Category Archives: golf courses

Back From Oakmont

When the U.S. Open was played at Oakmont in 2007, Tiger Woods said that a 10-handicapper wouldn’t break 100. He was being too kind. More like 120. Maybe.

This course is so hard I don’t know where to begin. Natalie Gulbis said she played it five times before Women’s Open week and never came close to breaking par. I completely understand why.

The fairways are not that wide, and if you don’t hit into the rough that looks innocent but grabs your club instead of letting it slide through, there are the bunkers. These things are big, and they are surrounded by a high mound on the side toward the hole. Chip out. Between these two, you can use up par just getting to the green.

The course is quite hilly. A level lie is rare. There are blind shots into greens. There are shots downhill into greens that slope away from you. Fairway slopes feed the ball toward the bunkers. I saw one golfer hit 7-iron off the tee of a 558-yard hole to avoid the bunkers.

Then there are the greens. The ones on which Sam Snead said he marked his ball and the coin slid off. Fast, slopy, have you ever seen someone go tink! on a 20-foot putt and have it go five feet by the hole?

If I were allowed to play here, I would take a double bogey and not be disturbed, a bogey and be very happy, a par and faint.

But let me tell you as well, this course is beautiful, and it manicured in every sense of the word. I have putted on greens shaggier than the fairway grass.

And it’s big. You can see almost the whole thing from the clubhouse. It looks like no other golf course you’ve ever seen. Pictures do not do it justice.

The men play there again in 2016. Make your travel plans.

Golf in Hawaii

The PGA tour starts next week, with the SBS Champioship on Maui, followed by the Sony Open in Oahu. While there’s rain, snow, and cold outside your living room window, you can watch the pros play in the perfect golfing environment.

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know why it’s perfect. You get off the airplane and the heat and humidity make you feel like Gumby. It’s marvelous.

I played golf in Hawaii about ten years ago, at a little course called Kukuiolono Park. This course is the biggest golf bargain you will ever get, situated on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the most restful of all the Hawaiian Islands – Kauai.

Kukuiolono Park Golf Course (pictured above) is on the estate left in perpetuity to the residents of Kauai by sugar magnate Walter D. McBride for their recreational enjoyment.

The course has only nine holes, but alternate tees allow you to play a front nine and a back nine of different lengths. The overall length of the combined eighteen is 6,154 yards, rated 68.8/115.

The 2nd hole is 580 yards long, but it goes downhill so sharply from tee to green that getting on in two is not out of the question. Unfortunately, the short 330-yard 3rd plays back up the same hill and it takes two mighty shots to reach the green.

The views from the 4th through 7th holes overlooking the ocean and surrounding area make it difficult to keep playing. But no problem. Green fees for an entire day are only $9! (I said it was a bargain.) Just play it as many times as you like so you can keep coming back for another look.

Kukuiolono Park GC is not in the same condition as the high-priced resort courses elsewhere on Kauai, but it is in good condition, plays well, and if you get paired up with some local golfers you’ll have the time of your life. When you travel to Kauai, play here first. You won’t regret it.

The course does not have its own web site.


Golf Course Maps

When I was growing up I checked out a copy of The Complete Golfer out of the library. The book, edited by Herbert Warren Wind, is a fabulous collection of articles on history, instruction, biography, humor, fiction . . . and golf courses. This book is what started me on a life-long love affair with golf courses.

The last section of the book has color fold-out maps of The Old Course at St. Andrews, The National Golf Links on Long Island, Pine Valley, Pebble Beach, Merion, Pinehurst No. 2, Augusta, and Oakland Hills. Each course is described in an essay by Robert Trent Jones. The essays didn’t do much for me, I was only 12 at the time. But oh, those maps!

They showed the fairways, bunkers, the greens, where the next tee was, how you walked your way around the course. How I would walk around the course when I had the chance – little did I know. But on a vacation in 1962 I did make it as far as the eighth hole at Pebble Beach that same year, and played the Old Course six years later.

Pine Valley has all that sand. I watched Byron Nelson and Gene Littler play a match there on TV at about that time. Scary.

Augusta. I don’t think there is a course that so many people are so familiar with. By now we know what every hole looks like, and the back nine is burned in our brain. But how many people could lay little models of each hole in the right place on a blank piece of paper? Could you do it?

The National Golf Links I didn’t get, and still don’t, Pinehurst is all about the greens, and Oakland Hills is only in there because Jones remodeled it for the 1951 National Open (as it was called in 1951).

That leaves Merion. It’s eighteen holes of golf packed into a space that would hold twelve if it were built today. Ardmore Avenue goes right through the middle of it, putting holes 2-12 on one side and the rest on the other. How do players cross the road? Is there a crossing guard? There are long holes and short holes, short because there’s no room to put in a long hole, and even then some of the short holes had to be bent to make them fit.

It’s such a tidy course, the one I would pick it if I were allowed to play on any one I wanted. So if you’re reading this post and you belong to Merion, give me a call. Same goes if you’re a member at Cypress Point. Give me a call. And I was just kidding about Pine Valley . . .

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at It will change everything about the way you play.