Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Boston Golf in Photos.01

Here's #10 from the end of the fairway

Another view of the Principal's Snout

Fuller view of #18

Keep checking back

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anchored Putters

All the rage, causing such a stir that there will absolutely be:

A Joint Announcement/Statement within 2-3 weeks from USGA as regards anchored putters. Look for it. Many have commented since it is now such a buzz prompting this. At the USGA level it will be from Executive, not Rules, therefore no "change in the rules" as recently released.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Boston Golf Club

1 Three Creek 521 10 Mae’s 412
2 Rushmore 418 11 Petrified 188
3 Redan 430 12 Gate 430
4 Wizard’s Cap 438 13 Knuckle Bucket 487
5 Shipwreck 317 14 Big Sky 443
6 Wild Turkey 165 15 Coyote Trail 560
7 Penniman Hill 460 16 Principal’s Nose 341
8 Bent Pine 232 17 American Chestnut 585
9 Geronimo 458 18 Stonewall 195

Par 5 #15 Coyote Trail

Here's a rare look at Boston Golf Club. The full course opened in 2005, it is a private, walking only artisan club with a golf course to match. The main buildings are smaller in total than many a country club member’s home in America and are masterpieces of fine art, not unlike the golf club. Hardwoods such as red oak, ash, walnut and cherry comprise the materials of the member’s locker room and pro shop as well as the main house, a very modest place for a sandwich and a drink. Very New England craftsman - very understated.

The golf course stands out in the world of today where words unique, superior, outstanding and special have lost their meaning and need superlatives to further qualify them when discussing cars, wine, hotels and of course golf courses. Boston Golf Course is. It is unique, a refuge for golf unlike the others. Gil Hanse with Jim Wagner, Bill Kittleman and Rodney Hine (who remained on as keeper of the green) defined the soul of Boston Club from its outset merely given the task of finding the best golf course there. Each devised a routing separately and in the course there are holes incorporated from each. On the site one has evocation of Colt, Mackenzie and Braid. There is a tie to Pine Valley, one to the Heathlands and to the ancient birthplace of the game in Scotland. There is a timelessness that belies the less than ten years of existence, it is all about the ancient game at Boston Club, rarely is the ground not in play. Bold shots, greens, bunkering, angles and cunning define much of the course. The smart player will gain his reward, conservative play often only delays the quality shot to be played and one is never enough.
Par 3 #18

There is a very special par 3 that ends the round and only three par 5’s to be found at the very beginning and then in the final four. All of the par 3 holes invoke a rare definitive strategic interest in their play from each day’s pinning. A par 4 beckons from the card at only the 300 yard mark where a par will usually win you a point and two seemingly perfect shots can merely break your heart. Other fours can require well over 200 yards for regulation play after your best drive.
Shipwreck #5 317 yds. Five Green

Glacial Moraine features define the astonishing topography which does not afford a level lie.
Rushmore #2 Par 4 418 yds

Redan Par 4 #3

Par 4 #4

Water is minimally in play as wetland areas, the driving zones are generous with a great variety in contour and short grass providing indecision for even the best players at the green complexes. The putting surfaces are such that during a recent five-ball with five single caddies virtually every putt was carefully studied by each of these experienced caddies There was always something to learn and further master. Large natural slopes are blended seamlessly with enhanced contours from the craftsmen who built this course to make putting a joy of experience and experimentation. Sometimes making a decision and waiting to see what happens is what you do.

Such is golf at Boston an adventure that is spiritual and addictive encouraging the emergency nine after the round is complete; that back to the first or tenth tee feeling is always there.

• Routing – Natural topography is simply stunning and the design team’s hand is rarely evident. Magnificent contours are everywhere on a landscape that constantly beckons. It is utilized for a walk that is up down and around a series of features that often surprise the golfer on the initial visit.

• Overall quality of individual holes are such that there are many different favorites and favorite stretches.
Par 3’s – 8 or 9-iron to possible fairway wood
Par Three #11

Par 4’s – Wide variety in length, shot demand and strategic flexibility
Par 5’s – Reachable? Sometimes - but not without risk at any time, fifteen the least so and seventeen perhaps the most accessible

• Cohesion of the course. There are two separate nines connected with a short ride from 9 to ten and to the first to start the round, but each can be walked.

• Green Complexes – Short grass that functions as green is a common design feature of links and classic courses and of the Hanse group's work. There is far more than the putting surfaces which range from the tiny 5th and 16th to the expansive second, eighth, eleventh and fifteenth, but they are generally smaller than most modern courses.

#12 green enhanced to show contours

• Bunkering schema – Much native flora is to be found around and in the bunkers and shapes are natural. Hell’s third-acre separates the fifteenth and small pots are everywhere. The bunkers enhance the beauty of every hole.

• Conditioning – Fescue and bent grasses are of “take a divot home” quality.

• Appropriate Vegetation – This is New England Heathland. Parts of the course yielded the fantastic hardwoods that make up the buildings, lockers and furniture in the buildings. I dare you not to rub the wood in the locker room and bar.

• Ideally - A challenge for the talented player, creation of joy for the less-talented one is achieved and the forward tees allow flexibility, but as with all courses of great quality the absolute beginner is relegated to St. Andrew’s Old Course.

• The rest of the Club - easy does it. This IS a proper locker room.
Museum-Quality Locker Room
The bar, place to eat and the rest is a modern museum of woodworking. 20 different whiskys and ten gins? No, not yet.

• Milieu – Perhaps the most astonishing and vexing thing about Boston is that it is 20 miles from Bunker Hill yet one feels as though they are off in the Outlands of Maine. No 4-6 hour flight followed by a 200 mile drive to “get away”.

Well, I am certainly as big a fan of Boston as anyone. For all the great quality the Boston Club possesses, I defer to a gentleman I greatly respect, one not given to hyperbole, one who grew up in the finest courses that this country has. Recently he told Rodney the superintendent and myself that “Boston Golf was likely the finest inland course that I have ever seen”. I personally cannot wait for my next round. Astute readers will note that I gave ***.

more photos forthcoming.

Here's the crew except Jim Wagner with an interloper back in May, 2000

Saturday, September 24, 2011

North Shore Redux

1 New Leaf 10 Eden
2 Sahara 11Woods
3 Road 12 Hilltop
4 Highlands 13 St. Christopher’s
5 Biarritz 14 Double Plateau
6 Punchbowl 15 Dell
7 Bandon 16 Ravine
8 Pond 17 Short
9 Redan 18 Westward Ho!

Original, unedited post Not to ruffle the club, I followed the release. Doak appears was right in the Confidential Guide to Golf Courses after all. Steve Schaffer and Mark Hissey extensively researched the provenance and the comments after noted the original post. Here's today's take and the link gives you a first impression taking the presentation as given and documenting the course without confrontation. Read in whatever order you prefer. Notedly I used "shenanigans" in each.

North Shore Country Club on Long Island in New York is a special little place; I first visited in 2009 the spring after the financial crisis unfolded. The club had been particularly hard hit and was particularly vulnerable to the forces of the crisis. There had been a significant loss of members and the club had unwittingly become a notice in the Wall Street Journal as a victim directly affected by Bernie Madoff’s shenanigans. Fortunately that part of history is history. The MWGA (Metropolitan Golf Writers Association) was invited to a spring 2009 outing to help foster a more favorable press for the struggling club. A proud notation of Tillinghast as the designer was offered and curiously when all research was completed a single confirmation of Tillinghast ever being on site was uncovered. The club originally thought that Tillie was responsible for their course. An expert on Macdonald, Banks and Raynor thought that they were the architects and even Robert White’s name figured in the discussion since he had been the golf professional in early years. Persistence and diligence in research led to confirmation that this course was indeed the first of Seth Raynor. On-site visits from Charles Blair Macdonald coincided with his working on the nearby design at Piping Rock - one of the few bearing his name as designer of record, a bit of a coup in itself.

Much of the design historical information was eventually found in the records of a German Jewish City Club – The Harmonie Club (some actually in Gothic German) helping clear and confirm the unique and enviable place in the history of American Golf Architecture that the North Shore CC holds. My own first look at the club’s architecture was the then (and now) 13th hole - a challenging par 4 with a very tilted and contoured green; in and of itself, not necessarily a defining hole architecturally but one of considerable merit. It was however the 14th hole that first engaged me and led me to consider that someone other than Tillinghast was the designer. I felt that green was a hybrid Biarritz Double Plateau – having a diagonal trench and two flattish areas within the more than 10,000 square feet of putting surface. The scale and contours were in my experience fairly far out of the realm of Tillinghast’s style. Once I reached the then (and now) third hole with its magnificent Road Hole green complex MB&R came firmly to mind. Much existing architecture was enhanced, some altered and some bold new additions have been and are continuing under the hand of Tom Doak. Mike Butler the caddiemaster was my TourGuide able to answer many varied questions and offer up for review the newest changes and additions.

Every hole is now named; new green complexes responsible for the Biarritz at #5, Punchbowl at six, an expanded and relatively softened green in the hollow now Dell at fifteen and the short seventh – again somewhat drivable at 322? given the moniker “Bandon” honoring the two courses at that most attractive of destination resorts in North America. It most recalls characteristics of #6 at Pacific Dunes (In reach but with death to a hook with a finicky green) to me, but I’ll have to ask Tom to be certain. Green re-work has gone on at 4, 11 & 12 and expansion and/or modification is planned for 8 (Pond), 9 (Redan), 10 (Eden), 13 (St. Christopher’s) and the sublime par 5 sixteenth (Ravine).

The de novo construction of holes 1 & 2 and 17 & 18 constitute the wholesale changes with each pair being rebuilt on the footprint of the other. The new uphill #1 is New Leaf, the second is a drivable Sahara at 311. Seventeen is now a lovely Short (max 125) as of yet to yield an ace. It is one of if not the most contoured green Doak has built to date. Eighteen (Westward Ho!) at 639 will eventually yield to two shots as nothing is out of reach these days and the hole is downhill; a single fairway bunker on the left can easily be cleared by the longest hitters and there is no other hazard until the green complex. It seems to me another of Doak’s apparent homage to Mackenzie’s #16 at Crystal Downs – somewhat similarly devoid of hazards to outright slugging. There as here, it is not a concept I am particularly enamored with as my readers know I am not fond of long par 5’s nor of a fiver at 1, 9, 10 or 18. The green complex is bunkered short left and long right – favoring the draw preferred by long hitting right-handers, but difficult to pull off from a downhill lie. Thoughtful, but not engaging to me.

Planned green renovations are exciting to look forward to and bunkers will be re-worked; The eighth known as Pond has yet to be touched nor is the Redan 9th. North Shore has turned the corner and is a very worthy visit. It always was but not it is getting ready for the big stage. Always a wonderful place to go, it is already notably improved and more is on the way!

Routing - Very efficient and one also would not notice the new holes were you not to be aware of changes. Fairly large elevation change from below the 11th tee to the 12th green is all uphill, but in an appropriate part of the round.

Par 3’s - The four templates of MB&R all well done. From 120 to 250, short to Biarritz. Each is an excellent version whether Doak or Raynor.

Par 4’s - A rather great diversity from drivable at 2 & 7 to a healthy mid or long iron on three.

Par 5’s - Ravine will be the most beautiful as it is one of the most beautiful holes on Long Island - and a wonderful hole.

Cohesion - Integration of new into old is outstanding although the new greens being so new are easy to pick out.

Green Complexes - All very interesting whether new or old

Bunkering Schema - Raynor and Raynor-esque go hand in hand. Relatively forgiving fairway bunkers are welcomed.

Conditioning - It was very exciting to see a pulled core full out aeration of most of the fairways. The greens were perfect.

Appropriate Vegetation - Check. Nothing silly.

Ideality - more geared to the club player but all but the most skilled amateurs and touring pros will be challenged tee to green and all will be tested there, but not beat up.

Rest of Club - NO Kummel, I assume and Single Malts were few. All keeping in line with the relatively light-drinking typicality of such a club.

Milieu - Basically a stone's throw from LaGuardia dn the Long Island Expressway (LIE aka I-495) and even within shouting distance of Manhattan. Despite all of this one senses a very peaceful, relaxed detachment from the mayhem that constitutes a trip on the Cross-Bronx Expressway connecting this part of the world with the majority of the USA. GREAT Milieu.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Playoffs

I've had an obvious layoff for a while, but I haha entered the PGA FedEx Cup playoff scenario yesterday with a round at Plainfield CC - site of this year's Barclay's Championship. Poor Plainfield suffered form about 6X "Normal" rainfall due to human-induced climate change (yeah, right) and was not her usual self. PCC was however universally loved as opposed to this weeks Cog Hill Tempest of architectural discontent. The professionals didn't get the opportunity to play one of Ross's very best sets of greens when they were firm. The greens were not yesterday completely recovered to their usual firmness but were at speeds around 11 and generally firm. One of the ironies of the course is the relatively-maligned holes 13 & 14 of the so-called tunnel (added in 1928)were by far the firmest of the greens on the course. (14 yielded a birdie to my 4-iron to 7 feet, a first for me ever on that hole). The tunnel holes were added when the 17th and 18th were eliminated to create a driving range. The original 12th & 13th were combined to create the gorgeous par 5 12th - which coupled with the 16th pair perhaps the best two par 5's in 9 holes anywhere in North America.

With the recent press given to Phil M's "Hatchet-job" on Rees Jones (see Geoff Shackelford's site) it bears mentioning that the 2011 Fed Ex Cup courses have been re-modeled by either Rees Jones or Gil Hanse. Sure I'm a bit biased towards Gil as he is my personal Most Preferred Architect (MFA) of the modern era. He takes chances while Rees uses a very formulaic approach to design. When one has as I have been privileged enough to play over 900 courses (so far) one notices trends unless they are just plain dense. There is a whole lot more fun playing Gil Hanse's courses than there are playing Rees'. I have to side with Phil (as well as Stricker &others) on this one. I've logged maybe even a couple hundred rounds at the Cog Hill courses. #1 &3 are rather simple affairs but always well cared for. #2 is more difficult and shares some land with Dubsdread aka #4.

#4 started life as a grand Dick Wilson affair with very deep sand in relatively simple shapes thereby enhancing their difficulty. In its youth it was rather long and difficult and then technology changed that all by itself. Irony abounds in the most-hated part of the re-do: the bunkers. When the PGA Tour moved in to Cog Hill, truckloads of sand were removed and the sand was changed to the player's liking. The course became more forgiving and lost some of its "Dread".

The bunkers that Rees company builds are the same hideous affair everywhere. LedgeRock near Reading, PA has exactly the same bunkers as Cog #4 has now and they are not alone. Among aficionados they have earned the moniker "Rees Pieces" becasue of their puzzle-like shapes. I personally don't like them for several reasons: They're just plain ugly and unnatural. Balls don't stay on the faces anywhere. They are broken up into goofy little areas purely unplayable for anyone not a skilled player (due to their depth and contour) making them little fun for most players. (Hanse on the other hand has never built two bunkers the same.) At LedgeRock they are exceptionally egregious as the property is rather hilly and probably would have been passed upon by most architects. It is a rather joyless place to play unless you are part of the S&M club.

Dubsdread also relied very little on the rough as the trees provided challenge and allowed recoveries. Back to Plainfield, there are long vistas over beautiful rolling land that can only be called voluptuous. It is perhaps Ross's most intimate BIG course. What most of the public got to see at The Barclays on TV was a toothless version of PCC due to the monsoons. The widened fairways did not allow balls to bounce deeper into trouble nor did the ball near the greens react to the lovely contours that Ross put in place.

Plainfield remains THE poster child for what Classic Course Memberships should strive for in their restorations. The recovery of the bunker field on the exquisite par 5 16th is nothing short of breath-taking. It is real work to get over in two shots as my 3 wood failed to do so catching the very last very furthest part on the right (a very aggressive play I might add) yet allowing a recovery shot that had a change to be pin high had I not pulled it. That was the beauty of Ross and the sensitivity of Hanse in the work that each respectively did. Some of the scaffolding for the fans is still coming down at PCC but seemingly the entire course is visible from several spots on the course.

Greens have been expanded greatly from their post WWII disc shapes creating pin positions that had been under 3+ inches of bluegrass 12 years ago in some places. One stands on spots such as the back of hte first green, the 11th tee and the back of the 3rd green and nearly 360* views are available with up to 12 holes visible over rolling landscape. THIS is what Ross saw when he built PCC. At 7,125 yards all the way back, it is a bit short by Tour standards but yesterday in the Club Championship Qualifier a 79 was the lowest score from a membership of talented club golfers. That emphasizes the implicit if not specified bifurcation of golfers at clubs vs. Tour level.

Plainfield remains one of America's best Clubs and memberships. The new nearly driveable 18th hole (289 from the "Barclay" tee) yielded no balls on the green yesterday but within 25 paces of the front with 2 decent efforts from the group, recalling the impressive Sergio 3-wood landing just a few feet from the cup and holding the green during the first round. The new bunkering on #18, elimination of the wetlands there and a small waterless "Burn" taking its place constitute the last real changes to the course. In total, the restoration removed over 1,200 trees, green areas were increased at least 20% total, many fairways were restored to proper location and widths, multiple bunkers were restored and most re-built or re-shaped. A little more length in a few spots is possibly to be added when the Barclays returns in 4 years.

The club also assures us that tree removal and occasional replacement will continue.

More Plainfield, less Reese's Pieces, please.

Plainfield on CLICK HERE Note: Most recent photos not completely up to date.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Bandon Summer

In August a return to Bandon Resort yielded a fresh look. I had only been to Bandon with a group previously and this time it was a small family group, just 3 and for one night with a 4th non-golfer. My regular readers know how picky I am. Bandon Dunes is America's Best Resort. Nothing comes close. After the monumental disappointment that was Kohler earlier this year and with time to reflect, there is no doubt in my mind that Bandon Has the most quality golf to offer, the right amount of service, good hearty generous food and drink and even a better shower than Kohler.

My wife's brothers went fishing and missed my ace at Old Macdonald #5. No matter, there were trophies for all.


We chose to play Old Macdonald first as there was a good wind up, no real threat of rain and a fairly open tee sheet at our preferred mid morning time. First time either of us has seen the other's ace out of 6 total.
Here was the shot on Biarritz (short on the direction of roll), the next Par 3, YIKES!

Long View back to the third
Wonder why people like Old Macdonald so much?
The Principal's Snout
A Very Good Eden

Family's Good
in progress, but that poor camera's dead, I'm afraid

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

After Sandwich

At least in the USA it was a non-TV event with Women's Football loss to Japan garnering much higher ratings. Ah, the all-coveted ratings and advert index.

This was an Open Championship for the true golfer, one who understands that 62*, off and on rain and 30 knot winds are golf. Darren Clarke is everyman, he won for everyone, has not actually drunk a thing from the Claret Jug as of this writing and will not change. Meanwhile we have to wonder about Rory McIlroy and wonder who he really is. Is he a petulant poorly prepared 22-year old making haste comments about foul weather and his preference for American Golf? Will he get around to understanding what is required for character and an all-round game? Will his girlfriend transfer request make any differences - that is interesting as Wozniacki was very closely linked (and neighbors with Novak Djokovic) as recently as Wimbledon's proverbial Fortnight to the same girl. From her interviews she seems as grounded as a 15 year old women's tennis star so maybe she's perfect for Rory.

Sandwich also gave us another good run from Tom Watson who had he not had the same end of the draw as McIlroy might have been even closer in the end.

We were treated to a cold sh@nk from Dustin Johnson in the heat of contention and another round of Mickleson's balky short putting. (This from the man under the tutelage of RocketScientist Dave Pelz and his make 400 putts in a circle in a row drill? I think we might have learned that too much is never enough or was it less is more? I've never been a practicer so I don't have that answer. A season's practice for me is 300 long balls, 300 chips & pitches and 300 putts, spread out over 365.25 days every year. Add to that one or two demo days and that's it.

From this Open I liked attitude. Tom Watson's "Come what may, do with what we're given". Darren Clarke's keep on plugging through thick and thin and Phil's I'm going to start over, fresh and anew!

I'll give 22-year old Rory a pass on this one. 10 years from now he'll say "Knowing what I know now - in 2011 at Royal St. George's - I would have prepared differently, but I don't regret what I did." At least I hope that's what he will have decided by this time next year, but won't say.

The US PGA is of interest to me for the first time in many years as a friend of the redanman will be caddying for his brother!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Open Championship Week

In a move to wean myself from other internet golf locations, look for me to have more to say. I've got the photos for Kohler on another computer so look back soon.

The Open Championship Week is my favorite personal week in golf. It is the world's tournament, too much of world golf is still in the USA although the news of the Women making the Evian a Major is good news this week. Even though a good friend of mine's younger brother has qualified for the US PGA (Major) I feel most strongly that it needs to be dropped from Major status and a Bermuda/Couch surface tournament needs to be added in its place with debate between the Australian Masters and Oz Open. Perhaps a brand new Australian Tournament rotating through the most revered venues is the answer.

This week at Royal Saint George's Rory McIlroy returns to the world golf stage against Westwood, Donald and recent Major winners Kaymer, Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and the apparently renewed Sergio Garcia. My no means a comprehensive list, add all-rounder current top American and my personal favorite American these days Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker and you probably have covered the top betting favorites. This Open will be decided by the weather and who handles it best if current forecasts hold.

Dan King invited me to my first Open Championship when he was at - now defunct. In a house in the town of Carnoustie we had a true cast of characters and I had the car. It was also my first trip to play links golf and that Peugot 206 covered over 1,000 miles. It was a helluva good time.

The Open is so very special in that it is so egalitarian - walk up and pay on Sunday and you'll get in. I did that on Sunday in 1999 and stood directly behind Jean Van de Velde ready to rush down the 72nd fairway with the traditional throng of golf's most knowledgeable fans only to need to scramble around (with my friend-making umbrella) to see Aberdeen's Paul Lowrie keep the Claret jug in Scotland for the year. It remains one of my top memories in golf and fully cemented my love of The Open championship. Enjoy and see you soon.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Moving On

As bad as things are, it can always be worse.

Golf is having a bit of an identity crisis right now. When Tiger Woods came along if there was ever a doubt prior then - at that time the world of golf embraced the long ball to great exclusion. The ball has gotten out of control, at least coupled with the modern driver. At any rate Golf has become very closely equivalent to Men's Professional golf (which it definitely is not) and Men's Professional Golf sadly has become Tiger Woods - or at least tied all of its future to Mr. Woods. Orthopedically speaking Mr. Woods is nearing the end of his career as we have know it to date. He is a man and men have limitations. As Clint Eastwood in Character of Dirty Harry Callaghan once said "A man has got to know his limitations". I've often called this the Clint Eastwood school of golf instruction but it applies to a great many things.

As an Orthopaedic Consultant and former surgeon I can tell you that there is little in a 35-year old world class athlete that needs the sort of "rest" that we seem to constantly hear that he needs. And oh yes, "pain" is irrelevant to all of this. This is the man of the "broken leg", never forget that. Somehow we are to accept these two irreconcilable positions. The Golf World collectively holds its breath every time Mr. Woods is about to speak. This time we are told that he will not be competing in the Open Championship, no surprise as he had reportedly not hit a ball through last week save with a putter. There's much more afoot, but no one is asking Mr. Woods “What will happen when inevitably you do NOT reach the proverbial 100%?" His knee is indeed crocked and there is no role for a knee replacement for those of you unaware what those words actually mean. Tiger then gives us the line that Jack was competitive at 46, but Jack continuously played in nearly 40 years of Major Tournament Golf. Age is meaningless. (Had JWN just played in one major in 2006, he would have played at least one major per each of 50 years!) Herein lays a fact of life Tiger has to come to grips with, that is that no matter what sort of will we have, we have to deal with reality testing and Tiger must come to grips with the fact that he cannot and will not reach the 100% he is loftily seeking.

There was so much inconsistency in his press conference in Pennsylvania last Tuesday at Aronimink; it appears that damage control preparation may be prefacing his non-return but if that were the case then he would be reality testing. Why any further surprise today? From last week - how can one reconcile three "Intense" 60 minute works-out daily for explosiveness to return yet nothing but a putter is in use to date? WE should all reject this notion from the outset, it is just another in a long line of posturing. The mantra of continuing to make progress is a transparent lie to those who have worked with athletes. Most likely suspect is that there is not a swing that has yet to work with the limitations imposed by that knee. There has not yet been found a swing with which Tiger can go forward as he did in the past, he must adjust or go away.

No matter what, it is time for golf to wean from the teat of Tiger Woods. It's been a good run, but golf is bigger than professional golf and that part of the game that is not Professional Men's Golf is just fine. We tend to forget that and get focused on the men's pro game far too much; it is a game of the common man and woman. It has been very fine before and will go forward without him as well.
You heard it here first, If Tiger cannot find a swing that works with his knee, it's maybe completely over. It's certainly over as it was at the turn of the century. I am not a man to listen to B.S. on my own time, I listen to it for a living.

Now get out and play golf.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Upcoming USGA Opens and Sacrosanct PAR

Everyone seems to be worried about the assaults on Par at Congressional ...

2012 O

2012 is to be at Olympic Club - a droll course capable of producing interesting winners. As a former member of the California Golf Club of San Francisco, whenever we had some silly little tournament, my roommate Mark and I used to go over and Play O Lake. It had the history but absolutely nothing on the Cal Club. Heck, we even had fairway bunkers that dictated play at Cal.

There was speculation already starting about "Winning Scores" at Olympic - maybe first from Johnny Miller - bragging on the broadcast that it doesn't rain in NorCal in June so the Greens will be "rock hard". Golf Channel Talkers this a.m. were discussing it, too (I didn't listen in) and on-line it's already starting because this was somehow not a proper USGA Open at CCC. Well, I for one don't worry about the set-up at the O nor the score as it will probably again produce a fluke or yet another unintended bystander winner at around a few over to a few under par. But ...

2013 Merion

It's 2013 at Merion's Historic (and historically over-rated) East Course. It is being Frankensteinized with absurd Orphan tees [Fazio warmed up at Saucon Valley, I can tell you] disturbing the "famous routing". There is one going in on the Par 5 Fourth that will be excised after the Open, it is reported to lengthen the hole to 745 yards (Who knows or cares?).

Look for absurdly narrowed fairways, silly rough (necessitating waves of middle-schoolers to search for tee shots and place little red plastic flags), the first Astro-Turf Greens in the USGA Open and complete irrelevance to the game of golf before the Modern courses get into the rota.

2014 Pinehurst #2

Those silly greens will take care of themselves

2015 Chambers Bay

Will it be a chamber of Horrors? The Open in Seattle?

2016 Oakmont

There, that's better ... [sarcasm intended]

Rory as USGA Open Champ

People are whining on about Congressional not hosting a REAL USGA Open (That's the way it goes) but it was the same for everyone. It was dominant for Rory.

What's nice about Rory is

-Simultaneous presence of self-assurance and humility
-Tons of skills
-No apparent weaknesses
-A really solid human being - mature yet still a kid
-He appears to be enjoying himself whilst he plays and wins

And perhaps he can pass on to the Masses

He Plays Quickly.

May his reign be long and benevolent, it's too early to crown him the new Special One, but he is very easy to embrace with all his positive qualities.

Saturday, June 04, 2011


Kohler, WI
PartI - General Details, Irish and Meadow Valley Courses
After years and years of wondering whether or not Kohler really has a top 5 Modern Course and three courses in the top 200 Modern according to GolfWeek magazine, the Mrs. And I finally took a trip to the lovely “America’s Dairyland” known as Wisconsin to see for ourselves. I can say that one of those two statements is true, one is not. Kohler the man evolved into an hotelier and entertainment magnate as well as a manufacturer of plumbing and power generators – kudos to a man who inherited a massive fortune and family business to make it expand and enter new territory rather than sell out and squander it. The man is to be admired. We were also given the pleasure of having him speak to our group as a bonus; rarely does one have the opportunity to rub shoulders with a real Tycoon in the most positive sense of the word and listen to his thoughts on a number of topics. Politics, I maintain a fair distance by necessity, so that’s that.
American Club/Amenities
Started as a quintessential American getaway luxury hotel has evolved into the **** Hotel for the Kohler Golf empire. Shuttle Busses efficiently take you to the golf properties and 5 minutes to the local “Sports Core” (Ye Olde Towne Rec Centre by another name) for the Jacuzzi. That is my only real gripe – otherwise it’s $35 for entry per day to the Kohler Waters Spa – a mere shadow of the Old Course Hotel’s Kohler GREAT Waters Spa – use of which is gratis for OCH guests and is surely the Disney World Park of Jacuzzi spas. Dinner at the Immigrant Restaurant in the basement of the American Club had an army of fresh-faced eager young staff cheerfully over-serving us in a most pleasant way superior quality food and a fairly priced (for locale) wine list with excellent selections. Breakfast at the Blackwolf Run Clubhouse is far superior to its sister one at the Whistling Straits clubhouse (a real head-scratcher) so eat their buffet if you want the Big Breakfast as I do when “I resort it”. Loads of range balls are available for the practice (I hit 20 total for 4 rounds) rats of you with high quality facilities and instruction available. Top quality club rentals for $50/round are available if you don’t want to bring your own.
Hotel rooms, well, honestly folks just rave about them; we got the runt of the litter Room 213 (literally according to the evacuation map), but it was well located and if I weren’t such a big lug really a very nice room. Recent refurbishment rather darkened the wood so it’s a cozy or cramped (John Wayne types) feeling depending on how you look at it. We got the dud of the showers with the jets in the wall hitting you in the belly and netherlands if you are 5’17” as am I and the pie pan ceiling mounted shower is only 2.5 GPM (I had them check) as intended to lightly water you (if you don’t have to duck). I frankly waited too long to inquire about another room, so be aware of options as it is a lovely older building featuring many different room and bath arrangements. Other than in the non-renovated back 40 (aka West Wing) with pink fixtures we had no options so cramped and very convenient was just fine. For me, it fell pretty short of expectations based upon others informations prior but with planning and redanman’s forewarning you should be in the lap of luxury.
The Goff
Four “way better than average” courses did NOT fall short of expectations. Up front Whistling Straits (will henceforth be listed WS) did not live up to its extraordinary hype, but was very, very good. Your favourite will depend on what you like. In fact there are FIVE courses at Kohler Resort: Whistling Straits, Irish, River, Meadow Valley and the Original that started it all and will be played by the LPGA in 2012 – The Blackwolf Run Tournament course, not normally open for guest play. On a slow day, maybe, just maybe they’d let you play it. I’ll do Whistling Straits last just to make sure that you read the whole enchilada here, folks. Conditioning was uniformly excellent and trees in play are limited to a famous few which I’ll address. They are all walkable but you need a cart ride through a tunnel twice for the River Course and a lift to the first tee of the Meadow Valley Course. Interestingly angles are least in play at WS and perhaps most in play at River, most notably the sublime 2nd and 3rd par 4 holes. The PGA of America’s narrow-minded narrowed fairway approach to “Championship Golf” at WS robs several holes, most notably #7 – disturbingly so - of the strategy by width dictum. More later ….
The history of golf at Kohler (short version) is as follows – paraphrasing Herb Kohler himself.
Having built the American Club, demand for golf required that the club take guests to a local public and private course. When demand reached the tipping point, Kohler contacted half a dozen architects and built 6 holes with an unnamed architect that did not suit the bill. Another six were called in and Mr. Dye won (I think the two have quite a bit in common including a very healthy respect). Dye then created the 18-hole Blackwolf Run course. This is the tournament course you’ll see in July, 2012, the USGA Women’s Open. Then a third nine (middle of River from 5-13 as you play them) was created as an isolate nine with a fourth nine following quickly as demand was two months into the future almost immediately. With a slight modification/accommodation one has two distinct 18-hole entities out of the Blackwolf run Clubhouse. Even more golf was needed and Mr. Kohler wheeled and dealt with a Power company to get the land that became the Whistling Straits (Straits & Irish) complex. In the negotiation process the permitting to allow creation of the moonscape that became Whistling/Whistling was taken care of post haste.
Something in the realm of 800,000-900,000 cubic yards of fill were brought in to raise up the beach creating the dramatic Cliffside setting of the WS course. If you have visited Kingsbarns in Scotland, you can sort of get the picture (especially the shelving of much of KB’s first nine holes). The Irish was built on the west side of the more famous Whistling Straits (Straits) as it is known and for now that’s it about WS. Although Mr. Kohler wavered a bit on his potential Bandon Area project it seems someday it will happen. He was asked by one of the GolfWeek group that was present for dinner with Herb and certainly did not deny the potential project, but rather was clear that nothing was going to go forward at this time. He was also rather complementary of Bandon Dunes’s Mike Keiser and one sensed a bit of competitive nature between the two astute scions of American Business who have ventured successfully into the golf arena.
Being hard to the WS course, wind plays a major part of strategic planning on Irish. It is a course not to be missed under any circumstances other than “I can only play one round and I must play WS!” Despite the 18th being a clunker, this course was the biggest surprise by far. It is seldom discussed among architecture buffs, probably because there are 3 different styles used in creating the course and WS adjacent and calling. A small portion uses the style and resembles Whistling Straits, a bit is relatively Parkland in character and some is the faux links that Dye has built examples almost everywhere from Riverdale Dunes in Northeast Denver to the absolutely superb Colleton River Course (which I will profile some day – in my opinion Hilton Head’s best golf course). Irish has large ponds in play on four holes and although the irrigation pond is necessary, coming in on 17-18 really can make one forget just how good a course Irish really is.
Getting it out of the way – 18 is an astonishingly awkward Par 5 closer with a pond left and bunkers right off the tee, it is without question the worst of the 72(3) holes at the resort. A well-placed drive in the proper wind allows one to attack the green in two, but with a crossing stream at 100 or so yards from the green, there is essentially no layup area short, it is a swathe of fairway less than 20 yards deep. The land on the other side looms like half-dome in the distance threatening to repel all attacks on the very large mesa green complex. There is just no place to play one’s second shot into the wind. After a slightly weak drive I carefully calculated to lay up to 100 from centre of green into 3” bluegrass and pulled it off to follow up with a very hard hit 7-iron to a back pin for a 2-putt par. Honestly it was a par I was proud of but not one you want to (nor CAN!) call up every time. A few photos help, but for more I proudly refer you to Professor Joseph Bausch’s The Bausch Collection at Joe Logan’s – a wonderful collection on a great resource and information site. Joe Logan was the golf writer for Philly’s Inquirer Newspaper for years and is a very polished writer
Hole #1 is very reminiscent of WS #1 then #2 is recalled at #17. Several good par 3’s and 4’s abound throughout the first nine with number nine utilizing a stream to perfection. As a bit of a weakness the two par 5’s on the front are aligned and designed a bit too similarly for greatness, but are great fun. The run from 10-13 play right along WS and evoke it as well. The thirteenth is a Dell style par 3 that is worthy of play over and over. One wishes that there were multiple flags to play to. Starting the Parkland run - Fourteen has a dual fairway requiring a precise lay up on the right of the stream or a bold carry over the diagonal to attack this par 5 in two with a better run-up angle to the green via the left. Two rather good shots are required to have a chance for birdie on this very well-designed par 5. Two superb long par 4 holes follow in alternate winds on this very windy site a great Links concept executed in a more Parkland style. Personally #13 as the last par 3 location was rather odd from Mr. Dye as well, he usually places one in the last 2-4 holes.
Routing: Decent, rather walkable, a bit of an adventure from one milieu to next
Holes: Threes highlighted by the 13th were solid but as a playing companion at #3 said “17 Harbourtowne” were solid. Fours were varied although for a purported Links, two water holes with basically the same hole detracted but 14-15 excellent. Fives: Despite the idiotic 18th and repeating holes on the front were better than most
To avoid duplication, some comments under Whistling Straits.
Meadow Valley
The more walkable of the two Blackwolf Run Clubhouse courses requires a lift to the first tee. The first nine is literally in a meadow but with a few well-used glacial contours. Starting slowly with two shortish straightforward fours and a routine three get you off and going and feeling one with your game. These are soon to be followed by several stellar holes. The run from four to six is just top shelf and is to be savoured. A reachable par 5, the fourth hole uses natural landforms to create a wonderful hole. A blind green is present for any two-shot approach but can be clearly seen if using a proper second to set up the third. The fifth uses trees in a very clever way in the meadow, requiring a precisely-placed drive to approach the green head-on with a straight shot. As seen from the accompanying photo, fully flushed-out trees will magnify the importance of a correctly placed drive. A clever concept, perhaps the reverse dog-legged hole – a much more versatile concept offering a multitude of solutions; one wonders why more holes using this concept aren’t built. Landforms again figure prominently in the long par four sixth requiring the player to play a shot right as close as one dares to the left to get a preferred approach. Seven to nine are good design and challenge but 4-6 are very special and remarkably clever – perhaps my favorite 3-hole stretch at all of Kohler.
The second nine uses the green complex of the original first hole of the original Blackwolf Run course’s first hole to create the tenth. It is a bit awkward but a good solution to getting to the rest of the holes. Much more similar in character to the entire River Course, holes 11-18 comprise 2-9 of the Blackwolf Run course familiar to those following Women’s Golf. The par 5 11th and 16th holes will strike one as Typical Dye” and that’s a compliment. Shortening both fairway bends on each by taking on risk one can try to reach in two, but a safe 3-shot method works very well. The two par 3’s have a bit of awkwardness to them and the fours are not as well-done as those on the other nine of Meadow valley, River or the other courses. Despite this generalization, the long-playing 12th is easily the most distinctively good par 4 on the nine. The final hole is an awkward mess with a separate green for the Red tee players to negate the mandatory (overly demanding for the shorter player) crossing of the Sheboygan River for the final shot. So much of the second nine Meadow Valley comprises the first nine of the Blackwolf Run Tournament course, the fifth Kohler Course. I did not get the opportunity to play the actual tournament course since I did not play the original hole which is preserved and maintained, but rarely used save the green. My next installment will address that course as an entity after I review the entire River Course. I would rank it 3 out of five of the courses overall as I might prefer River to Straits and I am currently fence-sitting as to my overall preference list.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Easy Golf?

John Paul Newport, one of Golf's weakest writers in the Weekend Edition of Wall Street Journal opined that we should find an easier game to play and gave several silly ideas listed in the linked article. There is one and one alone good way in there and it was not given its due.

Important facts in
A) Growing the game
B) Keeping players

1) Play a golf course you can enjoy.
a)You are not good enough to putt on Stimp 12 greens. Stop demanding it, you can't handle it. Public CCFAD's please stop delivering it. It will cut your costs, too.
b) The Clint Eastwood approach to golf* - "A Man's got to know his limitations" play the correct set of tees for your ability. If you want to get better pay attention.
c) De-label the "Ladies Tees" to Forward Tees". Put in an even shorter set for little kids, beginners, really old and disable people. Do not dumb them down but make them fun, they are NOT an after thought.
d) (OK, an expansion or another version of b)) Play up a set of tees, hit greens in regulation, make birdies - THEN move back and do it a tee or two at a time. Play Par 5's you CAN reach occasionally in two. Par 4's you can drive. Par 3's you can hit wedge or 9iron.
e) Course operators - give beginners a break, charge them less. Maybe the USGA can get involved and issue beginners Handicap Cards and courses can respect these if the holders play fast.
f) Good God! We can ALL play faster. No, not a track meet, but faster through courtesy of being ready and respectful.

No need to change the game that has endured at least 700 years more or less as it is just because young healthy specimens are getting super-fit (and more) and taking the most advantage of "Game Improvement Clubs". Unfortunately, the USGA Handicap system (GHIN) is flawed, that's for another time.

2) Forget Professional Golf - especially the Men's - when you play it is irrelevant to you.

3) Play as if you had to follow yourself (see 1-f)

E-N-J-O-Y yourself and play the real game of golf.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Virginia - Richmond Area

Royal New Kent **
Designed by the late Mike Strantz who cut his teeth in the Fazio organization. Known for his artistic eye, painting holes before he built them built a Tour de Force in the Eastern suburbs of Richmond, VA. I've had my experiences with Strantz's courses and never thought I'd give one **, but I did, far and away my favourite Strantz. I'm going on architectural grounds here. The entire front nine at this time is devoid of any building and is superb with astonishingly beautiful holes full of challenge and kept in perfect shape by the grounds crew. The turf conditions for my preference were the best outside of Links that I can remember playing. Firm and tight one could go at irons with reckless abandon. The visuals of the course are at times overwhelming. However, more than a pretty face resides here. The second nine suffers from a disjointed routing made even more noticeable by housing and a racetrack nearby but the entire course is just astonishingly good architecturally. A few favorite holes are shown. I was at the course before a thunderstorm in the afternoon and had the course to myself. I do wonder about pace of play at this being a public access course, but I thought the design was stellar. The second hole is a nearly horseshoe-shaped (more than 90* dog-leg) that almost works but clearly stands out as the odd duck.

The overall quality more than makes up for this one odd hole, picture perfect, it is as Strantz must have envisioned it.
One Par 4

Three Par 3
Four Par 4
Five Par 5
Six Par 4

Seven Par 3
Nine Par 4
Eleven Par 4
Twelve Par 3
Fourteen Par 4
Fifteen Par 3
Seventeen Par 5

Eighteen Par 4

Routing - A weak point with several long cart rides and a severe break in the second nine. Housing detracts visually for about four holes. Front nine other than a long ride twice is wonderful.
Quality of Hole Types - Threes are of great variety and are thrilling with multi-target greens and a range of clubs from 9-iron to near Driver depending on wind. Fours are quite varied from vexing, confusing to hard as nails and all in between. Fives are top notch despite the #2 quacker.
Cohesion - Generally quite good, design style is tight. It is very quirky, not for the Pasture Pool Lover.
Green complexes - Beautiful to look at, well-bunkered and quite challenging.
Bunkering Schema - visually dramatic and very strategic and then there's the 17th Par 5 with hardly a bunker in sight.
Conditioning - as good as I've seen off a links for my tastes
Appropriate Vegetation - Dramatic but reasonable. Felt like Coastal Oregon in places in a very good way. I wish Bandon trails design was up to this level.
Ideality - Not here. Definitely for the better player.
Club - Very well done for a public joint.
Milieu - Other than the intrusive housing on a few holes is tops. Front nine as it exists is definitely a "Place Away".

A lovely nouveau Country Club lost a bit in the shadows of Kinloch (literally across the street) but with 36 perfectly conditioned holes is the nutshell. It is perfect if you only want 36 well-conditioned holes to choose from.

I found the bunker surrounds a bit too puffy for my taste and a bit jarring to the eye but solid holes abound. Both Manakin and Sabot Courses recommended, but no time to get into details. No Top 100 stuff, but very good and extremely well-conditioned. If every town in America had one of these, everyone but the Kinlochs would go out of business.

Cannon Ridge
Same for the Bobby Weed design Cannon Ridge closer to Fredricksburg, just off I-95 on the Celebrate Virginia Parkway. Thought of as Links style by most retail golfers, it is not treed and has more of the excellent turf that I think is standard in Virginia. (I only played in VA last fall for the first time). Very good value, Bobby weed is very talented.

Kinloch *
The jewel everyone travels across country to see in the Richmond area is the famous Kinloch. Featuring the country's best conditioning according to Golf world readers it is an Augusta National Clone as the labels go, but very welcoming. The lush conditioning, service, practice area, coziness is All-American. The course is visually spectacular with greens that come alive with speed. One must watch the slopes past the hole whilst putting. Many double, split and option fairways define this course. The fans necessary to keep the bent grass alive were not yet out in mid-May. The playing corridors at Kinloch are extremely wide to allow air flow. The bunkers are big and bold and there is plenty of water in play especially the second nine.
Two Par 4
Three Par 5
Four Par 4
Five Par 3
Six Par 4
Seven Par 3
par 4
Ten Par 4
Eleven par 5
Fifteen Par 4

Eighteen Par 4

Routing - Two separate nines which wind through woods and then around an arm of the lake. With a cart ride in between very walkable.
Quality of Hole Types - Threes are defined by their greens although there is a general right to left tilt to them. The 14th is the shortest and hard to the water, the seventh is the longest and downhill. Slopes carry you away from missed greens. Fours are generally on the longish side with a few shorter ones featuring the split fairways at two and four. The ninth par 5 is unique with its island fairways and seemingly 100 of its own acres (13.32 by Google Planimeter). 11 and 13 are both reachable and three is guarded by water. Playing all three with a wedge third does not guarantee a single birdie.
Cohesion - Generally high
Green complexes - Built for speed with falls-off defining the short game needed
Bunkering Schema - BIG and boldly flashed
Conditioning - Unparalleled
Appropriate Vegetation - Parkland supreme
Ideality - 5 sets of tees, but those greens make life tough for the weaker player
Club - Southern Hospitality at its finest. Not a hair out of place.
Milieu - A truly defined sense of place. A trip of a lifetime kind of invite!