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


Criteria
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".


Hermitage
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
Eight
par 4
Ten Par 4
Eleven par 5
Fifteen Par 4

Eighteen Par 4

Criteria
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.
Criteria
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!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rochester's Best

Recently renowned Oak Hill East was merely my 4th out of four favourite Ross Courses on a special visit. Oak Hill has transmogrified into an indistinct USGA favoured course with amazingly homogenous rough, trees and all that sort of thing one expects from a US Open. Too demanding to the point of losing architectural character and features, it is a course for a few. It is a wonderful golf course, but not true to Ross's roots with two dropped in Fazio par 3's and little variety - a Ross trademark

An astonishing array of Ross Gems await the Rochester golfer.

Monroe Golf Club

Irondequoit

Country Club of Rochester

It's in the processor and since this is all done by me and for other's education and fun, it's "coming".

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Donald Ross Feast

Due to a very fortunate turn of events, your redanman has willingly visited six of Donald Ross's fine works this season to date. The breadth and depth of his work is something to behold. By my count of the 399 courses listed by Dr. Bradley Klein in his Excellent work Discovering Donald Ross (2nd Edition release imminent) I am right at sixty courses played. I have played others attributed but not documented in the First Edition but this year has yielded some treasures.
Oak Hill (East)
Black & Blue - How most feel after negotiating Oak Hill East

Sixteen - A brutish and representative long par 4


Part of a 36-hole complex originally by Ross but modified several times by localist Robert Trent Jones and also by the Fazio team more than once, it is the least authentic Ross of the recent treasures. It is a full-blown USGA poster boy of a course set for a major championship on a week's notice. First off, whatever issues I might personally have with the USGA and what their idea of a great golf course is, the Oak Hill Complex has absurdly superior conditioning. This kind of rough must keep the proverbial Blue Coats sound asleep at night. It is what you encounter at Medinah #3, The Olympic Club, Baltusrol Lower and I have seen it recently at Wilmington CC South. Of note, Oak Hill East is relatively tamely bunkered in the fairways and the bunkers are almost entirely out to the sides. The Yardage Book published by the club noted that Oak Hill is known for its Trees, narrow fairways and slick greens. The trees weren't quite flushed out, the rough was and the greens whilst not slick were perfectly true. Jeff Corcoran the Superintendent - who I was unable to meet - is doing a fantastic job. No one less than new Hall of fame inductee Ernie Els is quoted "This is the best, fairest and toughest championship golf course I've ever played in all my years as a tour professional." - on the club's home page. I won;t argue, it's tough. Admittedly it was damp recently cutting the roll, but I needed my 2-iron equivalent rescue many a time to reach the par 4's even from the White (6519 yard) tees. At Par 70, it is still 73.3/139. Fortunately I hit 11 fairways so it was very enjoyable for me.
Par 3 Eleventh showing difference from back to regular tees

As noted, the fairway bunkering is lateral, not jutting into the fairways very often. They are not in paired phalanges as Rees Jones has done to Oakland Hills South Course, but they are in some ways a respite from the lush rough which is beyond the capabilities of average golfers to hit more than an 8 or 9 iron. Several greens are re-built this year and were re-grassed, but all were pristine nearly 100% back from necessary aeration.
Notable Holes
Nine Par 4 454/400/377 (C/M/F)
-A lovely uphill par 4 dog-legging around a mildly-unkempt quarry like area and ascending uphill to a large sloped green was a real favorite of mine. Nice land very well-used


Thirteen Par 5 594/563/488
-Proclaimed Signature Hole in the yardage guide, it crosses a stream (Originally a rare pond in the original design) at 300-330 yards off the tee and then is all uphill from there to an amphitheatre-placed green with four back bunkers added to Ross's design. A tree guards the second third shot on the right side near 100 yards out forcing one more left. Again a very sloped green awaits the player who if above the hole wishes in very strong language that he weren't so located. It would almost be a better 18th due to its setting.



Four Par 5 570/542/466
-Bears a mention as I found it the most difficult drive on the course. Bunkers set into a small hillside of a dog-leg right beg to be carried, but the player who draws the ball might be out of luck as tree growth interferes with the preferred direction and even I a straight-to-fade driver went through on the left side of the fairway. A green with a lovely central spine awaits the player who goes at it in tow and hits the wrong side of the green.

Benching of the 12th Green

Third Par 3 211/176/168
Full carry required to this putting surface.
*
Fourteen Par 4 323/319/310
Everyone remembers Hank Kuehne going at this green in one in the Amateur. Quite the green (And a nice view of Irondequoit this time of year) awaits you on the green.


Seven

Five - Showing some narrowness


Fifteen - A Fazio Par 3, moved 30 yards right from Ross's spot

I certainly have a deep respect for the golfer with the skillset to play this brute of a course near par from the 7145 Tees.
Criteria
Routing
It's really a bit of a mish mash with the added par 3's and the seemingly 18th character to the 13th followed by an awkward crossover to get to the last five holes.
Quality of Hole Types (3,4,5)
Threes - #3 is probably the most exciting, not the courses strong point
Fours - Generally long, longer longest, with few exceptions. Gets old.
Fives - Both are significantly above average in appearance and interest mixing challenge with the oeuvre of the course.
Cohesion
You know you're on a world-class professional-evolved course every step of the way. Very cohesive.
Green complexes
Relatively simple affairs with speed and slope providing difficulty. Greenside Bunkers straightforward.
Bunkering Schema
Relatively bland. Heavy reliance on rough, trees and narrowness.
Conditioning
Absurdly good, among the most homogeneous grows I've ever seen
Appropriate Vegetation
Too many trees for my taste, fits the mold of what a "Classic" is for most rank-and-file golfers. Gets a bonus for "no fru-fru"
Ideality (rare)
Geared for the Pyramid Apex of the most skilled of golfers. Short crooked foozlers need not even show unless wearing peculiar leather clothing under one's golf clothes..
Club
One could be very, very content here. Regal Tudor & Brick clubhouse with seemingly its own ZIP code. Wow.
Milieu
Very easy to fantasize that you are ___________ (Insert your favorite professional golfer's name here) for an entire day. A true sense of place.

LuLu (Temple)

One of Ross's courses at the other end of the spectrum - very quirky - with its square punchbowl eighth green, uphill quarry (Volcano var.?) par 3 fourth maxing out at less than 115 yards and wonderful tree work and restoration done by Ron Forse and Jim Nagle has had its rough times in this recession trying to avoid failure. Last word it is doing OK and is likely to survive. It was hit very hard by the recent economic downturn. Roger Hansen backed out of a deal to aid, apparently building rights were reserved. A new National Organization management deal is on the horizon and not yet in place.

LuLu MUST survive - Home to some of Philadelphia's finest Quirk

Four Par 3
Unique and astonishingly wonderful Volcano or Uphill Quarry Hole

-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection
Eight Par 4
Approaching
-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection
Square Dell/Punchbowl Über-Cool

-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection

Riverton (New Jersey)

A lesson in routing.
-courtesy Professor Joseph Bausch and The Bausch Collection

Two parcels acquired at different times, routed distinctly differently. The portion with the clubhouse is newer and has triangular bits of routing to vary wind more efficiently. The left-sided parcel is a Ross-modification of an older pre-existing nine holes by.

Routing is a KEY element of design, this one is very, very special and I'll return to this club at another date.