Sunday, March 8, 2009

Trump #17 Complex

Trump International GC in West Palm Beach was designed by Jim Fazio, nephew of George, in 1999. I was told by Trump Teaching Professional, Gary Wiren who accompanied me on the back nine, that this piece of property was virtually bare and very flat when it was purchased. As you will see from my photo's this property has been turned into a Shangri-La. Thousands of trees have been planted along with landscaping that blends in many vibrant colors of vegetation to produce one of the most aesthetic golf courses in the world.

The dominant feature of the property is the whole complex surrounding the waterfall on hole #17. This includes the #14 green, #15 tee, #17 green, and the 18th tee. ( A small mountain, by Florida standards, has been constructed in this area of the course. You first get a glimpse of the backside of it from the green on the 12th hole. Once on the tee of the 14th hole you get a great view of the front side which includes the elevated 14th green. The day I played the course there was a strong left to right wind coming out of the south. I hit a decent tee shot that left me in the fairway about 150 yards uphill to a front pin position. I hit my approach almost pin high but had too much spin on the ball and it sucked back off the front of the green to the position you see in the photo. I pitched on past the hole and had a knee knocker 25 foot downhiller that I was able to two putt for a bogey. The 15th tee makes up the rest of the backside of the complex. It has 'nine' teeing areas. We were playing the Blue tees, which is 6666 yards. This hole is a really great hole as far as options to play it. With a good drive you can attack the green up the left side of the double fairway and maybe get on in two. Otherwise you need to play it up the right side. The fairway is divided by a creek, which is meticulously landscaped. Most courses would just leave it as a creek but at Trump you have bunkers and vegetation lining it. This day, my best drive into the 2-3 club wind was not good enough to allow me to go for it. Even after a well struck 3 wood to the right fairway, I still had a 7 iron into the green. My approach made it on the green to the right back side. Not until I got to my ball did I realize I had another fast downhill putt. My caddie, Bill Baker, warned me how fast this putt was going to be but I still rolled it 10-15 feet past the hole. Luckily, I drilled it straight back up the hill into the hole for a par.

Walking to the tee of the 17th hole it is like the 4th of July, with so many brilliant images jumping out at you. My description will not do it justice, look at the pictures several times to appreciate all the different types of vegetation and the waterfall. When I looked behind me, there is what appears to be a natural hot tub with another waterfalls. Looking back at the green here comes a white swan paddling in front of me. To many distractions, is got to be the reason why I hit such a weak shot into the right fringe vegetation. I used a 5 iron from 176 yds off the tee, and was fortunate to be able to chip it on the green out of the cabbage. From there I two putted for a bogey. The visuals are absolutely sensational on this hole but just an average playing hole. From the 17th green you drive up through a beautiful canopy of palm trees to the 18th tee. Once there you see a very demanding, finishing, Cape hole. One of those holes you don't want to bite off to much or you will be re-teeing, my caddie told me to aim between the two bunkers on the far hill. I for the first time on this nine finally hit it right where he said and had 185 to the pin. The LPGA holds their season ending event here and Lorena Ochoa and Natalie Gulbis battled it out on this hole for the 2007 championship. Ochoa made birdie out of a deep old divot to win. The right side of the hole is crowned steeply to the lake, so anything right of the green well roll in the water. I hit my approach with a 4 hybrid and rolled off the side of the slope and found the water to the right. Instead of going up and dropping laterally, I "Tin Cupped" it and put my next shot on the middle of the green and two putted for my double.

We played the back nine first, due to an event on the front, and Gary Wiren had to leave after nine holes to give a lesson. He is 73 years young, and out drove me on every hole. He topped out at 320 yards off the tee on hole #12. I played very poorly on the back but was able to put together a very good front side, with two birdies, to have a respectable score. As in most designs, the front nine does play easier than the back at Trump. If you look at the picture of the tee area on hole #2, you will see a white wall with a wooden door. This is the bomb shelter built for President Kennedy while he was vacationing in the Palm Beach area.

On the front nine it was just me and my caddie, Bill, who is also 73 years young and was a tour caddie for many years. He told me some interesting stories about being out on tour. He had Al "Mr. 59" Geiberger in his later years on the tour. My first question was, where you on his bag when he shot the 59? He sheepishly said no, which perked my interest as to when he did caddie for him. He told me of how after three years of being on his bag he didn't think Geiberger would ever again finish any higher than second and there was this up and coming young player named Leonard Thompson. So Bill made a new deal and left Geiberger for him. I again asked Bill how long it was after you left Geiberger that he shot the 59? He said "The NEXT WEEK". He won by three strokes. Al Geiberger ended up winning 21 PGA and Sr events, including the 1966 PGA title. For those who don't remember the first "59" ever shot in competition it was June 10th, 1977 in the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. The course at that time was considered tough and long at 7200 yards. But what makes this the greatest 59 round ever shot is it was played in high humidity and 102 degrees. And as the late Paul Harvey would say, "That is the rest of the story".

No matter what your opinion is of Donald Trump, he has produced one of the most visually aesthetic golf courses that I ever played. A must play if in the area. In 2006 a New Nine was added, which to date is the best nine hole course I have played. I am told Mr. Trump flies down almost every weekend in the Winter months to play these courses and is a decent golfer.

Other notable holes: #3, 8, & 9.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Trump New #8

The Trump New Nine in West Palm Beach was designed by Jim Fazio in 2006. It is accessed in the vicinity of the 13th hole and north end of the practice area of the 18 hole layout. This course is just as nicely maintained as the other course but the day I played it the only other person I saw on it was an assistant pro practicing. My caddy confirmed that it doesn't get that much play. To date it is the best nine hole course I have played.

Hole #8 is an Island Green hole that plays from 85 to 153 yards. If you are going to build any classic Island Green you are no doubt going to be compared to the world famous #17 at Sawgrass. The first impression is that #8 is just a mirror image of the 17th with the bunker placed on the left side. When walking to the tee you notice that it is much more elevated than #17 which makes the green appear larger, actually it is a larger flatter, green. The front tee is only 85 yards to the pin so even when you are playing it from the same distance as Sawgrass, 135 yards, the green feels much closer due to the lack of distance you need to carry the water. Even though Trump #8 is not nearly as an intimidating hole when you step on the tee as Sawgrass, it still is an exciting hole to play. Looking back at the tee from the green, #8 is very visually stimulating and the landscaping is outstanding.

The day I played this hole there was a strong left to right wind coming out of the south. I decided to play it from 135 yards to get a similar feel and distance as Sawgrass. I hit an 8 iron at the left edge of the bunker and the wind blew it right to about 12-15 feet behind the flag. I had a relatively flat putt that I made for a birdie.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Old Marsh GC #5

Old Marsh GC is a 1988 Pete Dye design in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It was originally 460 acres of marsh land. As typical of most Florida courses they are very, flat designs compared to Northern Michigan where I have played most of my golf.

Hole #5 ( is a short par 4, being only 360 yards from the back tee. It is bordered by water on the right and directly behind the right third of the green. I would guess that Mr. Dye was restricted in what he had to work with in the length for this hole, so he wanted to do something to make a relatively easy, defenseless, hole into something more challenging. The previous four holes I felt were a rather docile stretch of golf for a Dye designed course, so he may have felt some pressure to toughen up the course starting at the 5th hole. What he did was construct a 10-12 foot high mound directly across the front of the green with a bunker in the middle creating a blind shot, a classic Dell design hole. He also placed a smaller bunker adjacent to the back middle portion of the green to catch any long approach shots.

The result is you have an interesting, challenging, very memorable golf hole. There is no chance of being able to drive the green, let alone being able to even see the flag stick. If you look closely at the pictures of the mound, you will see a small triangular target rock on the crest of the ridge which indicates where the pin is positioned for that day. Just like the original Dell hole, #6 at Lahinch GC, County Clare, Ireland. Mr. Dye's genius, of using a classic hole design, has produced a hole that is very memorable and fun to play. In fact many of the Dye courses will have some sort of signature blind hole incorporated into its design.

Leaving the green you will pass a bell, dedicated to his father, that is rung to let the group behind you know you have completed play of the hole. Take notice when you ring that bell because there is a tough stretch of holes ahead of you.

The day I played this hole, I hit driver from the back tee to a generous landing area and gap wedge to the smallish green. I ended up just short on the fringe and was able to two putt for my par. I was surprised to see where my approach shot had ended up, as I thought it was going to be long when I struck it. My caddie told me that most players either like this hole or hate it, which is typical of most blind holes. I like it because it is the most memorable hole of the course, due to the fact Mr. Dye choose to incorporate a classic hole design to make it a more challenging hole.

Other notable holes: #7, 8, & 16.