We-Ko-Pa Golf Club-Saguaro Course

In my experience when you venture out to play a Coore-Crenshaw course you are not likely to be bowled over by the dramatics of the design, rather you are going to be nudged and tugged by the subtlety of the presentation. Guys like this from what is now coined the “Minimalist School” impress you with their eyes not their shovels. It is the composition of the holes, what they saw in the ground and chose to draw out and emphasize, not manufactured features to stun your senses and distract your attention from the real task at hand.

The Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa is about flow and feel and how it engages your golf decision making while allowing you to appreciate the marvelous setting within which it lies. Driving up to this location from the flats of Scottsdale you realize that you are engaging the mountains not just seeing them as a backdrop canvas. Taking in the surroundings as you pull up to the clubhouse you sense that the topography will have influence on how the ball responds once on the ground, the minimalists will make sure of that, and so your strategic choices will require proper weight to consequence of one position or one route over another in playing each hole. As Ben said, “This old boney ground has some ‘sting’ to it” and they found it without having to produce a swarm to prove it.

The approach to the first melds a dry bed creek into the challenge

The width of the long Par 4 opening hole sets a tone for the day-you think you can hit it just about anywhere and have a look at the green. Yet as you can read in the hole-by-hole detail in the link below the shape of your tee ball can determine how to get up the fairway and give yourself the best approach line to a perched green complex still a ways away. Oh, did I mention they drew in a dry creek bed traversing the fairway which may put some doubt in your mind whether you can reach at all if you don’t hit the drive with enough intent.

The full flavor of Saguaro is revealed on the second tee-you figure out where to hit it!

Step on the tee of the quasi-drivable second and it is full desert static with scrub to carry off the tee and sand and more wilderness encroaching your playing path. Throw in a dramatic backdrop of an entire mountain range in the near distance and it becomes pretty hard just to sort out your choices for proper play. The course they present defies playing script or sequential rhythm. Each hole presents choices and requires your reaction. How you choose to react on one challenge drastically changes the next one.

A bit of superstition imposed upon the view of the Par 4 6th.

As you get into the middle of the outward half the topography gets more severe and the ground influence on your shot making grows accordingly. Now you feel the mountains start to hover above the course rather than just frame the target. The sixth is a good example of this, you drive from teeing pods set in the hill over a high ridge in the fairway that completely masks the landing area. Standing next to your tee ball in the fairway the influence of the promontory peak of Superstition Mountain just beyond the green complex is firmly in your mind before hitting the approach or making your first putt. The coolest part about this minimalist thing is that everything matters. If it comes into your minds eye then it is worth considering.

The roller coast ride on the Par 5 8th ends in this station

A fine sandwich with kettle chips awaits behind the 9th green.

Coming off the long and serpentine Par 5 eighth, the front side finishes with a short uphill pitch into a green with the playing width of a two-lane country road. The contrast in shots required in a two-hole stretch is not lost on those with proper awareness. Don’t miss the tuna or turkey sandwich with the home made kettle chips at the turn. It will refill the tank and make the challenges that come next all the more manageable.

The Par 3 15th, at well over 200 yards, adds to the challenge of the next stretch.

With only one five par on the inward half, three Par 4’s over 400 yards, and a one-shotter well over 200 yards the scoring opportunities will be few and far between. The stretch of big holes from twelve to fifteen give this side it’s distinct character.

The drive area on the 13th looks confined but it is really quite generous but precision is required to set up an aggressive approach to a minimalist green complex.

The back-to-back long Par 4’s at twelve and thirteen give you wide scale driving areas with greens with minimal bunker coverage. Yet both require precise driving to get the best angle to manage the long approach beyond the single greenside bunker. Good news is they provided wide expanses of short grass around these greens so recovery with a crafty short game can still keep par in play.

For architecture aficionados their tribute to the Lido Hole will feel quite familiar.

The closest thing to design shock is the view off the tee on Bill and Ben’s risk-and-reward testimony to the Lido Hole on the long Par 5 fourteenth. You are offered two different fairways to which to impart your drive-the narrow one on the right shortens the hole considerably so for the long baller this will be tempting. The more sensible play is a wide berth on the left fairway which will still leave you with two kitchy plays as the hole doglegs sharply to the right. Even a well place lay-up into the narrowing area at about 100 yards out leaves a very challenging pitch into a long and narrow putting surface perched in a corner to the right. Your plays on this hole will revisit you in bed at night between sheep counts.

The view down the 17th has a calming effect that you can certainly use at this point in the round.As you wend your way back to the house the short sixteenth will tempt your boldness off the tee but the best scores here are likely with a wedge and a putt. Seventeen is a serene tumbling affair, very soothing to the eye after all the mishugas of the last five holes. The home hole is a monstrously long Par 4 with a full desert buffet yet kindly it somehow plays much shorter and less harrowing than it appears from the tee.

My guess is you will agree agree with Ben’s sentiment when you are done.

As you settle in for an Arnold Palmer in the clubhouse bar after play you are going to be struck by how fatigued you are from the day’s golf decisions. There were no single challenges that seemed overwhelming but the relentless requirement to think two shots ahead has a way of wearing on you. Coore and Crenshaw’s design approach got this one right-they made a bold statement without raising their voices.

 

Fountain Hills, Arizona

Architects: Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw ( 2006)

Par   Rating   Slope   Yardage
Saguaro     71       72       137       6966
Purple        71      70.2     132       6603
White         71      68.8     125       6252
Comp. (L)  71      72.0     128       5786

(Click to see the hole-by-hole detail of the We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course)

Grayhawk Golf Club-Talon Course

Grayhawk Golf Club has been the home many prestigious events including the PGA’s Waste Management Open and the Anderson Consulting Match Play and will be the site of the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Championships from 2020 through 2022.  The Raptor and the Talon Courses, laid out in the flat terrain of the Sonoran Desert with the stunning backdrop of the McDowell Mountains in the distance, are the epitome of desert golf in the American Southwest.

The McDowell Mountains stand in stark contrast to the flat contour of the Sonoran Desert but it is breathtaking to behold.

The Talon Course, a Gary Panks/David Graham creation from the 1990’s, gives you are particular narrow driving theater on almost every hole.  Many drives are over sand and scrub which mask the landing area of your tee balls and the adjacent desert in it’s natural state obviates the need for rough at all.  Get yourself a yardage book in the golf shop, you are going to need some corroborating visuals to find you way around here.  (You can get a printable PDF of the hole-by-hole descriptions through the link at the end of this posting).

The first hole, named in memory of LPGA Pro Heather Farr, shows the demanding driving required right out of the gate.

“Bogle”, the short Par 4 2nd hole, gives you the full array of desert scrub, sand, and trees.

To me this makes for corridor golf so you must control your driving and approach lines to stay out of the snake and scorpion retreats.  The tightness of the track and the unrelenting penalty of the desert’s encroachment make a good medal score hard to come by. Make sure you set up a match with your buds if you want to enjoy this golf experience.

The “Three Sisters” bunkers that give the Par 5 3rd hole it’s name a feature you don’t want to contend with.

“Sentinel”, the first of the three pars, uses an ocean of desert sand to create a forced carry.

The back nine in particular wends around and through a series of canyons making for unexpected elevation changes and severe drop-offs into sand wilderness for wayward shots.  The sprawling fairway and greenside bunkering works well with the desert scrub helping to define the strategic lines of the holes.  These bunkers present some intimidating challenges but with careful planning it is possible to negotiate your way about relatively unfettered.  The bunkers are deep with ash tray sand but very playable to a normal escape if you avoid the bad thoughts.

The short 13th is called “Heaven or Hell”….you get to choose which after you see the result of the dicey tee shot you chose to play.

Green complexes throughout the course are very varied and make for some significant tactical choices on approach lines.  Many of them are large, multi-tiered surfaces set in a dell depression for effect.   There are considerable short grass scapes adjacent to these putting surfaces so your pitch and run save game will get a good workout today.  The scale of the green complexes puts an onus on making approaches into the flag section of the day or you will be constantly battling to avoid the three putts.

The “Deception” on the Par 4 16th is enhanced by the ethereal backdrop of the mountains.

Talon’s most memorable feature is the combination of the natural desert floral set against the backdrop of the towering grey mountains in the distance.  Often times through the round you will find it hard to concentrate on a target dwarfed by the scale of the back drop.  Bring your camera for the Kodak moments-some of your most lasting memories of the day will be in those landscapes.

Not all the flora is happy about the presence of golfers…this seems like it is giving them the bird.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Architects:  Gary Panks/David Graham   ( 1994)

Par     Rating  Slope  Yardage

Talon               72        73.3     146      6973

Palo Verde      72        70.8     134      6430

Terra Cotta      72        68.3     122      5867

Heather           72        69.3     118      5143

(Click here to review the hole-by-hole detail of the Talon Course)

Click if you want to read more about Phil’s Grill at the Grayhawk Golf Club Resort

North Berwick Golf Club

When knowledgeable people discuss the true gems of links golf in the British Isles North Berwick always gets hearty mention.  Much like Cruden Bay or Prestwick it is the hamish atmosphere at Berwick as much as the course itself that shape people’s opinion of the place.  This one has real history,  A.J. Balfour, a prominent member of parliament, was one of the original patrons in the late 1800s.  The place was frequented by prime ministers, members of parliament, church elders, military brass, and eminent educators from surrounding universities.

Ben Sayers was the pro at that time and represented the club in the Open Championship for thirty years starting in 1884-he was runner up in the 1888 championship.  Sayers was well known as a club maker and teacher and his students included members of the Royal Family. In many ways he was responsible for the growth of the fame of North Berwick in the day.

From the 18th tee you can see the quaint club house and the town nestled behind it

As with so many links in Scotland North Berwick is an endemic piece of the small town from which it gets it’s name.  The distinguished old club house sits wedged between the edge of town and the first tee box.  Make sure to take the time to poke around the building, it is full of amazing memorabilia and a real sense of history.

The folkloric wood paneled board room doubles as the members locker room.

The paneled board room in particular is a real period piece-walls enamored with photos and lists of club captains, men’s and ladies past champions, and wood members lockers with really famous names adorning them blend into the décor.  You can just smell the history of this place in the room.

The course has no designated architect, but much of what we see today was the result of the efforts of David Strath, the greens keeper in 1876 who took the original 9 and stretched it to a full length 18-hole links layout.

The influence of the Firth of Forth becomes quite evident as early as the 2nd tee box.  The criss-cross in and out routing brings the sea winds into play on both sides

The course sits close to sea level of the Firth of Forth and offers an unpredictable routing plan with some very unusual design features that include the full links repertoire of blind shots, long grass, burns, sod wall bunkers, and even some stone walls.  An out-and-back arrangement includes hole sequences that criss-cross in each nine, so it presents seaside holes on both sides and full wind influence throughout.  Needless to say trajectory control and using the ground as your friend is necessary if you are going to win your match around these dodgy old links holes.

The look off the tee on “Pit” the short Par 4 13th. You can just make out the putting surface tucked beyond the traps on the left and the stone knee wall that crosses the fairway.

This is the ultimate target on #13 wedged between the wall and the dune on the left.  It takes the utmost dexterity to play this approach successfully and set up a par opportuntiy.

As you can read in the link below to the Hole-By-Hole Analysis there are a number of unique holes on this links.  The famous Redan Par 3 is #15 and it is probably the most copied architectural design for a short hole in history.  There are holes where stone walls that separate farm plots in Scotland are an intrinsic part of the design making for an equestrian challenge on some lay-up and approach shots.  The most memorable of these is the short, quasi-drivable Par 4 13th where a three-foot knee wall cordons off the green complex a mere pace from the putting surface.  Needless to say there are no pitch and run approaches into this one.

Blind shots are not uncommon on links courses. Here is the view from the driving area on “Perfection” the Par 4 14th hole. The green complex sits over the hill beyond the two bunkers.

The 14th green that you could not see feeds off the bottom of the hill and sits between low mounds on the right and the beach on the left.  That is Fidra Rock just beyond the aiming pole.

When you ask people who have played the famous courses like Royal Dornoch, The Old Course, or Carnoustie what there favorite track was in Scotland it is surprising how often North Berwick is at the top of that list.  The holes are quirky, the challenges are often existential, and the elements are definitely a major factor in the outcome of your golfing day.

The Biarattz green complex on the Par 4 1th is truly severe. This pin is on the back lobe. There is another you can make out just across the deep gully that bisects the putting surface.

But there is something truly magical about this collection of holes-the experience never fails to challenge the player but very often finds a way to please at the same time.  This place is a must stop for any Scottish golf itinerary for golfers of all abilities and it will leave a lasting impression guaranteed.

East Lothian, Scotland

Architect: Unspecified  (1832)

Tees               Par     Yardage

White              71        6506

Blue                71        6140

Red                 74       5737

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

For more pictures click to review Postcard From North Berwick

Course Rankings

For golfers with any degree of discrimination the annual course ranking lists put out by the major golf periodicals are nothing but a high school beauty pageant.  They represent the most difficult, the most expensive, the most TV exposed, and the most unreachable golf destinations on the planet.  Distinction on these lists is typically all about money-the depth of the pockets of the developers, the resorts, or a self-made tech gazillionaire.

#11 at Rustic Canyon is arid golf with a links feel-quite unique and totally enjoyable

In contrast to that Golf Club Atlas, under the capable guidance of Ran Morrissett, has broken that mold by creating a list called the “147 Custodians of The Game”.   His criterion for a course making it to this list has nothing to do with photo worthiness, course condition in the Augusta sense, elaborate architectural features, or what a stringent test of golf it represents.

How much fun is it to maneuver  your approach to this right pin at #17 on Castle Stuart

As Ran puts it in the introduction to this list “Distance and toughness are far less meaningful measures of a design’s worth then the simple test of how badly one wants to play the course on a regular basis”.  It is about how much the course challenges your golf intellect, how much creativity it calls for through the round, and how much fun it is to play.

#3 at Bandon Trails helped earn it the top ranked Bandon course on this list

In going through the list it strikes me how many of the top ranking standards are missing-no Pine Valley, no Augusta, no TPC Courses.  But it also strikes me how many of the truly fun walks that I have enjoyed are included like Somerset Hills, Gullane I, Brora, Bandon Trails, Rustic Canyon, and Castle Stuart.  These are all places that were a joy to play the first time and make you want to play them over and over and over.

Sheep and cattle have a long standing maintenance agreement at Brora

Not only will you enjoy rekindling memories of some of the great venues you have played but you can add a couple of dozen more to your must play list for future golf expeditions.

(Click to enjoy Golf Club Atlas’s 147 Custodians Of The Game)

Ran Morrissett

August, 2018

Bay Hill Short Game Area

Bay Hill LogoOn our recent buddies trip to Bay Hill we got to experience the newly created short game practice area-a welcome addition to an already full featured golf facility.  This baby was designed  by Thad Layton and Brandon Johnson of the Arnold Palmer Design Group.and they did not miss a beat in creating a wonderful place to work on all aspects of your your short game.  Tucked between the 9th green on the Championship Course and the Charger Nine it is conveniently located just a half wedge from the clubhouse and other practice facilities.

As with everything at Bay Hill player responsibilities are clearly articulated.

They left no stone unturned in creating a topographically interesting wall-to-wall bermuda grass practice area surrounded by a constellation of varied green complexes with bunkers and humps and hollows that replicate just about any short shot you can face at Bay Hill or anywhere else for that matter.

From the center you can hit this 75 yard pitch over a yawning bunker into a shallow green…..or you can take 10 steps back and make it 85 yards if that suits your fancy.

Here is an entirely different angle into that same green that allows you to practice ground approaches working around the bunker or even trajectory limited shots from under the tree.

The greens themselves have plenty of segmentation and movement for pitch and run, pitch and grip,  or Mickey aerial flop shots.  You can practice all kinds of scenarios with the full compliment short game arrows you carry in your quiver.

This green is at least 60 yards long and accepts shots from all sides. It is a study in ball movement on the ground.

From the angle above this green you can work on those delicate recovery up and downs you can get when you hit an extra club just a wee bit too far.

They even went as far as to introduce features you will not see at Bay Hill.  Short grass run ups into putting surfaces where you can use the 3 wood or hybrid pitch or even the putter and even severe sod-wall bunkers like you would see on a British Isle links course.

Here is a pit that would feel right at home at North Berwick or Ballybunion.

Len must be planning for a trip next summer….his technique is pretty flawless.

Bottom line is that an hour or so before you go out or maybe after you finish the 18 this is a great place to yuk it up with friends or grind some serious practice time on the true scoring aspects of the game.  Just another aspect to fill out the Bay Hill Golf Experience.

Orlando, Florida

(Click to see the moegolf Bay Hill Championship Course review)

(Click to see the moegolf Bay Hill Charger Course review)

(Click to see Bay Hill photos from the Postcard From Bay Hill)

A Cure For Insomnia

The good news is you can take the round with you, tuck it in the memory for later use.

It might have been your best round of the year or the month or the week. It might have been a round on a one of those classic venues you finally got to tick off of your bucket list.

It might have been an adrenaline golf moment-rushing to finish the last three holes of a potential career round against the backdrop of thickening storm clouds dreading the imminent sound of the lightening guard alarm system that would scuttle the whole affair.

Or it might have just been the ethereal experience of a solitary walking round at dusk by yourself when the fact that you could no longer see the ball flight did not matter because you sixth golf sense just told you where it was headed and sure enough when you got there….it was there.

If you are truly a golf obsessive you have reached into this inventory to help you get through a long wait in the customer service line at the cable store.  Possibly you used it to get through that 30 minute claustrophobia of the not so open Open MRI machine or the seventh grandchild eulogy at a distant relative’s funeral.

But possibly the most utilitarian use of the hole-by-hole, shot-by-shot account of one of these cherished golf memories is lying wide-eyed in bed at 3:00 a.m. staring at the ceiling trying to dislodge some irrational circular thought from your brain that is blocking your descent back to deep sleep.

Sure counting sheep is a possibility but reliving par-birdie-par on the way to an insurmountable 3-up lead for the back nine bet can be so much more gratifying and effective.  Just visualizing the ball flight of a perfectly struck 19-degree hybrid working its way dutifully into that Clark Kent phone booth pin position in the back left corner on #2 can start the slide back into recuperative sleep.  Or maybe it is something as simple as a creative pitch and grabber off the steep side slope on the approach into a Par 5 that dutifully creeps on down just behind the hole for a kick-in birdie to win a skin that does the trick.

The therapeutic value of reliving solitary golf memories is best described in the poetic verse Billy Collins.  You might want to put a copy of this in your night stand drawer for quick reference.

__________________________________________

Night Golf

I remember the night I discovered,

lying in bed in the dark,

that a few imagined holes of golf

worked much better than a thousand sheep,

that the local links,

not the cloudy pasture with its easy fence,

was the greener path to sleep.

 

How soothing to stroll the shadowy fairways,

to skirt the moon-blanched bunkers

and hear the night owl in the woods.

 

Who cared about the score

when the club swung with the ease of air

and I glided from shot to shot

over the mown and rolling ground,

alone and drowsy with my weightless bag?

 

Eighteen small cups punched into the bristling grass,

eighteen flags limp on their sticks

in the silent, windless dark,

but in the bedroom with its luminous clock

and propped-open windows,

I got only as far as the seventh hole

before I drifted easily away-

 

The difficult seventh, ‘The Tester’ they called it,

where,  just as on the earlier holes,

I tapped in, dreamily, for birdie.

Billy Collins

01/19/2019

First Tee Outing 2019-Youthful Exuberance

The Keepers 10th Annual First Tee Mentor Outing at Woodmont Country Club was dedicated to the memory of our good friend Gary Jonas.  From our early days Gary was a protagonist behind many of our community service initiatives and this outing was one of his favorites.

Gary still looks over our shoulder in all the good work the Keepers do in the community

Moe negotiates with Josephine on the perfect hat color to add to her wardrobe

The First Tee of Greater Washington D.C. brought 24 amazing kids from ages 8 to 18 to participate in another afternoon of pure golf fun.  We had 13 volunteers from our club along with capable professional golf staff as our guides for our normal drill of golf clinics, a picnic lunch, and a couple of hours of course time with the kids.

The First Tee program has introduced these kids to the wonderment of golf-teaching them the etiquette, course awareness, and basic skills of the game.  What you see as a result is a deep reservoir of self-confidence, poise, and grace in their ability to interact with each other and adults they have to deal with along the way.

Over 40 staff, volunteers, and kids enjoyed the full flavor of this mentor outing

Our volunteers provide the high fives, cheers, and a few hugs as well helping these kids understand how much they already have accomplished with this game.

Volunteering with these kids is something this group looks forward to every year

Jill and Randy

Randy and Monroe

Rick, Randy, and Chuck

The Kommish is all smiles for this annual affair

It takes the help of the First Tee of Greater Washington and supportive parents to pull this off year after year.

Andrew and Roger from the First Tee surround Steve our Keepers Koordinator

Roger of the First Tee with parents HyeWon, EunJung, and Mary

Moe the Keeper Kommish with Mary mom of Jonathan

To download any photos to your PC just right click on the image and pick “Save Image As” to save it to your computer.

The kids were split into three groups based on their golf experience and rotated through instruction clinics for full swing, short game, and putting-led by our professional staff.

No golf session should start with out a proper stretching and warm up session

Brice and Dean our PGA Professionals handled the full swing clinic on the driving range

Which included Dean explaining the proper straight line practice divot pattern on a natural grass tee

There is plenty of ammo for the kids to work on their swings

The swings on the range came in all shapes and sizes….the common denominator was good fundamentals and sheer determination.

Josephine may dress the angelic feminine part but look at that turn and balance

Young Peter the same has great arm spacing at the top

I like Gabrielle’s relaxed address position….the hands look comfortable on the grip

Myles is in the perfect handshake position with the straight away takeaway half way back

Salieus uses his height to create great extension with his arms that will give width and speed on the way back down

Caleb loads up his left side…the power this creates is evident in the height and carry of his shots

Sabrina plays for her high school team and you can see her pure athleticism at work in this move

Check out the bend in the shaft as David changes direction-uncoiling this full shoulder turn will deliver real power at the point of impact

Grant and Konnor worked the kids at the Sidney Harman Short Game area, fine tuning their pitching, chipping, and putting.

Grant explains to Sophie and Johan about smooth takeaways

Keith and Sol learn a thing or two from Eugene and David

Linc has his set-up positions in perfect order

Sabrina maintains club face position as she extends the follow through on this chip and run

The Konnor School of Putting is a full semester experience for these kids.

Konnor’s famous line dance works on putting distance control

Ryan, Sean, Gabrielle, Avery, and Josephine fire away

Rick and Jill watch Avery, Gabrielle, and Josephine triangulate their putting coordinates

Chuck is talking about visualization of the putting path to Kyle

Avery and Josephine seem to have the feel for fast bent grass greens

The clinics always work up an appetite and there were plenty of healthy sandwiches, real chips, fresh fruit, and some chocolate chip cookies for the lunchtime chat around.

It always begins with a Sol nutritional lecture that grabs their rapt attention

Linc, Eugene, David, Keith, Salieu, and Skyler pause between bites

Gene, Monroe, Steve, and Sabrina are working the through the pile

Randy and Chuck have enthusiasm for this task

Sophie and Avery have a very orderly approach

Caleb, Johan, Jonathan, and Peter are on to dessert….those cookies were special!

Then it was out to the golf course to put what they learned to the test.  Here is where the mentor bonds are freshly made or simply renewed.

Steve and Sabrina

Sabrina, Caleb, and Moe

Dhira, Len, and Yuna

Alexa and Dimitrios

Myles, Jill, and Gabrielle

Monroe, Skylar, and Sophie

Randy, Johan, and Eugene

Randy, Avery, and Sean

Gene, Jonathan, and Peter

It is amazing how the First Tee prepares these kids to handle themselves on the course.  All ball ball marks are fixed, bunkers are raked, balls are marked properly and they respectfully understand the term “your away”.

Rick, Justin, Josephine, Kyle, Ryan, and Chuck

Monroe, Eugene, Sophie, Randy, Johan, and Skylar

Dhira, Yuna, Gene, Jonathan, Len, and Peter

Steve, Sophie, Len, Dhira, Eugene, Randy, Skylar, Yuna, and Johan

Salieu, Sole, David, Linc, Keith, and Eugene

All that was left was to assemble the ranks thank all the folks involved and give out the goodies.

The assembled masses anxiously waiting to hear their names

The stash revealed…every kid gets an official participation certificate, a bunch of Woodmont golf course necessities, and the official Keepers Bag Tag

Monroe may be outsized by Salieu but has the reach to get the job done

Dimitrios gets the pass on a signature Konnor move

One more piece of Keepers klink for the golf bag

Special thanks to Connor Farrell, Steve Keller,  Moe Dweck, and Roger Brown and the professional golf staff for all the hard work in assembling this event.  Thanks to Woodmont Country Club for graciously hosting this picnic and the First Tee of Greater Washington D.C. for making it happen. And most important, thanks to these amazing kids who make this event such a special experience for all of us.

First Tee Greater Wash LogoRespect-Perserverance-Honesty-Integrity-Courtesy-Responsibility-Sportsmanship-Confidence-Judgement

August, 2019

Special thanks for the photographic contributions of Moe Dweck, Steve Keller, and Mary Yoon that made this posting colorful and fun

If you have any corrections to the captioning please email them to moedweck@comcast.net

The U.S. Open At Pebble Beach

With the U.S. Open returning to Pebble Beach this week it occurs to me that few places in American golf evoke as much memory and familiarity as this place. Because of the Majors it has hosted as well as the annual tour event in February, an Open at Pebble is second only to The Masters at Augusta in terms of anticipated drama and can’t miss TV for the true golf fan.

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We know the place, we remember the holes, we recall the glorious things that have happened there. Nicklaus’s 1-iron into 17 in 1972, Watson’s chip-in on the same hole in ’82, Kite’s 1992 mastery of the gale force winds, Tiger’s complete domination of the field winning by a thousand in 2000, and McDowell sprint by one of the dominant players of our time in 2010 are all indelibly marked in our golf psyches.

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It is interesting to look back over the winners of the A T & T tour event since 2005 for some hint to who might end up in the mix this time around. Mickelson has won it four times over the last 15 years, including this past February. With the only thing standing between Mickey and the career slam you gotta think this may be his last and best chance to fulfill that dream. Dustin Johnson owns the place-winning in 2009 and 2010, second in 2014, and we know about his near miss in the 2010 Open losing to Graeme McDowell. Brandt Snedeker has won A T & T twice in a three-year span from 2013 to 2015. Jordan Speith won it in 2017 and we know what his record in Majors is all about.

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It may be well founded to consider the difference of playing Pebble in June as opposed to February in handicapping the field. Beside the obvious pressure difference between playing a celebrity pro-am and a Major championship, I think advantage goes to the guys who can stay out of the seasonal lush greenside rough and who are comfortable putting on bumpy poa annua greens with a bit more pace in them this time of year.

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Pebble has extremely small green complexes and for anyone who cannot keep the tee ball between the hash marks the lack of control on approach shots out of the rough is going to mean lots of green-in-regulation misses. Recovery pitches from thick, long, and wiry rough are going to be extremely challenging to get up and down to avoid dropped shots.

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Poa annua greens are notorious for getting bumpy, especially late in the day when the grass growth kicks in. A TV commentator once pointed out that the great putters on tour don’t need perfect greens to putt well, their putting confidence is so high they think they can make 20 footers across cow pastures. Just remember Jordan’s performance on those awful, patchy things they called greens at Chambers Bay. Sneds, Jordan, Phil, and the old Tiger all come to mind as guys who may see the Poa greens as giving them an advantage over the legions of good putters out there.

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Wind is always the wild card at Pebble and when it begins to puff the skill set of those who can manage trajectory or simply hit through the wind will separate them from many of the wannabe Major contenders. Foreigners like Tommy Fleetwood, Francesca Molinari, Jason Day, and Louis Oosthuizen who have grown up playing in tough windy conditions will find Pebble to their liking if the wind gusts get over 20 miles-an-hour.

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Emotionally managing a sense of history will be very important if one is to win at Pebble Beach. Much like Amen Corner at Augusta these players know what has gone on before at the challenging quadrangle of holes in the middle of this course. The devilish steep downhill pitch into the short par three 7th, followed by restraint and acumen required on the postcard par four eighth, and then two rough and tumbling long seaside par fours at nine and ten will likely derail a good number of contenders on Saturday and Sunday. The guys who can visualize success in this crucial stretch will have the best chance of etching their names on a prestigious U.S. Open trophy associated with this iconic venue.

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I guess what I am saying is it seems very likely that a marquee player like Koepka, DJ, Rory, Phil, or Jordan wins out at the end of the day on Sunday. But maybe, just maybe it is a lesser known guy like Sneds or Fleetwood who is riding a hot putter and is not afraid of the moment or this particular stage for all of it’s notoriety, who finally gets the monkey off his back of “best player never to win a Major”. It happened for Tom Kite and Graeme McDowell at Pebble so it just might happen once again.

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Any way you look at it this is going to be a fun weekend of Prime Time TV viewing at a very recognizable venue…..the cum ratings should be off the chart.

June, 2019

Phil’s Grill At Grayhawk

At the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale everything is done first class.  Their two excellent golf courses which have hosted Tour events, the Peter Kostis Learning Center, and a Golf Shop replete with a robust selection of clothing and accessories from all the brands you care about all speak to this dedication to doing things the Grayhawk way.

In keeping with this tradition they created a warm and hamish bar and patio hangout that honors the club’s long standing connection with a favorite Arizona son, Phil Mickelson.  After a round you can drop in for your favorite adult beverage and some delectable bar treats.  From the patio you can enjoy a frustration of others on the 18th hole on the Raptor Course or spin a sailor’s tale about your day’s golf accomplishments.

But at some point you have to get out of that chair to take in the amazing collection of Lefty Memorabilia that adorns the walls of the bar area.  It includes everything from a persimmon driver Phil swung in high school to the flag from his Open Championship win at Muirfield and even an autographed wall commemorating his head-to-head challenge match with Tiger that was played at this venue in the fall of 2018.

Marketing of Phil’s Grill is right out their in front of you

It starts with local fare from appetizers to entrees….and it is all good eatin’

Phil’s early successes…remember he won a Tour event at Tucson as an amateur

A very early swing with Bones and Jack looking on at Augusta

His connection with the King goes way back-he won at Bay Hill in 1997

Fireside account of Phil’s 2004 Masters win-remember the gravity defying leap?

The Match-sort of pay-for-view presentation-between Tiger and Phil in 2018

All the paid supporters signed the commemorative wall for this event

Sweet family plaque of all his Tour wins…..and there have been more than a few

It is worth your time to make a stop at Phil’s Grill if you are in the neighborhood.  Whether it is for the food and drink or the Lefty memories, it will help complete your memorable Grayhawk golfing experience.

(Click to read about the Grayhawk Golf Club-Talon Course)

The Backstop Stops Here

The most egregious violation of the spirit of golf currently practiced on all the professional tours, and therefore by definition in all your club tournaments by people parroting their tour idols, is the use of “backstopping” on the green.

Essentially it comes down to one pro hitting a pitch shot in close proximity of the hole and deciding not to mark the ball before a fellow competitor with a similar shot plays their approach.  What results is the opportunity of the second player to use the first player’s ball as a backstop to keep their approach from wandering further past the hole.

Amy Olson and #1 Player in the World, Ariya Jutanugarn, celebrating a successful incident of backstopping on the 18th hole at the Honda LPGA Thailand in 2019

This practice has been supported as some unwritten creed by players on all the professional tours for a long time.  If things like fixing ball marks and divots or calling out a playing partner who has broken a rule are considered practices that protect interests of all the players in the competition, then how can such a practice as backstopping be tolerated?

Select broadcasting personalities have called this out on occasion but truthfully the broader group of golf pundits are as complicit as the players in this travesty by condoning it through their deafening silence when they see it occur.

As you can read in this article from Yahoo! Sports, two well known tour players not only did this in the full view of an international TV audience recently at the Honda LPGA Thailand event but they had the audacity to celebrate the success of their action after it worked out.

As the articles says, there is language in the USGA Rules that specifically addresses behaviors of this type.  It is simply the neglect of tour officials to identify and penalize players who practice this that allows it to continue.

If the term “protecting the field” is to mean anything in golf competition this practice needs to be called out by the powers that be on all the tours.  For the good of the game, they must insist that players cease and desist from this foul practice immediately.

Yahoo! Sports (February 2019)

(Click to read the recent  Yahoo! Sports article on backstopping on the LPGA Tour)