Sunday, December 30, 2018
They say any day on the golf course is better than a day at work. While that is certainly true, there are a few golf courses I played this year that are heads and shoulders above the rest. Courses that I will remember for a very long time. Check out the list and let me know what courses you played this year in the comments!
10. Lake Merced
Of all the private clubs on this list, Lake Merced was one of the most fun all around experiences and if I lived in San Fran, I would join it in a second. The routing is great, the trees and the bay breezes are great. The membership is great. All the course needs is a little TLC and it would be fantastic. Maybe on day if I get all the money, I will definitely get a national membership here, it is that good.
9. Barton Creek- Coore/Crenshaw
This course was a tale of 2 nines. The front side kinda a straightforward resort course. The back side? Totally tubular! Rolling hills, crazy greens, great second shots, the back nine had it all.
8. Austin Golf Club
The first rule about AGC is that you can't talk about AGC. The second rule of AGC is see the first rule.
Wow, this is the last course I played in 2018 and it was a real gem. A classic course from the golden age, it still holds up to today's tests and will give you all you want a more. I was really blown away by this one.
6. Pacific Dunes
The views are outrageous. The architecture challenging and engaging. It is consistently ranked in the top 10 in the US much less the world. Still though, with the wind up this course is a beast. All that beauty and routing aside, if the wind is up good luck to ya as the design elements make it close to unplayable on some holes. Strong like, not love.
5. Bandon Trails
You feel like you are in a completely different universe when visiting Bandon and playing Trails and that is a good thing. C&C do an excellent job creating a lot of variety out of the pines and the 11th hole remains one of my favorite holes they have designed thus far.
4. Pacific Grove
Quite simply, it lived up to its reputation of the poor man's Pebble Beach. For $40 you can get out there and knock it around on the front side and say what's the big deal but whoa doggie, you turn to that back side, and you get all the coastal Monterey golf you can handle. This is beyond a gem and a must play if you are in the area!
3. San Francisco GC
Holes 1-9 are perhaps the best stretch of nine holes in the US. The routing superbly uses the landscape to amazing effect, they are 9 holes that will challenge and delight any golfer and the clubhouse and locker room almost have a patina halo around them. Sadly, the back 9 just doesn't hold up to the front with a lot of parallel holes but still excellent by any measure. Still that opening 9 is strong enough to vault the club to number 3 in the rankings.
2. Bandon Dunes
The best course at Bandon, one of the best courses I have played, this course has it all. Width for errant drivers, visually stunning holes and fun greens. People may say Pacific is tougher but it isn't better. Bandon is divine.
1. Cal Club
After playing this course you could've knocked me over with a feather. It is like someone went to the best sandbelt courses in Australia took them up and placed them in San Francisco. Olympic has the pedigree, San Francisco GC has the mystery but Cal Club has the golf, best course I played in 2018 by far!
Thursday, December 27, 2018
When you think of the classic "golden age" courses in Los Angeles, most golfer's minds are drawn to names like LACC (1911), Riviera (1925), and Bel-Air (1925). However, there is another golden age course built in 1921 that often gets overlooked by many in the LA community but shouldn't. Of course, I am talking about Saticoy.
Designed by William Bell in 1921, this course has all the hallmarks of a golden age SoCal course. The opening tee shot is a severe downhill par 4 (much like Riv and Bel-Air).
The course has plenty of width yet there are trees to keep you honest.
Fantastic bunkering with excellent sand.
and some killer par 3s including a par 3 ninth hole and a crazy downhill par 3 tenth hole. This course screams the golden age and yet I felt it was still very modern. The maintenance staff there has made excellent turf choices and the greens roll true with devilish contours.
As excellent as the front side is, the back side is where the course really shines. What Bel-Air, LACC and The Riv don't give you is stunning views of the surrounding countryside but Saticoy gives you that in spades.
My favorite holes on the back nine had to be start the par 3 13th which leads you up to the high point of the course for the awesomesauce 14th which is a par 5 14th featuring a gorge and gorgeous views!
Couple that with the par 4 15th which has a great tee shot and fantastic green complex
and you have a three hole stretch that I would put up against any in the world.
The course ends on a long, roping par 5 with a crazy blind shot into the green. For my first time playing the course, the lack of yardage markers and a few blind shots made for some questionable decisions on my part but Saticoy is a course that demands you to play it more than once, and more than once I will.
The only knock on the course is that they need to trim the rough down a little bit. Balls hit offline seem to nestle in there and were tough to find but 98% of the rest of the course was top notch!
For more information on Saticoy please check out this link: https://www.thesaticoyclub.com/
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
This is it, an hour jam packed with my favorite courses, my favorite eats, my favorite shoes. Everything golf and everything rattling around in my brain for the last 18 months. It might be an Emergency "9" but I could have done a full 18 with the boys. Have a listen here!
Monday, December 3, 2018
Talking Golf Getaways is hands down THE best travel golf podcast on the interwebs. Darin and Mitch are two great people who know a thing or two about traveling to golf courses and I have listened to all 118 episodes of their podcast thus far.
Not only are they great podcasters but they are great guys and I have been fortunate enough to play golf with them over the last several years.
I am a bit of a golf traveler myself getting around the US on my Coore and Crenshaw quest. Still though, I fan Numero Uno of Rams Hill which is 3.5 hours from Los Angeles and one of my favorite courses ever.
If you want to read my musings on Rams Hill, here is the link
but if you want to hear me babble on like a lunatic...
BE SURE to check out the Rams Hill episode here:
For more information about Rams Hill check out the link: https://www.ramshill.com/
Monday, November 26, 2018
There are a lot of great golf manufacturers in the US but I am always on the hunt for clothing companies across the pond. This has led me to check out Galvin Green, Stuburt and now the Emerald Isle steps into the ring with The Caddy Guy.
The Caddy Guy makes bamboo shirts and pullovers along with hats and other schwag and I recently took the clothing out on a golf trip here in SoCal.
I was super impressed by the polo. It was soft and and felt great throughout the round. Usually black isn't the best color in Los Angeles but the fabric kept me cool throughout and once I took it off, no odor! The bamboo really did its job and the polo blew me away.
I also have this killer purple-ish pullover that I can't wait to put on during the round. Plus I am also a fan of the no-tag clothes and I dig the Irish heritage of my garments.
The pullover is just as soft as the polo and the big takeaway from my TCG gear is one word "quality". I was super impressed by the lads and can't wait to see what they come out with next.
For more information about Caddy Guy, check out their website here: http://www.thecaddyguy.ie/
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Sand Canyon has had a tough time of it recently. It was known as Robinson Ranch, home to 36 holes of mountain and canyon golf that was knocked off its perch due to one of California's recent wildfires. Thankfully a new owner thought it was worthwhile to resuscitate the course making it a 27 hole course divided into Mountain, Desert and Valley.
I played the Desert and Valley courses, which is apparently the preferred routing from everyone I spoke to. As you can see, the course is a bit tight, there are definite choke points off the tee and the scrub is very scrubby. Apparently Mountain has this is spades along with rolling topography and the Desert and Valley are a bit more mellow.
What Sand Canyon is doing is the vanguard of desert golf in the American Southwest in the near future. The course is all about the minimum amount of turf, with everything else being allowed to brown out or be scrubified. Exhibit A is this par 3 below, only the tee pads and green are green.
Sand Canyon reminded me a lot of Moorpark Country Club and Silver Oak in Nevada as both force driver out of your hand on several holes given that washes and drainage are nestled right in landing zones. My driver was working well so I took on these features a few times but for the most part, was content hitting fairway woods and irons on several holes.
My favorite hole on the Valley 9 was the ninth hole featuring a tree right in the middle of the landing zone with the hole leading up to the clubhouse. I loved this hole!
The "back 9" was the Desert 9 and it offers more of the same, tight holes, forced carries, etc., just on slightly flatter terrain. It has a real Scottsdale vibe to it.
2 great things about Sand Canyon were the mountain views and also the pace of play. We were so spoiled with the pace of play on the front side that we were grumbling when we came in at 2:15 on the back which I suspect most public golfers would take.
The downside for Sand Canyon is that because of the routing, it is really a target course when it doesn't need to be. Cut the course to 18 holes tighten up the routing, take out the trees to really open it up to the desert and then you are talking.
Overall the course is in good shape and with each course making its way up to the clubhouse it is a nice way to close out a round at SCCC.
For more information about Sand Canyon check out the link: https://www.sandcanyoncc.com/
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
You can't help but get a small George Thomas vibe when you go around San Dimas. There is the classic elevated tee box on the first hole. The course winds it way along a canyon with houses on top also reminiscent of Thomas' designs in SoCal.
Somehow Dan Murray in the 60s put in hints and shadows of golf's golden age into a rather straightforward parkland golf course. As I went around the course, I kept wondering how great this course would have been as a 12 hole course.
The routing is very accordion-like with multiple greens and tee boxes folding in on themselves because Dan just didn't have the room and need to get to 18 holes. There are really interesting holes like the third hole which features a bling shot, water on the left and an amazing downhill second shot so the bones are there for this puppy.
The greens are where the course really shines. Sure they were punched the day I was there but the sloping was something to behold and there was definitely a wrong side of the green.
San Dimas falls down where many SoCal public courses do, tee times. The course was packed with a tournament and 8 minute tee times thereafter. The routing only causes more backups with a short par 4 starting hole a par 3 and then a short par 5 third. Packed tee sheet, poor course routing leads to a very long day.
I would love to see this course get a makeover and get those bones to shine, it could be a really special place.
For more info on San Dimas check out this link: https://www.sandimasgc.com/
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
As I am starting to gear up for the Fall golf season here in SoCal, I have been looking back at my golf adventures over the last year and came up with a random list of "bests". This isn't a top 100 course things but just random best experiences with golf:
1) Best Ice Cream Sandwich:
Sand Valley seems to be on the tip of many a golfer's tongue nowadays and for good reason with a Coore Crenshaw course, the outrageous Mammoth Dunes course and a new sub 6,000 course on the docket. Still the number one best thing are the ice cream sandwiches made by Nye's and imported from North Carolina. My favorite was the strawberry shortcake but they are all good.
2) Best Shampoo:
Everyone talks about Bandon Dunes. It is THE premiere golf destination in America. What amazed me the most about the resort was the level of attentiveness and thoughtfulness that the staff and the rooms exude. Yes you are there for the golf but the resort also wants you to relaxxxxx. This shampoo in the rooms is named calm and it is so true. The scent is calming. The Lilly Pond is calming. The golf may or may not raise your blood pressure but this is the best shampoo I have encountered on my travels.
3) Best Logo- Course Played:
Those who know me know that I rave about Black Sheep. It is a gem of a course and one I wish I was a member of. 27 holes with each 9s being different. It feels like you are playing a sandbelt course amongst the corn. Those who also know me know that I am a sucker for a logo like this and I have many, many pieces of clothing and wallets with this logo on it. It is distinct, whimsical and if you know the history of the club, very on point. You can't ask for anything more from a logo.
4) Best Driving Range:
Clear Creek Tahoe is one hell of a course. It is one of my top 10 favorites of all time. If I lived anywhere near it, I would be a member in a heartbeat. The driving range lives up to the rest of the course. The green complexes on the range present a real feast for the eyes. The chairs and pine trees present a relaxed environment. There is also a great chipping and putting complex but the range. You could totally spend your entire day here if you wanted, making it the best.
5) Best Non-Costal Golf State:
California, Oregon, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington State, they all have amazing golf courses and all have access to water. However, if you turn inland into the US there are fantastic golfing opportunities every where you look. My best? Nebraska.
Nebraska has (in no particular order) Sand Hills, Wild Horse, Bayside, Dismal River, Prairie Club, Tatanka, etc. etc. The prairie grasses, the blown out bunkers, the minimalist design. Nebraska has it all and I want to go back!
What is on your "besties" list? Let me know in the comments!
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/