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Alliteration is the seductress of the hack professional writer. Since I am neither hack nor professional, its allure is lost on me. For one of weaker stuff, the temptress might have sent "Typhoon Tseng" or something similar through my muses. Should I become both hack and professional, expect some
There is a storm brewing in women's professional golf. Two storms, actually, in the Yin-Yang beauty of the cosmos. The first is a sorry one, sorry like
The storm about which I wish to write, however, is a different one. Her name is Yani Tseng and she has triumphed in each of the four events played in 2011. The golfer from Taiwan opened her year with a win at the Ladies Open in her native country, an event on the Ladies Asian Tour. Many top pros from Europe and the USA, in contrast to recent years, were there. Tsent built a streak with victories in Australia at 2 consecutive European Tour events. Now, with her triumph in Thailand, she leaves for Singapore as the favorite to win a fifth event in succession.
It was interesting to me that she began the fourth round with a slim, stroke lead over Michelle Wie. During the age of Tiger, Wie was predicted (often by me) as the female version, the one who would lead the LPGA to new millenium stardom. Didn't happen. Instead, Wie turned pro way too early, never learned how to win against better and better competition and ultimately became a run-of-the-mill, win every now and then pro. Ironically, in 2004, Wie was the 13-year old, defending champion of the USGA Women's Public Links tournament. She again made it to the final match where she lost, inexplicably, to a youngster from Taiwan. Rather than heed the warning that she wasn't the guaranteed closer that Tiger was, Wie turned pro soon after and lost the ability to win. Tseng, meanwhile, bolstered by the victory, became the champion that she is today. In Thailand, Wie closed with a 70 while Tseng signed for a sublime 66, ensuring a five-stroke triumph.
Keep your attention directed east from the USA, toward Singapore (or west, if you live on that coast.) You just might see greatness this week as Tseng directs her focus toward another glorious triumph. I'll be studying up on my alliteration quiz.
When Mother Nature ruffles and billows her dress, sometimes you press on. Since there was to be no golf show in Buffalo this year, the closest source for a fix is Rochester. Despite horrible driving conditions, I pressed on. The Dome Arena in Henrietta is a neat place for a show; it's neither too large nor too small for the event and is separated into two section, perfect for vendors on one side and club reps/driving range on the other.
This year, I brought the wee video camera with me for some action footage. When we hit it big, I'll purchase a better camera; for now, the tiny travel model will do. My subjects are the following:
Computer Swing Monitor Dudes...
PING fitting station...
The casual sales pitch for a backyard green...
And the delightful chocolate fountain!
After the moving pictures, I went back around for some stills and captured the following moments from Rochester Golf Show 2011
From the moment I arrived until the time that I left (roughly 3 hours), the show hummed with a hustle and bustle of humanity. Crowds anxious for the advent of Spring 2011 moved through the turnstiles, eased among the vendors and edged along the driving range. To say that X and Y were the busiest points would do an injustice to the remainder of the alphabet. Truth is, every booth did a brisk business. Attendees registered for the chance to win trips, rounds of golf, equipment and gift cards; they waited in line to try the whitest, the blackest, the shiniest and the dullest of clubs, and they purchased bags of experienced golf balls, sale-priced shirts and shorts and shoes and ... shticks, err, sticks. If the presence of so many folks can be construed to be an economic indicator, the golf biz is in for quite a rebound in 2011.
We'll get sraight to the nitty-gritty details here. As with all great snake drafts, I get to pick the second ten ahead of Mr. Mouth That Roars. I'll continue my youth movement and go with the following chaps:
11. Bill Haas...Can you make a cherry pie, Billy Boy? Worst metaphor ever, unless the cherry pie represents wins.
12. Matt Kuchar...Wants it. Not in a fist-pumping way, but a quiet, wants-it way.
13. Francesco Molinari...Flipped a coin...Heads with Eduardo, Tails with Francesco, you know the result.
14. Charl Schwartzel...First we had Ernie and Retief, now we get Louis and Charl from South Africa
15. Noh Seung-Yul...This is the dude from Asian (not Ryo) who will make his mark.
16. Matteo Manassero...We've just gotten to know the Molinaris and here comes MaMa!
17. Webb Simpson...A guy who seems to have it on straight, and not just because he's from Wake Forest!
18. Ricky Barnes...worst swing for a potentially great player who can simply get the ball in the hole.
19. Kevin Na...this guy eventually learns to play outside of the west coast, right?
20. Adam Scott...got his randiness done, now ready to focus on golf.
21. Jason Day...This was The Mouth's 31st pick (he can't count well), so I'll say that he'll win a lot overseas, a little on American soil and perhaps sneak into a major.
22. Nick Watney...I recently declared Bubba Watson "dead to me" in Fantasy Golf, so he of course stands to finish in the top three this week. Watney is close to that declaration, but I think that his intensity will bring him higher than Bubba.
23. Alejandro Canizares (with a tilde over the 'n')...We need a Spaniard to replace the great ones (and Sergio) and I don't think that it's the one-dimensional Quiros,nor the hyphenated Cabrera-Bello (whose name translates at Goatherd-Pretty, interestingly.) I like the second-generation Alejo, son of Jose-Maria C., to make a name for himself.
24. Danny Lee...This korean kiwi was everything in the amateur world a few years back, then pulled a Justin Rose, turned pro too early and fell off the map. Talent doesn't sleep forever, so I'll take him with pick #24.
25. Ben Martin...In addition to being polite enough to speak with us during a practice round in 2009 at Bethpage's US Open, Martin keeps popping up in his rookie year, so I'll take a flyer on him.
26. Spencer Levin...Saw him as a butt-smoking, punk amateur in 2004 at Shinnecock. If his cockiness is tempered by experience, he's a safe bet for the next 15 years.
27. Jbe' Kruger...How you get that out of James Barry is less important than his crazy, South African hair and his looney penchant for making birdies.
28. Richie Ramsay...Scotland's hope.
29. Peter Uihlein...I used to think he'd never have to pay for sticks. Now, with the impending breakup of Acushnet, he might need to.
30. Anthony Paolucci...He's getting it done this week at San Diego. Might be enough for me.
My inimitable (and unavoidable) colleague, The Mouth, pitched an idea a while back for a little give-and-take. Since we're both in the same, year-long Fantasy Golf League, he suggested we debate whom we would select for our dream team. Understand, now, that this is not a team for one, not two, but for fifteen years! You need to look ahead to some longevity. Do you copy a page from the NFL contract table and back-load a guy's contract, knowing that you won't have him in years 11-15, gambling on enough productivity during the first decade of play to counter the final quint?
If you click here, you'll find The Mouth's first ten picks. His is an interesting and devious mind, so I need to be on my toes. He makes a good case for all his picks, but what troubles me is that two of them are 35 years of age or older and one is from a country that is notorious for an inability to export its golfers (Japan.) With that said, I'm going to get risky and crazy and go with a youth-infused lineup to start off my dream team. On the left you shall find the Mouth's selections. Mine are the chaps on the right, in bold. Beneath each selection, I'll give you some reasoning as to why "that guy" is in "that place."Here goes:
1) Rory McIlroy ======== Martin Kaymer
I like Kaymer a great deal. He has the physical gifts and apparently possesses the necessary ability to win tournaments. He currently has a five-shot, third-round advantage at the HSBC event in Abu Dhabi. If he brings this one home, hide the fillies!
2) Dustin Johnson ============ Graeme MacDowell
He defeated Woods in Eldrick's own cage. He nearly stole the T of C a few weeks back. He is, most of all, a high-rent lurker.He doesn't lurk in the 15-35th place slot. Rather, he is found in the top 15 most weeks and is a birdie run away from contending, when he is not contending. He has a US major championship on his rez and is primed for a long career.
3) Martin Kaymer ============= Chris Kirk
The first of my unknowns. Shooting a 64 makes me sit up and take notice. Kirk has weatherd his time on the N-Wide tour and has won there. Can't say the same for Rickie Fowler and others. Nice pedigree and has a friendly ax to grind with Walker Cup chum-mate Dustin Johnson.
4) Paul Casey ============== Colt Knost
This is the guy who, after winning the Am and the Pub Am in one summer (2007) turned down an invite to Da' Masters to turn pro. If that doesn't take confidence, 'splain to me what does. Like #3, he has earned some stripes and wins on the N-Wide Tour and should be a regular contender on the big tour.
5) Tiger Woods ============= Jeff Overton
Dude had some close calls in 2010 and whined like a baby with diaper rash after the last of them. Ben Crane is slow and Overton whines...I'll take whine over slow. Whine you can fix. Overton is a birdie machine who did some thumping in the Ryder Cup. Like David Duval half a generation ago, when Overton wins, he'll win again and again.
#6 - Rickie Fowler ============ Kevin Chappell
You can tell the type of athlete I'm looking for. Chappell is an N-Wide grad and is a physical rock. I just made the switch to a draw, while Chappell went the other way. I like his swing change. I like his upside. UCLA needs the Pavins out of the news and Chappell in it.
#7 - Hunter Mahan =========== Louis Oosthuizen
Onions have layers and I think we've seen layer #1 with this guy, nicknamed Shrek for his gap toothed smile. If you can win on the Old Course at St. Andrews, you have chops, game, bones, all of the above. Like Overton, he makes birdies. He won some events on the South Africa tour with red numbers too red to be believed.
#8 - Camillo Villegas =========== Dustin Johnson
Were you wondering when I'd get to him? 2011 will define him a bit more. Everyone is waiting to see how he will respond to the near-misses of last year. I think he makes a a statement early, at Augusta. He's a southeastern kid and knows the feel of the grasses and soils well. He does everything well and he does it with cool. That's good to have.
#9 - Ryo Ishikawa ============ Rory McIlroy
He wins, he dies his hair. If McIlroy gets sucked into the pomp and circumstance, he might founder more than a bit. If he keeps a level and focused head, he'll be a top-three guy for 15 years. Can't get the hair thing out of my head; that's why I didn't take him higher.
#10 - Ian Poulter ============ Rickie Fowler
He needs to win, he needs to win, he needs to win. That's it. Forget the Zach Efron hir, forget the Puma threads and kicks, forget the icing. He needs to win and win and win.
In recent years, the Orange Blossom Circuit has represented less of an escape from northern weather, and more of a begrudging acceptance of its
Carol S. Thompson, the long-time caretaker and champion of women's amateur golf, watches over and play in these events. With such a heralded name, it's no surprise that many of the nation's finest collegiate golfers apply early for these four events. The 2011 OBT begain at Harder Hall country club in Sebring, at the eponymous championship. UKentucky's Ashleigh Albrecht and Wake Forest's Cheyenne Woods were separated by a handful of strokes after round one, as Albrecht opened with a 63. When she slipped a bit to a round-two 74, Woods moved into the top spot with a 69. Kyle Roig, the defending champion and future (2011) UCLA Bruin, joined the fray with a third-round 68, two behind the leaders. In the final round, none of the trio could gain any separation and Albrecht snuck into the top spot by one over Woods and three over Roig.
Week two finished up yesterday (Sunday the 16th) at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Sunshine State. Jaye Marie Green, a whelp who competed in the 2010 Open at Oakmont, was nothing like the lass who signed for 171 after two rounds in Pennsylvania. Green began round four with a 2-blow lead over Charley Hull and saw it instantly halved by Hull's opening birdie. Answering with a hole-two birdie of her own, Green looked forward and tossed a five-under 67 at Hull. When the ink had dried, Hull's excellent 69 left her four strikes behind behind the winner at -1. And the rest of the field? A few miles back at +7 was the tie for third.
Despite the departure of two of the younger, more heralded competitors from 2010 (Jessica Korda and Alexis Thompson), the first two OBT events have provided excitement, drama and birdies. Week three begins without its two-time defending champion (Thompson) and a field poised to make a name for itself, the Jones/Doherty Cup kicks into gear at Coral Ridge country club in Hollywod. One week later, the OBT completes another sucessful run at its only team championship, the Women's International Four-Ball. After two weeks of medal play, the final pair of competitions are conducted at match play. The WIFB also has a two-time defending champion in Meghan Stasi. After winning in 2009 with Dawn Woodard as her partner, Stas and Donna Mummert claimed the 2010 crowns with a 24th-hole victory.
Understand from the get-go that this is a private "course" ranking, not a private "club" list. The difference, you ask? Glad to clarify. "Club" includes all
24. Tan Tara
My holiday tribute to the golfers of western New York is an honest assessment of the state of public golf in our region. Judging byt the recent openings and consistent upgrades, it's never been healthier. Options run wild for affordable or high-end golfing experiences in WNY, which might explain why second-tier country clubs are scouring the tee sheets for members and first-tier clubs have reduced their initiiation edicts. I decided to make a list of the top 25 public courses in Buffalo-Niagara, going as far east as Darien Center (but not Batavia) and as far south as the Pennsylvania border. Many worthwhile courses like Audubon, Brighton, Beaver Island Hyde Park and Oak Run found themselves just beyond the list. To say that they are not worthy tests of golf would be facetious. As lists go, some make it, others do not. The list is yours to use as you wish. To keep the drama, I'll begin at #25 and work my way to the top.
Top 25 Public Courses in Buffalo-Niagara
25. Peak 'n Peek Lower Course
24. Holland Hills
23. Chestnut Hill
22. Dande Farms
21. Cazenovia Park
20. Concord Crest
19. South Shore
16. Elma Meadows
15. Buffalo Tournament Club
12. Tri-County Country Club
8. Glen Oak
7. Diamond Hawk
6. Holiday Valley
5. Links At Ivy Ridge
4. Peak 'n Peek Upper
2. Harvest Hill
1. Seneca Hickory Stick
Not a lot of introductory material for this story.
Let's get right to the ten products that will make this holiday season
a memorable and
One of my favorite Pablo Neruda poems, Oda a los calcetines, visits socks as metaphor for security. Kentwool socks would have made Neruda smile a fine, Chilean smile. I have 3.5 pairs of them...high white and black and low white and black (although one low white is currently AWOL.) I wear them as often as I can, on the course especially. I’ve purchased cheap socks and expensive ones and have yet to find as comfortable and snug a pair as these.
When Rocket Socks came out a few years back, I snapped one up in my team’s colors: green and white. I loved the retro look of the 1970s. Kewl Tubes brings the same retrospective, so I now have a bumblebee striper for my fairway metal. A headcover can’t improve your game, but it sure can hinder it! I once had an Incredible Hulk driver cover that kept falling off. What a PITA! Kewl Tubes look kewl and stay where they are supposed to.
Without doubt, Piretti is the find of the year. The scratched, filed face has been all the rage for a few years. Piretti found a way to make it both scratched and smooth. The weighting and balance of the putter are exquisite, and the look and feel are supreme. If you are a fan of Cameron, Ping or Odyssey and have the funding and need to try a new putter, I recommend this one.
Once a walker, always a walker. Unless I’m reviewing a course and need a cart for my cameras and gear, I hoof it around the course. Nothing like turning one athletic endeavor into two at no additional cost. The Sun Mountain caddie bag is filled with pockets dark and deep, a comfortable single strap and a sturdy stand and casing. If a double strap is your thing, our guess is that your retailer can swap out the single for a double.
I’m not one for thin stripes (or any stripes, for that matter) on a shirt. Can’t exactly say why that is; I’ve worn crazy Tabasco prints, amoeba-like blotches and plain colors in consecutive rounds. Beginning in 2011, however, I may just take that all back. Two shirts from Fairway & Greene made their way to my empty coat hangers, then to my powerful shoulders and torso. Result? Me likee! The Sedona and the F& G Tech have the clean, sleek feel of blended fabric, yet don’t affect the eyes like typical contrasting stripes have done in the past.
This is the one item that makes me feel incredibly daring. Perhaps it’s because 59 belts first number looks more like a “6” (you get the insinuation) than a “5” or maybe it’s the size and weight of the buckle. Nope, that’s not it…it’s my initials, the huge “R” and “M” that stand out like a beacon in the night. You know what they say about chocolate, right? They say that the way it makes you feel (happy and sated) is emotionally and psychologically healthy. Well, that’s the result of a 59 belt and buckle around your waist. Your pants are held up just the same, but you feel like one bad mother! For more on Trevor Derrheim, founder of 59 Belts, read this piece.
From the upper portion of North America comes the Kikkor line of golf shoes. 2010 marked the first year of kicks from Kikkor and the response was quite favorable. 2011 brings 26 unique styles, from straight white to sea foam blue to blacks, yellows, pinks and oranges. Walk straight from the subway onto the first tee, walk right off the 18th green into your personal rickshaw…Kikkor ‘s tag line of “street inspired” shoes will keep your feet secure and comfortable all the kickin’ day.
Want to know how to peese off a golf architecture geek? Tell him (there are few women that fit into this category) that the latest and greatest course in your ‘hood is a links. Technically (and the technical is always debatable) a links is golf played on links land, land that links the sea to the good earth of farm land. It’s sandy soil good for grazing animals and golf. Turns out that two former golfing magazine magnates, Malcolm Campbell and George Peper, decided to write a volume about the 246 (determined by algorithms) links courses of the world. Buy this volume for the images and for the opportunity to learn more about what defines a golfinglinks.
Every top ten list needs to have a
dream item and a personalized hickory club or set is mine. Sweetwood
golf uses a
Nike has been in the golf equipment biz for about a
decade and is quietly making some of the best drivers around.
And thus ends our holiday gift list for 2010.
My memory of Tiger Woods' entry into the public domain is fuzzy...I recollect the appearance on "That's Incredible" when the little guy and Earl showed up to show the world what was to come. Unlike many prodigies, this one paid out in every conceivable way. When Eldrick burst into the public eye in 1996, the youngest baby boomer was 32 years old, the oldest was in her/his early fifties.
I bring this up because a few recent stories caught my attention, specifically about golf's dire straits. The media, the associations and the tours are all looking for some place to point the index finger, but they can't agree on whom to blame. Blame. Got to have it, right?
I believe that many have read about the purported number one reason for golf's demise: slow play. Pundits blame it on the influence of professional golfers, those mavens who stalk shots from every conceivable angle before firing. We read about ungodly long round played by twosomes and threesomes on tour, yet we never hear about rounds that were played in the proper amount of time, do we? I bet that there are many of those. We also don't equate the pace on tour with the facts that livelihoods are at stake and distractions are plentiful. We, the adoring public, created these monsters, so let's not get jealous when these ladies and gents sink putts ultimately worth more than what we make in three years' time. Here's an interesting piece of information: I played in the New York State golf association mid-amateur qualifier this year at Transit Valley country club. We played in threesomes and foursomes, due to the uber-high number of entrees. These were the area's top golfers, those with handicaps at mid-single digits or lower. The course measured some 6700 yards from the tees we played, hardly the ultra-long courses also being blamed for golf's demise. Our scores were 75, 76, 78 and 81 (mine was the high one, the only one to not qualify on to the tournament proper) and we played in 5.5 hours. Slow play is everywhere.
I drive to work through the industrial curve along the I-190 every day. The curve is located southbound where the highway meets the Niagara River. Some things about it make no sense to me. Why does the right lane, the slower lane, always move faster than the left? Why can't people seamlessly merge at 35 m.p.h. and keep traffic flowing? My thinking is, we're human, flawed and fallible. We have many seams. The same happens in golf. One bad hole by a good golfer (or heavens forbid, by two golfers in the same foursome) and we have a delay of 1-4 minutes. Imagine it happens four times per round. That group holds the next up by 10-20 minutes. Imagine, like the I-190, that this phenomenon repeats itself in each foursome. Imagine that the course actually sells out its tee sheet! More golfers, more flaws, more hold-ups.
Here's one more notion I've read lately. Beginners turn away from golf because the courses on which they learn the game are too difficult for the learning set. I play River Oaks golf club on occasion, a 7200-yard Desmond Muirhead layout on Grand Island, New York. I enjoy playing the course from the tips, knowing that it shouldn't play any tougher. I've found that my playing partners on golf junkets and other outings don't share my enthusiasm for the Way-Backs, so I play up with them. I've always felt that every golfer should begin each season playing the most forward set of tees. No one does it, of course, but here's the reasoning. You make more loose swings early in the new season, so why not make them with short irons in your hands for approaches. You'll also get on or near the green more often, giving yourself more opps for chip-in or putt-in birdies and pars. After no more than five rounds from there, move back a set of tees. If playing from the (gasp!) Red or (double gasp!!) Ladies' tees puts you off that much, imagine dropping down their to play with a friend who is learning the game. Let the friend play from the tips or near-tips and that friend will lose interest faster than a yawn makes its way around the room. If we want adult beginners to learn and stick with the game, we need to make it accessible.
We have an 18 hole muni in Delaware Park, Buffao, New York. It's no beauty: it has two holes located across a biking/running/blading road and at least three holes where trees are placed directly between tee and green on par three holes. In addition to the inherent dangers for the fitness set, soccer fields, baseball diamonds and tennis courts are all within easy reach of a sliced drive. I have a few notions on how to improve the course, but the traditionalists probably won't want to buy a lot in my field. First, eliminate the two short holes across the road and turn that area into a chipping/pitching/putting grounds. Make it a St. Andrews Himalayas and people from the neighborhood will come just to putt (and maybe learn the game.) Offset the free nature of the himalayan ground with a snack stand. Next, eliminate the first two holes, parallel par fours of no great design value, and create a full-shot practice area. People who won't pay money to golf 18 holes will certainly pay a few bucks to hit a bucket of balls. Third, reshape the remaining 14 holes into 12 nifty ones. In these times of golf course slowdown, most architects are working overseas, anywhere but in the USA. There would be a battle royale at positive pricing to redesign this course. The land moves enough that interesting holes could be laid out over the terrain, certainly more interesting than the ones currently available.
Golf's baby boomers, those so enamored with the sport,
will eventually leave us. Will they be replaced by a retired
generation as enamored of the sport as they are? Will they be
replaced by a retired generation of any size at all? The game
will survive, but perhaps not at the level of popularity it held in
the decade from 1995-2005. Who says it has a right to?
Tennis dropped in mass media popularity, yet people play it all
across the USA and courts are full in my towns. Maybe golf needs
a fallow season, too.
Most folks who read golf course reviews expect a
certain level of honesty and sincerity in the wording. If the
course is a
BuffaloGolfer.Com welcomed Rico's Rants to the
masthead in 2010. Of late, Rico has been charged with playing
So off Rico went, first to Glen Oak, then Chestnut
Hill, and Batavia Country Club. True to form, he found exactly
I hope that you'll continue to read Rico's Rants and
let us know if you think he is going to easy or hard on his venues.
My talented colleague, Christopher Whitcomb, AKA The
Mouth That Roars, penned a column this month that delves into
i fratelli Molinari--You have to begin with the
most intriguing story on either side of the competition. In
2009, i fratelli
The English Quadrilateral--Colin
Montgomerie probably picked Paddy Harrington over Paul Casey so as to
not have to justify
Nordic Slalom--Is this even an Olympic event?
Well, if you go by heritage, pair Germany's Martin Kaymer with
Guinness Guys--McIlroy and McDowell...M & M. Just seems to fit.
Geezers--These would be Miguel-Angel Jimenez,
the Kenny Perry of the 2010 European side, and Paddy Harrington, the
So there they are. If you are a conservative
captain, pair your nervous rookies (Hanson, Fisher, McDowell) with
some of your
I recollect vaguely the effort it took to launch
BuffaloGolfer.Com. Back then it was known as buff-golf, but
nudity and muscles
Then as now, this website is built with HTML and a
WYSIWYG design program. No fancy active server pages, although
I recall Golfweek's first venture into digital
publishing...you could subscribe to their weekly digital magazine for
half what the
One of the notions I recall from those early, frontier
days of Buff-Golf was the sentiment that we were a community-based
If you've not heard of the New York State Golf
Association, the reason is a simple one: you prefer to play your
When you make a tee time at a course, visit its
website or see an advertisement, the most garish pump is usually the
Days series is a one-day, 18-hole shootout at 13 courses (2010
schedule). Each day a gross and net male
The tournament itself was most enjoyable. I was
paired with the course superintendent, David Hicks, who not only let
That evening, I drove north to Syracuse and checked
into the most elegant of Motel 6 franchises around, in anticipation of
One of my favorite golf stories involves the manner in
which Harvey Penick taught Ben Crenshaw to golf: from the
Don't get the idea that I'm setting you up for a
boring tack with fun putt-putt greens, however. Architect
Vincent was able to
Go here for images of Timber Banks.
Preview: Golf Junket 2010
I knew I wouldn't return to Williamsburg without a
golfing reason. Mom and Dad had taken us as children to visit
Our junkets will never be the same after
2009...Scrambler and I played Pete Dye Golf Club in West Viriginia.
For those of you
Sunday/Monday-Ballyhack Click Here For Review
Opened in 2009, Ballyhack is located near Roanoke,
Virginia. It is the first of two Lester George courses that we
Tuesday-Stonehouse & Kiskiack Click Here For Review
Stonehouse is the first of two Mike Strantz courses
that we will tackle. Since our jaunt to the Sandhills last year,
Wednesday-Royal New Kent Click Here For Review
The second of our Strantz courses, RNK promises to be
as demanding a course as we play, at least from the visual end.
Thursday-Golden Horseshoe Green and Gold
A unique pairing, the Green course is an early work
from Rees Jones, now known as the "Open Doctor" for his work on US
The junket closes with the second of the Lester George
courses, this one near Richmond. Kinloch is anticipated to play
Ballyhack Golf Club, near Roanoke, is one of a fairly
small group of national reserve clubs with national memberships.
It is also
Our arrival was greeted by the ebullient Duncan Haley,
a man of distinction and grace. He assured the arrival of our
What I found at
Ballyhack was one glorious hole after
another. Lester George, the architect, admitted that a
During the Sandhills Junket of 2009, the Scrambler and
I developed an affinity for Michael Strantz courses. If you
In the top two photos, we see the Michael Strantz we
encountered at Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm in the Sandhills (and
As the round progressed, we started to identify
elements of Strantz' design that, if left untended, seep into the
Stonehouse showed us so much of Strantz' creativity
that we ultimately had to admit that the best way to play his courses
Dumb luck prevails (unless you've played the courses
before) when pairing courses for a 36-hole day. We knew that the
Kiskiack warmed us up quite easily. Keep in mind that we
were downgrading from Strantz-shock after Stonehouse; what we
As we entered this portion of the course, it became
apparent that LaFoy was forced to use a hook of land to start his 18
A pastoral setting, with rising and falling fairways,
awaited. The holes were challenging, missed shots were punished
If you don't know the lore of Michael Strantz, we have
a primer from the Scrambler
Strantz' influence was
Royal New Kent has the ability, like Stonehouse and
unlike Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm, to play over 7000 yards.
Royal New Kent is an awesome track. It is
something of a sister course to Tobacco Road, as its first and ninth
"They" like to say that Royal New Kent is the nearest
thing to an Irish course on this side of the Atlantic. I don't
Stratz assembled a memorable collection of short (par
3) and long (par 5) holes at Royal New Kent. Number three is a
Regarding the three-shotters, number two is a Strantz
template hole, a wraparound-the-old-hazard par five, giving you a look
If we had disappointment at Royal New Kent, it was
experienced on some of the two-shotters. Perhaps that was our
I've been fortunate to participate in an online forum
the last few years and one of the least-favored golf course architects
Thanks to recent tours 'round Crag Burn (East Aurora,
NY) and Seven Oaks (Hamilton, NY), I have gained a sense that maybe,
What I re-discovered, from the first tee ball to the
last, was Trent Jones' love for the dogleg. I don't believe the
The second noteworthy achievement, something I've not
seen anywhere else, nor do I expect to find again, is the
Conditioning aside (it was nearly impeccable in 100
degree summer heat), the final achievement on RTJ's part was an
Day Five: Golden Horseshoe Green Course
The Green Course at Golden Horseshoe is a championship
course and a resort course, wrapped into one eighteen hole layout.
Rees Jones seems to have a formula for golf courses.
He wants them to be accessible, so he tends toward the straight hole
Having piped you in with a gentle tune, Rees Jones
turns up the dramatic notes and chords on the inward nine. Par
Rees inherited his father's delight in creating a
challenging and pleasing par three hole. Holes 7, 9 and 11 are
Where Rees succeeded in joining the concepts of resort
and championship golf together are the two-shot holes. His par
Day Six: Kinloch
The end of the journey is always a bitter time.
When you consider the satisfaction from building the trip, the joy of
Kinloch is a national private club near Richmond, set
in the uniquely-named town of Manakin-Sabot, Virginia. Its
Lester George's first-tier private reserves represent
the two extreme stylings of American golf. Kinloch is
Midway through the round at Kinloch, I indicated to
The Scrambler and Recoil that I would never get to play Augusta
So many holes at Kinloch stand out in my memory, for
such a variety of reasons. One of my favorite features on a
Driveable par fours, reachable par fives, delusive par
threes are the found in relative abundance at Kinloch. The two
One of the easiest purchases and
toughest sells on record is the golf training DVD set. Nebulous
description? Of course! Is it
I'm going to introduce you to two
DVD sets that I've had the pleasure to watch and utilize over the past
six months. One
The way I see it, you can't go wrong with either
purchase. We all have the monetary means of acquiring these
collections, but do
Memorial Day weekend this year
brought a confluence of many rivers to cross. As they all met at
one central point, I did some
1. Get to the course ahead of time--tight
I know, I know...work, kids, work,
spouse/other, work, parents, work...it gets old. Get to the
course ahead of time means
2. Get to the course ahead of time--loose
I know, I know...plenty of dudes get
to the course an hour ahead of schedule. Why? Simple, they
like to prepare and they
3. Stand in the place where you are...and should be--full shot
Subtle little thing, until you see a
high school golfer get hit in the throat (recovered) with a toe job.
Stand back from and to
4. Walk to the place where you are...and should be--putting green
Since we no longer wear nails (metal
spikes), turf damage is minimized. If we drag our feet, we still
kick up the short grass.
5. Look, really look, at your target
Without delaying the whole course of
matters, obviously. Don't turn statuesque and delay the whole
process. The more
6. Railroad tracks
Ninety percent of right handed
golfers aim too far to the right; the reverse with lefties. Why
do we do this? Who know or
Six tips are enough for this month. I've got loads more and will share them in the future.
In one of his 18 sonnets on golf, James Long Hale writes the following lines on the subject of The Rules:
“From there the match descends into
Later, when discussing The Handicap, Hale continues…
“Your ten best—not as simple as it
From time to time, Hale himself
strays from the precise meter and emphasis of the
sonnet (for the poetic
purist, of course),
It is rare that a book on
golf poetry finds a
publisher these days. So rare that a periodista might
nearly choke when this
In order, Hale dedicates individual
sonnets to The Game, The Equipment, The Fellow Competitor, The Swing,
Hale is brazen enough to touch on
topics that might be considered off-color at best, scandalous at
worst. Golf Sonnets is not
Learn more about Golf Sonnets here: http://www.golfsonnets.com/
The eyes of the golfing world are on Augusta, Georgia,
as they should be. Last week, they were fixed on Houston, Texas,
I'm in Spain, you see, for another week and a half.
I'm seven hours ahead of Buffalo, yet I'm still in touch with USA
Tseng burst off the first tee with a par-eagle-birdie
start to build a solid cushion. She went minus-four on her front
--Christie Kerr...nine pars on the front, two boges
and two birds on the back, finished nine back at T-5. Never in
As I recall, the next LPGA major is the LPGA at
Rochester, New York. Hoping that the USA ladies make it a bit
April 2010: Cover Six
Shooting an Albatross, by Steven R. Lundin, retells a story
from the years of World War II, a story of love, jealousy and
Zone is an instructional book from Bobby Clampett and Andy
Brumer. Anyone who followed golf during the
reminds me of what it's like to step out onto a wrestling mat, dressed
only in a singlet or uni. Not only are you
Through is a compendium of a year spent living and golfing
along Scotland's coasts. Curtis Gillespie is a writer by
Grounds For Golf represents itself as a
knowledge base for the history and fundamentals of golf course design.
Touring Prose offers a collection of writings
on golf spanning the years 1979 to 1992 from the Toronto-based golf
March 2010: The Shapes
of Things To Come
Another year went by without making any movement
toward php. I'd love to one day use dynamic page processing to
Some of the things I can confirm are book reviews,
product reviews and course reviews. I have a stack of eight
Quite possible the most important professional move
for me is a return to competition. As a high school coach, it
seems to me
As always, let us know at
buffalogolferATbuffalogolfer.com (or on Facebook, or on Twitter) what
you like, hate, or need to
It won't surprise you to learn that a great deal of
time, money and effort has been spent promoting, covering,
It may surprise you to learn that I have initiated
this perspective at least six times, only to come away with nothing.
I have read nearly every treatise on the events of
late Fall, 2009, when the veil of mystery surrounding Tiger Woods was
The first act was the discovery. A car
accident occurred. Tiger was injured in a way inconsistent with
the severity of the
The second act was the revelation.
Affairs with women other than his wife went from suggestion to
testimony. A cover-up
Act three brought the trial. Experts,
marginal participants and unrelated blowhards weighed in on which
version of events
Act four brought the uncertainty. Tiger
Woods refused to testify at this public trial. Granting no
Tiger Woods had one public goal in mind: To pass
Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional and 20 major championships.
And now, Act five. It has no emboldened title
beyond the next. Tiger Woods may return at some point.
He could play
Here’s the skinny: Lawrence,
Flaubert and DeFoe are all known for having effectively adopted a
woman’s narrative voice and perspective in their writings. Might
these three literary figures succeed in developing a woman’s
perspective, say, regarding
Step One: Have a workout
Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and
Suzanne Petterson have demonstrated in the past decade that a
Step Two: Make a tee time at a private club or high-end public course
Municipal golf courses are efficient
and cost-effective, but they do not pamper you. There is no bag
drop space, no cart
Step Three: A quick nine with appetizers, just before dinner
You’ve exercised and played 18 holes
so far, but a bit of golf remains before you sit down for dinner.
Our final locale is
Might this day involve shopping for
equipment and apparel? Certainly. A host of on-course and
off-course golf boutiques
I play golf well. I had 76 at Byrncliff on
Sunday and an 83 from the tips (over 7300 yards) at River Oaks last
Delaware Park, for the non-believer, is north
Buffalo's Central Park. It consists of two portions, divided by
It was a good run that became a great run. It
was a great run not because I suddenly found a resource of energy,
I do not know that feeling as a painter, a musician, nor as a runner. Yet on I run, decently. And on I golf, well.
I was taken by surprise by this installment.
Maybe it was the Swingers' convention on Grand Island (that I did not
2009 was a terrific golfing year for Mr. Mo' Golf.
In addition to dropping the handicap index to 3.7, I've had the
Here we go. The golfing trips can be broken down
into five ventures. The first took place in early April, a
Spring Break trip
The second trip was wrapped around two days at
Bethpage Black and the US Open. The lads and I zipped off to
Trip number three was a weekend jaunt to deliver child
#1 to his summer job in New England. After depositing him, I
Trip number four was the by-product of a dreaded
sojourn toward Orlando. For some reason, 2009 marked another
Trip number five was the big one, a six-day jaunt back
to North Carolina, this time to the Sandhills region. The lads
These fifteen courses represented the gamut of golfing
opportunities for me. I played a number of local layouts,
I apologize, but I'll have to get to equipment next month. I hope that you can be patient. I'll make it worth your while.
Team USA skunked the GBIs at their suggested own game
(foursomes), 6-2 over two days. With GBI needing 6.5 out of 8
Can Merion handle the whole US Open in four years?
Merion is a tiny course. I could look up the
complete acreage but I don't wish to. You may, with my blessing.
Could this catering be any tastier?
Morning begins with Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the
individual coffee k-chunk machine that we discovered in 2004.
Subtlety of manicure
it was on the fifth hole, the one that some call the
most natural hole on the course, where I first noticed the subtle
What constitutes a great golf course?
It depends on what you like. There are two basic
camps that don't interact: traditionalists versus modernists.
Re-examine your garbage
Merion's sixteenth hole plays over the far edge of a
played-out quarry. The seventeenth plays down into it (although
Confident and Low
This is not a game of highs and lows, bursts of speed
and strength followed by immense crashes. Whether you play
If the gents that lurk around
Golf Club Atlas could make
a list of golf courses in the USA that they'd like to haunt for the
Why would these courses be so popular? They
represent the golden age of golf course architecture, when men named
In the tiniest of nutshells, the W/C is an
The first four clubs listed above have all hosted the
Walker Cup since 1977. The last two will host it in 2013 and
The morning foursomes came out in the favor of the USA
side. Three of the colonial pairings emerged victorious over
Koehler 2006...amazing golf, the finest hotel I've
ever darkened. Michigan 2007...diverse courses, the finest
The whole idea came out of an unfortunate victory.
Bob Labbance, a Vermont-based golf writer of international reknown,
Thus was born the 2009 golf junket to Pinehurst.
We contacted The Pit,
a vacation community that has
a Dan Maples golf course of the same name. The Pit gained
Just up the road from The Pit is
Little River Farm,
another fine community with a golf course. Mr. Maples is
Tuesday will bring a return to a different era when we
visit Southern Pines.
A Donald Ross design, Southern Pines is revered
Wednesday and Thursday take us to the twilight zone.
Back-to-back Mike Strantz designs at
Tobacco Road and
Tot Hill Farm.
The reason for scheduling single rounds of golf has
its genesis in the Memorial Day Wisconsin adventure of '06. We
We'll head home after Tot Hill Farm and stop along
I-79 for a once-in-a-lifetime round of golf at... nice try! I'll
let you know
Day One-Half: The ride down from western
New York was uneventful as eleven-hour rides go. Scrambler and I
The Pit Vacation Villas are a one-row, stand-alone,
series of condominiums, single floor, with kitchen area, two bedrooms
Day One: Dan Maples is a product of a
family tree with roots deep in golf and North Carolina.
The Pit is a street fight, a brutal battle with
trickery, strategy and body blows. The front nine sits up on the
Little River Farm is the antithesis of The Pit.
A former horse plantation (where they grow horses), LRF is an elegant,
A fellow called Donald Ross emigrated to the Sandhills
region after growing up a bit in northern Scotland. Ross
Ross was fortunate to get this land dotted with ponds
and streams. He utilized these hazards gently but firmly,
Without going into precise sketches of each of the 18
holes at Southern Pines, allow me to suggest that you add it to your
If you know one thing about me as a golfer, I love
Mike Strantz courses. They exude life and breath and demand your
Tobacco Road was the "The Pit" of the 1990s, a golf
course that defied contemporary thoughts on golf course construction.
Tobacco Road's greatest defense is the artist's
greatest weapon: visual effect. What you see is not what
you get. Although
One guy is in the shower, one guys is collecting dirty
towels and I'm gathering the unclean dishes...check out time! We
The grand room consists of a living area with
television, coffee table, dining table, love seats and sofa.
Windows that look out
Vacation Villas at The Pit are all about the golf and the access.
Centrally located off route 5, near the intersection with
...We made it to Tot Hill Farm with time to spare.
Teeing off in the morning mist, we could not see the ski slope they
The other notable difference between the two courses
was the design consistency. TR is TR from hole 1 to hole 18.
My final recollections are the ridiculous and the
sublime. The 10th is a photographer's dream. As we were
playing the tips,
The Pete Dye Golf Club is one of a dozen or so
national golf clubs, modeled on the Augusta National Golf Club in
On a misty Friday morning, The Scrambler and I drove
past a coal car bearing the name of the club and into mystery. A
A prestigious charity event was to take place this
weekend and the grounds crew were out in greater force than I had seen
I'm purposely ignoring the opportunity to give you a
hole-by-hole summary of Pete Dye Golf Club. You weren't there,
I don't expect to play many (if any) other national
private clubs in this lifetime. The bag tag with my name
inscribed will serve
Patrick Fahey, a member of the Bishop-Timon/St. Jude
varsity golf team and a participant in The First Tee of
1. How long have you been involved in the First Tee
2. Describe the progression from
the first year to where you are now?
3. Do you continue to receive
instruction, or do you also help teach the kids who are new to the
and you need to catch people up. Since the school year ended for
me, the golf season has been a planned and
In mid-June, the Duff, the Scrambler and I journeyed east to play two
golf courses and view two days of our Open at
Since the arrival of Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse as
pre-eminent designers, designs from the
What I took away from the first trip east was a gently-improved sense of
Robert Trent Jones, Senior. I despise a fair
After that sojourn, I was home for two weeks of golf camp. It is
simultaneously disconcerting and refreshing to oversee
An unexpected trip to southern Vermont in early July afforded me the
opportunity to essentially reprise the earlier trip
Imagine my surprise when I shot nearly identical scores on both courses.
Crump'n Fox symbolizes a kindler, gentler
The past two weeks have been dedicated to family time in Florida.
I won't let you down by confessing that I left the
Garl has designed a dozen courses outside the USA, worked on another 3
dozen in the lower 48 outside of Florida,
LaGree's Sanctuary Ridge proved a marvelous surprise. He was a
principal builder at Black Diamond Ranch, another
What's next? A big trip to the Sandhills of North Carolina in
August, a little western New York golf with my visiting brother
Time for one of those easy-to-write installments from around the globe.
For those of you who don't know, I coach
On to golf equipment. Just did a hybrid review for an online golf
website. Check it out
here. I'd hit so many hybrids
On to fitness. I'm suddenly a big fan of changing routines.
I've worked out quite a bit at Bob Gosch's Discover Golf
On to today. I'm a big fan of the NYSGA (New York State Golf
Association) western New York eclub. I get my
On to players making news. John Daly wrapped a band around his
stomach, dropped some pounds, signed with
I suggested that the Duramed Futures Tour may have lost its excitement
with the graduation of Vicky Hurst and others to
On to the future. Coming up we may have a live report from the US
Open at Bethpage. We may have a live report from
I was a big fan of the Duramed Futures Tour last season, principally for
the play of Vicky Hurst. She was a recent
On that note, I'll move to the big tour of women's golf, the LPGA.
The Corona Championship in Mexico is winding
OK, Pettersen made it interesting with a final-hole birdie, but Ochoa
made par to give her countryfolk something to take
Na Yeon Choi, Wendy Ward, Christie Kerr and Yani Tseng: Honestly,
none of them excite me. Kerr couldn't get it done
Seon Hwa Lee, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel: Still nothing.
Lee has won as has Pressel, but the latter seems more
Vicky Hurst and Michelle Wie. Tied for 10th spot are the two
intriguing ones of 2009. We know that Hurst can win
Sales numbers are in from all the major golf equipment companies and a
surprising trend has taken hold across
In a related story, hybrid sales are down, forcing the major equipment
companies to fire-sale their on-site stock.
BuffaloGolfer.com wants to wish everyone a happy April Fools' day and
hopes that you take this article as the joke it was
I ran the Buffalo Shamrock Run today...5 miles around the Old First Ward
and other fine Buffalo areas. To get to
When I went off to college, I had high hopes of walking on to the Wake
Forest golf team. Didn't make it, but had
Fast forward about fifteen years. Our oldest (and only son)
competed in the Three Rs (running, rowing and wrestling)
Last Thanksgiving, he and I ran for the second time in the Turkey Trot,
down Delaware avenue. For neophytes, the
I charted the year and determined that I should run three other races
(and train for each one) as a means of easing
I arrived about an hour before race time and parked in an empty lot with
100 or so other cars (more on that mistake
After the race, I stopped by the beer tent for a celebratory quaff.
It's St. Patty's week, after all, and it's South Buffalo.
So what did the race prove to me? I missed my wingman (our son)
very much, as I had no one to speak with for five
It's a great time of the year to be Irish, even for a Sicilian from the north.
One of the most rewarding golf stories of the past five years was the
opening of Diamond Hawk in Cheektowaga.
What is not well known (if at all) is the transformation the course
underwent from its initial routing to the
Bill Kerman gave a little background on the reasons for the change from
the original layout to the one in play
"The local rumor is true – it was changes to
the wetland delineations over time that forced the changes. The
The layout under the auspices of the town of Cheektowaga had no name; a
naming contest was never held as the
The original design topped out at 6500 yards. Comparing the two
plans, the great short par four 2nd and mammoth
With gratitude to Peter King of SI.Com, I'm inventing an altered version
of a column he writes once a month.
1. I know that there is more going wrong at Hickory Stick than
right. I think that the Seneca Nation is in trouble
2. I know that Buffalo Tournament Club will have the most
successful year of its five-year existence. Even Tim Davis
3. I know that no one is making a better golf shoe these days than
Nike. I have a pair of the Air Zoom TW
4. I know that Phil Mickelson has one saving grace: he
doesn't brag publicly. Two absolutely sub-standard
5. I know that Luke Donald should give up his day job. He is
a good-looking young man, but he can't play under
6. I know that PGA Tour radio is my new favorite thing. We
don't get The Golf Channel at home, but I do have
7. I know that no amount of education will stop the media from
soliciting commentary on social issues from athletes
8. I know that the V-groove versus box-groove issue, the first in
which the USGA publicly differentiates between
9. I know that western New York may have come late to the upscale
public golf phenomenon, but it is better
10. I know that the Porter Cup, the East Aurora International
Junior Masters and the Monroe Invitational are the
Last year around this time, I was sweating the new look of this fine website. I marched from site to site around the web and finally decided on an appearance that I liked. One thing about BuffaloGolfer.Com you should know: it's about as traditional a site as still exists on the web. No back-end magic, no personal logon access, no making the site appear the way you want it too. No scripting, no dynamic content, none of that.
Want to know why? At age 43, I've given up (perhaps temporarily) the need to resurface the site. We provide information, that's all. No sales, no tee times, no resort bookings. We're a source, not a conduit. Perhaps the day will come when a new piece of software catches my eye; then I'll make the upgrades needed to update the site and bring it into the 21st century.
HOWEVER, don't take this admission to mean that we are standing pat and resting on whatever leftover Fall foliage might count as laurels. Two new 'thingies' for 2009 have the potential to rocket the site to new heights, and both depend on you, valued readers!
The first is a new look to the newsletter. We're streamlining it here and tightening it there. Tell your friends to send an email to buffalogolferATbuffalogolfer.com or better yet, forward your copy of the newsletter to her, him, or them. We can't accept AOL addresses, something I think has more to do with AOL than us and our G-Rated content.
The second update is a Facebook page. If you use Facebook, seach buffalogolfer.com and you'll find us. Become a fan, write on our wall, upload pictures and video, whatever. If you don't have a facebook page, you should. It's not just for students, no matter what the kids tell you. I found a whole bunch of long-lost chums from my high school class of 1983 and my college class of 1987, or rather, they found me! Once you get the hang of it, Facebook becomes an amazing and easily-accesible portal to people around the world and around your life.
Welcome to 2009, to our new-look newsletter, and to BuffaloGolfer.com on
Facebook. Best wishes and
Fizz Golf, Basic Golf Shirt, Dixon Balls, and Adidas Shoes are the topics for this month.
Fizz Golf produces a little canister with pressurized foam inside. You spray the foam onto your club and use the cap (a very bristly brush) to remove the dirt. It's a pretty cool concept and attaches efficiently and without disruption to the side of your bag. If your course doesn't have ample water holes, those little scrub tubs on the sides of carts, or you despise the wet towels that all caddies carry, this is the ticket for you.
Dixon golf balls come the earth and go back to the earth, as long as you send them back to the company. They are made with a unique core that is reusable. Whether that is true, who cares. I hit the thing as far or farther than I hit Titleist, Taylor Made or Callaway. For your information, I hit those three a ton! When you pull a Dixon out of your bag, all talk on other topics will cease, I guarantee it. When you hit the ball, your partners will want to know how, where, and how much.
Basic Golf Shirt is one of many companies that use moisture-wicking cloth to give a sleek and dry feel to their shirts. They have a small but intriguing sequence of colors and their pricing (around $40 on average) is not much higher nor lower than anyone else. The shirt wears well, doesn't pinch, doesn't bind. If you like their feel, stock up.
The success story of the year has been the Adidas Tour 360 II shoes that I picked up this August. They have the three bands and the separated toe and heel pads. These shoes feel snug in all the right places and at all the right times. They establish a base of support during the quiet moments and remain secure throughout the back and down swings. I usually wait for some company to ship me a free pair or five but these are the real deal and worth every penny I paid.
That's it for October. Stay tuned in November to learn about cold weather gear and other good stufff.
There's not been a year like this one. The kids get older and the responsibilities mount. I wish that I had more time to write introspective prose. If you read my stuff from a few year's back, you'll understand what I'm pining for. There used to be time to consider, investigate, delve, rehash, ponder, and finally produce with some semblance of originality and creativity. I'd like to say it ain't so, but it is...I'm slammed for time and out of luck. Here's my first installment of Places I've Been, Books I've Read, Clubs I've Swung. The nouns and verbs will change, but the pithy nature of the column won't. At least it won't until I get some time.
I've been to the Poconos, to Buck Hill Falls, Split Rock, Hideaway Hills and Shawnee golf clubs. I've been to the Berkshires, to Taconic, Waubeeka, and Haystack golf clubs. All seven were fantastic to play and photograph. I've been to northeast Ohio, to Fowler's Mill, Quail Hollow, Avalon Lakes and Little Mountain golf clubs. The funny thing is, I didn't hit a single shot. I took a trip to take pictures. I couldn't even shoot every hole of every course, I was that pressed for time. I'd like to get back and play them all, they were that good.
I've read Stan Utley's short game and putting books. The short game method made immediate sense and took immediate root. The putting method also makes sense, but is taking a bit longer to ingrain itself in my ball-rolling technique. I've read The Scorecard Never Lies by Chris Lewis, about a year (2006) on the PGA Tour. Lewis used to have a great PGA Tour blog, but stopped in 2008 to pursue other things. I've also been reading the Golf Architect forum on golfclubatlas.com. It's a great place to learn what architects like Tom Doak think of golf course architecture.
I've swung two wedges, the Feel Golf 73 degree, super lob wedge and the Miura 58 degree. If I played a course every day that called for high, soft recovery shots, the Feel club would be in my bag. The Miura, in contrast, works as a perfect bridge between sand and lob. It works in unison with my 53 degree Cleveland and my 48 degree Mizuno, giving me three wedges instead of four and room to put a three iron back in. Instead of the 3 that came with my forged set, I went to a cavity back from Mizuno.
That's where I've been, what I've read and what I've swung.
There's lightning in the sky over Grand Island and rain is falling at a clip strong enough to let you know who's boss. I've just been informed via the Golf Course Atlas bulletin board that our colleague and teacher, Mr. Bob Labbance, has died. Bob was diagnosed last year with Lou Gherig's disease, for which we all know there is no cure. He had battled back from spinal injuries suffered a few years back when he was informed of this latest and last health bombardment.
I first heard of Bob when BuffaloGolfer.Com was two or three years old. We were interested in reviewing books and writing for print publications and Bob came up in both areas. His "The Old Man" on Walter Travis had just been published and Bob was editing New York Golf and other publications for Divot Communications. I read the Travis book and convinced him to retain me for an article on Rochester-Buffalo golf.
I never met Bob face to face, but did communicate with him via the internet for the past seven years. He was a mountain man, a Grizzly Adams type from central Vermont, complete with beard and big smile. I've never seen a picture of him without that smile, come to think of it. Bob authored over twenty books and countless articles for a great variety of publications. He was simply a good guy, a father and husband, and a friend.
When I graduated from college, I was told by our speaker that being a good man was the highest form of praise of which he knew. Last night, a good man passed from our grasp, into the folds of Heaven's clouds.
Visit www.notowngolf.com to learn more about Bob.
To send a contribution to a college fund for Bob's children, use this address:
Labbance Family Fund
The Tamarack Club at Holiday Valley is being built on a grand scale. As you approach the golf course parking lot from route 219, what used to be the focal point (the lodge) is minimized by a giant hole in the ground, fortified by beams and girders. An artist's rendering of a glacial palace immediately captures your eye. Such is to be the Tamarack Club. A five-story condominium project with sales are proceeding at record pace, the Tamarack Club will provide on-site access for winter and summer sport enthusiasts alike. Seeking the lift? Over there. The first tee? On your right. The club will provide three outdoor pools and two hot tubs for recreational pleasure, along with an indoor fitness center, restaurant and lounge for before- and after-activity enjoyment.
The Double Black Diamond golf course began its renovation three years ago, under the guidance of Paul Albanese. In the words of the crack team at Holiday Valley,
"The course renovation began in fall 2005 with new tees and bunkers on holes #12-17. A major relocation of tees #12 and #15 and a double tiered fairway on #15 resulted in dramatic changes. A new tee complex located west of the creek and a strategically placed sod wall bunker on #9 makes play very interesting. Phase two began in spring 2006 and was completed in spring 2007. This phase included holes 1,9,10, 11, 17 and 18.
Holes 17 and 18 were completed in spring of 2007 and construction on holes 2 though 8 began in spring '07. Much of the work on the front nine was adding new tees and renovating bunkers, two to three holes at a time. The final hole to be renovated is #9, which has been shortened to a par 3. Number 9 is open throughout construction but will be complete by mid-summer '08. Watch out for the sod wall bunkers just behind the green"
The renovation process culminates this weekend with the $100,000 Hole In One Shootout on the new 9th hole. Here's another word bite from the resort:
"Holiday Valley will host a $100,000 “Hole in One Shoot Out” to mark
the opening of the new number nine golf hole on Saturday, July 26, 2008.
I had the opportunity to play the interim ninth hole, a wistful, 80-yard pitch to the old ninth green. I'll be honest...I'm going to miss that driveable par four. It took the Scrambler five years to convince me that driver on every hole is a GOOD thing, especially the short and tight ones. Alas, poor ninth, I knew you. All right, enough whimpering. The new hole is going to be a great one. Two-tiered green with a gentle slope, two massive, stacked-sod bunkers in keeping with the new, front-nine theme, and a flatter sand pit off to the side. What you'll remember most about Holiday Valley are the new tees: #7, # 10 and # 13 seem carved in the side of the mountain by prehistoric peoples. Your tee shot will take flight, soar, and hang forever before alighting on the gentle fairway (in my dreams!) Both holes afford incredible downhill tee balls you won't soon forget.
The one sketchy hole on the back nine has been improved. Number 11, the infamous 370-yard par five, is now a more manageable 365 yards, albeit still quite narrow. I hit punch driver two straight days and had 95 yards in. It's the harrowing "pitch over the ditch" that gets your heart a-pumping. Albanese shaved the hillside to the right so that balls flared out have a decent chance of bounding down to the left, into the fairway. Remember that, on your approach, long is a friend.
It seems appropriate to get down to Holiday Valley soon. Whether you opt to stay overnight for the multi-round experience, spend some time improving your game at the Phil Ritson-Mel Sole Golf School, or stop in for a weekday round, you'll love the fast and true greens and appreciate the qualities of good design work. From Tamarack to the Double Black Diamond, Holiday Valley will represent western New York well.
The 50th anniversary Porter Cup media guide is a collector's item. A letter of congratulations from Phil Mickelson, 1990 champion, opens the volume. Reproductions of the Niagara Gazette's tournament coverage from all previous 49 events continue the content. Subsequent articles on Jay Sigel, Dick Harvey, and Bill McGrath tell the stories of the men who played, organized, and covered the first 49 years of the Porter Cup. Lists of contestants who won golf's majors and played on Walker Cup teams are featured, along with a most unique document: Tiger Wood's 1994 Porter Cup entry form.
The 50th Porter Cup will commence on Wednesday, July 23rd with a singular ceremony. The three oldest living winners have been invited back to serve as honorary starters. John Konsek, Ward Wettlaufer and Bill Harvey will be piped up the first fairway from the driving range by an accomplished bagpipe player. The trio will play ceremonial tee shots and perhaps play out a few holes. That Konsek and Wettlaufer are two of the most accomplished amateur golfers with western New York roots makes the ceremony even more special. The tournament will commence and the title will be disputed over the next four days, with a most deserving champion to be crowned on Saturday the 26th.
2008 records the launch of a separate Senior event. The Harvey Cup, an event held in conjunction with the Porter Cup, will move to early September and will be renamed the Senior Porter Cup. Fred Silver, Niagara Falls member, club champion and tournament organizer and supporter, will issue invitations to the top 100 senior golfers in the country. It is expected that the Senior event will fit in nicely with the unofficial senior amateur tour that takes place during late summer and early autumn. Forging its own path over separate dates allows both events to invite more players, strengthening both fields.
Rather than spend valuable cyberspace in this article on a list of the various players, results, and occasions that have taken place since 1959, I'll direct you to www.portercup.com. The tournament website is one of the better-run, amateur tournament websites in existence. On it you will find dates and times, participant biographies, and other information of general use by the public. Be certain to reserve some time later this month to spectate at the Niagara Falls Country Club grounds. You'll pony up a few dollars for parking, collected by the local scouts, but admission is free. Foods and beverages are quite affordable, as are the tournament souvenirs. Gallery ropes are infrequent, allowing intimate access to the players. Enjoy the event and bask in the history that comes on the heels of 49 incredible events. Something tells me that number 50 will have fireworks of its own.
I subject myself once a year to the verbal equivalent of a flogging by asking people in golf for their honest opinion on me, on the site, on matters in general. Over the course of the last week, I've been fortunate to bump into two gentlemen who could care less what you do with their facts and opinions. As we all know, this makes their knowledge that much more valuable.
Both men own area golf courses. One lives north of Toronto and has a course along the Canadian Niagara peninsula. The second can be found stateside and is a partner in a successful golf course venture. Their demeanors could not be more distinct, yet their message is the same. The Canadian is a former soccer player, relaxed, tranquil, seemingly at peace with his world. He is frank and open with conversation, comfortable with small talk, honest bout his self and his golf course. The American is friendly and guarded, eyes from a bird of prey, always sizing up, always processing information. Some do not suffer fools gladly; this one does not suffer them in the least. And that message? It might be too simple for those seeking profound insight: we are what we are, no more, no less.
The Canadian golf course is an enjoyable oasis in a world of high-end golf. Folksy, home-spun, rustic, tattered, earthy. Formerly a run-of-the-mill nine hole track, the layout was upgraded to its current 18 holes by its owner, a man who knows the golf course industry. Having worked the high end of golf in Saint Lucia and Jamaica, he recognizes the need for a people's course. Green fees should not be so pitiful that good help cannot be retained and that golfers feel that they are paying for junk; should not be so exorbitant that every blade of grass, every grain of sand, is scrutinized and measured. That course should be challenging, more narrow than lengthy, yet not overdone. It should present the same types of hazards (water, bunkers, multi-tiered greens, forced carries) that the pros play (that we see on television), just not as severely. At the turn and at the end of the day, there should await a welcoming place for refreshment and good cheer. With all that in place, this club could not be a more gracious oasis.
The situation stateside is completely different. Whereas the Canadian counterpart is the exception to the high-end courses that dot the vicinity, the American course is the proven, high-end option. The honest voice reminds me of articles previously written, some a bit too filled with praise, others not so much. He reminds me of all the big and little features of the course, the ones that go noticed and the others, unnoticed, by the clientele. What might be important for the player is of least concern for ownership and staff, and often, vice-versa. Being no more than five years old, the course looks and plays as thought it has seen fifty. As I let him know, I can only take so much enlightenment in one dose, so my visits must be restricted to an annual appearance. This released his one, true laugh and a smile, something I considered a triumph on my part, a measure of acceptance, from the master to the apprentice.
I suspect that, without too much effort, you will discern the identities of the two courses. What would logically follow are the names of the owners. However, I'm not going to give it to you that easily; dig it out of the dirt, as Ben Hogan would have you do.
If you've read the book reviews on BuffaloGolfer.Com, you'll know how much of a fan we have been of Cassie Burdette. She is the protagonist of a series of murder mysteries from Connecticut-based writer Roberta Isleib. Dr. Isleib created a struggling yet earnest pro with dreams of LPGA stardom. Unfortunately for us, Cassie's literary career ended after four or five volumes. Around the time that Cassie stroked her last putt, I stumbled onto the Jack Austin series from John R. Corrigan. As they say, when one door closes, another one opens.
John Corrigan is an English teacher by trade and a writer by choice...or maybe it works the other way, too. Corrigan created a character in Jack Austin that stands as a near-archetype, a chiseled, morally and ethically rigid professional golfer from the woodlands of Maine. If he weren't a 21st century golfer, he would be someone Melville or Hawthorne had considered before opting for Queequeg or Brown. Jack Austin stands as a barometer for what is correct, always. Around this unwavering flagpole, Corrigan scripts his style of mystery.
Austin is a journeyman tour golfer. He is successful, strong, dedicated, and fortunate. The series follows him from tournament to tournament, from crime to crime, always with an unchanging cast of characters: Perkins, the lifelong friend who stands with giants; Silver, the gay and black caddie who never fails to club Austin correctly in golf and in life; Tremblay, the beautiful and brilliant golfer/reporter who may or may not represent a love interest for Jack; Tarbuck, the former priest who opted for a career in pro golf as a means of meeting the masses; and Nash, the college football star with an inextinguishable link to Austin. In the great literary tradition of the fairy tale, Austin is surrounded by those who help him and those he needs to help. He is the center of the story, but never miscast as the only story.
Corrigan carries out his investigation well. He moves from setting to setting with ease and legitimacy. The dialogue written is terse and believable. The characters know who they are, what they are capable of and what their destination might be. If you read novels for entertainment (and you like golf), you'll while away counted hours of enjoyment with this series. If you like to read for rhetoric, for analytical purposes, or for critical interpretation, you'll delve deeper through the layers that Corrigan pastes.
I don't know that I read the novels in their chronological sequence. I don't know that it matters. What I do know is that summer is a wonderful time to read novels and play golf. Perhaps if you're sitting in a fine wooden chair near a peaceful place, you'll be at ease with one of these novels in your hands and thoughts.
If you zealously read the local golf scores in the Buffalo News, you might have seen the following blurb last Monday:
ELMA MEADOWS: Get Acquainted Tournament — Overall: Lynch-Montesano-Gawinski-Sylvester 64. Woods Flight: Kelm-Jeffords-Waz-Brennan 64. Nicklaus Flight: Garcia-Libsey-Piechota-Jentsch 65. Snead Flight: D’Addario-Jantzi-Szczepanski-Kane 65.
Shockingly, both The Scrambler and Mo' Golf combined for a victory. We had help, no doubt, from the putter of the year, Ken Gawinski, and Mr. Personality, Craig Sylvester. The format was a scramble and we did emerge victorious on a match of cards, but a win is a win is a win.
The Scramble was no intellectual cakewalk. Each golfer could play a maximum of four drives and The Scrambler used his up by, oh about hole number eleven. Gawinski is recovering from shoulder surgery and bunts the ball around the course, while Sylvester went through a spate of "The Wilds." When they needed Mo' to come through, he didn't, but in the end, we got the job done off the tee.
Into the green, we were pretty good. The best iron I hit was a six into number one at Elma Meadows. It drew four feet off the right edge, stopping five feet from the hole. After Gawinski drained about his fifth birdie putt of the day (we always let him putt first), we were off and running on our front seven (we started on # 17.)
We had a little trouble on the back nine. After stuffing a wedge to eight feet on ten, four attempts at birdie never touched the cup. Eleven and twelve are two demanding par fours and we got out of that serpent's den with no bogeys. We had only pars and birdies on the day, which impressed all of us. Our only run at eagle came on the short par five fourth hole, where Mo' (yup, that's me) hit a wedge in to three inches for a tappie-tappie-tapper.
I want to thank Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News for bowing out at the last minute, opening the door to my participation, and my teammates for their support and vigilance. I look forward to much future competition of this ilk.
Weird things happen to weird people...Had a trip planned to the Adirondacks for some northern Spring golf this weekend. Hotel had been reserved for another reason and didn't want to eat the loss (darned Hotwire!) Got in touch with Top Of The World Resort (up north!) and Malone Golf Club (way up north!!) and arranged for three rounds of golf with reviews and photos of all 54 holes.
Sadly, it was not to be, not yet at least. Circumstances conspired against me to remain away from the Lake George/Adirondack area. It wasn't Mothers' Day, I'll have you know, but other events. Feeling sour, I emailed both properties to inform them of my impending non-arrival. They assured me that I was welcome at any point in the future. In fact, given the weather of the season, it might not have given the best light for photography. As I sit here amid the raindrops in western New York this Sunday, 5-11-2008, I browse the websites of both properties and envision what this excursion might someday be.
Top of the World looks like friendly fun. The address, Lockhart Mountain Road, says it all about the views one might anticipate. There's a farm on the property, a restaurant in the farmhouse, and somewhere between 9 and 11 rooms in the bed and breakfast. Guests receive reduced rates on the golf course, which tops out at 6000 yards. All the comforts of someone else's home and a fun, frolicking golf course. I cannot wait to see the place.
Unlike Top of the World, Malone Golf Club seems to espouse a brutish toughness. It's farther to the north, nearly to Quebec (land of dog teams and surly French speakers, right?), and boasts of matches between Babe Ruth and his friends. Although there is no lodging on site, Malone Golf Club offers stay and play packages in conjunction with a local Econolodge and Comfort Inn. Malone Golf Club possesses two courses designed by Robert Trent Jones the Old. Both top out around 6600 yards. Let Jones alone in the mountains, however, and he'll make 6600 feel like 7200 into the wind! I've played his Bristol Harbour course in Canandaigua, NY, along with his effort at Boyne Highlands in Michigan, and could not believe how the downhill holes felt uphill. He has another one at Treetops (also in Michigan) that I might have to return to play. After searching for years to find something defensible about the man, perhaps his legacy is his work in the mountains. I'll know for certain when I get to Malone.
There you have it, my attempt at salvaging a lost weekend of golf course reviews and photography. With any luck, some of the shots that I take at Malone and Top of the World will make it on to their websites. Until then, I'll search for the perfect weekend to motor on up to northeastern New York.
For ten years the family made at least a monthly trek down the 219-119 Corridor into the hamlet of Blairsville, Pennsylvania. My in-laws ran a store with their family there. Born and bred in west-central PA, their blood ran thick and their roots, deep. Fortunately for me, the oasis that is Chestnut Ridge happened to occupy the corner where 119 ran into route 22 to Pittsburgh. CR had just completed work on its second course, a contemporary design by Bill Love and Doug Ault that complemented their original course. Tom's Run (the new one) and Chestnut Ridge (the old one) made a formidable 36 for anyone looking to sharpen his or her game.
A weekend or two past, the store held its annual opening sale of equipment and my in-laws, unable to immediately attend, asked that I might go in their place. Imagining that the courses had matured and that Sunday morning would be clear for golf (store opened at 11!), I agreed. I made contact with the resort and secured an early tee time on Sunday. By my side would be an 11-year old nephew, somewhat keen on the game but not yet addicted. He'd hit the occasional shot, putt and chip everywhere, and shoot lots of photos to earn his trip around Tom's Run.
I'd heard rumors that quite a bit of development had taken place in Blairsville, but nothing prepared me for the site of that intersection of routes 119 and 22. On the right (completely obscuring the view of the town high school) sits WyoTech, a seven-campus, 2-year school for mechanics. The Blairsville campus represents the school's first foray into the northeast. On the left, an enormous plaza with Wal-Mart and other stores. Most impressive is the new Hampton Inn situated between the clubhouse and 18th hole of Tom's Run golf course. In spite of the development, the downtown/main street of Blairsville hadn't changed much. Brizzi's Candy appeared vacant, but the rest of the stores seemed content to remain isolated by the chestnut ridge from the new Blairsville.
Tom's Run was the gem that I had remembered. Thanks to a scheduling mistake on my part, we ended up playing holes 5-18 and shooting the first quartet after. The second hole at Tom's Run is one of those holes that you should remember, with a 70-feet drop from tee to green. Guess what? It's the least memorable of the first four! Other than the drop, the green is rather ordinary and the bunkering, forgettable. The power lines in your line of site don't help much, either. Now, before you dismiss the course, let me tell you about the fantastic 17 holes that wrap around this one.
Tom' Run begins and finishes with two holes that typify western Pennsylvania. The first is a robust par four that dips down into a valley via a serpentine fairway, then rises to a well-bunkered green set on a shelf. It's the type of hole where 4 makes you puff out your chest, 5 is just fine, and 6 leaves you scratching your head as to why you were so arrogant. Remember, you don't have to follow a bad shot with a great shot; a good one will get you back in play. 18 is a level par five that ebbs and flows like a gentle tide, meandering between bunkers and mounding until you reach the most deceptive green on the course. From the tips I belted driver and three wood and stuck a pitch to 12 feet. Sensing birdie, I proceeded to three putt the green THREE TIMES! FROM THE SAME SPOT!! I'm warning you that if the pin is in the middle, watch out. If it's long, play short, because over is no good. If it's up front, eat it up!
Holes three and four at Tom's Run are without doubt two of the prettiest golf holes in creation. Set down in the hollow, they demand nothing less than strategy and nothing more than average distance. Don't get muscular down here; all you'll end up fighting are lateral hazards and penalty strokes. Three plays 359 yards from the tips, while four wanders off a bit farther, to 492 paces. In all honesty, leave your driver in the bag, heck, leave all your metals in the bag from the first green to the fifth tee. You'll understand when you see 3 and 4; if you don't understand before, you'll know why as you drive up the path to the fifth tee. Both putting surfaces are inspired yet fair, and both fairways are wide enough in the spots you should target. Sometimes a designer dictates where to hit the ball and sometimes you should listen!
The fifth tee awaits after a drive across a bridge and up a rainforest. What you find is a driveable par four that lets you reclaim your macho. Bomb away with the driver on the next three holes. Love, Ault and Clark bring you back to the highlands in style, with three enjoyable par-four holes. Eight is a lovely par three along or across (depending on the angle) a pond. Nine is a monstrous, cross-country ramble of a par five, stretching to 620 yards from the big-boy tees. Finishing far away from the clubhouse, the ninth green reminds us that out-and-back is a fine way to design a golf course.
After a pair of healthy holes ( a 402-yard par four and a 232-year par three) to start the inward half, you are treated once again to a short par four, the rediscovery of the century. Short par fours reward the intelligent golfer with runs at birdie and par, yet wound the over-zealous with armfuls of bogies and worse. This one is fairly straightforward, so have a go at the green! When you get to the next tee, you'll find nearly 1500 yards of acreage on the next three holes, with an aggregate par of 13. Hole thirteen runs to 560 yards, heading east. Hole fourteen returns westward at 440 yards. As if to remind you of golf's difficulties, hole fifteen drops, then ascends, some 460 yards back to the east. Framing and penalizing bunkering spot each of the three holes.
The final triumvirate is kinder and gentler. You'll need no more than a mid or short iron to reach the par three sixteenth, then it's on to a short par four (371 from the tips) with a Sahara desert up the left side. Don't be tempted to cut the corner (it can be done, but a hernia usually results); instead, play safely to the right side and you'll have a 9-iron or wedge pitch up to the green.
It's evident from the pictures and words that I've told you nothing about the other course, Chestnut Ridge. Chestnut Ridge winds its way around the inside of Tom's Run and offers nearly as many interesting holes as the younger brother. Chestnut Ridge has a more mature feel to it, almost like a New England course might. Blending the open sense of Tom's Run with the treelined nature of Chestnut Ridge makes for a wonderful, complementary weekend of golf.
While many in WNY are watching round three of The Masters today, I was out in North Amherst. After dropping daughter #1 off at a canal for some rowing practice, I drove to Glen Oak for my first outdoor shots of the season. I love GO for its putting and chipping green; the creekside location and the elongated hour glass putting surface make it aesthetically and rationally helpful.
After noticing that green # 18 was 70% under water (making the hole location a tough target, indeed), I headed inside to speak with Mike Zuppa, head pro at the course. I had last seen Mike at the Buffalo-Niagara golf show in March and welcomed the opportunity to visit with him. He assured me that # 18 would be playable by Monday.
As I drove away from the course, I got to thinking about golf people in WNY. I had the good fortune to meet Jim Thorpe in 1981 as a junior golfer (me, not him) and to work with Lonnie Nielsen in a coaching capacity. Both are on the Champions Tour now and I follow them regularly. They among many represent the people that golf has brought into my life. In honor of the first major championship of the year, I'm going to do a very quick Tale Of The Tape on about fifteen golf people that I really like in WNY.
My right-hand men, the Scrambler, the Duff, and the Mouth. We'd have no site without them.
Lockport-based architect of Arrowhead, Deerwood Doe and Ironwood. This fellow knows more people and more about golf course architecture than anyone else within 200 miles. If you don't know him, you should.
Head pro at Niagara Frontier, Owner of Discover Golf Buffalo and Director of the local Last Minute Golfer site. All three signed on as writers this year and did not disappoint.
Owner of Arrowhead. Controversial and curmudgeonly, he jump-started the renaissance of golf course design in WNY with Whitter's Arrowhead.
Co-Owner of The Links at Ivy Ridge. Deciding between a trailer park and a golf course, they flipped a coin and golf course won. Thank God! One of the straightest shooters in the local game.
Met him when he was coach of St. Francis golf team. Runs Harvest Hill and has a vision and dedication for golf for the young beyond words.
Protector and promoter of junior golf for girls in WNY. We disagree on time of year (she says Fall, I say Spring) for the girls high school league, but no one gets more respect than Betsy.
Patty, Marlene and Cindy have all played competitive golf at a high level. As teachers of the game in WNY, they serve as excellent role models for juniors and adults throughout the region.
Director of Golf at Diamond Hawk, Jim has taken control of the most anticipated course in WNY and shepherded it through the difficult first year. As previously indicated, Mike runs the shop and course at Glen Oak and bends over foreward, backward and sideways to make your time there memorable.
There are many more that I will name at a later date, in a future column, or when you run into me on the first tee. In the meantime, reflect on your favorite people in golf and let them know how you feel.
Chad Kulpa passed away on Sunday, March 16th, 2008. It was a beautiful day in western New York, in terms of the weather and the camaraderie that inseparably bind us. I had the casual opportunity to meet Chad last June for a brief five minutes on the 7th tee at Westwood Country Club. The Travelin' Duff and I were participating in the 3rd Chip In For Carly's Club fundraiser for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, while Chad was the guest of honor. He was an all-too-real reminder (a survivor of childhood cancer) of why we had all gathered.
Chad was a golfer, through and through. He dressed the part, spoke the part, and smiled the part. He hit a shot with every participant that day, showing sincere gratitude for the time we spent playing a silly game, for the time we spent raising money to fund research for the battle to seek a cure for cancer, to seek better treatment for cancer.
Chad kicked my behind in the fundraising department. He fundraised from personal experience, putting the most human of faces on the struggle to endure the treatments, the setbacks, the advances. I'm glad that he did. It somehow wouldn't have been right for a healthy, spoiled golf guy to exact more gratitude and solidarity from his brethren.
I remember, too, that Chad struck a beautiful shot from the tee, on a hole that he asked to play with every participant. I'm pretty certain that he had a run at par, while I was fortunate to make bogey. I do know that we left him with a BuffaloGolfer.Com golf hat, courtesy of the ever-thoughtful Travelin' Duff.
For whatever reason, it did not occur to me that Chad was still in danger, that his cancer was not in remission. Perhaps that's why Chuck Collard's email shocked my senses. Even in the sorrow of death, we were reminded what Chad gave to those of us who knew him briefly. Chuck spent time with Chad's family on Sunday and let us know the following:
"Each family member told me how important Carly's Club was for Chad, and several specifically mentioned the "chip in" event. I wanted to pass along their thoughts and appreciation for your commitment, and I want to stress how important your efforts are in the process to support pediatric families confronted with cancer. Every program that we put in place is a result of efforts like the "chip in" event."
Another of our co-participants, Eric McClaren, commiserated thusly:
"It was my worst played hole of the day. With Chad, his Dad, and tv cameras on me...but it was my favorite hole by far. It was an honor to play with Chad and I will remember that every time I play that hole, over and over again. Thanks for letting me play with him."
Memorial contributions may be made to the
Sponsorship of this year's Chip In For Carly's Club made be made through this link.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Rochester edition of Upstate New York Golf Shows 2008 made a venue switch. Instead of the urban locale of the Riverside Convention Center: Downtown Rochester, the golfing elite made the trek to Henrietta and the Dome Arena for three days of courses, clubs, and other vestiges of golf. Travelin' Duff and I arrived on Sunday (long story, no time) and sensed immediately that the site offered a certain intimacy that a traditional convention center might not. Our hunch proved correct as booth owner after booth owner confirmed that a vibe coursed through the show for three days, making the large crowds seem even larger, and the inquiries seem even more personal and individual than expected. Now that's a show.
The Dome Arena was divided into two sections. The main bowl housed the indoor testing range, a recreational vehicle display, and the smokeless tobacco tent. Duff and I checked out the R/Vs, but could not figure out where the storage areas were. Sure, your friends and you travel in the lap of luxury, but where does the stuff go? The smokeless tobacco greeters were of the stuff that makes teenage boy fantasies, but neither of us ever dipped nor has teenage fantasies anymore, so on we paced. The indoor testing center, populated by Callaway, Nike, Wilson, Srixon Mizuno and Ping, offered an opportunity to slam balls with the finest equipment available today. Ever read a bad club review? Do you know why not? Simple: the amount of money that goes into the research and development of these sticks is astronomical; no one makes a bad product anymore.
The second section of the hall, more rectangular and less domed, contained the traditional show booths. Courses like Mill Creek, Webster, Brookwoods (formerly Ontario Golf Club) and Reservoir Creek put forth quite suggestive reasons as to why you should play their tracks. With the Canadian dollar equal to ours, it makes sense to travel east for a day, rather than risk border issues and a higher green-fee ratio. Coming soon, we'll list our top ten reasons to travel to Rochester for a day of golf, combining high-end courses with value destinations. If you've ever studied Rochester golf, limiting the deal to ten is darned-near impossible.
Two of the more attractive booths boasted golf trails. While I think the term "trail" is overused and overhyped these days, I cannot deny the persuasiveness of the argument. The Finger Lakes Golf Trail, made up of Mill Creek, Greystone, Ravenwood and Bristol Harbour, offers golf and lodging or simple golf packages. Visit www.fingerlakesgolftrail.com to learn more. The New York Golf Trail has grand aspirations, intending to conquer the entire empire state. To begin, though, they'll offer you deals at six Adirondack courses and one Syracuse-region layout. Visit www.nygolftrail.com to find out about great mountain golf.
If you ran out of golf balls at the precise moment you teed off on 18 last November, don't worry. Chances are your ball was found and repackaged by one of the golf equipment superstores that will also sell their wares at the Buffalo-Niagara show next month. If you lost your shirt, they have plenty of those as well. Professional tournament and amateur golf tour information, fitness and rehabilitation, and free lessons made the Rochester Golf Show a great day away from the Buffalo region. If it's not already on your schedule, block out a day next month (March 14-16) to visit the Buffalo Convention Center and the Buffalo-Niagara Golf Show. Stop by www.upstatenygolfshow.com on the web for an overview, hours and directions.
When events exceed expectations, can bliss be far behind? As previewed, the brain-trust behind BuffaloGolfer.Com met last weekend for the annual Writers' Summit. We do our best to patronize one of our sponsors because it makes sense! The Famous Dukes at The Links At Ivy Ridge had just closed for the season, so we headed to The Frog Hair to discuss plans for 2008. If you haven't been to TFH lately, the place was mobbed! In fact, it's a good thing we had The Mouth with us. He's a mid-twenties guy, good-looking and physically fit. That characterizes half of the crowd at the bar and dinner. The simulators were full and the joint was truly hopping. For us, our business lay elsewhere.
As you'll see in the coming months, a fair number of additions to the BuffaloGolfer.Com site are in the works. They are initiatives that came together as 2007 drew to a close and will serve to enhance the writings found on the site. One of these additions is Scott Witter, a Lockport-based landscape and golf course architect. Scott is the artist and artisan behind three of the newer courses in western New York: the Deerwood Doe nine, Arrowhead, and Ironwood. Each course is unique to the others, yet reveals the practiced hand of someone who knows the trade. With a true architect, things don't just happen on a golf course; they are caused for a reason. Scott joined Mo', Mouth, Scrambler and Duff on that Saturday evening and changed the course of humanity.
I had often been spoiled with the opportunity to converse with Scott on the twin subjects of golf course design and golf course history. You cannot have a helping of one without a serving from the other. Scott has been working of late with Mark Fine, another noted designer and restorer. With the slowing of new course builds in the continental USA, another element of the business has taken wing: golf course restoration. Unless your head's been in the sand, you know that everyone from Jack Nicklaus all the way round to Jack Nicklaus has been raising voices in complaint against the advances of technology. Put it simply, the ball goes too far and straight, and older courses are not what they once were. Let me tell you that many of those courses are not what they once were because of age, erosion, evolution, and the heartless fact that they never were what they once were. Guys like Mark and Scott make those courses better again, or good for the first time. It's a wonder to behold.
Scott brought along graphics from two recent jobs, one near Rochester and one in Massachusetts. He showed us photos of a bunker restoration near Rochester; restoration is a kind term. The bunkers never were of the quality the course deserved. Scott made them so. He also passed around original hole routings from a club in Massachusetts. The routings were done by the hand of one Donald J. Ross, golf's Shakespeare. While it's true that Ross gave us championship layouts like Oak Hill East in Rochester, Pinehurst #2 in North Carolina, and Oakland Hills in Michigan, he also contributed Lu Lu Country Club, Mount Crotched and Pinecres on Lotela. Ross' name is everywhere, but his fingerprints and DNA are less commonly found. Ross didn't show on site to most of his reputed designs. The course that Scott showed us was one of the exceptions to this nasty secret. Holding those schematics in a gingerly fashion, I became aware of the treasures that this man Scott Witter accesses, and the treasure that he in return provides to BuffaloGolfer.com. If we're fortunate, he'll grace our web pages with his prosaic thoughts on golf and golf courses.
The evening was a blur of conversation, with the exception of Duff. Like the wise buddha, aged and wary, he listened throughout the minutes and hours. We raised many a toast to each other, to the commitment to the web site, to the many twists and turns its personal path has taken. A sage once spoke of the medicinal properties of a meeting of kindred spirits. I'm of the mind that one of those took place not long ago, and that anywhere that golf is discussed, on a wintry night in western New York, the same holds true. Stay attuned.
I cannot emphasize enough that you should not try this at home.
Whatever possessed me ten years ago, as our youngest was turning two and
our oldest, nine, to begin a golfing publication that would ultimately
turn into BuffaloGolfer was a mad fit of whimsy. The celerity of
this snowball's pace has amplified and multiplied and magnified to a
point beyond control. It all came to a head this November when,
for the first time in forever, I missed a column. I'll review the
contents of my world, to let you in on why and how I could skip a month
And those are the activities I remember to do. It gets so crazy-busy at times, but I've grown to love crazy-busy. Before I wed, I was a "lazy single guy." My wife taught me the value and the reward of busting ass. I don't hold it against people if they don't subscribe to my theory, but I don't slow down, either.
Here's what I'll remember from 2007...Great days of golf at Ivy Ridge, Peek'N Peak, Harvest Hill, Thundering Waters, Brockport, Buffalo Tournament Club, Arrowhead, Diamond Hawk, Holiday Valley and many more...a great tour of Michigan along the Michigan Road...three fantastic golf shows in Hamilton, Rochester and Buffalo...two near-perfect rounds of golf (enough to keep me playing!)...a new driver (Nike Sasquatch!)...Seven great golf holes with Jeff Russo and Channel 7...two wonderful, local pro events at Peek'N Peak and Turning Stone...and the list goes on and on.
Here's what I anticipate for 2008...three more great golf shows, including one where we give away 150 rounds of golf at Brockport...continued maturation at Harvest Hill, Ivy Ridge, Arrowhead and BTC...my first glimpse of Talking Stick, the new course in Lewiston...three near-perfect rounds of golf...more viewers for BuffaloGolfer (tell the world, y'all!)...and health and happiness for all I encounter...
Happy New Year!
It's not often that I'll write so similarly, so coincidentally. Another one of those unforgettable rounds took place on Sunday, for reasons entirely unanticipated. The four horsemen of the apocalypse, otherwise known as Travlein' Duff, The Mouth That Roars, The Scrambler, and Mo' Golf, headed south to Peek'N Peak for a glorious celebration of Fall golf in western New York. The Upper Course at the Peek, site of the Nationwide Tour's annual showcase event, promised an adventure beyond words, beyond compare. The course is a pleasure and a treasure, winding its way through woodlands, up and down hillsides, across slopes and beyond the wilderness. Its tiny creeks and sizeable ponds provide balance and challenge, while its putting surfaces demand an accurate stroke on all counts.
I'll get to the point: I produced a hoganesque round from tee to green, a ball-striking display the likes of which I hope to see again, the likes of which I had not previously know. Here are the details:
15 greens in regulation.
I do not recall missing a fairway beyond one to two feet. I do not recall being outside of 35 feet on any birdie attempt. And I do not recall three-putting fewer than 10 times...on my way to an 80.
Can you imagine? Having 17 putts at birdie, and one chip at birdie, and the sole putt to drop was an eight-footer on the home hole. From the tee I was Thor, from the fairway I was Odin/Oden, and on the short grass of the green, I was neither. The putter felt comfortable, the reads seemed accurate, and each approach putt came short or drew long, by ten feet at a time. The money distance, from six to ten feet, was a foreign language to me, and with each missed attempt, we laughed more and more.
That, perhaps, was the essence of the day. The score did not matter, the putting display did not affect us. In spite of near-perfect greens, the hole seemed to be covered by transparent film. And on we played, on we putted, on we enjoyed.
Play well this Fall. Go for a personal best and take chances on every hole. The end is nigh and the Winter should be one of contentment. As you sit inside on a snowy evening, you'll remember these Fall rounds, the chances you took, the heroic ascents you scaled, and the glory of Autumn.
Every competition has its ups and downs; a scramble needs 18 ups and 0 downs to be a success. It's hard to determine which is worse at a scramble, a string of pars or the dreaded bogey. When Mo' and the Scrambler teed it up last week in the Byrncliff Open, one pair in their foursome started off with three consecutive birdies, and went on to shoot 62 and tie for first. Sadly for our boys, it wasn't them. They acquitted themselves well, shooting 67 to tie for 7th. After Mo' calmed down with some iced tea, he revealed the following details from the event. Be cautioned: the following text has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it; if you didn't like reading Faulkner in high school or college, this may not be for you.
So, Mo', how did it begin?
Did you make any birdies at all?
Then came one to three, really a birdie stretch, right?
So you drove in and quite?
Any more events this year?
They seem to come out of nowhere. You go along for a few holes, make some consistent shots, and before you know it, you're in rarefied strata. The relative difficulty of the course need not matter; I've seen it happen on the neighborhood goat track and the championship layout. It even happens to Mo' Golf from time to time, although not in recent memory. You find the groove, the distances for your irons are right on, you mix in drivers with 3-metals with driving clubs off the tee, and the score stays low. Somehow you find a way, somehow you encounter the calm to move the round through to the finish, then you stare at the score card with incredulity. I had that round yesterday.
Here's the low-down: 12 greens in regulation. 31 putts. One birdie. Two bogies. 72 on a par 71 at Holiday Valley. No goat track, this one. 6600 from the tips, up and down the ski hills, in between renovated bunkers, across smooth and icy-slick greens.
Before I find hubris, thinking that this round was one for the ages, check this: four missed birdie putts inside twenty feet on the front, including one three-putt on number nine. Six missed birdie attempts (two were putts from the fringe) on the back nine, where I had nine consecutive pars. The true player finds a way to convert half of those, to complement the two twelve-feet, par-savers I drained, for a ho-hum, average tour round of 67. That's the difference...when I get it going, I make fifteen pars. When the pro gets it going, she or he makes one-unders.
Did it help that I was playing with a friend (in this case, The Scrambler), the two groups let us play through? That the third member of our crew (in this case, The Mouth That Roars) gave us the cold shoulder? Absolutely. All those elements conspire in your favor, just as they might easily conspire against you on another occasion.
I'll take it, again and again. The sound of the driver, blasting 322 yards straight down new number eighteen...the feel of the five-iron, gliding to fifteen feet down number fifteen...the sensation of the wedge, sliding under the ball on number seven, over the stacked-sod bunker to six feet (missed the birdie putt, darn it.) The next time, it might be 78 or 88, but I'm always hoping for 68.
I blogged every day last week for travelgolf.com on the USGA Women's Amateur and PGA championships, so I'm a bit out of ideas for a new column. Suddenly, it hits me...write in the present tense. Nah, that's not it. What hits me is, how to transition from summer golf into fall golf. My season has gone like this...100 holes of golf in June; trip to Northern Michigan in July; week in Connecticut (that's an upcoming article) in August. In between, a day at the Peek'N Peak Classic, articles for New York Golf, Buffalo Spree and Sports & Leisure. What's left? Lots of opportunities. To begin, the Xerox Classic on the Nationwide Tour this week in Rochester, followed by the Turning Stone Championship in late September on the PGA Tour. I'll play two fun events at Byrncliff, beginning next week at the Byrncliff Open, followed by the WNY Publinks 2-man scramble in September. I figure that my partner, The Scrambler, and I are due. We've played well in these things before, but it's time to start making some birdies!
Starting my 8th or 9th year as an assistant high school boys coach means the onset of fall high school golf, the greatest time of year to be on the course. Coaches, however, are rarely on the course with clubs. They hold tryouts, make cuts, arrange practice and competition schedules and venues, pray for good weather, and conduct matches. When I played for Amherst, we competed in a bizarre combination of match and medal play, making us wonder which rules (match or medal) were in effect. Things are streamlined today, either all match or all medal. One thing hasn't changed: kids still don't hit provisional balls until they get to the OB stake, or until they determine that their ball is lost. How hard is it to remember to declare a provisional, put it in play with a hybrid, then conduct a search for the original? Ahh, youth. It makes the game funny for them and maddening for us.
If you haven't had the chance, you might want to schedule a round at the five new public-access courses in WNY. The old dame of the group, Arrowhead, has been around for four years. Links at Ivy Ridge, for three. Buffalo Tournament Club for two and Diamond Hawk for one year. The new kid on the block, Harvest Hill, opened its doors last month. As the leaves diversify their colors, as different odors waft across the fairways, as the dew seems to hang on just a bit longer, the golf is melancholy and spectacular. Enjoy these last weeks of August, and cheer on the Bills on Sunday. Make time for golf until the snow flies, and then some. Golf...it's what's for pleasure.
The talk on Monday around the office used to go like this: so-and-so invited me out to (you fill in the blank) this weekend. What a course! It was like playing from a carpet. So many bunkers. Greens were fast, like the hood of my car. You don't get that ever at (fill in local municipal course.) Fast forward to 2007, and
Verdict: A Tie...barely.
Let's be honest: Niagara Frontier, East Aurora, Orchard Park, and Brookfield blow the doors off the next four public courses in western New York. The next tier of privates (Lancaster, Westwood, Gowanda, Lockport T & C) extends the domination even farther. However, around 2010, when the Seneca course in Lewiston opens its door, and as Buffalo Tournament Club continues to grow in well, there will be seven top-notch public courses to challenge the best of the private clubs across the Niagara region.
Statistics claim that golf participation is on the decline, that the Tiger Woods "burp" has now expired, that the Michelle Wie "burp" hit a big bump in the road, failing to drive little girls to golf the way Tiger drove little boys to golf. The problem with participation in golf is, it's all about retention, not necessarily introduction. Don't get me illogical...you cannot have the former without the later. It's the hook that's necessary to increase the numbers, and it's not always easy for the beginner to find a place to fit in.
I grew up a long drive from the third tee at Grover Cleveland golf course. In the late 70s, when I was sneaking over and under the fence, no one was golfing. The rangers chased us off only when we really acted up, and sometimes, we really acted up. I had a three-hole loop that I played relentlessly; it was my neighborhood rink, my park hoops court, my proving ground. If there were any junior programs at Grover, I was unaware. It was a city course back then, and only the country clubs had any real junior golf development. Around 1994, thing began to change. And change took place south of the city.
In 1994, Joe Wenzel started Hook A Kid On Golf the town of Hamburg. Wenzel is a recreation specialist, manager of the town golf course and the director of the HAKOG program. Since its inception, the program has grown from 11 participants to over 300. Wenzel employs area high school golfers and other recreation aficionados as instructors, maintaining a low teacher-student ration.
Six different levels of HAKOG are featured at Hamburg. The program begins with Start Smart Golf, move to Tee-Level, then Green Level. At the competitive stage, the Challenge Golf League culminates in a Traditions of Golf challenge team, which moves on to national competition. In 2004 Wenzel's program was named the Don Springer Award recipient by the national organization, in recognition of its commitment to make a positive difference in the lives of today's youth through golf. Hamburg also offers golf clinics for the physically and mentally disabled.
The Porter Cup is halfway home, and the scores may be the lowest ever.
A tumultuous growing season left Niagara Falls Country Club without its
characteristic rough, one of the primary defenses against super-low
scores. If you want to see birdies and eagles, head on up to
Lewiston Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, parking is a
couple bucks to the Boy Scouts. In the meantime, here is a photo
gallery of action from day two.
11th: The end of the road as we knew it ... and we felt fine. My one moment of lucidity was the scheduling of a par three course for our final round. Our one regret? That it encompassed only nine holes. Rick Smith, in addition to coaching Phil Mickelson for a great while, can now lay claim to the two finest par three courses in the world (Threetops at Treetops and Sandstone Hollow at Turning Stone (Verona, NY). The Fazio course at Treetops, our 18-hole morning round, is a masterpiece, part rustic links bunkers, part mountain hike, part nature trail. Here are a pair of shots from each place.
Fazio Course at Treetops
Threetops at Treetops
And that's the way it went. It seemed that it was over before it began, but the truth is, the golf courses of Michigan are beyond anticipation. You'll do yourself a favor if you look into a junket of your own in 2007 or 2008.
10th: This is where things get confusing. We actually played Bay Harbor on the 9th, and the two Boyne Highlands courses (Heather and Hills) on the 10th, or was it the 10th and the 11th? In any case, here is what I have from those courses, just a taste until I get each shoot uploaded later this month.
9th: The vagaries of the internet require that I combine two courses from separate days into one entry ... and that's ... Okay. Shanty Creek is a tremendous resort in Bellaire, Michigan, divided into three different villages: Schuss, Cedar, and Summit. The resort boasts four golf courses, two of which truly caught my attention: Cedar River is a Tom Weiskopf design, while The Legend is a product of Arnold Palmer. Both courses incorporate mountainous terrain, weaving their fairways up and down declivities, over creeks, and around wetlands and drylands. The greens on the Palmer course have a greater severity than those of the Weiskopf course. The angles of fairway movement on the Weiskopf course are less, while, angular than those on the Palmer layout. That is, Arnold decided to add 90 degree turns to many holes, while Weiskopf opted for the more forgiving 75 degree and below movements. In other words, you won't play the same course twice. Below are a number of pictures from each track that tell the story better than words ever could.
Cedar River Images
The approach to 18: A terrific end to
The left approach on the dual-fairway 13th
The Legend Images
The uphill (and dangerous) tee ball
The downhill tee ball to Legend number 15
The terrifying tee shot on Legend number 6
The final approach to the par five 7th
Shanty Creek proved that it belongs in the same paragraph as traditional favorites Boyne Highlands and Treetops. Given the potential for partnership in the "Chain of Lakes" region, Shanty Creek just might be at the epic
8th: The character of a golf course comes through in the worst weather. Our day at Crystal Mountain's Mountain Ridge course consisted of some 16 holes of rain, two holes of dryness, and 18 holes of excitement.
8th: Here are a few pictures from Arcadia Bluffs, with some commentary.
Number 14: The height of the trickery. You cannot carry the mounds on the left, so fade away from them, or draw in from the right. The green has an enormous punch-bowl effect, bringing everything down from the upper right. Do not aim at any flag, ever. Just hit to the right side of the green and watch it pour down to the center (writer's note: I aimed left, and suffered the consequences.)
The end of number 11 (beginning is below.) Front right bunker ate me up, but the view of Lake Michigan made up for it.
What you cannot see on this hole is the immense drop-off to the right side of the fairway. The hole extends 600 yards from T to G, so you need to cover a fair amount of ground with each shot. I drove right, chunked a 3-metal to 210 out, then just missed a 3-iron into the front right bunker. Sand shot barely failed to carry to top tier, then three-whacked for a double.
In spite of the visual spectacle, the bunkering does not come into play if you consider three factors: the wind, the camber of the fairway, and your follow-through. The wind was pushing balls northward all day long, the fairways play like typical linksland, so you need to anticipate the carom and aim away from where you want the ball to end up. The follow-through? Low and left works well everywhere.
The home hole, the 18th green. See all the undulations? The greens roll just as much as the fairways. Although there at least a dozen pin positions on each putting surface, some are nearly inaccessible from others. In other words, you can't get there from here, no matter how gentle your touch. With an eagle putt on number 15, I putted off the front of the green, and picked up in disgust. I three-putted a dozen holes, and four-whacked the ninth after hitting 7-iron from 200 yards to twenty feet. Not my day with the flat stick.
7th: Here are three quick shots of Tullymore, with a wee bit on each one.
Over the course of a week in July of 2007, Mo' Golf, Travelin' Duff, and guest photographer Satchmo Slim will take a trip to northern Michigan. The quest? To play, review and shoot the great golf courses of the Wolverine state. During those seven days, the trio will play a total of nine regulation golf courses and one par three. I’ll be setting the stage for the journey by previewing a pair of courses at a time, to let you know what’s in store as we make our way west.
Years after RTJ the First earned the reputation of monster designer, his approach to courses thankfully softened. All carry and no bounce was abandoned for a more ecumenical approach to construction. Boyne's Heather Course is a perfect representative of that later era. Although green speeds and rough are kept high, the course is playable for all levels. I am especially challenged by RTJ courses, and am looking forward to finally playing one that I can handle! Will this be the one?
Course at Boyne Highlands
For PGA Tour afficionados, the most recent evidence of Arthur Hills on tour was the Mirasol Club in Florida, host for the Honda Classic in 2003. Everything about a Hills design is big...from sand traps and tee decks to green surfaces, fairways and hazards. Given the landscape of northern Michigan, this one should blow our minds.
Cedar River completed the triumvirate of courses at Shanty Creek. It was Tom Weiskopf's first Michigan build, to be followed by others, including the highly-acclaimed Forest Dunes. The course methodically navigates the pinelands and cautiously parallels the Cedar river. Weiskopf the professional golfer has found a way to build courses that his former arch-rival, Jack Nicklaus, never did. Given his rather volatile golfing temperament, this comes as a surprise, but a pleasant one. In the annals of golfing architecture of the 22nd century, Weiskopf will be more highly rated than Nicklaus, thanks to courses like Cedar River.
Arthur Hills never played the game at a high level, as Pete Dye, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus did. Up in Michigan, he is revered as something of a cult figure. His designs wind their way throughout the northern state region, along lake shores, through mountain passes, over eponymous hills. Bay Harbor is a 27-hole complex, with The Links, The Quarry, and The Preserve presenting three unique 9-hole tests of golf. Even though we'll play this one on the heels of Cedar River at Shanty Creek, I may shoot for 45 that day, as I cannot imagine passing one of them up.
Over the course of a week in July of 2007, Mo' Golf, Travelin' Duff, and guest photographer Satchmo Slim will take a trip to northern Michigan. The quest? To play, review and shoot the great golf courses of the Wolverine state. During those seven days, the trio will play a total of nine regulation golf courses and one par three. I’ll be setting the stage for the journey by previewing a pair of courses at a time, to let you know what’s in store as we make our way west.
Crystal Mountain, like many ski resorts throughout the northern environs of the USA, made the decision to add golf as a way of creating off-season income. The course climbs some 200 feet from the first tee to its highest point, traversing highlands in the classic Scottish style. Six ponds dot the course, built over a span of numerous years. Not a course for fanfare nor bright lights, Mountain Ridge nevertheless flexes its muscles to the tune of 7000 yards from the tips. After Arcadia Bluffs along the coast, the change to a mountain course will be tremendous.
Often, Arnold Palmer courses are criticized for the lack of attention to detail. The Legend Course at Shanty Creek does not fall into that trap. Like many resorts, Shanty began with a viable course designed by a little-known architect. After reaching a saturation point, the business decided to expand, brought in Palmer, and later added a Weiskopf course. The Legend tops out at 6764 yards, but it is Palmer's guile that creates the challenge. A course short on yardage but long on strategy is the perfect way to end day three.
Over the course of a week in July of 2007, Mo' Golf, Travelin' Duff, and guest photographer Satchmo Slim will take a trip to northern Michigan. The quest? To play, review and shoot the great golf courses of the Wolverine state. During those seven days, the trio will play a total of nine regulation golf courses and one par three. I’ll be setting the stage for the journey by previewing a pair of courses at a time, to let you know what’s in store as we make our way west.
Tullymore winds its way through wetlands and forested lands in a serpentine fashion unseen elsewhere. I know this not from personal experience, but through the eyes of the many reviewers who have trod its fairways before me. When a golf course makes every conceivable public-access list in its first five years of existence, including one list that includes private clubs, it is something special. Colorado’s Jim Engh designs very few courses, but the ones he produces invariably result in plaudits and more importantly, a special experience. Engh is one of a new generation of architects that designs for all tiers of golfers, not merely the elite echelon that plays at scratch or better. I cannot envision a better jumping-off point than Tullymore.
One of my favorite novels, describing snow in Buffalo, indicates that it begins as a rumor. The whispers about Arcadia Bluffs began in 1999, when the course opened. Coincidentally, Bandon Dunes in Oregon commenced play the same year, so it could be said that Bandon and Arcadia cemented the trend of Whistling Straits (1998) of great linksland courses in the USA. Having played the three Bandon courses and Whistling Straits, there is one feature of Arcadia Bluffs that allows me to anticipate it with greater urgency than the others. The golf course drops, nay, plummets some 225 feet from clubhouse to lakeside, giving the sensation of a roller-coaster ride along a golf course. Like Tullymore, Arcadia Bluffs has been granted admission to the finest golf courses in America, currently ranked as high as #10 on a national public-access course list.
I joked with some friends that the 100 Holes was the middle leg in my charity triathlon for Spring 2007. It started two weeks ago with the Corporate Challenge, where I cruised 3.5 miles in something under one hour. This Saturday, the little'uns and I will ride in the Ride For Roswell.
The 100 Holes was the biggest anticipated challenge, sort of the US Open of the three events. It proved to be every bit a scorching Sunday at Oakmont, other than the fact that it was played on a Monday. Below are the raw numbers.
Thanks go out to my driver, the Travelin' Duff, Mr. John Daken, to Chris Podozak, Channel 7 photographer, for giving us some air time, to the fellow participants, who kept us buoyed and focused, and to Don Arthur, for his hyper-motivation through all 100 holes.
I learned that certain holes do not set up well for me, no matter how many times I play them. I learned that on other holes, the "look" of the hole fits my eye, and no matter the danger, there is no doubt that I will succeed. I came to understand that the new technology allows me to launch a 3-metal over 250 yards, a ridiculous distance. I also learned that new technology does not prevent me from missing 25 or so three-feet putts! I learned that I cannot wait for next year, so start saving your pennies.
Cancer Survivor and Killer Fundraiser
Everyone, it seems, has heard of the tree-removal program at Oakmont. In an age of blessed tree-hugging, when we recognize the importance of lungpower that trees represent for our earth, it seems blasphemous to recommend the removal of oxygen-giving plant life for our own selfish, golfing needs.
In western New York, mother nature took care of our own wishy-washy, guilty feelings, last Fall. The October Onslaught, Storm, whatever you feel the need to call it, clobbered the tree population in our region. Not all trees went down, but a fair number were done in. Taking a tour of area golf courses this Spring, I recognized the absence of a number of former obstacles. Diamond Hawk lost an enormous tree on the corner of the 12th hole, the short par four that tempts you to go for the green. The Country Club of Buffalo is rumored to have removed the remains of hundreds of trees from its Youngs Road terrain.
Guess what? Great holes live on. As Oakmont has proven, and will prove this week, trees are great, but they have a tendency to overshadow (like that pun?) the course itself. A great golf course will be defined by the trace of the fairways, the sighting of tees and greens, and the cooperation with hazards. Don't forget the placement of bunkers. Number nine at CCB is a prime example. Sure, the trees might be thinned on the corner of the dogleg, but you still have to carry the bunker, you still have OB left, and the green is still narrow, running away from you, bunkered right.
Fact is, if your course is solely dependent on trees, then you might look to redesign or perhaps consider another course. Watch the US Open this week at Oakmont, and you'll see what I mean. A fast-running, windswept golf course has replaced the alleyways that hosted the Open in 1983 and 1994. You'll like the look, even if you feel like looking for something else to put on. We're born naked and we die naked. That's the best way to find a golf course, too.
If you've seen my articles around town, you know that tournament season is upon us here in the Niagara region. The Corning Classic runs the week of May 24-27 on the LPGA Tour, with the Wegmans Classic soon to follow in June. On the Nationwide Tour, the Peek'n Peak Classic takes place in Findley Lake in late June, with the Xerox Classic in Rochester scheduled for mid-August. The Dick's Sporting Goods Open is poised to debut on the Champions Tour in Endicott this Summer, with the Turning Stone Resort championship on the PGA Tour playing the week of September20-23 in Verona.
I've traditionally written that the future look of the game can be seen today at the International Junior Masters in East Aurora in June, then later at the Porter Cup in Lewiston in July. Both are highly-rated and revered amateur championships, and tend to showcase the best the non-professional game has to offer. Of late, some of these amateurs have been making more than a splash on the pro tours...they've been walking away with the hardware, if not the cash.
In a display of irony, Spaniard Pablo Martin, the 2005 Porter Cup titleist, ignored the challenge of Raphael Jacquelin to triumph on the European Tour on April 1st. No fool he, Martin survived the Frenchman's flurry of two birdies in the final three holes to emerge victorious by one slim stroke. By capturing the Estoril Open de Portugal, Martin became the first amateur to win an event on the European Tour's International Schedule. That's fine...collegian Scott Verplank defeated Jim Thorpe in a playoff in 1985 on the PGA Tour, then Phil Mickelson won while still an amateur at Scottsdale in 1991. A six-year gap followed by the current 16 year hiatus and hey! Tiger Woods never won as an amateur.
Lightning struck again this weekend at the Tojigaoka Marine Hills Golf Club in Japan, when Ryo Ishikawa turned in a seven-birdie, one-bogey performance in the final round to claim the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup by one slim slash over Katsumasa Miyamoto. A 17th-hole birdie provided the margin of victory for the young amateur.
We've seen precocious young women dominate the international gymnastics and tennis circuits for years. On the LPGA tour, Michelle Wie has made a splash as a teenager in recent seasons, while Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer have both won before the age of 20. Is it time on the men's circuits for youth to prevail? Who knows. What is known is that the advances in equipment technology combine better than ever with the go-for-broke mentality and ability of the young, powerful golfer. With tournament sponsors granting more and more exemptions to the young, it seems that the odds for victory by an amateur on the PGA Tour are improving.
One tour that doesn't see this trend is the Champions Tour, where the old guys duke it out each week. There are few career amateurs who ponder a switch to professional golf (Jay Sigel and John Harris being the exceptions.) At that stage in life, they have made their money, and continue to enjoy competitive golf among their circle of champion, amateur golfer friends. So, look to the young for surprises; they may be coming this week!
one of those events that festered in my very soul for three days.
Golfers making obscene numbers,
was it written that both Rory Sabatini and Retief Goosen would post 69s,
get to +3, all for naught but a
the course of four years, Zach Johnson has gone from Nationwide Tour
money leader to PGA Tour major
For Immediate Release, March 13, 2007
Released by: Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center
2357 Humphrey Rd., Varysburg, NY 14167
Contact: Lindsay Meidenbauer
585.535.7300 * firstname.lastname@example.org
“Announcing: Byrncliff Celebrates 40 Years in Business!”
Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center in Varysburg is pleased to announce its 40th anniversary celebration in 2007.
Since its opening in 1967, Byrncliff has transformed into a popular, year-round resort destination. Originally established as an 18-hole semi-private country club, Byrncliff opened its doors completely to the public in 1984.
Over the last 40 years, Byrncliff has continually made improvements and renovations including the construction of 25 motel rooms, the expansion of the conference and dining areas, continued upgrading of the golf course, and the extensive addition of lighted cross country ski trails.
“Here at Byrncliff, people are our top priority. We put all our efforts and resources into constantly improving the resort for our guests, giving back to the community, and making this an enjoyable place to work.” says Scott Meidenbauer, Owner
Byrncliff commits to being a leader in golf, cross country skiing, dining, entertainment, banquets, lodging, and business needs. It is a sought out destination for guests and travelers from Western New York, neighboring states, and Canada.
The summer of 2007 will bring special events to celebrate Byrncliff’s 40th birthday. Look for news of a 40th Anniversary Bash, “The Byrncliff Open” Golf Tournment, and exclusive deals on www.byrncliff.com.
I won't bore you with a long and drawn-out missive on every aspect of every element of our booth at the Buffalo-Niagara Golf Show this weekend at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center. Instead, in bullet form, I will present the reasons why you should stop by booth #319 on Saturday, Sunday, or both.
*Paid raffle to benefit Roswell Park-Carly's Club* Items to be raffled...Two sets of Nike fairway metals, Ogio Golf Bag, Izzo Hybrid and more. *Free raffle for all visitors* Items to be raffled...training equipment, Bite golf shoes, BuffaloGolfer.Com shirts and more. *Revisit the last three seasons of the Best Golf In Western New York from Channel 7* Our own Mo' Golf, Ronald Montesano, hit all the shots on the popular Channel 7 series, and will be available to answer questions about the series. *Meet The Scrambler and The Mouth That Roars* In addition to Mo' Golf, you can meet two more of the BuffaloGolfer.Com writers on both days of the show. *Give us input on how to make BG.C a better site* BuffaloGolfer.Com is your site, too! Give us feedback on what works, what's broken, and what's missing. *Pick up your copy of BuffaloGolfer.Com's commemorative magazine* If you remember the original Buff-Golf, it was an 8.5 x 11 fold-over. Even though we are a strong web presence, we remember our roots. Stop by and pick up a keep-sake, a copy of a commemorative issue of BuffaloGolfer.Com. *Pick up a grab bag* In addition to the magazine, each grab bag might contain BuffaloGolfer.Com tees, golf balls, a golf-related gift, or passes for free golf in 2007 to Arrowhead, Links at Ivy Ridge, or Elkdale.
There you have it, your lucky seven reason to visit the BuffaloGolfer.Com booth at the Buffalo Golf Show. Stop by #319 and say hello. We'll be glad to meet you.
I'm the guy who looks at the semantics of everything, and I've decided to not make "New Year" the owner of resolutions by leaving off the apostrophe "s" ... exciting opening sentence, huh? Well, there's more to this article than the typical promises, mandates and dreams. My resolutions are sound ones, and I'll keep you up to date on how they progress.
Let's start off with the BuffaloGolfer.Com bulletin board. Not a lot of activity these first two months. My resolution is to make it a place that area golfers want to post. What we've done this week is eliminate the necessity of an email address. All you have to do to post is invent a pseudonym (like Senor Golfo or La Boca...two used choices) and post a new topic, or add to a current thread. Now that you can retain your anonymity, start posting!
Next, I want to add video to the site. I have a camera, I know how to digitize and edit, and I now have a place to store the files (boy, can they get heavy!) As always, you can let us know what type of video we should put on the site. We're going to start with some fairly-tame topics, like visits to area golf courses and off-course spots. We'll give you links, but to let us know what you'd like to see (within bounds of course), send an email to email@example.com..
A third resolution is to add to the perspectives on the site. We are in discussions with area high school coaches and regional teaching professionals. BuffaloGolfer.Com would love nothing more than to present the top area high school players, as seen through the eyes of their coaches, along with tips that these mentors have used throughout the years. In a parallel vein, insight from the region's teaching professionals will provide additional reasons for visiting the site, for staking a claim toward improving your game, and for undertaking a series of lessons in 2007.
One final resolution as the calendar page turns is to enhance our profiles of all the area golfing joints. Domes, indoor spots, off-course shops, public and private courses...all will get the royal treatment as the area's golf-work-in-progress begins its eighth year of web-sistence in WNY and the world.
Happy New Year!
Every then and then a fine, upstanding company or PR firm sends BuffaloGolfer.Com a media kit. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a media kit is basically a collection of directed or targeted materials with the purpose of explaining the product to the media outlet. Media kits can range from t-shirts and golf balls to copies of prior articles and DVDs.
The one that we received in mid-December from AboutGolf.Com included a stack of reprints from BusinessWeek, GolfWeb, Golf News, Golf Business, Celebrated Living, and a bunch of regional and airline magazines. The common thread was the product: the golf simulator amalgamation from AboutGolf.Com. The simulator consists of a number of components, which I will attempt to list here with eerie recollection: booth, target screen, calibrated mat, projector. Individually, all of these would be eye candy at best, serving a purpose of shock and awe; in unison, they combine to form a product which just might revolutionize participation in golf during bad-weather months. For avid golfers in places like western New York, this music strikes the right sequence of notes.
I remember a few experiences over the years with indoor golf simulation. During the formative year of Buff-Golf (our previous incarnation), I headed north with Travelin' Duff to the Eagle Crest range in Lockport. Don Snyder was running the show then, and he had us play a nine-hole round on a simulator. The idea seemed to fit, the graphics were decent, but the essential numbers available today (such as ball and club speed, face angle, true yardages) were unavailable. We left thinking that we'd be back, and that the idea would take off. We never returned, and the idea didn't. Looking back, there really was no motivation to stick around Eagle Crest other than the golf, and the location (halfway between Lockport and Williamsville on South Transit) was iffy at best.
A few years later, I participated in a series of exploratory lessons at the Adelphia Golf Dome in Hyde Park, Niagara Falls, USA, under the tutelage of Nick Montanaro and John Kajfasz. Both men, accomplished playing and teaching professionals, were working with a system called Nearly Perfect Golf. The machinery utilized 3-D glasses and a funny orange ball to track the movements of the golf swing. There was no screen for visual feedback, and the notion quickly escaped me as a viable means of improvement...but that's me. Earlier this fall, I headed to Bill Lindner's Golf Service in Tonawanda, where he let me test-drive the P3Pro computer tracking device. The calibrated mat and computer interface allowed me hit balls into a net and see the results on the computer screen. For the first time, I was able to determine club path, face path and angle leading up to and at impact, |and the, well, impact that these positions would have on the ensuing ball flight. I was astonished to see how inside-out I was, since I have been an outside-in player for most of my career. That I was hooking my eight-iron ten yards, was enough to commence a swing change. A day later (I kid you not!), I was on a tee with an eight in my hand. The cathedral spires left and right denied the slightest possibility of the over-cooked fade or draw. Trusting what I had worked on with Bill, I slapped that eight-iron dead over the flag, finishing with a twelve-feet, downhill birdie putt. Was I convinced? You bet.
Did you ever take a chance on an email that you just knew was spam? I did, it wasn't, and I'm grateful. Tony Tatro, the head professional at The Frog Hair, contacted me in late October, just after the storm, regarding his new venture. As the front man for an ambitious project on Transit Road in Williamsville, he wanted to know if BuffaloGolfer.Com was interested in learning more about the business. One article later, the answer was clearly 'yes.' Contact with Tony led to more discussions with mblacy.com, the PR firm for AboutGolf.Com, and then did the media kit arrive. Now we're all up to speed!
Here's the skinny on the simulator...you can be fit for clubs, you can receive professional teaching, you can practice and analyze shot patterns, you can track data and record video for future playback, and you can play against golfers from around the world via online hookup. Oh, did we mention you can play at least twenty, world-class courses in real-time 3D, including Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and the best course in the Caribbean, the Teeth Of The Dog course at Casa de Campo? Yup, that's available, too. There's even a fictional course called The Infamous 18, based on the paintings of Loyal Chapman, for the adventurer in you. If you don't know Chapman's name, search "Infamous 18" on the web, and you'll recognize his work. Here's one for you, in case you're lazy: The courses may be played in bits and pieces, or all at once. As soon as you figure out the choreography of hitting shots and pulling clubs, you'll be playing 18 holes in 2.5 hours. After all, there's no walking between shots.
If you've been to a Golf Galaxy store, then you know the AboutGolf simulator already. They're stationed in the rear of the store, where everyone is taking cuts with test clubs. You also know how zealously they guard their time, limiting most people to ten swings. Now imagine that you have all the time in the world to play...but where? That's where The Frog Hair comes in. Located on one of the busiest stretches of road in western New York, The Frog Hair is visible, as well as centrally located,for access from all points in the area. With eight simulators, bag lines will cease to exist. And on blustery days in January and February, as well as wet ones in March and April, you'll be able to tee it up or hit some balls for practice.
Which one is the real 5th hole, and which is the simulation? Find out in early January, when The Frog Hair opens for biz!
We all have our own personal and private lists of things and people to be thankful for as the year draws to a close. We even organize important celebrations at this time of year, in our businesses and our places of worship, to commemorate our need to give thanks. I'm going to dedicate this space to a list of things and people associated with this website, in order to keep it relevant. Some of it may be obvious, while some may be brand-spanking new. In either case, we'll revisit the events and notions that keep me gracious and grateful.
To begin, I need to thank three people. I'm going to start with the young guy, because his performance has been the most unexpected. Chris Whitcomb, the Mouth That Roars, has officially graduated from college. That means he'll be entering the work world, and may not have as much time to write columns for this site. About two years ago, he answered a call to submit material to replace the former Mouth That Roars. Chris got the job, and has never looked back. His two stints as a swamper at PGA Championships gave him all kinds of insight into the setup and breakdown of a major golf championship, and he rewarded us with ample column space detailing those experiences. Chris is also the guy who came up with the idea for the bulletin board. The bulletin board allows all viewers to post thoughts and ideas on area golf news, and establish an online forum. To the most consistent writer on the BuffaloGolfer.Com staff, and perhaps the most creative and forward-thinking, a heartfelt thank you to Chris! The other two guys can best be described as a motley duo. Kevin Lynch (The Scrambler) and John Daken (Travelin' Duff) are two established men of the workplace. Kevin crunches numbers and John is on his second tour of duty in the world of education. Kevin believes that an article isn't an article until it can be measured in meters. As such, his musings usually last for days...they may take a while to read, but they are worth the effort. Kevin attacks a topic relentlessly, probing it with the eye of an investigator, until he has taken you along for the journey, step by grueling step. John is an absolutely undependable writer who always turns up with an article when it is least expected and most needed. John is the guy you join up with who notices you, and for the next four and a half hours, becomes a friend and confidant. You may never see him again, but you remember your round of golf with him, and you want to return to the course for another round with strangers, as he made yours such a memorable one. So gentlemen, thank you for your dedication to the site. Without your unique takes on golf, viewers would have to read four articles per month from me, attempting to adopt various guises.
I next have to thank the vagaries of life in this are. When else can you play a round of golf at Byrncliff in the morning, then head off to the stadium to view a Bills game in the afternoon? Try mid-December in western New York. Where else can you find such a spate of course openings that you seemingly have a new, high-end course to add to the list each year? WNY. We all remember the blast of Canadian courses of the 1990s (Pen Lakes, Legends, Hunters Pointe, Royal Niagara, Rockway Glen). WNY accepted the challenge, and has opened up a fair share in recent memory (Arrowhead, Buffalo Tournament Club, Links at Ivy Ridge, Diamond Hawk.) Canada gave us two more recently in Grand Niagara and Thundering Waters, and the list is not yet exhausted. By my count, two more US courses and one more CA course will open to the public in the next three years, giving us a total of 16 courses since 1990. That may have been a drop in the bucket for Myrtle Beach, but for the Niagara region, it's huge. The First Tee of Western New York, located in Orchard Park, will open the Harvest Hill course next July. In 2008, the Seneca Nation should debut its Lewiston course, adjacent to Joseph Davis Park. In 2009, the Niagara River Golf Club in Fort Erie will open its putting greens to the public. Wait, I forgot Peek'n Peak's upper course (17!) and the Holiday Valley re-design (18!) We truly are a lucky bunch. Sure, these courses carry a hefty, prime-time rate. However, If you haven't figured out twilight and other off-peak price schedules, then you deserve to suffer, day after day, at the local muni. If you can put aside an extra $200 for golf this year, I guarantee that you can get on four or five of these courses. After five years, you'll have played them all.
My final debt of gratitude goes to a place that never settles, never stays the same, never seems the same: the internet. Each year, new functionalities and new threats highlight and lowlight this incredible medium. Because of BuffaloGolfer.Com's place in the lives of cyber-golfers, I have been able to write countless columns under multiple pseudonyms. I have parlayed these opportunities into others, writing for TravelGolf.Com, Buffalo Spree, Sports and Leisure, and New York Golf, as well as do that little thing with Channel 7 every year. Who would have thought this mug would make the 6 o'clock news? I have handled web site blow-ups and horrific spam attacks (and given thanks for backing up information on a daily basis.) I have considered wholesale site redesigns, accepted some changes while discarding others, and never looked back or too far forward. I have made contact with golf writers and sages from the world's finest golf magazines, exchanged ideas with them, received their plaudits and their misgivings about columns I've written, and written better as a result. I've come to know jpg, mp3, htm and a host of other acronyms. The internet has changed my life considerably, and given me an opportunity to provide a service I would have loved as a teen-aged golfer at Audubon in the 1980s.
As 2007 beckons, I thank all of you for tuning in. Visit our bulletin board often and input your ideas. Stop by the Buffalo Golf Show, visit our table, and let us know what you think of the site. We still have twenty tickets to give away, so send an email marked "Free Tickets" to firstname.lastname@example.org and you'll see the show on us. Take advantage of warm days and dry fairways in WNY, head south for warmer climes, and visit the domes. I'll see you on the fairways of Harves Hill and beyond in the new year.
All right, it may not look like
much now, but as we all know, appearances can be deceiving and books
cannot be judged... you
Tatro is an engaging man, with
experience as a professional at area clubs. Throughout his
teaching career, Tatro has
Ever been to Golf Galaxy?
Ever tested a club on their launch screen? Ever asked to buy time
or hit a few more, only to
All right, that’s the sexy part
of TFH. What about the meat and potatoes of the instructional
program, the true reason for
to be one of the most technically advanced facilities in the
Unbelievably, The Frog Hair
pledges not to compete with golf professionals. Management will
invite all area golf professional
How about after-hours? An
experience in fine dining in a sizeable restaurant, a 6000-feet patio, a
1500 square-feet putting
The Frog Hair is housed in the
old Club Evolution building on the western side of Transit Road (number
7800), just north of
If you had suggested at this time in 2003 that I would be co-hosting a local television series for nine weeks each Summer, I would have declared you daft and continued writing this column. Plucked from obscurity by the affable Jeff Russo, embraced by the trustworthy John Murphy, and shepherded by the patient Chris Podoczak, BuffaloGolfer.Com's middle-aged columnist has completed three years' worth of series, twenty-seven holes in all, from Niagara-On-The-Lake to Salamanca. In 2004, the team visited what we considered to be the nine best public courses in the area, selecting the most challenging holes from each course. The response was unexpectedly positive, more a testimony to the video skills of Podo and the calming influence of Russo, than to Mo's less-than-textbook execution of the golf swing. Year two took us north of the border and back in time. The best holes along the Canadian Niagara peninsula were the subject of our 2.25 month sojourn, and a kilt, plus-fours, and knee socks were our garb. Yes, we gave Susan Banks and Keith Radford quite a few chuckles as we went from course to course, yet we recalled to memory a number of Ontario courses that were part of the recent expansive explosion of world-class golf of our northern neighbors. Year three saw our return to the states, to nine new courses. This past summer, we were able to highlight the best of the American response to the Canadian boom. The quality of public-access courses on both sides of the mighty Niagara has never been higher. For those of us who grew up playing muni after muni, with the highly-occasional Glen Oak thrown in, a dream come true has been the advent of high-end public courses in the eastern suburbs. Mo' Golf has been fortunate along the way to have the support of a number of companies as he worked his way through the longest round-and-a-half ever played. Ogio bags, Bite Golf shoes, BadAss wedges, Nike Golf outerwear, and Copley Golf shirts lent their support and their wares to Milfred, proving that you can cast pearls before swine and give an old dog a new look.
As the sun sets for many on the 2006 western New York golf season, Mo' is hard at work developing the roster for the 2007 series line-up of golf holes. Highly classified as is to be expected, we cannot divulge the courses that will make up the schedule. What we can reveal, however, is that all will be located within western New York, and will be courses near and dear to the hearts of many. We can also promise to visit courses that we have previously not featured, courses that you all have played. In order to commemorate the fourth annual series, Mo' has also spent time interviewing potential sponsors, and has signed his name in ink with two companies...Chiliwear and Sun Mountain. If you've seen Jim Furyk (2006 Vardon trophy winner on the PGA Tour and #2 money winner) lately, you've seen the Performance Camp shirts from Chiliwear that he began to wear last Spring. Jim has never looked better, thanks to the creative designers at the New Orleans-based company. Sun Mountain makes some of the best golf bags and outwear available, and has outfitted Mo' with a short-sleeved rain shirt for the first few, early Spring, shoots, as well as a lightweight, durable golf bag that makes walking a dream. In the coming weeks, we'll introduce some of the other sponsors and their products. As far as the chosen golf holes, well, you'll just have to wait until next May or June, when I tee it up for the cameras at ... gotcha!
Land on Which "Old Macdonald," the fourth course at Bandon, is to be built.
With the recent announcement that the fourth course at Bandon Dunes in Oregon will be built, I revisited some photographs of the complex. Taken in August of 2005, they brought back memories of the wonderful golfing environment of which I was guest for five days. They also reawakened the memory of an article that I had planned to do in print, but had never come to pass. With the double motivation of needing a new entry for this column, as well as a need to fulfill this impulse, I decided to return to the southern coast of Oregon, but not to the fairways and greens.
Railroad-Tie walkway from green to tee on Bandon Dunes Course
One of the more lasting memories from Bandon Dunes is the care given to the spaces between, the area not usually visited during a common round of golf. When reading Golf In The Kingdom by Michael Murphy, one is hearkened to the importance of these areas on many occasions. The most intoxicating instance happens during the visit to the Devil's Rug, the yawning bunker-land that fronts the signature and signifying hole at Burning Bush. It is evident from the first step at Bandon that great care was given to creating just significance in the spaces between. As pictures so often tell a better story, consider this effort to be half word-, half photo-essay.
A solitary bench on the back of a tee box provides space for repose. The sandy dreamscape that brought Mike Keiser to Bandon.
Bandon Dunes is a walking resort. It is true that shuttle services move golfers from the practice area to each of the current courses, then back to the various cottages and lodges that dot the complex. With the backdrop of the Pacific ocean and the sounds and smells that accompany it, the land is made for walking. With the effort of walking, however, comes the need for repose. At just the moment when your feet feel heavy and your bag a burden, a bench like the one above appears, having read your mind and soul's desire. It is during these moments of repose that you can take a look at what surrounds the course, and sandy fall-offs, dotted with the gorse and other scrub brush so common to the area, collect the majority of your attention.
More of the dreamscape. Beyond the land, rock formations reveal the primordial earth.
It is doubtful that many golf balls will find their way into these spaces between and beyond the fair ways. Not impossible, mind you, just doubtful. There are moments, especially at dusk, when one sets out for a mile walk from the lodge to the ocean, traversing the fairways and other noteworthy elements. Take a turn through the tall gorse pathways, though, and you might not emerge for a while, and certainly not in the direction you had anticipated. Mrs. Mo and I set out from the home base, and rather than head straight up 18 and 17, we took a detour to the right, into the gorse, beyond humanity. When we emerged, we were no closer to the great water than if we had directed ourselves parallel instead of perpendicular. It is this ability to render one small in the grand scheme of things that might perhaps be Bandon's most lasting gift; when we are reduced to what we are, instead of what we imagine ourselves to be, we best acknowledge our place in the world.
And so, I leave you with these remaining pictures. I hope that you have the opportunity to travel west to Bandon one day. I know that I will return, in some way, some day. Whether it shall be a permanent move or a temporary flight, I am not certain, yet I am certain.
Land on which to dream of past and future times.
If you cross the New York-Pennsylvania border below Jamestown, you'll enter a region of woodland known for its hunting, fishing and camping. Those guys wearing bright orange are not members of the Dutch national team, nor are they Camilo Villegas. Do not fear, though, as Camilo would feel quite at home in northwest Pennsylvania. You see, there are some five to ten excellent golf courses in the Warren-Russell-Bradford area, and they are most accommodating to WNYers. What they all have in common, in the first place, is varied terrain. No stretch of land in the region could completely avoid the influence of the mountains, so the challenge for the architects was to run the fairways along the flat stretches, without losing the ambience and feel of the uneven land. The next similarity is the corridor effect of the tall timber. While the fairways may be ample, the sheer height of the trees minimizes the angles of recovery. If your driver is prone to wild spates of directional madness, you might consider a three wood or hybrid off the tee, or learn to bend the ball low and hard with your irons. Finally, it would be remiss of us to ignore the influence of the topography on the putting surfaces. Quite simply, you will experience fits of extreme break on the greens. Since most of these fine courses do not keep their putting surfaces cut Augusta-short, your rolls will not careen out of control, at breakneck speed. Rather, they will take the break as it was meant to be accepted. A true read will bring your ball within striking distance of a holed putt. Beyond the courses, the hospitality of small-town America is alive and well in Pennsylvania. Accommodations, dining and entertainment are all available at reasonable prices. Visit the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry website to find leads on places to stay and play when not on course.
Course Key Cable Hollow...www.cablehollow.com Conewango Valley...www.conewangovalleycc.com Penn Hills Golf Club...www.pennhillsclub.com Kane Country Club...www.kanecountryclub.com Jackson Valley Golf Club...No website Pine Acres Country Club...www.pineacrescc.com Blueberry Hill Golf Club...www.blueberryhillgc.com
Yes, they're down. Both of them. For how long? Who knows. Time for contingency plans. With both Paddock and Wehrle being victims of the recent October Onslaught (which, in my mind, is a much better way to describe it than October Surprise... what a wimpy reminder!) golfers in western New York can travel to Rochester to hit balls indoors, or is there a better way? By my way of thinking, THERE IS A BETTER WAY! How do I know? I stumbled onto it the other day.
Let's treat this like a blog, since I need some content to keep you interested. I had plans to play Blueberry Hill in Russell, PA, on Thursday. Knowing that the conditions were likely to be moist, I decided to regrip my driver. If you've used Winn Grips, then you know that they feel like butter, and are twice as slippery when wet. Bill Lindner's Golf Service is my choice for club repair and regrips, so I headed toward Tonawanda on Tuesday evening. Bill zipped on a full-cord grip in a jif, then mentioned casually an acquisition he had made two years previous: computer software and a mat to register ball contact.
If you've been to Lindner's, you know that the practice area consists of three hitting stations and a matted wall about eighteen feet away. Since the introduction of the computer software, the number of stations has been reduced to two. The left station is a warm-up area, and the center station now hosts the computer setup. The computer software gives you swing path, face angle, ball flight and yardage readings. This is key, as it immediately takes you beyond the reaches of the dome. Think about the diameter of the domes...maybe ninety yards from tee to wall, right? If your ball is moving left or right by more than a yard when it hits the wall, you've got trouble. Just how much is hard to tell. With Lindner's new setup, you see the complete shot. When I went in on Wednesday afternoon, the feedback I got surprised me and motivated me. Here's what my readings were: swing path--16 degrees inside out (perfect for a draw or a hook) and a face angle of 11 degrees. Since my swing is fairly malleable, I decided to let Bill offer suggestions as to how to bring path and face angles closer to an optimal 0 degrees (the ultimate straight ball.) After rerouting the paths back and through, I was able to approach my goal. Beyond curious, I decided to take the changes to Blueberry Hill on Thursday.
Here are the results in a nutshell. First time on Blueberry Hill, from the tips at 6700 yards on a soggy (no rain) day, I hit 4 of 14 fairways on driving holes, and 10 of 18 greens. With 35 putts, I posted an 81. Two birdies, and three double bogeys (all on par five holes!) were the exceptions to my normal strings of bogeys and pars. Do I need to work on the driver changes? Yep. How about those greens in regulation!!! I'll take 10 birdie putts any day of the week. If I can learn to convert more than 20%, we may be in business.
Bill Lindner's Golf Service currently rents the computer station at a fee of $5 for 30 minutes. Think of how many buckets you hit in 30 minutes, and how little you learn from the experience. Call them at 874-1110 to reserve times today. Bill or John will stay with you in the hitting area until you feel comfortable operating the software. I promise that you'll find me hitting in their Sheridan Drive studio this Winter.
Cheektowaga is the place where my grandparents live. It is know for its four high schools, huge mall, airport, and world-class golf course. 'Back up!' you say. Yes, that's right, world-class golf course. Sam Tadio finished the job that the municipality could not, and the result is a Michael Hurdzan-designed golf course that stands with the best of western New York. About a mid-length par four five from the control tower at Buffalo International, Diamond Hawk stretches its wings to 7000 yards, and puts wetlands, ponds and stacked-sod bunkering into the golfing vocabulary of the inner ring of suburbs. Remember a few years back, when the only upscale, public golf in WNY was Glen Oak? You've come a long way, baby, as the tobacco ads used to say. Ivy Ridge, Arrowhead, and Buffalo Tournament Club are now joined by Diamond Hawk. With Harvest Hill (West Seneca) set to join the family in 2007, and the Seneca course in Lewiston slated to open in 2008, the menu of fine dining is nearly filled. Diamond Hawk will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all of them, providing challenges to golfers of every level.
What might be the most unexpected feature of the course is the tranquility. With a major thoroughfare, an industrial park, and a mobile home neighborhood bordering the course, the last thing one expects is quiet. Yet there it is, unless you count the panting of the deer and the heavy breathing of the birds as noise. The opening hole is a par four that plays as a par five. If you don't get even with the bunkers, forget about the green. Hurdzan allows for the missed drive, as the hole narrows toward the green. A deft pitch for the third will get you close for four, while a strong mid-iron second has a chance to find the green. The second is a strategic hole, playing to the edge of Genesee Street. A hybrid gets you in the drive zone, leaving a short-iron approach to an elevated, bunkered green. Thoughtful execution will bring you birdie here, or at least a par. You'll need it for the next three holes. Number three is a long, one-shot hole over marshland. Number four is a mid-length par four with wetlands left and bunkers right in the drive zone. It is here that you begin to see one of Hurdzan's trademarks: sunken chipping areas. Fairway runways dip low, then rise to the putting surface. Scottish-style, stacked-sod bunkers protect the short grass. You are forced to clip a deft pitch with proper pace to get close for an up-and-down.
The fifth is a long (if 595 is long for you) par five that moves left, right, then left again. Stealing a feature from the 16th at St. Andrews Old Course, the Principal's Nose bunker triad in the middle of the layup zone forces you to be a bit more heroic than you may have planned. Don't go over this putting surface, or you'll certainly take a drop with penalty. Cart path and wetlands behind will see to that!
After a bit of a breather on the short 6th, it's back to the grind on the par 4 seventh and 8th holes. Seven is straight, with pinching bunkers in the drive zone. A dogleg on eight narrows the fairway, with more pesky bunkers shrinking the drive zone even more. Pars on these four holes are a tremendous achievement. Number nine is a design rarely seen these days...the original penal golf hole. Hurdzan forces you to carry cross bunkers not once, but twice on this par five. Why? It would be simple without them. With the wind in your face, it's a true, three-shot hole. Playing hard and fast in the Summer, this one will be quite exciting. Go through the green and you'll find either a pot bunker or a nearly-impossible pitch back to the putting surface. It's tempting, but stay short.
You know what? That's enough for this week! I'll be back after Columbus Day with a review of the back nine.
We make the trek east each August to visit relatives in Connecticut, so I scour the area to mix business with relaxation. When you are based in the central part of the state, the entire confines are open to adventure, hence our past trips to The Golf Club at Oxford Greens, Fox Hopyard, Wintonbury Hills, Blue Fox Run and other, fine, CT courses. The tough part about the review business is, you can't visit too often, or you battle to write something new about a course that, simply, hasn't changed much in two or three years. Five years are a good period to pause between course visits. Running out of available courses is not a concern, but exhausting the stable of complexes that want you to come in and do a full review, might be. This year, we stretch out a bit, with trips into southern Massachusetts, then cross back to CT, all the way down east to Stonington. Our first stop is The Ranch, a Damian Pascuzzo design in Southwick, MA, that claimed the mantle of 3rd best new upscale public course in the USA (according to Golf Digest). Damian Pascuzzo partnered the late Robert Muir Graves of California. M-G has long been recognized as a few turns off center in his design philosophy. Not so far 'out there,' mind you, as the late Desmond Muirhead, but certainly a bit more likely to produce a fun, curious, even scruffy, design. Since a great many designs from M-G are found out west, I'd need to head to the left coast inorder to truly appreciate the man (for more on the late designer, click here and here.)
Since the 1980s, Damian Pascuzzo had worked with Muir Graves, before assuming the lead role in the firm. Pascuzzo indeed has become a voice of the clan of designers, voicing his informed concern for the relationship between technological improvement and golf course and community planning (click here). Of the four links on the firm's 'Links' page, two consider the individual who decides, over a pint, to build a golf course. How hard can it be? Read on. The more I learned about Pascuzzo, the more determined I was to play The Ranch. After my 18 holes, I was not let down once. The greatest compliment I can pay him is, the holes play and look as well from end to start as they do from start to end. Each time I looked back down the fairway from the green, I marveled at the movement and stillness of the land, the relationship of the bunkering to the shape and direction of the holes, and the overall connection of holes to their predecessors, followers, and other, unconnected holes. Yes, the bunkers had that angry, scruffy, California look I was hoping to find, so the child, too, was satisfied! For a look at each individual shot, visit our photo essay on The Ranch by clicking here.
What I believe I enjoyed most about The Ranch was its thorough attention to detail. I rarely care about the grass on which I play, unless it's northern California sensimilla. When you visit the complex' website, you can learn the what and why about the grasses chosen for use. I cannot say that I differentiated between the chewing, creeping and hard fescues as I was smashing the ball out of a fairway bunker, but it is my privilege to remark that I remarked on the look of the bunker grasses on multiple occasions.
Pascuzzo provides opportunities for the thing I love the most: heroic shots. The sixth and the fifteenth holes are short par fours where a risky drive, followed by a deft runner or chip, will leave a minute birdie putt. The ninth and sixteenth holes are dramatically downhill par fives on which driver-mid iron are common options. My own sad tale of the ninth is a perfect portrait of the rush- crush sequencing that must take place often. Driver and 8 iron (over the trees on the right) brought me a long eagle putt from left to right. Three putts later, I walked off with a most disheartening par.
On an extraordinarily buzy day, we saw the player assistants and the beverage cart on nearly every hole. They were courteous and helpful, and never in the way. If I hold true to my credo of five-year gaps between playings, I should return to The Ranch by 2011. I do not know if I can wait that long.
Coming this weekend: Lake Of Isles North Course by Rees Jones.
I've never dated anyone that was world-gorgeous, nor driven a car that had more vowels than consonants, and more horsepower than flat tires. I have, however, been given the opportunities to visit and play the courses of two resorts whose equal I cannot imagine anywhere in the world. That they came within nine months of each other allowed me to make fairly-accurate comparisons of lodging, culinary offerings, and of course, the golf courses. I can say (and I hope you'll read the rest of the article in spite of this revelation) that Kohler's American Club is the complete golfing resort. If you have one to visit the rest of your days, make this one it. Save your change, return your pop bottles, and use coupons at the grocery store to hoard the $$$ you'll need to play all four courses and stay at the American Club. You'll leave their opulence with the knowledge that, for one brief period, you dated the supermodel and drove the Ferrari.
Kohler, Wisconsin sits about an hour north of Milwaukee. It is a bit inland from the shore of Lake Michigan, and borders Sheboygan, the home of the largest American flag in the USA (and, one supposes, the world.) Kohler is a tribute to the family that gave us many of the bathroom and kitchen implements that control water and sewage flow. The current docent of the family fortune, Herb Kohler, had a bit of a thing for golf, and decided to hire the best in the business (Pete Dye) to build him some courses. The first plots of land that Herb provided sat adjacent to the town, and begat the River and Meadows Valley courses at Blackwolf Run. This pair of courses could not be more distinct, with the River never straying too far from the eponymous water course. From the first tee shot, one becomes aware that the River is about high rough, precise fairway targeting, and turbulent putting surfaces. This is not to insinuate that the holes are not fun. Rather, they are! You will be offered tee shots from on high (numbers five and eight), over water (numbers nine through fourteen) and across stretches of desert (fifteen comes to mind.) If your preoccupation is with execution, not result, you will certainly enjoy your round. If the occasional swimming golf ball bothers you, then you won't. The round finishes with an enjoyable sequence of 5, 3, 4. Sixteen is a long, sweeping par five called Unter der lindenI (all the holes have names), which translates to "under the Linden." The Linden is a gi-normous tree that guards the left side of the hole. It obscures all third shots to a green that plays longer than some par 3 holes. Hit your drive straight, and your second shot right, or you'll have to hit a bender around der linden if you hope to putt for birdie. The entire right side of the 18th hole is wasteland that normally floods during tournament time. Imagine having the wherewithal to flood a huge waste bunker for appearance sake! The fairway rides triumphantly right, then back left, to finish under the decks of the clubhouse. If you don't bask in the approach to the green of Black and Tan, then you should turn in your membership card to Golfers Everywhere.
The Irish course at Whistling Straits transports us to another world. Located in Haven, a five-mile shuttle from the lodge, this land could not look less like the farmland that it once was. Word on the fairway is, Pete Dye looked at the land, trucked in mountains of soil to create new land that mimicked Ireland's rolling seaside terrain, then went about building his two courses. The Irish immediately catches your eye with the ridges that serve as backdrop to the first hole. It doesn't allow those ocular organs to refocus until the course is finished. The turbulence of the fairways is reminiscent of rolling and bucking of the high seas. Watching your ball bound this way and that is part of the experience, part of the fun. If you take its final destination too seriously, be careful: you may ruin your day. You find that holes dogleg at apparently-preposterous angles on the Irish Course. What the maps and scorecards don't tell you, and what only experience can reveal, is that the landing areas for drives, second, and even third shots are ample enough. More than any other skill needed is the knowledge of, and faith in, your own yardages. If you want to turn in a score for handicap purposes, then the Irish Course is not the place for heroic, I-hit-my-five-iron-this-far-once shots (although they, too, can be fun to attempt.) Dye and Kohler present this cornucopia of visual hazards that, quite frankly, we're not used to. We come from our ho-hum golf and country clubs and course, with rough and trees and not much more on either side of the fairway. What we seemingly find at The Irish Course are fjords, trenches, caverns, and other such declivities where angels fear to tread. If looking at them is difficult enough, then recovering from them is even more demanding. I believe that the tenth hole was where I first encountered God's majesty. The hole plays away from the clubhouse, toward the sea (or in this case, Lake Michigan.) It plays over one of those fjords, up, up, and then up some more. It is not overly long at 398 yards, but it is so evocative that catching your breath (as you climb the hill), and playing some shots along the way, is a mind and body-bending experience. You encounter blind shots and long flagsticks (number 13), sheep and shots from craggy bluffs (number 11), and more than enough sand to build a castle, bulwark, or trellace. As much fun as the Irish Course is, it serves as a prelude to the Straits. In my humble opinion, if you play Straits, followed by Irish, you will be a bit disappointed in the Irish. If you play them in their proper order, then the world will be righted.
I've spent the better part of three months considering all 72 holes, and have been able to identify only two that really lack... something. The 18th at Irish is a par five with a wonderful drive and a wonderful greenside space. The tee shot carries a bunker on the right or plays safely to the left of it. The second shot must travel over 225 yards in the air to reach a severely-sloped, landing zone area. There are no bunkers around this green, just a volcanic side slope that forces a high and blind pitch, or a low and blind run-up. Either shot is appropriate for the situation. What is missing, however, is the lay-up area between 225 and 125 yards out...there is none. Or rather, it is razor-thin, beyond difficult to hit. An entire acreage to the lower right, identified on the course plan as lay-up turf, is now high rough. Someone has forced the golfer to lay back 150-plus yards on a par five. On some holes, after reaching the putting surface, you remark aloud "oh, there WAS more room than it seemed." Not the case here. The other curious hole is the first at Meadows Valley (complete review in September.) It is a flat, unremarkable par four that swerves...nowhere. It plays straight amid bunkers and a pond to a green located one foot above the fairway. The hole apparently serves to warn, "this is as easy as it's going to get, so save your strokes here."
However, there is an extra hole that is not on any map. The River course has a separate tee box, adjacent to its first tee, that plays to an extra fairway, across the river from the clubhouse. The approach is then played to the tenth at Meadows Valley ...sideways. This is the official "first hole" of the tournament course, a combination of holes from both courses. It was used at the 1998 US Women's Open, and is a tremendous 73rd hole. This is the final lesson on the vision of Dye...he is so capable of creating distinct methods of playing individual holes along one fairway, so much so that he physically invented a second fairway to play 90 degrees to a green already employed, without the slightest thought of "this doesn't work." Like many resort courses, we only have the chance to play them once. Certainly a return trip with a bit of knowledge would make the experience complete. Ah, well, unter der linden!
I'll admit that we never got to finish the Channel 7 series last year. Bills training camp caught us by surprise, and we adjourned for the Fall with eight of nine holes filmed. The one that got away was as important as any other, a representative from the Bo Danoff course in Niagara Falls. I say Bo, although the guy touted for its creation is no one other than the mulleted lion, John Daly. As we all know, however, most tour players are merely "associated" with the creation of a course. Sure, Long John may have suggested a design feature here or there, chosen a particular hole routing there or here, and inserted a pond or green swale here, there, or everywhere. It is safe to say, however, that the brains behind this incredibly complex routing belong to Bo Danoff.
The piece of land on which Thundering Waters sits belonged to Canadian Rail for quite some time. The land was played out, however, with a line running through the center, and not much good earth on either side. With some deep thought, however, a golf course was born, and an addition to a tremendous tourist destination was created. Thundering Waters does not overwhelm from the beginning. The car park is modest; the clubhouse, understated; and the practice range, truncated (nothing beyond 190 yards.) The golf course, however, is something else. From the genesis, we are aware that Danoff will play tricks of elevation with us, masking fairway cantilevers with wild, amoebic bunkering. Safe drive zones appear much more daunting from the tee, and apparently-flat green surfaces are uneven to the point of madness. I chose to play the third set of tees with my bro-in-law, Mad Mark, with the exception of one hole (more on that later.)
Since I stopped competing at golf, I pick up on the rare occasion when an ordinary number won't do to describe my efforts. When my flailings approach flagellation, I insert the Greek symbol for pi or some other letter, and move on to the next hole. On the first at TW, after shanking a nine-iron approach into the brush, then skulling a sand shot into the gunga, I inscribed pi on my card and gamely moved on. The warm-up first led to the hole for which I had come, the brutish, 667-yard second. Fifteen minutes later, after driver-six iron-four iron-chip-putt gave me a par of five for the hole, I had completed the Canadian Series for channel seven (albeit without cameras rolling) and rediscovered my game and Arabic numerals.
There are no beverage carts at Thundering Waters. Danoff's marvelous routing brings the golfer past the centrally-located Lion's Den no fewer than four times. Add to this the stop at the clubhouse between the nines, and you have multiple opportunities for refreshment and nourishment. I scarfed down a pair of bran crackers to keep me moving, and added a couple of waters for irrigation purposes. The winds dry you out as much as the sun parches you, so keep the agua flowing!
Guess what impressed me most about the course? The short holes! Go figure! Danoff's routing includes four par threes and two driveable par fours. I have included pictures of the short fours here below. The first (number seven) bends right to left, with a sizeable pond down the right side. Lay-up is about 175 yards, while a driver needs about 250 yards carry up the left to find the bail-out. The green is a solid 260 carry from the blues, and can be held. Below you see a view from the fairway, some 140 yards out.
The second reachable par four appears on the back nine, number eleven. A reversal of number seven, this hole bends left to right, with the H2O again on the right side. The lay-up might be facile, with the exception of a pair of large trees that guard the entire right side of the hole. Hit your lay-up too strong, and you'll find the woodland creatures on the left. Hit it with less abandon, and you find yourself blocked out to the green. I took the manly approach (as I did on seven, where I scrambled for par) and bombed the driver straight at the green. As the ball crested the trees, a rogue branch reached out and knocked the ball into the water. And I crushed it! Undaunted, I dropped beneath the tree, wedged on, and sank the putt for another scrambling par. Below you see the hole from the tee, with the river on the right hidden from view. Trust me, it's there!
There is a cool feature to Thundering Waters, although I'm not sure how long it will last. On hole sixteen, another of the great par threes, you can pay $30 Canadian (which equals $50 American these days...just kidding!) and have three players take a shot at the green. If one of you hits the green, you get a free round and cart (what's not to like?) Even if you all miss, you still get some clubhouse bucks to use on a souvenir (French for souvenir.) Our crew gave it a go, and won a free round for the host.
TW reminds me of a Canadian Augusta. There are many holes where the correct play is not toward the flag, or even toward the green. If you aim at the putting surface, you might miss by an inch, and find a watery grave. TW asks that you eliminate the hazards by playing toward the chipping areas. If you have the patience (and the short game), you'll make many a safe par.
Having played all the top new courses along the Niagara peninsula, the question must be answered: which is the best? I vote that the two Legends on the Niagara courses, Grand Niagara's Rees Jones course, and Thundering Waters must all be lumped into the same category of world-class. I place Hunters Pointe and Royal Niagara a shaved level below, and Pen Lakes at the third level. After that, it's up to you. Personally, I would rate the top four in this order: Thundering Waters, Ussher's Creek (Legends), Grand Niagara, Battlefield (Legends).
Distances are minimized with the continued growth of the internet. On the user end, we have access to golfing web sites from the entire world. On the provider end, golf businesses are intent on portraying every last detail lucidly on these web sites. We live vicariously through the photography and wordsmithing that frame courses such as Old Head in Ireland, resorts of the ilk of Bandon Dunes in Oregon, or The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin.
PRELUDE: There was nothing guarded nor cautious about the enthusiasm that I felt one Friday in May when The Scrambler, Travelin' Duff and I set off on the eleven-hour journey from Buffalo to Kohler. Any strains of let-down had disappeared the previous August, when I had visited Bandon, Oregon, to play the three transcendent courses at Mike Keiser's little place by the sea. I knew then that things would never be the same, that golf and the trappings at resorts like these would provide an experience of inimitable quality. In Bandon, Mrs. Mo and I stayed off-resort, in town. In Kohler, the Three Musketeers would spend three nights amid the luxury created by Herb Kohler.
There's a lot to be said for Ohio and Indiana, but what I remember most is the flatness. That is, when I was awake. I took the first six-hour shift behind the wheel of Old Gory, the green '98 caravan that gets me from A to B, then settled in to my captain's chair for a snooze. Chicago, like Buffalo, was under construction. Milwaukee look like an archeological dig. When we left brew-town in the rearview mirror, sometime around 10 pm CST, I started to look ahead anxiously.
ARRIVAL: The American Club sits in mid-town Kohler. While cruising the main drag, it occurs to you that all was planned to look like the quintessential mid-country town, where everyone gets along, where litter never touches the sidewalk, where wood ages without turning color. There are understated shopping plazas, immense manicured lawns, funky statues, and playing fields. You pass the Sports Core, the incredibly-thorough workout facility, and arrive at the main facility. Doormen greet you, although not at 11 in the evening! Gravity motivated us out of the van, up the steps, and into some bucolic paradise. The path from the main lobby to our room required the traversing of four corridors, three staircases, and one elevator shaft. Along the way, we would pass two gardens of exploding scents and underappreciated colors, one ice cream parlor imported from americana, a study and a spa. There was also a fine English-style pub on grounds, but the Sabres lost that night, so we hewed it from our memory.
The room was appointed with mattresses of uncompromising stability. Duff and I drew the long straws, so Scrambler got the cot. Yes, it was a weekend of primal male bonding, but no one wants to get THAT close to the Scrambler, other than Mrs. Scrambler. The fixtures were Kohler's finest (big shock, that one), and the cabinetry evoked the handiwork of the finest woodworkers.
DAY ONE: In a nutshell, this was wake-up, Irish course, nap in the room, work out in the fitness facility, and crash. We ate some breakfast at Whistling Straits, where the two courses (Irish and Straits) along Lake Michigan are housed, then headed out on foot to challenge the Irish course. With the exception of the 18th hole, which none of us liked, the Irish course provided the perfect opening round. In fact, if you do journey to Kohler, play the Irish before you play the Straits. It's like reading Angels and Demons before The daVinci Code. It all flows like currency. The Sports Core provided a terrific opportunity to swim, lift weights, run or stair or play tennis, and do some ab work. I highly recommend a visit. After such a trying day, the pillows and mattresses never felt so good!
DAY TWO: This day was one of penance. We had the physical hangover from the eleven-hour trip, the round of golf, and the workout. Playing thirty-six holes (even with carts) was exhausting, and made us feel less than old, basically washed up. To make matters worse, our birdie-less streak reached 54 holes each. What are the odds that three fairly-accomplished golfers would complete 162 holes without going under par once? The two inland courses (Blackwolf Run River and Meadows Valley) seek precise shots and mete out punishment for wayward ones.
DAY THREE: Although we knew that a twelve-hour drive (add the hour for time change) awaited us, we could not wait to play the Straits course along Lake Michigan. Part of the anticipation related to caddies; none of us takes a caddie with any regularity. Duff had never had a looper, while I had only had little Mo' on the bag once. As far as the Scrambler, like most things in his life, it was a mystery. The Straits and its caddies not disappoint. On the first hole (bragging a bit), my caddie read a twenty-footer on the money, and the first birdie of the weekend dropped. Straits, like Irish, dares you to attempt the heroic shot. If you do so, you will leave fulfilled.
Well, it took about two months before I got tired of doing summaries of tour events. That's the kind of thing you do early in your writing career, to make you appreciate the opportunity to write an exploratory essay. It was fun for a while to do the research necessary to find out what was happening on all the major professional golf tours, but the routine nature of it was too demanding. Mo' is, after all, a balloon grabber. His type is non-linear, asymmetric, and barely functional. I live on inspiration, breathing it in from dawn to dusk. Routine tasks horrify me, just ask Mrs. Mo'.
I want to begin by writing about some of the places I've been this Spring. It occurred to me after last summer's truncated golf series on Channel 7 that we needed to start earlier this year. Since the Sabres were showing signs of a long season, and as spring came early to our environs, I corralled Jeff and Podo, and off we went to shoot some early-season holes. The first four episodes that you see (Arrowhead, Rothland, Buffalo Tournament Club and Ivy Ridge) will seem a bit brown, and the reason is good: it's April! Beginning with number five (Willowbrook), you will finally see some green grass. I have to say that I am excited that Arrowhead is still public, that Rothland improved the White Nine (home of my least favorite hole in WNY), that BTC is opening its second nine soon, and that Ivy Ridge, well, exists! When the Diamond Hawk course in Cheektowaga is added to the mix, five of the finest public-access venues will claim residence in the eastern suburbs. How do those affluent 'burbs of Amherst and Clarence feel when all they have between them is Glen Oak? Time to step up and build a real municipal course in one of the two townships.
Some of you may be aware that Mo' junior is a rower of some renown. While he and his boatmates were off to Saratoga for the state championships, I snuck over (literally two miles from the start line) to Saratoga National in May for a punishing round of golf. I had forgotten how abusive a round can be, especially when it is played over a course created in the image of the abuser himself, Robert Trent Jones, senior. We in WNY are fortunate that RTJ Geezer built his two area courses (Glen Oak and Crag Burn) when he was in a kinder, older, wiser, gentler phase of his architectural career. One of the architects he spawned, Roger Rulewich, has constructed some of the most demanding, target-oriented layouts anywhere, and S N epitomizes his philosophy. I had played a Rulewich before, in Connecticut (Fox Hopyard), but had forgotten how many holes had been scored as X, Y, or, in humorously philosophical moments, pi. Rulewich demands that you select the proper tee deck, as forced carries are often the law of the land. If you play the tips, be sure that your average drive is laser straight and 260 carry. If not, swallow your hubris and move up. Even in the wet weather of May, Saratoga National was in beautiful shape. The holes are inspired, offering a dance through wetlands, over sand barrens, and around tall trees. Green sites are often placed on the precipitous ends of peninsulas or across bodies of water. Saratoga National, as with most demanding golf courses, requires a certain golfing psychic ability (or prior rounds) to read and interpret what the layout is offering on a particular day.
The trip to the northlands was a warm-up for the year's golfing trip: Kohler, Wisconsin. The American Club is something of an adult Williamsburg, a bit of a planned community (based around the Kohler faucet plant.) It is pricey, but what you purchase is absolute luxury, from the well-pillowed mattresses to the gentle greetings of the staff. In town, barely two miles from the inn, Blackwolf Run. Two courses (Meadows Valley and River) were carved from the woodlands and farmland by Indiana's Paul "Pete" Dye. About seven miles away, in the appropriately-named town of Haven, is Whistling Straits. Dye returned to craft a landscape, then two golf tracks, all of which mimicked an Irish coastline. The Irish course and the Straits links beckon beyond the waters of Lake Michigan (which they abut) to the island of Eyrie, where shamrocks and leprechauns abound. Not as punitive as a Scottish links, these Irish replicas offer truly melodious rounds of golf (unless you play from the tournament tees, which your caddies will point out with glee.) Next month, I will return to describe these courses in greater detail. If you cannot wait, read The Scrambler's accounts of days one and two of our trip.
And what awaits? Way down the road, a return to Bandon to play the fourth course. This year, however, still holds five courses in Myrtle Beach, along with the possibility of two great new ones in New Engand (The Ranch and Great River.) Locally, the back nine at BTC beckons, along with return trips to Ivy Ridge and Arrowhead. If Cheektowaga has grass on nine holes, you'll find me there as well. Happy fairways and greens, and long tee balls to you all.
For the third consecutive year, BuffaloGolfer.Com will team with channel 7, the local ABC affiliate, to present a nine-week series on the best golf holes in the BuffaloGolfer region. 2004 presented the top public holes, while 2005 brought the top Canadian holes of the Niagara peninsula. Both series were received with tremendous support and enthusiasm, and Mo' did not hit the ball too badly, either. 2006 brings a revitalization of the series, with a "New Look, New Courses" theme. A number of elements stand out from the background, each of which will be examined in detail in future articles. This week we look at the shirts that will adorn Adonis, err, Mo's torso. Made by Copley Apparel specially for BuffaloGolfer.Com, they are a tremendous improvement over last year's knickers and button-downs, and bring Mo' into the new millennium at last.
Copley Apparel is a Pittston, PA-based company, just south-west of Scranton. The company outfits David Branshaw, the 2005 Nationwide Tour Championship tournament winner and 2006 PGA Tour member. The company produces long and short sleeved polo shirts, outerwear, and long and short sleeved mock necks. It is their color range that draws the most attention. By employing butter, cerulean, pea, tangerine, cherry, corn, lagoon and oak, Copley ensures that their crayon box of colors will never be imitated nor surpassed. As Mo' Golf moves through his front nine of local golf holes, we'll bring you pictures of him at every step, resplendent in his Copley shirts.
Mo' Golf is tired. He has written over 65 articles using the same investigative skills that got him tossed out of the Wake Forest sports information department. It is time for a new format, so beginning with February, 2006, Mo' will be a court reporter of sorts, providing weekly reviews of the five major world tours (PGA, Euro PGA, LPGA, Nationwide and Champions.) Without further delay, here is Mo's Tour Report for March 30-April 2
Ever since John Konsek went off to Purdue to whip Jack Nicklaus head-to-head, and the big three of Tim Straub (Wake Forest), E.J. Pfister (Oklahoma State) and Steve Serotte (Furman) headed south in the early 80s, WNY has been a hidden gem for golf recruiters. The current crop is playing at the mid-major level and below, which only represents a testament to the current level of play at the junior level. Recruiters are heading overseas more than ever, and former three-sport athletes are foregoing the concussions and ACL tears of contact sports in favor of the sport of kings. With that in mind, it's time to recognize the locals who made it to the big time. Check out their teams at the links below. If you know of any local player who failed to receive mention, drop me a line at email@example.com, and we'll do the necessary research to add her or him to the list. Bravo, players!
Lindsay Cornell-Xavier—Freshman http://goxavier.collegesports.com/sports/w-golf/mtt/cornell_lindsay00.html Jamie Miller-Augusta State University-Junior http://www.aug.edu/athletics/sports/mgolf.htm Jeff Wolniewicz-SUNY-Binghamton-Junior http://athletics.binghamton.edu/sports/golf/wolniewicz.html Kevin Crawford-SUNY-Binghamton-Senior http://athletics.binghamton.edu/sports/golf/crawford.html Raman Luthra—George Washington U.—Junior http://gwsports.collegesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/luthra_raman00.html Matt Thomas-Miami of Ohio—Senior http://muredhawks.collegesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/thomas_matt00.html Dave Patronik-Gannon—Senior http://www.gannon.edu/sports/men/golf/2005profiles/patronik.ihtml Chris Covelli-Florida Gulf Coast University—Freshman http://www.fgcu.edu/athletics/mgolf/profile.asp?first=Chris%20&last=Covelli&season=2005/2006 Justin Regier-Florida Institute of Technology—Sophomore http://www.fit.edu/athletics/golf/statistics_golf.htm Matt Felser-Williams—Freshman http://www.williams.edu/athletics/sport.php?sport=11 Garrett Davis-Wingate—Sophomore http://sports.wingate.edu/golfmens/bios.asp Tim Falkner-Mercyhurst-Junior http://hurstathletics.collegesports.com/sports/m-golf/mtt/falkner_tim00.html Entire Canisius team http://www.canisius.edu/athletics/teams/roster.asp?teamID=94 Entire Niagara team http://www.purpleeagles.com/sports/mgolf/rosters/
BuffaloGolfer.Com was fortunate to gain access to Scott Witter, golf course and landscape architect, for a sit-down email interview this off-season. What is written below refers to Mr. Witter's first 18-hole design, Ironwood Golf Club. Site and email inks are found at the end.
Ironwood Golf Course is a very natural experience and one surely to be enjoyed by everyone who plays it, and I mean that quite sincerely. If one must place it in some design category I would say that it is much akin to a minimalist design... A true lay-of-the-land golf course, where Mother Nature dictated, and for the best I might add, the optimum routing and the most sensible golf experience given the character and the realities of the land site. Ironwood Golf Course may go down as one of my very best golf routings without a doubt. To the trained eye, it holds many simple yet traditional playing characteristics that you will find on the classics in America and overseas. During the routing of the course, my main objective was to direct as many holes as possible whose primary features already existed in the landscape, and then accent their inherent strategies without overkilling the number of hazards that would otherwise place the character of the course in danger of being forced and artificial.
This approach and philosophy doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any earthmoving done. However, it was done so in a manner that doesn’t detract from the natural features of the site and it leaves most people wondering where earth was really moved. Most all of the earthmoving involved cuts made on fairways to create sightlines to landing areas, green surfaces, or to create ponds and wetlands for drainage and irrigation needs. Each hole follows very closely if not literally, the existing contour that existed on the site before we arrived. Overall, this approach is good common sense. Basically, it employs a restraint in not allowing design ideas out of thin air to overrule and outweigh the realities of the land. Instead of totally reshaping a steep slope to cerate a flat landing area, or filling in a ravine to make the course more “friendly” we tried to figure out how to incorporate these features into the golf hole and keep it interesting and fun for the golfers. At Ironwood, we were presented with a few of these landscape characteristics and in each case, the “difficult” feature in question became the highlight of the hole. A perfect case in point is a man-made feature, the very tall and quite prominent TV and radio tower located in the center of the front nine holes. When the Ripstein family first contacted me to walk their land and look over their ideas about a golf course, they told me that the course would end before they reached the tower. I asked them why and they thought golfers would hate the experience of playing around the tower. When I asked them if they owned the land around the tower they said yes. Then I talked to them about the countless famous and classic golf courses around the world with even larger “eyesores” on them. From that point on, the tower became nothing more than another large tree, one that we clearly couldn’t cut down, that we needed to work with to achieve the best routing possible. It is my opinion that some of the best golf on the site routes around the tower and underneath the huge guy wires that hold the tower from falling over. The sequence of holes; 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are some of the most naturally occurring and strategic golf holes at Ironwood. The course wouldn’t flow nearly as smoothly as it does if this land around the tower wasn’t utilized.
Ironwood expresses an effortless flow of its routing and this is its biggest strength. Each hole presents a different challenge from the tee, a separate strategic look from the approach shot and certainly many subtle and bold putting surfaces to keep golfers of all skill levels on their toes. Each hole is unique from the others with each having its own personality. To me, this is very similar to images and feelings we experience when we see a raw landscape for the first time. No matter which way we turn to see another view, we are given a fresh outlook, with a whole new set of conditions to absorb and enjoy.
I could go on about the design and character of the golf course, but the real success story of Ironwood is a result of the people involved. The three Ripstein brothers (Russ, Terry and Jeff) and Jeff’s wife Linda were completely involved during the entire process from planning through construction, and now they operate the course and continue to make many improvements. There was never a question as to who would build the golf course. Being involved in farming and construction for most of their lives, the Ripsteins brought countless skills from growing grass and crops to operating large scale heavy equipment, so building a golf course didn’t frighten them at all. As soon as the drawings were finished, we all went out with tape measures, wood stakes, spray paint and me with my sketch pad. After a couple of weeks to feel the routing and make minor adjustments, the Ripsteins fired up the heavy equipment and began their new lives.
The worst-kept secret in WNY golf is the conversion of Arrowhead Golf Club into a private facility. What's important is, the administration WANTS you to know. For those of us who loved its $50 green fees, C.C.-for-a-day feel, the mourning runs deep. After we dry our tears, we realize what a great opportunity this really is. A very successful girls' high school event was held on this Scott Witter design (his 2nd 18-hole layout) in May of 2005, followed by Lonnie Nielsen's triumph in the local USGA Senior Open qualifier in July (3 birdies in last three holes to win by one!) Arrowhead promises to be the epitome of a private golf club, run for golfers, by golfers. Mike Surtel was wooed away from Palmer Golf to manage the show, with Chris Gruttaria directing the pro shop. Milfred 'Mo' Golf made the trek to Akron (does it count as a trek? It's not that far) to sit down with Mike and Chris and get the skinny on the transition from public to private facility.
1. What are the steps in taking a course from public-access to private status? What is the time table? Will the course have any public access in 2006? Much internal deliberation and research has gone into the decision to move the Club in a different direction as far as access to the course. We began this process during mid golf season in 2005, with much feedback from various parties as we analyzed the golf industry, the function of a private golf club, along with market trends, and the golfing community locally. Even though the course will be members and guests only, our dining facility will remain open to unaccompanied guests in 2006 for everyone’s enjoyment. The Club began recruitment of golfing members over the last three months, and the official date that memberships take effect is January 1st, 2006. As far as public access in 2006, as we mentioned, our restaurant will remain open to all, and the course will be members and guests only. As many Clubs do, our membership will allow charity/corporate outside functions to utilize our wonderful facility on specific days. 2. What new hires have been made to bring this transition about? Our management team will consist of all the necessary team members to provide the full service in every aspect of a Country Club with the feel of a contemporary Golf Club approach and vision. With our reputation as one of the finest new courses in New York State our mission is simply to provide the finest amenities and golf experience for our valued members. 3. Will Scott Witter, the architect, continue his involvement? Scott will continue to be an integral part of everything we do, especially as we grow with our members. In fact, we have already begun to add improvements to the course following feedback from our golfers over the last 18 months. Scott’s design and impeccable attention to detail are evident in the original construction and will continue as we add more improvements to this marvelous layout. 4. The club lacks a separate driving range/practice facility. Is there land to build one? Our practice facility is capable of providing service to both courses we own and manage, one being Arrowhead Golf Club, and the other being our affiliate Bright Meadows, which is located next door. 5. Why was the decision made to close Arrowhead to the public?
Our decision was based on many factors with the major being: Golf has regained itself in the industry following a sluggish downturn over the last five years along with the economic impacts of 9/11. Many people are returning to the game and the necessity for a new, different type of private club in Western New York was an opportunity we could not pass up. With our “different type of private club” setting of no financial surprises or assessments, a very affordable membership plan, and a world-class golf course, the Club has positioned itself in a unique class. Many new public facilities have and will continue to dot the Western New York and Southern Ontario landscape, which is great for our area. We are separating ourselves from both category types, and breaking out of the mold into the “new era” of contemporary Golf Clubs in the country. Simply put, you will enjoy the finest golf experience along with great food, in a comfortable setting. 6. Do you anticipate any fall-out from the decision?
So many people have enjoyed the course following its grand opening in 2005, and we know some people who are not considering membership are sad that the availability to play is now limited, but we hope they will join us as a guest from time to time. Our membership base is filling as we continue to accept and welcome members to the Club during the off season. We are 100% committed to our private membership and are very excited to bring this new type of Golf Club to the Western New York community. Our current program to join is extremely affordable for this caliber of Club. Our current membership offerings are very beneficial to those willing to join us now, as we are sure that our limited number of memberships will sell out well before Spring of 2006. Our staff is providing private tours of the Club to show you our wonderful facility. Our restaurant is open to the public and we are current serving dinner on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 4pm. Please give us a call at 542 – 4461 to make dinner reservations or contact our Membership office anytime at 542 – 4653.
Welcome to Arrowhead Golf Club.
Drove up to the Deveaux section of Niagara Falls the other night, to see the future of backyard practice. Brent Gadacz, long-time stellar amateur golfer, phys ed teacher, and high school hoops coach, had just purchased the territorial rights to Pro-Putt Backyard Putting Greens, and he wanted me to take a look. Threw the camera in the van, I did, next to the putter and wedge, grabbed some Titleists, and off I went.
As you can see from the accompanying photo, the putting green sits in a corner of the yard, where Brent had the sense to adorn it with water fountain, stones, golfer statue and other landscaping materials. I dropped the first ball on the green, squared up, and putted it . . . off the green. Man, was that green fast! I took less of a swing and snuggled the ball up to the hole . . . and in! Since I play a fair share on the molasses-slow greens of my local muni, I snickered and said, “Sure, but what good is it if your course’s greens are slower?” No worries, as Brent proceeded to explain how the whole green is laid down, and how you can adjust it to suit your golfing plans.
The putting green is laid down, then the fibers are straightened by machine, and sand is poured onto the green surface. The sand weighs the green down, allowing it to settle, and also influences the speed. The more sand you lay down, the faster it rolls. Playing Grover Cleveland? No problem, just vacuum some sand up. Going up to Cherry Hill? Lay down lots of sand! Pro Putt thinks of everything; the last layer of sand is green, to blend in with the fibers.
How about chipping and pitching? No problem. I had my wedge with me, and started to hit low runners and flop shots. They checked up when struck crisply, and bounded on when skulled, just as you would expect. That a company can replicate a putting green with turf and sand, and make it maintenance-free is confounding, yet the proof is in . . . the putting.
In case you were unaware, Phil Mickelson’s dad spent a fortune keeping up the real-grass green that occupied the Mickelson’s San Diego backyard. Sure, Phil became the greatest exponent of the modern short game, but why spend so much money? For $14 per square foot, Pro Putt of Western New York can build you a putting green to take your short game to the next level. Visit www.pro-putt.com to learn more. Contact Brent at 716 285 5922.
The tower at Turning Stone Resort rises above the central New York mesa, shimmering like an icicle. It is especially magnificent on sunny days, when other icicles don't do so well. The golf courses at Turning Stone also rise above their predecessors and contemporaries of the region. Rick Smith, Robert Trent Jones II and Tom Fazio created three masterpieces, each with a unique personality. Even after 54 holes, you won't have played the same hole twice.
The Tower is home to eleven unique eating emporia (more on them later), workout room, a two-lane lap pool, the enormous casino, and some twenty levels of rooms. The lodging ranges from luxury suites on the twenty-first floor to very comfortable double queen bed rooms. Adjacent to the tower is the Hotel, a second, smaller facility, with rooms located above the entertainment and shopping complex. Guest and jacuzzi rooms, along with jacuzzi and luxury sweets, are some of the available options in the three stories of the Hotel. The Inn at Turning Stone is located off the main property, but provides continental breakfast and shuttle to all destinations. It provides the most economic rooming at Turning Stone. The Lodge, the newest addition to the resort, brings accomodation to a new level of luxury. 98 suites populate the Lodge, furnished with the most elegant and comfortable linens and sheets. Separate lounge and dining facilities at the Lodge make mealtime an exquisite pleasure. If you're not in the mood to leave your suite, in-room dining is also available. The Lodge is located between the tower and the Shenendoah/Kaluhyat clubhouse, both of which can be seen from the balconies of each suite.
The first trip that I made to Turning Stone was a day trip in 2002. Travelin' Duff and I played the Shenendoah course, one of Rick Smith's initial efforts at course design. The course established an early "wow" factor for us both, and made us quite enthusiastic about returning for the next two courses. I remember Duff hitting a ball over the pond and onto the eleventh green. I commented that he hadn't let the water affect him at all; he responded, in all honesty, "What pond?" Good thing he hadn't seen it! We also played the nine-hole par three course, Sandstone Hollow, and agreed that it was the best short course that either of us had played (the holes call for eight of nine clubs between 3 iron and PW!)
We returned in June of 2004, in less than satisfactory condition. U.S. Open hangover greeted us on the first tee at Kaluhyat. Rather than watch the final day at Shinnecock, we had driven all night, and slept in a rest area for two hours, to be on the first tee of the Robert Trent Jones, Junior course. Duff played the first few holes in relative bliss, matching par on them. I played simply in a stupor, making all kinds of mistakes and marking all nature of numbers on my card. With each succesive hole, the relentless nature of the course made a tattoo on our memories. It wasn't that we were discouraged, but we certainly appreciated the difficulty that Trent Junior had measured into every hole. If the PGA tour does one day come to Turning Stone, we can't wait to see what the pros shoot on Kaluhyat.
Duff was unavailable this year, so the Scrambler and I returned to Turning Stone for an overnight, with golf at Atunyote the first day, and a bludgeoning at Kaluhyat the next. I'll get the bragging out of the way first: 80 at Atunyote and 85 at Kaluhyat, both from the tips. Atunyote brags for itself, from its separate clubhouse, complimentary dining and drinks, and extra-terrestrial layout. If you hit all the fairways and greens on the first five holes, like I did, you'll find yourself two under par (courtesy of a pitch-in eagle on five; I never said that I could putt.) If you misclub on the sixth, you'll make triple, also like me. My new book, How To Go From -2 to +1 In One Loose Swing, is on the editor's desk at this moment. Atunyote was designed and built by Tom Fazio, with big-time tournament golf in mind. It sits in an adjacent town (Vernon), on the back end of Kaluhyat. It is the most open of the three layouts, but that will change soon. Mature trees will be planted in strategic spots, although the openness will not be eliminated entirely. The greens at all three courses will challenge your flat stick, but Atunyote places the highest premium of them all on your ability to roll the ball.
Here's the list, with a little bit about each one.
Aurora's E.J. Pfister takes Oklahoma State bond one step farther.
There is a great local story of mentoring in the development stages, and the final scene will be played out today over 36 holes at Longmeadow Country Club in the Massachusetts town of the same name. E.J. Pfister was called into a new line of work by fellow PGA tour and Okalahoma State alumnus, Bob Tway. Seems that Tway's son, Kevin, had qualified for the USGA Junior Amateur, and Bob wanted someone not quite so nervous to caddie for his son. E.J. has opened a golf academy in Reno, Nevada, where he lives, and fit the bill to perfection. Now, Kevin Tway and E.J. Pfister are one match away from the national title. They square off over 36 holes today with Brad Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. Click Here For More
Final Result: Tway won.
As Milfred Mo' Golf creeps ever closer to the magical 4-0 frontier, his views on the sport of golf retake shape on a monthly basis. What once was important, no longer is. What was seldom considered, takes center stage. In an ironic duality, the body is both more responsive and less willing. It is more acutely aware of itself, yet less agreeable to giving more. This confounding situation (who thought of these things at 21?) makes the introduction of the X-Strap Sunday Bag and Syncha-Swing particularly appropriate for this time of year.
Mo' Golf took a shine to the game
because of the walking. A somewhat-portly lad, the notion of
exercising away the pounds by walking and walking, stepping and
stepping, was an enticing one. No hard-core, immediate physical
contact, with the threat of broken bones, strained ligaments, and other
injuries. Instead, the marathon of 18 holes with pounds of wood
and steel on the shoulders, over and down the hills and valleys, was
much more attractive. As the years passed, the allure of the hike
lost none of its charm; as friends and foes took to the riding cart, Mo'
smiled and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Mo' is not so ingenuous as to believe that the arrival of the hugantic 5-0 in ten years will be quite as optimistic as this year's anniversary. However, for the millions of golfers turning 40 and beyond in the coming years, the advancement of companies like Sun Mountain and Synca-Swing will considerably ease the crossing over.
Click Here For Mo' Golf Archives (Pre-July 2005)