Oooo’s, Ahhh’s, and Oy’s

It is pretty standard fare to hear the winner at the Open Championship remark how cool it was to play in front of the most knowledgeable golf fans in the world.

For anyone who has played links golf in the British Isles they know that this is true. In any of these small hamlets or large towns associated with the famous links venues the level of golfspeak is off the charts, no matter gender or age of the person you are talking to. Golf is just part of the fabric of everyday life for the golfing public in these communities.

This was driven home to me as I was riding in my car attentively listening to the streaming broadcast of the Open Championship from Royal Birkdale. It was like trying to follow a Senator baseball games on the radio on a sultry summer night back in the late sixties on my way to the Hot Shoppes to meet high school buddies. I admit sorting out the accents and some of the expressions of the British announcers were a challenge.

Truthfully, listening to these broadcasts, I did not need the play-by-play to discern how the shot just hit had turned out. Reading the nuances of the murmurs of the British fans picked up on the field microphones I knew whether Bubba’s big curve had avoided mounds in front and trundled up next to the flag for an eagle opportunity (an Oooo) or Kootch’s ball had failed by two feet to carry the mound’s edge and had been sucked back into the collection bunker (an Ahhh) or whether Jordan had actually driven it off the planet on #13 down the stretch on Sunday (an Oy).

The collective groans were discordant when the crowd witnessed this tee shot

Listening to the broadcasts from the Open there are no awkward “Go In The Hole” or “Baba Booey” shouts interrupting the sound track as we witness in every PGA Tour broadcast. To me this is the signature of the pervasive ignorance of far too many American golf fans who spend way too much time drinking beer whether watching or playing golf.

The fans at these events across the pond are sophisticated, they all play the links game regularly. They know how hard it is for the players to manage the trajectory of a tight approach into a 30 m.p.h. cross wind out of the wispy grass or how to use the ground as their friend on an intentionally mis-directed pitch into a back pin location. They even get the adjustments required to line and speed by the effect of the winds on the putting.

Rory has to manage the environmental parameters on this approach in the 18th

On Saturday walking up the 18th hole Spieth was getting ready to do his green research as he pulled out one of the many reference manuals he carries in his back pocket. Kootch walked over to him and said of the cacophony of applause they were walking into, “It doesn’t get any better than this”. Being mature beyond his years Jordan recognized that Kootch was right and put the topo book back in his pocket. The two of them then just basked in the crowd adoration walking up to the green.

Saturday’s memorable shared walk up to the 18th Green….

Then there was the incredible finish on Sunday. That wayward right tee shot of Jordan on #13 on Sunday was partially intentional. In an interview he said on that hole you cannot drive your ball into the fairway or the hard ground will feed it into an halacious fairway pot bunker through the fairway. You have to aim this blind tee shot at the right rough. He just overdid it a wee bit.

It took a while but Jordan found a way back into the hole from the driving range

But for all the post game pushback for the time it took for him to sort out his options and take his drop, I am sure all the fans on that hole fully appreciated the mental machinations Jordan was going through to optimize his chance to make that magnificent bogey. These fans understood they were watching golf history as he responded to the emotions of the crowd and played the next four holes five-under par to claim the Claret Jug in a display of links golf aptitude becoming of a British native.

Emotion and respect of two friends and competitors when the game was done…

The humility and emotion shown by both Jordan and Kootch in presentation ceremony on Sunday afternoon speaks to their appreciation of the sophistication of these British golf fans. Jordan even did the Hale Irwin high-five run around with the Claret Jug in his hand to let these masses touch the gravity of this moment. It seemed like a spontaneous reaction to the engaging pulse of the crowd.

Jordan shares the moment with the adoring masses….

It is not just platitude when the Open Championship winners say it is special to play in front of the most knowledgeable golf fans in the world. Jordan’s actions speak to this and, much like Young Tom Watson or Arnie before him, I am sure he is destined to be a favorite son of these folks every time he tees it up in an Open Championship over the next two decades.

Reflecting on what it means to add his name to all those other names

Ojai Valley Inn Golf Course

George Thomas and Bobby Bell, a pair of graduates of the Philadelphia School of Golf Architects, migrated their professional shingle to the West Coast around 1920. They quickly established themselves as a go to pair for pulling quality golf courses out of the challenging terrain of this part of the country. Along with Alister MacKenzie they went on to produce some of the finest golf courses in this region.

Ojai Valley Inn was created around the same time of it’s more storied sister Thomas-Bell designs like Bel-Air, Riviera, and Los Angeles Country Club. Set against the dramatic mountain ridges that surround the Ojai Valley, you will see genius of these two men in their ability to refine the effect of the rugged topography with innovative routing and implementation of the strategic design concepts that make their courses a joy to play.

Small but accessible greens with deep bunkers and fall offs call for articulate approach shots

The tight configuration of the available land for golf led them to an unusual course routing that includes three Par 5’s and five Par 3’s in a Par 70 layout that now measures just under 6300 yards from the back tees. But when you consider about 350 yards in exchange of a long hole for an extra short hole and the effect the hills and the wind have on lengthening many approach shots, there is nothing meek about the golf challenge Ojai Valley presents.

The elevations changes throughout make club selection a chore…especially when the wind is up

This set of green surfaces are as consistently small as any I have seen on a championship course, so finding the target requires great precision. They have segmentation and slope which means approach line and trajectory really matter if you are going to avoid putting humiliation on the greens. The signature high edge, flash faced bunkers that Bell brought to all of their creations coupled with the drastic fall offs adds intimidation to the mix. To have success out here it takes a tactical approach to driving to find proper approach positions based on the day’s pin.

High edges and flash faces of the Billy Bell bunkers mask your landing areas from view

There is a convenient grass turf driving range and short game prep area just below the golf shop, make use of it to get your swing tuned in before you embark to the first tee as the front nine opens with five holes that will get your immediate attention. They play across some of the hilliest terrain on the property and demand disciplined shot making right out of the gate to avoid inflicting serious scorecard damage early in the round.

Green on #1 is typical-shelved into the hill above-open on one side forced carry on the other

The first two holes you have to put your tee shots in a relatively small landing area (see the Hole-By-Hole Analysis below) to have a credible approach to two very angular green complexes.

Tight window leaves a dexterous short approach across the barranca to an angular 2nd green

On the second if you succeed in finding the center of the fairway, you have a short club in hand but are staring through a large picture window at a steeply pitched green that hovers above a harrowing barranca from which there is no recovery.

#3 seems innocuous enough…short pitch to a sloped green with trouble all around

Two short Par 3 holes on the front, the first of which you reach at the third, require delicate short shots into tiny greens with no bail outs. The 100-yard pitch on the third seems innocuous to the eye, but picking the right club given the elevation change and any wind can make this very small target particularly elusive.

After another bracketed carry across the “Deer Canyon” on the short Par 4 fourth, you face a classic George Thomas uphill approach over a browed Billy Bell flash faced bunker that guards the left front of the green. The pitch up the hill better have serious friction because the green is barely the size of your thumb nail.

From high atop “Condor’s Nest” on the fifth…it is quite a view of the landing area below

Take a pause on the precipice tee of the hole they call “Condor’s Nest” to appreciate the glorious backdrop the surrounding mountains present as you look down at this long Par 4 unfurling below your feet. This represents a swift change in gear as four of the next five holes will give you plenty of room to unleash your swing and channel your inner Dustin Johnson.

The seventh hole, “Crosby’s Creek named in deference to the Hollywood star who played here often throughout his career, is the #1 Handicap hole on the card and it demands two well executed blows to have any chance to make a par. The key is to protect from the train wreck number if you are out of position off this tee, as a stream runs diagonally through the second half of the hole and will give you serious pause in your club selection to reach a very tight plateau green complex framed by trees and deep Billy Bell bunkers.

Bunkering on the Par 5 9th is pure artistry and genius…the putting surface isn’t bad either

After the second of the short pitch Par 3’s you have a very handsome march up “Eucalyptus Alley” on the long awaited first Par 5 of the day. The green complex set into a hill just below the hotel is framed by stacked flash faced bunkers and makes for one of the many Kodak moments of your day.

Negotiating with a birdie putt on the top shelf of the 9th Green….so so so close!

Make sure to get a little snack and some cold refreshment from Libby’s Market as you make your way up the hill on the other side of the hotel to the tenth tee. This next series of holes have delectable visuals as they play on the high side of the property to start the inward half.

Sweeping panoramic looks are like fraternal twins off the high tee boxes of #10 and #13

The look off this tenth tee is majestic as a sweeping long Par 4 falls below your feet and then works back uphill to the tight green complex. The mountain backdrop is the stage for the Pink Sunsets this place is known for.

“Pink Sunsets” appear most evenings over the mountains on the reachable Par 5 12th hole

Two scoring opportunities presents themselves on the long Par 3 and short Par 5 that follow as you work your way back to the thirteenth tee to play a mirror image Par 4 adjacent to the tenth.

The approach look down to the Par 5’s green complex on “The Landing” #15

Preparing for the final run you start wrapping back around the lower end of the property you experienced on the opening nine where elbow room is going to disappear and precise shot making will prevail. You need to take advantage of the getable Par 3 and Par 5 at fourteen and fifteen because the mysterious “Lost Holes of Ojai” are just ahead.

The “Lost Holes” plaque at the 16th tee tells the story or repatriation of these holes

In the years of the Second World War the military had abducted the land under a few holes in a remote corner of the property which made them disappear. But in a restoration in the late 1990’s these two “Lost Holes” were rediscovered and, along with the stiff finishing hole, set up a dramatic final exam to your golfing day.

“Captains Pride” the signature Par 3 16th plays over a flotilla of sand bunkers

Part I is “Captains Pride” a unique survival par three that you may think does not fit the flavor of the course. But the spectacular view you take in from the precipice tee makes it the signature hole in all their publications. The parameters of this hole are as tight as any you have seen all day so a very conservative approach is requisite in avoiding a bad number at this point of round.

View of the driving area and surrounds from the tee on #17 is truly an “Inspiration”

Part II is the multiple choice section of the test called “Inspiration”. The tee box on seventeen is perched by itself, cocooned by high mountain topography, which creates a tranquil respite that many have used for memorable wedding ceremonies. Nupitals aside it takes two dexterous decisions and well executed strokes to make a much needed par on the second of the reincarnated holes.

Confined look off the back tee of the 18th..fortunately your tee is up another 50 yards

The essay section is the eighteenth, a steep march back up to the clubhouse which will put extra pressure on trying to win the back nine Nassau. The amount of defensiveness required in the final approach is totally dependent on your tee ball position. There are pars to be made with a dexterous pitch and putt from short right if the carry over the yawning Billy Bunker that fronts the left side of this precipice green complex seems too much to swallow.

The imposing look up to the cloistered green complex on the finish hole

If you picked the right tee length there is a good chance the tally ends up in the satisfactory range, but I assure you that on reflection you are going to feel you left a few out there. A return visit to get another shot at this intriguingThomas/Bell creation is something I look forward to as well.

Ojai Valley, California

Architects:  George Thomas and Bobby Bell (1923)

Tee      Par     Rating     Slope      Yardage
Blue     70        71          131         6292
White   70       69.3        126         5908
Red      71       71.3        131         5211

(Click to review the downloadable Ojai Valley Inn Golf Course hole-by-hole descriptions)

 

Erin Hills Designed For The Wind

When Dr. Michael Hurzdan, Dana Fry, Mike Hurzdan, and Ron Whitten developed this course with the blessing of Mike Davis and the USGA for a U.S. Open Championship, they presumed the wind would be the wild card in making it a championship test.

For three days there was no wind to speak of and with rain softened greens the players had their way with this layout mocking par along the way.   But winds of 20+ mph greeted them for the Sunday round of this Major Championship and the design features of this layout will have their say in the outcome of this U.S. Open.

USGA got its wish….blue skies and winds up for the final round

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Unlike any U.S. Open venue in recent memory, Erin Hills is not about narrowed playing parameters with a long grass punishing any miss on drive or approach no matter how slight.   Historically it is Hack-A-Mole pitching from 6 inch green side bluegrass where it is more luck than talent in saving a par.

Instead Erin Hills is a roomy minimalist design that traverses rolling and swerving topography with innovative green complexes that put a premium on using the ground as your friend to get at cloistered pin positions.  There is tight short grass around these green complexes which have severe fall offs and punishing bunkers awaiting shots without sufficient intent.  A creative and innovative recovery short game, much like what you see on display at many on the European Tour events, will pay great dividends for the first time in memory in a U.S. Open.

Brian Harman’s dexterous approach into the Par 4 Third Hole

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In watching this week the look and feel of Erin Hills reminds me of some of the links jewels I have played on the Emerald Isle of Ireland.  The unrelenting design challenge of Pat Ruddy’s European Club and Eddie Hackett’s Enniscrone come to mind.  Both have swerving undulating topography, tall fescue to greet wayward shots, and raised, tilted, and undulating green complexes where angle of attack can make a big difference in getting an approach close.

Rickie Fowler misses his line off the tee and pays the steep price

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In a similar way Erin Hills has contoured driving areas that favor a particular shot shape to find the advantageous approach position or stay out of the tall fescue.  Into the greens there are plenty of forced carries required, not many places where the player can bounce it short and feed it on.  When the wind gets up it becomes more of an issue of strategic use of the interior green contour to slow and feed the approach to the pin of the day.

The early broadcast featured the voice of Gil Hanse, one of the premier designers of this generation, and he contributed valued insight into how the design will play into the strategic approach required to control shot outcome for those in the thick of this championship run.

The heightened wind makes negotiating the sharp edges of the green complexes and avoiding the evil decree of the near misses all the more difficult.  Short side recoveries in the cross winds become much harder to convert into par saves. The slightest misjudgement of pace on a downwind pitch can result in an unexpected roll out off the putting surface leaving an equally problematic four-story pitch back up the slope.

With the precipice greens totally exposed to the wind’s effect reading the greens can be like reading a Ouija Board.  Figuring control of the line and roll out to avoid knee knocker six-foot comeback putts is a must to avoid a scorecard hemorrhage.

Jordan negotiating his approach putt on the windswept 9th green

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Lengthening of the downwind short par three ninth from 130 to 170 may actually help the guys since it is easier to flight down an eight iron than a wedge or sand wedge.  The problem remains the Roberto Clemente Memorial pin position in a tight Bermuda Triangle in the back of the green.  Missing the flag by five paces in any direction may mean calling in the Coast Guard for search and recovery.

He pointed out that the short par fours and the two five pars on the back nine may be the hardest to reconcile.  Making a decision to take on one of these “driveable” four pars is enticing but the degree of difficulty of recovery if you miss these blinded targets makes that decision somewhat specious.  Same goes for hoisting a long and high approach at flags on the two potentially reachable par fives. With the thought of a game changing eagle in mind the margin of error from hero to goat could be four steps in one direction or the other.

No question the unique design of Erin Hills coupled with the stiff winds that took four days to appear will make this Sunday round look more like an Open Championship finish at Muirfield than a typical U.S. Open finale.

Rewarding Good Shots

There are two ways of widening the gap between a good tee shot and a bad one.  One is to inflict a severe and immediate punishment on a bad shot, to place its perpetrator in a bunker or in some other trouble which will demand the sacrifice of a stroke in recovering.

The other is to reward the good shot by making the second shot simpler in proportion to the excellence of the first.  The reward may be of any nature but it is more commonly one of four-a better view of the green, an easier angle from which to attack a slope, an open approach past guarding hazards, or even a better run to the tee shot itself.

Bobby Jones

As quoted by Tom Doak in Tom Doak’s Little Red Book of Golf Course Architecture

SKLZ Foam Practice Balls

With the arrival of a new grandson my mind starting thinking way ahead to low impact training sessions in the back yard.  In searching about I discovered this product that turns out to be perfect for the task and way more.

These foam practice balls are “full featured” with:

  • Alignment stripes for consistent setup and alignment
  • Standard golf ball size
  • Soft foam is safe for use indoors or outdoors
  • Comes as a 12-pack

Besides all that, you can take a full wail at these suckers and they only go about 30 yard max.  Even though you are hitting a foam ball the ball flight is, unlike those airy wiffle balls you played with as a kid, surprisingly familiar as they replicate the spinning parabolic flight of a sand or pitching wedge to a T.  The stripes help with setup and alignment and make the spin imparted very evident for good feedack.  They even have a convenient cool mesh bag for storage, transport, and containment during your practice regimen.

Back to the original goal of creating a backyard Approach Practice Course (APC), it opens up great creative possibilities for the budding course architect or simply the entertaining Grandpa.  Seemingly extraneous lawn art or an inverted plastic step stool can be used to create the perfect green complex with all the tactical bells and whistles.

Double dogleg meanders between the weathered hazards…..a very Golden Age look on the opening hole

 

In this live loop you can see the realistic ball flight off the 3/4 swing of a 53 degree Ping SW with the drop and stop spin leaving me a little recovery from just behind Scooby Doo left.  Not being an official USGA event, the square grooves have been “grandfathered in” and are perfectly legal.

Safe for indoor and outdoor use, I imagine a plush rug and a pool table in the basement rec room would make for a nice alternative winter golf destination.

This is not a serious investment at $11.99 from a number of sources on the World Wide Web and, with Amazon Prime delivery, you could be setting up your own short game extravaganza in just a few days.  I highly recommend the investment for improving your short pitching game and nurturing the golf skills of your kids and grandkids.

 

 

 

George Wright Golf Course

A strong handful of renowned public golf courses exist in the United States that represent the most virtuous commitment of their municipalities to providing access to high quality design to everyone.  The George Wright Golf Course in Boston, an original Donald Ross design through and through, is one of these.

French Chateau Clubhouse stands sentinel on the hill as you walk up from the car park

The Wright was built in the Depression period of the 1930’s on the old Grew Estate that had been conveyed to the Department of Conservation of Massachusetts through the efforts of George Wright founder of the Wright and Ditson Sporting Goods stores in Boston.  This major project of close to $1 million was financed through the Roosevelt Administration’s Works Project Administration.

In what proved to be an enormous undertaking because of the rugged topography, the construction employed almost 1,000 people as it was completed over a three-year period opening for play in 1936.  There is a unique local flavor to the artistry of this facility in that it included a three-mile long perimeter flagstone wall built by the Italian and Irish masons of Boston and a stunning French Chateau style clubhouse that belies a typical municipal golf course setting.

Note the stone manson’s wall behind the green…3 miles long it encircles most of the property

From the time it opened this course was well reputed and hosted many big local and regional tournaments.  Among the best players it was considered an equal to the posh private venues of Boston.  But time took it’s toll and after the war and a series of financial problems that ensued, it fell into disrepair and by the mid-1980’s faced imminent closure.  Against all odds, an assiduous lobbying effort by the Massachusetts Golf Association kept it in operation for the next 20 years.  Finally in the early 2000’s the powers that be in the city of Boston made the bold commitment to restore George Wright to the original quality and design.

The key to this effort was the arrival of head pro Scott Allen in 2001, who spearheaded the restoration effort, and the hiring in 2004 of Len Curtain, a greens superintendent with a special affection for the place,  who grew playing the Wright.  With the consultation of a Massachusetts course designer Mark Mungeum, together this group embarked on the long term project to peel back decades of neglect and bring this wonderful venue back to original glory.

Lots of trees were removed and the green complexes were restored to their original Ross shapes and surrounds.  Fairway bunkers were relocated along with a few new additions to help the course meet the challenge of the contemporary equipment.  Together they brought back the Wright to a course worthy of being designated as the site of the 2018 State Amateur-the first time in the tournament’s history it will be played on a municipal golf course.

The wide open driving area on the first is a teaser…this is a precise driving course

The first, ninth, and eighteenth holes are on the flattest portion of the property just below the clubhouse veranda so the course begins and ends on a fairly tame note.  On the second tee, in spite of the abundant width of the driving area, you get the sense this is a tee ball position course as the green in the distance is suspended on an alcove shelf tucked in the corner of the property.  From three thru fifteen the course is enveloped in a solitary cocoon and you won’t see any man-made structures besides the clubhouse and the maintenance facility. It makes you wonder how it could be just four miles from the center of a major American metropolis.

The Par 5 3rd gives no room for wandering

Standing on the third tee the challenge is at hand as you are staring up the narrow hallway that defines this uphill and stringent five par.  Keeping the ball between the hash marks off the tee, controlling the roll out, and finding the proper angle of approach for the day’s pins into these Ross green complexes will determine how your scorecard will fare today.  It goes without saying that it will be peppered with some high numbers but you have to accept them and remain aggressive to balance the outcome.

The landing area on the Par 4 4th is saddles the high ground

One thing you cannot fail to notice is that the holes are often lined with rock outcroppings or tall mounds.  These mounds were created by covering the piles of rocks rendered from the fairway demolition and you can begin to appreciate how much went into discovering playable fairways on this severe and rugged terrain.

Looking up the 6th you see how much was excavated to find this fairway

The devil is in the detail as you can see in the Hole-By-Hole Analysis below, the contours of five through twelve in particular will challenge your tactical instinct trying to find the line of charm.

Peaceful tranquility of the green complex on the 9th hole just below the clubhouse

Note: If there is someone manning the dog-at-the-turn cart between the 10th and 12th tees I recommend well done with relish and mustard.  The homemade cookies are not a bad chaser either.

The 8th one of the four intimidating three pars-very demanding little room for error.

As an aside, the par threes may be the most interesting holes on the course.  Every one of the four stands apart in visual distinction and precise shot making is demanded.  Not one of them is over 190 yards yet playing the four of them anywhere near par is a major accomplishment.  The Ross bunkering and segmenting of these four green complexes will sustain vivid images in your mind when you rehash the day’s journey later staring at your dark bedroom ceiling.

Bungee drop approach to the 12th from the top of the ridge

The inward nine takes up right where the last one ended with roller coaster elevation changes on the first three holes.  Be cognizant on all three of these not to drive the tee ball too far and overreach the best landing spot for the approach.  As you can read in the detail the blinded approach shot into the tenth green takes serious visualization.  The approach into the eleventh will take a different kind of creativity as it will take all your ground skills to give yourself a good scoring opportunity there.

Drop dead green setting on the Par 5 15th…just don’t hit the green wall netting behind

If you reach the thirteenth tee with minimum scorecard damage there is great opportunity to make up ground on the way to the house.  This hole is one of the most visually pleasing all day but you have to hit two very articulate shots to avoid the hazards that haunt the hole from tee to green.  What follows is a challenging uphill par three followed by a stunning three-shot par five that should give you a good chance to apply some salve to the scorecard.

Talking a 2+ club elevation change into the mountainous 16th green

I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to the Mt. Rushmore green complex of the sixteenth hole.  No course architect would even consider building a hole like this today, but it is just flat out fun.  From the base of the hill where your drive will end up it looks like you need to hit one over George Washington’s left eye and land it on the crown of Thomas Jefferson’s head.  That is kind of what you have to do…long or Roosevelt right is no good at all.

The 18th appears sedate but there is trouble lurking if you get out of position

The two holes that bring you back to the house are very interesting.  The short par three seventeenth is one of the truly quaint looks of the day.  Encircled by sand it takes a lawn dart to give yourself a good birdie chance.  The home hole is a level walk on ground similar to the first, but the green is very deep with severe contour so you must focus to get your approach all the way to the day’s pin.

The apres golf Sports Bar and Grill is a memorabilia must stop

When it was said and done, I found the George Wright an amazing municipal golf experience, right down to the clubhouse building and the players Bar and Grill.  Linger for a cold Samuel Adams and some nachos, check out all the Boston sports memorabilia on the wall, and savor what has been a wonderful day of old style golf at a very accommodating price.

Boston, Massachusetts

Architect:  Donald Ross (1936)

.                       Par    Rating  Slope   Yardage

Blue                 70        69.5     126      6440

White              70        68.6     122      6096

Red                 70        70.3     115      5131

(Click to read the Hole-By Hole Analysis of the George Wright Golf Course)

Penmar Municipal Revisited

On a recent trip to L.A. to visit our kids and newly arrived grandson, I had a spur of the moment impulse to pay a return visit to the Penmar Municipal in Venice, CA.  For the non-resident price of $16, I had a pleasant 9-hole walk with a couple of locals-Big Al and Gary.  The course was lush and the weather conditions were idyllic, though the caterpillar pace of play the first six holes was a bit unsettling.  Gave us plenty of time to get acquainted.

No clubs on hand, I had to resort to this $5 unmatched rental set

The collection represented the full breadth of club vintages, equipment brands, and engineering breakthroughs from over the last 50 years.

Included therein:

-Callway 10.5 degree 450 CC Driver-unknown shaft and a Jumbo (Sammy Sosa variety)

-Titleist 15 degree 3 Wood-Aldia Voodoo Firm graphite shaft

-Callaway V 19 degree 5 Wood-senior graphite shaft

-Ping Eye 3 4 Iron-standard Ping steel shaft

-Lynx Paralex Cavity Backed 6 Iron-steel men’s regular shaft

-Clone 7,8,9, and PW-Ladies graphite shafts

-Cleveland forged 56 degree sand iron with a super large bounce

-Acushnet Bullseye Bronze Putter circa 1966 (I owned this in my teenage years)

I also invested in hand cart rental for $2 and the finest sleeve of performance balls available in the Snack Bar/Pro Shop.  These are state of the art low compression Callaway Superhot 55’s.

They proved to be a perfect match for the variable requirements of the inventory of clubs I had to work with.

 

 

 

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The driver was out of play because I was uncomfortable with a full baseball grip and pine tar that would have been required to handle it.  So I worked the Voodoo Magic of the Titleist 3-metal about 210 off the tee on the driving holes to great satisfaction.

The trick was figuring out how to match swing speed with the wide variety of approach clubs that were available.  This is how I imagine it must have been to play proficiently with a set of Hickory Shafts back in the day.

Overall the middle of the set performed admirably in that I registered three pars across the nine.  One with a flush Lady’s shafted 7 Iron from 125 yards in a cross wind to 18 feet on the Par 3 third. The second was with a slinging draw 5 Metal around and over the trees onto the back fringe, after I bounced the Voodoo 3 Wood off the chain link fence on the seventh hole tee shot.  Finally an awesome up-and-in on the tricky 360 yard final hole with the 56 degree Cleveland SW and a channeled 14 year old’s putting stroke from my past with the vintage Bullseye.

What a rush!

All in all it was a nostalgic walk with a couple of new friends on a delightful municipal track in sunny California.

March, 2017

(Click to see more on Penmar in our Postcard From Penmar Municipal)

Lost Balls

lost-ballsThis is familiar psychological territory for golfers of all abilities, coping with the potential harrowing effect to their scorecard if the next swing goes wayward and the result is an unrequited search resulting in a lost ball.  As John Updike says in the foreword of this clever book, “this lost ball represents two strokes, and two extra strokes could mean the hole and even, if could be, the match, the entire outing, the day itself.”

In a very creative photographic collection Charles Lindsay has brought life to this unique aspect of our game in a book called “Lost Balls-Great Holes, Tough Shots, and Bad Lies”.

It is worth it for the Updike forward alone where he eloquently frames the issues that lost balls play in our game and why it strikes such a familiar chord for us.  “The whereabouts of the ball are in a sense the key to every ball game, but the whereabouts are most picturesque in golf.  Tangles of raspberry….sandy beds of shallow little watercress-choked creeks….snake infested moonscapes of pre-Cambrian basalt…all these nasty patches of environment can play host to a misplayed golf ball.  We have all been there.”

Through his camera lens Charles Lindsay captures the wild, the innocent, and the five-minute shuffle that accompanies all of these often futile searches.  He includes images of domestic animals, wild animals, and a few upright animals against dramatic topography from Ireland to Idaho and everywhere in between.

As a bonus, Lindsay peppers it with some wonderful quotes you can repeat in your Saturday group.

Mark Twain’s politically correct:  “It’s good sportsmanship not to pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”

Ullyses S. Grant: “It does look like a very good exercise.  But what is the little white ball for?”

Alan Shepard from the moon surface: “Got more dirt than ball.  Here we go again…..”

This is the ultimate coffee table book for your home or office.  Every golfing friend who picks this up will give you that twisted, knowing smile as they leaf through an assembly of engaging photos that depict disturbingly familiar circumstances from notable golf venues around the world.

Lost Balls: Great Holes, Tough Shots, and Bad Lies

Charles Lindsay (2005)

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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 an 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 meditation bench and a plaque behind the 18th tee-where Arnold Palmer made 12 of the finishing Par 5 in the L.A. Open after splitting the fairway with his tee ball and then hitting four balls O.B.

The meditation bench behind 18..chill while waiting for the driving area to clear

The meditation bench..chill while waiting for the fairway to clear on 18.

Details Arnie’s 12 in the L.A. Open-two into the range and two on to Patricia Ave.

arnie-plaquePGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Senior Tour events have all been held on this track.  The list of winners in the L.A. Open  at Rancho Park during the period from 1956 to 1972 is a who’s who of great players from the era.  They include Lloyd Mangrum, Doug Ford,  Frank Stranahan (amateur), Ken Venturi, Arnold Palmer (3 times), Bob Goalby, Dow Finsterwald, Charlie Sifford, and Billy Casper.

Wall of Winners in the hallway to the Rancho Park Restaurant

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.

Three putting greens out front…you can lose serious change to a hustling local

putting-greenThis 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

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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)

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GolfClubAtlas.com
August, 2016