and The Sanctuary in Kiawah have more than reinforced this. I don't tend to stay at the real top end all that often any more (and rarely at full fare because I'm a savvy traveler), but a variety of factors converged and I was fortunate to do so. The level of service is almost overwhelming at times, but the best service is unobtrusive and efficient.

2-I really do not like this current trend for pillow top mattresses that has gotten out of control. We have a small pillow top at home, but it is way less noticeable than on the top luxury beds. You sit way too high at the side of the bed, for one thing. You also feel like you are being swallowed up by a bin of laundry and it all sticks to you and gets hot and is a royal pain in the ass.

3-I hate to tip. The process of it, that is. Goddamn it all, I do not see a reason that I have to buy my way in and out of a hotel each time that I come and go. Places will hit you with up to five people to tip. Some are seemingly added just to add service. Tips don't get recorded and the US Government is denied well-needed tax money. Soon we'll have to fix the next-to-blow-up Health Care which will make the banks look like child's play. Health Care is a right, not a privilege. (Plus, no one ever tipped me for surgery. If not tipping your surgeon to do a good job, who?) I don't want to deny anyone a living, but pay your taxes, dammit.

4-I do not need someone to park my car, rental or personal, Mother PLEASE!, I'd rather do it myself! to recall an old commercial. This also adds to the stack of ones needed for number three.

5-More than ever, expensive food and expensive wine is providing exponentially diminished returns. However, I really do like to charge food and beverages to my room; I always round a bill + tip to an full dollar amount, it is easier to remember what you added so no one can fudge it after you've left. If you do want a fine meal, always seek out a Relais & Chateau property.

6-The second drink you order from the same bartender is always stronger. Period.

7-My wife likes Sidecars and I like the Ocean Course's Ryder Cup Cocktail. Both are real ass-kickers. Still, Gin & T is numero uno by far.

8-The Emperor likes a Negroni and so do I. Good Italian cocktail - a really good one.

9-The Ocean Course is probably the best course you can just pay and play in the U.S.A. Caddie included and they tell you to give the caddie $65 extra per bag, I like that "It's this much". I don't mind that and I highly encourage such transparency. No pecking order for the equals, either.

10-The Ryder Cup Bar is the best place at a public course in America for a post round drink (maybe private, too). St. Andrews Bay Fairmont is a similar place in Scotland on a high bluff with miles of views that are breathtaking. The Ryder Cup Bar is nestled up against the Ocean and the 18th green. And the servers are all topless and naturally endowed.

Back to the tipping thing, it really got old with all that traveling and when the hotel or resort added fees for service daily it was a pleasure just to carry the hotel card key in the pocket and nothing else. At golf resorts, I might now actually choose a place that adds to my daily bill a service charge. I am not cheap. I just do not like handling money. I don't do it. I always use a credit card for everything I can and sometimes $20 can last me a month, especially now that one medical center added charge card payment for hospital lunches, it's a piece of cake.

Our club advances us cash at the starters window for caddies and we just pay it at the end of the month. That's really great. No more trips to the ATM.

New York city is the worst, though. Everyone has his or her hand out. I go to NYC for a show my wife yearly and the hotel is always the Waldorf-Astoria. The most overrated hotel in the world, BTW. Crap beds, crap rooms, no views, no one can find the luggage and you pay for it three times in and three times out. The room is never ready checking in and storage adds up even more. The Bull & Bear does do a great steak, just ask the Emperor. I now always go to the W-A with "Silver Dollars" to tip, it drives them crazy. Some of the staff at the hotel is so privileged as to have flatly refused them, I just put them back in my pocket, spends the same as far as I can tell. I usually need two rolls per trip, it's worth it. Canada and the UK are great with their CAD$ and ₤ coins. Switzerland has a handy 5 Franc coin, too.

Stop me quick ...

Why am I supposed to tip $20-25 for a $100 bottle of wine on top of 300% markup? Should I leave an extra $20 for the guy that poured the water? You can do the Gooogley-thing for tipping and find these trumped up sites falsely populated by waiters who are pretending to be customers and are suggesting 30% on the food + wine + tip now. B.S. That'll fly in this economy.

The French have this one right - Servis Compris. S.C. on the bottom of the menu, and if you really liked the help leave a few € coins on the table. Pine Valley is no tipping allowed for the staff. Anything that the French and Pine Valley both do must be the correct thing to do.

Back to golf and travel now

I shall have something on the Ocean Course and the other courses at Kiawah Resort - save the Oak Point course by Clyde Johnson. In order of stimulation and quality:

Ocean (Dye) ***
Turtle Point (JWN)
Cougar Point (Player)
Osprey Point (Fazio)

p.s. I was joshing about the topless servers at the Ryder Cup Bar. We actually had a fellow ......

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A.W. Tillinghast reveals and implies

From November 16, 1913, Albert Warren Tillinghast writing in the Philadelphia Record (Joe Bausch)

“On Thursday a number of prominent Philadelphians accepted the invitation of the Pine Valley Country Club (sic) and visited the new course in Sumner, N.J. As they stepped from the train they saw something which caused them to marvel. We must remember those early days when some one said:

Now open your mouth and abut your eyes,
And I’ll give you something to make you wise,”

Which we did and on opening the eyes and shutting the mouth again we found a sweet tid-bit which pleased us immensely.

Although they were profoundly impressed by the first five holes, they were destined to reach the ridge near the sixth green before fully appreciating the vastness and grandeur of this valley of the pines. As they stood there the magnificent panorama held them in its spell and I think the thoughts of them all may be expressed in the exclamation of one ”I never dreamed of it!” There was the bright green of the course snaking its way through the somber masses of scrubbed trees, browned grass and white sand, which made the green more brilliant by contrast.”

This is all-important context, especially the last paragraph. Many speculate about Pine Valley in many ways but one area of most importance to me is the original use of trees in the design. Other than driving long enough on the first to reach the corner and grab a glimpse of the unreceptive green, trees do not and pretty much have not dictated any real strategic nature of the course. Tillinghast in his writings about Pine Valley has commented on the greatness of the recovery shots available at Pine Valley. The ability to recover from one's mistakes in life and as mirrored in golf are paramount.

One modern dictum applied to Pine Valley is that of Splendid Isolation a concept that I think is much misunderstood. The original design again as Tillinghast has penned (in the teens, mind you) involved a luxurious routing such that one could not play from the wrong fairway. This was accomplished by widely separating the holes - and as indicated by the "panorama from the sixth green" mentioned above - apparently not by corridors of trees and forest.

I for one prefer long views over a golf course to the corridors of memorial trees and horticultural gardens that golf courses in America seem to have become. Lehigh Country Club, my home club has also become a series of tree-lined corridors without them dictating strategy to the greater degree as well. Beautiful, gently rolling land is best left uncluttered with phalanges of trees everywhere and views of adjacent holes do not just expose the overall beauty of the land but also protect teh golfer by making others aware of their presence.

Most classically designed courses in the USA were constructed without an abundance of trees. That is not to say that the trees all should go, but "If in doubt, Cut it out" I am wont to say.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Entourage the short and long of it

Over at the Media Critic.

Keeping the blog true to golf.

Other non-golf critiques there, too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Strategic Lessions #1 The Twelfth

Lessons in strategy:

Crudely drawn using the Hagley Aerial and memory this is as close as I get get to show how the 12th once looked. The yellow line shows the approximate tree line today and the two more faint lines show visibility then (left) and now(right). The most lower bunker is indeed still in place but was once in the near middle of the fairway rather than the edge of the woods.

From the middle of the fairway today:

A change in strategic concept, once allowing a direct line of view to the centre of the green from the tee, one cannot see the green at all from the tee, especially the left/back one. Enticing the long-hitter to bite off more than one can chew is the entire point of the view of the green.

Oblique views:

Going for the green and failing yields a shot to the green in its narrow orientation, a great risk/reward for a match play situation. A great hole (was once) even grater!

The approach from the (safe) right side

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rustic Canyon

A feel for the vastness of the canyon.

I've been a little slow to visit Gil's work in California despite many an invitation from the Emperor, but finally made it in 20-60 knot winds last week. A surprisingly sloped piece of ground perhaps 150 feet from one end to the other it avoids a strict up and back routing and there are some great features and great holes out there.

Most of you have played it so I'll probably be a little heavy on the photos and light on the prose. Biggest criticism I have is par 5 at #1, #9, #10 but thankfully not one at #18. Gil really likes par 5's at #1 (Boston, Rustic, Applebrook, Crail/Craighead) and I generally give him a pass on that point, but I really don't care for par 5 first holes. Too many a times in my youth and beyond I have seen players wait to go for it and then top it, shank it, foozle it and on some days really stink up the next shot or two. Or hole or five. This is a routing feature I personally think limits the flow of the course and course of play. #1 and #9 & 10 are all fine holes, but starting and finishing nines I prefer fours but do not mind a three for #9 or #10 or #18. The standard of a starting par 4 of moderate difficulty is a plus for me. Even a hole that does not require a driver is fine, but a potentially driveable #1 also offers the same problem(s).

I really liked #1 it was a cousin to the fantastic #12 at French Creek, Gil's most difficult piece of ground with which to work, but it shares several features - the smallish green with surrounds functioning as green and the wash/ditch creating angles and reward.

The inviting tee shot - cross one bunker, avoid wash in distance.

The player coming up short of the first from the right fairway and the demands of that approach.

The preferred features of a left fairway approach either second or third shot.

The driveable Bottle Hole variant third. Downwind is rather easy to do it with firm fast conditions.

Right-side trouble on second at number ten

... ... and the Hell's Half Acre to carry

The perhaps toughest-of-all eleventh

... ... ... even without such winds as we encountered

Thirteenth green complex

Fifteenth Green complex (enhanced for detail)

Leave it to the Emperor and the redanman to find a Scot to play with. Alister of Troon on the 17th tee

There are five par 3's.
Four - On last week's play (166) 9i downwind to a very interesting set of green and surrounds contours, mostly blind. A wonderful hole.

Six - (220)5i downwind to a swale-fronted, mostly right-left, back front, contoured green, semi-blind, again a way better than average hole.

Eight - (127) a very controlled 50% 8i punch shot. A quartering into/right-left strong wind with a very treacherous left pin on a turret green - perhaps the most demanding shot of all the threes that day. Reminiscent of Applebrook 9 and 11 features, but its own hole. Perhaps my favorite.

Fifteen - (150) uphill into similar wind to #8, but a massive stepped green by comparison. A very soft, low running five did not work to get close but yielded par due to a tremendous lag putt at teh hands of my new plumber's neck Taylor Made Fontana. Green is unique to course and similar to other criticised unique greens such as 7 Olympic Lake with its three distinct levels. A little out of place.

Seventeen - (190) downhill and downwind, left to right a punch 7i went over. A little mound in front comes into play to slow, speed or re-direct the ball. In 60 knot winds, lady luck is involved, in fact predominates.

Notable variety in the fours from the unreachable in wind 452 eleventh to the drivable third and twelfth, both downwind. Approach shots ranged from pitch back to the green on three to 16* rescue, 5i runner on 11. Included were all varieties of shots, most concerning the golfer's ability to control spin, shape and flight. Especially flight.

Five fives - 1(d), 5(i), 9(i), 10(i) and 13(i) either downwind or into the wind. Five was dead into wind as was 13, 9 crossing right and into and 10 changing from cross/into to full balls to the wind. A hard crossing right to left wind might have been an interesting twist although I haven't come up with where yet, just haven't given it any thought. The use of the wind in play is well-varied and I doubt it is ever very calm there on site, but our day was in a Santa Anna - when the fires were going on (and we were west and north of them so we were unaffected). Humidity was about 3% as is typical of SA conditions, just like a windy Denver foothills day.

Kudos to Gil's design associate Jim Wagner and design consultant Geoff Shackelford for the time spent on site. Emperor told me of his inputs as well so two big thumbs up.

The one feature I really didn't get or like was the contouring of the landing area on sixteen. At least downwind - where you want to land is very narrow and repelling on the left with has unplayable all over the right side and a right-sided wasted bunker. One can try a massive carry left (risking desert wash), risk the mound left or blow it right or boringly lay up. Still thinking about that one.
(sorry it's blurry - wind, you know)
Further back ...

Revisiting this in 2011 I have a new appreciation that I did not get at teh time of this visit. I'll head back to re-look as I was fixated down the left side for some reason.

Overall Rustic Canyon plays more as a Links course than most advertising themselves to be such in the USA. You have to play shot after shot down, curving, running and cunning if you are to score at all. The conditioning for an average day was to die for. Traditional American golfers, especially the card-and-pencil type are not going to like the course as well and some unaware of strategic implications are going to say such things as "There is not enough demand on the tee shot.


This golf course comes very close to being the course in America allowing golf "as it was intended" certainly very close to alone in that group available to anyone with $60 who walks up.

Rancho Santa Fe - Max Behr

-broad view of nine green and comfortable clubhouse

A classic Course I hadn't played before that was way better than I was led to believe it might be and impressed me a great deal. SoCal has sadly been very unkind to its Classical Architects.

A quick Tour, research being done for the story. It appears I have much research to do.


















highlighted contours of fabulous green


Routing: Following a little valley, the routing is very simple - up the hill, down the hill, back up to start. Overall elevation changes are not great, but terrain is used well with inclusion of natural features wherever possible

Overall Quality of Individual Holes: Two par 5's are long, nearly 600 yards and the eighth is a very interesting mid-length hole allowing a fine drive to be rewarded with a very attractive uphill shot to a very interesting well sited green, a real top notch hole. The long holes are made interesting by the quality of the greensites and dictate strategies.

Par 4's range from driveable 10th to long uphill eleventh with all manners of interesting doglegs and hazard negotiations.

Par 3's are 8iron to rescue length to very clever demanding green complexes with available bail outs.

Course Cohesion: Near 100%

Green Complexes: World-class

Bunkering Schema: Highly strategic but not particularily penal.

Conditioning: Firm, fast greens appropriate for contours can be made impossible if desired. No stress seen.

Trees: Rarely in play

Rest of Club: Staff is not smothering, very laid back attitude for a spectacular neighborhood.

Where do I sign up?