Thursday, August 20, 2015
When you think of courses in California, you think of the ones at the ends of the state. The beautiful tracks on the Monterey Peninsula and the awesome desert courses in SoCal. The middle of the state doesn't get as much love but hopefully that will change with more people discovering courses like the River Course at Alisal.
While you would think there is more than one course given the name, there is but one and the one course is a beautiful, minimalistic track with oak trees strategically placed and hard as a rock greens which makes shot placement and links-style golf a premium. So many times on this course you had to play for a 20 yard roll out on the green.
The course was pretty baked on the edges due to the ongoing drought
but it was green where it counts and the fairways were in great shape.
The greens didn't just inspire links-style golf but so did the wind. The wind was howling that day, with half the holes going into the wind and half with it.
Want to see how windy it was? Check it out!
The thing about playing in SoCal is that there is rarely any weather so it comes up and knocks you in the face its fun to try out your game against it.
My favorite hole was the number one handicap hole on the course (the hardest) and it was INTO the wind.
This thing was a brute! I hit driver, 3 iron, sand wedge and had a putt for par but blew it. It would have been one of my toughest pars I ever made but the fact that I was close was gratifying.
The course has cool, hidden water features and while it is straightforward in some ways, I bet playing this course two or three times you can really dial in all of the cool little quirks of the place.
Overall this was a fun course, albeit just too far from Los Angeles to justify the 2 plus hour trip. Still, if you are in Solvang or the Santa Barbara area, you should check it out!
More Info Here: http://www.rivercourse.com/-course(2)
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
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 firstname.lastname@example.org I promise total discretion for anyone who helps. Thanks!
I have been posting a lot recently about lifelong bucket lists. Coore Crenshaw courses I want to play and a top 10, drop everything and play it list. The number one course on that list is Cypress Point Club and its number one by a mile.
Why do I want to play this course over any other course in the entire world?
1) 18 world class holes.
2) 4 holes along the water in THE best stretch of golf on the planet.
3) The club has approximately 250 members and is ultra private which means if you play it, you have won the lifetime golf lottery.
4) The best par 3 on the planet.
Suffice to say, I am in love with this course. This year I have wanted to up my game and play great courses and have resolved in my mind that not only do I want to play great courses but I want to play the BEST.
So, CPC is the BEST but it is ultra private, what am I to do? Well...blog about trying to play it of course! There are lots of blogs that tell you about playing but I will try and take you through my journey of TRYING to playing the course (certainly no revealing names, etc. just the process I use).
My first inclination is to plead my case directly to the pros at Cypress Point. I am going to write them personal letters and ask them periodically if I can play.
Secondly I have joined Golf Odyssey, a subscription travel golf newsletter that also promises to send you tips on playing private courses. I will be trying their tips as soon as I receive them and will let you know the results and also review the site.
As we go along, I will also be writing about all things CPC, about books (for example, Geoff's Shackelford's quintessential book) and other minutiae about Cypress Point and why its so special. Day 1, it begins! Stay tuned!
Random Cypress Review Link: http://www.golftripper.com/cypress-point-club/
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Orange County and San Diego County have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ocean courses. The most famous of which is Torrey Pines but right there is Pelican Hill and Monarch Beach Golf Links. MBGL is part of the St. Regis resort and the price-tag reflects that relationship and the location of the course right next to the ocean. I was fortunate enough to play the course recently and of course you know I had to blog about!
MBGL is really a tale of two 9s. The front 9 has ocean views on almost every hole. The back 9 winds it way through the expensive houses of Dana Point with a very resort course feel. Both 9s are in amazing shape, green with rather confusingly-spongy fairways but the ball always sits up. The greens on both 9s are in fantastic shape, they roll fast and true and will hold shots like a pro green.
The front 9 is all about water. Ocean views, lakes, streams, the front 9 is H20 and I loved it! The first two holes are straightforward par 4's. Left or right off the fairway may find you in a bunker (or in the water) but this is just all prelude to the real superstar of MBGL, the par 4 3rd hole.
The hole is only 288 and so you are hitting 5 wood or less off the tee, all the while trying not to be distracted by the ocean. You are generally supposed to play a hole in 15 minutes but I think you would be forgiven playing this hole in 45 or so ;).
The fairway is narrow but there bailout areas in the right and up to the left. You should hopefully have about 80 or less into the hole for the second shot and the green is two tiered so knowing where the pin is placed is crucial.
Well, it would be crucial if you cared at all about making a score on the hole versus just checking out the dolphins in the ocean. Really, you can't say enough about this hole.
The rest of the front 9 is solid including a very weird but enjoyable par 5 that crosses a willow bedecked stream twice on its way to the hole.
One word about the bunkers.
The sand is in immaculate shape here but heavy. One bunker I was in felt like the beach, amazing depth of sand! You will be able to do get shots out and the sand is some of the best in SoCal no doubt!
Overall I enjoyed my day at MBGL. I felt very relaxed, helped no doubt by the sea air and the views. The staff were all top notch and really made for a great experience. The greens and sea views were fantastic, especially on the front side. I just wish the course would lower its rates a bit as the price means this track is only "once in a great while" for yours truly. Also, if I ruled the world, I would flip the 9s, start you off amongst the houses and wow you on the back so someone elect me president will ya?
For more info on Monarch Beach, check it out here: http://www.monarchbeachgolf.com/index.php
Thursday, July 30, 2015
There are many golf course choices in Los Angeles. Some people gravitate to the coast, the Torrey Pines, the Trump Nationals. Some people play the highly ranked courses, the Maderas, the LACC's the Riverias. Some people play the LA City courses in all of their pockmarked glory.
For me and my money, if I had one area to play and no where else, plant me in Simi Valley. So many great courses, so little time. And reasonably priced as well! When you are paying $40+ for a weekend round on a beat up city course, why not pay a little bit more for a world class track in Simi?
I found myself the other weekend checking out Tierra Rejada in the Moorpark area and its another hidden gem. While the $95 is a bit steeper than most tracks, there are deals to be found for TR and I found myself with a deal and eagerly anticipating the round.
This time of year (the Summer) you want to play early and the courses know that with rounds progressively getting cheaper throughout the day. The downside to Simi Valley is that the mornings are often socked in with fog and the first five holes were all about hitting and praying.
Once the fog lifted though, whooo doggy what a course!
What you don't realize going through all that fog is that you are slowly heading uphill to a plateau and several of the holes are either on top of the plateau or...
Hitting down to another plateau! I mean look at this thing! The tee box is at least 100+ feet above the fairway, which is very narrow but if you don't hit driver on this hole, there is no hope for you as a golfer.
What the front side giveth in terms of elevated tee shots, it makes up on the back side with elevated greens so unless you are long on the back, you are going to have a long day hitting uphill to these greens.
I was blown away by TR, yet ANOTHER reason that golf in Simi is the best in LA. The only downside of TR is that the greens are a little inconsistent, some roll fast some roll slow, all roll flat and true. I think part of this is the weather, the mornings must be so foggy and damp that it effects the greens in different ways. My suggestion, play the course later in the day to get the full effect of its beauty.
Over all, an amazing experience and one every LA golfer has to try out.
For more info on Tierra Rejada, check it out here: http://www.tierrarejadagolf.com/
Thursday, July 23, 2015
LA is a big place. It stretches as far as the eye can see and has more courses that you can shake a stick at. Want seaside links? Go down to Palos Verdes. Want parkland courses, look no further than the tracks in Griffith Park. Hell, a place most people in LA don't go to (Simi Valley) has numerous world-class golf courses there!
South and East of LA is no different and on this day, I went to Corona California to check out the Champions Club which is nestled in a gated community called The Retreat. The course has a HEAVY social media presence, always running contests, engaging golfers etc. I decided to check it out and was pleasantly surprised!
First off, the course is hilly.
Hilly is an understatement, especially on the back 9, which I will get to later. The course really hugs every twist and turn in the canyons it inhabits and really looks like at times that it is carved out of the side of a mountain.
Because of the hilliness, local knowledge becomes key. For example, the first hole is a par five but because there is a huge ravine about 260 out, the best play is a 3 wood off the tee. There are also many greens with two tiers so knowing that and hitting to the right tier is paramount.
Aside from the hilliness of the course and even though both nines inhabit the same general viscinty they are two very different courses.
The front side is hilly but straightforward and rather short. Clocking in with 3 par 5's (all under 500 yards), you can pick up some much needed confidence and scores on the front side.
The backside by contrast has a ton more hills, a ton more elevated greens and a ton more chances to lose balls, especially on numerous par 4's over 400 yards. Some of the holes, in all honesty, are a bit too severe because after a great tee shot, you have a crazy side hill lie and then you watch the ball fall helplessly short of the elevated green.
That is not to say the backside is too crazy because my favorite hole on the entire course was 16.
A par five, slight dogleg right with a beautiful pond guarding the green:
I really enjoyed my time at Champions, the course was in great shape considering the mega-drought California is currently suffering through (they use reclaimed water to irrigate). I was confused why the course made such an effort through signs and GPS commands to repair all ballmarks but when you get to the greens you can see the damage done but improperly or un-repaired marks (seriously golfers get it together!)
By far though, my favorite thing of the day was the GPS device in the cart. For me, I am old school. I will pace off yardage from sprinkler heads and eyeball distances. I don't do the electronic distance doohickeys or really pay attention to cart GPS but today I decided to give it a whirl. While the information was interesting, I found this to be my favorite message of the day:
Never fear Champions Club, I did not go in my pants. ;)
Overall this is really a different, challenging course than most of the tracks you can play in SoCal. It is hilly and at sometimes unforgiving but the vistas are worth it. Plus, there is a real premium on quick rounds and I was able to get around in 4:15 (which could have been even quicker). If you are looking for canyon golf, look no further than the good ol CC!
For more info on the course, check it out here: http://www.championsclubretreat.com/
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
I have started changing my entire golf wardrobe to incorporate purple and Tom Morris has it in spades! So many great purple golf items to choose, here are some of my favorites:
WEST SANDS POLO
I have never been to Scotland but it is HIGH on my list. The same goes for the clothes, I don't have any of them but they are HIGH on my list and I look forward to any sales they might have coming up for us in the US (or heck buying them in person if I am so lucky)!
For more information about Tom Morris check out this link: http://www.tommorris.com/
All Images Pulled From Tom Morris's website for review or commentary purposes. Hopefully TM doesn't mind as I love their clothes!
Thursday, July 9, 2015
I recently put together a bucket list as a goal to visit my favorite course designers Coore and Crenshaw. It got me thinking, what would be my bucket list of Top 10- must play courses? You know, the ones that if you got invited to play you would hop on a plane and fly across the country or the world to play. THOSE ones?
Before we get to the courses, here are some that are in the "close but not quite" category. Places I would love to play but just didn't make it: Torrey Pines (North and South), Royal Melbourne, San Francisco/California Club/Lake Merced, Lahinch, Makai, LACC, the Quarry, Streamstrong (Red), Bethpage (Black), Pacific Grove, Cabot Cliffs, Kapalua, Pasatiempo and Cruden Bay.
In looking through my list below, one thing is clear, I have a thing for the sea.
Most of the courses that DID make it (with two notable exceptions) have links to the sea, whether as a true links course or at least you can enjoy links sausages near the sea. There is something about the sea air and the views which put these courses over the edge for me. With that proviso, awaaaaaay we go!
10. Shinnecock (USA): There is a theory I once heard that the music that you liked at 16 becomes your favorite music throughout your life. All other music is crap in comparison. For me and Shinnecock, it is all about Corey Pavin's miracle 4 wood to win the tournament amongst the swales of grass. Aside from that memory, this course just exudes beauty, just look of these pics! The history of this course, the beauty, how could you not want to play it? http://www.shinnecockhillsgolfclub.org/
9. Bandon Dunes (USA): 4 amazing courses in one resort. How can you choose just one? They have a Coore Crenshaw course and other amazing tracks but for today, I think we should choose Bandon Dunes, the original. The course looks amazing and with the undulations and wind, this course really makes you think and engages every aspect of your attention and your game which makes this a MUST play for me. http://www.bandondunesgolf.com/golf/golf-courses/bandon-dunes
8. New South Wales (Australia): The first non-US course on the list and its a doozy. Near Sydney but miles away from a city feel, this course is perched on a small spit of land right on the ocean. The reviews of this course are all amazing and the holes look out of this world but I think my favorite is number 5. http://www.nswgolfclub.com.au/welcome/index.mhtml
7. Ocean Course Kiawah Island (USA): While I blog extensively about the Masters, while I might pine extensively about the British and Scottish Opens, while there are tourneys I avidly watch, if I could only watch one golf tournament a year, it would be the Ryder Cup. The passion, the teamwork, the this is my favorite tournament bar none. Kiawah is an amazing Southern US island with world class courses particularly the Ocean Course which hosted the aforementioned Ryder Cup. This is a beauty that I need to play ASAP. http://www.kiawahresort.com/golf
6. Royal County Down (UK): I am American, no question but like most of us mutts, I adhere to identities outside of the US particularly my Irish heritage. There are so many great Irish courses but tops on this list has to be RCD. When I heard that RCD was going to be the course for the Irish Open I pressed record faster than you can say "Jack Rabbit Slims" so I could soak in every bit of this course. It looked amazing on TV and I am guessing looks 20 times better in person. I mean, c'mon just LOOK AT THIS! https://www.royalcountydown.org/
5. Pebble Beach (USA): This course is always on top 10 lists. It seems almost cliche that it appears on my list but there is a reason its on here and its for this picture alone. The history of this course, the location, how can you not play this? Well the price is a bit much but for a bucket list save your pennies and play this track! http://www.pebblebeach.com/
4. Augusta National (USA): The only non-links course on this list but on this list for a reason. There are three reasons to play Augusta 1) The history. Freddie's chip staying up on 12, Nicklaus in 86, Jordan destroying the course. 2) This course is the gold standard for green. Of course, this has some lousy consequences as other courses spend way too much water and fertilizer but to play the original immaculately maintained course must be a thing to behold. 3) The exclusivity. To make this list a course gets on here party if you get a call to play you go, no questions asked. I doubt anyone in the golf community would ever hang up on a call from Augusta.
3. North Berwick Golf Club (UK): This is the top public course on my list and if the top 2 courses weren't private, this might in fact be number one on my list. It has beautiful views of the sea, deep in the golf coast of Scotland. But that isn't what makes this course tops on my list. Instead, every single review lists this course as one of the best in the world but quirky. This is probably exhibit A for quirkiness. For me, its not just enough to play a nicely manicured course, it has to be engaging and make you think. It has to show you something unusual and memorable. This course as this in spades and I want to go. http://www.northberwickgolfclub.com/
2. Sand Hills (USA): One of the ultimate links courses and yet it is not anywhere near the ocean. In fact this course is in the middle of Nebraska. An ultra exclusive club that is super tough to get on but super worthwhile. Just check out this glowing review! Triple bonus points goes to the fact that Coore and Crenshaw designed this beauty which puts it close but not number one on my list.
1. Cypress Point (USA): This course has it all. An iconic hole? Check. An amazing stretch of holes by the sea that are immaculately cared for and almost every hole memorable? Check. What puts this course over the top of all others is the exclusivity. Almost no one can play this course unless you know a member and get a coveted invite. I have no idea who is a member of this course or how I could get on but my golfing life would be complete if I could play this track. This course is the very definition of fly-and-play as soon as the phone rings.
So, that's it, that is the list. Overall I think a pretty good collection eh? What's on your list, what's numero uno? Tell me in the comments!