Thursday, October 29, 2015
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
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
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?
Thursday, October 1, 2015
I have never golfed out in Palm Springs but it surely is a golf destination for the serious golfer with over 100 courses tucked snugly into the Coachella Valley. My golf buddies and I decided to head out there to play 36 holes at Weston Mission Hills at the Pete Dye course.
Playing 36 means getting up crazy early and our group was the first off the tee at 6:30am. This round was a lot of first for me. First time playing a Troon course, first time playing in Palm Springs and after racking my brain, I think its the first time playing a Dye course.
The staff at Troon was great, from check in to marshal-ing and they run a top-notch operation there at the Westin. Palm Springs golf was, well Palm Springs-y. There are homes along the course but the homes are set back enough that you never really felt closed in and of course there were palm trees all around.
As for the Dye, course component, he certainly lived up to his reputation as an earth mover and as a penalizer if your ball was off line. Many of the holes had valleys of death around the greens, with severe slopes and collection areas that your ball definitely shouldn't go into. My favorite version of this was the par 3 that was mostly bunker, very little green.
The course was in great shape although the greens were running pretty slow but true. This is a double edge sword of having a course in the middle of the desert. If you cut the greens short/fast, they will die out in the heat. I saw at another course that they installed metal fans to blow on the grass to keep it alive (which seems a bit much). The fairways were in great shape as was the rough.
I was also surprised at the number of water holes on the course. Westin also has a Gary Player course and that is supposed to have more water than the Dye course and if so it must have a LOT of water. I really liked the water holes on Dye (except when I scored so poorly on em ;)).
Overall I enjoyed my day at Westin and golfing in the desert. If you want a tip when you play the course, make sure you get a hot dog at Pinzimi, it is delicious!
For more info on Westin, check it out here: http://www.westinmissionhills.com/palm-springs-golf-resort