Oasis at Rancho Park

When people talk about playing golf in L.A. it is always the posh private places like Riviera and L.A. Country Club that get mentioned.  But right in the center of town, just off West Pico Blvd above Santa Monica is one gem of a municipal course called Rancho Park.

The fountains are period pieces…reminder of a less posh time in L.A.

Rancho Park FountainThe current course at Rancho Park was designed by William “Billy” Bell in 1949 on the site of and old Herbert Fowler design that preceded it.  The course was the home of the L.A. Open back in the 1960’s and has the distinction of being the first place Jack Nicklaus won a check as a professional., around $33 and change.  It also has the infamous distinction-memorialized by a plaque being the tee-of being where Arnold Palmer made 12 of the finishing Par 5 18th after splitting the fairway with his tee ball.

PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Senior Tour events have all been held on this track.  In spite of it’s municipal conditioning-it’s location means it gets over 100,000 rounds a year-this course has the bones of a championship layout.  The back nine in particular has some incredibly cool holes that will challenge you skill set.

This was recommended to me by a number of guys who have played the best L.A. has to offer as a place well worth spending an afternoon of adventurous golf.  They were not wrong….it is worth letting your hair down, renting a hand cart, and walking this most enjoyable track in the middle of Los Angeles.

September, 2016


Kyle Franz-A New Name To Remember

Making a name for yourself in the Course Architecture is often about spending extensive apprentice time with crack designers who have made names for themselves before you. Kyle Franz has taken this route and is well on his way to the top of the “next best” category of designers under 40.

Franz found his first job with Tom Doak when he begged him for a position at age 19 on the team doing Pacific Dunes at Bandon Dunes. He went on to work with Doak at Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania, Coore and Crenshaw in their restoration of Pinehurst #2, Kyle Phillips at the Cal Club, and, most recently, with Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner on the Olympic Course in Rio.

As you can read in this fascinating interview with GolfClubAtlas, Franz brought to these experiences an exuberance of youth, an adhesive mind, and a creative imagination. Being around these designers he soaked in their appreciation of the work of admired designers from the Golden Age of Design like Ross, Raynor, MacDonald, Tillinghast, Mackenzie, and others. He also made sure to do the extra curricular study time of these great designers and their work that related to the projects he was working on.

Greenside bunkering on the majestic #5 at Mid Pines is devilish

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHis big break came while working on the Pinehurst #2 restoration when he had a chance meeting at a cocktail party with Kelly Miller the president of the Pine Needles and Mid Pines Resort in Pinehurst. The owners of this storied old place were contemplating a restoration of their vintage Donald Ross course and what they saw the Coore and Crenshaw team do at #2 was in the front of their mind.

Franz had done extensive research of Ross’s work at Mid Pines at the Tufts Archives while working on the Pinehurst #2 project so he brought an impressive understanding of the original Ross design and had a plan in his head on how to restore it to the original Ross ideals.

Taking a flyer on a young mind with big dreams they hired Franz to do the restoration of Mid Pines and what resulted was a win-win situation for both of them. Franz delivered a fabulous return of Mid Pines to it’s full glory.

His work at Mid Pines is a pure Donald Ross Pinehurst restoration

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Click to read the GolfClubAtlas review of Kyle Franz’s restoration of Mid-Pines)

As you can read in the interview his thought processes during this renovation were ambitious and creative. His use of materials and resources already on the grounds allowed him to complete all the work for under $1 million dollars to the owner’s delight.

The most interesting part of the conversation are his revelations of the work he did with Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner in creating the course in Rio for the 2016 Olympics. Still fresh in our minds from the Olympic competitions this summer, Franz gives real insight into what they had in mind and what they accomplished with this new offering.  His references to holes at North Berwick,  The Old Course, and Royal Melbourne  indicate the source of many design concepts were from the classic links and sand belt courses of the British Isles and Australia.

Franz has since brought his talents to bear on a number of other prestigious re-do’s of classic courses that have come his way. Working on restorations of places like Pine Needles for Miller, Seth Raynor’s Country Club of Charleston, and, maybe the most intriguing of them all, a restoration of the old Wood’s Hole Golf Course in Cape Code, he has fast established himself for the right opportunity to build his first Franz creation from scratch.

After reading this interview I think you will come to the same conclusion.

(Click to read the Kyle Franz GolfClubAtlas Interview)


August, 2016


Olympic Heroes

golf in the OlympicsAs a skeptic of the importance of golf’s presence in the Olympic Games, I now stand convinced that the play of those who who competed in this weekend’s men’s competition and the quality of the venue created to contest it on does indeed matter both to the game today and where it is headed in the future.

The first two days it looked like your weekly European Tour event with quality players of little international recognition leading the way.  Marcus Fraser’s opening round 63 was astounding but few people knew who he was.  The TV Cume reading for the broadcast was barely noticeable at this point.

But that all changed when the heroic play of Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kucher, three of the top players and finest gentlemen in the men’s game, on Saturday and Sunday provided riveting drama and expressed the added intrigue that playing for one’s country and a medal in an Olympic Games can only provide.

Proudly displaying the winner’s hardware on the podium


Hats off to all three of these gentlemen for their attitude toward playing in these games and their consistent expression of purpose throughout the week on what it would mean to be standing on the winner’s podium at the end of the day.

An equal measure of respect has to be given to the design heroics of Gil Hanse and Amy Alcott for their creation of this gem of a golf course on which these Olympic Competitions is being played. Hanse should get the credit he rightfully deserves as one of the preeminent course designers of his generation, an equal to Tom Doak, Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw, and Pete Dye who seem to get most of the mention these days.

Gil Hanse-the author was on hand for the big reveal


Those who have played Hanse creations like Rustic Canyon in California or Castle Stuart in Scotland recognize the unique wide and open style of this design and complementary creative short grass green complexes . Together this provides a strategic element to play that can change daily with the prevailing winds and firmness of the ground conditions. The clever sequencing of the first three and last three holes rewarded aggressive play with scoring opportunities and the rapidly shifting leader board on Saturday and Sunday reflected the genius of that design element.

This only portends for more of the same as the best female golfers in the world take on this Olympic challenge in the coming week.

One last up and down led to this triumphant gesture


In the end it was superlative play-Kucher’s 63 on Sunday, Stenson’s 68-68 on the weekend, and Rose’s clutch birdies on 15 and 18 that punctuated a glorious introduction of golf into the Olympics.

I, for one, am now a believer!

August, 2016





First Tee Celebration 2016

Welcome SignOur annual celebration with the First Tee Programs of Montgomery County and the Greater Washington D.C. was a day of high energy and fun for over 30 kids and the 20 volunteers who were part of this. The emphasis was volunteers and professional staff supporting the nine principles that are the bedrock of the First Tee Program.


These kids come from diverse backgrounds and make it evident by their poise, grace, and self confidence that golf can teach valuable life skills and they “get it”.

Group Shot With Everyone

Smaller Group ShotOur volunteers ages 14 to 85 provided exactly what these kids needed-smiles, reassurance, and support of the development of their understanding of what the game has to offer.

Adult VolunteersFrom our youngest to our seniors our volunteers were charming and gracious.

Our Youngest Volunteers

Our Senior Leslie and GeneThere were those mugging for the camera…..

Volunteers HammingThumbs Up….but all had rapt attention to the proceedings.

This Big

Putting Oversight

Volunteer and Chipping Result

Girl TalkThe day’s activities began with some proper stretching and warm-up drills.  Stretch the hammies and work the hip flexors.

Warm Up 2Warm UpHammy StretchHip FlexationAll the kids went through the rotation of three clinics with our professional staff.  At the driving range with Geoff they covered the basics of grip, stance, takeaway, and follow through.  Some needed firm direction while others needed us to stand back appreciate youthful talent.

Geoff At RangeGeoff ClinicGetting A GripAlexFelix Follow ThruThe second rotation was a clinic on green side skills with Trillium like pitching and chipping. It was about working on technique, visualizing the shot, and listening to the brush of the grass that indicated the proper result.  She even gave them some drills they could take with them to work on their own.

Chipping ClinicTrill ExplainingChipping DrillTrill DrillChristina ChippingThe last stop was a clinic on the Zen of putting with Connor.  This included stroke fundamentals, speed control, and reading direction.  Some cool competitions were included as well as proper celebration techniques.

Putting ClinicPuttingPutting2Thanking the fansA break for a picnic lunch where we got to just sit and chat…..healthy sandwiches, fresh fruit, and some chocolate chip cookies for the big kids.  We were all very good at eating.

Chowing DownThen it was out to the big course to put what they learned to work.  It is amazing how these kids handle themselves on the course.  Fixing ball marks, raking bunkers, marking their ball properly, and respecting the efforts of their playing partners.

Felix On CourseSabrina On CourseMaking A PuttCheck out this awesome video of one of the kids making a clutch putt.  The group celebration speaks volumes about how much these kids understand about playing golf with your friends.

One last bit of business to thank the volunteers, the staff, and the organizers for putting this together.  And most important, thanking the kids for being part of this beautiful day, sending them away with a few goodies to commemorate the event.

Presentation SpeechThanks for ComingParticpation CertificatesSpecial thanks to Connor Farrell, Steve Keller, Moe Dweck, and Alexandra Uduk for all the hard work in assembling this event.  Thanks to Woodmont Country Club and their professional staff for hosting us and the First Tee Chapters of Montgomery County and Greater Washington D.C. for hooking us up with these great kids.

First Tee Greater Wash LogoFirst Tee Montgomery County

August, 2016

(Photos provided by Steve Keller, Moe Dweck, Michael Pius, Binsar Siahaan, Alexandra Uduk)

Heritage of Golf Exhibition

If you are at Gullane Golf Club and are looking for a “diamond in the rough” experience you should call ahead and make an appointment with Archie Baird to see his wonderful Heritage of Golf Exhibition.

Young Archie and another interested golf historian

Archie and a StudentArchie, at the sprite young age of 92,  is someone worth meeting on his own merit.  A former Secretary of the Gullane Golf Club, a proper Scotsman with a wonderful sense of humor who still has a youthful glint in his eye.  He has an enormous amount of golf history in his head and, despite a few pregnant memory moments, he is willing to share it all with you.

His Heritage of Golf Exhibition is a cluttered room next door to the Gullane Golf Club Pro Shop.  It is like going through Archie’s attic, full of folkloric pictures, old clubs and balls, and assorted other memorabilia from his personal collection he has accumulated over a very engaged golfing career in the East Lothian area.  This collection reminds us that East Lothian, with one of the most robust collections of early links courses in the British Isles, had a long and storied rivalry with St. Andrews as to the epicenter of golf in Scotland.

A smattering of the lineage of original clubs from the way back machine

Wood shafted clubsThe coolest part of this is, as Archie says, unlike any other museum of golf history you walk through you can actually pick up, touch, and feel all these historic treasures.  You will be amazed at how just holding a feathery ball or an ash shafted spoon  in your hand tells you so much more about its role in golf history.

Just pick one, any one, and give it a waggle

Seasoned ClubsA ball library along with the menu at the turn

Ball LibraryThe original kick-stand club carrier-you can actually pick it up

First club carrierArchie’s story begins with how the Dutch, not the Scots, invented the game.  He has a print of an Adriaen Van de Velde painting from 1668 to prove it.  The story moves on to Scotland and the eastern coastal towns near Dunbar, North Berwick, Musselburgh, Leith, and St. Andrews.

Depiction of North Berwick Links then….does not look much different now…

North Berwick LinksIt includes the earliest rivalries from the mid 1800’s covering the stories of the early Open Championships at Prestwick and the Red Leather Belt that was bestowed to the champions.  Old Tom and Young Tom Morris and Old Willie and Young Willie Park had turned it into a family rivalry in the early years.

Old Willie Park had his own stature in the history of the game

Old Willie ParkYoung Willie followed in pop’s boot steps

Young Willie ParkArchie then gets to the whole development of the ball thing….from Feathery to Guttie to the Wound Haskell ball at the turn of the 20th Century.  He covers the development of clubs from ash to hickory to steel in the late 1920’s.  These technological changes made it more affordable and allowed the game to be embraced by more and more people…it was critical to the development of golf in those early years.

It took half a day to stuff a hat full of damp feathers into this hand-sewn leather cover….not a cheap enterprise….they could only make about 3 balls a day

Feathery BallThe Guttie, molded from a gum-like material, was more durable and cheaper to produce

The GuttieThe device that allowed them to wind hundreds of feet of rubber bands around a solid core to make the first Haskell balls

Wound Ball MachineYounger Archie with the fisherman’s version…a reshaped fish hook with a hemp grip and a rock surrounded by cork for the ball…..golfers will try anything to play

Fishermans GolfThe rest is just an eclectic collection of all sorts of odds and ends that will fascinate you.  Delivered with a bit of wit and lots of common sense knowledge Archie gives this stuff a life all it’s own.

The proper “Members Only” outfit…

Members Only Attire

Friends in high places..signed Masters flag and personal note from Ben Crenshaw commemorating his first win at Augusta

Crenshaw Masters WinHis registry list of all the great links of Scotland

Scottish Course RegistryPotpourri…this display case reminds me a golfing grandmother’s living room….

Memorabila of the AgesIf you are at Gullane to play golf take the time to call ahead and arrange for a half hour walk through Archie’s attic…you will not be disappointed.


Contact Information:

The Heritage of Golf Museum

Gullane Golf Club

East Lothian, Scotland EH32 2BB

Contact: Archie Baird  01875 870277

July, 2016

Postcard From North Berwick

Golf has been played at North Berwick for centuries but like a number of the small towns in East Lothian it is a unique place with a character all it’s own.  Today it is very much a suburban enclave for professional people who work in Edinburgh, the train connection which is under a half hour makes this an easy place to bring up a family in an environment with all the perks of a big city without the urban anxieties.

The West Links Golf Club dates back to 1832 and the place has all the attributes of a old school distinguished Scottish links.

North Berwick Clubhouse….handsome sandstone weathered to distinction

Clubhouse 2Trophy cases in the members bar glisten with pride

Bar Trophy CaseWood paneled member’s board room has tradition coming out of it’s pores

Board Room Fireplace (1)The original members lockers are incorporated into the decor

LockersList of the club Captains, as well as men’s and ladies champions, adorn the walls

Berwick CaptainsThere is no getting lost……

Directions to Golf ShopThe golf shop….a simple understated building for such a famous links

Golf ShopStarter’s Lodge is somewhat updated

Starters PlaceEven the weather vane has a themed message to it

Weather Vane (1)

There were volcanic eruptions in Scotland creating notable land forms

NB 11Lest you forget the course shares the shoreline beach with the locals

The BeachBass, Lamb, and Fidra rocks may be the most iconic visuals of North Berwick

The RocksThey lord over the links and present convenient aiming lines for the players

Bass Rock Through ReedsThe ghostly appearance of Bass Rock behind the 17th for example

NB 17 approach

Then there is the kitchy course…you got this approach shot in your bag?

NB 3 Wall Approach

North Berwick is so much more than the Old Links, it is a quaint country town.  First class hotel, inns, kitchy shops, new age restaurants, and all the fixins.

The Marine Hotel has lavished visitors with high end service for generations

Marine HotelIt sports a Children’s Pitch and Putt Course…you must be accompanied by a kid

Childrens Course 1The town bulletin board buys into the golf tradition of North Berwick

Community BoardThey do remember why many folks come and what they need

Golfers RestNarrow winding streets are full of local upscale shops and restaurants

Town StreetIt’s not without it’s rules, though apparently some don’t heed the promulgations

No ParkingLike a good family place all creatures are welcome and treated with dignity

Dog Friendly

Even those without house training are accommodated in the public square

Lighthouse with birdTrendy clothing that fits the young population’s vibe

FatfaceRestaurants for all tastes

Pauls Yard DeliNew age establishments….like Zitto’s Italian Wine Bar and Tapas

ZittoEven has an asymmetric new age business card

Zitto CardAs it should, in the end it all comes back to treats for all ages

GelatoNorth Berwick…come for the revered links golf..but take time to borrow a child and play the pitch and putt, stroll the town for some shopping and a gelato,  or make time for  a tasty piece of Scottish salmon or a fine plate of pasta.  North Berwick is a special place….take the time to enjoy all that this lovely community has to offer.

July, 2016

A Walk About St. Andrews

For a golfer a visit to St. Andrews is a spiritual golf experience. The Old Course, the R & A Clubhouse, and the ghost of Old Tom Morris are images in the mind that convey solemn golfing history.

Royal and Ancient Golf Club dates back to 1754

R and A BuildingReminder that the R & A had been quite exclusionary until just recently

Members Only Chair
British Golf Museum houses a detail history of golf in the British Isles

British Golf Museum
The Old Course begins and ends in the center of town

Old Course SignTom Morris Golf Shop still peers over the 18th Green

Old Tom Golf ShopWithin you find his old workbench and his locker

Old Tom's LockerA stroll around to the Himalayas for some recreational putting is a unique St. Andrews experience. Follow the road a little longer and you are at The Links clubhouse the terminus for the New and Jubilee golf courses. This building has it’s own pieces of St. Andrews history on display.

Old Tom, the face of St. Andrews, regales the hallway in front of the pub

Old Tom 2Along with Seve, one of it’s most iconic Champion Golfer Of The Year

SeveBut a walk through this town, richly layered with 600 years of academic, religious, and cultural artifacts, one cannot help but feel that St. Andrews very much represents the soul of Scotland far beyond it’s reputation as the home of golf.

Heading back up The Scores one sneaks up on the vast presence of the University of St. Andrews University, the third oldest university in the English speaking world, that was founded around 1410. An all male institution until the late 1800’s, St. Andrews started offering a limited Masters of Arts degree for women in 1876 and by 1892 had become the first Scottish university to enroll female undergraduates on the same full time basis as their male counterparts.

The central quad looks like every other university…..distinguished yet tranquil

St. Andrews QuadAll kinds of beings matriculate there

MetriculatingAnd some of them were soon-to-be Royals

Where Kate Met Prince WillamReligion reverently felt in St. Andrews at the St. Salvators Chapel since the 1500’s

St. Andrews Univ ChapelA short walk up North Street brings you to the remnants of the old cathedral

Cathedral Bones 2Eerie reminder…religious persecution rerouted Scottish history……

Catherdral BonesTime and again

St. Andrews CastleThe final resting place of Young Tom Morris ….

Young TomAnd Old Tom Morris tie it together…

Old TomBut as for most others it always seems to conclude at the 18th of the Old Course

Kathy at 18th OC

Moe at 18th OCJuly, 2016

British Golf Museum

Right behind the 1st tee of the Old Course and the Royal and Ancient Club Building in St. Andrews there is a must stop for all serious golfers at the British Golf Museum. In less than an hour you can take in the full history of the development of the game in this part of the world. Early clubs and trophies, period attire, and iconic images of the “Champion Golfers of the Year”-this place is just oozing memorabilia to prod your golfing memory.

British Golf Museum SignThe toil of stuffing the feathery ball made the game expensive to play

Feathery Ball MakerUntil the introduction of the molded Gutta Percha in 1848

Gutta Percha Ball MfgWhich prompted major changes in club design

History of ClubsSome were very innovative……………..

Asst Old ClubsSome were adjustable….and eventually illegal

Adjustable ClubThen there were accessories…the first “kick-stand” club carrier

First Kick Stand BagChallenge for the Silver Club began at St. Andrews in 1754

Silver Club Trophy SA 1754 onThe silver cup from the Musselburgh Challenge dates back to 1774

Musselburgh CupOriginal red Moroccan leather and silver Challenge Belt for The Open Champion

Open Challenge Belt
Replaced by the Claret Jug at the Open Championship in 1872

Claret JugTribute to golf course architecture’s Golden Age of 1920 to 1939

History of GC ArchitectureHonoring Bobby Jones’s connection with British golf

Bobby JonesAnother British golfing favorite son…name is Bond..James Bond

Sean ConneryOpen Championship programs dating back to the mid 1950’s

Open Championship ProgramsAppropriately ends with some wee bits of golf wisdom

SayingsThe R and A has done a marvelous job composing this museum to maximize your understanding of the pivotal role the British Isles have had in the development of our sport.  Much like the USGA Museum in Far Hills does for American golf, you will walk away from this visit with a much keener understanding of the history of golf in Britain.

July, 2016

The Himalayas

It is not unusual in your travels around Scotland to stumble across a large crowd gathered at public putting green in the center of town. In many small towns and villages these are popular hang outs where old folks, kids, families, and friends can meet and greet or get together for a little afternoon competition.


The most famous of them all is in the center of St. Andrews right next to the second tee on the Old Course across from the Old Course Hotel. It is called The Himalayas, a.k.a. The St. Andrews Ladies Putting Club, created as a private club back in 1867. It is open to the public daily for a nominal fee but still reserves select times during the week for the members.

Him SignOriginally laid out as a nine-hole Cleek and Putt Course by Old Tom Morris in 1867 on a rough piece of ground north of the Swilcan Burn it eventually grew to it’s massive size as more land was acquired and the course transitioned to putting only as the ground became smoother from all the play. The competitions date back to it’s origin and the ladies still maintain a regular Wednesday afternoon game for trophies and monthly medals and a Thursday morning Shotgun that can attract over 50 people.

The Clubhouse was built in the late 90’s

Him Clubhouse.

Sits conveniently across from the Road Hole and the Old Course Hotel

Him Old Course Hotel
People and best friends que up and pay a few quid to play this awesome venue

Him Dog Sign Up
A patron at the first of the more tame 9-hole Course

Him Kathy 1st
Putting in view of the whole town

Him Kathy Putting 1One serious transition to negotiate…..pick your flag

Him 2 FlagsAs close as could be managed on a 60-footer with 10 feet of break

Him Moe Putting
Attracting players of all sizes for a wee bit of afternoon fun…and no windmills or clown noses are needed


It has taken a while but golf resorts in America are finally getting their arms around this idea and adding entertaining facilities like this for the enjoyment of their guests.  Bandon Dunes opened their version called The Punchbowl just last year.

July, 2016

Cruden Bay Golf Club-Revisited

As has been a tradition for people on holiday for over a century Cruden Bay was one of our first stops on a recent trip to Scotland. Always a fan favorite the members enhanced Cruden Bay golf course with a couple of changes that please the eye and the competitive balance of the course.

Cruden PosterPicturesque view from the clubhouse…remains of Slains Castle on yonder ridge

CB OverviewA driving range in Scotland? Who’d a thunk it!

CB Driving RangeControlling enthusiastic folk working on their games

Bump n RunThe 1st and 2nd holes would feel right at home at Royal Dornoch

Cruden Opening HoleAfter the cardiologists hike up from the 8th Green the players are now greeted with a refreshing look of the coastline from the new 9th tee perched atop the highest dune ridge on the property. This view reminds me of Bandon Dunes.

CB The CoastlinePlay is exposed to the wind breezes as the 9th works its way across the ridge

CB 9 th TeeWhat follows is a long approach into a green complex canted left to right

CB 9th GreenTwo more changes..they moved the tee on the 10th hole to the right of the 9th green (shown above) to force the tee shot to be played over the shoulder of the gorse laden dune on the right. Puts a little fright into a spectacular view of your ball free falling to the fairway floor five stories below.

On the blind par three 16th they realized that the hill that obscures your view of the green was expanding over time from sand blowing up from the beach. They were kind enough to shave it down enough so you can at least see the top of the flag behind the ridge.

Happy campers….albiet a bit wet but still happy to be at Cruden Bay
M & K 9th Tee

(Click to see the full Cruden Bay Golf club course review)

July, 2016