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Friday, March 18, 2005

Headed for Washington. Our intrepid reporter and his ace photographer, photonancy. Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Dan Maples - Golf Course Architect Interview (Conclusion)

Short on time and long on work, Maples enlisted not one shaper, but four different ones at Little River Farm. He had laid out the basic sites for each of the eighteen holes previously and noted four different terrains, each of which comprised a stretch of four holes. Four shapers would speed the building timetable significantly and each could tackle four holes in their own unique golf ecosystem and with their own style. Holes 1-4 are set in rolling, undulating land. Holes 5-8 play through a low lying wetlands area. Four more holes feature narrow fairways playing through woodlands and four more feature a softer feel as they meander through scenic meadows. Maples crafted the ninth and eighteenth holes himself. Then he went back to the remaining holes and smoothed the contours of the course, weaving the four different styles into one seamless whole. Most importantly, he finished on time, under budget and produced a design that no one would know was shaped by four different parties upon playing the course – a remarkable achievement.

Indeed, Maples is renowned for his ability to blend artistic flavor and a wide variety of playability. At Myrtle’s Beach’s brother and sister tandem of The Wizard and Man-O-War, Maples designed a wild Irish links amidst heaving 40-foot tall dunes right next to a target course where the fairways are merely a chain set in the middle of an enormous lake. "The land we took to create the lake at Man-O-War became the giant dunes that line the fairways at The Wizard" Maples notes. Effectively, he built two golf courses at once. At the Witch, arguably Myrtle Beach’s prettiest course, Maples wove an enchanting parkland stunner in verdant forests and serene wetlands.

Yet Maples revels in the understatement of his achievements and in the simple pleasures of life. He takes pride doing a job on time and within budget, the look of delight on players’ faces, the esteem of his golf architect colleagues and yes, driving the bulldozers. “I love getting behind the wheel of those big monsters and everybody else likes when I do it too” he says with a mischievous grin. “The equipment operators all cheer when I start cruising around in my favorite dozer – an TD 15 – but I also gotta tell you, it is fun!”

Maples even loves classic comedy movies. “You like Caddyshack don’t you?” he asks almost as though it were somehow possible I might not. “Pete Dye and I had a Caddyshack moment at the ASGCA tournament in Bermuda one year,” he grins as he recounts Dye edging him out in sudden death in the teeth of a maelstrom. “Nobody was left on the course but us and it was pitch dark with driving rain and howling wind all around us.” It’s a shame the other architects, tournament directors, friends and everyone else were huddled in the clubhouse because Dye and Maples traded blows for several extra holes, before Dye finally squeaked out a victory.

Don't miss The Pit when heading to the Pinehurst area for a golf vacation. With its distinctive sweeping flavor, sandhill and quarry setting and artistic design, it is far more than just a challenging golf course. If there is a weakness to The Pit, the finishing holes lack a mighty crescendo to bring the round to a close with a bang. As a trade off, they have a warmth and comfort, a low-impact ease after the watery stretch preceding them. Maples has repeatedly redesigned the closing stretch, even to the point of reversing the routing of 15, 16 and 17 so that the greens became tees and the tees became greens. Sixteen in particular is a problem. At a mere 100 yards downhill, it is just a three-quarter wedge. Maples had to make compromises and 16 is a prime example, “but golf course design is all about making the most of the limitations of each particular job. Sometimes its money, sometimes its environmental concerns, sometimes its time, sometimes it’s the size of the property, there are countless considerations to balance. Golf course design is all about managing the trade offs.”


On every level, Maples is the epitome of the mantra “less is more.” Everything about him is subdued. He is not outwardly imposing at roughly 5’8”. Dressed in his leather bomber jacket, khakis and wire-rimmed glasses and sporting short but wavy salt and pepper hair he looks more the New England prep school professor than a pioneering golf course architect. Part southern gentleman, part Back Bay, Maine porch sitter, Maples is equally at ease in the cockpit of a bulldozer moving earth as he is presiding over a Golf Course Architects function.

In contrast to his soft-spoken demeanor, his accomplishments resonate throughout the public golf world. For decades, Maples designs dominated the golf landscape at Myrtle Beach and still compete admirably even with the recent explosion of excellent courses. At twenty-five, he was the youngest person ever inducted into the American Society of Golf Course architects. In 1991 he served as president. He is nothing short of a celebrity in the Virginia-Carolina region, yet he wears his fame comfortably like an old faded flannel shirt.

In his classic novel The Sirens of Titan, author Kurt Vonnegut once opined that there is a difference between doing things “with style” and doing them “in style.” Doing them in style means trying to make yourself look good, doing them with style makes everybody look good. Maples, like many of our great modern day designers, is in the latter category. When he enters, he doesn’t work the room, the room just naturally makes its way to him. There is a natural ease and comfort about him. Perhaps it’s because he sees admiration and gratitude in the eyes of generations of golfers. Perhaps it’s because he has golf in his blood. Happily, the family commitment to excellent affordable public golf was passed on to his children. His daughters Ashley and Jennifer organize and book thousands of Pinehurst area golf courses each year. His son Bradley is presently studying landscape architecture at North Carolina State.

Like the man, his courses are firmly rooted in the classic, familiar design elements of past generations of architects, just with an interesting spit-shine to bring them into the present. Whether it’s far flung destinations like Mallorca in Spain or his own backyard in Pinehurst, he deftly blends quintessential classic elements with a subtle modern twist. Vibrant artistry stands side by side with strategic golf elements providing equal doses of challenging play and visual attraction. Less is more all right, especially for grateful public golfers.

Friday, March 11, 2005


Photo courtesy of Ballycastle Golf Club. Posted by Hello


Here's a great alternative golf vacation - take part in some of the most unique golf tournaments in the world.

My favorite is the Bushmill's Malt Causeway Coast open, held over four days in June at four world class courses in Northern Ireland. Players are paired in four man teams and play one round each at Portstewart, Ballycastle, Castlerock and Portrush (Valley), the sister course of one-time British Open venue Royal Portrush (Dunluce Links). The courses are all on the rugged Northern Irish Causeway Coast, home of ancient geological marvel the Giant's causeway. Hundreds of amateur golfers from 22 different courses play, drink the magnificent whiskey from the Bushmill's distillery, play the Dunluce course on an extra day and engage in great golf conversation. This year's tourney may be full, but here is the number and web site. Call Jackie Graham for more information: The website is here.

Whatever you do, be ready for weather, wind howls, rain pelts, cold snaps roll in off the ocean and although you may not play in those conditions in Florida, in the UK its "nae rain, nae wind, nae golf!"

Next, Golf Styles hosts a series of one day, 54 hole, sun up to sun down marathons in the greater D.C. region called the "Solstice Survival" series. The five courses to choose from are Stonewall, Maryland National, Whiskey Creek, Musket Ridge, and Queenstown Harbor. To date, all are sold out except for Maryland Nat'l and Queenstown. I'll be playing Whiskey Creek and Stonewall in late March weather permitting. Wanna know what it's like to play 54 holes in one day? Here are some player comments:

"Climb Everest, swim the channel, run a marathon, play the Solstice..."

"Missing the same putt on the same green three times in one day? That's long. Making 2 on a hole only to return and make 7, then returning four hours later for a rubber match at the same flag? That's long. Falling behind in your match early down five with 41 to play. That's really long."

"The clubhouse becomes a mirage, coming closer, closer, closer...until fading as you set out back to the first tee once more."

I played 54 holes in one day ONCE in my life, at the Boulders Resort in Carefree AZ. $299, all the golf I could play and a whole posh casita to myself. cannot wait to take the girl there, it's a marvelous resort worth every penny with two scintillating golf courses by Jay Moorish. I prefer the South course over the North. More interesting holes from a design, shotmaking and astheticstandpoint.

Finally, there are three new folks to welcome to the blogging world. First, fellow golfer, prominent lawyer and good ol' Texan Tom Kirkendall runs a great site called Houston's Clear Thinkers. Next, David Sabel runs Up to 11, a music research and review site and product. Finally, Bogeys and Mulligans is a fun site too.

Last, if you want to see the funniest music video ever, Bowling for Soup, those clown princes of rock and roll, have just released the MTV video for their single "Almost." Just click on www.bowlingforsoup.com, then you will see the sign saying click here for the video. It's a SCREAM!

Thursday, March 10, 2005


The 18th Tee at Pine Hill, NJ Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


A $500,000 underground system of pipes keeps the green at a consistent temperature of 70 degrees. Posted by Hello


Proving once again that not only can we learn something every day, but that Robert Thompson's blog can teach us something everyday, Robert's blog Going for the Green ran an excellent article on the controversial architect Dick Wilson. I knew very little about this designer, so the article was informative and entertaining. Robert also mentions again the debate which has come to head this year about Tom Fazio's designs being used for the pro tour. The article is here

I am going to disagree only with one part of the article, the last sentence, where Robert mentions he finds Fazio courses not very memorable. As a self described "golf adventure traveler, I can recommend several wonderful and atmospheric Fazio designs where I find EACH hole memorable. Some great ones are below. Robert, I welcome your thoughts and input on these courses.

1. Ventana Canyon (Mountain and Canyon courses), Tucson, AZ - Fazio built two showstoppers at the feet of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the heart of the Saguaro National Forest. Ancient, stately cacti stand sentinel along the fairways and tee boxes. Holes wind through one of the most unique and stunning Audobon preserves in the country. Hole 3 at the Mtn is the signature, a 100 yd par three played from an island teebox high over a canyon to an "island" green. Miss the green and your ball is 100 feet below in the canyon. Purely heroic and drop dead gorgeous. Pay $199 a night for 36 holes and a four star hotel room at the refined and posh Lodge at Ventana canyon for a world class golf vacation at a price that shatters the typical resort bill you pay at other top resorts like the Greenbriar or Homesteads or Barton Creek.

2. World Woods (Pine barrens and Rolling oaks) - Ranked in the top 10 public courses int he country, World Woods may be the best facility you never heard of. Two great courses and the worlds largest 22 acre "practice park" complete with three warm up holes. my article is here
Again, the $160 price tag for 36 holes and a hotel room at the amenity-laden Plantation Inn means the famly can hunker down for several days (or is that "bunker down? I never can remember...)
3. Greyhawk (Raptor)- overshadowed by its more famous brother, the Talon course, this kitty litter classic (as some call desert courses) is impeccably manicured, eminently playable and costs $50 in summer...that's a bargain all day long...

4. Pine Hill, Clementon, NJ - yes I know its a mile from Pine Valley and feathers were ruffled...I also know the $140 price tag and even worse $30 price tag to just use the range are barbaric (blame Empire Golf, not Fazio), but the course is excellent and memorable. The finishing stretch is a whopping six memorable holes long, including the terrific 18th. (see pic above.) plus its easy to get to just off I-95 six miles from Philly. Even golf starved NYCers will endure the drive down.

There are many others...Sylvan Treetops, TPC Myrtle Beach, PGA Village...for the playing public its great value, great conditioning, wide fairways, easy bogeys but challenging pars, and great use of nature's beauty. Since the pros "look through a straw" when playing, i.e. they see their ball and the pin and zome everything else out, sure...he may not translate as well to the tour. But Fazio belongs in the select pantheon of great designers.

Monday, March 07, 2005


This question comes from Tony in Utah, also known as Media Guru who runs a terrific site at hooked on golf and at web country club. "Hey Jay, will you be reviewing Shadow Creek for your site or book?"

Tony the short answer is no, but the question has a lot of levels to discuss. The whole thrust of my project is to tell the general playing public which courses are worth the money, which aren't and to showcase the truly spectacular affordable courses you may not have heard of, as well as show how to get on the expensive courses at a more reasonable price. Everyone generally agrees that Pebble Beach is not a great value as a round of golf - you are paying for the history and tradition, if you want that - same as Pinehurst. One round and one night's stay fluctuate between starting at $680 - god knows what if you want the presidential suite. Rounds alone are $350 - $405.

Shadow Creek and the somewhat new Cascata are meant for affluent high-rollers. Hop in a limo with a star, get chauffered to the course, put your things in a locker with "Michael Douglas" or "Tom Cruise" on it, play 18 holes, then take the limo back to your hotel. It may be alot of amenities, but not alot of golf.

Worse still, courses in the NYC area routinely charge $125 when they should top out at $40...maybe $65.

Here's is the premise of A Walk in the Park - why pay $1000 to Pebble Beach when you can pay $400 at Bandon Dunes and play a set of courses even stronger and more inspiring than those in Monterey. Why pay $686 a night for Pinehurst when you can pay $55 at Tobacco Road? Why pay $350 at Bay Hill when you can pay $110 at World Woods? Why go to Troon North or Ventana Canyon in winter at $260-290 per round, when you can go in the summer and pay $75-90 per round and $199 for 36 holes and a phenomenal suite to stay in combined! These are the courses you can take a family of four to for a week and have just as intense, memorable and cherished a golf vacation. The courses I highlight as four or five star values have perfectly fine amenities without over charging or giving you things you don't need. It's one thing to have showers in the locker room, but an attendant handing you your squares of TP and mouthwash and cologne I can do without - gimme another 18 holes of golf. That's why I'm there, not for a spa treatment.

Friday, March 04, 2005


I am thrilled to introduce everyone to one of my dearest friends and favorite people in the world, Cameron Myler. Cameron is a four-time Olympic athlete in the sport of luge. (Just think back to when we all slid down hills in grade school on lunch trays, only way faster and more dangerous). Perhaps the greatest testament to Cameron's dedication, sportsmanship and collegial esteem was that she was selected to carry the American flag for our team in Lillehammer in 1994. Since then she has served on the USOC, testified before Congress (here)
and serves on the NYC 2012 bid. Cameron is also an entertainment and sports attorney here in manhattan at a prestigious firm full of my friends, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz. We met years back as fans of a band I did alot of work for and serve together putting programs on entertainment law together for the NY Bar Association.

Cameron is also a photographer and painter and recently won honorable mention in a ultracompetitive NYC competition. Her work is now on exhibit in Manhattan at the Pen and Brush Exhibit Hall, 16 E. 10th Street. Please visit her site to see her phenomenal work here.

Cameron would make a terrific golfer - graceful, tactful, the face of American and Olympic sportmanship - she knows the score's not "the thing," but the effort, the journey and the comradery.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Carry that wasteland to find the back right pin at the 11th at Tobacco Road. Posted by Hello


The feedback on the interviews has been staggering. Thanks everybody for all your enthusiasm. In the coming weeks we'll have interview bits with Mike Strantz (Tobacco Road, Caledonia, Royal New Kent), Brian Silva (Shaker Hills, Red Tail, Waverly Oaks) and others;);) Soon we'll have the end of the Maples interview. There is so much it may take TWO more days of posts to finish. In the mean time here's a shout out to some new AWITP friends we met in NC, including Wayne and Gordon from Sumter, SC who we hope to see at Kiawah Island later this year, Tom from VA, Dan D from The Pit and Steve R from Pinehurst.

Also, people have loved the "If Phil, Ernie, VJ and Tiger has a televised $1,000,000 bet of their own money on one public golf hole, where would you take them," Mike Strantz selected No. 11 at Tobacco Road...with a back right pin placement. A long heroic carry over a yawning cavernous waste bunker, "That deep bunker would be tough on depth perception."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


The 199 yard Par 3 12th Hole at The Pit - Maples' pick to challenge the best players. Posted by Hello


The Pit’s popularity crosses a broad spectrum of player abilities. It is fair and negotiable for average players, “but when its tournament time” Maples says with a knowing look “we can tuck those pins in some cool places. My favorite line that describes The Pit is ‘Purgatory at its best.’”

This catchy label left by one critic is more than just a hook to reel in players in an ultra-competitive region. It’s an accurate microcosm of the course’s dual personality. The course has some sharp teeth, but is fair. Experts have their hands full from the back tees (and a longer set is close to completion), yet amateurs find it negotiable. The course features all of Maples’ trademark classic elements, but contains modern variations and twists on the theme. “One of the biggest changes [that added further originality and fueled conversation] was the addition of scrub and waste bunkers. They weren’t in the original design.”

The addition of waste bunkering was a twist ahead of its time, giving truth to the moniker “A Dan Maples Original” and surely the watery Amen Corner is aesthetically pleasing and heroic, but the boldest statement at The Pit may be its shaping. Gentle natural rolls and sweeps please the eye and frame the hole. “I wanted the course to be like a Japanese garden. Every hole is its own little window or grotto” Maples says.

Shaping is one of the biggest concerns to Maples because it gives the course its personality, its statement of identity. In this regard, Maples is not afraid to experiment. “At Little River Farm which is right nearby, I had a unique challenge. I had three months to build the entire course. Just three months.” Faced with the hardest of hard deadlines Maples quickly “thought outside the box” and crafted an interesting solution.

Tune in tomorrow to see how he did it. In the meantime, here is some intereting Q & A.

AWITP: What public courses do you really like and recommend?

Dan Maples: Dunegrass G.C. in Old Orchard Beach. It’s a great seaside course. Plus it’s in Maine. Wailea - Orange in Hawaii. Cherokee in Knoxville, TN. I renovated the Donald Ross original design there.

AWITP: Let’s assume Phil, Ernie, Vijay and Tiger all decide they are fed up with talking and speculating and put up $1,000,000.00 of their own money each in a one hole, winner take all shootout that will be televised nationwide. Which of your public golf holes would you select for them to play?

Dan Maples: I’d pick number 12 at The Pit, the par three with water from tee to green. People have said that’s my 17 at Sawgrass. It’s 199 from the back tees and that target looks awfully small from back there. The shape of that green is the key.

AWITP: That’s a terrifically designed par 3 because from one set of tees it tests accuracy and from another, the one off to the side, distance control.

Dan Maples: Exactly, the senior tee, the one completely in the water is off to the side with a completely different angle. But the pros, from that back tee, even if it’s a 5 or 6 iron, that’s a tough shot. And then the green is pitched severely.

AWITP: Do you use computers extensively in your work?

Dan Maples: No, I can’t stand them, but we use them as a necessary evil. They take your imagination away from you. And you have to learn how to run it rather than it learning from you.

AWITP: Do you have a tip for average players?

Dan Maples: Here’s a good one. When you can’t sleep, mentally practice your putts or visualize good shots. It builds confidence and comfort. Be the ball! Just like in Caddyshack.