Tuesday, June 19, 2018
There is a revolution going on right now in the golf industry. No it is not the "play 9" initiative or the Loop at Forest Dunes or even whatever the hell PXG is doing to its clubs and charging thrice the price.
The revolution is in golf magazines, you know those ones that you ignore in your dentist's office or halfheartedly look through when they mysteriously get mailed to you after you made a purchase at an online golf retailer? Yea those ones (looking at you Golf Digest and Golf).
The new breed isn't focused on swing tips or what is going on in the PGA Tour. Instead, all of these magazines are seeking to expand your global view of golf courses and the architecture related thereto and immersing you in a golf culture. Many of these new magazines are the new coffee table books so let's dive in and see what is new out there.
The Golfer's Journal
This is the big dog on the street having been founded by Brendon Thomas of The Surfer's Journal with DJ Piehowski as a contributing editor (one of the "it" guys of the emerging online content creators in the golf world). This magazine is sponsored by the hippest names in golf at the moment (Linksoul, Scotty Cameron, G/Fore, etc.) and while there are ads, they are kept to a minimum (and thankfully no ads for any wedges "guaranteed" to get you out of bunkers).
The elements that makes The Surfer's Journal such a joy to read are here in this magazine as well. Awesome photos of golf whether near or in far flung places? Check. Interesting articles about the golf subculture that you may or may not have heard of? Check. Different takes on well worn subjects (like a recent article about the artist behind the book about Ben Hogan's grip)? Check.
If you want the complete package of interesting articles, great photos in a well thought-out layout in the new wave of golf magazines, The Golfer's Journal is it (it even has its own podcast which I highly recommend you checking out). That being said, several of their articles feel like rehashes of well tread topics online (their ode to Sweetens Cove, while great and in-depth I felt has already been covered multiple times by the Fried Egg and others). They are trying to break out of that mold somewhat now with more challenging articles like this month's article about race and golf. As the big dog finds a more secure footing, I am really interested to see how far they can push into new and interesting content.
For more info on TGJ, check out this link! https://www.golfersjournal.com/
If you ever dream of playing golf around the world (or have the bank account in order to fund such adventures) then Caddie is for you. Caddie magazine is simple yet elegant with no ads and only being published twice a year. Its focus is on the beauty of golf all over the world.
Published out of Australia, Caddie may not have a huge imprint in America or Europe but if you want to see pictures of golf in Mongolia, the French Alps, Ireland or heck even Wisconsin, then this is the magazine for you. The photos are outrageously good. The stories are interesting (including a great one about halfway houses) but the true focus is on the photos and immersing you in an experience of a golf place. I am sure if Caddie could do a smell-o-vision it would.
The only negative of Caddie is that it just doesn't have the breadth of storytelling that TGJ has and you won't be getting the "state of the game" features that other magazines. Their focus is narrow and niche but they just happen to do those things better than any other golf publication out there. For me, as a golf vagabond who is looking to play golf courses all over the world, this magazine speaks to my soul and I am an avid subscriber.
For more info on Caddie, check out this link! http://www.caddiemag.com/
McKellar takes a completely different tack than the other magazines above by eschewing the emphasis on photos or mood and instead offers thoughtful meditations on many golf topics. Do you want essays about trees, or LACC's place in the game or a myriad of other golf-related topics, big or small? McKellar will bring you there.
The magazine's title is an ode to the first golf nut (a Scotsman who played every day except Sundays when it was banned by the church) and that mania that many of us feel for golf comes across in topic after topic in this small but mighty magazine.
The only current option is to subscribe to issue one of the magazine and I wonder how many issues they will do as while golf has a rich history and an uncertain future, it may be difficult to sustain such a large volume of interesting essays covering a wide range of topics. That being said, if there is an issue two, sign me up! Such an interesting concept for a golf magazine, I can't wait to see what they come out with next.
For more info on McKellar, check out this link! https://www.mckellarmagazine.com/
What golf magazines do you read? Are there any new ones coming out that everyone should know? Let me know in the comments!
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Maui is one of the most beautiful places on earth and people spend a lot of time and money to get there. Once you are there and enjoying the tropical paradise, you will definitely want to golf but you will find a lot of expensive options. However, be sure not to overlook Maui Nui in the heart of Kihei, which is a relatively affordable romp through the Maui countryside with ocean views.
The course was in good shape the day I played it and there weren't too many people out there so I got to breeze around in about 3 hours or so.
MN is a tail of 2 nines. The first nine is reminiscent of Puakea in Kauai, a mix of straightforward yet fun holes and along with jungle holes featuring blind tee shots.
The second nine reminds me a lot of Silver Oak in Nevada which routes itself tightly through a housing development and major streets and is rather schizophrenic in its character. There are two really good elements of MN. The first is its bunkers:
I just love the red/brownish look of Hawaiian bunkers and the bunkers on this course just take up so much real estate on the approaches that they demand your respect.
The second element of MN that I enjoyed were the par 3s. All of them are interesting and challenging, especially on the back nine.
The most picturesque hole at MN is the 15th hole (they even have signs on the course talking about the 15th!). My picture doesn't really do it justice but you have the hole framed by trees and ponds and cook pines and then in the distance you have the Pacific and the slopes of Maui's mountains. It is quite the vista.
It would have been fascinating to play Maui Nui before all of the development. The back nine just is too residential for my taste rather than the wilder woolier front side. Still, if you are looking for a solid round of golf that won't break the bank on your vacation, be sure to check out this course!
For more info on Maui Nui, check out this link: https://www.mauinuigolfclub.com/
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
The Cal Club socks you in the mouth with its audacious routing, wide open style of play coupled with crazy bunkering, Cal Club stands supreme in my eyes as the best golf course in San Francisco.
The opening par 5 gives you a sense of everything you will experience on the day. A blind tee shot with wild bunkers looming on the horizon leading to an amazing green complex which you can approach either in the air or a bump and run (I chose bump and run with a 5 wood and made par).
You then go up and down over hill and dale. The routing cuts its way between hills allowing for a variety of shots and with superb conditioning and green complex giving you all you could ask for. The course wends its way up to the standout 6th hole.
Not only is it an amazing par 3 but it gives you $1,000,000 views of the entire course. It is a blessed spot.
One of the best things about the course is how it uses the hillsides to create slopes and playing angles. The second hole shows how a straight shot will play but also fades and draws could use the slopes to get you to the promised land.
Speaking of slopes, the cape hole at Cal Club is outrageous. Aim as far left as possible or if you could bomb it like the assistant pro I was playing with, you go for the green.
The backside is just as interesting as the front side, giving you tough par 3s (including the quintessential downhill San Francisco par 3) and cool blind shots.
The course ends with a fascinating par 4 where you hit over the hill to gain the speed slot but still have a long iron into a green surrounded by an amphitheater. You can just imagine being a member at Cal Club at a Member-Member tourney with the whole club watching you as the match goes the distance to 18.
If you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed my time at Cal Club. I have yet to play Olympic or Harding but I can't imagine them knocking Cal Club off the top perch in San Francisco. Considering the pedigree of the other courses in NorCal this is high praise indeed. Cal Club, if you get a chance to play it, you MUST.
For more info on Cal Club check out this link: http://www.calclub.org/
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
If you overlook Lake Merced Golf Club, located in San Francisco, you will do so at your own peril. I had always found the course visually compelling when I watched in host LPGA events on TV but playing it, I thought the routing was great causing intriguing shots and would definitely be my home course if I lived in San Francisco.
What I found particularly intriguing was how enjoyable it was to tee off with some blind tee shots framed by beautiful trees
and then when you get up to your ball, seeing these great approaches to the greens.
I mean, I probably just described your favorite parkland course with that general description above but believe me that when I say that Lake Merced's routing and framing of holes creates a rather magical atmosphere and makes this a truly special course.
Also, like every San Francisco course I played during my trip there, this course featured a downhill par 3, dramatically framed. This one was a doozy but so fun to play!
One of my favorite holes is the par 5 ninth that starts off with a blind-ish drive and I happened to drive it right where Lydia Ko did in the recent LPGA tournament.
I also hit three wood from that spot but unlike Lydia, I didn't quite make it to two feet from the cup. It doesn't matter because the green is so awesome and framed by the clubhouse that it is a great way to wrap up the front 9.
The back nine features several of the same types of holes that you find on the front side (a blind tee shot playing downhill on a dogleg right, a tee shot that has the ability to catch the speed slot and wind up 30 yards from the green, etc.) and while on most courses this would lead to some grousing, here it works.
That is the thing about Lake Merced, what you think might not work on scorecard, works in person. The routing is great over hill and dale. The tee shots give you something to chew on as do the approach shots. The greens are in great shape. Sure the bunkering is a little ragged and they could do with some tree trimming but the bones of the course are great and I would gladly be a member there if I could, especially if they have a late afternoon membership:
The 18th hole is emblematic of the course as a hole as it is a fun, let it all hang out par 5 hole. You just wail away on shots until you can't wait anymore. If you can get on this gem, do it!
For more info on Lake Merced check out this link: https://www.lmgc.org/
Also do yourself a favor and check out Andrew's golf blog. This guy is a talented writer, golfer and all around good guy and well worth a bookmark: https://golfblogit.wordpress.com/
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
San Francisco is a city that has an embarrassment of golf riches. Olympic has hosted several majors. TPC Harding Park has hosted multiple tour events as has Lake Merced. The eponymous golf club of San Fran is by contrast intensely private and eschews the spotlight of its neighbors but it is a world class track and I was lucky enough to play it recently.
What makes a golf course world class? I would argue it is the routing first and foremost. Does the course take advantage of what the land has to offer and create challenging and interesting holes for the golfer? Next are the conditions of the course in top shape (grass, sand, greens)? Further down the list but no less important is the history of the course and its place in the game.
SFGC has all of this in spades.
The routing of the first 9 holes of SFGC is perhaps the finest routing I have ever played. The first hole is a gentle handshake of a par 5 which gently drifts over some mounds but setting up a difficult return on the second hole which is set in an audacious valley right that sits parallel to the first hole.
From then on SFGC socks you in the mouth by going over hill and dale with fantastically framed tee shots, elevated greens, great bunkers and stellar greens. The front side culminates with perhaps the best 2 hole stretch on the planet, holes 7 and 8.
Both of these holes sit in the same valley with 7 being the famous downhill par 3 and then looking out over the expanse you can see what waits for you at hole 8. It is a tee box you want to stay on for a long time. 7 is a short but devilish hole with a crazy undulating green and significant bunker complexes. 8 is a fantastic driving hole with the banks of the hills sloping all around you leading to an elevate green.
The backside's routing doesn't hold up to the front as the course takes you over more flattish terrain although what it lacks in features, it more than makes up for with bunkers. I have never seen more and interesting bunkers then playing the back 9 of SFGC. The stars on the back are the par 3s, short but tenacious, these greens require all of your attention.
You find yourself back at the clubhouse after all too brief a round but what a way to end up! The clubhouse is a living, breathing history book showing you the connection of the course to golf history. There are amazing exhibits all over the place showing who has played the course, how the course has changed over the years, etc. Plus as you are dining there, you can't help but feel part of golfing history.
SFGC holds onto its traditions which means no yardages, mandatory caddies eyeballing everything and no pictures of the course. The members want to preserve their place in history and in the shadows of San Francisco golf. While I feel that this course should be a little looser on how they run things and more open to the world so golfers can see its awesomeness, I respect what the members are doing there and am jealous at what a great golf course they have!
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
In 1993 Sandpines was ranked as the best new public course constructed in the US but soon in 1999 Bandon Dunes opened and all the golf courses on Oregon's coast got lost in Bandon's shadow. However, don't you dare sleep on Sandpines when visiting Oregon, this course can still hold its own and is a must play for me when in the area.
The front 9 stays true to the "pines" part of Sandpines' name and runs it way through multiple tree-lined holes.
Well its not as bad as the above picture, most holes actually look like this:
This area of Oregon can be "breezy" to say the least and the benefit of starting your round in the trees is that you have protection from the wind while you get your game in gear.
My favorite hole on the front side reminded me of the East Coast and it was so quiet and peaceful back in the pines.
The real superstar holes of the course is when you come out of the pines and onto the windswept rolling hills of the back 9.
Rees Jones designed this course and I could feel the effects of the bulldozers but unlike other courses shaped in this way, it just works, simply put. It is fun, you get crazy bounces off the hills, the wind kicks your butt but you laugh and enjoy it. I had an absolute blast playing this course although there were some peaks of what could have been had Jones let the course more sit in nature with some dunes sitting just beyond the fairways.
All of this cumulates to the last 3 holes which circling around a lake and when coupled with wind and just the natural toughness of the course provide a heck of a finish.
I'll admit that I was in Oregon to play Bandon and went to Sandpines as a warmup for the festivities to come but I came away super impressed by the conditions, the routing and just the all out fun that I had playing this course. Next time I am in Oregon I am definitely playing here again and suggest you do as well!
For more info on Sandpines, check out this link: http://www.sandpinesgolf.com/
Sunday, May 6, 2018
If you have a multiples of anything (children, dogs, putters) how can you choose which ones are your favorites? There is a game constantly played by golfers of how do you rank the golf courses at Bandon? After playing all the courses at Bandon here is my shot at it.
5. Old MacDonald
The course had a few killer holes but most of the choices off the tee were too bland, the greens too unnecessarily penal and in rough, sandy shape. A nice time in Southern Oregon but many better courses await.
4. The Preserve
The short course is really that good with killer views and killer greens. This is the ultimate chill and play golf course at the Resort and bring your putter for 13!
3. Pacific Dunes
The highest ranked course at the resort but it is middle of the pack here. Its beauty is clear. The test of your skills is present on every hole. I just felt like the routing maximizes the difficulty rather than the enjoyment.
2. Bandon Trails
This is perhaps the best routed course on the property and the collection of par 3s is stunning. The course may suffer from not being wholly routed through the dunes like its sister courses but don't let that get you down, it is a notch above almost all the courses at the Resort.
1. Bandon Dunes
The course simply has it all. Ocean holes, fun inland holes, challenging holes and perhaps my favorite hole in golfdom, the par 4 4th hole. It was the first course built at Bandon but to me it is still the best course built as it gives you both challenges and fun. What more could you ask for from a course?