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Monday, January 31, 2005


In the interest of consumer awareness, every once in a while we will have to make frank and honest reviews of some courses that "need improvement" ;);) in certain areas. Some great designs occasionally fall into dis-repair. Other courses may have great conditioning, but have lackluster, poorly conceived designs. Other courses are in heavily travelled areas (especially vacation spots) so they have tourists at their mercy, but are not economical for whatever reason. There is too much great golf out there for us to be wasting our time and money.

This week meet two courses that may be in an gorgeous location, but need to make some serious changes if they are to earn the high price tag they carry. Last summer I went to the lovely mountain paradise of Lake Placid, NY and found every pastoral pleasure in this idyllic Olympic retreat I could want - except great golf. Family invited me up for a great getaway weekend, so I was stuck playing "Random Courses x and y" at a cousin's suggestion. My wallet suffered the worst.

One Olympic Drive
Lake Placid, NY 12946

Architect: Seymour Dunn
Par 71
Excitement Level: 3/12
Difficulty: 4/12
Cost $70 high season, $50 reduced
Design: Two stars (all ratings out of seven)
Natural Setting: 5 and 1/2 stars
Conditioning: Zero Stars
Value: One-Half a star
Overall: 1 and 1/2 stars

I once defined the word "melange" to my design management students as "a collage gone badly wrong." Trying to pass off what purports to be a links course in the high peaks mountain area of Lake Placid definitely qualifies. The resort touts the "Links Course" as a "true links design" for all the wrong reasons. They claim it's "wide open fairways and large undulating greens" make it a loinks design. The marketing people need to run out and pick up Golf magazine or Golf Digest quickly and they will soon learn that travellers are much more savvy and discriminating than they were 25 years ago. We know what a real links course looks like and plays like - and the "links course" fails on every level. The site is choked with stands of tall trees, so the wind rarely comes into play. There are many forced carries over ditches, ravines, bunkers and random hazards. There are few open routes to greens crafted to accept bump and run shots. Finally the "mounds for mounds sake" feel contrived. The course feels and plays like a parkland style course set in the otherwise pleasant surroundings of the Adirondacks. They should tout it as such.

The utter lack of conditioning was the even deeper problem. The course significantly escalated the greens fees from the previous year due to their recent addition of watered fairways. The fairways were still choked with weeds and overgrown. Lies were uneven at best. Worse yet, many of the greens had lost vast expanses and were dried out so as to be unplayable - a condition unforgiveable at a "resort" commanding a such a whopping greens fee.

The holes themselves were a hit or miss affair from a design perspective. Some featured vaguely shaped shots, but there were rarely instances of alternating shot requirements or risk-reward options. There were few bumps in the fairway to use to position a drive to the "optimum side" of a fairway and nary a backstop off which to spin an iron shot. There were no false front greens, punchbowls or other advanced design techniques used by the great designers. There were no tantalizing par fours or fives featuring a heroic of even inspiring shot value or risk-reward option. Finally, many fairways ran adjacent to one another and were seperated, if at all, by either rough or a line of short pine trees. A mere three sets of tees offer little difference between experts and novices other than distance. Angles were virtually identical for all players.

The course should refocus itself on conditioning and marketing. To attract players, the greens must return to a pristine condition where they welcome high and low trajectory shots. Most importantly, they must roll true and not be burned out. The setting is pretty, but pretty will not carry the day in the competitive world of resort golf. Many players have sadi they were disappointed with the course and the high price tag. There is an even shorter "sportier" course, the mountain course, on the site. Perhaps the best course of action would be to redesign the entire facility into one epic 18 hole layout and one upscale executive course a la the amazing "Threetops" featured at the Sylvan Treetops resort in Michigan.

301 Main Street
Lake Placid, NY 12946

Architect: Seymour Dunn
Par: 72
Excitement Level: Zero out of 12
Difficulty: 5/12
Cost: $70
Design: Zero stars - clear architectural carelessness. A poorly thought out course with no rhyme or reason to the routing or the green settings. A clumsy, amateur effort.
Natural Setting: two stars...how can it be so low in Lake Placid? easy...angle all the tees and greens AWAY form the mtns...again...poorly thought out routing.
Conditioning: One Half a star
Value: Zero Stars
Overall: Zero stars...the only zero I have ever given out to date (as of 2/06)

Here is a another course lacking in both design concepts and conditioning. Both sides of each fairway are framed by ubiquitous pine trees. There are some general shot shaping requirements - a fade off the tee here, a draw to a green there, but nothing to command a $70 greens fee or elevate the course from the level of a puny muni. Worse yet there are two fundemental problems. First, some design features are so ridiculous that certain holes need to be completely re-done...from scratch. Second, the conditioning was ghastly.

The design flaws are at their worst at the par 3 sixth hole - this 180-200 yard par three requires a long iron to a fairway wood to a shallow green fronting a stand of trees. The only problem? The green is partially obscured by an enormous mogul just in front of the green which blocks the right hand half. The green is not set up to accept high trajectory shots in the first place, but sticking a twelve foot ski jump just in front of the green to interject - if not require - blind luck into the equation divests the hole of any semblance of seriousness. J.C. Snead may have been engaging in hyperbole when he once descibed Sawgrass when he quipped "the only thing missing is the clown's nose." Well J.C. I found it...it's right here.

If six features the clown's nose, then thirteen has the "loop-de-loop" - in this case a three teired green pitched from back to front. Three small tiers with about 24 inches of rise on each step are contained in a green a mere ten paces wide. Holding the correct tier of the green is again an exercise in luck as much as skill. Luckily, its a three shot par five, so a wedge may hold.

Architect Brian Silva once said "its the easiest thing in the world to build a hard golf course...just line every fairway with trees and make it ridiculously narrow." Craig Wood must have taken him seriously. There is very little thought here (god forbid!)...if you miss a fairway, you have a dinky tree in your way...and they line every fairway. Oh yeah...could someone cut the grass, or water the fairway? Perhaps some sand might be in the bunkers? Not a drop. They were sand traps in name only. Rock like hardpan was intermixed with stones. "Explosion" shots were void ab initio leaving the player to "pick" the ball out of traps with high lips. Good luck. $70 please...

Lake Placid deserves better. In an area designed to offer the best in both winter and summer vacation options, good and affordable public golf is sorely lacking. In short, no risk-reward options, no shot values, no conditioning, no beautiful holes and no, I am not listening to my cousin's recommendations for golf courses again. I'll stick to his cooking instead...and his skiing both of which are deservedly world-class.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Great job by bad golfer http://badgolf.blogspot.com
with his "Most embarrassing shot ever" thread. I chimed in withh my buddy also hitting a red tee marker....on a par 3...with a 7-iron...the ball flew 80 yds over his head into the pond behind the pro tees.

Also two blogs that are daily gems - golf writer Robert Thompson proves that on the Internet you should ALWAYS go For the green at http://goingforthegreen.blogspot.com. He is the "everyman" of golf writers...the voice of all us hackers, just with a scratch handicap;). Also ask him about his darling little girl;)

The everywoman is of course Musey, the golfers Muse. http://golfersmuse.blogspot.com. Sassy, sultry, smart and savvy, see the tour through the eyes of a woman.

So I'm curious...is a plug for a blog a "blug" or a "plog"?


They are our unsung heroes. Those great teching professionals who are our svengalis of swing, our crying towel after losses, our homestyle sports psychologists, and our hope for the future (and the future of our great game). This week we highlight three great course pros who are great teachers and great ambassadors. Sure, most of us can't dial up Haney, Leadbetter, Phil, Vijay or Tiger...but these guys make sure we feel just as important as any touring professional. Three different guys, three different styles but one goal - you will play better.

VACO REGIONAL (VACO...that's "Virginia-Carolinas" for those scoring at home...kinda like "DelMarVa" or "TriBeCa." VACO ia also short for Virginia Coalition, a terrific rock band...)

10100 Kentland Rd.
Providence Forge, VA

Andy is the "young lion" of this month's crop. A prodigious golfer since his youth, Andy not only teaches seemingly double duty but, as head pro at TWO facilities of national significance, somehow deftly handles the double logistic nightmare that goes with keeping two great places running. Andy strengths as a teacher are his patience, and creativity. He has the unique ability to help a golfer keep both his head and his swing functional through the ups and downs in our collective playing careers.


1201 35th Street
Florence, OR

Do you prefer a pro who is an accomplished tournament player? Bob Rannow, a former Canadian touring professional routinely laps the field at his Northwest PGA tournaments. Known for shooting 65-66 and winning by 5 to 6 shot margins (or more) in two day events on murderous layouts (like Sun River - Crosswater Course), Bob then comes home to sleepy but scenic Florence to run the pastoral Sandpines facility. Bob has a Vijay Singh like work ethic (murderously long hours) but an Adam Scott friendliness. Always upbeat, always on the go and always helping players swings with a laser like precision, Bob is deservedly a bedrock foundation of Sandpines and the mainspring that drives their success. Bob's strength as a teacher is his tenacity. He'll try seven ways to Sunday to help a player of any level lower his scores. Bob not only "has all the shots" but can teach all the shots. His versatility as a player translates well to his pupils.


2350 Marshland Road
Apalachin, NY


If there were a Mr. Congeniality award given out to PGA teaching pros, Bernie would be tough to beat. One of the most affable gentlemen we have had the good fortune to meet, Bernie smiles through 7 inches of rain washing out his course, six months of white-out snow conditions and a murderous tournament schedule. Through it all Bernie teaches all players with a graiousness and patience that is the gold standard PGA pros should seek to emulate but has a special "extra gear" when it comes to women and kids. The first tee program has long been at its strongest here in the NY Southern Tier hinterlands. A finer ambassador of the game is tough to imagine.

Incidentally its

"DelMarVa" = Delaware Maryland Virginia and
"TriBeCa" = Triangle Below Canal St.

Friday, January 21, 2005


One of the great things about this forum is the chance to interact with so many great golf bloggers, great golf travelers, great golf designers and and great golf aficianados. So many perspectives, so much sage advice. So I am putting the question to you for open debate...what do you all think of Torrey Pines? I have not been out there personally and have only seen pics (try www.caddybytes.com) so I have no true idea. So tell me, at a main rate of $180 and reduced of $90 and with the structure of the holes and shot values - should Torrey Pines be included in a book about the country's best golf values? How truly EXCITING is it? How difficult is it for amatuers? Pros? There were some low scores on the South Course yesterday...How will the USGA deal with that given that they went so far as to burn down greens at Shinnecock to protect par last year. ("We have a fire on the 7th green!" joked Steve Czaban last year...) What about the Rees Jones debate? Some have panned his improvements, saying they are flavorless and favor long hitters, others love his style. Write in and let us know your opinion.

Monday, January 17, 2005


The stunning 18th at Stonehouse. Posted by Hello


The signature 10th at Conklin. Posted by Hello


We are hard at work on more long form reviews while the snow flies here in the Big Apple, but to keep your nose and toes warm, here's three more great places that won't break the bank, but will maximize your golf excitement. At a mere $60 in high season (and some top out at a mere $40), they are all among the country's best bargains.

9540 Old Stage Rd.
Toano, VA

Architect: Mike Strantz
Par - 72
Excitement Level – 8/12
Difficulty – 8/12
Cost – Peak $60-$70, Reduced $35-$59
Yearly Memberships – $3,000 initiation
plus $150/mo single, $225/mo family – unlimited golf + amenities
Conditioning - ****

Value - ****1/2

Located a mere fifteen miles from Royal New Kent, Stonehouse’s parkland style design has a completely different feel from its linksy, hurly-burly sister. Nevertheless, the course is unmistakably a Strantz design. Wide driving areas are masked from the tee box by knolls and approach shots must be accurate to find the correct tier on the oversized greens. The course begins as a serene nature walk with your clubs, but builds to a bold crescendo. There is no shortage of drama, especially at the finish. The green on the 185 yard par 3 seventeenth hangs precipitously on the edge of a seventy foot cliff. The eighteenth, a 440 yard par four features a semi-blind tee shot and a stunning green complex. The approach must carry 150 yards over a brush-choked chasm - as world-class a finish as any course could offer. Impeccably manicured and less than $60 even in high season (and at $35 frequently during the year), Stonehouse is a bargain all day long. Head Pro Andy Bemis is also head pro at RNK and is a terrific teaching pro.


Keezletown, VA

Architect: Russell Breeden and Jeffrey Forbes
Par – 72
Excitement Level – 8/12
Difficulty – 9/12
Cost - $45
Yearly Memberships – $890 single, add spouse $390, add child $250
Conditioning - ****
Value - ****

Wonderfully inexpensive and artfully designed Packsaddle Ridge is built on an enormous, rolling 566 acre plot of land. Holes tumble up, down and around the base of Massanutten Mountain. Nevertheless, fairways are spandex-tight slivers and approaches are played to narrow greens featuring devilish collection areas and a variety of penal hazards. Errant players will moan that "there’s 566 acres of land, but there’s nowhere to hit the ball!" Holes 1-7 are among the tightest targets of any course recommended by AWITP and players who spray will be frustrated, by rock choked rough areas or woods, so club down and play safe. The only design features that should be softened are the rock strewn area between the 1st and 2d fairway (to be re-designed we hear) and two brutally long and uphill par threes, 7 and 12. Missing the 12th green will result in a 60 yard blind uphill chip. The finish offers broader landing areas and more risk-reward options. A second 18 is planned to open by 2006.

1520 Conklin Road
Conklin, NY

Architects: Marty Brown, Rick Brown & Rick Rickard
Par - 72
Excitement Quotient – 8/12
Difficulty – 3/12
Conditioning - *****
Cost - $55 peak, $45 reduced
Yearly memberships – No

Value - ****1/2

Conklin Players Club is also set in the same lovely southern tier vale as Hiawatha Landing, but is a polar opposite in design. Conklin is a mountain course playing up, down and around steep hills and features impeccable conditioning. Perfectly manicured verdant fairways tumble up, down and around the mountains. In the fall, the vale of the Southern Tier bursts aflame with red, gold, orange and purple leaves. The October full harvest moon rising over the 15th fairway is unbelievable.

Besides being gorgeous, Conklin is short and wide, so experts and amateurs alike can have a career day. Conklin showcases a little of everything that makes up a good golf course design and an enjoyable course for all levels of player - some water, some sand, holes that are easily negotiable in length and pristine conditioning. More a shotmaker’s course than a power layout, players will find they need the driver sparingly and strategically all day.

The incredible back nine begins with the course’s signature hole, a short par three played to an enormous island green with a backdrop of a flower bed trimmed and landscaped to replicate the course logo. Located less than fifteen minutes from Hiawatha Landing, the two make for an unforgettable 36 hole day.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Photo Courtesy of Jane Hardy and Shotmakers Photography, www.shotmakersphotography.com Posted by Hello


10850 West Sundown Trail
Littleton, CO

Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Par - 70
Excitement Level – 10/12
Difficulty – 5/12
Cost - $125 peak, $35 reduced
Yearly Memberships – No
Conditioning - ****
Value - *****

Tees Yards Rating Slope

Blue 6682 70.9 134
White 6269 68.9 129
Red 5465 71.1 127

A mere glimpse of a photo of Arrowhead in a Denver Area travel magazine, with its serene fairways lapping gently at the feet of towering, ancient flatirons is enough to rekindle even the most dormant golf spirit.

Located in Colorado’s scenic Roxborough State Park, Arrowhead’s red rock flatirons are a geological marvel 300 million years in the making. Oxidation of the plentiful iron minerals gives a warm ruddy hue to cathedral like spires and monoliths. Their color and size are truly majestic and humankind has long been drawn to the power of these rocks. Our native ancestors worshipped at the feet of these giants for centuries. Nearby Red Rocks Amphitheatre, carved from the top of a massive flatiron, has been used for Easter Sunday services for almost a hundred years. The powerful setting cannot help but move even the most jaded golf traveler – it is like playing golf in a national park.

*****Editor's Note*****
Even rock legends U2 were so moved by the setting that they chose to release their Red Rocks performance on both video and audio. Under a Blood Red Sky has long been hailed as one of rock music’s greatest visual triumphs.

The course is not long. The course does not have a major tournament pedigree. The course does not have an affiliated amenity-laden hotel with spa and massage packages. But Robert Trent Jones routed eighteen challenging holes amidst one of the most spectacular and inspiring landscapes in the entire country. The holes are cut in and around the flatiron monuments, making one of nature’s most powerful miracles a strategic part of the course. And at sunset, the meeting of red sky, red mountains, long shadows and ribbons of fairway is as primal a golf landscape as can be found anywhere in the world.


The course measures only 6682 yards from the back tees and plays shorter since it sits 4000 feet above sea level. But with a par of only 70, several of the par fours are still long, particularly at the start of the round. Several of the holes offer typical Jones “runway tees,” meaning the angle will be same for the expert as for the less skilled player. The middle tees and forward tees are equally challenging, yet fair. The course features thick rough, numerous bunkers parallel to the line of play, narrow fairways and several well-placed water hazards. Locals will tell out-of-towners the other critical rule – almost every putt breaks towards Denver. (Don’t worry, you’ll have an unobstructed view all day!)

Players must be sharp from the outset as the course starts with four difficult holes. In a move highly atypical of Jones, the first hole is a 427 yard par four with trouble lurking on both sides of the fairway. It is not only one of the more difficult holes on the course, but one of the toughest openers Jones ever designed, bucking his normal philosophy that the opener should not be overly taxing. The first drive of the day benefits from a pulpit tee perched high above the fairway. Play a little to the right as the fairway slopes sharply to the left. After a medium length par five to help groove the player’s swing, Jones serves up the first of the five postcard-gorgeous par threes. Red rock formations frame the back of the hole.

The fourth is the most difficult hole on the course. At over 400 yards even for amateurs, the approach is all carry over a pond. Hip high rough and brush guard both sides of the hole from tee to green, so long and straight are the only options on both shots.

Four short but picturesque par fours are next, each providing panoramic views of the desert and flatirons. Players should be able to negotiate these holes with reasonable ease. They also feature remarkable flora and fauna. A deer thought nothing of approaching my cart at the sixth tee and nuzzling my cart. The ninth is a perfect culmination to the front nine, a downhill 170 yard par 3 that may require as little a nine iron to reach, but beware the pond lurking short and right.

The back features one postcard view after another. Dramatic dropoffs, flatirons so close you can touch them, and a seamless routing combine to provide a breathtaking experience. The tenth, a short par four, cascades down from the tee box to a narrow fairway below, then around a flatiron to the green. Eleven and twelve each play around a massive red rock towering sixty feet above the fairway. Yet they are all a mere prelude to the amazing thirteenth – arguably the most beautiful par three west of the Mississippi River. The tee box is flanked on each side by flatirons and stands eighty feet above a wide but shallow green framed by a flatiron behind and a ravine in front.

As I stood on the fifteenth tee my playing partners, Denver natives and Arrowhead regulars told me about the yearly charity tournament sponsored by Denver Bronco football legend John Elway. According to them, Elway would cut the dogleg on the fifteenth by playing over the towering flatiron – a rock 187 feet high. With a little prodding, they convinced me to take a try at the same shot myself. As my ball ricocheted off the middle of the rock to a grave in the waiting ravine, one smiled, shook his head and said, “Yep – no one’s hit through that rock yet.”

A long uphill par five and long difficult par three give way to a short par five finishing hole. Water guards the fairway, and must be avoided off the tee to preserve the chance for a closing birdie.


Arrowhead seems frozen in time. Serene fairways stand in stark contrast to a hundred ancient razor-edged ridges which turn a million shades of red as they reflect sunset’s last faint glow. It is as if God himself seems to hypnotize the player with all the sensuous beauty of his own garden.

At a high season rate of around $80 and a twilight rate around $40, Arrowhead offers champagne quality at beer prices. It is convenient to Denver, the heartbeat of the American Rockies. Part country, part hippie, part skier-dude, part Hollywood and all comfort, the city is a rich conglomerate of sports teams, world class skiing, climbing and other outdoor activities, national landmarks, cultural centers and steak dinners.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


I'll try to keep this brief and get back to golf soon. As most of you know, my main profession is as an entertainment and intellectual property attorney with a strong focus on the confluence of media and the internet. (OK...as well as representing rock bands and record cos and actresses;) Many of you also know I represent several of the NYC kids sued for downloading music off the Internet from P2P sites. I need to take a moment to promote three excellent people on my blog roll - Ian Clarke (Freenet), Wayne Rosso (Mashboxx) and David Wadler. The tech savvy among you may know Ian and Wayne from their well publicized battles with big media over the fact that users of their technology get IP for free when copyright law says the content owner is entitled to payment.

As a creator of IP myself, I have a deep respect for copyrights and I deeply believe in the dual goals of our copyright law - to insure creators get fair compensation while also assuring that the public gets the ability to benefit from IP's dissemination. Many, including at one time myself, were strongly against some of the beliefs and policy interpretations of copyright law that Ian and Wayne had. Through reading Ian's blog and through studying Wayne's new legitimate and major record label sanctioned new internet music download site Mashboxx, I have gained much greater insight as to their thoughts on IP policy and law and have learned that making my own positions more flexible will actually help promote moving the dual goals of copyright law into synch with our recent great technological advances. They may be controversial figures to big media and their battles may be sensationalized by the New York Times, but make no mistake - they are the two most authoritative voices in the field of the Internet and media today (well, also Fred Von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation). I feel privileged and honored to consider them colleagues and have learned a great deal from their writings and technologies and encourage anyone remotely interested to go to their sites or google them to learn more about this seminal issue facing us as a community.

While I don't necessarily agree with everything they say - that's OK - as my dear friend and client Biz Ellis of the fantastic all female comedy group MEAT says "You don't have to think like me, you just have to think" or as I like to say - God loves wonderous variety, all shapes and sizes. Rest assured, legal colleagues of mine - I still take my "yea rah rah copyright law" middle of the road stance of "let's just tweak the laws we have rather than scrap everything and start over." After all - I would be very disappointed if I should have to prosecute my IP rights against an infringer. I'd probably do it more because the law requires me to (see the doctrine of waiver if you are interested.) I just think there is a great opportunity to learn from some of the most fascinating movers and shakers we have in the world.

Finally, David Wadler is a rising star in the world of software development and a really nice person to boot. The son of two superlative people himself, he disproves the old adage that genius skips a generation. Check out his great catch all blog covering tech, sports and life in general.

So how are golf and IP the same? Easy. Each is a microcosm of life in general 1) They are lifelong endeavors at which we will spend our lives becoming "less dumb." Look at Tiger and Vijay...they still revamp all aspects of their game knowing full well golf is the game of a lifetime (as they say at the PGA of America) We are forever changing and challenging ourselves which makes us grow as people. 2) They offer us a chance to expand our horizons by meeting and interacting with new and fascinating people. 3) They give us a chance to show our true character...lady and gentleman seriously understanding their role as members of a collective society - or not...4) each is a bottomless treasure trove of wonder, integrity and legacy. Revere the past, forge the future. Perhaps Mark twain had it best..."20 years from now, you'll be more disappointed by what you didn't do, than what you did...so explore dream discover..." and one more thing share, but respect what is others as well. Its not that difficult.

OK...now back to our regularly scheduled long form coursae reviews...Hit 'em STRAIGHT...and not very often.



Brent Kelly and the nice folks at about.com did an interview with me about my book and blog. Please check out their terrific golf site at www.golf.about.com and if you want to read the interview there the link is http://golf.about.com/od/golfcoursearchitecture/a/qandq_jayflemma.htm.

Golf Course Architecture Aficionado Turns Passion into Book Project

Jay Flemma is a New York-based entertainment, copyright and trademark lawyer who is passionate about golf. So passionate that he decided to make golf, and writing about golf, an avocation: Jay began visiting golf courses around the world, searching for the best public golf. Courses that are terrific places to play, that are open to the public, and that don't break the bank. As he writes on his blog, "If you are sick of skyrocketing green fees, boring layouts, scrambling for tee times, and those muni-course blues, take heart. We make egalitarianism a part of the game again. We tell you which courses are worth the money and why."
Jay's efforts have culminated to in two intertwined projects: a frequently updated blog on golf course architecture and great public golf values,
A Walk in the Park; and a planned series of golf guidebooks under the same name. The first book is currently planned for a Spring 2006 release, with regional volumes to follow.
Along the way, Jay has visited numerous countries, most of the states and hundreds of golf courses. You can follow along with his travels at his blog; you can also find some of his golf course photos here on About.com Golf. We spoke with Jay recently about his project and his passion.
1. Give us a basic outline of your book project and A Walk in the Park.

I'm writing a series of purely public golf course travel guides under the A walk in the park trademark. I have played over 200 "ranked courses" in various magazines as well as some courses ranked highly in their state and am evaluating them by two main factors - 1) excitement of design and 2) value. The goal is to tell the consumers which courses are really worth their hard earned money and why. Then they offer playing tips, interesting stories from the designers and pros and travel tips, like when is the most economical time to go. For example at $260 per round, Troon North could break the bank - but at $75 in the summer its a steal! Yes it gets hot, but you can put together an epic trip in the southwest with a little extra sunblock and water. Then every 9 months or so we will do regional volumes - "A walk in the park Florida" or "A walk in the park Virginia-Carolina" etc, until we cover the nine regions into which we divided the country. We'll also update the national volume every four years or so to add new courses and intersperse volumes of British courses or private courses too. The goal is increasing the accessibility of public golf to everybody and helping people get the most bang for their buck.

As a bonus, I have had the good fortune to meet and interview some terrific course designers. So the book will feature interviews with the greats such as Mike Strantz and Brian Silva - sharing their philosophies on design and the golf world. Their insights really give the project an added dimension thats informative and fun.

2. What motivated you to take on this project, and when and how did you get started?

There were three main factors.

First, most golf books are pretty much useless. Some are "top 100 or top 50" and include private courses. These books sell poorly because who wants a book mostly filled with courses you CAN'T play? That's no fun. Next, some guides offer hundreds of courses with a little blurb about each one - but the blurb is inaccurate. Lets take Zagats for example. If you believe them, then 5 of the top 11 courses in the country are in NYC. Also, its written by the people writing in who will naturally favor their nearby course. Take their entry on Montauk Downs. They say its "Shinnecock Hills for the Masses. A fantastic links course. Skip Bethpage and play here." That's so wrong as to be laughable - that is if it did not totally mislead the consumer! Montauk is a classic RTJ parkland design. It has no links elements whatsoever except 1) its near the ocean and 2) its windy. Other than that, the approaches are severely uphill and are not welcoming to bump and run shots. There are many forced carries, especially on approaches. Don't get me wrong, Montauk is a solid course, but its not a links and is not on the same level as Shinnecock or Bethpage. To skip Bethpage to play there would be to skip the Louvre Museum to go to out for a nice dinner.

Second, living in NYC golf prices are outrageous. Everything is supposedly justified at a $125 greens fee. Well guess again. once you know that you can play Richter Park for $40-$60, why waste the additional $65-$85? Moreover, many resorts offer not only high prices, but cookie cutter designs. I want to show people great designs and show them they too can get out there and share the joy that is the golden age of golf course design we are living in right now.

Finally, I'll never forget it...I'm standing on the 8th hole of a local muni, when i kid runs out of the woods, grabs the flag I'm aiming at, throws it over the fence near the green and drives off in a waiting van...this is in the middle of a 6-1/2 hour round...no...people need to know that great golf is just a slightly further drive from where they live. Friends don't let friends golf slum. There are so many choices, but only a few great ones - but they are out there. I have dedicated this pursuit to shining the light on the great $40 diamonds in the rough and will also show people the best time to go play the great $250 at a lower rate so they too can share in that epic golf experience. Golf is an EGALITARIAN game. its played by 3 year olds and 93 year olds alike. Its meant to be enjoyed by entire families, not just aristocrats.

3. How have you fit your "regular" job around this project?

I'm lucky in that my straight job is I am an entertainment lawyer with a strong focus on music, trademark and Internet Law. Sometimes I look for long weekends on the calendar and take off in the car or jet to a locale and play 36 a day. Sometimes I'll look where clients are playing concerts or filming a movie and I'll fly out and play with them. For example, when rock band Bowling For Soup played Texas, I got to play in Austin and San Antonio. When Ominous Seapods toured Montana, Idaho and Oregon, I got to play Coeur D'Alene and Pumpkin Ridge (among others). Whenever I have a lecture that I give on entertainment law or Intellectual Property in some distant place, the clubs go with me. Lastly, I get two weeks a year, so I have had weeks in great places like Arizona, New Mexico, the Carolinas...pretty much all over. i tabled my foreign travel lately to finish volume one - which has been 6 years of my life, but what a journey. I've met great golf companions from Bangor to baja and from Sarasota to Seattle.

4. What are a few of the courses you've discovered along the way that were great surprises for you?

Wow! Talk about giving a starving man a menu! The nice thing about it is when I plan a trip its "OK here's the locale, here the 5-7 places I have to play, go to it." The most special time is when I'm off to someplace about which I have no idea and I'm pleasantly surprised. As for the biggest surprises, for courses which I had high expectations going in, I still was floored by Bandon Dunes/Pacific Dunes, Coeur D'Alene, Troon North, Sedona, Ventana Canyon, Sawgrass, Whistling Straights and Royal New Kent. They are all incredible. As for places where I had NO IDEA what to expect and got totally floored, Tobacco Road (run, don't walk), World Woods (so good I go back EVERY year at New Years), Hiawatha Landing, Paa-ko Ridge, Pumpkin Ridge and Red tail just to name a few. I know I'm leaving some out, but off the top of my head, those are all stunning for different reasons. But each one of them is an unforgettable golf adventure and a great golf value.

5. What are some of the best bargains - for regular golfers - that you've discovered? Great but relatively little-known courses that folks can play without breaking the bank.

Old Works, Bethpage, PGA Village (I love the Dye Course, but don't get intimidated!), Anything by Mike Strantz - he is the king of champagne golf at beer prices, Hiawatha Landing, Conklin Players club (easy and short, but fun and impeccably manicured), Pumpkin Ridge just for openers. But also Vegas, Arizona and New Mexico greens fees drop sharply into a really affordable range in the summer, so dint miss Troon, Greyhawk and Ventana Canyon.

6. What's your favorite golf road trip that you've taken while working on this?

The answer will surprise you. I have taken some epic trips - the Dunes of Oregon, Sawgrass, Arizona, Colorado, but the most powerful for me was the three days in Myrtle Beach when I not only played the Dunes and True Blue, but I got the privilege to meet and interview Mike Strantz. It was the most powerful and moving moment of my golf career. First, my golf friends and I cherish each one of his bold, progressive designs which are also rich in risk reward options. Its one thrilling shot after another. But here is a man who is so much more. He's a cancer survivor, a devoted husband and father, a sensitive artist, and a warm gentleman. His whole extended family opened their world and hearts and welcomed me in, taking the time to teach me about designs and sharing all sorts of stories about his career. It was heartwarming. The feeling of love that emanated from his whole team and extended family to him and his work was more than palpable - it was staggering.

It really helped hone my own understanding of why this game is special to me...its a microcosm of so much of life - the love of family, the faithfulness of friends, the benefits of hard work, the joys of great victories and the grace needed to deal with setbacks and most importantly, the fortitude to keep on living whatever dream it is you chase. Golf did all that for Mike and it does it on a similar level for so many people. Thats why my book is so important to me - I want to share that same love and sense of adventure I feel out on the course with the rest of the golf world. i know so many people feel it at times. Hopefully, they'll pick up my book and take an adventure that they'll remember for the rest of their lives too...and its a feeling that should and can be shared by everyone - not just the richest of us.

7. What's the timetable for publication of the first book, and for following volumes?

I'm aiming for the first volume to be done in time for a spring 2006 release. Then one more every nine months or so.

8. Whats the best thing you ever did for your score?

Easy! Get a walking bag! I feel healthier, my rhythm has improved and I'm not standing around out-thinking myself over the ball. Since I started only walking the course, I have doubled my fairways hit off the tee and my greens in regulation, not to mention shed 5 pounds.

9. What are you looking forward to most in the coming year?

Playing at least one more time with my 80 year old dad and my mom (I love you guys!), meeting and learning from Brian Silva, seeing Hawaii and also Utah's canyonlands, a Midwest swing where I have no expectations and can be totally surprised, meeting more avid lovers of the game and sharing the great love that unites us as players, shedding some strokes off my handicap, tackling Kiawah Island, Tobacco Road (hopefully several times!), watching my friends that are just learning the game get better and better and enjoy the game even more, and finding those perfect words to describe those otherwise indescribable golf masterpieces.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Yes, this gator is guarding that golf ball!

Hang tight Ralph, we'll get you out of there in a second! Posted by Hello


Steve, Terry and the player to be named later. Posted by Hello

TOUR JOURNAL Vol. 2 - Florida '05

Thanks to everyone who made the first trip of '05 such a success. The only thing better than great golf is great friends and great golf together and this trip was surely "meet new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.

PGA Golf Club - Dye and South Courses. Congratulations to Steve and Terry from NYC who are expecting. Plucky Terry played terrific while a couple months preggers with "the player to be named later" and is a Trinity College grad (my alma mater). Go fight win Trin! Also thanks to Jake, Bud and all the staff at The PGA club. I played both the South and the Dye and conditions were terrific and the pace of play was great.

Deering Bay - Miami (private) Best regards to Tico and Diego and the Alligator (see picture above). You have a wonderful club there. Anyone lucky enough to get the chance to play this playground of the stars, do it...just club down off the tee as its target golf all day long. Spandex tight, water on all sides.

Southern Dunes - Haines City - I could not have had nicer playing partners. Not only were Ron and Diane form Illinois just the nicest couple you'd ever want to meet, but Diane cardred three birdies in a row on her way to a BLISTERING 39 on the front. Not to be outdone, George from Virginia carded an incredible eagle 3 when he holed out a wedge from 70 yds out from deep in the hip high rough and mounds way right of the fairway on #15. I also had the best day of the tour - a solid 84. When in town, stop by and shake head pro Shane trice's hand. Then enjoy a wonderful day of golf at a reasonable price.

Finally, thanks to Scott Wyckoff, Stan Cooke, Garth, Jesse, Tom and all the WW crew and to new WITPers Lester, Jim and Greg from Indiana. That was fun boys.

Tour announcements will follow soon, but I hope to catch up with you Illiniosers and Indianans on a midwest swing this fall, but for now, its six weeks of hitting into a net at Chelsea Piers. See everyone in cyberspace.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

TOUR JOURNAL Vol. 1 - Great Fla trips and Fla Top 10

Great Florida Trips

Jacksonville Area

(four or five days): Sawgrass (five stars value, 12/12 Excitement Level, 12/12 Design), Ocean Hammock, (four stars value, 9/12 Excitement Value, 10/12 design) Amelia Island Plantation. (four stars value, 7/12 Excitement Value, 7/12 design)

Day 1: Fly into Jax, play Ocean Hammock, stay at the Palm Coast Resort.
Day 2: Drive to Sawgrass, Play Sawgrass, stay Sawgrass marriott
Day 3 Play Sawgrass, drive to Amelia Island Plantation, stay AIP
Day 4 Play Long Cove or Ocean course, stay AIP
Day 5 Play Long Cove or Ocean Cse. To Jax, Fly home.


Ocean Hammock and sawgrass are over $200. Of the two, Sawgrass is utterly indispensible. For those pressed for time, OH is prettier and a better design, but Amelia has better value and a more charming, well rounded resort. Plus its far more secluded and bucolic. The Sawgrass Marriott is the weak sister for lodging, but does have jacuzzi, gym and basic amenities. Palm Coast is well-stocked. Amelia Isl is gorgeous...a true idyllic playground and a charming town. Ocean Hammock is just like Nicklaus' Reflection Bay in Vegas (several holes are identical and the routing is roughly identical in places). AIP is Florida golf among ancient Spanish moss covered oaks.

Tampa Area

One to Three days - World Woods. 'Nuff said. Stay at the Plantation Inn. $144 - $160 for stay and play 36 holes. World Class golf for a song and peace and quiet to boot. There are few chain hotels and no other resorts that stand out over the Plantation.

Three to five days - Two days at WW, two nights at Plantation inn. Two courses within two hours drive are Victoria Hills (Deland, Fl, value, four stars, Excitement 7/12, design 9/12) and Southern Dunes (Haines City, Fl, value three and 1/2 stars, excitement 6/12, design 7/12) You have seen both types of course before if you play in the eastern seaboard...rolling fairways, inkblot bunkers. Vic Hills is prettier with more varied holes. VH = $85, SD = $75. Pricey in general, but very good for Florida.

TPC Tampa Bay - expensive but well designed and conditioned. Value three and 1/2 stars, excitement 8/12, design 9/12) add to World Woods or Port St Lucie trip for one day (see below).

Port St. Lucie

One to three days - PGA Golf Club (long form review coming soon!) Thre courses. The Dye is the premier layout, but visually intimidating so Fazio's "South" course is the fan fave. Both are beatuful, feature great varoied shot values and have stunning settings. At $45-$89, they are a steal. There is a PGA Learning Center and PGA Village in which to stay over night. (Value 4-1/2 stars, Excitement 8/12, design 9/12)

Mix and match -

Five days - World Woods and PGA CLub (four hour drive with two or three courses in between to choose from for an overnight. Chain hotels are all thats available and they are in Davenport, FL. They have full amenities.

or PGA Club and Sawgrass or Palm Coast (5-6 hours driving. Add one hour for AIP)

or WW and Sawgrass or Palm Coast (5-6 hr. drive, add one hour for AIP)

AWITP Florida Top 10

1. TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)
2. World Woods (Pine Barrens)
3. PGA Dye Course
4. World Woods (Rolling Oaks)
5. Ocean Hammock
6. Victoria Hills
7. Osprey Ridge
8. TPC Tampa Bay
9. TPC Sawgrass (Valley Course)
10. (tie) Amelia Island Plantation and Southern Dunes