How many times have you read/heard that? I’d guess about 8. But this time it isn’t a headline that pertains to Tiger Woods. Of course we’re talking about Justin Rose. With a new equipment and clothing deal Rosie showed up in San Diego not fucking around. He had a few sloppy holes, notably the 14th on Saturday, but played so well even his brain farts didn’t matter.
I often cringe when guys are at the peak of their game and make equipment changes (hi Rory!). But JR’s change from Taylormade to Homna gear appears to have done nothing but improve is game. That should scare you if you’re a peer on tour trying to take his #1 spot. We’ll have to see what the rest of 2019 has in store for Justin but anything short of winning 1 major should be as disappointing as the garb provided by his clothing sponsor.
He’s right on schedule. Gone are the days of TW showing up at Torrey, knocking off some rust, and winning with ease. He’s a little more than “just a guy” on Tour these days. And he’s far from the ceremonial golfer several pundits predicted he’d be. He’s a big game hunter still. He’s doing everything he can to peak for the majors. A 9th win in San Diego would mean very little to him.
Tiger Woods’ shirt colour for the final round at Torrey Pines 🤷🏻♂️
He drove it well. That’s a big deal. His iron game was average. That’ll get better. He hasn’t putted poa greens in almost a year. No sweat. He won’t win or contend in L.A. in two weeks either but he’ll be right there lurking by the time the boys tee it up for money in Florida.
The buzz about Tiger on Sunday was all about his wardrobe. Had he worn something other than his traditional red shirt? Was it pink? Why the stripes? What the fuck, Tiger? He was asked about it after the round, whether it was pink or red, and answered only “yes”. I think he was right to change it up, after all, he was playing the back nine first in the final round.
Kapalua, Sony & Hope
I watched them all. I was entertained. But these weren’t marque events with football still dictating viewing schedules. Xander Schauffele was amazing at Kapalua. The shots he hit down the stretch to nip Gary Woodland left me in awe. Now I wonder why he doesn’t win more.
Sony was interesting because of the Kuchar/caddie story that loomed over the weekend as Kooch ran away with the title. Without that you might as well go watch some middle aged accountant play your local muni in Sketchers and it would feel about the same.
At the Hope we nearly saw a 59 from Phil. Then he loses by a shot to Andrew Long who was a 500 to 1 bet at the beginning of the week. Yeah, FIGJAM had him with a $10k bet and let him win. That $5,000,0000 was too much to pass up for just another PGA Tour win. Oh by the way, Mickelson led the field at the Hope in driving distance. He’s going to be 49 in June. Chew on that.
Picture of the Year
Lock it up, we have a winner and January isn’t even over. Two time US Open Champion Brooks Koepka, on vacation with Dustin Johnson and their women, decided to put on girlfriend Jenna Sims thong and show off for the camera.
Right about now you’re asking why he would do this. Here’s my guess. Paulina, and Jenna said if you put that on you can bang us both at the same time. Dustin snorted a line and nodded in agreement. Thongs goes on. Brooks poses for that pic. Two chicks at the same time. I can’t blame him.
Ok, I admit, I almost left it for dead. I might as well have as I haven’t posted since July. I do have an equipment review and a course review coming your way in the next few weeks. I’ll probably have something to say about the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua next week too. In the mean time I give you this, the Fore Golfers Network Podcast from this week. I came on to talk to host Bill Hobson in January to discuss some predictions for 2018. Bill had me back on this week to check in on my predictions. I was wildly wrong on two of the three.
The link in the tweet above will get you to the podcast. I’m at the end, but the other guys (minus Fonseca) are worth a listen too. In summary, the USGA did nothing with the ball. I was right! The U.S. was crushed in the Ryder Cup. I was wrong! And the Anthony Kim one…I’ll leave that up to you guys, so what if it was 2 year old video.
Three months off is nothing, hibernating bears do it every year, but your favorite blogger probably owes you more. There’s no apologies here though. That’s not the M.O. of this site. Fuck it. I have better things to do. And what did I miss anyway? Koepka won another U.S. Open. Spieth is still in a drought. And Tiger still hasn’t won in his comeback phase of his career.
I’m back tonight because it is the eve of the greatest championship played in the world. The Masters is the best toon-a-mint, but the Open Championship is a different animal for many reasons. I’m here to give you a few of those right now in my 10 reasons why I love the Open. Let’s get on with it.
10. The Open Scoreboards – You know what they look like and you know what your’e watching as soon as you see one. Yeah, big, yellow, hand operated, and the message they put on them after the champion receives the Jug….it’s all part of the culture of the Open that we embrace. It is as if a giant piece of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field is transported across the pond for the week and spray painted like a bus.
The board, or boards, are so iconic that the Open website shows their leaderboard in the same style as a simple reminder of the championship you’re tracking. If I ever make to an Open I may just sit in wonderment and watch them for an hour straight as the names and scores change like a stock ticker. If you want more scoreboard hit the link for a Jimmy Roberts piece that aired on the Golf Channel. I had no idea that they’re operated by rival school boys that sleep in tents nearby for the week.
9. WAGs in Europe – Yummy yummy, Paulina in plaid, Jenny Sims in a kilt….hey, a guy can hope. Most likely you won’t see much of them anyway unless their guy is the big winner come Sunday, but outside of the Open the wags don’t get their Euro fix unless it is an away Ryder Cup year.
We deserve more, and we deserve better. I’m hoping for Allison Stokke to fire up her sleepy Instagram account while Rickie is on the course this week.
8. Gorse – Yup, just a shrub that is part of the pea family with a yellow flower. Really, that made the list?
It has to. For 50 other weeks of the year we don’t hear about this alien plant. Then our golf gods turn up on the British Isles and they’re losing balls in this sticky shit that can cost a guy a major. I love hearing the Euro announcers say the word. I love hearing the American announcers over use it by calling ever piece of the course that isn’t fairway, tee or green “gorse”. Idiots. If you see yellow, you’re seeing gorse. Don’t hit it near there.
7. Unknowns – Every year there’s some guy that contends that I’ve never heard of. Sometimes they even win it. See Curtis, Ben; Lawrie, Paul; or Hamilton, Todd (fucking). I won’t even bring up Jean Van de……no, I won’t do it. My first memory of an unknown almost stealing an Open was in 1994 at Turnberry. This skinny fucking piece of Euro-trash with his hat brim flipped up was about to take a title from one of the best players in the world at the time, Nick Price. I had never heard of Jesper Parnevik and there he was putting with his glove on with the Claret Jug nearly in his grasp.
I remember rooting against him. He was going to ruin the Open. I no longer hold a grudge against him like I do for Steve Jones for ruining the U.S. Open two years later. Jesper eventually became a vetted Ryder Cup staple. That validated his 1994 run. He probably should have beat Price. Watch again this year, a guy you barely know will be around until the end, like Mathew Southgate. Pssst, check his Open record if you’re looking for Draft Kings pick.
6. Ivor Robson – If you don’t know Ivor by name, get the fuck out of here right now. Ok, that’s harsh, but you’ll know him as soon as you listen to this clip.
Unfortunately for us fans, Ivor retired after 41 years of starting every group at the Open Championship. It isn’t the same without him. If he were still going he might be as high as reason number 2 as to why I love the Open.
5. Breakfast and Golf – What is better than this combo? Go back to that 1994 Open again for a second. I can still remember playing PGA Tour on my Sega all night with my buddy and waking up to my mom making pancakes and bacon while we watched Price and Parnevik battle. I love gluttony. I love breakfast food. I love golf. And I love majors. Mix all that together and waking up to it for four days in July is heavenly. That is all.
4. Champion Golfer of the Year – I don’t turn the final round broadcast off until I hear some grumpy ass R&A official call the winner by his rightful title. The only thing that could make it better would be to have the god damn queen come down from a thrown to knight the CHAMPION GOLFER OF THE YEAR on the 18th green.
It is special to us, but even more so to the man of the hour. That clip makes me tingle.
3. The Open Rota – For those that don’t understand that, it is the courses. The list has changed a bit with Royal Portrush now in the mix. The rest are as follows: Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Hoylake, Birkdale, St. George’s, Turnberry, Carnoustie, Troon, Muirfield, and St. Andrews.
I’ve never stepped foot on any of them but I love them all. There are nuances and romance to all of their settings, their history, and the culture that surrounds them. They hold communities together in some towns and connect train lines to others. That list is the Open Championship.
2. R&A – Why is the R&A on my list? Because they’re the anti-USGA. They don’t care about par or making the course hard. They let mother nature play the courses of the Open rota as the players do and the chips fall where they may. They’ve advanced the game of golf and protected it more than the USGA could ever dream of. Sure, they may be stuffy and narrow minded, but without them none of us would likely even have taken golf up, there would be no USGA, and no modern game. The Open is their championship. They do it well. I tip my cap to them. There’s no Open to love if there’s no R&A.
1. The Claret Jug – She’s a beauty isn’t she? If only she could talk and tell us stories. I’d love to hear about her first few nights with Darren Clarke in 2011. The 2nd oldest trophy in sports has been filled with thousands of glasses of champagne, whiskey, and beer. It has been peed it, lost, dropped, and crashed from mantels yet it still doesn’t look a day over 147 years.
A green jacket is nice, a Wannamaker is bigger, but the Claret Jug at your disposal is the stuff dreams are made of.
Arcadia Bluffs (The Bluffs Course) – Arcadia, MI (Architects: Warren Henderson and Rick Smith – 1999)
In 1999 the Northern Michigan golf landscape changed dramatically when the brash, bold, and eye-popping Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course debuted to the golfing public. Architects Warren Henderson and Rick Smith (yeah, the guy who was Phil’s instructor for more than a decade) collaborated on a links style course with sod wall bunkers that rests on the bluffs of Lake Michigan in the middle of nowhere. For nearly 20 years Arcadia has been the crown jewel of buddy trips to the lower peninsula of the Mitten State and there’s no sign of that changing, unless you gain access to one of the stellar private clubs that are somewhat nearby.
Arcadia will expand to 36 holes in August of 2018 when they open the South Course about 1.5 miles down the street, appropriately just south of the original layout. With the birth of a sibling the original course will now be called the Bluffs Course. The Bluffs course sits about 200 feet above Lake Michigan. Only three and half of the 18 holes on the Bluffs course are on the water, but the topography of the land allows for you to see the big lake from almost every vantage point unless the club house is blocking it out.
There’s a lot to love about Arcadia. The golf course is fun to play and the imagery you’re playing in and around is stunning. I’ve played it 6 or 7 times now and have come away pleased as punch with every experience. However, if you talk to a course architecture nerd, many of them will yuck your yum by shitting all over the intricacies of Arcadia Bluff’s design. I’ve heard many complaints about how fake it is, the insanity of the greens and their difficulty, and the bunkers are too deep/hard for hack amateurs to play from. Those are valid complaints, but I try to suspend myself from reality a bit when I’m at the Bluffs. The design isn’t perfect, and I particularly dislike the hole in the picture above (par five, 5th hole), but so what? Look around. Soak it in. And have fun with every shot you play. That’s what Arcadia is all about.
Henderson and Smith gave golfers plenty of room off of every tee. The fairways are man-sized and so are the greens. Off the short grass you’ll have 10 to 15 yards of 2nd cut before your ball finds the native grass. Even the tall stuff is more than fair at the Bluffs. Of the 20+ companions I’ve traversed Arcadia with I can’t recall anyone losing a ball in the junk.
The shot above is typical of what you see from every tee. That’s my boy Werm sniping one down the par five 11th hole. The tees are mostly elevated which makes for great views and long drives downwind. The course plays firm and fast unless a monsoon has come through recently. In the old days of the Bluffs there was a digital weather instrument behind the pro shop counter. It tracked the current temperature and wind speed, as well as the highest gust in the last 24 hours. It got your attention from the second you arrived on the property because there’s seldom a day when you can play the course without wind having an impact on your score. I’d hazard a guess that the normal wind speed is pretty close to 20 mph. That makes some of those elevated tee shots a bit frustrating. At the same time, the holes that play into the typical prevailing wind aren’t overly challenging in their design.
For the first 3 to 4 years the golf course layout played as originally designed by Smith and Henderson. At some point the routing was tweaked and holes 7 through 16 were shifted around to accommodate a better pace of play and to allow for both 9s to finish near the club house. The change didn’t hurt a thing.
The Bluffs begin with the easiest hole on the course, a 519 yard par 5 that doglegs to the right. It is reachable in two unless you really miss one off the tee and there’s no reason not to go for it. The 2nd hole is a mid to long iron shot of a par 3 with the only tree in play on the golf course about 20 yards left of the green. From there you climb a little hill to the 3rd tee and see all that is in front of you for the rest of the day.
The third hole also introduces you to the biggest sod wall bunker you’ll see in North America. It protects the front of the green and will get you to steer your approach shot a bit just to make sure you avoid it. The 4th hole is of interest because it plays into a punch bowl green as you continue your decent toward the bluffs. From 3 tee down to the edge of the bluffs is a 225 foot drop in and of itself. You sniff the lake at the 5th green but then swing back up into the hills where the holes mostly play through man made trenches from tee to green.
The 8th hole, which is the original 12th, is a bit interesting. The actual back tee is never used anymore. From that old back tee the hole plays close to 450 yards uphill and makes it a mother fucker. The true back tee is shut down because it is on the opposite side of the main driveway. When I’ve played it in the past you have to have either the starter (from the nearby 1st tee) or a member of your group stop traffic. You can see why they don’t use it. From the middle tee it is a mere 400 yards and leaves you with a short iron or wedge to the big, elevated green. Yawn.
The back nine grabs your attention quickly as it starts with a tough hole and blind tee shot. Your aim point is a barber pole sticking out of a man made dune. That’s a little gimmicky. The 10th gets a lot of complaints from my playing partners. The bitch of it is that you’re typically stuffing your face with something delicious from the turn. That quick loss in focus will lead to a quick bogey or worse on the tough par four. 11 may be the signature hole to many golfers – hi MGL Bill – as it is the 650 yard par 5 that plays back down to the lake. The forest to your left frames the view quite nicely with the rolling hills to the right of the fairway. It isn’t my favorite hole. The fairway will allow shots to run out but you’ll be just over 300 some yards still with no reason to consider hitting anything but a 200 yard shot for your layup. I like options. This hole doesn’t give you many.
The 12th is a show stopper. You can go big or small off the tee and still have a scoring club in your hand. Of the 3 prior images shown above, this hole is the first two of them. The hole (which was originally the 16th) plays near 400 yards from the back with a huge fairway that you can’t see much of from the tee. That’s a nice feature by itself, but the big lake and 200 foot drop to your left will get your heart pumping. There’s no missing left. The height alone at the teeing ground has made me grip my driver a little tighter than I should. This is my favorite hole on the course. It is Arcadia.
The 13th hole above is no slouch. It is a 240 yard par 3 that plays over a ravine with Lake Michigan to your left. It often plays into the wind. In the first handful of times I played it I hit a hybrid and might have hit the green once. I might have parred it twice. It is a bitch. When I was there last October, and took most of the pictures you see in this post, we played it at 205 and it was downwind. That’s much more fair but I enjoy the challenge it presents from any 200+ yardage. The green is huge but it is the most firm on the course in my mind because it gets a lot of sun and wind. It has no protection.
The 14th begins to route you back up the hills toward the clubhouse again. Those closing holes are good, and interesting, and 16 is another hard long par 4, but the pizzazz of the round has left you now that the lake holes are behind you. I often wonder if they had a mulligan on the design if they’d find a way to have the clubhouse closer to the lake to allow you to finish your round near it. Overall, any complaining on the layout and the views are nitpicking. I love the place. It is easy to give Arcadia a perfect 5 in this category.
In a nutshell, the conditions are good but not great. The super here must be damn good. The place has a packed tee sheet, rain or shine, from the day it opens until Halloween. That’s their entire season. With that much traffic, and 99% of them using a cart, it is amazing the place is a pristine as it is. The contours of the fairway also make for several collection areas which means you’ll see sections that are littered with divots You can’t overcome that with maintenance. It is what it is.
The greens, while huge and undulating, would be impossible to maintain at most resort style course with high traffic but Arcadia doesn’t have any issue doing so. They’re really good and they aren’t too soft, too firm, or too bumpy. They’re just right and I think they are somewhat easy to read because the exaggerations in the slopes make the break obvious. The score here is a tough one to give. I can’t give it a 5 because it just isn’t perfect.
For most of the 19 years Arcadia has been in existence the rack rate greens fee has been $180. In 2018 that has moved to $195. That’s a pretty good rate for a top 100 golf course (#68 in the U.S. in 2018 by Golf Digest). Whistling Straits across the lake isn’t as good of a course, in my opinion, and they charge double. That being said, most things in Northern Michigan present some value as the cost of living in the area is much lower than the nearest big cities of Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee.
In the last decade the club has added a lodge and several cottages so that they can now accommodate a buddy trip of any size. The rooms are plush and they won’t kill your wallet. The restaurant is top notch and if you don’t go deep on the wine list you’ll find yourself satisfied with your meal and your bill.
If you don’t live too far away and you can pick your spots, you’ll also find that some of Arcadia’s shoulder season rates are more than fair. The greens are typically aerated around October 1. The rate after that is half the price. We played on near perfect greens that were fully healed from aeration in late October and got lucky with a 74 degree day. It likely snowed on the property 3 days later. FYI, you’ll never see a discount rate from Arcadia on Golfnow or similar sites as they just don’t do that, nor do they need to.
They do it right at the Bluffs. The bag guys, the shop staff, bartender, cart girl, rangers, starter, etc. They’re all top notch. My group on my last trip included two low single digit players and a 16. We played the tips and the 16 didn’t check his ego so he did the same. Homie teed it up high on the first and went right under it as the tee backed up due to groups having to wait for the green to clear on the short par 5. A starter at most places would have lost their shit right there. I looked over after the whiffed shot from our hack. The starter’s eyes got big, his eyebrows jumped off his face, but he said nothing. I assured him we’d keep the chopper moving along. Kudos to him for not being a dick to a guy that was a little nervous playing with the big boys.
For as good as the service is, the pace is pretty bad. Plan on 5 hours when you’re here. How can it be any other way when the tee sheet is always full, the wind always blows, and everyone wants to stop and take pictures along the way? The good news is you don’t notice it much because the views and service are so damn good. I swear the cart girl came out of the tall grass near the fairway every time we had to wait. And yes, she was smoking hot.
As I noted above, Arcadia now has plenty of options for lodging. The accommodations in the lodge rival what you’d find at any 4 star hotel. The work out facilities are new and shiny if you’re a health nut. And the cottages have full kitchens, with grills, and great spaces for watching the ball game and playing cards for your evening activities.
That is a shot from their new-ish bar behind the proshop. It is a choice place to settle your bets and load up on booze. It has a nice selection of local Michigan beers to sample. The bad news is that it isn’t right out on the back porch where you’ll find a plethora of Adirondack chairs aimed at the sunset and the 18th green. There’s no better spot in Michigan to end a golfing day, smoke a cigar, and give your buddies shit as they putt out on the final green.
The range is good to great. The short game practice area is one of the best you’ll see and it even has a sod wall bunker to give you a taste of the big course. They have caddies available but you’ll have to call ahead for those because they are seldom used. Up until 2018 the only thing Arcadia didn’t have was much nightlife and a 2nd course. With the South course on its way you can check one of those off the list. My only knock in this category is that there’s no nearby strip club, casino, or other evening activity to scratch my itch for debauchery.
Arcadia Bluffs isn’t fun for the 20+ handicapper, but if they want to spend the money and frustrate themselves and everyone else in their group, fine. On the other hand, the course is about as much fun as you can have if you can hit a drive moderately straight, over 175 yards in the air, and are better than a bogey golfer. There’s a tee for everyone. Don’t go to the tips if you’re aren’t a 5 or better that can get it out there 275+. That’s not the place for 95% of golfers. If you pick the right tees and bring your A game you can score here. Embrace the wind, realize not every result is going to be perfect, and have fun.
Per usual, this rating isn’t based on a 5 being “way too hard”. I’m rating a course a 5 when I’d say it’s playable and enjoyable, but not easy, for players of all levels. The Bluffs course at Arcadia Bluffs is too hard for true chopper and it presents a great challenge for the single digit index if they don’t play it too short. Some of the holes are a little tricked up, but there’s nothing too over the top or unfair. I’ve noted how big the greens and fairways are. Like most courses in the top 100, Arcadia was built for championship golf as well as every day play. It has a high slope and course rating for a reason yet it is fun, creative, and unlike the type of golf you’re playing on a weekly basis back home. Next time you’re planning a trip, think Pure Michigan and think Arcadia.
The composite score from all categories above for the Bluffs course comes out to one of the best I’ve given and is in the company of Kapalua’s Plantation Course and Torrey Pines (South). That’s pretty fair as both of those venues are also destination courses with great service, views, and amenities to complete your experience with them. Don’t pass up the Arcadia experience, instead, find a way to get there.
Not because Patrick Reed won the Masters, or because Trump is President, but because I’m posting for the 2nd time in a week. It’s been quite a long time since that has happened but the Masters can do that to someone. I’m going to change things up from the normal tournament wrap up this time.
I’m going to take you through every name in the field that made the cut and give you no more than a few sentences, and sometimes no more than a few words, that sums up their week at Augusta to me. Let’s do this starting from DFL to the man selecting next year’s Champion’s Dinner menu.
Chez Reavie – I saw him once, on the third hole today playing with Phil, he sneaked in as Phil’s putt went in to get a read. That’s it.
Kyle Stanley – In 30+ hours of Masters coverage I watched I didn’t see Kyle hit one shot.
Xander Schauffele – MIA, but the Masters newbie made the cut so there’s something to build on.
Doug Ghim (A) – What a week for the Illinois native, Texas Longhorn collegian – he was low amateur, made some eagles to get Masters crystal, and it was highlighted by his Thursday hole out on 18.
Adam Scott – Beam me up, Scotty, and find this man’s golf game.
Tiger Woods – He walked and finished 72 holes. He made the cut. He earned world ranking and Ryder Cup points. We didn’t know if he’d play ever again 6 months ago. The entire tournament is a huge step forward and a win for the Big Cat.
Matt Kuchar – Gollie gee, Matt. You looked great Thursday. What happened? Matt and Chick-Fil-A have a lot in common on Sunday at Augusta, they both lose money.
Kevin Kisner, Satoshi Kodaira, Ryan Moore, Bernd Weisberger, Si Woo Kim – I’ll make this one easy, I didn’t see these guys play a single shot. CBS and ESPN didn’t care. And I must have been grabbing refreshments while they came through the online coverage windows.
Adam Hadwin – He is Canada’s best right now, no maple syrup about it. Dude can play.
Branden Grace – He was under the radar all week and didn’t break par until conditions got soft on Sunday. Yawn.
Jason Day – Disappointing. I’m not sure we’ll ever see peak Jason Day from 2015 ever again.
Jimmy Walker – Still showing signs of improvements in health and his game. I’m rooting for you, Jimmy.
Frank Molinari – I still can’t tell how to differentiate between him and his brother.
Webb Simpson – Final round included back to back eagles on holes 7 and 8. Only the 4th guy to every do that at the Masters.
Tony Finau – The ankle, that’s all anyone wants to talk about or remember, but damn he was good. Final round 66, top 10, he’s punched a ticket for the 2019 Masters already.
Marc Leishman – Dude putts like a motherfucker and should fit into your Masters pool picks every year, just don’t expect him to win it. He doesn’t have the right mindset for it.
Rory McIlroy – Ugh. That sucked. I wanted this one for him, but it was over by the 10th tee. He’ll pick up the pieces, he’ll putt well again someday, but today was tough.
Henrik Stenson – Hank played well for a guy with a so-so record at Augusta. He might have a 2nd major in his future this year.
Cameron Smith – Breakout star, maybe. His back nine 30 on Sunday was nuts.
Bubba Watson – Gerry putted into the bunker today on number 2 on his eagle attempt. That is all.
Jon Rahm – Rambo has all the game in the world, does he have the patience to win a major? I’ll say no.
Jordan Spieth – Par at 18 gets you a shot at a playoff and a course record. And your tee shot hits a tree to lead to a bogey. Even though he shot 64 that tee shot is a bit of a choke. I had an interesting Twitter debate on this, what do you think? Check out the thread below:
Rickie Fowler – Big balls just to hang in there when he didn’t have it early and then pour it on late. No choke in Rick’s game. Kudos to him for making Reed earn it. His time will come.
Patrick Reed – Patrick “Mother Fucking” Reed. What else is there to say about this guy?
He came, he saw, he kicked ass. I don’t root for Pat but I don’t root against him. He played brilliantly for 54 holes and played well enough to survive to day. His putter and short game are lethal. His biggest weapon is his self confidence. He never wavered. I never could have seen this coming and wrote him off as a Masters champ in my prior post because of his record in previous years. Reed had never broke 70 at the Masters prior to Thursday, so of course he posts 15 under for the week to win.
Good for him. I’m glad he’s on our side. I’m guessing Texas BBQ for the Champions Dinner. There’s no truth to the rumor that Patrick will buy his own cow and name it Rory McIlroy.
And with that we’re 360 some days from another week of glory in Augusta. I’ll savor one last pimento cheese sandwich…..
This Post Has Nothing To Do With Jordan Spieth’s Hariline (Or Mine)
Oh hell yeah, its Masters Week! My Christmas is finally here, it really is. Just 3 more days until Santa comes down the chimney and golf nerds like you and me get to open our presents. I’m sweating pimento cheese (mainlined) just thinking about what Sunday afternoon could be like. First things first – Masters music and gambling.
Why my wife didn't come down the aisle to Masters music and the pastor didn't open with "hello friends" is my greatest regret in life.
The Masters field now includes Rasputin Ian Poulter after his big win in Houston on Sunday (don’t get me started on IJP). With Poulter we’ll have 87 players tee it up at Augusta making it the smallest field the Masters has seen in 21 years. Hey, this isn’t some all inclusive resort where you’ve got to fill the rooms. You have to earn your way. I don’t want to hear crying for players being added like Charles Howell. I don’t want to see dual tee times off 1 and 10 before the cut because the field has 140 players. The only player that should even be considered for a special invite is this guy:
Like we need any more swag added to this field. DJ and Tiger have that covered. What fun would the Masters hype be without taking a gander at who Vegas thinks can win a green jacket? Here we go.
Tiger Woods 9/1 Justin Thomas 11/1 Rory McIlroy 11/1 Dustin Johnson 23/2 Jordan Spieth 12/1 Phil Mickelson 16/1 Jason Day 20/1
These 7 guys are the favorites, not only according to Vegas but in how they’ve played and how their games fit ANGC. I could see anyone of them putting a new coat on late Sunday night. Tiger winning would be the golf story of the century. That’s not debatable. The needle wouldn’t just move it would fucking break off the scale. JT is probably the best player in the world right now. Rory, did you see him close out the deal at Bay Hill? Spieth just has “it” at the Masters. Same with Phil and his game has been strong. And Jason Day, he’s won this year and the course is built for him. At 20 to 1 he’s got some value.
– Most birdies/eagles made at ANGC since '12 – Highest GIR% in Masters last 5 Yrs – Best par 5 score to par at Masters last 5 Yrs – Best par 4 scoring avg at Masters last 5 years – Best score to par overall in Masters since 2011
Rosie was my pick 3 weeks ago. But his odds keep pushing down and he’s becoming a very popular pick with the media. Justin Ray points out all the reasons in his tweet above. Because of the media treatment, because Rose is wearing a new pair of his wife’s sunglasses, I’ll pass. He can still win but I’m finding it less likely.
Bubba Watson 15/1 Jon Rahm 20/1 Rickie Fowler 20/1 Paul Casey 25/1
Speaking of hard passes, I’ll take one on all four of the guys above. They’re all great players, but Bubba isn’t winning the Masters two weeks after grinding out 7 matches in Austin. Rahm, he’s been AWOL for months now. Fowler, too much of a head case to keep his shit together if in contention. Paul Casey, there’s no major in his future. I think he’ll contend though.
Sergio Garcia 28/1
Lightning never strikes the same place twice, right? Don’t waste your money.
Hideki Matsuyama 35/1 Alex Noren 40/1 Henrik Stenson 40/1 Patrick Reed 40/1 Tommy Fleetwood 40/1 Matt Kuchar 50/1 Louis Oosthuizen 55/1 Ian Poulter 60/1
Kuchar has a lot of a value at that number. He’ll be around but that will only tease you if you have anything on him at 50 to 1. Louis has a chance. Put some money there. Poulter? I cant’ believe I’m saying this but he has a real shot. He’s hot and has figured something out. He’s playing with house money now too.
The rest of that group have too many flaws or have played too shitty of late to waste your money on.
Marc Leishman 60/1 Adam Scott 66/1
Those are two tasty picks at 60 and 66 to 1. Aussie Aussie Aussie indeed.
Thomas Pieters 66/1 Tyrrell Hatton 66/1 Brian Harman 70/1 Branden Grace 80/1 Bryson DeChambeau 80/1
Another group of no-chancers. Pieters can’t putt, Hatton hasn’t been there before. Harmon doesn’t hit it long enough. Grace hits it too low. And Bryson…..come on.
Charley Hoffman 80/1 Patrick Cantlay 80/1
Bet both of those medium, they’re for real and could crash the party.
Rafael Cabrera Bello 80/1 Xander Schauffele 80/1
Not happening, great players but neither is built for the Masters or has the experience, yet.
Charl Schwartzel 100/1 Daniel Berger 100/1 Kevin Kisner 100/1
Some real value above in that trifecta. Charl hasn’t done much but he’s a former winner who could sneak up and steal another green jacket. Berger’s form has been off but worth a gamble at 100 to 1. Kiz, perhaps the knock is that he’s too short off the tee. I get that, but the way this mother fucker putts is too much to not give him a look.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat 100/1 Matthew Fitzpatrick 100/1 Tony Finau 100/1 Cameron Smith 125/1 Gary Woodland 125/1 Kevin Chappell 125/1 Pat Perez 125/1 Ryan Moore 125/1 Zach Johnson 125/1 Adam Hadwin 150/1
Not a fucking chance in that group of 10 above.
Jimmy Walker 150/1
This one is interesting. Jimmy has been sick for 18 months or so but he’s playing better and his game fits Augusta National. He’s also won a major in the last 2 years and most ‘experts’ seem to forget that. If I were walking by a Vegas casino in the next three days I’d probably find a way to bet $20 on Jimmy, just in case.
Brendan Steele 150/1 Russell Henley 150/1 Shubhankar Sharma 150/1 Webb Simpson 150/1 Francesco Molinari 175/1 Haotong Li 175/1 Jason Dufner 175/1 Martin Kaymer 175/1 Patton Kizzire 175/1 JB Holmes 175/1 Bernd Wiesberger 200/1 Kyle Stanley 200/1 Ross Fisher 200/1 Austin Cook 250/1 Billy Horschel 250/1 Si Woo Kim 250/1 Danny Willett 275/1 Angel Cabrera 300/1 Fred Couples 300/1 Jhonattan Vegas 300/1 Wesley Bryan 300/1 Ted Potter Jr 400/1 Joaquin Niemann 500/1 Vijay Singh 500/1 Yusaku Miyazato 500/1 Yuta Ikeda 500/1 Bernhard Langer 750/1 Doug Ghim 750/1 Doc Redman 1000/1 Harry Ellis 1000/1
Pretenders, all of them, no matter how accomplished of a Tour pro they are. There’s a reason they’re listed so low by the odds makers. Remember, the bottom 3 on that list are amateurs.
That leaves about 15 to 20 guys of the 87 that can actually win the 2018 Masters. Almost any of those guys winning would be quite a good story, some better than others.
Do I Have Any Other Helpful Masters Tips For You? Of Course I Do
Some of you maybe headed to Augusta National as soon as tomorrow morning. Whether it is your first time there or your 41st here’s some shit you’ll want to be aware of for the coming week.
First, there’s a new merchandise area and Golf Digest has all the details for you.
The Men of the Masters don’t fuck around when they bring new stuff to the toon-a-mint. Look at the practice facility and VIP area they introduced in the last decade. Better than 1st class, as always. It seems the new merch area is right in line with other improvements. When I was there in 2011 it felt like a run down Gap in your local mall. There was nothing wrong with it, but it was a bit small time for what the event is.
From what Golf Digest will tell you the merch area has essentially become its own mall. The operation is more smooth and there’s more room to display gear, knick-knacks, and other collectibles you’ll spend half your 401k on.
Other stuff I think you’ll want to check out:
Trevor Reaske’s piece on his first trip to Augusta, which falls in line with what myself and so many others will tell you about their experience.
It’s officially Master’s Week. Two years ago, I got to attend the final round with my Dad. If you’ve never been to Augusta, I attempt to explain what it is like for fans here. Spoiler: it’s even better than you’re imagining. https://t.co/mBVCxTAgB8
Seventy-six days. SEVENTY-SIX. That isn’t a typo. That’s how long it has been since my last post. I have no excuses other than life and priorities but it feels good to be back. I bet Tiger is thinking the same thing right about now coming off his solid showing at the Honda. First things first, let’s talk Justin Thomas. He picked up his 7th win in his last 31 starts when he held off Luke List in a one hole playoff late Sunday in South Florida. Justin is on quite a tear and his victory places him solidly at number 3 in the world again, 1 place ahead of Jordan Speith.
Thomas made one bogey on his round at the 9th hole where he butchered his first 4 shots until making his 4 foot bogey putt. He was steady from there on in and hit a clutch 110 yard gap wedge on the final hole to kick in range for birdie to force a playoff with List. The most interesting part of his round came on the 16th tee. Check out the audio from the CBS telecast.
I’m still in shock from that. Unless this guy was saying “get in the bunker” all around the golf course in JT’s ear today then why the quick reaction to get him tossed? Yes, the fan is an idiot. He was probably over served and thought he was being funny. But homie didn’t say it during the swing. He said it once the ball was 200 yards gone. Thomas should have simply ignored the idiocy. You think that won’t come back at him somewhere down the line? A rowdy crowd at Phoenix got on him pretty good a few weeks ago too. How’s he going to react to loud and proud Euro fans at the Ryder Cup this year?
His game is elite. The fans want to love him. But shit like this is going to push the every-man to root against him if he isn’t careful. I’d like to hear more from JT on this but I doubt the media has the awareness to bring up the incident.
"your hair looks great!" – Fan to Fleetwood on 18.
What did you prove by kicking the dope out? Walk down the fairway and keep your focus on winning the tournament. Can you imagine Tiger even acknowledging such a comment in his prime? Do you know what kind of things he’s heard from the gallery? Am I off base here?
Eldrick Is 500% Ahead Of Schedule
I can’t believe what I saw from Tiger this week. When he teed off at Torrey Pines a month ago I hoped he’d finish each round he started. I was pleased he made the cut. Missing the cut last week at Riviera made him look lost all over again. Can’t hit a fairway. Can’t hit a green. Can’t make the cut. Where would he go from there? What could he do to fix his game let alone contend at PGA National in the Honda 5 days later?
All he did was shoot 70-71-69-70 on a difficult course and finish 12th place. At one point on Sunday was 4 shots back. He had the fastest measured club speed of the year. He was 2nd in the Honda in driving distance. This is with a fused back from a guy 7 months ago talking about having trouble walking and only hitting 60 yard shots. He’s a modern miracle walking inside the PGA Tour ropes right now. And we’re all lucky, as fans, to have him back.
Baffling to hear complaints of "too much Tiger" on the telecast. If this comeback is the real thing, it'll be the greatest story in golf since … he arrived as a pro in 1996.
Greatness is rare, people. Don't complain; marvel at him.
As Robert says, the complaints are baffling. CBS and DirecTv could have dedicated an entire channel to Tiger’s rounds and it would have pulled more viewers than the normal broadcast. I watched every shot. The Big Cat is back and battling to win. He wanted the Honda to get into the WGC event next week. He got a taste. He’s excited about his game and he’s gearing toward April. Buckle up. I hope he plays in Tampa. You know he’s playing at Bay Hill. Why not get another 4 rounds of reps in before the Masters?
For this site? Another post well before 76 days go by, that’s for sure. I still have a course review in the archives to post from a top 100 visit last fall. I’ll probably get more posts in as we build up to the Masters too. I can’t make any promises but you should be getting more content in the next 6 weeks than I’ve posted in the last 6 months. Stay tuned.
Hopefully you read my previous post so you have a clue of what is going on here. If not, hit the link and figure it out. On to the inward nine of my Dream 18 otherwise. Hit the halfway house, eat a wiener, and let’s go.
#10 – Inverness – 363 yards, par 4
Are you asking “why this hole” right now? I still kind of am doing that too. The fact is there just aren’t many great 10th holes in our great game. Name one that isn’t Pebble Beach. Go ahead, I’ll wait. And whatever you come up with I probably haven’t played so I can’t use it in this exercise. Nonetheless the 10th at Toledo’s most famous course is an original Donald Ross that plays along the 1st hole down into a fold in the land where the green waits for you.
It is short and strategic off the tee and offers a scoring opportunity to start the 2nd nine as you’ll likely have some kind of wedge into the hole. The 1st and 10th tees at Inverness are mowed together and hug the practice putting green to make a very cool setting near the clubhouse. That alone is worth anointing it has my 1st hole to the home nine of my dream course.
#11 – Cog Hill No. 4. (Dubdread) – 607 yards, par 5
If there is a weak stretch to my course it is the 10th, 11th, and 12th holes. They’re great holes but they’re understated. Cog Hill No. 4 has several holes better than the 11th but there aren’t a ton of other 11th holes that fit the need I have for a par 5 on this side and I’d hate to leave out Rees Jones’ redesigned Dubsdread that I played plenty while living around Chicagoland.
The flyover shows the 11th in all its glory. At 600+ yards it is a true 3 shot hole for us mortals. Before the redesign it played closer to 550 and was reachable under the right conditions. The sub-air system at Cog will provide you with plenty of roll and you shouldn’t play the back tee anyway, but you’re still not getting there in 2. That makes the layup very strategic as you have to play smart and short of the bunkers and play to the correct side of the short grass to give yourself a good angle at the pin. The shaved area behind the green is no bueno if you’re long and the pin is back. All that being said, this hole is usually an easy 5 with the option for 4 if you don’t completely fuck it up. Get a birdie early on my 10th or 11th because they may be your last chance at a red number.
#12 – Medinah No. 3 – 476 yards, par 4
I love this hole and think it may be the best hole that isn’t a par 3 on the number three course. It has length and uses natural topography to challenge players hitting a mid to long iron into a smallish green. You probably won’t have a level lie to strike your 2nd shot from into that green either. The hole takes you away from Route 20 and back toward the clubhouse along an inlet of Lake Kadijah that was dug out during one of many redesigns and restoration projects that have occurred at Medinah. The current 12th was actually the 16th hole at one point back in the in not too distant past.
The angle shown in the image above isn’t a camera trick. That’s an accurate representation of how much the hole slants from left to right down toward the water hazard. The green is at the top of the hill near the upper left corner of the photo. Missing the green right, or even hitting the right side of the green depending on conditions, can result in the ball running all the way down to the edge of the rough along the hazard. I think the hole could be improved by shaving that 2nd cut down to fairway length but what do I know?
#13 – Arcadia Bluffs – 240 yards, par 3
The holes along the water at Northern Michigan’s Arcadia Bluffs rival any course in the United States that isn’t on the Pacific Ocean for aesthetic beauty. The 13th is the par 3 of that stretch that makes you catch your breath as you hit over a ravine that leads down to the beach 250 feet below your target. Once you calm down and focus at the task at hand it hits you that you’re trying to hit a feathery soft 240 yard shot into a howling wind off the big lake.
I’ve played this hole once from a tee other than the 240 yard marker and it wasn’t any easier. The green is huge but even hitting it doesn’t guarantee a 3. The green complex doesn’t allow for you to run a shot up on to it so forget that idea. Commit to your club selection. Commit to your swing. Aim between the two bunkers near the right side of the green and accept the result no matter what and you’ll be fine. All that is of course easier said than done.
#14 – Forest Dunes – 464 yards, par 4
Staying in Northern Michigan, the 14th at Forest Dunes begins a closing stretch of five par 4s that would thrill golfers of all skill levels. Like many of the other courses included in my Dream 18 posts, Forest Dunes has several holes that I favor over the one I’ve selected for my routing. What I mean is, there isn’t a single other 14th hole that I can use based on the courses I’ve already selected and I don’t want to leave Forest Dunes out. The course is too damn good from start to finish. Fourteen on the original course at Forest Dunes is the longest par 4 on the property. It forces you to (typically) hit a mid to long iron into a very skinny and narrow green. Marshland protects the left side of the hole all the way through the green.
The fairway provides a big target to hit off the tee but that isn’t always apparent when you’re standing on the back box. The tall grass in front of you conceals how much fairway is out there. A bunker on the right side comes up fast if you rip it 285+ so there’s that to think about too. That being said, hit the fairway and put a good swing on your approach and you may have a shot at a 3. I’ve made a few here because a broken clock is correct twice a day too.
#15 – Erin Hills – 370 yards, par 4
The last short hole of my routing is the dramatic 15th at Erin Hills. All I have to say to get you to remember this hole from the 2017 U.S. Open is “Justin Thomas”. You didn’t forget that 3 wood he hit to nearly ace the hole on Saturday on his way to a course record 63, did you? Thomas did that with the tee moved up to 288 yards. That’s part of the charm of the hole, you can place the tee anywhere within an 80 yard range every day of a championship and it is still going to thrill the fans, scare the players, and allow anything from a 2 to a 7 on the scorecard.
What makes the hole great for me is the green complex. The green is psychedelic by itself but when you add in the perch it sits on that is complete shaved all the way around it gives the players a buffet of options and ways to play the hole. The 15th was a star at the U.S. Open as well as at the 2011 U.S. Amateur. Kudos to the USGA for being creative with how it plays. The tree you see to the left above doesn’t really come into play on the hole but it is the most noticeable one on the grounds of Erin Hills and helps to make this a signature hole.
#16 – Oakland Hills (South) – 406 yards, par 4
Hogan called the South course at Oakland Hills a monster, but one of the shortest holes on its exhausting back nine makes my routing. The 16th has been famous for years thanks to major championship heroics from Hogan, Gary Player, and Padraig Harrington. Its also one of only two holes on the Monster where water comes into play.
The tee shot is rather benign but after that the hole can and will eat your lunch if you lose focus for a nanosecond. I had a great angle from the fairway and a nine iron in my hand and still didn’t have the balls to fire at the flag over the lake. A pull to dry land isn’t a disaster but your short game will be tested and pitching the ball long back into the hazard is never off the table.
#17 – Kapalua (Plantation) – 549 yards, par 4
Don’t let that number on the scorecard fool you. First, it isn’t a par 5. That isn’t a typo. Second, it doesn’t play anywhere near 549 yards. And third, you’ll probably never play the 17th at the Plantation course from that yardage. The typical wind at Kapalua is behind you on 17 and you’re hitting down the good side of an old volcano. With that in mind, hit anything remotely solid and you’ll hit one of the longest drives of your life on this hole.
Enjoy that and regain your focus because the 2nd shot can make or break you. Depending on the tee you play, wind strength, direction, and conditions you’ll have anywhere from 240 to 180 yards left into 17. From there you’re trying to hit a longer club off a down hill lie over a giant gorge. Thank god it isn’t all carry and there’s plenty of room to bail out short and right of the green. That’s the smart play because most balls hit in that general area will funnel on to or near the green and make a par 4 an obtainable goal.
#18 – Butler National – 484 yards, par 4
Holes 12 to 18 on my course give you one true birdie opportunity at 15. There’s certainly no let up at 18 where you’ll find Butler National’s famed closing hole. The hole was most know for its trademark “Y” shaped tree in the middle of the fairway but the tree was lost about a decade a go and the club decided not to replace it. While it was memorable it was a bit unfair to hit one right down the middle and be stymie right behind it. All things must change and evolve I suppose.
Without the tree the hole is still a bear to make par on. There’s trouble if you miss the fairway to either side and the rough is lush enough to the point where you don’t want to try to advance a 200 yard shot out of it over the hazard that guards the green. The hole is demanding and full of strategy. My only complaint is that the closing hole at a club as prestigious as Butler should have the clubhouse and/or some kind of 19th hole nearby for spectating.
Inward Nine – 3959 yards, par 36
There you have it, my Dream 18 of holes I’ve played laid out in the order they appear at their course of origin. The result is a glorious par 71 that beats you up but makes it fun along its 7300+ yards. How did I do? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below with your critiques and submissions of your own holes or courses. Don’t be shy and don’t forget, sharing is caring.
I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the Dream 18 concept. I first read about a similar concept as a kid when I was becoming a young golf nerd. The book that detailed a dream eighteen holes was the New World Atlas of Golf. Someone gave it to my dad and I’m not sure he ever read it like I did – which was cover to cover, backwards and frontwards, 764 times. If you know the book you know what it looks like.
I still have it and reference it from time to time even though it is dated. Last week Golf Channel’s Morning Drive started a discussion of their own Dream 18. Matt Ginella and Geoff Shackelford put up their lists and the debate began. Ginella’s was Monterey-centric as it included every hole at Pebble Beach from 6 to 10 and also 18. Shack’s were largely from the links courses of Scotland. Matt kept his holes in order where 18 at Pebble still had to be 18 on his list. Shack put his holes all over the map. Nice lists, but too many from the same courses and too many that most of us haven’t played.
I’ve never been to Pebble. I’ve never been to Scotland. But I was inspired by the concept Morning Drive discussed and decided to come up with my own course. Here are my parameters: no doubling up on courses – meaning one hole from each course; I have to have played it; and they have to keep their assigned hole number in my 18 as they are in their real life courses. I’m a man of integrity after all. It sounds simple but it gets a little difficult to actually pull off if you want to come up with a par 70+ golf course. I pressed on and came up with my Dream 18 based on these constraints. The result is a glorious 7,333 yard par 71 track that stretches from Maui to Long Island. This post is part 1 of a 2 post series. On to the first nine:
#1 – Franklin Hills – 451 yards, par 4
The venerable, but mostly Jewish, Franklin Hills Country Club starts off with one of the best 1st holes in golf. The tee shot is elevated and allows for you to bomb one down from just in front of the starter shack to a generous fairway and green. From the tips you’ll have mid-iron or less in and give yourself a good chance at par with a birdie reward for a well struck 2nd shot and a good roll with your putter.
Since the great tree removal project at Franklin occurred in the last few years the first tee now gives you a better look at the rest of the golf course. Your entire round here is enjoyable (even more so once you realize your putts generally break toward 13 Mile) and the tone is set with a great 1st hole.
#2 – Whistling Straits (Straits) – 592 yards, par 5
Number 2 on Pete Dye’s most famous Kohler, Wisconsin design probably isn’t a hole many of you think of when you think of Whistling Straits. That’s part of the rub in this concept. You can only use a single hole from any course. It makes you picky. And it means other holes at the Straits that are more revered get left on the cutting room floor.
Watch the video. That’s the best par 5 on this championship layout that has hosted 3 PGA Championships and a Senior U.S. Open. The pot bunker 40 yards short of the green is a motherfucker if you’re thinking about going for it in two. The views down the left and long aren’t too shabby either.
#3 – Torrey Pines (South) – 200 yards, par 3
Any Dream 18 is going to include a few signature holes and the 3rd at Torrey Pines South course is the first one that pops up on my list. 200 yards plays more like 180. The green is huge but the view is distracting. I snapped this pic on my way to the Rose Bowl just a few years ago.
What else needs to be said about it? The hole gets covered plenty during early coverage of the Farmer’s tournament but because it is the third hole is doesn’t have a ton of history. It doesn’t need it and is glorious without.
#4 – Baltusrol (Lower) – 194 yards, par 3
Let me be the first to say that back to back par 3s is a bad idea on any real golf course. But this is a dream and I can do it anyway I want. Baltusrol’s Lower course has a stack of historic, classic A.W. Tillinghast holes but I can only pick one from the great New Jersey course and this has to be it.
Robert T. Jones redesigned this gem back in the 1950s and the members complained that it was too hard. So he went out and teed one up and aced it. No shit. I believe Jones hit a 4 wood for his famous 1. Most professionals were swinging 7 irons there in the 2016 PGA. I think I hit a 5 and a 6 iron the two times I played it. Yes the game has changed but the 4th hole on Baltusrol’s Lower course maybe the best 4th hole in the world. Note – this was the lone hole from the New World Atlas of Golf Book (mentioned above) that made my list.
#5 – Bethpage (Black) – 478 yards, par 4
Speaking of Tilly, golf nerds refer to his 5th hole at Bethpage Black as the quintessential Tillinghast hole because it benefits a player who can work the ball in opposite directions from their tee shot to their approach. Off the tee the 5th hole favors a gentle fade. From the fairway up to the elevated green a draw would be required to find any pin on the left half of the green.
The tee is much more elevated than the picture above shows. I wish I could have found a flyover of this beauty. When I first played it in 2002 it was 455 yards. For the 2009 U.S. Open a tee was added to make it play closer to 480. That back tee forces a near 280 yard carry over the last bunker on the right. You’ve got that, right? The elevated green is also firm and shallow. I think in 2002 I hit an 8 iron in and found it to be fair. In 2006 from 30 yards back my 5 iron approach didn’t hold the same. You will have earned a par here if you get to write one down on your card.
#6 – Point O’Woods – 444 yards, par 4
Point O’Woods hosted the Western Golf Association’s Western Amateur for nearly 25 years. Greats like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Justin Leonard won the event at P.O.W. While the first 5 holes are rather getable for players of Phil and Tiger’s caliber, the fun at this legendary Southwest Michigan R.T. Jones design begins at the 6th hole. When I’ve played it the firm fairway conditions have typically allowed for a scoring iron approach shot. That wasn’t the case when the course was designed in the 1950s.
Short iron or not, that narrow green you see above makes the 6th anything but a pushover. I pulled a sand wedge from 135 into the left bunker and made a 6 without hitting a shot that I was really pissed out. The right side of the hole once featured the old log cabin home of Pro-Emeritus, Sam Drake. His dwelling was removed a few years after Drake’s death.
#7 – Crystal Downs – 335 yards, par 4
There have been books written about the 7th at Crystal Downs. Ok, not really, but the short par 4 with the boomerang shaped green will make a golf architecture nerd hard quicker than a Vegas hooker could.
I love the hole because of all the options it gives the player. On the day the picture above was taken my partner laid back off the tee by hitting a 200 yard 6 iron that left him a flat stance in the fairway. I hit driver into the middle bunker you see in the side of the hill about 50 yards short of the green. I had to hit a miracle chip to a left hole location to save par. My partner flagged a pitching wedge to 3 feet, made birdie, and won us the hole. You can make a 2 or a 7 on this classic Alister MacKenzie design no matter how you play it. I could talk about the green for another 3 paragraphs but I’ll keep this brief. It is subtle yet insane, but soooo much fun.
The short par 5 plays anything but unless you know its secret. A large waste area covers the hole from 255 yards from the back tee to about 330 yards. In other words you either hit it 254 or 331. There’s nothing in between. That being said, most players lay back and it becomes a 3 shot hole. Your layup 2nd shot becomes very important. Lay up too short and you’re blocked by a tree on the corner of the dogleg. Too far right and an over-hanging tree can be in your line. 75 to 90 yards short is about right but to get there you have to hit a pure 225 yard shot with accuracy. 2nd shot layups aren’t that tough on any other 3 shot hole I’ve played.
What’s the secret of the hole? If you can carry it 270 or so you can hit it down the 5th fairway and go for the green in 2. That doesn’t take anything away from the hole for me. I look at that as a secret you have to unlock. The club caddies don’t seem to want to put the idea in your head for some reason.
#9 – Kingsley Club – 165 yards, par 3
Ahhhhh Kingsley. I love this place. And I love about 6 other holes here as much as I love the 9th. But the 9th is truly unique for a hole that looks almost like you could throw it on the green from the tee. When you leave the 8th green a sign points you to either the south or east tee that is being used for the day. The south plays shorter at 135 or so. The sets of tees are 90 degrees apart. The hole is very much exposed to the northern Michigan winds. And the fun as only started because you’re not to the green yet.
That picture above is from the east tee and gives you a sense of the contour on the greens. You have to use the banks to get it close but a smart shot to the correct depth will allow you to snuggle it in tight or even make an ace. Miss the green and do your best to make bogey and move on to the 10th. She’s a motherfucker but she’s fair with a wedge or short iron. I’ve heard the club now has a 225 yard tee behind the original east tee box. I can’t imagine they use it much. The green is too small and a shot with a long iron into it would be insanity. However, I’d like to be invited back to give it a try.
Tiger Woods returned to the golf world last weekend in the Bahamas at the Hero World Challenge. Oh, you knew that already? He looked good. No, he was more than good, he looked fantastic. He was limber, he was happy, and he was mostly sharp albeit in comparison to a limited field of 18 on an easy course. His short game had some rust but he showed some brilliance in that realm at times too. In the end he beat World Number 1 Dustin Johnson and Player of the Year for 2017, Justin Thomas. That’s not too shabby.
I talked about Tiger’s return in more detail on the Fore! Golfers Network Podcast with host Bill Hobson. You can check it out in the tweet below.
When the dust settled on the Hero Rickie Fowler own by 3 shots over Charley Hoffman. Rickie got it done with a 61 that started with 8 birdies in his first 9 holes. I think that’s a sign of things to come for Rick in 2018.
I know you haven’t seen much activity here in recent months, but you get what you pay for. I do have some posts coming soon with different content for you to enjoy. Stay tuned and be patient.