Category Archives: golf courses

Cypress Point Flyover

The one golf course I would love to play on most is Cypress Point on the Monterey Peninsula.

Golf Digest made a flyover video of the course. None of us will ever get near the grounds, so this is your chance to see one of the finest and most beautiful golf courses in the world.

Click here to watch the YouTube video.

Jim Nantz narrates. (That’s a warning for some of you.) He goes on for a while at the start of the video. The flyover begins at 1:22.

Five Scottish Golf Courses You Should Know About

Everyone wants to go to Scotland and play the famous courses. If they don’t, they should. It’s the home of the game, it’s where golf architecture was born from a marriage between the land as it was found, and the game to be played. These five courses are not on the Open Championship rotation, but they are very bit as challenging and would comprise a wonderful itinerary if you decided to make a pilgrimage.

1. Cruden Bay. A major course on the east coast. The opening drive on a 416-yard par 4 pitches down along the coast. From there, the rest of the course winds among shaggy sandhills which make a course that should not be missed.

2. Nairn. The site of British Amateur and Walker Cup competitions, Nairn is duneland golf — fast but narrow fairways with the sea always in view.

3. Western Gailes. This course serves annually for Open Championship qualifying. Holes 1 through 11 are the essence of links golf. Hummocks, bunkers, and greens exactly where they are supposed to be, tucked between the railroad line and the sea.

4. Brora. This is the northern-most course of quality in the British Isles, designed by James Braid. Notice the fence surrounding the green. Sheep graze freely on the course, and the fence is to keep them off the green.

5. Royal Dornoch. Donald Ross grew up on this course and every architect visits it and studies it. This is the course Tom Watson said he would choose if he only had one course to play on.

To read more about these courses, I strongly suggest the book, A Golfer’s Education, by Darren Kilfara. This Harvard student provides masterful descriptions of these courses and his experiences on them which he played during his year abroad at the University of St. Andrews.

The Golf Course I Like Best

There was an advertisement that got played a lot during the Presidents Cup matches that pointed to the unchanging size of basketball courts, tennis courts, hockey rinks, etc., but golf courses were all different. Whether golf would be any fun if every course had to be identical is the subject of another post, but I don’t like the courses I play on to be too different. These are the things I like in a golf course.

Fairways. I like to have a chance to hit the fairway and not be penalized too much if I miss. The course I play on most is pretty wide open off the tee, but it’s long from the whites, so you’re going to be hitting driver a lot and the extra space is a nice compensation. A shorter course I play on is tree-lined, and I don’t need a driver to play that one. A third course is carved out of the woods, and if you miss the fairway it’s lost ball. I usually crack at the pressure of having to hit it straight at about the 14h hole.

Fairways. Flat fairways the whole time get kind of boring, so a few uneven lies are fun because I know how to hit off them. As far as the playing surface goes, the tighter, the better. I don’t mind what condition the grass is in, as long as it gets mowed so I don’t think I hit it dead center and wound up in rough.

Greens. I like fast greens. That way I can just ease the ball toward the hole. On slower greens, I have to hit the ball harder than I like, and my stroke gets thrown off track. Also, fast greens tend to be true greens. The lowest rounds of my life have all been shot on the same course, and I believe it is because of the condition of the greens let me sink lots of putts that I wouldn’t elsewhere. I like greens that are open in front, with good grass, so I can run the ball on if I need to.

Hazards. Bunkers don’t bother me. I know how to get out of a greenside bunker, and I don’t hit into them very often, anyway. I own the fairway bunker shot. Water is OK within reason. If you spend all day avoiding water off the tee or have to hit more than one heroic shot over water to get to a green, that’s too much.

Strategy. I like a course that lets me hit driver and get rewarded for it, or hit a shorter club and still have a good chance to score well. I like a course that lets you pick several ways to the hole instead of forcing just one solution. I like a course that encourages you to play your best instead of playing to avoid your worst.

Layout. I like a course that makes it clear where the next tee is and doesn’t put the tees in places so that if you walk off the 6th green you don’t find yourself on the 15th tee the first time you play it. It’s nice if some of the holes are close together so you can check the pin position of upcoming holes as you walk by. A course should be nice to look at, too. The beautiful surroundings we play in is one of the reasons I like the game.

Unusual shots. There should be one tee shot where if you do something different, like loft a shorter club over trees to cut off a dogleg, you can steal a stroke. I like playing a course where I have to rehearse a special shot during my warm-up because I’m going to use it on the 8th hole, and this is the only course on which I need this shot.

Improvement. I like a course that requires you to get better at certain shots to shoot a better score, and rewards you once you learn how to hit them well, like an 80-yard pitch, or a 2-hybrid from the fairway, or working the ball off the tee.

There isn’t one course I play on that has all of this, but the combination of courses I play do. If I missed anything, let me know.

Visit .

President’s Cup – The Royal Melbourne Golf Course

This year’s President’s Cup will be played on one of the great golf courses of the world, the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia.

The course was designed by Alister Mackenzie in 1926, who also designed The Augusta National Golf Club course. There are two courses of eighteen holes each at the club, Mackenzie having designed the East course. Alex Russell designed the West course in 1932. The tournament course is an amalgamation of the two, taking twelve holes from the West, and six holes from the East. For those of you keeping score at home, it works like this:

1  (13) – W1
2  (14) – W2
3  (5) – E3
4  (6) – E4
5  (7) – W5
6  (8) – W6
7  (9) – W7
8  (10)  – W10
9  (11) – W11
10  (12) – W12
11  (3) – W17
12  (4) – W18
13 (15)  – W3
14  (16) – W4
15  (17) – E9
16  (18) – E16
17  (1) – E17
18  (2) – E18

In former years, the same holes were used, but the routing, shown in parentheses, was different. For example, what is the first hole this week used to be the 13th hole.

Holes of note (current routing) are the fourth, sixth, and seventeenth.

The fourth hole, a 401-yard par 4, requires a blind, uphill drive directly over an imposing array of bunkers on the right. The safe shot into the fairway runs the wrong direction for a shot to the green, and most second shots will be hit from a downhill lie. The green, like all at Royal Melbourne, features subtle slopes that cannot be seen until it is too late. Four is a good score here, and five will be easy to make.

The sixth hole is a very short par 4 – only 285 yards. The catch is that the drive must be hit over an enormous bunker that is built into the side of a hill. A shot out of it will be hit from a level well below the green. The safer angle crosses a valley to a crest at the same level as the tee. Miss the crest and you have a blind pitch into the green.

The seventeenth is a famous hole for its deception from the tee. The fairway is so wide that it’s almost impossible to miss, yet unless the ball is put in the right spot, finding a way to get the second shot near the pin will not be easy.

Even though the course is in the middle of an urban area, it has the look of being in the Australian wild. Royal Melbourne is one of the most beautiful courses in the world, I think, for that very reason. I’ll be watching the broadcast as much to look at the course as to see the competition.


A Desert Golf Course

I got back from my vacation to the Southwest yesterday. My wife and I hiked across the Grand Canyon, from the north rim to the south rim, in two and a half days. We had a wonderful time. What made it even better was playing golf in the midst of the desert, not at a resort course, but at an executive course in the heart of the Colorado Plateau.

It’s called the Thunderbird Golf Course, and it sits at the intersection of highways 9 and 89, between Kanab, Utah, and Zion National Park, in a place called Mt. Carmel Junction, Utah. The course is 1,868 yards long from the whites, par 31. The course record is 24, I asked. This is not a destination, believe me. You would have to be there for another reason.

I seem to be going there every few years. I had passed by the place three times in the last ten years, and each time I really regretted having to keep going. On this trip I decided to schedule some time to play.

From the first tee, you get the feeling of where you are from the brown road sign you won’t see in many other places. It says, “Grand Canyon National Park 101.” My wife thinks the policeman must get a kick out of watching golfers while he waits for speeders to come by.

Below, I’m going for the green. You don’t get this background in many places, either. Those formations in the distance are at least 2,000 feet above the surrounding plain.

It took about an hour to play. I had one birdie and a few pars. Not bad for still being in recovery from two quite strenuous hikes in the past three days.

The best part is that the green fees, club rental, and cart all came to $20.

Now that the hike I had been preparing myself for all summer is over, I can start devoting myself to golf again. Life is good.


How to Choose the Right Golf Course

Golf is a recreational sport where the field of play is not standardized. Unlike softball or tennis, where if you’ve seen one field/court, you’ve seen them all, every golf course is different. That could be, in fact, the major attraction of golf — to try your luck on different layouts. Each one has its own challenges, tests, and design that encourages us to do our best and at the same time to enjoy the look of new surroundings.

For developing your skill at the game, though, take some time to choose the courses you play on regularly. Playing on the right ones makes a big difference. Here are some things you might consider, given that you have enough different courses to choose from in the area where you live.

If you’re a beginner, an executive course is the best bet. This is a short course, around 2,000 yards long or less for nine holes, and consisting mostly, if not exclusively, of par 3 holes. Most of the time you’ll be able to reach the green in one shot. Each time you swing the club the ball will be on a tee, making it easier for you at the start.

Golfers who are comfortable with golf’s basic skills now want to find courses that present a well-rounded set of offerings. You might want to play one that is fairly wide open from the tee, so you can learn how to be comfortable just giving your driver a good whack. You might also want to play one that is fairly tight (rough, trees) to get you comfortable hitting your driver straight. On one course I play,  if you get the ball  in the fairway, the rest is easy. Miss the fairway and it will be a long day.

Play a few courses with lots of hazards – water, bunkers – to learn how to avoid them, and more importantly to learn how not to fear them. I read some years ago about a touring pro who grew up on a course that had no water, and as a professional was always intimidated by water hazards.

Play a course that forces you to hit accurate iron shots into the green. This would be one that has small greens, or larger greens surrounded by sand traps, thick rough, mounds, and so on.

Play courses that develop your short game. One course I play on has thick rough around the green, so I had to learn how to hit very short shots out if it to nearby pins. Another one has closely-cut grass surrounding the greens, calling for a different kind of chip. A third course, because of the hole yardages, has me hitting more pitches from 60-100 yards than any other. On some courses you can bump and run the ball onto the green. Others make you fly the ball on from close in. There is no one course that will develop a rounded short game. You have to travel to get one.

Amenities are important, too. Is the staff courteous and helpful? Is the course easy to walk if you wish to? Is it well-maintained? Is it easy to get a tee-time?

Quite important is whether the course fits your skill level. Each course has ratings, two numbers printed on the scorecard beside each set of tees. Most recreational golfers would best play on a course where the first number is under 70 and the second number is under 120, something like this: 69.3/117. Courses with higher ratings might be too hard and not as much fun.

Remember, as recreational golfers, we play for the enjoyment of the game and the company of good friends in beautiful surroundings. Take advantage of the variety that is built into our sport, and you’ll have more fun, and may be even get to be a better player.


Practice Making Pars

Up North, it’s getting wet already. Not much fun to play in a liquid atmosphere with squishy lies. Keep playing, though, and use the opportunity to improve.

Shun the regulation course and find an executive layout. Make sure you go out as a single, because you are going to be hitting a lot of mulligans. What you are going to do is par every hole before you move on to the next one.

First off, this method is for short game practice. You don’t get do-overs for tee shots and approach shots. Practice those on the range. So, after you have gotten the ball within 100 yards of the hole, drop a ball and hit it again if (a) your pitch doesn’t land and stop on the green, or (b) your chip doesn’t end up within 3 feet of the hole, (c) your bunker shot doesn’t get out, (d) your approach putt doesn’t finish within 2 feet of the hole, of (e) your second putt doesn’t go in. If you make all those corrections, you should end up scoring a par on every hole.

What you accomplished: You learned how to get a par and how to hit the shots you need to hit in order to do it. Those will be the short shots and putts. Now when you take you game to the big courses starting in March, you will have the skill and confidence it takes to play well around the greens and shoot the scores you deserve.


Play a Difficult Golf Course – 2

I blogged earlier on this subject and would like to continue the thought. The basic idea is that your learning curve flattens out when you play courses on which shooting your handicap or below has become an expectation. To get better, you need a new challenge.

Find a course that takes about six to seven more strokes to get around than what you’re used to scoring on your home course, which I assume you play well on. Go play that course straight up. Confront the hazards. Hit the forced carries. Hit driver to restricted landing areas. Play the shots the architect makes someone play to shoot a good score.

What’s going to happen is that you will get eaten alive for a while. It won’t be fun, you’ll shoot high scores, you’ll lose lots of balls. But take your lumps. Keep hitting the shots that need to be hit until you can hit them without worry and with good result. Consider this to be tuition in golf school. Play that course over and over until you have a solution to every problem it gives you.

You’ll learn to be unconcerned by shots you once feared. You’ll learn to hit shots with precision. If you have to hit it right there, you’ll learn how to and be confident when you have to. You’ll learn how to play a course using the shots you want to hit, rather than the shots the architect wants to scare you into hitting.

Of course you improve by spending time at the range learning to hit shots and taking lessons. But you don’t become a player unless you play, unless you challenge yourself to hit those shots you spent so much time working on, and put trust in your skills.

That’s how you learn to shoot lower scores.

See also How Solid is Your Handicap?


Play a Difficult Golf Course

Today I played a difficult course. I play it every year to see how I’m really doing. My home course is fairly forgiving, but this one isn’t. It’s carved out of the Pacific NW forest and if you’re off the fairway, don’t even bother looking for your ball. It puts a premium on hitting every shot as well as you can.

Now I have all the shots I need to score well on this course. It’s just, like I say, there’s no room for clinkers.

Take the first hole, Hugely wide fairway, doglegs right slightly uphill to a medium-sized green that is fronted by a creek. Any shot that hits short of the green will bounce back into it. So if you catch your first iron of the day a little fat, like I did, into the creek it goes.

I found out today which shots I can’t get away with hitting like I do. When my club selection isn’t good. When my decision-making isn’t up to par. A tough course will expose all these faults, and that’s why you should play one very now and then to find out what you still need to improve on.

When I got home, I wrote down my score by hole, then wrote down what I would have shot if I had played steady golf. Not especially spectacular golf, but if I had hit all the shots I can hit without straining the limits of my ability. I won’t tell you what the result of that analysis was, but I’ll tell you I would have turned in a very good score. I even took away a birdie. If you take away the shots you don’t expect to hit, irons that park themselves next to the pin get tossed out along with snap hooks.

About a month ago, I wrote about being positive about your golf. This is my positive spin for today’s drubbing. I have the game right now to shoot a good score in this course. I know which errors to correct, and which shots I have to firm up by the next time I play up there. I can’t wait.

See also Play a Difficult Golf Course – 2