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.