Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Top Courses Played 2019

It what is becoming an annual tradition, I recap some of my favorite courses played during the year. Come along with me, won't you on this look back on 2019!

5. Seascape

When one thinks of NorCal golf, the mind is quickly drawn to courses like Pasatiempo but it would be foolish to sleep on a course like Seascape. The back 9 is outrageously good with interesting tee shots undulating fairways and fascinating greens. I am all about this course and can't wait to play it again!


4. Cabot Links

I love watching any golf tournament played on links golf courses. The sea, the wind, the fescue, give it to me all the time. The irony is I rarely play any links courses living in SoCal. So when I had an opportunity to play at Cabot this year, imagine my surprise that the Links course, well, was a links! I got my fill of wind and sea and you just feel so connected to the land playing this course.


3. Pasatiempo

The back 9 of Pasatiempo is one of the most intriguing 9s I have ever played. Sure all 18 holes have world class greens and bunkers but the back 9s routing I could play in 100 different ways and I WANT to play it 100 different ways. The 10th and 16th hole might be two of my favorite all time holes and I can't wait to get back there.


2. The Home Course

Sometimes there are courses that just speak to your soul. THC is one of those. If I lived in the Seattle/Tacoma area I would play here all the time and twice on Sundays. The routing on the front 9 is fantastic, the shots on the back side make you think and the course is in primo shape. Overall, one of my favorite courses in 2019 and just in general.


1. Cabot Cliffs

The Cliffs course simply smacks you in the face with routing, views and audacious golf design. It is over the top in the best way possible and I am here for it. Cabot (like its sister resort in Bandon) is a trek for most golfers but I highly recommend it just for this course alone. Truly worthy of being in the World Top 100.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Home Course

Every once in awhile you step onto a golf course and just KNOW you are going to love it. I can't explain it in logical terms but when I stepped onto The Home Course near Tacoma Washington I just felt at well...home.

The course is in amazing shape, has fun undulations, no houses and is just a whole lot of fun. Just sitting there waiting for my tee time by the small starter's shack watching the lake on an awesome par 3

in the Fall just made me happy and I enjoyed the round because of this initial vibe. The first hole is a nice opening handshake of Pacific Northwest golf and it amazing to think that this course can stretch out well beyond 7,000 yards from the tips.

Speaking of tips, the one tip the starter gave me was stay out of the bunkers. Given the variety of shapes and placements, that was a good idea.

The views off the tee are interesting and the undulations in the fairways are great. Sure, some bulldozers probably had a hand in all of this but it makes for a really interested round rather than an over-stylized course as it just seems to fit in the natural landscape.

Side note, one of the favorite tee markers in recent history has to go to the Home Course's dynamite tee markers!

There is water on the course but is used in a judicious manner. A great pond giving you something to think about on a par 4.

and great framing of a par 3 on the backside.

While I liked the front 9 slightly better than the back 9 (especially the weirdo walk between holes where you are basically walking a 19th hole in length) the back 9 has some crazy hills and undulations which makes it a blast to try and navigate. Here are but a few examples:

Whenever I visit a place I always think to myself, where would I play if I actually lived there? My mind often drifts to the private courses and in Seattle of course in my fantasy mind I think, well I will join Aldarra or maybe Seattle Golf Club. Of course the "realist" in my fantasy would then say, well what if you can't afford those clubs, where would you play?

Bar none, I would play at the Home Course all the time. Give me this course every day of the week and twice on Sundays. The conditioning, the routing, the challenge yet fun the course inspires, I am loving it and can't wait to go back.

For more info on the Home Course check out this link: https://thehomecourse.com/

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Nile Shire Golf

Having grown up in Upstate New York, I have become well acquainted with the season of Fall. It is my favorite season bar none, the colors, the crisp air, the apples. All of that and more, which is currently missing from my life living in Southern California.

On a recent trip to Seattle I got all the Fall I could ever want and then some when playing Nile Shire. NS is a smaller golf course just north of Seattle sitting along the 5 freeway but it is a lot of fun. The greens roll true and there is a bunch of challenge as you wend your way between the tall trees.

I think my favorite hole has to be the third which is a dogleg left with an awesome lake to your right. Such a fun a picturesque hole!

San Francisco is often thought of as hilly and Seattle is no slouch in that department. Nile Shire runs up and down the hills that it has really maximizing the space where the course sits.

This all leads up to the signature par 3 hole which is basically like hitting off a cliff.

(the green is down there somewhere)

Of course because it is the Pacific Northwest, they have some fun along the way for golfers :)

I was really charmed by this course. It will never be ranked in the top 100 of anything but it still presents a really enjoyable round of golf (and is affordable as well). Clearly the course shines in the fall with all the colors around and mist coming off the lake, the season turns this course from good to special.

For more info on Nile Shire, check out this link: http://www.nileshriners.org/golf

Monday, September 2, 2019

Pasatiempo Reviewed

In all of my golf travels I had never played a course designed by Alister MacKenzie. Considering that very few of his courses in the US are open to the public (by my count 4) it is a rare treat when you get a chance to play one and so I was very excited about my recent trip to Pasatiempo.

Located in Santa Cruz, Pasa is sandwiched in-between the golf meccas of Monterey and San Francisco but has a managed to carve out a cult-like following all of its own. The course has a real laid-back vibe with tee times every 10 minutes (leading to everyone playing fast but no one rushing you) and a staff that is friendly and accommodating and a porch that offers fantastic views of the 1st and 9th holes. All of this puts you in a relaxed mindset as the challenges of the course arise.

One side note, there are the classic back, middle and up tees but there is an option to play a combo tee set (look for the blue scorecards at the starter tent) which is a fantastic way of playing Pasa.

The first hole is classic golden age California golf architecture with a long downhill hole feature views of the nearby bay. I find it fascinating that this trait (shared by the likes of the Riv, Bel-Air, etc.) was such a stylistic choice back in the day but I totally dig it.

There are three things that struck me about playing the front 9. The first is how crazy good the greens and bunkering are.

Pasa might not get as much respect in the world rankings as other MacKenzie courses but I would dare say its greens and bunkers are world class with few equals.

The second thing that struck me was how similar I felt several of the holes were to one of my all time favs, Cal Club. The looks the second shots give you give you at Pasa are similar to Cal in that they create a lot of visual eye candy and challenges when going for the green.

The third thing is regrettably how tight the course feels in some way with houses encroaching almost onto the fairways (especially the 6th and 14th holes). When you see pics of early Pasa, it has a wide open feel with very few trees or houses (similar if you see early pics of the Riv) but nowadays there are often trees on one side of the fairway and houses on the other.

(MacKenzie's house on the 6th)

The back 9 has some of the most interesting golf holes on the planet. My favorite by far was the 10th hole featuring a fantastic tee shot over a barranaca (yet another golden age touch)

leading to a downhill second/third shots. Most of my playing companions tried to flop shots onto the green but I went for the ground game skimming a ball way out to the right and watching it angle back to the hole. I could play that hole over and over again.

The 11th hole creates a lot of befuddlement in the group as the tee shot to the end of the fairway is seemingly the play but you still have a long shot over a chasm to a super tight green. Visually interesting? Yes. A bit too penal for almost every type of golfer? Also yes.

The back 9 really gives it all to you. Other favorites included the 14th hole, one of the best par 3s I have played.

Finally, this leads up to the best two-shot course in the world (according to MacKenzie) the 16th hole. Loved, loved this hole. First you (hopefully) hit your tee shot up onto the plateau. Then when you gain the summit, you see what is ahead of you.

This green is outrageous, the bunkering is outrageous and one of my playing companions said this course is "theatrical" which this hole more than encapsulates.

I hit a great drive and a great second shot only to see my ball trundle down to the lowest level on the green. I three putted from the bottom and all of my playing companions congratulated me on a great three putt. Such is the nature of the 16th.

There is no denying that modern life with its home and its freeways have encroached upon Pasatiempo. Still though the classic bones of the course are there and the back 9 is spectacular. I may not play Pasatiempo every day but the genius of MacKenzie from 100 yards in will stick with me for a long time.

For more information on Pasatiempo check out this link: https://www.pasatiempo.com/

Monday, August 26, 2019

Seascape Back 9 Review

With so many golf websites on the Internet, it is tough to find true "hidden" gems but Seascape in Aptos California is certainly one of them.

Living in the shadow of the big dog in Santa Cruz Pasatiempo, Seascape can certainly hold its own. I happened to play the back 9 as a warmup for Pasa but liked the course so much, I wanted to go back and play the front 9.

The undulations off the tee are fantastic and while some driving areas are narrow, the conditioning was great and the greens? NOT TOO SHABBY

Perhaps my favorite hole is the 17th which is a fantastic drive going right to left and then your second shot is up the hill to a killer green.

Seascape could use a bit of tree thinning and the routing is slightly tortured given the houses but the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses at this track. If you are looking for a solid course in NorCal for a reasonable price, this is the one.

For more info on Seascape check out this link: https://www.seascapegc.com/

Monday, July 29, 2019

Becoming Enchanted From Afar - Royal Porthcawl

I travel a few times a year chasing golf courses and as part of my travels I do a ton of research, often on areas of the world I might never travel to. I often create itineraries in my head, "well if I ever DO make it to the Caribbean, here are the courses I am going to play" and I always tune in to the TV if a professional tournament is playing at one of those far-flung areas I've been researching.

There are a thousands golf courses in the world each offering their own variation on the fantastic game of golf. Golf can be set amongst the pines, or the desert or beautiful parklands.

For me, the ultimate golf course has to involve the sea. I love salt air, really enjoy wind and don't mind the rain (what am I made of sugar?). Given all of those elements, links golf is the ultimate golf for me.

In all of my research, there is one golf course I keep coming back to time after time and that is Royal Porthcawl in Wales, UK. Every so often I stumble across something on the web that reminds me about RP and then I fall down an internet rabbit hole and research the course all over again. This time around it was Mark Crossfield's excellent video about playing the course

The more I think about it, the more RP checks all the boxes I am interested in for a golf course. It is nestled right up on the coastline of Wales assuring me all the salt air and wind I can handle and sea views on every hole. It is also ranked in the Top 100 in the world by Top100 which is no small feat. Watching it on TV it looks like it has a great variety of architectural features that are fun and could keep me interested during repeated play of the course.

It is also drop-dead gorgeous

(picture via Links Magazine: https://www.linksmagazine.com/links100_royal_porthcawl_golf_club/)

It is also under the radar and seems very chill for a Top 100 course. After watching The Open last week, of course I want to play Royal Portrush but the shoulders slump a bit when hearing the news that they are booked up on visitor play seemingly through the next year (!?!).  Porthcawl has a great pedigree with tourneys (hosting several Amateurs, a Walker and Curtis Cup along with a British Senior Open) but doesn't have the looming capacity issues that Portrush has.

Of course, my mind also wanders to the thought, well what if you play it, fall in love and then want to play it every year? If it really does live up to the hype that I am seeing through my screen is there any world which my mania would extend into membership?

Aside from being a 13 hour flight from LA, there is a lot of mystery about the club (and clubs that have a "royal" in them). Unlike private clubs in the US, the "private" clubs of the UK/Ireland are upfront about their membership requirements and fees. Often these clubs offer a very reasonable membership since they are heavily subsidized by foreign visitors. The royal clubs including RP play all of this close to the vest which makes the starry-eyed golf researcher who has dreams of an overseas membership wonder if there is even a chance of membership happening.

First things first, I want to play the course. When am I going to go to Wales? I have zero idea. When I get there, do I just play RP for like 7 straight days or do I also wander over to P&K, Southerndown, Royal St. David's, etc. that Visit Wales suggests to make it a proper Welsh getaway? Probably, although I would want to earmark at least 2 rounds if not more at RP (considering I am devoting an entire blog post to the club).

There are some golf "breaks" for a Welsh tour that look interesting via Wales Golf Holidays:


Since I don't know the hows or whys or whens for now I just check out RP's course via their awesome first tee webcam.

Do you have any courses you are enchanted by but have never played? Let me know in the comments!

For more information about Royal Porthcawl check out this link: https://www.royalporthcawl.com/

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Airlane Golf Club Review

There are tons of good golf courses in Nova Scotia. Some public, some private but all ones I want to play some day. If you are going on a golf trip to Cabot and fly into Halifax you may be tempted to play some of these other tracks but you may not have the time to do so.

Enter Airlane Golf Club, a passion project of two friends in the 1960s and makes for a great warmup to your Cabot adventure. Located about 10 minutes on the East side of the Halifax airport, Airlane has 9 holes with some great doglegs but is not too taxing on you as prepare for the other courses in the province.

One of my favourite (Canadian spelling) holes has to be this par that is an uphill dogleg right that leads to this awesome green framed by Canadian pine trees.

The course doesn't have a lot of water but where there is H2O it makes for some challenging decisions. The course has a lot of width so you can swing it out wide to the left, like I have done here or challenge the water with a shorter approach to the green to the right. Either way this is a fun hole.

There are plenty of straight ahead holes as well but with the greens being as large as they are, there are multiple pin positions that are possible.

I am not trying to build up this course more than it is, it is an unevenly mowed, parkland-style golf track with not the best POP on a Saturday afternoon but it is affordable and was clearly grown from the passion of two guys and their families which I totally dig.

You are already going to spending an arm and a leg playing at Cabot, why not get some golf kicks for appreciably less at Airlane?

For more information on Airlane check out this link: https://www.airlanegolfclub.com/