Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Golf and Weather

Golf is not a hot weather game. Never meant to be.

I'm not sure that it's even a warm weather pastime. Perhaps those Scottish gents in their three-piece woolies being all gentlemanly weren't necessarily dressing like fine gents as much as they were trying to keep from freezing off their arseies. They also gave their used clothing to their caddies who piled them on layer over layer to keep warm (and perhaps to keep track of them as well). I have indeed played the fine Kintyre Course at Turnberry in Ayrshire on a 95* F day, but that is hardly the rule. Most days in the Home of Golf peak out in the 40's-60's at best and that's just fine with me. Those choices of clothing weren't by accident, you know. Not that some of America's finest clubs gave that any kind of thought when importing the game en toto.

Another American abuse of the grand old game is the transmogrification into something needing iced towels, motorised carts and (thankfully!) shortened trousers in those hot humid climes where the game thrives at least in numbers. Being gentlemanly in the summer and in the southeastern United States is a health hazard and most American Clubs have rescinded the archaic prolongation of this old custom. Now I do have to say that I don't mind Bermuda (Couch) grass becoming a part of the greatest way to spend a day with your clothing on, but we do need to stay healthy and be practical. Warm weather bent grasses have now led to backs being turned on the lovely grass surface of my first days as a golfer. It does do just fine going dormant in the cooler weather in areas where it ought to be the desired grass and sometimes gets over-seeded, but that's for another time.

Perhaps the biggest negative of the warm game is slower play, it's not as if anyone wants to hurry up and raise core temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate on a 90-90 day, lord no. Not a good idea for many and drinking the dehydrating Coca-Cola is not the answer (biochemically something called 'water obligation'). Cooler weather simultaneously thins the golf crowd and the rough to more manageable levels - density if you will - rather nicely self-regulating.

Now I like the performance clothing as much as anyone, especially traveling when one just washes it in the tub of your hotel and hangs it on the pull-string dry line so thoughtfully provided at the Starwood and Hyatts where I tend to be found lodging on the road. Only problem is that when one wears these and shall we say reacts to the heat as the human body knows how to do with evaporative methods, it tends to get a little ripe at times, so that winds up being a wash (not intended pun).

Cool weather unfortunately has its limitations as well as we are currently experiencing in the Northeastern part of the USA.




Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pac Dunes or Pebble? Or Elsewhere ...

Links magazine with their monthly teaser e-mail posts such an option. Surely there is not a single answer nor can one combine GP's "criteria". Sad digression of this magazine from the days when my friend Owen headed up adverts and the magazine really sang.

From George Peper, I suppose ... (and the answers PB = Pebble Beach, PD = Pacific Dunes
Round 1: If I had just one more round PB
Round 2: Scenic splendor PB (by a cute little walrus' whisker)
Round 3: Which is the better value? PD
Round 4: Conditioning PB
Round 5: Which is better for shot-makers? PD
Round 6: Which is a better putting test? PD
Round 7: Which is better for long hitters? PB
Round 8: Which has the best par-3 hole? PB #7
Round 9: Which has the best par-4 hole? PD #13
Round 10: Which has the best par-5 hole? PB #18
Round 11: Which offers pure golf? PD
Round 12: Which is better for all golfers? PB, sure all with a G to blow on a round
Round 13: Which has the better second course? PD
Round 14: Which is easier to walk? PB
Round 15: Which is better for a buddies trip? PD
Round 16: Which has better post-round amenities? PB "World-Class" depends on who's talking
Round 17: Which has the better range? PD This is the deal-breaker, I guess
18: Overall

When practice facility, Amenities, where to go with the guys and "Pure Golf??" all share equal billing I have to wonder what is being sold here.

The hype of Pebble Beach far exceeds the reality for just about everyone paying out of their own pocket. In reality if one sets up a trip to Pebble you are probably going to blow Five Gees easily, unless the company picks it up - and that's just for a three round package. By the time you book a package, get a tee time, struggle for hours and hours watching the 10-round a year folks ahead of you getting their money's worth, you really have to ask yourself "Why didn't I go to Scotland this time?"

I had a similar dilemma last year as I had signed up for a trip to Hawaii with the Mrs. and thought it would be fun to do, problem was going to Hawaii the last time was only moderately easy and that was from DIA. From the east coast of the USA to Hawaii, well, if I am going to that much trouble I am going to visit James, Matthew, Darius and David in OZ.

My point is that a golf trip is what you can make of it, the long run short hop really comes into play.

Links did get one question and answer right in George Peper's article Pure Golf. Given that I am not really certain that there is a reason to ever go to the Monterey Peninsula to play Pebble Beach. Forget the slow play, exorbitant costs, (despite what they say) generally so-so conditioning, slow play at the adjunct courses, forget there being anything like a single answer to most of those questions (especially 'where to play a last round')and practice facility (do you really do anything but hit 6-10 balls before starting play on vacation?).

My recommendation is that if you want to play Pebble Beach the biggest reason is to say "I played it, yup", play on a cold day when you can just walk up and get out, just like your local muni - make it a part of a trip, not the single focus. Spend your big money on getting to know the "Rest of the World" the real answer to the Real Golf question. If all you've played is American Golf, you haven't played golf.

OK, redanman says! Time to get a passport if you don't have one. Maybe even start with Bermuda or Mexico, one of the other has to be easy for you to get to.

Monday, February 08, 2010

No Photos

Been in the desert, Palm Springs, in fact, kicking off the new year with some fellow GolfWeek Magazine Panelists. Very refreshing to get away from the winter of weather's discontent hereon the Eastern Seaboard as we await our third Nor'easter, second in a week. Gee Whiz. I hadn't touched a club in almost two months and it was astounding how difficult it was to get back any endurance, but finally with progressive exercise, walking, whirlpool spa and 70* temperatures, a reasonable game emerged.

I think Palm Springs is my favorite American desert area.
-The roads and traffic are so good, so well laid out with parallelism and width
-Many, many places to play
-Many lovely places to stay
-Golf shops out the wazoo!
-Tons of places to eat including the all-important Burger and authentic Mexican
-Generally reliable weather, 65* and overcast was the worst "high"
-Some excellent golf, but you need friends generally to play the best

Two Hotels Noted:
Westin Mission Hills of the SPG Brand was first-rate and very well-priced, arranged as a central area and outlying Casita-style accommodations - allowing you to park right outside to avoid the dreaded over-servicing and frequent purchase and re-purchase of the rental car. Two associated courses Dye and Player, both fun to play if not particularly notable architecturally. Troon conditioning, 'nuff said. The Player course was one of that design team's best with none of the dreadful tings that tey sometimes do and most surprizingly, even though it was basically through housing, it never really felt so the corridors were so generous and the houses so unimposing.

Hyatt's Grand Champions at Indian Wells, home of the GolfWeek retreat. Large central hotel and also outlying Casitas as well as a sister Renaissance Hotel on the property. Lovely and large rooms with bathrooms befitting a Ritz or St. Regis in size and nearly in fixtures.

At the Indian Wells property, Clive Clarks marginally over-landscaped (way over for some) Celebrity Course was surprisingly well done for a Zen Garden of delights on scant acreage. Generally the flower beds were out of play and some interesting green contours were present. Both par 5's resisted reaching in two by use of water and the occasional shrubbery. Biggest knock on the course was that there were only two par 3's. Seriously this is a major flaw. The weaker player always likes the par 3's as they are an equalizer for them and a chance for that glory of an ace. The par 3's often ask the most of a better player as there is no room to fudge, precious little to recover. Par 70 maxed at about 6500 yards it was rarely if ever cramped despite the small property and the landscaping enhanced the views such that all but the architectural snob will enjoy the course immensely.

John Fought's team did the (7300 max) longer Player's Course which was a standard par 72 4-10-4 arrangement with great variety and interest. Only the 18th hole, basically an over-landscaped garden for guests of the Radisson to over-look was out of place. It was a quite reasonable golf hole with a very interesting set of contours at the green. In fact the course overall will satisfy virtually all levels of golfer as there are no real forced carries except for the most way back set of tees. I found the course stimulating without being over-done. It was challenging enough to bring out the best in my game with well-defined strategies galore.

A visit to the Arnold Palmer team's Classic Club - used through last year as a course for the Bob Hope classic - was a huge disappointment. it was built with the tour Professional in mind and what was gotten for $30 Million is Exhibit A as to how irrelevant the professional game has become to the game of golf. well over 250 acres were used as a clean slate with on discernible interesting golf to be found. Over 7300 from the tips, it was bluntly boring and sometimes downright stupid. I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness that that much money had been spent with so little result. The ability to create a fully walkable course was ignored with large unnecessary separations of holes at nearly every turn. the distance form nine to ten was absurd! Width without strategy was the order of the day. Increasingly more difficult and/or uninteresting shots on the par 3's wee seen as the tees became shorter exemplified on the waterfall-decorated 12th with the 170 yard tee provided the easiest of angles to all green quadrants and the 116 tee given the most penal.

The course considering its cost is a candidate for a Doak 0. Natural rolling dune shapes of the desert were easily visible to the north of the property. I was so mentally exhausted from drivel, I slept for nearly 12 hours (to the great benefit of my game).

On the private side, I was invited to the Plantation - a men-only Curley design set amongst majestic Palms. Lots of short grass and interesting green contours were the order of the day. The course is completely walkable, is spectacularly beautiful and has compelling golf all 18 holes.

More favorite because of more interest in design was the also curly-designed Palms course, a few miles down the road from the Plantation. Here ladies are welcome and made up a good number of the players. Fred Couples has at least co-design credit and the nines are a bit split. F-par 34 3-5-1 max 3200 yards including gnarly mesquite lined and/or O.B.- ed first 5 holes. a very challenging and demanding start. The second nine from the back was a whopping par 36 3887 with standard 2-5-2 arrangement. Even the third set of tees wee 3444 on the back.

The greens were much more boldly contoured and the remainder of holes after the first five played through tall mature rows of date Palm trees. A truly majestic setting.

Doak's Stone Eagle is the last course I'll comment on. It was great fun, not necessarily Doak's best or even his best desert course (That was the once-was Apache Stronghold) but it was the best of the trip.

One thing that I particularly loved was the melded fairways that must make the superintendent's job much easier as the staff does not have to truck mowers everywhere and for the golfer, less golf balls lose their way. I really liked the super-canted fairway of number four and the uphill width-driven fifth. The gunsight saddle green location on the short uphill par 4 6th was brilliantly conceived and on and on. Not to bore all of you with descriptions, suffice it to say that the mountainous desert landscape is a very special canvas for golf, unlike the desert and unlike the mountains - it is unique and special. Dry dramatic washes, elevation changes, long views, drivable fours, reachable fives, center-line hazards - all the things a good card-carrying Doak Butt Boy would and do enjoy. Maybe I'll find a net photo of SE for toppers.