Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Palm Springs has underwhelmed me so far in my travels out to the desert. So many of the courses are unimaginative romps through housing developments. When I research courses on the internet, the best ones, to my eye, are the private ones nestled right up next to the mountains. Well, all things Palm Springs turned around for me in a big way playing La Quinta's Mountain course. The best course I have played in Palm Springs and one of the most scenic courses I have ever played is this one and one you have to play post haste.
The first hole starts you off in Dye land. Not too long but full of treachery either going left or going too long right into the humps.
To say that the course nestles up to the mountains for a long kiss and some scotch is an understatement. The mountains influence everything from putts to views and it is some of the most stunning scenery in Palm Springs or anywhere else.
Dye's classic railroad ties and other architectural flourishes are on fully display but yet softened compared to TPC Stadium or other Dye tracks I have played. Sure there are long sand waste areas and tightly cut fairways
but these aren't penal flourishes and in fact make for a really fun golf day.
The front 9 is wide open with no houses, fantastic conditioning and many holes run up against the mountains. It was super surprising how fun the front 9 is and each tee shot gives you a lot fo visually chew on.
Water is definitely a factor here and my advice is to steer well clear from it as the fairways and even the waste area bunkers are subtly sloped toward the water.
The less that is said about holes 10-13 the better. Forced to thread their way through the La Quinta housing development, the holes offer some of the claustrophobic ridiculousness that Palm Springs gives more times than not. There is a beautiful tree though so there's that.
The Reason For The Season:
All the money you pay for this course, all the holes you play beforehand all lead up to the last stretch which is arguably the best stretch of 5 holes in SoCal. First up, 14:
With no sense of fairways and pot bunkers everywhere you are faced with an uncertain tee shot and definitely an uncertain second shot with a potential gully eating your ball.
All of this leads up to a green that is one of the most beautiful sights you have ever seen.
This is all prelude to the 15th, a long par 5 that parallels the mountains.
The real beauty of this hole comes into focus from above, in what is perhaps the most oft photographed hole in all of the La Quinta resort.
16 is a shorter par 3 that has a sea of green amidst a sea of rocks. Visually, there is nothing quite like it, at east in SoCal.
17 and 18 are really fun and challenging holes with a par 4 and a par 5 to close it out.
The only negative of the round was the pace of play. There were plenty of marshals but little marshaling. For a Saturday at high season, its not surprising but otherwise the round was fantastic.
Overall, this course was a surprise in all the best possible ways. I have always viewed Palm Springs with a lot of trepidation but now I am looking forward to going back and playing this course.
For more info on La Quinta, check out the link: http://www.laquintaresort.com/golf/la-quinta-resort-golf-courses/la-quinta-resort-mountain-course/
1) Asian Swing
The LPGA is currently gallavating around Asia. They break down what has already happened and what is up next:
2) Mexican Fantasy
GolfWeek breaks down the fantasy golf plays south of the border:
3) Ask Alan
Ask Alan is back with some entertaining questions:
4) New Podcast
ShackHouse is in the house with a new podcast, check em out!
Monday, February 27, 2017
1) Ricky Wins
Geoff breaks down Rickie's win and his fight with Johnny Miller.
2) Rory and The Media
Stephanie breaks it all down. I don't agree necessarily but I like her take nonetheless.
3) Colt 45
Fantastic write-up of Harry's great legacy in the game of golf.
Friday, February 24, 2017
1) Mo Money Mo Problems
Interesting that as the purses swell in the USGA thanks to the Fox deal, the players want more of a say. I am all for it and will be interesting to see how it develops.
2) Honda Classic Updates
GolfWeek has you covered for all of your Honda Classic needs today.
3) Social Media Squabbles
Yes, yes, this happened yesterday. Whatever.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
1) Baseball and Golf
Has anyone played golf at baseball parks? This seems to be all the rage on social media but I don't know anyone who has actually played one of these courses. Are they any fun?
2) Unflappable Returns
Inbee, the placid, returns to LPGA action today.
3) Good Ideas
I hate "grow the game" but that being said, these are some good ideas.
4) New Podcast
Scotland Week continues to roll along with the Golf Getaways folks and here is their latest podcast!
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Wilson is one of three golf courses in the Griffith Park golf complex (all of which are named after presidents). Wilson is considered the most challenging of the three and the day I played it was after a long week of rain making the whole experience have a Pacific Northwest vibe.
The front side has a lot of tasty holes on it, none more so than the first hole which is a long par 5 which encourages a player to hit a draw
and then hit a faded second shot.
The course ebbs and flows over the hills and while the routing brings you close to the 5 Freeway several times, you never feel on top of other holes like many other parkland courses.
The green complexes are really the stars of this course. While the routing might be a bit straightforward, the greens are anything but. So many ridges, so many tough pin placements. Pray for a kind greenskeeper on the day you play here.
The back 9 doesn't quite have the zing of the front side. Most of the holes are like the one below, a slight dogleg right to an uphill green.
The best of the bunch come late in the round with 17 offering a fantastic downhill hole with a green guarded by a ferocious bunker and shades of the Northwest fill your view.
18 is a real beast with an uphill/blind tee shot and then a long second shot over a valley with the clubhouse looming in the background.
Its a true test to finish you off at Wilson.
Overall, Wilson is a solid city course, one that tests you but is ultimately fair. The routing is fine, the bunkering is fine but ultimately my biggest issue with the course was the round being 5 hours with no marshall in sight. It wasn't slow per se but with tee times every 8 minutes, its no surprise there was a jam up on the front side. I liked Wilson, I'm just not in love with Wilson.
For more info on Wilson, check it out here: http://golf.lacity.org/cdp_wilson.htm
1) Slow Play
Perhaps my favorite golf writer of all is Karen Crouse of the NYT. She takes on slow play in her latest column which Geoff summarizes here.
2) Honda Classic Part 1
Interested in the course the pros are playing at this week? Check out GNN's nice summary of the track.
3) Honda Classic Part 2
Need some picks for your fantasy golf team? The Fried Egg has you covered for the upcoming Honda Classic.
4) New Podcast
Shane talks with the Euro Tour chief.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
1) Genesis Recap
Geoff takes you through all the highs of the recently completed Genesis Open.
2) Down Under Winner
Ha Na Jang takes the Aussie crown at the beautiful Royal Adelaide.
Have to give props to my childhood golf hero Fred Couples winning last weekend on the Champs Tour!
4) New Podcast
The Golf Getaways guys are back at it. Today they continue Scotland week by talking to one of my favorite golf people Ru McDonald.
Friday, February 17, 2017
1) Its a Sprint not a Marathon
Geoff tackles a topic that has been on my mind for awhile, everyone will seemingly quit golf by 40.
2) Euro Me Keith
Great Interview with Keith Pelley head of the European Tour with Alan.
3) Army Man
Well, well, look who is in the lead at Riviera.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
1) Distance As Far As The Eye Can See
Geoff takes on the USGA/R&A latest missive on driving distance.
2) Host Duties
There will never be another Arnie but I am really liking what the API is doing with these new hosts.
3) Top Dog
Looks like someone gave a Pete Dye course top marks in a class. Anyone ever play it?
4) New Podcast
The Golf Getaways guys talk golf resorts in today's podcast.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
GNN has a great in-depth look at the Riviera Country Club as the PGA pros get ready to play it this week.
2) Golf Down Under
The LPGA is in Australia this week and GolfAustralia gives a great preview of all of the action.
3) Kevin Hall
This is a great story about one of the golfers in the field this week. A must read.
4) New Podcast
The ShackHouse is back, talking all things Pebble and Riviera and interviewing the founder of Johnnie-O.
Aviara Golf Club is among the best golf courses not only in Carlsbad (which is a mean feat to itself) but in Southern California. Home to the LPGA's Kia Classic, the course's conditioning and routing will challenge amateur and golfer alike. I was fortunate enough to play there recently and here are some of musings.
The course is unbelievably hilly with significant elevation gains and losses.
The course was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay back in 1991 and you can see that they were in thrall of bulldozers at that time as the contours of the fairways and green complexes try to mimic the natural highs and lows in the course but to mixed results.
Don't get me wrong, if you find yourself in these bumps and swales it causes you to hit different types of shots but there is something just a bit to tricked up and unnecessary in this type of design that you find from the 90s. Links golf isn't perfect but the ebb and the flow makes sense because its well natural.
That is where my criticism of Arnie's design stops however as the course overall is a powerhouse of fun. Amazing conditioning, friendly staff and challenging holes abound and here are some other features I liked.
Water really starts coming into play on 8 (a par 5 with a beautiful pond)
And then kicks into high gear on the back 9 with multiple holes featuring water (all leading up to the 18th hole which I will get to in a minute).
The water never felt out of place and whether these are naturally occurring ponds on the property, built as reservoirs or built for other purposes, I really enjoyed every hole that had water as it made you really think about a given shot.
Also the bunkering on this course is everywhere and definitely was sculpted into the ground with an artist's eye.
The bunkers are numerous but easily avoided for the most part but interestingly if you find yourself in one, it is better to be short as the lips are huge and its better to be in the flatter territory on these things.
The par 3s on this course (especially on the back 9) are some of the most visually enticing holes that I have played. It is like if flowers from Augusta and the water features from other Southern California golfers courses married and had these par 3 babies. While there is one outlier that is an uphill shot with no water and no flowers, most of the par 3s look like this.
Of course, the challenge of these holes is not to hit it into the water but for the most part, they provide bailout areas so you can enjoy the beauty without going through a bag of balls.
I have attended several LPGA events here at Aviara and aside from all the beauty and interesting holes as detailed above, this hole reigned supreme in my imagination and I have wanted to play it ever since.
The hole is a long par 4 and is nestled between a lake and an estuary leading to the sea. When you step onto the tee, the salt air hits you in the face and as the hole plays slightly downhill, its really a stunning visual. The play is to hit your ball 240 to the corner of the pond and/or 265 to the bunker on the far left and then have a long iron into the green, which is partially defended by a waterfall (!).
You can't help but take your time on this hole and even though I was having an "eh" day on the scorecard, I sharpened my focus and my game to try and play this hole as well as possible. Its tough though as even making your way back to your cart can cause awe-inspiring views.
Once you get to the green it is long and narrow with a ridge running through the middle of it and with a back and left hole location, it made for very difficult putting.
Overall this hole is a beast and even if you hate the rest of the course (you won't) you will love this hole.
Aviara is a top notch golf course and one of the best conditioned in SoCal. The holes are mostly intriguing and there are a few superstar standouts that are amongst the best holes in the Southland. The tricked up nature of the fairways and some of the random placement of bunkers was a bit perplexing but the course for the most part engages you in all the right ways. It is an expensive course, no doubt about that but I walked away from it really glad to have paid the money to play such a visually engaging course and 18 along was worth it for me.
For more information about Aviara, check it out here! http://www.golfaviara.com/