Postcard From Goat Hill Park

Goat Hill Park LogoIf you are in the vicinity of Carlsbad, California there is a golf destination about 10 miles north, in the surf town of Oceanside, that you should go out of your way to experience.

Goat Hill Park has a golf vibe that all municipal golf courses should strive for, including affordable rates, full featured practice facilities, their three-hole “Playground” approach and putt course for kids that actually grows the game, and a unique 18-hole Par 65 executive course that will test your golf skill set and stimulate your senses with panoramic views of the hills of Oceanside and the Pacific Ocean.

Over the years the facility struggled financially and there have been repeated attempts by developers to consume this property for just another commercial or residential development. But the locals have had to foresight to fend them off and a recent revitalization project spearheaded by John Ashworth brought Goat Hill facilities and amenities up to World Class but kept the spirit of the operation in tact to serve the Working Class as their motto indicates.  The result is now a thriving and affordable community resource that all can enjoy on a regular basis.

Golf Shop Front

The community anointed the name Goat Hill because of the severity of the land  Ludwig Keehn had to use to morph an old 9-hole course into an 18-Hole Par 65 short course in the early 1990’s.  General public weekday rates are $42 to walk-$58 to ride and considerably less for members, local residents, and seniors.  Kids can walk for $10 and ride for $17.

Tin Goat

Inside the modest golf shop fit for the working class clientele, you are greeted with all sorts of nostalgic memorabilia including pictures of celebrities like Bill Murray, Adam Scott, Kelly Slater, and others who have frequented this place.  There is also an ample selection of domestic and regional beer at surprisingly affordable prices.

Old Clubs

The annual Wishbone Brawl Tournament has attracted some pretty well known professionals to participate….many who live in southern California drop in from time to time to refresh their golf batteries.

Wishbone Scoreboard

There is a weekly Friday afternoon Skins Games that is a hotbed for locals as well as an array of other robustly attended competitions run through the year.  They have a vibrant junior golf program, a women’s league, and even disc golf for those with that apptitude.

Goat Hill Match Play

Disc Golf Flag

A section of the matted driving range bays feature Foresight Game Improvement Technology but as you can see it is not a Starbuck’s crowd that is hanging about this place.

McCafe Cup

Folks of all ages and backgrounds make use of these practice facilities, some bring along their furry support staff to dutifully oversee their practice sessions.  This one is clearly channeling her inner Sean Foley.

Range Guard

There are three putting greens about.  One large enough for full-fledged short game practice,  a second for remedial putting work, and one next to the first tee for a last minute  warm up before the round.

Goat Hill Practice Green

To me the centerpiece of Goat Hill Park is “The Playground”, a three-hole Approach and Putt Course suited for kids (who play for free) or for anyone new to the sport who wants to develop their game.  The Playground has short grass everywhere with sculpted green complexes sprawling across rolling contours… is mezzanine golf….actual golf between the range and the course.

The Playground-Kids Course-Gate

Playground Empty

In the middle of the afternoon you can see hordes of youngins chirping and frolicking about in a real party atmosphere that encourages exploration, experimentation, and refinement of their developing golf skills….or simply having fun.

Playground #1

Playground #3

Then there is the real course, a hilly, rambling roller-coaster affair.  8 Par 3’s, 9 hybrid Par 4’s, and 1 not so Par 5 with kitschy names will test you, taunt you, and eventually give you a few reasons to come back again.  Multiple sets of tees for folks of varying ability and a special forward tee that makes up the “Mini-Goat”… approach and putt derivation for those who find the many uphill holes a mountain too high to climb.

Goat Hill Park Scorecard

Tee Stanchion

Mini Goat

There is good grass where it matters and no grass where it does not (which saves on maintenance and makes finding an errant shot pretty easy).  Plenty of forced carries off the tee and well protected small turtle back greens on the other end.  It is like there was a yard sale at a used VW dealership and they simply buried 14 old Beetles and grassed them over.  Holding an approach pitch or simply two-putting is a real challenge on The Goat.

#1 Fairway

#1 Revetted Bunker

Precipice green settings just about everywhere.  Besides negotiating elevation changes that will defy the slope adjustment setting on your Bushnell, there is virtually no bail out spot on most of them.  Hit it where you are aiming or play the next one from the oblivion.  Those who have any sense will play a match with a buddy and forget keeping a medal score.  But you have to admit the horizon views are breathtaking.

#5 Green Par 3

#10 Green Par 4

“Oz”, the finishing hole on the outward half, speaks volumes to what Goat Hill Park is all about.  Simple 100-yard pitch into an amphitheater green complex is a birdie chance a lurkin’.  Note the plethora of homemade viewing benches that adorn the surrounding hills to provide ample seating for adoring crowds of people and dogs for the big events.

#9 Green Par 3

Goat Hill Park is a must visit for anyone with a serious golf bucket list.  You will walk away from this experience with a dented ego but a head full of good vibes from this very unique golf destination.

February, 2023


The Golf Soul

On the obsession with score over quality of shots played.

“The man who regards golf as a matter of ‘card and pencil’ is not a golfer at all, for he has lost his soul in arithmetic, whereas the true golfer puts his soul into the game for the love of it, and not because it amounts to a mere matter of mathematics as he wends his way back to the club house.”

Henry Chellew (1927)

As quoted in C.B. Macdonald’s

Scotland’s Gift-Golf

Mastering The Game

In comparing two ways of learning to play-one based on trusting your natural instincts and the other focusing on acquired technical knowledge.

“A perfectly good, well-formed, strong, and healthy man with a keen eye may do all that he has been taught and yet never really learn to play the game well, try as he will. In getting all these injunctions synchronized comes the real test of a man’s inherent ability to excel; primarily there must be concentration, and further, there must be coordination with the subconscious self, strength applied with extreme delicacy.”

C.B. Macdonald (1927)

Scotland’s Gift-Golf

On The Road With Bill Murray

The Golfer’s Journal regularly offers a wide array of stimulating golf content for the golf inebriated mind, both written and oral selections, that cover everything but instruction and golf jokes.

This podcast #124 is a Tom Coyne travelogue interview with Bill as they drive through rural Georgia on the way to a golf event at The Ohoopee Match Club. Bill is driving….aggressively…which presents a few thrilling moments and Tom is the enchanted frog on a log just prodding Bill to rap about just about everything.

Learn a bunch of interesting Bill tidbits:

-Bill’s collection of golf recovery devices

-His currency preference for $50’s and $10’s and disapproval of Andrew Jacksons

-An informal dissection of a pop-up movie set

-Yearning for java and fruitcake

-Some Arnie musings

-His early life as a shag boy and a barefoot caddie growing up in Chicago

-What he loves about the golfing experience

This is a pleasant car conversation between friends with you sitting in the back seat just taking it in. Well worth some lounge chair time for a listen.

Click to connect to this Golfers Journal Interview


California Golf Club

Cal Club LogoThe Golden Age of Golf Architecture left it’s imprint in San Francisco in the 1920’s and one of it’s finest contributions was the California Golf Club.  The Cal Club is located at the southern end of the city in the hilly topography at the foot of San Bruno Mountain State Park.  From the many high vistas throughout the property you can see the splendor of the city set against the mountain backdrop.

CC 1 Green

The approach view of the first green juxtaposes the green complex to the near in city and the mountain backdrop behind

As we see on many of these layouts in California the early architects used the movement of the ground coupled with clever routing and imaginative green complexes to present challenging and entertaining golf with virtually no water hazards or forced carries.

CC 14 Par 4

Locke routed the wide open Par 4 14th to follow the flow of the land…Macon created the landing areas and the green complex….MacKenzie added elaborate bunkering throughout to define the strategic alternative off the tee and into the green.

The original design was actually the compilation of the work of three distinct architects over a three-year period.  Scot Willie Locke, who later designed Lake Merced, was the first to the plate in 1924 and is responsible for the design of the overall routing.  Before the construction began they replaced him with an Irishman, A. Vernon Macon, who built the tees, green complexes, and original bunkering.

CC 6 Par 3

The 6th is an example of a bold Macon’s green complex design.. With fall offs front, left, and back it is hard to keep a mid-iron approach on the putting surface. Deep face bunkering can punish a timid approach shot.

Macon designed the green complexes with bold contours that caught the attention of the golfing community when it opened in 1926.  The fairway bunkering was left for later on purpose, so the architect could analyze from actual play the best positioning based on the divot patterns left by players.

In 1927 the task for creating the fairway bunkering was given out to a third architect, a young Alister MacKenzie, who had recently finished the 9 hole track at the Meadow Club north of San Francisco.  MacKenzie redid the 10th and 18th green, all the greenside bunkers, as well as adding the fairway bunkers.  His flair for the dramatic took this track to a whole new level in the minds of the golfing public.

CC 5 Par 4

This 5th hole would feel right at home at Pine Valley. At 300ish yards a big bopper is tempted to go for the green but the green side bunkers are punishing and can turn a birdie opportunity into a bogie in a heartbeat.

By 1960 the course was in dire need of a attention due to the state’s rerouting of a road adjacent to the property.   The club hired the biggest gun of the times, Robert Trent Jones Sr. to do the update.  As was his habit when approaching renovation of U.S. Open Course of the era, Jones could not resist putting his entire footprint on the course.  He re-routed holes, changed things dramatically and pretty much redefined the character of the Cal Club.

In 2005 the course was suffering from major maintenance issues due to turf disease and inappropriate grasses so they solicited proposals for a complete shutdown and renovation of the course.  Kyle Phillips submitted a bold proposal to undo the previous rerouting by relocating the practice area and creating new holes on the front nine and was chosen to do the job. The results supported that choice.

Cal Club Long View

One of the base principles of Phillip’s renovation was to add about 6 inches of sand across the entire layout-this improved the drainage and facilitated the introduction of fescue to replace the rye and poa anna in the fairways and eradicate the poa from the greens.  Kyle undid the mess Trent Jones had done to the front nine by introducing three new holes and, at the same time, went back to aerial images of the course to reclaim many of the parameters and features MacKenzie had put in the original work.

CC 3 Par 4

This downhill dogleg 3rd was one of Kyle Phillip’s old style new holes that seamlessly fits into the character of this age old design. This original bunkering mimics the detail of MacKenzie’s work.

He made sure that width was king, the rough was not significant reducing the search for balls, and let the strategic MacKenzie bunker positioning steal the show. What emerged was turf that would support hard and fast playing conditions to force the players to respect the topography as a strategic element of play.  The presentation of fairway width, no rough to speak of, complimented by generous bunkering in the green complexes puts the premium of positioning on every hole.

CC 8 Par 3

On the downhill Par 3 8th begs for a bit of a soft draw…they added a barely visible kicker mound front right that will propel an approach onto the center of the green following the right-to-left movement of the ground

In reading the Hole-By-Hole Analysis below you will see that Phillips gave them a seamless combination of the outward and inward nines that once again emphasized the design thinking of the Golden Age.

CC 18 Par 4 2

Looking down from the top of the hill at MacKenzie’s 18th green surrounded by sprawling bunkers wedged into the hill under the clubhouse is testimony to their choice of Kyle Phillips to bring this amazing track back to full grandeur.

San Francisco, California

Architect: Willie Lock, A. Vernon Macon, Alister MacKenzie (1927)

Kyle Phillips Restoration (2007)

Par       Rating    Slope   Yardage

Venturi             72        74.6        139       7215

Back                72        72.7        135       6794

Middle             72        70.5        130       6293

Forward           72        66.5        122       5401

(Click here to review the complete California Golf Club hole-by-hole descriptions)

McKellar Magazine-A Golf Companion

The digital age has wreaked havoc on print journalism turning the most established outlets upside-down shaking the most valuable assets from their trouser pockets into a discarded heap on the ground.

As a result we now have golf magazines trying to fill a hollow digital footprint without the credible writers to produce content worth reading. What you have left are internet magazine subscriptions to lists of Top 100 Golf Courses, collections of worthless golf tips, reviews of the latest “new and improved” equipment you don’t need, and infomercials for the next great destination golf resort of your dreams. If you are truly interested in creative golf content this is not going to scratch that itch.

Fortunately a couple of new print publications have risen from the ashes who have assembled the best golf writers, photographers, and illustrators to create long form articles on a wide array of subjects of golf interest. The templates are like none you have seen before-little or no advertising to distract you from the content, no grandstanding articles about the professional golf tours and their stars, and no sell-your-soul patronizing reviews of the next generation equipment that is going to shave strokes off your scores.

One of these publications is McKellar Magazine which has been publishing since 2018 under the capable direction of their founding editors Lawrence Donegan and Thomas Dunne. The list of contributing writers they have assembled is a Who’s Who of accomplished golf scribes of the last thirty years. It includes Michael Clayton, Lloyd Cole, Lorne Rubenstein, John Huggan, Mark Cannizzaro, John Strawn, Geoff Shackelford and many, many more.

The journal’s namesake-Alexander McKellar-his thought over every golf shot “This shall not go for Nothing” is something we can all relate to.

In the five editions they have published so far you will find a wide array of excellent articles to tantalize your golf interests. These include glib interviews with Dottie Pepper, Chubby Chandler, and Rory McIlroy, an article about the symbiotic relationship between Sweeten’s Cove and The Waffle House, the back story of why Amana appeared on the hats of golf greats Bob Goalby, Julius Boros, and Jim Colbert, and Michael Clayton’s proverbs of the design features of venues in the Australian Sand Belt that are influencing the works of today’s most prolific course architects.

Every edition is chock full of this kind of well written, engaging stuff that will keep you glued to your favorite reading recliner. For a generation of people who grew up getting ink on their fingers from reading print publications this is manna from heaven.

You can learn more about what these guys are up to and order the magazine through the McKellar Magazine Website. At a cost of about $20 an issue delivered the price may seem steep but remember this is not your father’s golf magazine business model-there are no advertiser revenues to subsidize your reading habits.

McKellar has put out five robust issues so far. So don’t tarry, invest in the most recent issue, this is a Golf Companion you will be glad you welcomed into you personal library.

McKellar Magazine (2021)

Whistling Straits Course-Flyover

Whistling Straits LogoWith Whistling Straits playing host to the Ryder Cup this week, Andy Johnson of The Fried Egg has dispatched his drone to put together a timely video exposition of the course and paired it with his thoughtful and knowledgeable analysis of how the Pete and Alice Dye’s architecture will provide strategic challenges in this match play competition.

There are two things that are startling about The Straits. First it is essentially a links style course in the middle of America and second, everything you see that makes this a links style course, except for the ocean sized Lake Michigan over your shoulder, was manufactured by man (and woman).

Besides the engineering feat of importing and placing a bazillion truckloads of dirt from Indiana to sculpt the land, they had to conceive of a routing to expose as many of the holes as possible to the lake winds to create the real look and feel of links golf in Wisconsin.

As Andy points out, it is a figure eight routing with the front nine going south along the lake shore and then looping back upon itself to catch more shoreline on the way back in. The back side does the same thing going north along the shoreline and looping back for more shore on the way back to the clubhouse. This puts 8 of the 18 holes with direct interface to the lake and another six within eye view. The influence of the wind off the lake can be profound and since the holes go in both directions on both sides you rarely get but a couple of holes in a row with the same wind effect.

Seventh Hole Par 3 green presents pure intimidation-especially the right pin

The par threes on this course are all stunners-forced carries over huge waste areas to precipice greens with the backdrop of the lake behind. This lack of topological backdrop can make frame of reference of the shots hard to discern. The wind influence on the three pars is at it’s max because they are the most exposed holes on the course.

The harsh reality of Number 17 will challenge the world’s best players

Andy goes through the full Dye collection and from his analysis you will have a much better appreciation of how these pros will negotiate their way around this unique layout under the intense competitive heat that only a Ryder Cup can provide.

Set aside ten minutes to watch this on a PC screen so you can truly appreciate the artistry of this video and it’s subject as well.

The Fried Egg Podcasts (2021)

(Click to see Andy Johnson’s video analysis of Whistling Straits)

Green Speeds…Get Over It

How many times have you looked forward to playing a course of special interest, maybe on a vacation or in an event in your area, only to come away disappointed because they had the greens jacked up so fast that only gutter bumpers could save you from three-putting all day long. My guess is this is experience is all too familiar to many of you.

In the attached article by John Steinbreder in this week’s Global Golf Post a strong case is made by many of the biggest names in golf architecture that the “Arms Race” for faster and faster green speeds, at private and public courses all over the country, is totally out of control. As a result, the courses are just no fun for anyone who does not carry a handicap index in the low single figure range.

There is little question that a kabal of low-handicappers who dominate green’s committees at these places are driving the bus and, in an effort to keep the “rating” of their course” in the top quartile, have made them virtually unplayable for the bulk of their membership.

This started out isolated to “premier” show-off events like the annual Member-Guest, but now has creeped into their Club Championship, Opening Day, Calcutta Event, and even day-to-day play at their courses. Who wants to compete in these things if you have to wear protective gear just to get through the experience.

We visited this issue in our “Is Faster Really Better” posting back in 2011 that featured an article by Ian Andrews a renowned architect from north of the border. The issues have not changed in 10 years, in fact the incidence seems to have gotten worse in my humble opinion.

It is long overdue for the decision makers at golf facilities to bring a little sanity back to daily course set up and let all players smell the roses once again.

John Steinbreder

Golf Global Post (2021)

(Click to read Global Golf’s article “Slippery Slope”)

Lee Trevino

In the late 1960’s Lee Buck Trevino was a disruptive intrusion to the Big Three Plus One status quo on the PGA Tour. No one really knew what to make of this Mexican-American upstart with the flat swing, low left-to-right ball flight, non-stop wise-cracking chatter, and gunslinger’s no-fear attitude playing against Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, and Casper.

In this Shotgun Start Spotlight Podcast Brendan Porath and Andy Johnson provide an informative historical perspective of the early career of Lee Trevino. This podcast is a deep dive into the challenging path Lee took from an impoverished Texas upbringing to being the most significant foil to the dominance of Jack Nicklaus in the early 1970’s.

Lee was not a product of the country club mold that is for sure……

Embed from Getty Images

As Andy points out, in the 10-year period from 1968 to 1977 Lee Trevino was arguably the most dominant player other then the GOAT himself. Over his storied career Trevino won six majors-two U.S. Opens, two Open Championships, and two PGA Championships. In 1971 he was named Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year”. Over a three-week period in June and July of that year Lee garnered three national championships, beating Jack Nicklaus in a playoff at Merion to win the U.S. Open, won his first of two Canadian Opens, and outlasted England’s Tony Jacklin and Taiwan’s Lu Liang Huan at Royal Birkdale for his first British Open Championship. No one else in the golf history has ever done that.

The podcast is rich with Lee’s legendary personal musings as well as the entertaining perspective of Dan Jenkin’s the premier golf journalist the time. There are lots of revealing quotes from his peers that leave little doubt as to the impact Trevino made on the staid order of the PGA Tour. The language was not always politically correct by today’s standards, but it was representative of the mood of the time.

Set aside the time to listen to this 90 minute podcast, you will not be disappointed. This is a nostalgic romp from those of us who grew up with Lee challenging the golf establishment. For those who only know him only as a golf myth, it is an opportunity to put his accomplishments in real perspective.

Brendan Porath and Andy Johnson

Shotgun Start (June 2021)

Lip Outs

Lipping out a well struck putt that you were sure was going down when it was six inches from the hole is one the most excruciating experiences for most golfers.  But like everything in this crazy game, there can be two sides to every story.

In the attached article from The Golfers Journal this month, the Club Pro Guy gives you a different perspective on how to look at these disappointments as the grandest of all “Buts” and use them to your post game advantage.

It may not help your score, but it will do your self esteem a world of good.  I like his attitude.

In a further bit of self-deprecating humor I note that the author claims he led the Mexican Mini-Tour over a 10-year period in SPGOS-Strokes Gained: Punching Out Sideways.  Guess that qualifies him as an expert.

Club Pro Guy (2020)

The Golfers Journal (#14)

(Click to read “Coming In Hot” from The Golfers Journal)