Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Countdown To Bandon

Bandon Dunes, the secret is out as many golfers before me have gone but for some reason, I think of it as my personal golf mecca. Why?

I love links golf as regular readers can attest. However it is tough to find links golf in the US and most often you have to go to Scotland or Ireland to get your fix. Also, I hate courses with houses. It causes claustrophobia for me and honestly takes away from the outdoor awesomeness that golf can offer. Finally, I love golf schwag and Bandon Dunes is as schwaggy as they come. I mean, have you seen how awesome their Puffin headcover is?

So basically Bandon ticks all of my golf boxes and I have been excited to go ever since I read about it way back when in Links Magazine. Now, I can finally announce that I WILL be going in April! I found some great guys, we made some plans and add a dash of salt and pepper and here we are with an official countdown!

Over the next few months I will be blogging about Bandon, about my plans for Bandon and how I am training for Bandon (the course is walking only with some 36 hole days on the horizon).

Whatever your Bandon is, I hope you play it!

Days Till Bandon: 145 days
Random Bandon Fact: Bandon has a labyrinth. Do you dare enter? http://www.bandondunesgolf.com/blog/explore-walking-trails-bandon-dunes
Random Bandon Reviewhttp://www.linksmagazine.com/golf_travel/the-ultimate-buddies-trip-to-bandon

Friday, November 20, 2015

Golfing Ojai Valley Inn- Review

Every course has a history but some courses have history coming out of their ears. Ojai Valley Inn is one of those. Designed in 1923 by George Thomas (who also did Riviera), the course was the West Coast swing haven for Ben Hogan. Jimmy Demaret was a resident pro. There were senior tour events played here by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw.

Every where you look, there is a plaque remembering some sort of history.

Even how we played the course that day is steeped in history. We started off on 10 which was originally the first hole so we played the course in its historic progression. So what about the golf?

The "front" side of the course has a lot of holes like the one above. Straightforward with narrow fairways but rough you can escape from. Ojai is a short course but don't let the scorecard fool you as the par 3's can be 190 plus and the par 4's are either 290 or over 400.

It's also a schizophrenic course as holes 10-15 are variations on theme. Holes 16-18 are the "lost" holes and have challenging lengths and bunker placements.

Exhibit A for this is the 16th hole.

This hole is a BEAST! 195 downhill with bunkers guarding every bit of real estate before the green with OB to the right and red stakes to the left. I hit the tee shot for a life time, striping a 3 iron to within 20 feet on the green (the pin was tucked in the front) and I had to hit a perfect shot just to make the green.

The "backside" of the course is completely different in nature. Every hole has severe elevation changes and most holes have a forced carry over a gulch of some sort.

As you played the course, you could feel yourself walking with ghosts. One hole is named Hogan's alley and I could feel the Hawk and his disapproval at missed shots or Jimmy helping me hole a sand shot for a birdie.

The ninth hole (our 18th for the day) brings it all home with a par 5 reminiscent of Riviera (as many holes were) with a very narrow fairway and super tight green and you would be lucky to make par here much less a birdie.

Overall the course was a fun experience which you can't say about a lot of golf courses. Whether it was the interesting holes, the history at every turn or the fact that you could score here (playing the course several times would help immensely I think), the round was relaxing and enjoyable. I think the only negative for Ojai is the cost. The rack rate is pretty steep for the course and I would recommend searching out vouchers if you want to play it. Price aside, this was a really fun and funky course, one I am looking forward to playing again!

For more info on Ojai check it out: http://www.ojairesort.com/ojai-california-golf-resort.php

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Golfing Iron Nine Review

Tucked in Cerritos California is a real gem of a pitch n' putt the Cerritos Iron-Wood Nine (what a name for a course)! This course has one of the best par 3's I have played in the Southland but before we get to it (since it is hole 9) what about the rest of the course?

Most of the holes on the course are under 135 yards although there are a few par 4's what the course also has a lot of is power lines which lead to one of my most unusual birdies of all time.

After hitting a solid drive on a par 4, I was left with a wedge into the green. Struck it well and as wedges often do, it went up in the air. Well it went too far up and hit the power lines but when it struck the lines the trajectory flattened out and it landed on the green! Made the 12 footer for birdie and I was PUMPED! Thank you power lines!

The course also has a lot of water.

Oddly enough it doesn't come into play on many of the holes but the breaks in the green sure react to it so always be aware of where it is when putting. Speaking of putting, I had a pretty solid day despite the greens having been recently punched. The speed was fast but not too fast and surprising for a muni. The greens and the course also plays a little wet so you can make some crazy ballmarks just from flipping the ball up on the dance floor.

Speaking of greens, see this?

I had to putt through the rough to go at the flag. Most greens are some sort of oval but at IW9 the rough often sneaks into the green at direct angles making for an interesting putting experience.

Drum Roll, hole 9!

To get to the ninth hole, you have to make your way over a stone bridge (keep some extra cash for the troll tax).

Once you get to the tee, the awesomeness of the ninth hole lays before you has your tee shot has to cross water and not go too far left to go into further water!

In case its tough to tell from the picture, if you bail out left you are either in the trap (I hit it the right yardage but in the trap) or you have to be sure of your chip shot on as it could run over into the water.

This was such a fun hole and such a fun capstone to a fun course. Its not the most challenging but if you have your sticks and are in the Cerritos area, definitely check it out!

For more info on the course, check out this link: http://www.cerritos.us/RESIDENTS/recreation/facilities/iron_wood_nine_golf_course.php

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Toshiba Classic Revisited

Loyal fans of this blog (all two of you) know that I love going to golf tournaments and have on occasion gone to the great Toshiba Classic, home of a Champions Tour event at Newport Beach Country Club. I went back to the tourney this October and below is a short photo essay of my adventure!

It was Military Appreciation Day at the tourney which involved bagpipers. I personally think they should station each of these guys at a hole and have them play Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" if a player makes a birdie. A guy can dream.

You don't get more California golf than palm trees throwing shade on a green. I was surprised by the number of palm trees on the course, it made me feel like I was in Palm Springs.

Even though there palm trees and 80 degree weather, there still were some hints of Fall in the air.

I don't know why this photo essay is turning into a tree essay but I was fascinated by the trees at Newport Beach CC. They had all of these trees around the course that looked like giant bonsai trees. It was a very cool effect.

One last tree picture (I promise!). The downside of having some many palm trees on the course is that eventually you will have to play your way around them. I bet these trees wish they were planted somewhere else when the members play the course.

I broke my promise about pictures of trees but this was too good not to post. About the tourney, it was well run per usual and all of the volunteers were super friendly. There is such a laid back vibe at Champions Tour events and I always enjoy going to them, especially great ones like the Toshiba Classic.

The signature hole at Newport Beach CC is definitely the 17th. A downhill shot over water, it is an amazing hole and serves as a natural amphitheater for spectators and tent villages full of Korbel champagne and tasty food (pro tip, trip the brownies).  This is a great place to chill out and watch fantastic golf.

Photo essay recapped!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Golfing Buenaventura Review

The shot of the tee box above is emblematic of Buenaventura Golf Course in Ventura, CA in so many ways. The first thing you notice is the feeling of claustrophobia standing on the tee through the narrow shoot. The next thing you notice is the wide fairway beyond the chute. The third thing is how close the green is to the tee box despite being a par 4. The last thing you notice is how much fun you are having trying to figure out the fun puzzle that is Buenaventura.

Personally, I think Ventura County is one of the unheralded golfing meccas here in SoCal. I am a huge fan of Olivas Links and there are a bunch of other tracks just waiting for an invitation.

Buenaventura is short but sweet with so many interesting holes. All the par 3's have blind landing areas or guarded by bunkers or like the one below, inundated by water.

The greens were awesome, undulating reasonably fast and running true. The fairways were in good shape, primarily because the course uses reclaimed water. The only downside is that the course was slooooow. It wasn't horrible but the course could just invest in a marshall it would make it 10x better.

The architecture was so interesting I looked up the history of the course. The course was originally designed by William Bell who designed many of the tracks around here in SoCal (including Ojai and Bel-Air). It was redesigned completely by Forest Richardson (who also did Olivas Links) and I will be on the lookout for his work in the future.

The upside of slower play? Lengthening shadows and wonderful light.

I love me some Buenaventura, its short but challenging in unexpected ways. It is a fun course and that is all you can ask from a golf course, a great time!

For more info on Buenaventura, check it out here: http://www.buenaventuragolf.com/
For more info on Kemper Sports, check out this link: http://www.kempersports.com/

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Golfing Oak Quarry Review

There are golf courses in SoCal that have great holes, there are courses that have great views and there are courses that have great architecture. There are few courses that combine all three elements but Oak Quarry is one of the few and an amazing experience.

I am reluctant to write this review as the course is such an amazing track that I want to prevent the hordes of LAians from descending upon Riverside California so I can have the course all to myself but its also too good of a course not to share with y'all.

The last time I felt this good about a course was Rustic Canyon (still one of my favorites in SoCal by a large margin). Like Rustic, Oak Quarry has a great sense of golf architecture. The placement of bunkers and the few trees there are on the course are strategic and engage your game.

What Oak Quarry has that Rustic does not is the views. Laid out amongst the ruins of a quarry mine, each hole runs along sheer granite/basalt cliffs or has changes in elevation that brings the entire property into view.

The course is also smartly laid out. Number 1 and 18 are easy par 4s but each present their own challenge of bunker placement or use of water (there is a surprising amount of water on the course).

I also liked the fact it is not an out and back course in the traditional sense. Number 9 and 10 are in the middle of the property with a little shack for food and you only get back to the clubhouse by playing 18.

The toughest stretch is definitely 10-12 on the course with tough par 3's and par 4's thrown in your face. This all leads up to the signature hole, 14. Rated the best par 3 in Southern California, this hole is everything it is billed to be and more:

The shot is 195 yards over the quarry. Hit it short and you are toast. The green is relatively small and I went for it, just missing it pin high in the rough. If you play it safe and bail to the right, you do not have a good second shot.

Here is a great article just about the 14th hole: http://www.pe.com/articles/golf-776123-oak-quarry.html

There are very few weak holes at Oak Quarry and the only negative thing I can say about the play is that the greens were becoming a lunar landscape when I played. They are about to punch them though which should get them back into shape. Other than the ballmarks, the greens run VERY fast but also true.

Sometimes its best to let pictures do the talking for me so I will leave you with some of my favorite shots from the course:

For more info on Oak Quarry, check it out here: http://www.oakquarry.com/

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Going Old School

 You see those three clubs right there? Thus puppies are at least 20 years old and probably still like grunge music. #RIPKURT

What is new and shiny is great but some of us (I suspect a lot of us) still hold on to the old as they are tried and true. I have three such clubs in my bag (and had a fourth as my putter was 20+ years old until I recently switched it out) and allow me to wax poetic about them for a moment.

This is the first example of tried and true. I remember my dad giving me this wedge back in the day. I put it in my bag, hit it well and that is that. Sure I lust after the Vokeys and the Clevelands and the matched wedge sets that everyone has but if you can hit a club reasonably well and trust where its going, what more do you need from a club? One thing I have been thinking of here, I really should get the bounce figured out as I would love for my other wedges to match this one.

This is my baby. If it were legal in any state to marry this club, I might have done it awhile ago. If my driver is wonky (which is often the case), I can stripe this puppy 240-50 down the fairway and even put a little draw on it if I want. Why I can't do this with any other club remains a mystery. Why they don't make clubs any more with the awesomest shaft ever (the Ti Bubble 2) is also beyond me. TaylorMade, you have your marching orders, bring this baby back!

I had lessons this year from a great pro over at Angeles National. One of my classmates had a whole set of irons with the Ti Bubble 2 shaft. I learned to hit my driver well but I am still trying to internalize my swing all throughout this year and I was struggling recently when a buddy suggested "you hit the 3 wood so well, you should hit it in a driver". Light bulb so I went onto Ebay and darnit if there weren't several drivers available from this model year. There was even a BRAND NEW DRIVER, never been hit from the early 90s. Insanity.

So, I ordered a used driver for $20 and boy does it feel like my 3 wood. I can't hit it as straight (more like a power fade) but when I catch it, I can hit it 290 and it gives me all the distance I need off the tee. Sure a better swing with a better club will give me better results but if I can learn to trust this (and there is already an inbuilt level of trust) then why not go for it?

I guess what I am saying is that Taylormade should have never made another club since 1994 because they achieved perfection and my game is still benefitting from it 20 years later. What old clubs do you have in the bag?