Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Guide to Championship Golf at The Villages

Recently, I finished playing all of the 648 golf holes offered at The Villages (T.V.). For those not familiar with The Villages, it is a 125,000 senior 55+ retirement community located about an hour NW of Orlando, Florida. There is about every activity available you can think of here including, 12 Championship golf courses (306) holes and 38 Executive courses (342) holes. 3 million rounds are played here every year with 2,270 hole in ones recorded in 2017.

Below are my ranking of the (2)-18 hole and (10)-27 hole Championship courses at T.V. I have photographed all of these courses and they can be viewed by clicking on the SLIDESHOW header above. I kept track of all my scores and ended up taking 1,266 strokes +42 over par =74.47 avg/18, which included 2 Eagles, 34 Birdies, 18 Three-putts, and shooting even par/or under on 11 of the 34 nines with 3 rounds of +40 all from the Blue tees.

My ranking Criteria is very simplistic: How many Interesting/Challenging holes (1pt) and Exceptional designed holes (2pt) are there per nine hole loop. Conditioning is pretty consistent throughout the courses as they are all managed by T.V. Clifton Group designed all but 45 holes with the exception of Palmer and Glenview. So the design characteristics are also very similar which I would consider being Resort Style-generous landing areas with forgiving green run ups.

My rankings with recommendations of the top 9 hole loops at each 27 hole course:
Tier 1-Blue rated (25pts)
Palmer Legends CC(27)- 18 holes designed by The King himself with the other Riley Grove 9 by Clifton Design Group. The three loops here are all strong with Laurel Valley receiving (9pts) and Cherry Grove / Riley Grove 8 pts each.

Tier 2-Gold+ rated (21-22pts)
Havana CC (27)- The most undulating property at T.V. Kilimanjaro 9 (8pts) is one of my favorites with a great stretch of short holes to finish off the loop. Hemingway 9 (9pts) is also very strong. Kenya 9 (5pts) the weaker loop here. Shot -2 on my two favorite loops. Great view from the Clubhouse patio.
Lopez Legacy CC (27)- Erin Glenn(9pts) and Torri Pines(8pts) two of the strongest 9's at T.V. Might want to pass on Ashley Meadows (5pts).
Mallory Hill CC (27)- Even being that there are two Exceptional holes on Caroline 9 (6pts), I prefer Virgina 9 (8pts) and Amelia 9 (7pts). Lots of rolling terrain on Amelia that makes for several interesting holes.
Glenview Champions CC (27)- Designed by three Champion tour players, I prefer the John Mahaffey Fox Run 9 (7pts) and the Tommy Aaron Stirrup Cup 9 (8pts) over the Hubert Green Talley Ho 9 (6pts). Nice diversity of holes at Glenview CC. My favorite clubhouse ambiance.

Tier 3- Gold rated (16-18 pts)
Cane Garden CC (27)- Another of my favorite's is the Hibiscus 9 (7pts), holes 2-5 are very secluded. Allamanda 9 (7pts) is your best choice over Jacaranda 9 (4pts).
Bonifay CC (27)- Even with a very nice stretch of rolling holes #5-#8 the remaining at Destin 9 (5pts) are rather mundane as are many at Ft Walton 9 (5pts). Pensacola 9 (7pts) has a great stretch of finishing holes and is the must play loop here.
Belle Glade (27)- A flat parcel without major wetlands that the architect has done a good job with trying to squeeze out a few interesting holes. Love the opening hole on Tequesta 9 (7pts). Seminole 9 (5pts) and Calusa 9 (5pts) mostly uninspiring but I would choose Seminole of the two.
Evans Prairie CC (27)-One of the flattest properties at T.V. Wetlands makes Killdeer 9 (7pts) and Osprey 9 (6pts) more interesting and challenging. Egret 9 (3pts) very weak.
**The previous three complexes are the newest at T.V. I wish the developer would have moved a little more dirt and gone with different architects, to give some more diversity to the courses at T.V. It would be nice to have at least one true world class championship course here.

Tier 4- Gold- rated (15 pts)
Hacienda CC (27)- The oldest and shortest 27 hole track at T.V. The Oaks 9 (6pts) and Palms 9 (5pts) would be my choice for a round of golf here. There are several short risk/reward holes on these two nines. Only a few holes on the Lakes (4pts) I liked.
Tierra Del Sol GCC- Mature growth 18 hole course with a cozy feeling due to the narrower fairways. More simplistic green complexes. 10 interesting holes.

Tier 5- White rated (8/12pts)
Orange Blossom GCC- The original 18 at T.V. Eight interesting holes with some elevation change.

The top 5-6 courses here will give you a nice golfing experience, be sure and play the top two nines at each 27 hole course for the maximum challenge. As mentioned above this is Resort Style golf, that will not be that difficult if you are a lower handicap golfer. For the average golfer you will have an enjoyable round as the courses are well maintained and not very penal. There is also the option to just play 9 holes, pick the top loop at each course for the very best experience.

I find the Executive courses more difficult due to the challenging green complexes and just as nicely conditioned. If you are a resident the Exec courses are included in your monthly activities fee, the Championship Courses are around $50 or half price if playing 9 holes.

Friday, September 8, 2017

2017 Golf Trip- New England & Canada

Tomorrow after I leave the Michigan FB game I embark upon a 16 course tour of seven NE states, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. 45 years ago I vacationed in Maine for a couple of summers and really loved it but have never returned. You think I can still get a whole lobster for $3 and 50 steamers for $2?
Below is my planned itinerary. As you can see I have a very nice assortment of courses designed by some renowned architects-Ross, Muirhead, Silvia, McBroom, Whitman, Robinson, Coore, Crenshaw, Thompson, Fasio.

Mark Twain GC-NY
Shennecossett CC- CT
Meadowbrook GC-RI
Highland Links (9)- MA
The Hermitage- VT
Shattuck GC-NH
Penobscot Valley CC-ME
Algonquin GC-NB
Genesee Valley Meadows-MI
UPDATE**Due to needed surgery on my knee I will have to put the Nova Scotia courses on my bucket list for a later date. At which time I will add these Prince Edward Island courses to the trip.**

Northumberland GC-NS
Fox Harb'r GC-NS
Cabot Cliffs-NS
Cabot Links-NS
Cape Breton Highlands-NS
Links at Crowbush- PEI

I will immediately post on TWITTER after each round.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"It's good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling."-Mark Twain

Many years ago I was playing in an individual stroke event at my club and this actually happened to me. The 6th hole of the old course is a drivable tight par four with a deep gully right in front of the women's tee. To the left are some taller overhanging trees which I caught that day and my ball crashed down into the 20' deep gully. It's a 50/50 chance of finding it and making it out without penalty strokes, so I didn' reload but headed to the area of my ball. I get there and Old Mickey, the local ball hound, was wandering around at the bottom with his pockets full. I asked him if he had seen a ProV1x with two blue dots on it. He puts his hand in his pocket and the first ball he pulls out is mine. He quickly headed to where he had snatched it and placed back down. Decent lie but not a good shot out. A few years later he was foraging around in the brush in front of the women's tee on the 17th and a lady whacked him right in the head. He recovered, but the club finally banned him from hunting balls. He would boast of finding 4,000 golf balls a season.

Monday, June 5, 2017

2017 U.S.Open Erin Hills

With the upcoming 117th U.S.Open upon us I thought you would enjoy the slideshow (159 photos) of this years site, Erin Hills in Wisconsin.. When I played it in Sept of 2012, it was a gorgeous Fall day and the course was in excellent condition. Please take time to study the yardage guide and take note of the many contours throughout this spectacular piece of property.

Some of my favorite holes at Erin Hills:
#1 Very nice opening hole. Par 5
#4 Beautiful day and very peaceful walking up to the elevated green on this Par 4.
#9 Treacherous little Par 3!
#12 I love blind shots, if you don't drive it to the correct spot that is what you get on this Par 4.
#15 Good short Par 4's are always on my favorites list.

Click here to view slideshow:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mickey Smith-The Villages most prolific golfer?

Located an hour NW of Orlando, The Villages with its 630 holes is the largest collection of holes in the world. They have 12 championship and 36 executive courses (2 more are under construction) all nicely manicured and decently designed. I have in the past few weeks played all the courses but not all the holes as 10 of the championship courses have 27 holes.

All but a couple of the courses are designed by the Cliffton Golf Design Group out of nearby Apopka, FL. The executive courses I find more challenging from the back tees than the championship. The championship courses are a resort style design with some mundane holes interspersed among a few good ones. I understand the philosophy here, with the millions of rounds played they need to move the golfers along. It would have been more interesting to have had more variety of design from several architects. It does get a bit boring for me looking at essentially the same design characteristics hole after hole. My favorite Championship course on the property is the Palmer designed Legends course. The executive courses have green complexes designed the same as the championship so there is not a drop off in difficulty. The Roosevelt/Truman complex is my favorite executives due mainly to their rolling topography. I enjoy walking and usually do so on the executives but the design of most of the championships have a few long hikes between some holes.

One might think with that many holes it would be easy to find a tee time. With about 115,000 residents, of which most play golf, 99.5% of the 10,000 daily tee times are filled each day during the winter season. If you are a single you can get on somewhere everyday, but if you wish to play with friends you certainly will not be playing everyday. In 2016 there were 3.072 MILLION rounds played, 2,241 holes in one, 770 Villagers shot their age, and nearly 8 million cart miles driven on the golf courses alone!!  Of course at The Villages there are hundreds of other clubs and activities to keep you busy. It is a fun, friendly place to live or visit.

I had heard about a gentleman who routinely plays all 36 executive courses every month and that he had been doing this for several years. When I played at the Lopez Legacy course, I unknowingly met him as he works there three days a week at the bag drop. Luckily, near the end of my tour of all the courses I was paired up with the Legend- Mickey Smith. Starting in 2006 till the end of 2016 he played 6440 executive and 328 champion nines!! That averages out to over 315 eighteen hole rounds for 11 straight years, plus he works three days a week. Mickey is a golfing machine, one year he played 800 executive rounds and he walks every one of them. During that time period he has had streaks of 48 and 69 straight months were he played every executive course monthly. Having played all the courses over 200 times he knows every tidbit about each hole. I suggested to him he needs to write a book about his knowledge of the Executive courses. In addition to golf he and his wife swim in all the 73 pools at The Villages every year. It was a pleasure to play with this Villages Legend.

For my Rankings of all 48 courses at The Villages please click above on State/Region > Florida > proceed to the bottom of list> The Villages