Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Leaving Las Vegas (perhaps for good)


'nuff said!

Thank goodness there is a nice peaceful Westin there on Flamingo just east of the strip.

Think that was my last visit, folks.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sebonack

I have to say that Sebonack is for me the best new course that I've played in a rather long time.

It had a mountain of press to live up to, it has illustrious immediate neighbours, it is frightfully exposed in the world of golf in many ways and despite all that it just plain and simply impressed the absolute hell out of me. To imagine that Tom Doak the once enfant terrible of golf opinion, perhaps once thought of as cannon fodder by one Jack William Nicklaus (If Jack ever read the early editions of Confidential Guide)would pair so brilliantly with Mr Nicklaus to build a course that is simpatico with a wide variety of golfers world-wide is an accomplishment in itself. Kudos to Mr. Pascucci. It tests the great player and provides fun for the average player. Situated on a phenomenally beautifully site it is tastefully done - and really commands attention in so many ways without shouting.

It is simply brilliant in every sense of the world.

The routing takes you over the plot of land twice in a twisty turn-y way in an unfolding of variety without really creating the feel of mandatory returning nines. Design balance is evident without forcing it so. They are in no way symmetrical or mirror images, there are no odd ducks, the closest being the par 3 eighth over water, but it could just as easily have been a blind hole, a dune or some arts and crafts land movement. But in the end who really minds a do or die shot once in a while, it's not 250 yards and thankfully nothing like Jack's Island green that otherwise mars the Ritz in Jupiter, Florida (which I also found on initial and repeat plays jarringly odd) which is fairly representative of JWN's recent improvements in overall style.

Certainly those that know me can perhaps feel some comfort in calling me a bit of a Doak butt-boy, but in reality, I've Criticized Tom Doak's work, too, so that won't work. Even Pacific Dunes to me suffered a little from parallel/transitional par 5's but they have their saving graces at the greens so that's for another day.

At any rate I've shown only a few of my own photos and am relying on another for an additional few fill-in photos, I don't really like to throw out a lot of photos of such a private enclave, anyway, so here goes.

I really like a somewhat softie opener: please no par 5's, not a ball-buster four and also no par 3's too early in the loop as each of these bog down the get away. I want to play golf! A drive and pitch with a demanding green complex is a great and versatile start.

One forward tee



1 Green



Short four to start, any one of a number of options work, but short game on right from the first two greens which are both severe by anyone's judgment. Number one is shallow and clearly has strategic flexibility in approaches to quadrants differing. Two is long and hard and uphill and perhaps a bit too demanding on the shortest hitters and some ladies, but the green and surrounds have lots of ground movement and get your pulse racing. Third green gives a bit of a break with larger and softer contours and this ebb and flow of really racy slope-y greens and more rounded heavily sloped ones is a repeating pattern on the greens. Par 4's run from drive and pitch to needing a long iron or hybrid even after a well-struck shot. Changing wind effects, ground contours (Eleven!) and many more uphill shots than JWN would have allowed on his own are present over and over.

A natural pond comes into play on the par 5 thirteenth and the afore-mentioned man-made one fronting the eighth are all the water in play, rather remarkable for a modern golf course with JWN's team at the site. Mr. Nicklaus as a professional golfer loves the black/white effect of water on the precision of a shot as do all professionals earning their keep on a stroke play basis. Little is seen at Sebonack. it is indeed a lovely piece of land used very well, I suspect that Mr. Doak had a lot of input into the final routing.

For me the par 3's were ranging from nine to four iron; one par 5 was well within reach and two were out of the question, one begging why one might ever try?

Clubhouse from first Green


The clubhouse is a classic Hamptons structure, more reminiscent of A graceful large home than a banquet hall; warm, polished and understated with a locker-room layout encouraging social intercourse and a deck inviting you to linger longer than you should.

A truly superior course and a comfortable, even homey club.

Two from the tee



Two from behind-pt



Three from behind-pt



Par three fourth-pt



Sixth green complex and contours - a great example of expert shaping mimicking and enhancing nature-pt



Seven midway-pt



Powerful seventh contouring a tour de force!-pt



Ninth complex - a par 5 enticing from 250 and 50 yards-pt



The extraordinarily thrilling tee shot on number ten-pt



Below ten green and a very demanding pin, the way r likes them-pt



Behind eleven-pt



Short twelfth-pt



Sixteen in a very tight pin position-pt



Seventeen severely tucked-pt



Eighteen in all its glory-pt



(-pt) thanks to a regular reader for contributing several of these photos

Routing:

Overall Quality of Individual Holes:

Course Cohesion:

Green Complexes:

Bunkering Schema:

Conditioning:

Trees:

Rest of Club:

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Cheery NBWL Photo for no good reason at all



Don't forget to click to enlarge to full and glorious size suitable and released from copyright for desktop use if you see fit.

The North Berwick West Golf Links are the proverbial home for the redanman as the inspiration for the most widely imitated golf hole and individual features (arguably) which are there. Great ground features are nearly unheard of in the US as the game is played in the air and often little thought is given to the ball once it hits the ground. The indirect yet sincere nature of the individual as well as collective features of the Redan hole (plus its many copies and inspired variations) have made it a golden age and now modern insiration for architects of great thought.

Great golf holes start with nature but only reach their apex when a talented individual adds to nature's gifts and enhances them rather than bulldozing what is there to create landscape architecture.

Of note, there are also several other holes of sheer joy at NBWL certainly the inimitable Pit. Those of you on my holiday list received a screensaver suitable photo from the Pit last year, kindly let me know what you might like this year.

In fact, I am requesting an e-mail from visitors sent to redanman@gmail.com for those who would like notices of updates or jsut want to communicate in general if I don;t already know you.

It's a wonderful world of golf out there, so please write in.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ed Shearon and Raven's Claw

Props to Ed Shearon.

Who?

Not too surprised if he's not a household name. He's a local architect in the Philadelphia area, and a real gentleman. He gives a damn, he tries, he fiddles with the routing a lot to get the kind of holes he wants, introduces Joe blow/Jane doe golfers to classical features all on golf courses all can afford that are solid. One thing he does is build courses close to the Mackenzian ideal to allow all levels of players to enjoy themselves (provided they play the correct tees). I went around Raven's Claw in Limerick, PA with him at a round set up by local cable TV personality and pal Tony Leodora. The point was further discussion of a more-matured (grown in) course and exposure for some to the course for a first time. Tony had to bail because of other work commitments (maybe eat Tums and drink Mylanta as he watched the markets?)

Anyway, Ed got his start with Hurdzan and Fry at Jericho National in Buck's County doing engineering for the course build. Ed grew up on Whitemarsh and did some reno work there and has produced three solo courses so far: River Winds (on the Delaware in NJ across from Philly), Raven's Claw in Limerick, PA (seriously - Limerick) and my favorite The Vineyards at Renault in one of the Eggs near A.C. (I like it best because it's core, built on sand and very easily walkable) - all three are worth playing. Ed does a very nice job, nothing awful, ever! Some really good holes and great variety. One more really good thing about his courses? It's hard to lose a ball although Raven's is the best for that. He includes subtle features to allow recoveries and prevent lost balls unless you really duff it and then you are on your own.

At any rate, Ed goes pretty much unsung, even in the Philly area so far, folks are just catching on. Go play his courses, they are all public, you will have a very nice enjoyable and stimulating day.

Sorry, not a single photo of RC, my back was in the potty and I was just batting it around and everyone knows I cannot play and talk at the same time.

Par 3's: 54* wedge, 7-iron, 4 or 5-iron, 3-wood

redanman's favorite holes at Raven's:

six (a modified redan) - What, that's a surprise???? Green is blind.
seven -reachable par 5 done well
eight - driveable par 4 under the right circumstances
twelve aka "Cyclops" you can easily figure out why! (Although I disagree with Ed about best way to play it)
fourteen - a sand wedge par 3 (Two feet) today
fifteen - called Alps, but not really one, still a really good hole
seventeen - a three-wood par 3 that's fun and fair

Least favorite? eighteen - not enough land and too uni-dimensional (devoid the fact that I effed it totally this time out - heck I needed an adult bevvie, I was thirsty and I knew they had draught Stella) A lay-up/wedge hole at the end with a 45* misdirected tee shot, oh well ...... Not exactly a real complaint, is it?

Of note, Ed had asked for comments afterwards and none of these should surprise him whenst he reads all about it here.

In a vacuum, the green complexes are more about the greens and could be more about the surrounds and certainly moderation and speed modification are absolutely necessary for the daily fee golfer. Personally, I'd like to see Ed get a shot at a de novo private club, I think he'd do well. Certainly his work so far shows restraint with the intent of not overwhelming the daily fee golfer.

Cheers, boys and especially you girls.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Golf World Reader's Poll Issue

Number 1 resort (one of my tied three favorites - and I've stayed at over half of the fifty) They can't miss them all!



This just in: The inmates are indeed running the asylum.

I just received this above noted magazine in the mail and wanted to mention it as it provides such a special snapshot of the "Ranking Process". I'll give Golf World credit for a methodology of note and point out that it is incredibly flawed. It is in fact the most flawed model available, it even exceeds the Daley Machine Election process in Chicago for unreliability. Ballot box stuffing from the graveyards has nothing on Golf World. There is no selection criteria except access to a computer to vote and the desire to do so. Clearly judging from the results, willingness to vote plays a big role.

Golf World opens the spread with this proclamation:

"Golf World debuts its first ranking of the best public, private and resort facilities in the country, using the most knowledgeable group of people we could find to serve as judges - our readers"

Thusly we are told:

The two best public facilities in the USA are on the RTJ Trail in Alabama (rated 89.86 and 89.58 out of 100 points). America's perennial favorite Pebble Beach Resort comes in a lowly 83.99 and 30th place in the Resort categories behind: Coeur d'Alene #6, Uncle Walt's World in FL #13, World Golf Village #15 and sister Spyglass Hill at #29. Even the Bandon Dunes Resort, arguably the new #1 "I really want to go there" place is beaten by Coeur d'Alene in raw score partially by a better conditioning, pace of play, lodging, dining, off course facilities and service scores.

Augusta National is #1 in the Private sector - I know because I can say with certainty that many more Golf World readers have been to ANGC than Oakland Hills. This because we are told that Oakland Hills did not have enough votes to be included. Therefore attending the Masters is enough to tell us about the club's great service, dining pace of play and overall value. Poor old uncrowded Shinnecock Hills scored lower than Augusta for pace of play and could only muster eighth place overall. Number two Pine Valley just barely eeked out nearby Hidden Creek (#3)with Hidden Creek having apparently equal course quality, superior conditioning, nearly equal prestige, better practice facilities, pace of play, locker rooms, and value for money. Apparently the edges given to PVGC by Golf World's readers in the categories of caddie programs, food / dining and service categories saved the day for the World's near unanimous #1 vs. its upstart neighbor. Get on it Pine Valley, this is your wake up call.

Another interesting tidbit: Bayonne's practice facility which consists of (mostly) mats to hit floaters toward the skyline of New York City is felt by these voters to be better than the practice facilities of Southern Highlands, NGLA, Piping Rock, the Broadmoor, Pawley's Plantation, Arcadia Bluffs and Cog Hill to name a few I have personally visited and felt to have a vastly superior practice facility.

The cold hard facts:

There is equal weighting given all categories.

-Course Quality
-Conditioning
-Reputation/Prestige
-Practice Facility!
-Speed of Play
-Clubhouse/Locker Room
-Hotel Accommodations (where applicable)
-Caddie Program
-Golf Pro Shop
-Food/Dining
-Off Course activities/amenities
-Service!
-Overall Value


Imagine Course Quality equal to Practice Facility, service, food & dining and off-course activities and amenities (Somehow unimportant when attending a private course).

There's a true sense of irony to these rankings. Golf World is under the parent Golf Digest - simultaneously mother and father of the modern rankings. Birthed as the top 200 toughest and "growing up" to become the top 100 in the USA list - which Golf Digest proudly boasts as the oldest rankings in the business. It flies in the face of top rankings in that one might think that this set of top 50 lists was meant to ridicule the Ranking Process if it weren't coming from the source that spawned the oldest and most respected in the business (their published opinion, not mine).

Well, yes, they are becoming rank, indeed. As a related aside, just as this Golf World issue hits the mail chutes, boxes and stands, the GD guru Ron Whitten has updated the magazine's criteriae for the 1600 Golf Digest raters to reflect a major change in the all-important conditioning mantra. No longer, it seems that ANGC's signature wall to wall green is to be revered but to be thrown under the proverbial triplex mower never to be seen again.

Clearly following GolfWeek Magazine's Brad Klein's lead by a lag of 10 years or so, fast and firm, appropriate conditioning is to now be recognized as desirable at Golf Digest as well.

Klein has been preaching this point for so long that most top clubs have not just heard and noticed this but have already implemented the key tree abatement process of the kind he has been offering as the catalyst of this process. This indeed leads to better maintenance practices, sustainable playing surfaces and once soundly in place - reduced maintenance budgets across the USA. Member education is the key and Klein has been getting the word out there for some time now.

One can find the Golf World lists by using the Gooooogle-y thing and it should yield a high level of entertainment for my following especially.

One last bitty bit from the issue, on the editorial page. Geoff Russell, Editor-in-chief's tag line proclaims "There isn't any other ranking like it" on page 8. "Ryan Herrington is apparently the 'real genius' of the project", deflecting some praise from himself Russell opined. Added, Ron Whitten was to have said "It's a great list." "It's a populist list, it belongs to the people". (And soon these same folks will choose our President of the United States of America.) Yikes

A few more select photos of the rated "facilities".

Number seven public





Number 19 public



Number two private



Number 13 private



Number 20 private



Number 33 Private (Universally held superior to #3 Private, so must be #2)



Number 34 private



Number 35 private

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Foster Channels ANGC at Wilmington South



Keith Foster, certainly an architect to watch - easily one of the more creative of the newer crop of practicing architects - was hired by Wilmington C.C. to update, lengthen, strengthen and modernize the fabled South Course at WCC. It came out man-sized.

Now playing a million yards whilst wet even from the second set of tees it is long and hard with the "Right out there in front of you" mantra at work. I'm not so sure that RTJ's motto of "hard par easy bogey" still applies, sometimes it hard bogey easy triple if you're not on top of it.

unusual bunker spotted on ten


In actuality the newest card from the back tees is a stout 7334 yards and par 71. There's plenty enough length for the bomber in the crowd. The 6721 under no-roll conditions played at about 7000 as a number of holes have uphill approaches and drives. The routing is very luxurious, some might even say a bit wasteful in that there are great separations of the hole corridors. It easily comes to mind that grandstands and the like would fit in just nicely.

Black 7334 (71) 75.7 137
Blue 6721 (71) 72.2 133
White 6366 (71) 70.6 129
Green 5411 (72) 72.0 131

The story goes that RTJ was contracted to create a 36-hole complex, but used so much of the property for the South that he was let go and Dick Wilson was called in to craft the wonderfully charming 6300 yard beauty of the North Course. It is my architecturally favorite course of the two. Test of golf, fairness, stroke play major-ready tomorrow on short notice? South is your course.

When I say luxurious routing, there are great separations and corridors for traffic flow as one would want for a big event. The North is fall off the green onto the next tee; on South one must be careful to not fall into the rough and water.
Tough fifth (475)



Of note the lovely fourth at South channels very strongly the 16th at ANGC, and the bunkering schema also greatly evokes The home of The Masters® as well.


The greens are enormous with some greens (such as the par 3 seventh) yielding perhaps 20 pinnable locations. The back of the green being so large and subtly contoured that I think even though the bunkers up front are scary and create interesting curvy putts, some of the most difficult pins on this green must be 4-7 paces from the back edge somewhere across the enormous back shelf of this green.

Driving accuracy is a must with flanking bunkers and narrow (down to 21 paces across the brow of the par 5 [632-585] third) fairways. Fronted by a pond and playing downhill from the brow it is a very demanding hole, but to me the other two fives are more interesting.

approach to three from 21 paces wide fairway


The fourteenth has a carry bunker on the right side of a dog-leg to the right with real strategic gain in carrying it.

Then one is faced with an uphill shot to a very interesting complex with a completely blind green surface that one must have experience in hitting to even with a wedge or nine as it is so enormous that pulling the correct stick will take some serious commitment to get close.
second on fourteen


Sixteen is visually stunning and front pins not properly approached will just scream back down the hill in front. A lovely elevated tee shot begins this hole.
sixteen



The par threes are stout with a range of 170 to 240 (over water!) yielding little relief there.

Thirteen

long 17th


Most par 4's are big and bigger with uphill in play seemingly every time.

The 496 yard ninth tops the card with the lovely and most strategic eleventh the shortest (360-336-318-274).
Eleven


That last statistic brings to the fore the fact that the card only presents four tee sets - not the ideal two or three but an improvement for such a beast from the five or six routinely seen.

Wilmington, Delaware, the great unsung golf centre that it is now has its biggest beast back in play.

A few extra views:

Ten Tee

long 18th

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Atlantic Golf Club












The Atlantic has undergone a transformation that reveals the fine course that I always found there. Mounding now a minimum, bunkers changed in-house and the superficial impediments for some to appreciating this absolute gem of a course no longer exist. As I once was quoted "If the appearance of a bunker is more important than its position and function, then the Old Course must be complete crap".

Architectural intelligentsia have excuses no longer. Thumbs way up. Strategies have always been there, angles have been enhanced and the long views including those of the graceful clubhouse have been opened up.