Tuesday, March 5, 2019

127. Go West Old Man...

127.  Go West Old Man...

By early February it was time to hit the road again.  I had several areas of concentration that were available...but a bunch of these (Michigan with 5, Washington/Oregon with 8, and the Rockies with 4) were not exactly in hospitable of climates this time of year.  And with some of the others (Phoenix, California,  and Texas) I had to be careful about the schedules for the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, and Women's Tour as visiting an area when a tour was in town would create major difficulties for securing tee times.  

After some study and poking around regarding accessibility and availability, I decided to spend the week of February 4-8 wandering around Phoenix and California.  Phoenix and Scottsdale had three tracks I needed to play, and California a total of 5.  Additionally Las Vegas had one, and there were two others in Arizona within about 100 miles of Phoenix that were possible.  But I did not want to leave until early February 4 (the morning after the Super Bowl), and I promised Pat to head back Friday night February 8.  Those constraints, less daylight in the northern hemisphere this time of year, and heavy play in these areas during February, meant my maximum number of courses would be nine (including one on Monday February 4).  My target areas became the California Desert, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Phoenix/Scottsdale...including one course about 110 miles east of Phoenix.  

After numerous emails and quite a bit of help from some friends, my itinerary was set...but daunting. I would start off departing Raleigh-Durham airport at 5:32am on Monday February 4, which would require setting the alarm for 2:15am...remember, the Super Bowl ended around 10pm, and we had to get home from a party!

Mission Hills Country Club (Tournament Course) February 4, 2019:  Since early 1972, the LPGA Tour has played a tournament at Mission Hills' Tournament Course.  The event was founded by entertainer Dinah Shore and Colgate-Palmolive's chairman David Foster, and attracted lots of attention by initially offering a purse more than double the purse of the then US Women's Open or LPGA Championship.  The event's official name included "Dinah Shore" through 2000 and has been commonly referred to as "The Dinah Shore" throughout.  Since 2015 the event's official name has been the "ANA Inspiration" after the Japanese airline All Nippon Airways became its official sponsor in late 2014.  As The Dinah Shore became a Women's Major in 1983, I needed to play the course for my Women's Major Venue bucket list.

After connecting flights at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, I arrived in Palm Springs, CA around 10am.  Fortunately, I was able to catch some sleep on both flights, check into my hotel room early, and catch a short nap there.  My tee time was 1:34pm, and I hoped the course would not be too crowded as sunset was at 5:18pm.   

The Tournament Course opening in 1971 and was designed by Englishman Desmond Muirhead (who, with Jack Nicklaus, also designed Muirfield Village located outside of Columbus, OH).  Mission Hills has two other courses which opened in 1979 and 1988.  Since 1971 the California Desert (located about 125 miles east of Los Angeles) has grown tremendously and now includes some 120 courses.  One of the course's great attributes is the fabulous views of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains to the southwest of Palm Springs.  Somehow the course is perfectly located...not too close and not too far from these mountains which provide a wonderful backdrop.

Muirhead moved a lot of dirt to convert dead flat desert terrain into a rolling course with hills up to 50-75 feet in height.  It also is built around three large and two small artificial lakes.  From the back tees it plays 7250 yards and for The Dinah Shore about 6770 yards.  By far its best known hole is the par 5 #18, a flat dogleg left to an island green that stretches 98 yards from front left to back right  (more below).   The course is way too green and overwatered for my tastes, and has a number of very good holes, although I still am trying to figure out its par 4 6th hole.  The greens are very well contoured and demanding.  

My hopes for a relatively empty course were dashed when I arrived.  I played the front nine with a couple who were fun golfers but it was slow for our threesome...and the course was totally jammed in front of us.  However,  a number of golfers were only playing nine holes and the back nine moved somewhat faster.  I just managed to finish at 5:28, ten minutes after sunset, in not a lot of light, and playing through two groups (with permission) on the last two holes.  My game was rustly at first and then improved after 7 holes...shooting a 41 - 39 = 80.  

After the round, I headed to dinner with two old friends from Quaker Ridge (Michael F., another certifiable golf nut, and Mickey T.) at a wonderful Italian restaurant (Mitch's on El Paseo, in Palm Desert) where we told all sorts of golf stories of which at least 3.2% were true.  I was able to get to bed by around 10pm (almost 23 hours since I awoke).  Today was easy with just 18 holes and not much driving.  The next four days would be tougher.

The Madison Club, February 5, 2019:  After my last visit to the California Desert two years ago, I wrote the following (Post #71):

To my mind, desert golf to date is divided into three “eras”: 

1.     startup phase that featured Thunderbird, Tamarisk, La Quinta, and Eldorado;
2.     “growth” era bringing huge developments with courses by Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and others, which started with La Quinta Resort and PGA West and received nationwide attention with the advent of the televised “Skins Game” each Thanksgiving weekend; and 
3.     “over the top/boom-bust” era that has seen a new “king of the hill” club open about every five years proclaiming to be the latest and greatest (in order: Vintage, Quarry, Stone Eagle, and Madison Club) and today's world with no “full” clubs in the desert.

I am not sure which of the four is presently "king" but Madison is certainly in the running.  Rumored to have cost around $200 million (when completed in 2007), Madison is the creation of Discovery Land Company, which specializes in extremely high end clubs with courses maintained in "perfect" condition, beautiful to behold, generally designed by Tom Fazio (as is Madison), and offering the very highest standards in amenities.  Food stations abound serving just about everything one could hope for (although I did not see my Fiber One offered).  Some might call the offerings "over-the-top" but I shall avoid such crass statements.

Although I am not a big "fan" of most Discovery Land clubs, the golf course here is certainly one of their finer offerings.  It stretches to a hefty 7426 yards (at sea level) and one never has the feeling of playing in the desert.  Rumors also claim that Fazio moved some five million cubic yards of dirt to build it.  If true, and assuming the course covers 200 acres, that means an average of 15' 6" of dirt for all 200 acres!  Think about that!!  Only course I have ever seen on a similar scale is Shadow Creek in Las Vegas (played in 20122 before I commenced blogging).

I was the guest of a friend of a friend.  Originally from South Africa, Colin H. now splits his time between The Desert and a northwest suburb of Los Angeles.  He is a wonderful player and even better gentleman.  We played in some tough winds (a strong storm had hit overnight with wind gusts of 60+mph resulting in downed palm trees) but we were lucky that the winds calmed down to more manageable speeds (10-15mph) by our 8am tee off.  

I played from 6048 yards...a fairly long course for me especially with 10-15mph winds but hit it very well (41 - 39 = 80)...with sixes on the par 5 8th and short par 4 9th marring what could have been a very good round.  All in all I was very pleased with my game, and it was great to meet Colin.

This will never happen, but if Madison got real firm and fast, and widened its fairways to increase options and angles, IMO it could really be special.  Favorite holes were #9 (despite my stupid double!) and #12.  But who knows...these are a matter of taste...and I was glad to be able to see it and play it.

So why was I here?...Madison was on the Golf Week Modern 100 in 2018...and you will of course recall that I am trying to be the first to play the Golf Week Modern 100 + Classic 100 EVER (since you asked, as of today, this totals 411 courses, of which 9 no longer exist...so really 402). 

After the round, had to rush off for Newport Beach, CA, a drive of 127 miles.

Big Canyon Country Club, February 5, 2019:  Fortunately (and miraculously), hit zero traffic going from La Quinta in the Desert to Newport Beach in Orange County.  I arrived at Big Canyon a little early and had no idea how wet the course would be...this was a week of teeming rains in Southern California.

I was here as the guest of a member (Kit) who is a close friend of a fellow Golf Digest Panelist (Doug).   Kit is an attorney with his own firm in the area, and was already at the club when I arrived.  We were just about the only non-ducks out on the course this day...and there were some real water flows on this course (think of the club's name and the rain...).  For obvious reasons, it was cart path only this day, and BCCC was a tiring course to play in these conditions.

From the back tees it plays 7061 yards (par 72) and features many uphill approach shots to raised greens...and on this days there was zero roll.  The course winds through canyons with high end homes lining most fairways.   It opened in 1971 and was also designed by Desmond Muirhead (architect at Mission Hills) and Ted Robinson, Sr.  Known for decades as a high end club in Orange County, in recent years it also has hosted two USGA Championships (2000 US Women's Mid Amateur and 2014 US Senior Amateur).

On the front nine I put together a very smooth 46, followed by a somewhat improved (but still very ugly) 43 on the back...allowing me to break 90 by a hair.  Of course, all of my scores here are based on ESC or "equitable stroke control" where a golfer at my level cannot take a score higher than a double bogey.  This procedure prevents (or at least makes it more difficult for) golfers to maintain artificially high handicaps in a "get rich scheme".  Given the stakes I generally play ($2 or $5 on the front, back and combined 18) getting rich or poor is tough, but golf can be played at very meaningful stakes.

Overall I liked the course but it was hard to really judge in these conditions.  Some of the rain storms I saw on the news (and for brief periods experienced in my drive) would have put about any course underwater so judging the conditions based on this day would be unfair.  But at least I got this one in...continuing my fortunate streak weather-wise (knock on wood).  This trip would prove to be a tough one as days are still short in early February, I had some tough long drives between courses, I was dodging  the West Coast's typical winter rainstorms the first two days, and would face a cold front and frost delays the next three days.

After the round I had a short (6 mile) drive to nearby John Wayne Airport to catch a 7:30 flight  to Sacramento, CA.  Frost delays and a a tight schedule were to be my issue the next day.  I was scheduled for two private clubs, the first (Granite Bay GC) in Sacramento's suburbs just northeast of the city, and the second (Winchester CC) some 25 miles further northeast and lying half way between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.

My flight was on time but was be a long day even without delays.

Granite Bay Golf Club, February 6, 2019:  I was up early and the weather was very cold...in the high 30's which pretty much guaranteed frost.  I was scheduled to do off around dawn (7:00am) but that was not going to happen.  Two weeks ago I had been setup for for an early start by an assistant pro (Michael Berry) and that made scheduling this day possible.

Upon arriving I learned that they we're projecting an end to the frost delay at 10am...which meant getting in 36 would be impossible (with a 5:30pm flight to Phoenix).  But experience taught me to just plow ahead and hope for the best.  I knew nothing about Granite Bay (or Winchester) except that both had briefly appeared on the Golf Week USA Modern Top 100 in the late 1990's or early 2000's.  Both were designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.  Granite Bay has a neat men's locker room with sections named after some historical greats of the game (Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, etc.).

I met the Greens Superintendent who asked who had set up my game...a question I answered honestly.  At that point he mentioned that the rains had made the course impossible to rate, there was some ongoing construction, and that my request should have been reviewed by him.  I knew I was stepping into an issue between the pro shop and course maintenance and I knew to tread carefully (even though I had followed correct protocols...at least this one time).  I told the superintendent that I always ignore ongoing construction since it was obviously temporary, and if the course was overly wet I would not submit a rating as I fully understood the extent of the rains.  Then as soon as possible I teed off on #1 before anyone changed their mind!

As many of you know, I am not a huge fan of R T Jones, Jr.'s architectural efforts.  And for the first two holes at Granite Bay I sensed another disappointment.  The first is a decent but ordinary par 4 protected by water left, and the second a very difficult and tight dog leg right par 4 (422 yards) to a blind green sloping sharply from front to back.  I thought the green was way too difficult to hold (in normal conditions) for the hole.

To my surprise, what followed was a series of very good to superb holes over the rest of the course...with the best being #3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 16-18.  After a very weak bogey, double bogey, double bogey start, I ended up shooting a semi-respectable 42 - 41 = 83.  I was also able to play in 2:15 even with cart path only rules.  A call to Winchester revealed that most tee time bookings had canceled and that the course was wide open...perhaps 36 might be possible.

After the round I found Michael Berry...who was originally from NY and was a baseball player who had switched to golf.  He asked if I was a Mets fan and I told him "no...Brooklyn Dodgers." That brought a chuckle.  I told Michael how much I liked the course and asked him to tell the superintendent I planned to submit a very very good rating for a really fine course (even with the questionable second green).  That seemed to smooth his day.  I really meant it...this unheralded track is really good...not great..but really good.  As I have written before, highlights for these trips almost always center on finding "hidden gems."

Had to run to get to Winchester if I was to make the 5:50 flight.

Winchester Country Club, February 6, 2019:  About 40% of the way between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe lies Winchester CC.  It opened in 2000 and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr.  It sits at about 1800' in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and is intertwined among some 400 real estate lots.  Not surprisingly, the development went through bankruptcy about 10 years ago and was subsequently sold to a Colorado developer.  I had the sense that the project is on stronger footing and so long as the real estate market continues to be OK, will eventually be built out.  There are a good number of beautiful homes overlooking the course...creating long cart drives from green to following tee.

Given the rains that had hit California this week, this round was not productive in terms of evaluating the course (but it did allow me to "check off" another course from there GolfWeek USA Top 100 Modern EVER list).  It was soaking wet with water run-offs visible all over the course.  Built on very hilly terrain it would be very difficult to walk, and my guess is that in decent conditions it would be reasonably good, but not close to a Top 100 level.  I teed off on #10 and had a horrendous back nine and a good front (46 - 39 = 85 in order of play).  The back nine is generally on flatter (but not "flat") land on rather open fields while the front nine is very hilly and cut through forests.  I was able to play in about 2:25 as the course was almost empty, and hence had no problem catching my flight to Phoenix which departed Sacramento at 5:50pm.

Must say the Sacramento airport terminal is fabulous.  Opened in 2011 and is actually not crowded.  On the other hand, arriving in Phoenix was a big contrast.  The terminals there have a tough timer handling the traffic...certainly at this time of the year.

I was staying with Rich & Sally L. in their home in Paradise Valley.  Rich is an old Citibank friend and they had finished their new house about 2 years ago, and it is simply fabulous.  But it was late when I arrived at their home and Rich and I were playing the next morning at 8am (although it was almost certain that frost would delay the tee off).

Whisper Rock Golf Club (Lower), February 7, 2018:  I was here in April 2017 (Post #75) and played the Upper Course designed by Tom Fazio with Rich and my old neighbor from Purchase, NY, Chip W.  I remembered starting very well (I was one over through 6 but finished with an 81).

My schedule for Phoenix both 2/7 and 2/8 was tight but very doable unless I faced some sort of weather delay...and frost was just about guaranteed for both days.  I has lucked out so far this trip, but it was looking like the end of the lucky road as our tee time was moved back from 8:00 to 9:40.

The Lower was the first course built at WR, and was originally designed by Phil Mickelson.  From the back it plays 7390 yards, but I moved up just a bit and played it from 6021 yards.  Both courses have been on GolfWeek's Top 100 Modern, but neither has made the Golf Week Merged 100.  The Lower is not as dramatic as the Upper, but it tests one's game just as well or even more so.  The greens can be very tough...but the degree of difficulty is clearly a function of the day's pin placements.  Every green is loaded with sites that would be brutal to get near, and punishing to miss.  Fortunately, on this day most of those locations were being rested.

After a double bogey on #1, I started to shoot lights out and was even par for the rest of the front nine.  After playing 10-16 two over, I messed up with doubles at 17 and 18 turning what should have been a great round into an 80...I think that is spelled "g-o-l-f"!

As I stated in Post #75, as good as the golf courses are at Whisper Rock, the club is even better.  Absolutely superb without going over the top is tough to accomplish...but this place does it.

When we finished 18 I had to run if I was to get down to Superstition Mountain in Gold Canyon, AZ (about 50 miles to the southeast).  As I was stopped at a light I checked my emails, which included an email from the head pro at Mirabel, GC, located about 2 miles from Whisper Rock, advising that due to the frost forecast for Friday, they they would have a shotgun start will everyone teeing off around 11am...which meant I could not get in 36 tomorrow.  I quickly pulled over to think through my golfing schedule for the next 30 hours and realized there was a way to get in all three rounds.  I quickly called Mirabel to see if they could accommodate me in about 30-60 minutes...and their answer was yes!!  Then I called Superstition Mountain and they said yes to Friday afternoon.  Deal done and also saved me over 100 miles of driving!!  Said it before and I'll say it again...always have to have a plan B and be flexible...there usually is a way.

Mirabel Golf Club, February 7, 2019:  The property where Mirabel sits was originally to house a tough, high end daily fee course designed by Greg Norman, called Stonehaven.   After Stonehaven was fully built and in the grow in stage (approximately 2000), the entire development was sold to Discovery Land Company (same company that developed and owns The Madison Club in the California Desert...see above).  Discovery Land decided the course was too tough for its concept, brought in Tom Fazio, plowed Stonehaven under, and built Fazio's course in its stead.  So, $8 million or $15 million later (depending on whose account you believe), Mirabel Golf Club opened for play as a very high end private club...and seems to be doing very well.

I arrived around 1:0gr and was off tee #10 shortly thereafter, playing nine holes with a couple who were members, and the front nine by myself.  My good play continued and in the afternoon I avoided costly double bogeys and had a superb feel with my putter.  The result was a solid 37 - 39 (in order of play) = 76.  Hit 13 of 14 fairways, 9 of 18 greens, and required just 31 putts.  The course is very good, but not one of Fazio's best.  It is beautiful to behold, but to my mind, does not excite a golfer's senses.  Lots of folks worship Fazio's work, I am just not one of them.

All in all, could not complain about the day.  Despite the frost, got in all 36 holes (and had a doable 36 for the next day), two good rounds, and finished it off with a wonderful dinner with Rich at their other club, Paradise Valley CC.  Tomorrow is to start off with a long drive east past Globe, AZ, then to Superstition Mountain, followed by a dinner with an old roommate from business school, and then, unfortunately, a long night on a red-eye.

Apache Stronghold Golf Resort, February 8, 2019: The drive east to Apache Stronghold was about 100 miles and took almost two hours but it was worth it.  I arrived around 8am and my start was delayed by frost but I was able to start play around 9:15.

Designed by Tom Doak and opened in 1999, the course is owned by a Casino (next door), and there ain't much else around it.  The course is built in true AZ desert land, filled with natural desert washes and rolling land.  This is a wonderful minimalist design...very little "dirt" was moved in constructing it, but the brilliance of its design is unfortunately camouflaged by poor playing conditions due to lack of sufficient cash flow.    At one time (shortly after it opened) it was included on GW's Top 100 Modern list, but given economic realities, the clear likelihood is that those days are long gone.

I played fairly well (38 - 41 = 79) and wished I had more time to study and appreciate the beauty and simplicity of this design.  In some ways it reminded me of my favorite AZ course...Coore & Crenshaw's We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course...but one had to look through the conditions to see that.  Best holes are #4, #7, #13, and #14...simply loved the setting of the short dogleg left #13 to an elevated green, built on found naturally formed for this hole!  In any case, if you are an architecture buff, it is worth the journey through some beautiful desert natural desert countryside.

After the round I had a 75 minute drive back west to Superstition Mountain, the last of nine courses on this five day journey.

Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club (Prospector), February 8, 2019:  Superstition Mountain boasts two Jack Nicklaus courses.  Prospector was the first build (opened 1999) and was designed by Jack and his son  Gary, while Lost Gold followed and was designed by Jack and his son Jackie.  Those were the days when Jack Nicklaus and Lyle Anderson owned the Phoenix golf scene.

In 2002 Prospector hosted the Senior Tour's Tradition Championship, won that year buy Jim Thorpe, hence it's place on one of my bucket lists (Senior Tour Venues Ever).

I arrived around 1:00 but frost in the morning moved my 2:20 tee time back to 2:50pm...and with sunset scheduled for 6:05pm, 18 holes was looking dicey at best.  I was playing alone and was able to finish the front nine by 4:40.  Luckily, a number of groups dropped out of play after 9 holes,. and I bolted around the back before running into a group at 15...so I rushed ahead of them to 16, played 16-18, then got back to 15 to finish the 18 holes by 5:45pm.  Had a so-so 41 on the front (slow play never is good for my game), started the back with bogies on 10 and 11 and played the last seven even for a 37 on the back (total 78).  Not a bad way to finish the trip.

The course is good but, with the exception of Muirfield Village in Ohio, I am just not a Nicklaus golf architecture fan.  It is located right next to Superstition Mountain and there are stunning views on some of the holes.  And its conditioning was very good.

Had time to thank the golf staff, take a quick shower and re-sort my luggage.  Then drove west for dinner in Scottsdale with Dick Ardern.  Dick and I spent two years in Pittsburgh together at Carnegie Mellon University's business school.  He went off to IBM (where he spent all of his career before retiring), and we had not seen each other since March 2000 when we had try chance to play Cypress Point Club together.  Next time you see me be sure to inquire about my round and how I played #16 that day!

After dinner it was time to head to the airport for my 11:59pm flight to Charlotte, followed by a flight to Raleigh Durham and arrival home on Saturday February 9 around 10:30am.  Was great to see Pat after these five days and good to have knocked 9 courses of my list!  One thing for sure...golf was not on my agenda for Saturday or Sunday.  Sleep was required!!

OK...time for an update:

Total Courses Played 1,128
Bucket Lists underway:
Senior Tour Majors Ever--4 to go
Women's Majors Ever--6 to go
Amateur Majors Ever--5 to go
Tour Important Ever--6 to go
Five "Cups"--1 to go
World Top 100 Ever--2 to go
USA TOP 100 Ever--2 to go
GOLF WEEK 100 + 100 Ever--20 to go

Total to go (excluding double counts)--44

Monday, January 14, 2019

126. Trip to Florida...finish Golf Digest Top 100 EVER and work on Senior PGA Championship Venues

126.  Trip to Florida...finish Golf Digest Top 100 EVER and work on Senior PGA Championship Venues

As most of you know I stood at year-end with 59 courses left on my various current bucket lists.  Nine of these were in Florida and SE Georgia...but detailed research revealed that this number would grow to 12.  Three of these targets would require playing an extra 18 holes:

  • I had one course left to finish the Golf Digest USA Top 100 EVER...Bonita Bay Club (Marsh), but the original 18 holes on their Marsh course was split up about 20 years ago and these holes are now holes 1-3 and 13-18 on Bay Island and holes 1-6 and 16-18 on Marsh; logistically with  FL being packed this time of year, the only way to do it was to play the full Bay Island and Marsh courses;
  • Different sources had different venues for the 1940 and 1941 Senior PGA Championships...some saying Bobby Jones Golf Course and some saying Sara Bay Country Club (both in Sarasota); as I was unable to get a definitive answer, only solution was to play both;
  • Similar story regarding 1963 and 1974 Senior PGA played at Pt St. Lucie CC, which ceased to exist since 1974; the club had 36 holes known as the Saints 18 and Sinners 18, which are now split into a muni (Saints) and part of a Club Med franchise (Sinners).  Sooo...who amongst you knew Club Med still existed?...not I.  I have never been to a Club Med given the innocence of my 74 years...that may have to change!  Please don't tell Pat!!
Twelve courses would have keep me away too long, so I cut it back to eight in four days, all in FL and commencing Sunday night January 6.

Dunedin Golf Club, January 7, 2019:  I arrived at Tampa Airport around 10:30pm Sunday and the drive to Dunedin took some 30 minutes.  The motel was fairly highly rated on Hotels.com and very cheap...when I arrived I immediately understood the cheap part.  But it was late and it didn't look dangerous, so there I was and I survived.  Dunedin was only 0.2 miles away so it was fairly convenient.  Dunedin GC was formerly PGA National and hosted the Senior PGA from 1945-1962.  Designed by Donald Ross it opened in 1927 and was re-grassed in 2006.  Today it is a muni.  

I teed off at 7:05am or 19 minutes before sunrise...so do not expect great descriptions of the first 2-3 holes.  It plays to 6625 yards (par 72) from the tips and was in decent condition.  I had a 41 - 40 = 81 and played in 2:05.  Course has some mild elevation changes.  Except for its place in history, not much to say about it.  

Sara Bay Country Club, January 7, 2019: Arrived at Sara Bay around 10:15, well in advance of an afternoon shotgun that I was joining.  I was greeted at the club by Assistant Pro Michael Brown...who had been an intern at CCNC last year!  Michael had just arrived in the area and reported that so far all was good.  I was able to have some breakfast (my Fiber One of course) and then met the head pro, Daren King.  Daren brought me up to date regarding the very recent renovation (course reopened Oct. 6) lead by Kris Spence (who had renovated CCNC's Dogwood about 3 years ago).  Previous resoration efforts were led by Brian Silva.

The club looked to be very active especially for a Monday.  I played with Paul Barone, the club's GM, formerly its head pro, and for sure a wonderful guy, along with an old high school buddy of Paul's.   I very much enjoyed the course.  It was in very good condition, was fairly wide open with excellent angles/options, and fun to play.  We started on the par 5 #7 and after my drive had to confront one of four "Principal Noses" (think fairway bunkers on hole #16 of The Old Course in St Andrews) in the right middle of the fairway.  Kris had split a large bunker into two to create the Principal's Nose and I loved it:

Sara Bay #7--Principal's Nose--pin over right bunker and I stuck 7 iron to 15' (missed birdie putt)
I hit the ball well and had a 42 - 39 = 81.  No question in my mind that this is one of the better courses along FL's west coast.  Plays to 7062 yards from the back.

Never did get the full story of where the 1940 and 1941 Senior PGA's were played...but do know that playing Sara Bay and Bobby Jones (next day) would get these done.  The club has a lot of history behind it.  Originally known as Whitfield Estates CC (and for a while called Sarasota Bay CC), it opened in 1926 and was designed by Donald Ross (probably around the same time Ross did Dunedin).  Mr. Robert "Bobby" Jones helped sell the real estate surrounding the club, and its first head pro was Tommy Armour (the "Silver Scot").  Joe Turnesa was resident teaching pro in the 1970's and 80's.

Put simply, clearly Sara Bay has been one of Florida's west coast's premier clubs...it is wonderful to see the results of a superb restoration bringing its golf course back to its glory days.  If you are going to be near Sarasota, play it...this is a hidden gem!

Bobby Jones Golf Club, January 8, 2019: Another Donald Ross creation in this part of Florida...this one opened in February 1927 and seems to have played a part in the 1940 or 1941 Senior PGA (or both).  Since then it has expanded from its original Ross 18 to 45 holes...the American 18, the longer British 18, and a short executive 9 holes.  Ross' original 18 is now comprised of the back nines on the British and American courses so that is what I played...hitting the 10th hole on American around 6:55 (again in almost pitch black) and then going over to British #10 after playing 10-18 on American.  On the back nine, I was held up a little by some groups that has teed off earlier, but all let me through and I finished by 9:15.

Course was better than I expected (certainly better than there munis I played as a kid) but not really noteworthy.  Like Dunedin and Sara Bay the Ross influence is noticeable in the raised greens sloping from back to front and the wonderful green contouring.  It had been renovated in 2016 by Richard Mandell of Pinehurst and was in good condition.

My play was poor at best...after two nights without enough sleep and 36 yesterday.  Now had a 90 minutes drive to Ft Myers and then another 18.  Good news is that I should be able to get some decent sleep tonight.

Fort Myers Country Club, January 8, 2019:  Another original Donald Ross, this one opened in 1916 and was renovated about five years ago under the guidance of Steve Smyers.  Back 100 years ago the club was the FL club for Henry Ford and Thomas Edison...today a muni.  Like the other on the first two days of this trip, Ross "fingerprints" are all over the greens.  There is a water channel that runs through the property which affects play on about half the holes.  Very much liked the par 5 11th hole.

This was a a round that I wanted to end quickly...but there was a foursome two groups ahead of us who had two full holes open ahead of them toward the end of the round.  Our round took about 4:15 which always happens when you don't like a course!

Anyhow, after the round got to my hotel (this was one of those "new hotel each night" trips) and took  pre dinner nap and got to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Bonita Bay Club, January 9, 2019:  I had been sitting with just one course keeping me from finishing the Golf Digest USA Top 100 EVER list for almost seven months...that course was Bonita Bay-Marsh, which had been included in 1989 and 1991 (peaking at #60 in 1989).  I finally found a member (Phil A.--a very good player from Westchester who has played a good number of times at Quaker Ridge) by looking though a panelist directory for GD, and we arranged a game for this date.  We were joined by Phil's father, who is retired and also a member.

The original Marsh course was designed by Arthur Hills and Hills expanded the property shortly thereafter with 18 new holes merged with the original Marsh 18 to create Bay Island and the new Marsh.  We played Bay Island first and then Marsh.

This is a very good club and tremendously active, but the courses I played certainly are not Top 100 material in today's world...and I also think the new 18 holes are better than the 18 from the original Marsh.  I gather the members consider the two courses we played to be the two worst of the five...but for obvious reasons they are the ones I had to play.

Later, the club opened another campus about 5 miles east with two Tom Fazio courses which are generally considered to be the two best of the five.  I did not play particularly well but did sink a 12' putt for par on 18 to close out this bucket list.

Phil and his father, Ken were delightful and I look forward to having them at Brookline this summer.

That evening I had dinner with Bob McCoy and his wife, Elaine.  Bob is a wonderful guy and the one who played the World 100 20 years ago in a span of 100 days!!  This was my first time meeting Elaine and she is simply delightful.

Then after dinner it was across Alligator Alley to my bride's hometown of Ft. Lauderdale.  Had another 36 scheduled for Thursday and then a flight home.

Fort Lauderdale Country Club-North, January 10, 2019:  A cold front and north winds arrived by the time I awoke on this morning.  Temperature was about 50ยบ with winds approaching 20mph when I arrived at the course.

And it was back to the Senior PGA venues on this last day of the trip.  Ft. Lauderdale CC was founded in 1926 and started with 18 holes.  It was the old money course in Ft Lauderdale but this town has seen better days (after all it has been some 55 years since Pat lived there).  Some 25 years later the North course was added and it hosted the Senior PGA in 1965 won by Sam Snead.  The North was designed by Red Lawrence, a highly regarded architect from that period.  The course was in absolutely perfect condition and played firm and fast.  I thought the best holes were the short par 4 5th, as well as #13-15, especially #14.

I hit the ball OK and had a 41 - 41 = 82.

After the round, it was over to North Miami and Turnberry Isle...better known to me as Aventura.

Turnberry Isle--Soffer, January 10, 2019:  I first visited this development 40 years ago in 1978.  I had left Citibank the prior year to become CFO at Arlen Realty & Development Corp., a large real estate operator and developer and retailer (E. J. Korvettes).  Arlen's largest single project was known as Aventura...a joint venture with Don Soffer.  Arlen, however, was deeply troubled and we were forced to relinquish control of Aventura.  The starter at the first tee told me he had been there since 1979...when I told him of my involvement, we traded stories about Arthur Levine, one of Arlen's two founders.

The Soffer course was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and then renovated by Raymond Floyd in the 1990's.  The course is frankly far from my favorite.  It reminded me in some ways of Liberty National (and that is not meant as a compliment).  Tons of water...it is the opposite of fun and interesting.

After the round I showered and headed to the airport.  Might have been able to squeeze in another round but no thanks.  Flight home was smooth and I arrived home by 12:05am.  Got to sleep.

Bucket List Status:

Courses played: 1,118 (out of approximately 35,000)
States Played: 50 of 50

Bucket List                    Total   NLE   Net Avail   Played   Not Played   Cum
World 100 Ever               348                  348          346            2                  2
USA 100 Ever                 371        -2       369          367            2                  3
GW 100+100 Ever          412        -1       411          385          26                27
Five Cups Ever                115                  115          114            1                28
Men's Maj Ever               128        -3       125          125                             28
Senior Maj Ever                86                    86            81            5                33
Women's Maj Ever            91        -4         87           80            7                40
Amateur Maj Ever *        180        -2      178          172            7                47
Tour Important Ever**      44                   44             38           6                53

NLE-No Longer Exists
*US Am, US Mid-Am, US Senior Am, US 4-Ball, Amateur Championship ("British")
** Fed Exp Playoff sites, Players Championship sites, World Golf Championship sites

If I were to complete all of the above 53, the following additional "bucket lists" would remain outstanding:

US Junior's Championship (probably should be added to Amateur Maj Ever)...27 unplayed
Golf Digest 1966/67 200 Toughest...96 unplayed
Other Women's USGA Champ***...78 unplayed

Playing all the above 201 courses would complete all 14 current USGA Championships Ever.  But frankly, at 74 years of age, 254 more courses (53+201) is too high a hill to climb!!

***US Women's Am, US Women's Mid-Am, US Sen Women's Am, US Girl's Jr, US Women's 4-Ball, US Senior Women's Open.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

1006. July 7-11, 2014: CO, ID, MT, and WY

1006.  July 7-11, 2014: CO, ID, MT, and WY.

Email 7/8/2014:

Woke up at 3:25am Monday morning to catch a 5:50am flight from Boston to Denver.  Landed at about 8:15am, got car and arrived at Sanctuary around 10:10am.  It is very close to Castle Pines, a Nicklaus couse Pat and I played in 2010 and both of us, to put it nicely, underappreciated.

Sanctuary was built by Dave Liniger, who founded Re/Max International, Inc. a large real estate brokerage.  Dave and his wife are the only 2 members.  Most of the play appears to be reward play for Re/Max brokers and managers who meet goals, as well as a large number of charitable events and outings.  For the latter, Dave and his wife deserve big kudo's.

It's highest USA Top 100 ratings have been #48 on GD (1999), #54 on GW's merged list (2003), and never on GM.  It's last appearance on a top 100 was in GD in 2009 (#96).  It opened in 1997 and was designed by Jim Engh.  

The course is at about 6500' and while the scorecard shows back tees of 7044 yards, adjusting for altitude brings the effective yardage to about 6300 yards, and the course plays net downhill (as you generally go uphill from green to the next tee). So my guess is that it plays to about 6200 yards max from the back.  I played combo tees (mix of tips and next set, or a scorecard yardage of 6613 yards...played like about 5800.  On #1 I played from 574 yard tees and hit a so so drive, good 3 utility, and a 9 nine to pin high, and the course was very soft.  Vertical drop on #1 is 62 yards!

The views everywhere on the course are absolutely spectacular. See following pics.  But the course is built on extremely hilly land...it is essentially unwalkable.   While it has some very good holes, there are only 2 relative flat holes (both par 3's).  Not sure what else Jim Engh could have done with the land, but why try to build a course on land such as this???  Course was very very soft, and greens have been hit by a lot of Poa this year.  Net net, despite the fabulous views this one is not worth a trip. 

Flight Monday night delayed by thunderstorms in Denver...arrived Spokane 12:30am Tuesday...playing Black Rock and Gozzer Ranch near Coeur d'Alene starting at 8am today (tuesday).  Good thing for golf carts!!
Sanctuary #1--downhill par 5 of 604 yds...so this is what if feels like at top of Olympic ski-jump!
Sanctuary #2 par 4 458 yards
One of the few uphill holes at Sanctuary--par 4 8th of 380 yds
Par 3 10th at Sanctuary...206 yards

Email 7/10/2014:

Hertz stayed up late for me on Monday night, so when I arrived at Spokane WA airport, my car was there.  Short drive to hotel and too short a night of sleep.  In morning, met Fergal O'Leary at Black Rock.  Fergal is from Boston by way of Ireland (bet you might have guessed that) and we were introduced a few weeks ago.  He plays to plus one, is a former TCC caddy, a Golf Digest rater, a great guy, and another golf architecture nut.  Has played 95 of World 100 and is hoping to finish these last 5 off Down Under in about 5 months...and he is just a lad of 31 years!

Black Rock sits above the Lake at Coeur d'Alene...an incredibly beautiful resort area in northern ID...about 45 miles east of Spokane. BR is a very upscale club, with a fabulous clubhouse and many beautiful homes.  But, more importantly, on to the golf.  

The golf course was designed by James Engh, the same architect who designed Sanctuary.  What a difference good land makes. This track is gorgeous and sits comfortable on the land.  Current USA ratings...just Golf Digest #58 (highest #27 in 2009); was rated #98 in GW but never reappeared, and never made it on GM.  I do not want to get into detailed specifics of my rating evaluation, but suffice it to say that it is really hurt by its conditioning...BR suffers from the "green disease".  This is a location that (according to weather.com) had zero rain for the prior 10 days, and just 1.9" in the month of June (average for June is 2.0")..and the fairways and greens were soft and in some cases wet.  A good number of drives got all of 3-12" of roll!  What a shame...would play so great as a firm fast track.  I had very strange round...one over thru 4, then 7 over on 5-9, then even par 36 on back (2 under for 11-17) for an weird 80..almost like I caught up on missing sleep from 5-9.  Played from 6489 yards, par 72...course is at about 2400' so probably played about 6300 yards...with soft fairways.  Many many excellent holes, and some fabulous views (even though the phony waterfalls were not to our liking).  Best holes are (yardages from back tees):

#3--611 yd par 5...sharply downhill and turns right with green slightly raised above creek in front (birdied it).  Required smart play and placement of all three shorts as holes has several "plateaus" as it trundles downhill.  
#5--556 yd par 5...uphill and turning left off tee, then right for second, then left to horseshoe shaped green.  Sits perfectly on land and long bunker protects left side for 2nd shot.  Tee shot fooled me into aiming too far right (into creek) but recovered by sinking 7' putt for bogey.
#6--428 yds, down off tee then slightly up to green with water protecting right side as well as front of green on second shot (see picture...but hard to see all of water in pic).  Very tough hole and the real start of my nap.
Black Rock #6 par 4...water right of fairway and short of
#7--233 yd par 3 with large bunker protecting front of green.  In perfect setting with large hill surrounding left, back, and right of green.

#11--413 yd par4 sharp dogleg left, with green raised on top of ledge (surrounded by hill behind it and huge boulders protecting both sides and stream (and The Donald waterfalls in front)...not really great hole since so artificial, but "pretty" picture shown below
Black Rock #11--approach shot on dogleg left 428 yd par 4--be careful!!

#14--157 yd par3 with rock/boulder wall extending around back of green...for you Boston folks, wall reminded me a little of #12 at Putterham
Black Rock #14 par 3 with wide shallow green backed by rock wall

#15--543 yd par 4 uphill all the way, sharp dogleg left...no bunkers on hole and none needed...fits perfectly into setting...wish I had a picture.

In summary, excellent design (except for artificial waterfalls), but conditioning really is negative in ratings...bet the members love the color green, but they don't know what they are missing.

Email 7/10/2014:

After finishing round at Black Rock, Fergal and I each drove around the lake to Gozzer Ranch.  Layout is par 72 and plays to 7317 yds from back.  GR opened in 2008 or 2009...certainly not the time you would want to have opened a new course (at least if you wanted it to be reasonably successful).  It is currently rated #27 in USA on Golf Digest (initial rating),  #68 on my merged Golf Week list (highest on GW was #52 in 2011), and #74 on the GM top 100 in USA (highest was initial rating of #70 in 2011).  It was designed by Tom Fazio, and that was so very hard to believe (quite frankly).

It is far and away the best Tom Fazio track I have ever played.  It doesn't look like a Fazio, feel like a Fazio, or play like a Fazio...and, sorry Tom, but that is all meant as a compliment to GR.  Both Fergal and i thought it looked, felt, and played so much like a Coore & Crenshaw...ragged edges to bunkering, wonderful use of fescue, holes perfectly placed on the land and fitting together beautifully (but without screaming at you).  The front nine is very very good, but the back nine is nothing short of superb.  As with Black Rock, wonderful views of the Lake and surrounding areas, but a much more natural feeling layout.  

There are so so mnay really good holes here.  Best are as follows:

--#4, a 278 yd slightly uphill par 4 (very drivable for non 69 year olds) to a small green tucked right and sitting on a small crest with a severe false front
--#7, 205 yd par 3, shrply downhill to smallish green and The Lake in background (pic)
Gozzer Ranch downhill par 3 7th
--#8, 605 yard par 5 , downhill off tee and then up and turning left; reverse camber fairway makes it tough to feel comfortable (pic)
Gozzer #8
--#11, 475 par 4 fairly flat but rolling gently down to green...and infinity green.  tee shot must be on right side or you can be blocked by some trees (pic)
Par 4 11th at Gozzer
--#12, 364 downhill drivable par 4 , with split fairway (split by bunkers and trees); shorter route is left but that entails carry over "stuff" and fairway bunkers, but if you hit it right you get a good kick.  green sits up on perch and slopes from back left to front right with a wonderful shelf back left.  incredible hole to see and to play...lots of things going on (but they fit together superbly), and tons of options on every shot...loved it (pic)
Outstanding short par 4 12th---so many options off the tee!!

--#15, 431 yd slight dogleg right par 4, very slightly downhill.  From tee looks like a good hole but nothing special...until you get to the landing area...think about this...it is an infinity green that is not perched on a hill (in fact 2nd shot is slightly downhill.  Huge dropoff behind green (16th fairway well below) and Lake beyond.  Green has all sorts of stuff going on, sloping back to front for first part (with false front) and front to back when you get over crest (false back??).  Fabulous hole to play and see...can stand there and marvel for a long time...see 2 pics
Long view of approach on #15
Zoomed in approach to #15
Only ??? about course and club are that the fairways could have been firmer (much better than Black Rock but were not "firm", and that the club seemed a bit helter skelter when we arrive (almost 1970's "hippy skippy").  But we were rushed and that impression may well have been misleading.

I played well on front (40) and then fell apart on back...tired tired and no leg drive.  Played in carts all 36 (BR and Gozzer) but all but three holes so far from paths with most of the greens in bowls, and cart paths well above green level...so lots of up and down walks paid their toll. Wished in retrospect that we had played Gozzer first and then Black Rock

In summary...a must play.  And both Fergal and I still are having a hard time imagining this is a Fazio!!

Email 7/15/2014:

No, I have not disappeared...but this trip is grueling...lots of driving and somehow have found it tough to type emails when driviing...so am well behind and will try to catch up.

After finishing the rounds at Black Rock and Gozzer, took a shower and headed off (160 miles) to Missoula MT to stay overnight and then onto Rock Creek Cattle Co. on Wednesday morning (another 85 miles).  Arrived RCCC about 10am to this vast vast property. Just to give you an idea, you enter the property right off of I-90, and then drive 6.5 miles on a gravel road to get to the golf course, which sits on 350 acres.  Very very rustic feel to the place that is very well done.  

RCCC was designed by Tom Doak, and its rating history is frankly surprising...it has not yet appeared on Golf Magazine's or Golf Digest's USA Top 100 (and therefore never on GM's Global list).  It debuted on GolfWeek's USA "merged" list in 2011 and currently sits at #40, having reached a high of #35 in 2012.  Plays to 7466 yards from tips but at 5000' is more like 6800 (par 71).

Played with an asst pro, Jerard who grew up in Raleigh, NC, and we caught it on a very mild day (5-10mph...very mild for the center of MT).  The land is incredible...long views to snow capped peaks, the land has tons of wonderful heaving movement, but for the most part it was built between the biggest hills so it is very playable even for non mountain goats.  Clearly, Doak did not move much land, and the holes fit beautifully and naturally in the setting.  If we have played a round together when I was rating a course, you probably saw me scribbling notes on a scorecard.  One of my notations is whether the hole is flat, uphill, or downhill and straight, dogleg left, or dogleg right.  The way the holes follow the land at RCCC this led to a lot of scribbling...as many holes went downhill off the tee, then uphill, then down then up to a crested green...plus some movements right and left (or something like that description).  Course filled with big blowout bunkers seemingly randomly placed...but actually superbly placed to guide and affect play...protect the sides of the fairways and greens you would ideally want to aim at.  The very essence of strategic golf.  What was truly impressive was that it felt so natural and not contrived.  

The greens move all over the place and would take quite a while to really understand fully...and that is a good thing.  I was frankly surprised and pleased that the greens did not have many elephants buried under them (although given the location and archeological history of MT, perhaps I should say dinosaurs),  The greens were relatively tame for Doak greens (that is NOT tame when compared to almost any other greens you play), but very very subtle.  I was totally fooled several times, and usually found myself overplaying breaks.  I was told after the round that some of the buried dinosaurs had been removed or shrunk over the past few years.  I liked the greens, very tough, very subtle, but not unfair, whereas some other Doak greens I have played (specifically Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania, Australia and Streamsong in FL) seemed too extreme to me.  The entire course and facility look like they have sat on the land for 75-100 years.  Actually the ranch itself it about 95 years old and the course was completed about 5-6 years ago.

We teed off on #10, a 632 yd par 5 that is a prime example of everything i wrote in the above paragraph.  Fairway goes down/up/down then up (weaving through the blowout bunkers) to a green with all sorts of movement (see pics). 

#12--155 par 3 to wide nut shallow green angled slighty from front left to back right and well protected by bunkers.

--#14 is a downhill  par 4 dogleg right of 548 yards (no typo), which, like #3 at Brookline, narrows to passage way between two large mounds for the approach to the green (unless you prefer a blind shot to a very difficult green. (sorry no pic)

#16 I thought was RCCC's toughest.  Plays to 467 yards, turning slightly from right to left and up a hill to a green protected by a large bunker front right.  Real difficulty comes in because the fairway moves/slopes left to right creating a reverse camber...and there is a single tree guarding the right edge of the fairway that makes any attempt at a draw off the tee very dicey...if you push it at all right, it will hit the tree, and if your draw turns into a hook or you tug/yank it left off the tee, the rough on the left ain't the place to be. 

#17 --downhill par 3 191 yards with small pond in front and spectacular backdrop

#18---598yd par 5..from elevated tee down to fairway than turns left and goes back up hill to raised green (seen in front of red roofed bldg on left)..too bad the views aren't dramatic here :-)

Turning to front nine:

#1--435 yd par 4 with split fairway (split by 2 bunkers).  from tee, fairway looks (and is) wide open to right, with very little room to left side of bunkers.  however, the green angles from front left to back right and is well protected by bunkers in front and back...so the only way to have a decent shot to green is by hitting drive to left side of fairway...with little room off tee...very definition of strategic golf...make your choice on tee shot and get rewarded or pay penalty on 2nd shot depending on your choice

#4--457 yd par 4--very tough but fair hole...look here at the naturalness of the terrain when you get off the "golf course"...but remember the fairways are very wide and strategic...the angles are key

#8--193 yd par 3...green slopes sharply from left to right and is well protected...and look at the backdrop here as well

Over all just a wonderful course, that was not "built" but was "found" by Doak.  Not the easiest place to get to but worth it when there. Played firm...but fairway grass was a little long...so while fairways were very firm they were not super fast.  Green were firm and fast.

Email 7/15/2014:

Left Rock Creek Cattle in the middle of MT and drove 315 miles to Jackson Hole, WY...side note here, this trip brought this old man to ID, MT, and WY for the first time leaving me with 4 states i have not set foot in (ND, SD, MS, and AK).  Got to my hotel around 9:30pm...and facing my last real tough day of trip Thursday...36 holes and then a long drive to Salt Lake City.

Thursday morning got up early and drove about 15 miles to Shooting Star, a beautiful course at the base of the Tetons...this is really a spectacular setting...see photo below of #2 (199 yd par 3)

Unfortunately, this was my only photo of the day...but don't bitch about it...the pay on this job ain't so good.

This is a very good golf course designed by Tom Fazio and completed in 2009...tough time to open a new course but apparently things have picked up nicely over the past two years (clear sign of great management of the economy by Obama).  It is a very high end club. Family from Boston area have owned the land for long time..actually met one of the brothers who coached my younger step son in lacrosse in high school.  Stretches to 7568 yds from the back with a bunch of good holes...but this course was "built" on very flat land in the valley next to the Tetons (as can be seen from the pictures)...a ton of dirt was moved to shape the land and while the result is a very good course, i am afraid it lacks the "soul" of some of the others on the trip which were "found", not "built".  In terms of USA ratings, it has not appeared on Golf Digest or Golf Magazine, but debuted on Golf Week in 2011 at #54 and has stayed around that position since (most recently #61).  Back nine is better than front and has 4 excellent holes (12, 14, 17, and 18).  I was tired this morning, and my game showed it.  This is a beautiful place...I need to come back here just to relax with da bride.  Days like this...when you are tired and play poorly are a drag on trips like this.

After round, drove back about 35 miles over mountain pass to Driggs ID (had gone through Driggs last night on drive from RCCC) to play Huntsman Springs (yes the Huntsman family).  As I am in pro shop arranging play, i see a guy in a Cabot Links (Nova Scotia and fabulous) golf shirt, and ask when he played it.  So we start talking and he asks me where I'm from and where i am playing on this trip...as I get half way through he says "I heard about you...you finished the World 100 and are playing with a friend of mine at Sand Hills GC in a few days".  Small world again.  He is from Toronto (Steve, John and Cathy...didn't know you guys) and lives near Buffalo and in Driggs.  Played with Mark and his wife Susan.

Huntsman Springs plays to 7309 (par 72) yards from the back.  Designed by David Kidd (who made his name at Bandon Dunes) and completed about 5 years ago...again, not a great time to open a course.  Its history and ratings history are eerily similar to Shooting Star...never on GD or GM, and appeared in GW in 2011 and climbed to #54 in '13 and was #55 this year...always in same range as SS.

This one also required a lot of land movement...but comes off with more character than Shooting Star.  The greens are in perfect shape and really well done (not surprisingly), but rest of course is sort of an unfinished shape.  Not quite sure how to properly describe it.  Plays well but "aesthetics" not great.  I actually starting hitting the ball quite well...score was 82 as i blew up on 3 holes, but was happy with my game.  Best holes were 4, 7, 12, and 14...only bad one was #2...creek was in awkward place in fairway...lay up left too long a shot into green but tough carry (I just carried it and got my par).  Overall pretty good course, well designed.  If i had my choice between the two of these to play regularly, it would be Huntsman, but SS is clearly the better club.

Left at 5:30 on 290 mile drive to Salt Lake City...flying at 6am from SLC to San Francisco and then on to North Bend OR (35 min from Bandon!!).  Got pulled over for doing 74 in a 65 (can you imagine!!), but just got a warning (stayed about 2-3 above rest of trip...i had always thought <10 above was OK).  Was very pleased to see 80mpg speed limit in UT!!  Got to hotel, returned car at airport and back to hotel for some sleep...it is about 11pm, this puppy is tired and is coming down with a cold :-(