Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bandon Dunes 2010 Trip

After months of anticipation the end of July finally arrived. In the past four years I have visited BDGR twice before in 2006 and 2008, around the first of August. The weather and conditions had always been perfect at that time of year, 60-70 degrees, sunny, with winds up to 40 mph. This year we experienced what the caddies called a Marine Layer for about half the trip. That was like the locals in Florida calling cock roaches, palmetto bugs. To me it was FOG. It produced cooler temps, less wind, and photos that looked like there was a forest fire nearby.

The trip began on a beautiful day with an afternoon round at the Portland GC, which hosted the 1947 Ryder Cup. Next day was Eugene CC, home of some of the tallest trees you will ever play next to. There is no chance of trying to go over these monsters. That afternoon we headed south for the airport in North Bend to pick up the two other golfers who would round out our foursome at BDGR. Four wonderful days of 144 holes didn't tire us down a bit. We all wanted more but had to head back to the Midwest. Before the trip there was concern among some that we would not be able to withstand 10 hours a day walking. Amazingly as the week progressed everyone felt better and better. Was it the fresh salt air rejuvenating our systems, the exercise that kicked in the release of endorphins, the great visuals and golf at BDGR? Probably all of the above, but for sure none of us wanted to return to the real world. Two of us had one more course to play on our way back to Portland for our return flight, Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge. The weather again was picture perfect, sunny, and around 80.

After 20 rounds of golf in the summer at BDGR my next trip will be in the off season to experience how the courses play in the winter winds. So what is my favorite course at BDGR? Pacific Dunes is still the champ, but with a few more rounds on Old Macdonald it may be ready for a title shot. Every hole on Pacific Dunes is strong. Bandon Trails has a nice tranquil feel to the course with many fine holes, but it has the absolutely worst designed green complex at #14 which is a round wrecker. Bandon Dunes to me is a distant 4th to the other three courses and I am amazed how it continually is rated above Bandon Trails by the "experts". Must be the ocean views or it is still living off of its laurels when it was the only course at BDGR. Bottom line is that there is no other place I would rather spend playing golf. If you have never been, put it on the top of your Bucket List because you will not find four better courses at one site in the world.

TRIP TIPS- 1. GOLF-When setting up your courses at BDGR try to schedule the same courses on different days and in the AM and PM. This will give you different pin placements and wind conditions. The wind builds as the day progresses. If you want to take a break from walking one day, head south of town, play Bandon Crossings golf club and take a cart. I have always played 36 holes a day, but you may want to take a half day off just to kick back and explore what all the resort has to offer. Second round of day at BDGR is 1/2 price.
2. LODGING-I would stay off site the night before in Bandon and then spend the the remaining nights at the Resort. I have stayed twice at Lily Pond which are very large rooms with a fireplace and room enough to put a roll away in for a 3rd person which will cut down your lodging costs by a 1/3 at BDGR. This year we stayed at The Inn which overlooks the 18th green, but it is a smaller room which I did not feel was worth the extra expense for a view. The resort has 24 hour shuttle service and I have never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a ride anywhere.
3.FOOD- Great choices at the resort with huge, affordable, breakfasts to start your day off. Some nice places in Bandon proper if you have a car.
4.FLIGHTS- You can fly into North Bend and you will not need a car, but the connections are not that good from the Midwest and more expensive. Two of us flew into Portland and were able to play a round the day we arrived, played the next morning in Eugene and made it to North Bend to pick up the other two guys at the airport in the PM. It is a beautiful 4 1/2 hour drive down from Portland and if you have never seen Oregon I would suggest that route. After our last round we drove back to Portland and could have flown out the next morning. By spending only one more day than the other guys, we played two extra rounds of golf, got to see some beautiful country, and had a car for about what it cost to fly direct.
5.TIME- 3 days- play 36 a day in this order Pacific,Old Mac, BDunes, Trails, Old Mac, Pacific.
4 days- same order + play Bandon Crossings on day 3 with rest of day to play the short course.
5 days- same as 4 day except on day 4 play Pacific in the AM and BDunes in the PM unless the wind is up then switch to Trails. Trails is the least played and most protected from the wind.
6. Caddies- I suggest taking a caddie for at least the first round on each course. At around $80 per round it can add a few hundred $$ to your expenses if you are playing 36 a day. I have either carried or pulled a cart one round every time I have been there.
7. Cost- Figure almost $700 per day if you are playing 36 with caddies, which also includes room and food at the lodge. It is worth every penny to make this trip at least once in your life. $3500 for 4 days of golf, flight, and souvenirs should be enough.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Top Holes by # at Bandon Dunes Resort.

With the addition of Old Macdonald at BDGR I thought it would be interesting to see how each starting hole on down to the finishing holes compare to one another. What I realized when I sat down and started examining each set of four holes was that this is really subjective to my personal feel for each hole not the overall quality of the hole. Some of the holes I didn't pick #1 you can certainly make a strong case that they are better designed or much tougher to make a par on, but I would rather play my first picks over the others.

I will list the four holes in order from first to last using the following abbreviations: B=Bandon Dunes, T=Bandon Trails, O=Old Macdonald, P=Pacific Dunes and a short comment about my first choice.

#1- T,O,P,B. All four ease you into your round nicely but the first at the Trails with the view off the tee and hitting a hybrid into a big bowl is my choice to start my day off with.
#2-P,O,T,B. The par 4 at Pacific wins out over the par 3's.
#3-O,T,P,B. The blind shot over the Port Orford Cedar wins hands down over three fine par 5's.
#4-P,B,O,T. One of my favorite tee shots down wind is to challenge the right side and see how far you can hit it. Makes me feel like John Daly when it runs out over 300 yds. One of the few great holes at Bandon Dunes takes second.
#5-O,P,T,B. Wow, three of my favorite par threes. Flip a coin here and it comes up SHORT.
#6-O,P,T,B. Great par five beats out a great short par 4.
#7-O,P,T,B. The only hole at Old Mac that finishes on the ocean, what a view.
#8-P,T,O,B. I love the options into this green, it always plays long.
#9-P,T,B,O. Dual greens at #9 with dual tees at #10 makes Pacific a 20 hole experience.
#10-B,T,P,O. This was probably the weakest choice I had to make. Tip-#10 at Old Mac I ended up playing down #6 FW to avoid the bunkers.
#11-P,T,D,O. I love this short par 3 at Pacific. Not quite as dramatic as #17 Sawgrass but close.
#12-B,P,T,O. Tough pick here but the ocean view wins out over the other par 3's and the par 5 at Pacific.
#13-P,T,O,B. Another great hole where challenging the ocean will pay big dividends off the tee.
#14-O,P,B,T. Trails #14 is the only hole that I dislike at BDGR. A 12 will make you feel that way.
#15-T,P,O,B. What a great natural green complex.
#16-O,B,P,T. One of the most difficult holes at BDGR with many options depending on the pin placement.
#17-O,P,T,B. Par five with options off the Tee, beats out two great par 3's.
#18-P,O,T,B. The strongest finishing hole of the bunch.

If I assign four points for first to one point for last this is how it shakes out when comparing holes by their number: Pacific Dunes(9)=57, Old Mac(2)=49, Trails(5)=43, Bandon Dunes(4)=31. Numbers in parenthesis are the # rounds I have played on each course during my three trips.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bandon Dunes #5 & #16- Where's the Gorse!

If you remember the little old lady in the TV commercial looking at the small hamburger on the big bun and yelling- Where's the Beef- that is what I feel like when I now play these two holes. Every trip back to the Bandon Dunes course I have noticed the removal of gorse throughout and the widening of fairways. These two holes are great examples of what is going on. To me this has always been the easiest course of the original three. My buddies on this trip called Bandon Dunes, Links Light compared to the other courses. Removing the gorse reminds me of a sickly animal losing its fur.

The Bandon Dunes course in 1999 was the first at BDGR, designed by David McClay Kidd from Scotland. I believe this was his first project and would think it was a big risk to have selected him. I was told by the various caddies that it use to play at least 6 stokes harder and take a lot longer to play due to the tightness of the fairways. Obviously, they have decided that this course is going to play easier and faster by the removal of all the gorse and rough. The caddies also said that the vast majority of golfers that come to BDGR can't break 100. I find that the fairways at all the courses are more than generous off the tee. It really is hard to lose a golf ball, if you bring more than two sleeves of balls you have over packed.
The first course I ever played at BDGR was Bandon Dunes, the day after the 2006 Curtis Cup. Conditions for the Curtis Cup had been unusual in that it was very warm with no wind. We got another calm day that morning and I was able to easily break 80. By the end of our first round the wind started to pick up and build for the next three days, until we had sustained winds of 40 mph with gusts of 50. It was not until 2008 that I would break 80 again on any BDGR course.

Hole # 5 at over 400 yards is a brute of a hole when the summer wind is up. It follows one of the best holes at BDGR. I prefer the angle coming in from the left side of the hole, so I aim to the left of the mounds off the tee. I usually have a long iron or hybrid for my approach shot into this narrowing FW, depending on the wind or pin position. This is a 4 club green as it is 48 yards deep. Easy bogey/hard par hole, I have made two of each on this hole in my four rounds.

With plenty of risk/reward, hole #16 is one of the better short par 4's you will play at BDGR. Now that all the gorse has been removed why not go right at the pin off the tee. Playing from the lay up positions usually gives a tougher angle into the pin. You have the Pacific bordering down the right side, which plays as a lateral hazard with cross ridges to deal with when laying up to the left.

I find that the first time I play a risky hole it is usually my best drive because I have no negative thoughts to clutter my mind of the potential danger. In 2006, the wind at my back had picked up by the time I arrived on the tee and my caddie Damon told me to go for it. As the crow flies it is less than 300 yards to the green, so I let it rip. To my surprise I flew the green and was left with a pitch on for a birdie chance, which I missed. The next time I played the hole I went for the lay up to the left and ended up with my only bogey here. If you can hit it 250 yards I would play the aggressive line off the tee.

Other notable holes: #4, #7, #10, #11, #12, #15, #17.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pebble Beach #14- Unfair??

With the completion of the 2010 U.S.Open, the talk was about the big numbers being taken on hole #14. The pictures below of the 14th green and of the Lone Cypress along 17 mile drive made me think of which would be easier to do, hold your approach shot on #14 during The Open or land it at the base of the Lone Cypress? The effective landing area behind the bunker on 14 isn't much larger than the wall around the cypress. Under Open conditions you odds are about the same.

The day I played Pebble in July of 2006, the course and greens were very soft. I hit my drive in the fairway off the tee and then hooked my fairway wood left near the cart path for my second shot. The hole has a left slant to the fairway and is somewhat uphill making it play even longer than 573 yards. From where I was, I still had a mid iron to the pin. I mistakenly thought that I could go for the green and hold it. Dumb luck had me hitting short into the front bunker. I now had a nice bunker shot that I could land soft and have a good chance of holding the small green, which I did. I was left with a 10-15 foot putt which I dropped for my par. In hind sight this was really the only way I could have made par from where my second shot had taken me. Possibly, I could have also hit it long directly behind the green and chipped up and made my 5.

The problem the golfers were confronted with at the Open was the greens were hard and very fast. It would impossible for anyone to ever hold a second shot or long iron to the shelf the pin is located on. The best choice would be to put your long approach shot in the front bunker and try and get up and down for a birdie. For those who don't have the distance to get the bunker in two or three, lay up to your shortest distance you can put maximum spin on the ball. Hope you hit it just over the bunker and in the middle of the smallish green. The big problem here is being short right or left of the green and trying to hold your chip on the slick Open greens. As you saw, you are screwed trying to hit from the front right. A most precise shot is needed to accomplish staying on the green. Left is a bit easier of a shot but still no picnic.

So is it an unfair hole? Yes, under U.S. Open conditions it would be for almost all golfers. But those guys are the best in the world and this is the #1 handicap hole on the toughest course set up they will face all year. I kind of like seeing the pros struggle sometime.

There are some holes that a par feels like a birdie, and in 2006 I walked off the green with a big smile on my face knowing that the golf god's had given me one back.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Migrating North for the Summer

Early this morning I completed my journey from Florida. I left my winter home on the 15th of May and over the next three weeks traveled a circuitous 3000 mile route to Northern Michigan. In between I played 17 courses of which 13 were new. The weather was spotty, as it has been for much of the past year for me when I am on the road playing golf. Seems like I am often just a step ahead of a storm or in one.

I met a lot of new golf friends and was able to spent some time with a few old friends on the way. I stayed in Hendersonville for a couple of nights and got to visit with an old college classmate who I had not seen for over 20 years. Played golf in West Virginia for the first time and enjoyed three courses there while visiting a friend I met in Florida. Next on the tour was Ohio for some rest and relaxation in Cincinnati with my mother and step father. Got to play a round of golf with a buddy there who will be joining us at Bandon Dunes Resort the first of August. I finally hit Michigan on the 25th and played the course I had been looking forward to the whole trip- Oakland Hills CC. It was all I had anticipated and more. The next day I met a high school friend and we returned to a course we had not played since the early 90's. We both agreed it was better than we remembered and wondered why we had waited so long to return. Too many great new courses to discover, not enough time to play all the old favorites. I then headed into the U.P. for the Memorial Day holiday.

This past week I stayed in Boyne City with an old colleague and we golfed our way down to Battle Creek for a three day outing with about 50 other guys in our profession. Unfortunately, the weather was so threatening each day, I didn't even take my camera out to photograph any of these three new courses. I will be posting the photo's of the ten other new courses in the next week or so.

Can you get burnt out on playing too much golf? This morning at one AM, I did not want to see another golf course and thought the answer to that question was YES. 14 hours later after a good nights sleep, I am ready to get back out there and play in my Tuesday summer league tomorrow. Oh, what a great trip back North it was.

The countdown now begins for the 8:00 AM, August tee time at Pacific Dunes. 36 holes a day and walking for four days, I may be asking myself that question again. After a days rest I will probably have the same answer.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Crooked Cat #9- Plenty of Options

Located in Winter Garden, Fl the Crooked Cat Course was a 1997 collaboration of Phil Ritson, Dave Harmon, and Isao Aoki. Along with the Panther Lake Course, a short course, and possibly the worlds largest practice facility this is a great place to sharpen your game. The 2010 PGA Tour School finals will be held here in the Fall.

The 9th hole plays 375 yards as a dogleg left or about 300 to the front edge of the green if you want to take it over Bend Lake. My game doesn't allow me to consider going for the green so my choice was to take it 250 yards at the bamboo trees hoping to end up either right or left of them. I hit it straight as could be and the last I saw the ball it was flying half way up the middle clump of trees. I hit a provisional, this time to the right and found the far side of the fairway 108 yards from the pin. After searching and not finding my first ball, I suspected it was somewhere in the middle of the bunch of bamboos. A more conservative route would be to play an iron or hybrid towards the largest part of the fairway at the 150 stake. Short of the fairway you will find a long serpentine bunker. Surprisingly there is about a 30 yard wide strip between the lake and front bunker that you could play out of if you fall way short of your target. Bordering the fairway long are about a dozen bunkers that will catch the long drive. Long on your approach you will find another group of bunkers. My approach landed about eight feet past the hole and the missed putt left me with a double. What a great hole this would be in match play. You can play it as aggressive or conservative as you want with the several routes available to the green and either be putting or hitting a seven iron.

Other notable holes: #2, #8, #12, #13, #18.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Jail at Venetian Bay #5 & #13

Venetian Bay Golf Club is located in New Smyrna Beach. It was opened just after the peak of the great real estate bubble in 2008 and designed by Lloyd Clifton. Clifton has done several courses in central Florida and is to this region what Jerry Mathews is to Michigan. By his own admission this site was going to be a challenge to create an interesting golf course. Maybe this is why he created holes #5 and #13 with the features he did. I thought the par 3's at this course were its strongest set of holes.

Hole #5 is a dog leg right that plays at around 500 yards. If you can hit a big fade off the tee it will allow you to get on the right portion of the fairway and have a go at it in two. Otherwise, your best option would be to layup on your approach well left. My drive ended up in the left rough just short of one of the many bunkers. I laid up to the 100 mark but a bit more right than I liked which brought the front right bunker in play. That alone would not be a problem except of what you see in the picture, about ten large palm trees planted in it. I hit a fat shot with my 51 degree wedge and clunked one of the trees and dropped down in the sand. Continuing my chunkyness, my bunker shot barely made it out and left me with a chip over the front ridge onto the green. As luck would have it, once it hit the green it was tracking right for the hole and 25 feet later it dropped in for my par. Feeling like I was in jail in that bunker, I used my first of two get out of jail free cards and made par.

Hole #13 plays slightly uphill at 430 yards. Off the tee you have plenty of room right but again you find a large bunker right front of the green filled with palm trees. Ideally, you would like to kill a drive down the left side and have an open look at the pin which was on the far right portion of the green. Some days you just can't back up want you want to do with your game. My drive was mediocre down the right side leaving me with a three hybrid. Needing to either play it to the left short or play a shot over the trees I went for the pin and again caught the cluster of palm trees. This time I dropped down to where I was blocked out and had to play a long bunker shot to the left side of the green. Now with over 30 feet left pin high, I rolled in a right breaking putt for yet another get out of jail free par.

Usually I only post my favorite holes, these two were not. Both holes without the palms would be good holes. Adding the palms really makes them both way too penal. #5 would still have a good risk/reward option and allow you a better chance of making it in two with just a lake and bunker to deal with. #13 is a brute of a par 4 to begin with and by placing a wall of 15 palm trees in front of the green now turns it into almost a par 5.

As the architect noted he was going to have to work to make it interesting, using the palms didn't add any more interest but a uniqueness to those two holes. I can not remember playing a course that had more than one tree growing in a bunker. The closest I have seen are the several yucca plants growing in the bunkers at Prairie Dunes. Fortunately, this day I had a couple of get out jail cards in my pocket to salvage pars on these two. Luck somedays beats skill.

Other notable holes: #3, #9, & #16.

Friday, April 23, 2010

LPGA-Champions #18

The Rees Jones designed Champions Course at LPGA opened in 1994. It with the Arthur Hills, Legends Course comprise this 36 hole complex in Daytona Beach. Where the Legends is more tropical vegetation, secluded with moderate bunkering, the Champions is wide open, with some residential development, and lots of sand. Two very different courses indeed. Both courses are always impeccably conditioned due to the diligent work of Director of Maintenance, John Lammrish.

Hole #18 is a very challenging, dogleg left, finishing hole that plays around 445 yards. Off the tee you have about 150 yards of carry over a swampy area. Push your drive to far right and you find the long lateral bunker, to far left and you find water. Ideally, a drive with a slight draw will leave you in a position to have a go at the green in two. Again, the hazards of your approach shot are similar to your drive, water on the left and several bunkers protecting the front and right side of the green. I have played this course several times and probably only find the fairway half of the time. The right bunker is my common miss here, but today I flirted with the left side more due to the strong east wind. I ended up 177 yards to a front pin about 5 yards into the left side of the fairway. Couldn't have had a better angle because of the opening on the left third of the green. My five iron found the left fringe pin high. My SW chip hit the pin and left me with two inches for my par.

The front pin position is by far the easiest spot to score on this hole. If you are hitting in from the right side you will have to contend with several bunkers when the pin is back. Most often because you are coming in with a long iron or hybrid you will not hold the green and run off the back. This is not a bad option to error long when the pin is middle to back.

I personally like strong finishing holes that have risk/reward options and a need for length with accuracy to be able to make birdie. I would like to have the 18th hole make a strong impression with which to remember the course. This hole has all of those traits along with the need for some finesse to be able to draw the ball off the tee. No surprise that this is the toughest par 4 at Champions and my favorite. Making a par here is a great end to your days play. Make birdie and you have picked up a couple of strokes on the field.

Other notable holes: #5, #10, #13, #14, #17.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Course called Ireland

A Long Walk in Search of a Country, A Pint, and the Next Tee by Tom Coyne. I would highly recommend reading this book.

This is about a married man in his early 30's who decides to "walk" around Ireland, playing all the links courses and others on his way. The journey takes him 4 months and almost 1200 miles on foot. It took 4,531 strokes , he was 636 over par, and 129 golf balls to play 56 courses.

The bulk of the book is not about golf but the trials and tribulations of his walk, the history of Ireland, and the time spent with locals in the many Irish Pubs. I especially liked how he interspersed Ireland's centuries of conflicts into the story. It gave me more insight into why the Protestants and Catholics have had issues with each other over time.

I have to admit that this is the first 300 page book I can remember finishing off in less than a week. It not only kept my interest but has gotten me fired up for a future tour of Ireland, hopefully in 2011 or 2012, to follow Coyne's path and experience some of their great Links courses. When I go I will definitely be taking motor transportation and trying to see as much as I can in only three weeks.

Speaking of Links Courses does anyone have a list of Links courses in the World? I would gladly post it here and share it. Doing some research it appears that there is not a consensus as what constitutes a true links golf course. The range is somewhere between 150-250 courses worldwide depending upon who you read. In the USA I am told that the following could qualify: Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Old Macdonald, Highland Links, and the back nine at Pacific Grove.

Update- In November, 2010, George Pepper and Malcolm Campbell came out with a book, TRUE LINKS. They feel there are 246 links courses in the world, of which five are in North America: Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Highland Links, Old Macdonald, and Pacific Dunes. Personally, I think they are on the high end of reality but it sure doesn't hurt book sales to include more courses than less. Interesting book and a great reference for links golf. To date I have played about 70 of the True Links courses.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Southern Dunes #11 & #16

Southern Dunes Golf and CC is a Steve Smyers design located in Haines City, Florida. Opened in 1993, the dominant feature are the 189 bunkers. Having previously played Wolf Run, I was not surprised by the wonderful work that Smyers does on bunker design. Granted the majority of the bunkers are just eye candy and would normally not come into play for the average golfer, they surely do add to the aesthetics of the course. The day before I played Southern Dunes they had a real downpour of rain and for the most part the course drained very well with the exception of a few bunkers. The problem I saw with so many bunkers was the man hours of labor it was going to take to get them all back in shape after the storm. My guess was it would take the rest of the week. The course is surrounded by a real estate development but because several of the holes are well below the home level it gives you a feeling of isolation from them when playing the course. The homes didn't come close to coming into play.

Hole #11 is a par 3 that played 190 yards to a back pin into a 10-15 mph wind. The first thing you notice are all the bunkers (11) that are visible. None of them should come into play except for a really poor shot. The deception on the tee of this hole is the severe penalty you will pay if you are long left or right. My philosophy on par 3's is the same as with birdie putts, make sure you get it to the hole. So, I went with the longer hybrid and hit a nice shot which landed just a few feet past the pin and trickled off the back. As I got closer to the hole I realized that I should have gone with the shorter club due to the severe drop off of the back half of the green. There was some thick rough long that held my ball up from rolling all the way down the back slope. I was able to chip up with a 60 deg wedge and stop it within tap in range for a par. Ideally, you should not challenge anything long on this hole and play up to the middle of the green. From the tee, without local knowledge, there is no way to tell how severe a shot you may leave yourself with by missing long. Southern Dunes has a very nice variety in the distance and direction of one shot holes.

The sixteenth hole is a short par 5 featuring a classic Biarritz green. A Biarritz is a green with a large swale in the middle, the swale is usually at least 4 feet deep and guarded on both ends by a bunker. They are most commonly seen on the long par 3's designed by C.B. Macdonald and his proteges. This green is rather small in depth at only 22 yards so it makes it very difficult to find a front or back pin. Today, the pin was at the base of the swale which made for an easy approach shot but a difficult read on your putt.

Off the tee you have a generous landing area for your drive with the only danger being two large bunkers on the left. Smyers bunkers at Southern Dunes are generally very large with capes or small spines to access them. At 507 yards from the blues you can take a run at the green or lay up on your approach. There is a large mound protecting the right front of the green. If the pin isn't placed in the front portion of the green you can go at straight on, if a front pin the best way you can get the ball on the green is to lay up left of the hole and pitch on. Bottom line is if you have a front or back pin position it is going to be difficult to get it close due to the deep swale. I hit a 3 wood on my approach and ended up left of the green in a perfect position for a front pin. I pitched with my 60 degree to a few feet right of the middle pin and was left with what looked like an easy straight putt which I missed. If I had played here before I might have known this putt had some break in it and had a better chance for making birdie. Par is excellently defended at #16 around the green as are at two other par 5 holes, #4 and #9. I choose #16 because of the superb use of the classic Biarritz design.

Other notable holes: #4, #5, #9, #13, #14, and #15.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pacific Dunes #11

Sitting inside watching it rain on another cool winter day in Florida has got me day dreaming about my upcoming trip to Bandon Dunes, the first of August. This summer will be my third pilgrimage to the Resort. Now with the new fourth course opened we will be playing 8 rounds over four days, instead of the six I have played the past two trips. The weather at the start of August has been in the 60-70 degree range, sunny, with average winds of 10-20 mph. It can be much stronger and the courses are designed with the ground game in mind. One of my most used shots is the hybrid runner from up to 100 yards out when the wind is gusting. Walking is mandatory with caddies and pull carts available.

Of the three courses I have played there, Pacific Dunes is my favorite followed by Bandon Trails. Pacific was designed by Tom Doak's team and came online in 2001. In fact of all the courses I have played to date, if I had one last course to play again, Pacific Dunes is the one I would pick.

There are endless ways to go about playing each hole at Pacific, with the many routes you can take on the ground or through the air. The fescue fairways are very generous and almost as firm and fast as the fescue greens. It is somewhat unconventional in the layout with two par 3's starting out your back nine. But they are so different that you never really get the feeling you have just played back to back one shot holes. Before your back nine is completed you will have another two par 3's and a short par 4 to experience. Par is 35 and plays a bit over 3100 yards from the back tees. It is one of the most enjoyable nines you will ever play. Who says you need length to have a great course?

The 11th hole is a short par 3 that plays from 110 to 145 yards. In the summer it usually plays into the prevailing NW wind which can get up to 40 mph or more. On the left is the Pacific Ocean ,110 feet below, with a deep bunker in between it and the green. Short is a series of tiered bunkers, gorse, and beach grass. To the right are three more bunkers to keep you in play. If that were not enough of a challenge, you are shooting uphill at the smallest green on the course.

When you step up to the tee this is one of the most beautiful and visual intimidating holes you will ever play. It ranks right up there with the 7th at Pebble and 17th at TPC Stadium that I have played. Actually, the hole has more bark than bite. I think of the five par 3's at Pacific Dunes it is the easiest for me.

I have played it in moderate winds, and winds of 40 gusting to 50 mph. That particular windy day I hit an exceptional 6 iron from 110 yards right over the pin to about 6 feet. I have hit as little as a PW. Missing to the right you will initially think you have got to be dead, but more times than not you will have a chance to hit it on the green and have a shot at par. The one place you don't want to go is left on the beach below, fortunately the stronger the wind the less chance you have of doing so. There are bunkers guarding the left side of the green, so don't be afraid to aim at these if the summer wind is up.

I have played this hole six times with the worst score being a bogey. I have had some good birdie chances but have only made one. Even par at #11 for my 6 rounds, is the best I have done on any of the holes at Pacific Dunes. Visual intimidation, beauty, and scoreablity are reasons why this is one of my favorites at Pacific Dunes.

8/1/10 Update. My favorite par three at Pacific Dunes did not treat me so well on this trip. I plugged in the left bunker and took a double my last round but was still able to shoot 78. The other two days produced bogies from the right side. This trip I played the other par 3's at even par.

Other notable short holes at Pacific: #2,#5,#6,#14,#16, and #17.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pacific Dunes #4 & #13

These two long par 4's both play totally along the Pacific Ocean, but in opposite directions. Holes #4 and #13 are some of most awe inspiring and difficult holes I have played. There always seems to be wind coming off the ocean in the summer which is cool and refreshing. Take a deep breath and be assured you are getting some of the freshest and purest air in the world.

Looking along the shoreline into the beautiful blue sky while you take that deep breath should help relax you a bit before hitting that tee shot on #4. The back tee box is positioned out on a finger toward the ocean. Playing downwind and at around 450 yards, you can either hit a driver or 3-wood off the tee. The fescue fairways at Pacific Dunes will run out downwind like you would not believe. A well placed drive will get you out to the area of the bunker on the left and leave you with around 180 or less in. To far right you are on down on the beach below with the wind surfers, to far to the left you end up in the bunker. If you go OB right there is little chance you can utilize the lateral red stakes on your drive unless you hit one big slice, so error to the left if you must.

If you have been able to leave your tee shot on the right side of the fairway you will have a great angle into the green. To far left and the raised bunker 50 yards in front of the green comes into play. Which ever position you are in you have got to play much shorter than you think on your approach and to the left side of the green. As the one photo caption denotes, the back right bunker has become my home. The green slopes from left to right and I swear back into that bunker. The ball never seems to want to stop rolling on this green. I have played 3 wood and 7 iron on this hole and still ended up long. So play at least two clubs shorter to allow for the firm and fast fairways. If the pin is back right be careful not to putt the ball to far past the hole or the slope and sometimes strong winds may take you into that bunker. I have hit what I thought were two good shots here and still have never come away with a par on this hole. Bogey is a good score for me.

Hole #13 takes you back into the summer prevailing wind. In the distance to the right you will see the largest natural bunker you have ever played. A generous landing area awaits your tee shot. As most great architects do, the closer you play to the riskiest portion of the hole the easier your approach shot will be. If you play down the left side and put the ocean in play, you not only get the best angle but there is a down slope run out area that will take you much closer to the hole than the right side will. Play it to the right and you bring into play bunkers at around 70 yards out and a poor angle. With the left to right wind helping keep you in play, challenge the left side here. Ideal shot would be a low draw into the wind off the tee. Worst case is if you over cook it, you will get a lateral drop where you went down into the ocean.

Your approach shot from 135-200 yards is to a long, elevated green with a false front. Make sure your shot makes it to at least the middle third of the green or you may be watching it roll 50 yards back down the fairway. A back pin position into any wind, expect to play several clubs more than you might think. Hitting it on the middle third of this green will go a long way to a good score here.

Walking up to the green you will notice how enormous the dunes on your right actually are. You may see a ball all the way up at the top and wonder how could anyone hit it there. Worse yet there may even be foot prints up to the area. Once on the green take a look out over the ocean to the north, this is the last time you will see the ocean on this round. Similar to a back pin at hole #4, this time be careful putting downwind to a front pin position at #13. I have made par twice here, both by getting up and down. It helped me post the two best rounds I have played at Pacific Dunes. My last round in 2008, I finally was able to break 80 with a 77. Again, bogey is a very good score here.

Holes #4 and #13 will give you the two extremes of wind conditions at Bandon. The Practice area at the Resort is one of the largest you will find. The practice green has got to be almost 100 yards long. Until you get on the course you wonder why such a huge green? Only after having to putt that far out on the course will you realize why. The fairways really have no big difference in speed from the greens, and can be putted on. The other unique feature is that on either side of this practice green are two driving ranges, one facing north and the other south. Be sure and allow yourself plenty of time to use both of these as it will be a great help in determining how many clubs you need to adjust into and down wind for that days play.

Looking at my old scorecards, I have played these two holes 20 over par for my nine rounds. These are two holes that I play as bogey being my par. Between the two of them you will have the opportunity to play just about every shot you have in your bag. I am looking forward to the challenge of playing these another three times this summer.

8/1/10 Update. My first round of the 2010 trip I parred both #4 and #13. Missed an 8' birdie putt on #4, but was happy to make my first par on it in 7 rounds. I challenged the right side of #4 and left side of #13 with my drives. The left side of #13 FW actually has a punch bowl effect to keep you in play, so if you can get it on the ground it should stay in play.

Other notable long holes: #3, #7, #8, #15, and #18.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Old Corkscrew #8 & #14

Old Corkscrew Golf Club is located just east of Fort Myers in Estero, Florida. The 72 hole complex was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2007. It is situated on 275 acres in a natural, private setting. This particular day I was hosted by Don Edwards. Don is a wonderful ambassador for Old Corkscrew and also a very fine golfer. Most all of the hockey players I have played with have excellent hand-eye coordination which is a great asset for playing the game of golf. Don was an All-Star goalie for the Buffalo Sabers back in the early 80's and won the Vezina Trophy in 1980.

Hole #8 is a reachable par 5 for the long hitters who can avoid the left fairway bunker. Otherwise, it is a three shot hole with driver off the tee or a 3 wood to avoid the bunker short on the left. I hit a good drive right of the bunker that left me with 230 yards to the pin. To go for the green you would have to carry a large waste area and hope of landing in the front bunker. It appeared that it would be the prudent move to lay up in the landing area right of the green about 200 yards away. I pulled out my 3 hybrid, which gets me around 205 yards, and pushed it right over the cart path into the pine straw. Luckily, I had a great lie with 79 yards to the pin which was located on the left portion of the green. My shot landed short of the pin and rolled about 10 feet past the pin. I made the putt for birdie. After playing the hole, I would hit three wood with a draw for my second shot if the pin was located on the right half of the green. I played it safe with the pin on the left and had a great result. A very aesthetic hole with strategic bunkering coming into play off the tee, on your layup shot, and around the green.

Hole #14 is one of the most challenging holes at Old Corkscrew. Off the tee you are confronted with a dog leg right, cape style hole with the right side protected by a large bunker. Land in the bunker and you are going to have a hard time making par. I choose not to cut off any thing on the drive and hit it straight down the fairway to 155 yards out to a front right pin. The green is shallow/wide and elevated. It is protected by large bunker complex with the deepest portion on the right front side. I was advised not to leave it right of the pin and hit my 5 iron further left and longer than I wanted ending up toward the back left center of the green . I was left with an impossible putt to get it close. After my first putt, I had about an 8 footer to make par and missed for my bogey. This hole is all you want on any given day. If you can hit it over 280 off the tee, try to cut the corner and leave yourself with a shorter more manageable approach shot.

Other notable holes: #2, #4, #9, #10, #11, and #18.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Concession #7 & #8

The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida was established in 2005 through a collaboration of design between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. The name of the club was derived from the 1969 Ryder Cup Match between the two architects, when Nicklaus conceded a two foot putt to Jacklin that resulted in the first team tie in Ryder Cup history. Jacklin was involved in the second tie as captain of the 1989 team. Jacklin captained four teams (1983-89) and Nicklaus two teams (1983 and 87). They split with each other in head to head competition as captains. Jacklin won the 1985 match as captain. Tony Jacklin played in seven Ryder Cups (13-14-8) to Nicklaus's six appearances (17-8-3).

The Ryder Cup theme is apparent from the time you walk into the eloquently decorated clubhouse, to the practice range where each bag stand displays the record of a specific Cup event, to each tee marker that gives you a piece of Ryder Cup history. Anyone who has played in a Ryder Cup is given honorary membership at the Concession. Paul Azinger and Mr. Jacklin play here regularly.

I have played many Nicklaus courses over the years but this one, in conjunction with Jacklin, is one of my favorites. The front nine has a wonderful assortment of holes and the back nine a stern test of a finishing hole. The bunker design is exceptional along with the firm, fast conditions. There is not any residential development visible from the course and no tee times are needed. Caddies are also available so the golfing experience is one of peace and tranquility.
The seventh hole is a sweeping dog leg left, 537 yard par 5, that is bunkered on the left and right off the tee. From the black tees this course plays to a 77.6 with a 155 slope. It was a perfect day and the last thing I was going to do was ruin it by hitting 200+ yard approach shots all day, so I played the blue tees which still sloped out at 146. From the blues this brings the right bunker into play off the tee if I hit driver, so I hit my 15 degree Cobra to be short of it. If you play to the left side of the fairway you have a shot to go for it in two. My natural shot with the 3 wood is a draw, I am thinking this sits up perfect for me. So, my aim point was the right bunker hoping to end up well left of it. I hit it solid but straight, leaving me 265 yards directly to the pin, just short of the lip of the right bunker. With a side hill lie and 220 to carry the waste/swamp area I choose to play it safe. I laid up to 128 yard mark and hit a fat 8 iron to the front fringe of the elevated green. Most courses I only will ever get to play once, so if there are alternate routes to play a hole I will drop another ball and see how it plays. I dropped a ball over near the left side of the fairway, where I had hoped to end up, and was able to hit a three wood into the left green side bunker. The chances of getting it on the green in two due to this bunker are not good. The ideal spot would be where my third shot ended. From there I putted my first ball up and tapped in for a par. Three out of the four par 5's are reachable in two if you can hit two really good shots. All four give you interesting alternate routes to play.

Since I have been photographing most of the holes played over the past four years my recall of holes is now much better. From the #7 tee this shot reminded me very much of how #3 at Long Cove sits up for a three wood tee shot. The second shot with a couple of lone trees situated on the left edge of the swamp is eerily similar to #16 at Tullymore. They say everyone has a twin, this hole has two par 5 cousins in South Carolina and Michigan.

Hole number eight is one of those great short par fours that can eat you up if you make one mistake. It is a dog leg right from 322 yards. You have much more room on the left than right to play your tee shot. If you hit driver long left you end up in the creek, to far right you are blocked out by large trees. If you are confident you could hit a fade in play, that would be the shot with your driver. Otherwise layup to the left side of the fairway, which I did with an eighteen degree hybrid. I was left with 117 yards to a small sloping left to right green which is surrounded front and right by a creek. Left and long will get you in a huge bunker. Today the pin was upfront and no way was I putting the front creek into play so I choose a club that I knew I could get past the pin. My 9 iron usually goes 125 yards, I hit it about 1o feet long and it spun back to pin high right. If you don't hit the green here and are short or right the slope will take you into the water. Put it in the bunker and you have an impossible shot to hold the green. I was told the best play from the bunker is to hit it back down the fairway and try another whack at it from there rather than risk dunking it in the water. My putt was within 10 feet, but with a steep back to front slope and uphill. Speed was all important, I stroked it a bit to hard and missed it on the right. Today was one of those days when I was striking the ball very well but no putts would drop for any birdies.

Other notable holes: #2, #5, #6, #12, & #18.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

USA Ryder Cup Venues

After playing The Concession it perked my interest about the history of the Ryder Cup. I went to the local library and checked out what looked like would be a rather interesting, offbeat view of the Cup: David Feherty's Totally Subjective History of the Ryder Cup. It has a lot of illustrations with off the wall captions which make it an entertaining read.

I had the good luck of being able to attend the opening ceremonies and practice rounds of the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. If you recall this is the one where Phil decided to go too another course too supposedly practice because of the better wind conditions. Bizarre rationalization, plus he also decided to switch clubs for this event. Phil and the US got pounded by the Europeans in this one.

Wondering how many different venues there have been in the USA and how many more I need to play to hit them all, here is the list through 2024. Not one course has been used more than once here, in contrast to the European venues.

1927- Worchester CC____ 1931- Scioto CC*
1935- Ridgewood CC____ 1947- Portland GC*
1951- Pinehurst CC #2*___1955-Thunderbird GCC
1959- Eldorado CC_______1963- East Lake CC
1967- Champions CC____  1971- Old Warson CC
1975- Laurel Valley CC*__1979- The Greenbrier
1983- PGA National GC*_ 1987- Muirfield Village GC
1991- The Ocean Course*_1995- Oak Hill CC
1999- The Country Club__ 2004- Oakland Hills CC*
2008- Valhalla GC*______2012- Medinah CC
2016- Hazeltine CC*_____2020- Whistling Straits*
2024- Bethpage Black
*courses I have played

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jupiter Hills #9 & #13

The Jupiter Hills Club consists of the Hills and Village Courses. The Hills Course which I played this day, was designed by George Fasio with the help of his two nephews Jim and Tom in 1969. Previously, I had played the Trump course in West Palm designed by Jim Fasio and found several similarities in hole design. Obviously, his uncle had a major influence on his design philosophies.

The Hills Course is situated on natural sand belt hills from which you can view the ocean in the distance. From the clubhouse balcony, Jesper Parnevik's home can be seen along with the top of Tiger Wood's pad. In fact, during WWII the current area of the first tee was used as a submarine lookout tower to watch for German subs.

The par threes are an exceptional collection of holes along with several other elevated green complexes of the longer holes. Water comes into play on 3 out of 4 of the one shot holes. #11 which faces south and #14 which faces north share the same ridge for their tee boxes and the lone tree as a backdrop. Both play in the 180-220 yard range, playing downhill with water coming into play in front of each hole. I can't ever remember playing two par threes designed the way these are.
Hole #9 has multiple tee boxes and plays 40 feet uphill at 170-190 yards. It is protected by a deep faced bunker which appears you would bury your shot into if short of the green. The pin was upfront left and playing at 173 yards the day I played it. Anything hit short or left will find the bunker. So, I played conservative and went with my 190 yard hybrid and hit my shot long off the back of the green into the first cut of rough. From there I chipped, initially looking like a nice shot, it ran by the hole to the fringe. The greens were firm, running at around 12+, and were near perfect. From there I two putted for my bogey.

Hole #13 is a beautiful dog leg left par five. It is protected on both sides of the fairway off the tee with waste bunkers and Bermuda rough. My drive had just a bit too much draw on it and trickled into the left rough. From there I used my 21 degree hybrid, hopefully laying up to around 80-100 yards. The rough caught my club a bit and I hit it just right of the fairway bunker behind some trees, where all I had was a lateral pitch out back to the 100 yard mark. The elevated green is protected by six bunkers esthetically and strategically placed. I used my 52 degree wedge to play pin high right of a left front pin. I had a good run at a par from about twelve feet which didn't drop and left me with another bogey.

For Florida, this is a course with a lot of elevation change. On many of the holes you will be hitting into a variety of elevated greens. Some of the greens have some severe back to front slope to them and you will have no chance of stopping the ball if above the hole. This day my approach shot found the back plateau of #6 and I could have putted all day and not gotten any closer than 25 feet to the middle pin.

The Jupiter Hills Course is beautifully manicured with firm and fast conditions. One of the best practice areas you will ever find at a private club. It has a super friendly staff that provide all the amenities you would expect of a world class facility.

Other notable holes: #5, 15, & 18.