Monday, June 25, 2018

The Haze Of Knollwood

Where am I? Everything seems to hazy and all I can discern is the smell of cut grass and trees waving in the wind. Suddenly the number 5 jars me to my senses. 5, 5, 5 it repeats but what does it mean?

Could 5 stand for the 5 hour and 15 minute golf round I just played? Could 5 stand for the number of fivesomes I saw out at Knollwood "Country Club" on a recent trip there? Most likely 5 is the number of working synapsis I had firing into the void after a mind numbing round of Los Angeles golf.

Whatever is "wrong" with the game of golf was on full display at Knollwood, a former country club whose best days are far behind it. The whole property seems to be infected with an uncaring mange, buildings are dingy, the course is hairy and golfers seem to mirror the neglect by not raking bunkers or fixing pitch marks. My round was only snapped out of it's lethargy with a passing motorist yelling at me "golf is for fags".

I certainly can forgive Knollwood for its maintenance issues. All of us should be thankful that anyone is running a golf course at all nowadays and if they focus on maintaining the course, so be it.

I can also forgive the routing which put me in my fugue state to begin with. A guy can only play to so many uphill greens in a row before he starts to go insane.

I also can't blame Knollwood for sending out fivesomes in 8 minute increments. They clearly have people willing to cast their sanity easily into the wind to play there so why not jam up the course with as many people as it can handle?

However, when you add all of this up, compounding interest of bad choices, accruing daily, you wonder when the golf mortgage note finally comes due. When is enough enough? When do golf courses start to see the value in repeat customers actually wanting to come back rather than putting golfers through the mill, without a care whether they come back or not?

Also, how dare Knollwood actually have a tremendous 18th hole?

Embanked left side of the fairway, amazing undulations on the right leading to, you guessed it, an uphill green full of challenge. The land and the course cannot escape its destiny, it is surrounded by houses and the grass choices are what they are but the 18th shows you what the course coulda been. It coulda been a contender.

Sure I have a choice, I could join a private club. Much like parents now have a choice to send their kids to charter schools or private schools. However, is that really the best choice? The public school system is only as strong as its weakest link and it is continually being weakened by charter schools cherry picking. Public golf courses should be making it easier for golfers to want to play there and are the problems inherent in the system better if those with means to go private do so?

New golf course construction isn't necessarily the answer either. Bandon, Sand Valley and their ilk are very expensive. The par 3 revolution that people are trumpeting are expensive as well (The Preserve at Bandon is at least $75, the Sandbox at Sand Valley is at least $45).

Knollwood is golf's deranged present. What the future will be is up to us. A place like Winter Park in Florida may be one way to go. Instead of 18 terrible holes, redesign it with 9 sustainably intriguing holes (well, that is, until we lose Florida entirely due to costal erosion but that is a story for another day).

For more info about Knollwood, check out this link:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The New Generation of Golf Magazines

There is a revolution going on right now in the golf industry. No it is not the "play 9" initiative or the Loop at Forest Dunes or even whatever the hell PXG is doing to its clubs and charging thrice the price.

The revolution is in golf magazines, you know those ones that you ignore in your dentist's office or halfheartedly look through when they mysteriously get mailed to you after you made a purchase at an online golf retailer? Yea those ones (looking at you Golf Digest and Golf).

The new breed isn't focused on swing tips or what is going on in the PGA Tour. Instead, all of these magazines are seeking to expand your global view of golf courses and the architecture related thereto and immersing you in a golf culture. Many of these new magazines are the new coffee table books so let's dive in and see what is new out there.

The Golfer's Journal

This is the big dog on the street having been founded by Brendon Thomas of The Surfer's Journal with DJ Piehowski as a contributing editor (one of the "it" guys of the emerging online content creators in the golf world). This magazine is sponsored by the hippest names in golf at the moment (Linksoul, Scotty Cameron, G/Fore, etc.) and while there are ads, they are kept to a minimum (and thankfully no ads for any wedges "guaranteed" to get you out of bunkers).

The elements that makes The Surfer's Journal such a joy to read are here in this magazine as well. Awesome photos of golf whether near or in far flung places? Check. Interesting articles about the golf subculture that you may or may not have heard of? Check. Different takes on well worn subjects (like a recent article about the artist behind the book about Ben Hogan's grip)? Check.

If you want the complete package of interesting articles, great photos in a well thought-out layout in the new wave of golf magazines, The Golfer's Journal is it (it even has its own podcast which I highly recommend you checking out). That being said, several of their articles feel like rehashes of well tread topics online (their ode to Sweetens Cove, while great and in-depth I felt has already been covered multiple times by the Fried Egg and others). They are trying to break out of that mold somewhat now with more challenging articles like this month's article about race, art and golf. As the big dog finds a more secure footing, I am really interested to see how far they can push into new and interesting content.

For more info on TGJ, check out this link!

Caddie Magazine

If you ever dream of playing golf around the world (or have the bank account in order to fund such adventures) then Caddie is for you. Caddie magazine is simple yet elegant with no ads and only being published twice a year. Its focus is on the beauty of golf all over the world.

Published out of Australia, Caddie may not have a huge imprint in America or Europe but if you want to see pictures of golf in Mongolia, the French Alps, Ireland or heck even Wisconsin, then this is the magazine for you. The photos are outrageously good. The stories are interesting (including a great one about halfway houses) but the true focus is on the photos and immersing you in an experience of a golf place. I am sure if Caddie could do a smell-o-vision it would.

The only negative of Caddie is that it just doesn't have the breadth of storytelling that TGJ has and you won't be getting the "state of the game" features that other magazines. Their focus is narrow and niche but they just happen to do those things better than any other golf publication out there. For me, as a golf vagabond who is looking to play golf courses all over the world, this magazine speaks to my soul and I am an avid subscriber.

For more info on Caddie, check out this link! 


McKellar takes a completely different tack than the other magazines above by eschewing the emphasis on photos or mood and instead offers thoughtful meditations on many golf topics. Do you want essays about trees, or LACC's place in the game or a myriad of other golf-related topics, big or small? McKellar will bring you there.

The magazine's title is an ode to the first golf nut (a Scotsman who played every day except Sundays when it was banned by the church) and that mania that many of us feel for golf comes across in topic after topic in this small but mighty magazine.

The only current option is to subscribe to issue one of the magazine and I wonder how many issues they will do as while golf has a rich history and an uncertain future, it may be difficult to sustain such a large volume of interesting essays covering a wide range of topics. That being said, if there is an issue two, sign me up! Such an interesting concept for a golf magazine, I can't wait to see what they come out with next.

For more info on McKellar, check out this link!

What golf magazines do you read? Are there any new ones coming out that everyone should know? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Maui Nui

Maui is one of the most beautiful places on earth and people spend a lot of time and money to get there. Once you are there and enjoying the tropical paradise, you will definitely want to golf but you will find a lot of expensive options. However, be sure not to overlook Maui Nui in the heart of Kihei, which is a relatively affordable romp through the Maui countryside with ocean views.

The course was in good shape the day I played it and there weren't too many people out there so I got to breeze around in about 3 hours or so.

MN is a tail of 2 nines. The first nine is reminiscent of Puakea in Kauai, a mix of straightforward  yet fun holes and along with jungle holes featuring blind tee shots.

The second nine reminds me a lot of Silver Oak in Nevada which routes itself tightly through a housing development and major streets and is rather schizophrenic in its character. There are two really good elements of MN. The first is its bunkers:

I just love the red/brownish look of Hawaiian bunkers and the bunkers on this course just take up so much real estate on the approaches that they demand your respect.

The second element of MN that I enjoyed were the par 3s. All of them are interesting and challenging, especially on the back nine.

The most picturesque hole at MN is the 15th hole (they even have signs on the course talking about the 15th!). My picture doesn't really do it justice but you have the hole framed by trees and ponds and cook pines and then in the distance you have the Pacific and the slopes of Maui's mountains. It is quite the vista.

It would have been fascinating to play Maui Nui before all of the development. The back nine just is too residential for my taste rather than the wilder woolier front side. Still, if you are looking for a solid round of golf that won't break the bank on your vacation, be sure to check out this course!

For more info on Maui Nui, check out this link:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cal Club

The Cal Club socks you in the mouth with its audacious routing, wide open style of play coupled with crazy bunkering, Cal Club stands supreme in my eyes as the best golf course in San Francisco.

The opening par 5 gives you a sense of everything you will experience on the day. A blind tee shot with wild bunkers looming on the horizon leading to an amazing green complex which you can approach either in the air or a bump and run (I chose bump and run with a 5 wood and made par).

You then go up and down over hill and dale. The routing cuts its way between hills allowing for a variety of shots and with superb conditioning and green complex giving you all you could ask for. The course wends its way up to the standout 6th hole.

Not only is it an amazing par 3 but it gives you $1,000,000 views of the entire course. It is a blessed spot.

One of the best things about the course is how it uses the hillsides to create slopes and playing angles. The second hole shows how a straight shot will play but also fades and draws could use the slopes to get you to the promised land.

Speaking of slopes, the cape hole at Cal Club is outrageous. Aim as far left as possible or if you could bomb it like the assistant pro I was playing with, you go for the green.

The backside is just as interesting as the front side, giving you tough par 3s (including the quintessential downhill San Francisco par 3) and cool blind shots.

The course ends with a fascinating par 4 where you hit over the hill to gain the speed slot but still have a long iron into a green surrounded by an amphitheater. You can just imagine being a member at Cal Club at a Member-Member tourney with the whole club watching you as the match goes the distance to 18.

If you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed my time at Cal Club. I have yet to play Olympic or Harding but I can't imagine them knocking Cal Club off the top perch in San Francisco. Considering the pedigree of the other courses in NorCal this is high praise indeed. Cal Club, if you get a chance to play it, you MUST.

For more info on Cal Club check out this link: