Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ryder Cup Preview


People sometimes say, ReGripped what is your favorite golf event? Its probably the Masters given that you blog about it like a crazy person every year. Or maybe its the British Open because you love links golf and are a sucker for English accents? Or even it might be the Farmer's Insurance Open at Torrey Pines because you love the views and the history of that course so much?

To those people I would say "yea but" to every option because my golfing Christmas, Fourth of July and Birthday all rolled up into one is the Ryder Cup. I have never been to a Ryder Cup but every two years I wish the ticket lottery would come up ReGripped.

The passion, the history, the team aspect of the Cup. Heck even the crazy fashions, I love it all! Some of my most prized possessions are Ryder Cup schwag that my dad bought for me back in the day, including my Oak Hill driver headcover, still holding up!

So OF COURSE, I am stoked about this year's contest at Hazeltine in Minnesota. Here is just a quick preview on how I think everything is going to go down this weekend.

1) The Course:
Hazeltine has a deep golf pedigree having hosted 2 US Opens and 2 PGA Championships but they aren't stuck in the past and are rather unique in their willingness to change the course over the years to make it even better. Changing par 3s into par 4s, redoing the bunkering, etc., Hazeltine keeps it fresh and keeps it interesting. Check out this link for all the changes done for this Cup.

Now one of the reasons the US is said to be favored in this Cup is the length of HNCC. The course can be set up for a wopping 7,628 yards with three par 5s over 600 yards! This is significantly longer than Gleneagles which came in at 6,815 and would tend to favor the long hitters of the US in Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler. However, don't count out Europe in the distance category as currently Rory is 10th on Tour in driving distance, Justin Rose is a surprising 12th and Sergio is hanging around in 28th. I think the margins are a lot closer than people are giving the US credit for but in terms of the course Slight Edge to the US.

2) Team USA:
For all the talk about the task force and shaking things up for this Team USA, Davis Love has captained this rodeo before and his picks of Kuchar, Holmes and Fowler were not unexpected. Holmes was on the last winning Ryder Cup and has crazy length. Kuchar has had a super solid season and Fowler, well has had a terrible season but rankings-wise a top golfer and a long driver so yea Davis went with him.

His best pick however is who is saved for last Ryan Moore. Not only has RM been a solid golfer for some time now but he is getting hot at the right time, exactly why the US holds the last pick until after the conclusion of the FedEx madness. That being said, I think the Euros were right to criticize the US selection process. Just pick the guys, no need to do it on primetime at a football game 5 days before the start of play. Still, Moore is the right pick and may end up being the difference in this Cup.

The rest of the team that made it on points are all solid players with DJ being the real standout this season. He is playing lights out and could potentially carry this team on his back alone. Spieth had a good but not great season and the same holds true for Zach, Lefty, Reed and the rest. This solidness is actually the US' greatest strength, they have a solid lineup up and down the roster and I think Europe would have a hard time finding weaknesses in the squad with the exception of Fowler. Roster = Solid.

3) Team Europe:
Europe just gets it done doesn't it? On paper for any given Cup you could say, well their top 5 guys are awesome but the rest, who the heck are they? Over the last few years I have found myself following the European Tour much more closely and have found myself appreciating the talent of these guys that you rarely hear of.

Rory, Stenson, Justin Rose and Danny Willet all had monster years which gives you another solid top of the team. However they also have guys in top form in Pieters, Matthew Fitzpatrick is a young gun who all he does is win or get top 10s and you have guys like Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan who you might not be familiar with but these guys are legit!

There is also something mysterious about Europe's team chemistry; they seem to have it and the US seems to lack it for some reason. Roster = Sneaky Good.

So how do I think it will all play out? In previous years before Europe's run of dominance, the US would get its lunch eaten by Europe on Friday and Saturday in the team competitions and then turn it on for Singles Sunday and win. I have a suspicion that is how this Cup will go. The Europeans work too well together not to be favored in the four balls and foursomes. However I think the US is too talented not to win heavily in the Sunday individual matches and probably squeaks out a win coming from behind.

USA Wins In A Nail-biter

* Photographs are owned by Getty Images and are used herein for news and commentary purposes only.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Fairways Charity

Golf is an individualistic sport when you come right down to it. Sure you could play in a foursome of friends every week or you can find yourself on a team like the Ryder Cup or a school team but even in those contexts you are ultimately concerned about your individual score against par.

Despite this individualistic streak, golf has a tremendous capacity for collective good with the many charitable endeavors the sport is involved in. The PGA Tour gives away millions of dollars from its tournaments. There are charity events at golf courses every week that raise money for worthy causes.

Today I wanted to spotlight a charity that blends together golf and a worthy cause, providing disadvantaged youths with access to golf courses, teachers and range time.

Golf is super expensive and if you are a poor kid or someone without access to the elite, exclusive world of golf, trying to play a game that you love can be super tough. Fairways tries to bridge the gap by offering sponsorship opportunities so you can sponsor a young golfer in affording those expensive greens fees or lessons.


This inspiring charity inspired me to sponsor a young golfer and I hope you do the same!

For more information about Fairways, please check out their website: http://fairways.golf/

*all logos and photos are owned by Fairways

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ReGripped's Quest To Play Cypress Point Day 402


This is one of several posts about my attempts to play the ultimate course, the Cypress Point Club. If you have any tips for me or want to invite me to play (!!!) please email me at peterflanigan@hotmail.com I promise total discretion for anyone who helps. Thanks! 

As you will see from the Day counter above, it has been over year since I officially announced my quest to play Cypress Point Club and more than 400 days later, the quest continues. I have learned a lot over the last year. Tips and Tricks from John Sabino's great bookDrink recipes have been tried. Of course, the big break has been through Golf Digest's coverage of my quest

I have spoken with 2 people that have had direct access to the course in the past and reached out directly to 1 member. Still, here it is that I sit but I am not sitting idle and here is my strategy for the next year:

1) Continue to play Top 100 Courses. 
I recently was fortunate enough to play Sand Hills and Ballyneal and while there, I ran into people from Pine Valley, The Quarry at La Quinta, people with Augusta swag on their bags and of course, Sand Hills members. If you want to play an elite golf course, you need to put yourself in elite company and I plan on playing more of these Top 100 courses in order to broaden my pool of potential members.

2) Start To Get Up Close And Personal With San Francisco.
So many books that I have read about Cypress have mentioned that members of Cypress are also members of clubs like San Francisco, Cal Club and Olympic. In addition to wanting to play these clubs just for the pure enjoyment factor of playing Top 100 courses, if I spend some time in the Bay Area, I might find myself spending some time in the Cypress Point Area.

3) Continue Positive Thoughts.
Have you ever thought of someone and then the phone rings and its that person? Have you ever thought that something negative was going to happen and then, inevitably, it does? Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, suggests focusing what your mind wants in order to help actualize it. I am a believer in putting positive energy out there and then seeing positive results. What Scott suggests and I have been doing is writing every day that I desire to play Cypress Point.



Yes, I realize that the above looks like an outtake from The Shining but I think the benefit of this is every day I take a moment to remember that I am on a quest to play this amazing course and that I should continue working toward my goal. 

Cool Cypress Point Story: 
Did you know that a ship wrecked right off the coast of Cypress Point back in 1934 and that members of the club helped rescue the sailors on board? Pierce McDonnell is writing a book about the whole affair and I can't wait to read it. Not only is the course beautiful but the members are good eggs as well! Pierce was kind enough to share a photo taken on that day:



The book has been published and I highly recommend you checking it out. Here is a link to Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/J-B-Stetson-Story-Ship/dp/1537243667/

Cypress Point Review:
I love this write-up I found on the web the other day. Hopefully you get a kick out of it too! 

http://www.2playthetips.com/singlereview.php?revision_id=52009-11-19

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Golfchat Article


Twitter is a great way of communicating and often people use hashtags to reach a particular group on Twitter. A whole community has spring up out of #GolfChat and they have authors contribute to monthly topics. This month is all about pace of play in golf and you can read my contribution to it by following the link below!

http://www.golfchat.org/tees-a-crowd/

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

99 Holes In The Heartland- Sand Hills Golf Club


Ranked Top 20 in the world. #2 on my Golf Bucket List. Crazy hard to get to and even harder to play, I feel extremely lucky today to be able to tell you all about my trip to Sand Hills Golf Club. Check out all the hijinks on my Coore Crenshaw Quest website!


http://www.coorecrenshawquest.com/2016/09/99-holes-in-heartland-sand-hills-golf.html

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

99 Holes In The Heartland- Ballyneal Golf Club



I recently went on a trip deep into the ranch-land of America playing courses in Nebraska and Colorado. This is the third in a series of blog posts about the 99 holes I played at these amazing courses. 

When I say Ballyneal resides in a remote location of Colorado. I mean REMOTE. How remote you might ask? Well this is the surrounding countryside with just a little bit of course sticking up:


This remoteness means that if you find yourself at Ballyneal, you are only there for one thing, golf. 18 holes are on offer although reports and construction at the course suggest that Tom Doak's 13 hole short course are well underway.

Once you actually get to the course, what is it like? The first impression that springs to mind is the amount of blind shots there are on the course. Tee boxes have blind shots, second shots have blind shots, blind, blind, blind!


(where's the fairway?)

That's why on this course its critical to put your drive in the right position. Many other courses allow for some wayward shots off the tee but Ballyneal puts a premium on having your first shot set up the rest of your shots.

The fairways are no bargain either. I haven't seen so much slope on fairways in a long time.


(they are going to have to start selling lift tickets to play these fairways)

Doak also uses the fescue to strategically weave in and out of the fairways which can create narrow choke points and causing more than a few balls to be lost!



Assuming you have navigated your way to the green, the really fun aspect of Ballyneal takes hold, the greens. Not so much the putting surfaces themselves but the whole green "complexes" that offer you a variety of shots. If I was lucky enough to become a member of a private club that only has a limited number of holes, I would want those holes to offer as much variety and challenge as possible. If you are only going to eat one sandwich, you would want that sandwich to be as tasty as possible.

Case and point, let's take a look at this green:


You could hit your shot short and have it roll up the flat part of the green to the hole. You could hit your shot to the right of the pin and long and then have it roll up and back to the pin due to the backstop. If you were aiming left, you could have it roll down the hill. There are a variety of ways to get the ball on the green and many holes at Ballyneal are like this.

A few random observations about Ballyneal:

1) Its a walking course, which I loved. I played 36 and for the last 18 went out by myself. Walking around, I felt I had the whole course to myself as I hiked up and down the hills. As it is a walking course, the walking pathways are fantastic and while I got confused a couple of times on where to go between holes (the members would know where to go, the guests have a bit of guesswork to do) the walk sure was purty:



2) The bunkers were outrageous. They are bunkers in name only as they really just seem to to be sand volcanoes springing up out of the landscape rather than being placed there and lord help you if you find yourself in one of them.




3) The staff is all super friendly including head pro Dave Hensley. If you make it down the many dirt roads and score an invite to the club, you will be well taken care of. They have a great group of caddies and everyone at the club make you feel very welcomed.


The only negative about my experience at Ballyneal was sadly the condition of the greens. I played the course in mid-August and the greens were very baked out. Apparently that part of Colorado experienced a full week of 100+ degree weather recently which did a lot of damage. Greenskeepers are often invisible but crucial to a course and at the top courses they have their hands full in keeping the course in premo shape but not having it die on them. Its often a thankless job and I thank Lance Lauer and the rest of the crew for keeping the course as well maintained as it was despite the conditions.


The baking PLUS the greens being punched when I was there put a damper on things. I can't blame them, the course needed to be tended to and with their busy season being the Fall, I hit it at the wrong time. Still, I can see the greatness in this course and am saddened that I couldn't play it at its full potential. It reminded me of playing TPC Stadium, amazing undulations and fun to get to the hole but once there, well, you walk away wondering what could have been.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Ballyneal. It is a real thinking golfer's course, you need to be constantly thinking about your tee shot, you approach shots, how to play the greens. I can't remember the last course that kept me as engaged as BN did. It truly is a Scottish links course with blind shots, fescue and many opportunities to bump and run your shots and if you ever find yourself invited to play you should go!

More information on Ballyneal can be found here: https://www.ballyneal.com/




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

99 Holes In The Heartland- Wild Horse Golf Club


I recently went on a trip deep into the ranch-land of America playing courses in Nebraska and Colorado. This is the second in a series of blog posts about the 99 holes I played at these amazing courses. 

Wild Horse is a very young course with a very old soul. The course sits on the leading edge of the famous sand hills region of Nebraska which has recently become a golf mecca between the creation of the lauded Sand Hills Golf Club, Dismal River and The Prairie Club. In fact, Wild Horse is often called the public version of Sand Hills Golf Club and while it sorta is, it also stands on its own as a fine golf course.


The course is set amongst the swales of the prairie land, often with blind shots or obscured second shots (making the first time playing the course somewhat difficult but setting up fun replays in the future). While not super hilly, the course architects did an impressive job separating each hole so you feel removed from the other golfers playing and mostly alone on the prairie (save for the occasional snake!).

The only design flaw in the routing occurs between holes two and three which have a siamese twin joining of fairways linked by a pot bunker and if the groups are going out in 10 minute spacing, you are going to be seeing people play in differing fairways and hitting shots over each other.

Other than this kink, the course mostly comes at you in a high golf gear making for an enjoyable round.


The clubhouse is usually in sight and can offer good aiming targets for the golfer. Also, I thought the positioning of the bunkers were excellent. Just look at that little guy in the picture above, just waiting to gobble up a mishit ball. Also look at this one below:


with an incredibly severe lip.

The backside has a lot more elevation gains and losses


(its uphill, trust me)

and incorporates a design element I noticed over and over again in the sand hills, elevated par 3's. I'm not quite sure who designed these par 3's but it is a common theme running throughout the sand hills.

The course is also charmingly rustic and I loved the tee markers and fairway yardages!



The greens were some of the best I played during my trip to the heartland which is saying something given the other courses in the area I checked out. Hard and fast with true rolls, a golfers delight (or torment!). The conditioning is fantastic and while the swale grass creeps a little too close to the fairway, there is enough margin for error that you can get around the course without losing too many golf balls.

I was expecting to be impressed by Wild Horse and I was! It is well worth the money for greens fees and if you can't get on the private tracks in Nebraska you can play this one along and come away impressed with Nebraska golf.


For more information about Wild Horse, check them out here: http://www.playwildhorse.com/

EXTRA Bonus: Wild Horse has recently built cabins that offer stay and play deals. The interior of the cabins were great and I was stoked to be staying in the Hogan cabin. If you make it all the way to Gothenburg, do yourself a favor and stay here!