Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Canada often gets overlooked as a golfing destination but if you do, you do so at your own peril. There are tremendous Top 100 courses in Canada but beyond the rankings there are numerous golf courses that seem to offer fun challenges to golfers in fantastic natural settings. Plus Canada has my three favorite things moose, maple syrup and hockey so really it is the complete package.
Over the last few years I have become enamored with one area of Canada in particular, Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria. Vancouver Island is surprisingly temperate weather-wise, meaning when the mainland is getting socked in by months of snow, you can still golf there and the golf courses look fantastic. Also, Alaska Airlines flies 4 flights a day into Victoria so it is easy to get to whether you are on the West Coast or the East Coast.
The Island has also put together a Golf Trail and multiple golf packages which takes you up and down the coast or situates you in one area but no matter where you are, you have tremendous golf offerings to choose from. One day I hope to get up there and see it all for myself and then I can tell you all about my Canadian adventures! For the time being, here are a few courses I have been doing deep dives on:
Bear Mountain (Mountain): Jack Nicklaus is a prolific course designer but I dare say he hasn't crafted too many courses prettier than Bear Mountain. Somehow Jack and crew managed to wedge this course on the side of a mountain providing amazing views of the surrounding island. The PGA Champions Tour knows a good thing when it sees it and has an annual tour stop here. The resort associated with the golf course is top notch and the Golf Trail offers stay and play packages so you can live the good life with a good course.
Highland Pacific Golf Course: Victoria is a beautiful looking town and is probably where I will be spending most of my time when not golfing on the island. Just outside of town is HPGC which was a course that was a real family affair. Herb Plasterer wanted to build a public golf course and started down the path but died. His wife Rose and his family carried on and the course came into being and looks absolutely stunning. I love courses molded by iconoclastic designers like Pine Valley and Pebble Beach and this course is much cheaper and much more accessible than those ones and I can't wait to see what Herb and Rose got up to.
Arbutus Ridge: Golf courses live in their environment, that is just part of the deal. Arbutus is a beautiful looking golf course that is surrounded by 9 wineries and not only that, it has a certificate in environmental planning. This land is gorgeous and the golf course only enhances the beauty of the terrain. WestJet! Magazine named this course one of the best values in Canada and I look forward to seeing why.
Victoria Golf Club: A private course on VI, and not on the official golf trail, VGC warrants special mention because of my obsession about it. The course was founded in 1893 (second oldest in North America!) is often ranked in the uppermost reaches of Canada courses and if I could be a member of any course in Canada, this would be the one. Numerous holes by the ocean and also fantastic parkland holes, this course seems to have it all. The clubhouse is a historic landmark but from what I understand about it, the club has a great, laid-back vibe. It would be a honour (Queen's spelling) just to play there and definitely on my top 10 "must play" list.
So there you go, a deep dive into one of the unheralded golfing regions in the world, Vancouver Island. Have you played any of the courses there and/or have done the golf trail? Let me know in the comments and if there are any I need to play tell me!
For more information on golf on Vancouver Island, be sure to check out the following link: http://golfvancouverisland.ca/
Images are from Golf Vancouver Island and are used for news and commentary purposes only.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Mammoth Becomes Bigger:
Just before my visit to SV, it looks like preview play for David McLay Kidd's Mammoth Dunes will be extended to 9 holes. From the preview pics I have seen thus far, Mammoth looks outrageous and even if I can't play 18, I will at least get 9 in and perhaps even get to walk the rest.
I have always been a fan of Kemper Sports, the management company founded by Mike Keiser. They just so happen to manage the top golf resorts in the US, Bandon Dunes, Streamsong and now Sand Valley. I have never stayed at a true golf resort it has only been at hotels near courses or places with one golf course. It will be interesting to see what the vibe is whenever everyone there are golf nuts, can't wait!
So I have now learned about Kringles. Kringles are rolled dough that come out like a flattened cinnamon bun and can take upwards of 3 days to make because they let the dough rest between folding. It sounds ridiculously complicated but also delicious! This is one I might try: http://larsenskringle.com/kringle.html
Also I am planning to visit the Cheese Castle! This place looks glorious and also very Wisconsin!
For more information about Sand Valley, check out the link: http://www.sandvalleygolfresort.com/
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The Southern Tier of New York is a beautiful area of the country. Rolling hills, friendly people and the home to wondrous little sandwiches called Spiedies. A golfer may think there is nothing but hills and chicken sandwiches in this part of the state and would speed on by but in Endicott, New York there lurks one heck of a golf course, the En-Joie Golf Club.
Home for years to the PGA Tour's BC Open (and now the Champions Tour Dick's Sporting Goods Open), the golf course is a true championship course that is also fun, a rare combination! Above is a picture of the first hole which features a blind tee shot, difficult section shot but all imminently gettable to the average hack.
I don't like parkland courses typically because I don't like holes that are laid out like layers of a Dagwood sandwich but En-Joie is the one course that I love because the holes offer such variety and the course has been routed in a clever way to limit the stacking as much as possible.
Adding to my enjoyment of En-Joie (get it, get it?) was the fact that the conditions were some of the best that I have played in many a year, whether in the Southern Tier or around the country. The grounds crew deserves all the credit in the world for having the fairways lush, the greens rolling firm and true and the rough in playable/hackable shape. This is no small feat as the course has a history of flooding from nearby rivers and was even underwater earlier this year.
The course offers a beguiling mix of holes from very short par 5s to long par 3s to picturesque par 4s. Some championship courses are long and hard. Some are short and narrow. En-Joie is the perfect mix of all of those concepts but most importantly it is fun.
The best hole on the course is the 16th which is a long par 4 that has trouble (to say the least) down the left leading to an elevated green and one heck of a closing hole.
The second best holes are the two closing holes, 9 and 18. Too often golf courses don't end on a high note but rather a tough note. Each of the closing holes at En-Joie parallel each other but offer differing tests all leading up to the huge tournament clubhouse.
The residents of Broome County are luck to have such a course there, especially with an unbelievable membership package available (I would be one in a second if only for the fact I live in California). If you are in New York this Summer, this is the course to play.
For more information on En-Joie check it out here: http://enjoiegolf.com/
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
New Jersey never gets the love that other states do for their golf courses. Everyone is quick to compile top 10 lists for courses in California, New York, Florida, etc. but Jersey often gets overlooked. It shouldn't.
New Jersey after all is home to arguably the number one course in the world Pine Valley, up the road is the famous Baltusrol and soon will be hosting the President's Cup at Liberty National.
Old York Country Club is Jersey name few have probably heard of but it is a fantastic private course nestled in central Jersey that features a highly entertaining Gary Player design.
The course has a tremendous amount of strategy off the tee. For example, above is your tee shot on a short par 4. The inclination is to hit driver but because of the framing of the hole on the tee box, it is better to lay up with an iron or fairway wood and then have an easier shot onto the green.
Old York will definitely make you think about your second shot constantly. Do I lay up here, go for the gusto and then what I am left with into the green?
The other way the course can take driver out of your hand is the rough. Jersey like the rest of the Northeast in 2017 has been the recipient of a lot of rain so the rough has grown up a bit and if you get in there, you need to make sure you aren't wedded to par and will instead swipe right on bogey or worse.
The greens themselves are also things of beauty.
They roll true, have great undulations but aren't completely unfair to the average hack. The groundskeeper keeps OYCC in great shape, especially the greens. Now in fairness, the day I played all the hole placements were in championship form being cut on the edges of undulations like the green above but it just added to the challenge of the course.
The thing I liked best about OYCC was the routing. The course was laid out on a former horse farm and while Player definitely sculpted the land via bulldozer (some of the sculpting was very reminiscent of the work done by Arthur Hills at Forest Akers), the routing is superb as it takes you to various topographies with never the same set up twice and the holes feel like separate islands rather than a traditional parkland course.
The bunkering was top notch and it was also great to see some turf reduction in effect with more sandy waste areas than expected for a private Northeastern course.
My favorite hole on the course has to be the 9th, which is emblematic of every question Old York asks a golfer that plays there. A short par 4, do you lay up to the base of the hill and then have a blind shot into an uphill green or do you try and bomb it to the top of the hill? If you bomb it and miss you have bunkers, trees and that long rough waiting for you. Also, be sure not to skull it into the pond.
It is a fantastic hole and I chose the wrong strategy throughout in playing it but it is a testament to the course that after I finished 18 I wanted to get right back out there and apply what I learned in playing the course again. That a course makes you want to play it over and over again is the sign of a fun and challenging course and I can't wait for my next round here!
For more info on Old York, check out the link! http://www.oldyorkcc.com/