Monday, October 8, 2018
Voyager 2 is currently crossing the void between our solar system and interstellar space. Meanwhile, in my quest to play Cypress Point I have blown past the 1,000 day mark and am starting to chug along to 2,000 days on this quest.
Where are things at? Well I still have a few solid leads based on friendships. Friends who know people who know people and if there is an opportunity to be a fourth in a group like that, my name is on the list. Otherwise, my Pebble Beach trip earlier this year yielded no strong leads other than increasing my jealousy watching clearly members of CPC play rounds of golf inside the ropes.
I don't begrudge the members of playing in the Pro Am and flaunting their CPC bags and headcovers. If I lived in Monterey and was a member of CPC I would live it up to golfing excess.
What the Pro-Am does bring into stark relief is that members of golf's inner circle get the invites much like golf's inner circle gets the Augusta patron invites every year while most of us roll craps on the lottery.
There are tons of pros and celebrities that go to Cypress during their Pro-Am week and I am sure the same will happen in 2019, but on steroids, when Pebble gets the twofer of the Pro-Am and the US Open (yes, yes there is the Nature Valley Senior Tour event in the Fall, so a threefer?). Heck Pasatiempo is gearing up with US Open specials and that is a semi-private club and with CPC ranked 1-3 in the world by most sites, people will be clambering to play there all year.
So I feel like 2019 is probably out for me baring a small friends-of-friends miracle, which is ok. Now, like Voyager 2, I am making my peace with traveling beyond the known solar system into a weirder time and space. As the calendar moves forward, the days I have been on this quest seem to warp like I have fallen through the event horizon into a black hole, it will be fascinating to see how I come to view my quest the longer I am on it.
At the far, far reaches of time, there is the Walker Cup in 2025 which, if I haven't reached my goal by then, will be the hardest press in my life in order to meet and befriend members to hopefully invite me to play. Interestingly, that date is 2,525 days from now, a nice synergy with the year. I wonder where both Voyager 2 and I will be then.
Link To Check Out: The Fried Egg is one of the best golf sites in the biz and while most sites will regale you with tales of the club and specific holes, Andy at the Egg gives you all you need in this great picture album: http://www.friedegg.co/golf-courses/cypress-point
Highly recommend the site and the pics!
Monday, July 2, 2018
Rio Hondo is owned by the City of Downey and is a muni in name only. The course is in fantastic shape during the middle of the Summer here in LA with the fairways rolling green and true, the sand fluffy and pace of play pretty good (I will take what I can get in LA).
The course is definitely a parkland track with trees suggesting the routes but they aren't thick enough to stop you from trying to scramble back into the fairway. In fact, the course has a wide open feel despite having several holes running parallel to each other on each of the 9s.
The superstar of the course is the bunkering like our friends on 17 above where huge tracks of land contain sand and make the player really think about where they should hit the ball. The course is kinda on the shortish side and is rather flat so a lot of the challenging is positioning your shots in the correct place and avoiding the fluffy stuff if you can.
The course also has an insane amount of water, several ponds disrupt the proceedings including the "classic" SoCal par 3 over water 7th hole. The course is slightly compressed in on itself as several holes meet up near greens or stretch themselves around each other, which is very reminiscent of Hacienda and several other SoCal tracks. However, in a true testament to Rio, you never feel claustrophobic and the trees and fencing help keep everyone from being on top of each other.
Rio is also pretty cheap and given its quality this is a real deal here in the Southland. In terms of architecture, Rio mostly delivers. Some of the par 3s are a little too straightforward and there is a bit too much similarity between holes it would be interesting to see if a small refresh, with tweaks to landing areas could turn this course from very good to great.
Rio doesn't seem to be mentioned much in the conversation of quality SoCal public tracks but that is the fault of the reviewers, this is a really solid track that offers a fun public golf experience and many courses in SoCal can't say the same.
For more info about Rio Hondo check out the following link! https://www.riohondogc.com/
Monday, June 25, 2018
Where am I? Everything seems to hazy and all I can discern is the smell of cut grass and trees waving in the wind. Suddenly the number 5 jars me to my senses. 5, 5, 5 it repeats but what does it mean?
Could 5 stand for the 5 hour and 15 minute golf round I just played? Could 5 stand for the number of fivesomes I saw out at Knollwood "Country Club" on a recent trip there? Most likely 5 is the number of working synapsis I had firing into the void after a mind numbing round of Los Angeles golf.
Whatever is "wrong" with the game of golf was on full display at Knollwood, a former country club whose best days are far behind it. The whole property seems to be infected with an uncaring mange, buildings are dingy, the course is hairy and golfers seem to mirror the neglect by not raking bunkers or fixing pitch marks. My round was only snapped out of it's lethargy with a passing motorist yelling at me "golf is for fags".
I certainly can forgive Knollwood for its maintenance issues. All of us should be thankful that anyone is running a golf course at all nowadays and if they focus on maintaining the course, so be it.
I can also forgive the routing which put me in my fugue state to begin with. A guy can only play to so many uphill greens in a row before he starts to go insane.
However, when you add all of this up, compounding interest of bad choices, accruing daily, you wonder when the golf mortgage note finally comes due. When is enough enough? When do golf courses start to see the value in repeat customers actually wanting to come back rather than putting golfers through the mill, without a care whether they come back or not?
Also, how dare Knollwood actually have a tremendous 18th hole?
Embanked left side of the fairway, amazing undulations on the right leading to, you guessed it, an uphill green full of challenge. The land and the course cannot escape its destiny, it is surrounded by houses and the grass choices are what they are but the 18th shows you what the course coulda been. It coulda been a contender.
Sure I have a choice, I could join a private club. Much like parents now have a choice to send their kids to charter schools or private schools. However, is that really the best choice? The public school system is only as strong as its weakest link and it is continually being weakened by charter schools cherry picking. Public golf courses should be making it easier for golfers to want to play there and are the problems inherent in the system better if those with means to go private do so?
New golf course construction isn't necessarily the answer either. Bandon, Sand Valley and their ilk are very expensive. The par 3 revolution that people are trumpeting are expensive as well (The Preserve at Bandon is at least $75, the Sandbox at Sand Valley is at least $45).
Knollwood is golf's deranged present. What the future will be is up to us. A place like Winter Park in Florida may be one way to go. Instead of 18 terrible holes, redesign it with 9 sustainably intriguing holes (well, that is, until we lose Florida entirely due to costal erosion but that is a story for another day).
For more info about Knollwood, check out this link: https://www.knollwoodgc.com/
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, art 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/