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Monday, January 30, 2006


All right I've had it. This calls for an epic rant.

I was out with this girl and talking about how great the Blue Man Group Rock DVD is and I wind up my glowing review with "And they played "Baba O'Riley" for an encore!

What does she say? "What's that? It sounds like an Irish pub?" I asked her if she knew "that song Teenage Wasteland by The Who" and of course she started yammering away about how she liked that song and "loves" the Who...yeah, right. I can see...

Then Nancy Carpenter goes and costs me $10 because I thought for sure, she would know. She didn't. I owe my buddy $10.

A female music manager, a girl music lawyer in our offices, the girl assistant to the TV producer, none of them had any idea what "Baba O'Riley" is. And they're all in the industry.

Then another girl tried to tell me she knew "exactly what it is - a rum soaked sponge cake you get in pastry shops."

Oh God help me.

Listen up people! This is not Rush we're talking about here. It's one of the most recognizeable, beloved and seminal songs in Rock History!!! (yes capitalized. Don't stop me, I'm on a roll.) We ALL know that song from the first dratted bars of the keyboard intro. Get with it finally after 34 years! The song is called "Baba O'Riley." And it had a 30 year run as a monster of rock prior to becoming the Pavlovian signal that a TV show was coming on... (CSI: NY for those of you scoring at home)

No its not an Irish pub! No its not a rum soaked sponge cake! (Uhh...that's "Baba Au Rum," but thanks for playing.) And no its not your high school buddy who went to Notre Dame!

click here for more.

And it's not spelled O'-R-E-I-L-L-Y either!

Next chump that calls it "Teenage Wasteland" or spells it O'-R-E-I-L-L-Y gets a thumb in the eye!

OK. Rant over. As you were!

"Rum soaked sponge cake"...%$#@#@!!!!!

Houston Golf, Philly Cheesesteaks in NYC, ESPN blowhards and a song for the Seahawks

I got trapped in a bar last night with a bunch of drunk NYC cops who never follow golf, but sure follow Tiger. "Yoooooooooooooooo! Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiger!" they screamed through a beer-fueled haze between "Where day playins? San Diego? Aww dat's buddaful!" 'e's gunna win right now!" Yeeesh, is was like a hangover. "Look, Dude...he's wearin' red! And oooze dis O-laz-a-bull guy he's gonna beat?" I'd rather be dragged over carpet tacks and dipped in rubbing alcohol than have to go through that again.

Anyway, to the daily news:

1. Houston Golf - Tom Kirkendall over at Houston's Clear Thinkers has the best coverage of Houston golf and Houston PGA tourney's. Sometime this year, I'll check out Redstone and the new Fazio course at the Woodlands that just opened up. Tom is a big supporter of both places, but I'll be trying my hardest to turn him around to embrace the "Line of Charm" concept. As you all know, I panned the last "Tom Fazio Signature Course," (Atunyote, reviewed here), to open as flavorless and overpriced (all too common lately, Tom). Tom did a nice job running Ron Whitten's "Is Tom
Fazio good for the game?" piece from last year and my article agreeing, so here's hoping that someday soon, I'll see Tom on a 90 yard wide fairway in Nebraska or Scottsdale or Long Island and read on his website about how Houston needs more bifurcated fairways and perpendicular hazards.

Either way, Tom is an expert blogger. One of those rare people whose blog actually matters because it's informative and instructional. You don't just get the best info, you get expert analysis about Enron, Texas business, and the city of Houston. Read Tom. You'll grow smarter every day. Also props for Texas Golf Blog for building a nice site too. Good work.

2. Food alert. Cheesesteaks in NYC? Sure! Just truck 'em in from Philly! The steak, the cheese (even cheese whiz...can you say "shaving cheese?") the rolls, everything gets rolled in fresh. Tony Luke's, the Philly institution has come to NYC in a big way. Cut to the picture to the right...meet Evan Stein. Yes, that's his mug on the left smiling right next to Mario Batali and Anthony Burdain (Kitchen Confidential and Les Halles) both of Food Network. (I don't know who the fourth guy is.) Well Evan is having a Food Network moment of his own, being the first man to bring real Philly quality and authentic Pihilly Cheese steaks to NYC. What? Blasphemy you say? Well, guess again. The meat, the rolls (fresh from the bakery), even the hot peppers all survise the two hour trip just fine and all NYC lines up daily to MAW Down! Yo Dude! Mack on some Philly today. Tony Lukes is on Ninth Ave between 41st and 42d. Think I'm kidding? Well the pic above is not a photo op. If a couple of food experts like Bourdain and Batali eat cheesteaks there, that speaks to how good they are.

3. ESPN Watch: Did anyone care that Pot dealer Nate Newton found God? Does anyone really wonder what happened to the self-aggrandizing druggie once he went down twice in a month for dealing hundreds of pounds of pot? ESPN does. They are also trying to convince you that you should too. Since they employ other Cowboy druggies like Michael "not my pipe" Irvin, and since the two teams in the Super Bowl aren't sexy enough for us (that's what idiot Sean Salisbury had to say) and since they needed to roll out Deion Sanders, yesterdays "Sunday Conversation" had to convince us Nate changed.

We don't care. He's done. And we con't believe you. Go back to lying to us about how maby games Irvin predicted incorrectly the prior week.

4. Now...a little song for the Seahawks...sung to the tune of "Spongebob Squarepants"...thanks John Tayman;)


Whose coach is a pineapple with a moustache?


With a bunch of receivers that can't catch a pass?


If winning the Super Bowl's something you dream


You'd have better luck if the Rams were your team!



I promise...if the Steelers lose, I'll write a piece painstakingly detailing my despair. And I'm looking right at you Jeff Mingay and Rob Thompson...it'll make that piece I wrote about my Myrtle Beach bender look like the Vienna Boys choir.

5. Anyway, here's some nice new golf blogs to check out...let's all give a nice golf clap to Minnesota Golf , Eat Golf Oliver's Twist and Primary Rough.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jim Engh breaks down Xs and Os of Redlands Mesa in Colorado

The first part of my article on Redlands is here. Below, you'll find the UPDATED star system ratings, based on the SEVEN star system.

Most of Engh’s unique design elements are present at Redlands. His trademark squiggly muscle bunkers are placed “randomly” – i.e. where the land accepts them, not at any specific distance from the tee. Moreover, they are frequently perpendicular to the line of play to impact the shot planning even more than bunkers on the sides. They are almost sinkholes and can be up to ten feet deep. While purists may be nonplussed, I love them. Engh has freed up bunker design from the inkblot and the cloverleaf.

As Redlands was built in 2001, the bunkering is not as severe or pronounced as at Engh’s later work at Pradera or Fossil Trace, but appears more in a “transitional form.” It evolved from the more traditional (for Engh) shapes at his earlier work at, for example, Sanctuary or Hawktree. As an illustration, try playing several Engh courses in chronological order (or reverse order) so you can see the artist’s progression. For example, play Red Hawk Ridge, then Redlands, then Fossil Trace.

Speaking broadly, the front builds softly to a peak at the visually arresting par-3 8th, while the back squeezes right from the tenth tee and does not let go. Houses line a handful of fairways on the front, but do not appear to clutter the back. Typical of Engh, many holes feature pronounced backstops to spin balls close to the hole and play creative chips.

The first hole presents a great statement of the course’s identity. A great view, a tough but fair hole, undulations in the fairway and greens, room to drive and room around the greens for lots of short game options. Quintessential Engh.

The par-3s are not just postcards, but have solid design concepts as an undercurrent. At the first par-3, the medium length third, a small pod of the green is semi-blind behind a rocky outcropping. The front right is visible. Players can draw the ball and use the hole’s contours to get the ball close or head straight for the more treacherous back left positions.

Two more par-3s are drop shots, but are markedly different. Eight is a great par-3 with its green set at base of rocky amphitheatre and guarded by a pond. Redlands General Manager and Director of Golf Eric Feely thinks eight may be the best par-3 on the course. “Club selection is very difficult. Like number 12 at Augusta, the eighth features swirling wind conditions because the green is nestled in the rocky grotto, it’s anything from a wedge to a 7-iron depending on the wind. Don’t be short as the chips are uphill from long rough. If you clear the water, that is.”

While eight might be the centerpiece par-3 at more pedestrian courses, it still takes a backseat to the most eye-popping par-3 on the course, seventeen. Tees on seventeen are chiseled into the side of a cone shaped mountain (Engh manufactured it, but so what, it’s still great.) [INSERT PIC OF 17] From 100 feet in the air its all carry to a green set in a shelf between two other 100 foot peaks. Miss on either side and you’re on the 16th or 18th teebox...literally. They sit fifty feet below on either side. A miss from that high up is as good as a mile and from 100 feet up, the ball is a screaming liner so if you’re on that tee box and someone yells “Fore!” duck…fast.

Two of Engh’s favorite holes are five and fourteen. The par-5 fifth green is controversial. The green is really two smaller greens in one. The front is a small round pod, the rear of which tapers and extends like a ramp sharply uphill to a second tier; another, second, round green. “The shot is dramatically uphill” explains Engh magisterically. You can almost envision him wearing professorial half-moon glasses and scraping chalk across the chalkboard as his face lights up recalling his planning of the shot. “An uphill shot like this has two disadvantages” he continues. “One is limited visibility, two is gravity has less affect on this shot as ball is not on downward arc. The ball will run more and not contain. Now the nose down below gives you proportion and relationship. It’s a false front where you can also stick a pin placement. The back extension serves as the rest of the green and also gives a buffer containment zone for shots that come in too hot.”

The mechanics are lost on most people, who often comment “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Interestingly though, the green has a twin. The green is remarkably like…no, that’s not quite accurate, is almost identical, in both size of each section and the uphill ramp, to the par-5 fifth green at Mike Strantz’s Tot Hill Farm. Another small round pod has a ramp-like extension that leads severely uphill to second tier which is larger.

Now here’s the really interesting thing. Although Engh and Strantz were contemporaries and friends, Engh never saw Tot Hill (built in 2002) and Strantz never saw Redlands Mesa (built in 2001). It’s possible both came up, completely independently, with a similar design or simultaneously recalled something they subconsciously remembered from the UK.

“14 is my favorite” Engh continues. “It’s a gorgeous grotto of rocks that when I saw it, I fell in love with it because a green fit perfectly. The only problem was the topo was tough. We cut a narrow little gap [between two towering rocks!] for the fairway. The containment of the valley was small so I was forced to put fairway there and keep it small in order to keep the green setting. It was forced on me, but it works.” That’s what great architects do: they make great lemonade out of lemons. With its dangerous drive through two huge boulders about 175 yards from the tee, its great use of the stubborn portion of the property and its excellent green, critic Ron Whitten called it “the most original hole on the course.”

But even with greens on cliff ledges (four), sunburst shaped bunkers surrounding a shimmering lake (thirteen), and panoramic views of striated rock formations (eleven), nothing prepares the player for the almost cubist surrealism and arresting vertigo of the elevated tee and precariously perched green at the par-3 17th. Even Engh sheepishly stifles a self conscious laugh as we discuss it. “Yeah, we built that tee box up a bit” he says, referring to a towering cone of rock 100 feet in the air where the tee boxes are chiseled in a spiral into the face of the mountain itself.

The green sits nestled between two such behemoths. “All the rocks that form 17 green - that whole area was 12-15 ft higher by the way - we just carved down a bit to build a little cove. It was tight for the tee box. Everybody thought I was nuts when they saw it. Tees we just went up and up.”

Crazy like a fox, perhaps, since the hole is unforgettable. Because the green drops sharply off a sheer cliff on both sides, if you miss right or left, you miss by a mile. Yell “fore” loudly as both the 16th and 18th tees are set in a perfect place to accept a screaming liner.


Redlands looks like the other western U.S. courses set in the canyonlands, but has much better golf holes, better bunkering (unique styling and more strategic placement) and a stronger routing which takes in all the buttes, mesas and craggy outcroppings. There isn’t a single hole that is weak, connective tissue or an after thought. If there is one hole that’s a headscratcher, it’s 15. A risk reward, dog-leg right par-5, bite off as much of corner as you can, but watch out, its also the only place on the course that’s out of bounds. The OB on the right side guards a scrubby, rocky, grassy wash, so there is no need for the cops, it’s penal enough because it’s a 50-50 proposition of having a playable lie. Playing devil’s advocate, maybe that’s why Engh out it there, he wanted the penalty for missing right to be uniform, not luck of the draw on a lie. But then again, isn’t that golf?

If there is a second drawback, the housing complex lines far too many fairways on the front, but the back nine is just you, the course and the red rock monuments. Also, poles in the middle of the fairway are superfluous.

Along with nearby Lakota Canyon Ranch (in Newcastle, CO forty-five minutes directly east on Route 70), the pair are a fearsome one-two punch. The large undulating greens are similar at both sites, but the fairways are less hurly-burly than nearby Lakota. Red sandstone striated rocks replace the jagged buttes and wrinkled flattop mountains for a setting.

Because Engh had to move about 400,000 cubic yards of earth at both courses, they are not “minimalist.” (heck, he built the three giant cones of earth to make the 17th at Redlands alone) but he also didn’t crowd the picture with flashy or gaudy features like waterfalls, island greens or chocolate drop mounding. Happily, unlike Lakota, there are walking trails from the teebox to the fairway and the walks between tees are nowhere near as long or hilly. Lakota is unwalkable until they create walking paths from tee to fairway and from greens to the next tee. The front at Redlands is easy to walk, but have an extra energy bar or two in the bag for the back. Being a mile above sea level does impact a player’s stamina, more so when climbing hills all day.

Writer Ron Whitten, who also likes the course greatly, worries that some holes look too much like holes Engh used at other courses. For example, he says the par-5 13th looks too much like the 7th at Hawktree (Engh’s course in North Dakota) and 15th at Sanctuary. That may be, but it is not noticeable to most eyes since not that many people will play both Hawktree in North Dakota and Redlands in Western Colorado. They would have to be a remarkably intrepid traveler, but hey, I’m all for that. As for 15 at Sanctuary, the course is so private, it only has two members, the owner and his wife, so again the resemblance will only be noticed by a precious few, who will like the courses despite this casual similarity.

Lastly, it’s a great price at $75 or less. It won’t cost you $40 in golf balls either. Look for Redlands in a future version of the Links golf video game series.


2325 West Ridges Boulevard
Grand Junction, CO 81503


Architect: Jim Engh
Par - 72
Excitement Level – 11/12
Difficulty – 6/12
Design – Six stars
Natural Setting – Seven stars
Conditioning – Six stars
Cost - $75 Peak
Yearly memberships – No
Value – Six and 1/2
Overall rating – Six and ½ stars

Tees Yards Rating Slope

Monument 7007 71.7 135

Redlands 6486 69.4 130
Canyon 5838 67.2 115
Desert 4916 69.0 115

Do you like this golf course design?

I saw this recently and was flabbergasted. Now, I'm all for pushing the envelope, but this seems a bit garish for my taste.

Do you like this? We're gonna take a ten day poll, results late next week, but I'll post more pictures every so often. Here's a link to check out more pix of this course in Dunkirk, France.

Vote here in the comments or by email.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stonewall G.C in Virginia - a Jackson course at a Benjamin price

There is a goodly amount to like about Tom Jackson's design at Stonewall, but once again golf course economics tend to detract and distract from an otherwise good performance by a designer. Jackson may have done the best work of his career here on the shores of Lake Manassas and in the shadow of the famous and very private Robert Trent Jones Club. Tee shots must carry watery fingers of inlets and avoid stands of mature, fragrant pines and hardwoods. Verdant expanses of greens cling to cliff sides (4 and 15) or are mini amphitheatres (17.) One fabulous dog leg left par five (13) skirts Lake Manassas on the right, features a forced carry off the tee over another inlet of the lake, then sidewindes through the woods to a pedestal green.

Conversely, there are some weak sisters. The first three holes are uninspiring and maybe best suited merely as the means to get the players to the fourth tee, the first of the Lakeside holes. Next houses crowd far too close to the fairways all over the front side, especially at the start of the round. Even if one espouses the tired RTJ doctrine of "the first hole should not be overly difficult," (I for one do not adhere to this), the openers have no resemblence in flavor to the meat and potatoes of the rest of course and do not stamp a definitive "statement of identity or character" from the outset. The houses are much more recessed on the back.

Also, the $90 wkday/$110 wkend price tag is over the top. Twilight rate is almost half price, but only a scant few will complete their round, even in high summer since it starts 4-1/2 hrs before sundown. Value is therefore an issue. Also, the course is walkable, but nevertheless, carts are required on weekend mornings.

Stonewall competes admirably for top spot in the greater D.C. area, but does not make a strong case for being called a course of national significance. At moments it is downright atmospheric. Moreover, the conditioning in winter was outstanding with the entire course green not "biscuit brown" and with the greens rolling fats and true. Reputedly, Stonwwall may also be the best condidioned of DC's high end courses.

Nevertheless, purely from a value standpoint, many courses in the same price range avoid its pitfalls of houses and high price including TPC-MB, Wolf Creek, Caledonia, Red Tail. Nearby Royal New Kent and Stonehouse are a mere $50. With the national median for public golf sitting squarely at $40 and golfer's clamoring for that number to sink (ideally to the $32.50 range - half way to the public consmuer target suggested price of $25), $110 is a very expensive splurge. Many courses in a lower price range in the region may take away some play, even though they too may be priced one tier too high. Stonewall will feel a significantly better bargain at its twilight rate, but tee times are few and far between. (There are frequent 1/2 price coupons and Internet specials.) Even the yearly membership rate (see below) is the most expensive by far in the DC region. Call the pro shop and speak with Jon for more details.

15601 Turtle Point Drive
Gainesville, VA 20155


Architect: Tom Jackson
Excitement Level: 8/12
Difficulty: 9/12

Design: Five stars
Natural Setting Five and 1/2 stars

Conditioning: Six stars (excellent even in winter/spring)
Cost: $90/$110, $65 reduced
Yearly Memb: Yes, $5,700 single, add $3400 per immediate family member
Value: Three stars
Overall: Four and 1/2 stars

It's the Black and Gold Across America Tour!!! Steelers and the Terrible Towel on to the Super Bowl

The year was 1975. An article ran in a prominent business magazine discussing marketing and fan interaction. "Color and motion may spur on a team to victory" it crowed. "Get me a Gimmick! Your contract is up in three months!" roared Vice President and General Manager of the station that broadcast Steeler games at Myron Cope, the radio announcer. "I guess I'm a gimmick guy." Cope quipped and the Terrible Towel was born, being introduced to the world 40,000 strong at the Steeler's 28-10 victory over the colts.

Now the Terrible Towel is the most indelible and endearing of all Steeler lore, appearing at all games, but reserved most fiercely for playoff appearances. Sightings in Cinci, (who dey? who dey? Pittsburgh Steelers, that's who!), Indy (now lets join the Manning family for a nice homespun dinner...COUGH! SPUTTER! HACK! COUGH! WHAAAAAACCKCKKKKCXXXXXXXX!)...

I'm sorry, that was just a cheap laugh...

Anyway...and Denver before parking for one last partay...carrano, fiesta, forever.

For more on the legend of the Terrible Towel, click here for Myron Cope's story in his own words and here for the interesting wikipedia entry. See also the Immaculate reception too!

Great moments in the history of the Terrible Towel number 1....a towel hating broadcaster spews venom at a towel hanging in front of him, then goes spastic as a leak in the roof opens directly over his head. "Get rid of those infernal rags!" he howls as Terrible Towels are gleefully handed to him to dry off.

Monday, January 23, 2006

NFL Players Association files disciplinary suit against Poston over Lavar Arrington contract mistake

The NFL players union filed a grievance against player agent Carl Poston, principal in his own agency with his brother Kevin, seeking disciplinary action against the firm "Professional Sports Planning" for alleged mishandling of Lavar Arrington's contract with the Washington Redskins.

Arrington and Poston had filed a grievance against the Redskins stemming from his eight year $68,000,000 contract, claiming that the Redskins removed a $6.5 million bonus from the final contract without notification. The Postons have not proffered an excuse for not noticing the removal of the signing bonus before handing the contract to their client for execution. The grievance did not result in the reinstatement of the bonus clause, to the severe detriment of the player.

Malpractice is likely to be upheld if the NFLPA can show that the Poston's were negligent in not re-reading the final version ofm the contract to be certain that clauses were not changed prior to the final draft being delivered. Responsibility for reviewing final versions of contracts is always the responsibility of the player's agent. They receive huge sums in the form of percentages of the deal for their woirk in negotiating the terms of the contract.

The Postons have long been ridiculed within the NFL by industry insiders for questionable negotiating tactics, including telling players to hold out even though proposed contract terms are deemed reasonable by many. Recently, the credibility of their firm has suffered significant harm as they have had to forfeit signing bonuses and have had players dropped by teams. Other high profile stars such as Kelen Winslow, Jr. have been injured. BobGeorge of BosSports
writes "At the epicenter of this whole thing are two agent brothers who are fast becoming personae non grata around the NFL. Carl and Kevin Poston, owners of Professional Sports Planning, Inc., have gained a notorious reputation for being tough and unreasonable negotiators over the years. But their shenanigans over the past two years involving six of their high profile clients may one day drive them out of the player agent business, as NFL clubs may become loath to doing business with these two men at all costs.How bad is the work of the Postons? Law's outbursts are only the tip of the iceberg.

Pace, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is okay with a signing bonus in the $15-17 million range. But Carl Poston, Pace's agent, demanded that the Rams agree to a ludicrous deal worth $71 million over 7 years, with a $27 million signing bonus and $34 million in guaranteed money. Ram president Jay Zygmunt called this contract proposal "ransom money"."

Pace, like several other Poston clients fired the pair shortly after the debacle and represented himself, signing his own name in the box marked "Agent.".

Some industry insiders claim a lack of tact, common sense and descretion are at the root of the Postons problems. Some point to the less than classy description that Kellen Winslow's ill fated "Easy Rider" motorcycle ride "cost us a shitload" as a microcosm of the Poston issues in failing to earn the respect of the NFL. Winslow's injuries have cost him over $10 million dollars.

Earlier this year professed "Superagent" Drew Rosenhaus saw his credibility take a savage hit after a poorly calculated and dreadfully received "press conference" following the Eagles' dismisal of Terrell Owens. One pundit referred to Rosenhaus as "Dr. Kevorkian" for a player's career. Rosenhaus has suffered world-wide ridicule for his string of "no comments" in response to pointed, but reasonable questions and his equally headscratching "I love this man" tirade during the same conference.

Some players are even repping themselves in a grassroots backlash to what is seen as poor representation and expensive percentages.

In a related article, the author offer's his thoughts on how football, ESPN and golf all interact with the new TV deal. It's here.

Great architectural features - biarritz, redan and false front greens

Time for a little golf design education. The truly expert golfer knows how to "read" a golf course. The architect is trying to teach you something almost all the time when you stand over a shot. (Note: happily the "doctrine of deception is resurging. That's where the architect doesn't spoon feed you your line off the teebox. But that's another column.)

Today we'll look at some interesting features that, with a little bit of knowledge about them, can actually help you lower your score with smart play.

1) The redan. Probly the most copied and recognizable hole in the world. Sadly, it has also become the most watered down as well. The hall mark of the redan is a long iron or fairweay wood shot shaped from right to left is required to avoid the deeper and more dangerous parts of a bunker but also that the green slopes away
from the player. Pictured right is the 9th green at Brian Silva's Black Rock in Hingham, MA. Just swinging away trying to drop one aerial style on top of the flag is highly dangerous as it will likely roll over. play one bounce and on and let the ball filter to the hole location.

2) The biarritz green. Easily recognized by the deep swale that extends all the way across the green, effectively dividing it into two parts. The green is so severe that bunkers are often uneccessary as the severe countours around the hole location
defend par adequately. Pictured right and below is the 5th at Arcadia Bluffs in Northern Michigan.

3) False fronts. My personal favorite. I keep a box on my scorecard that reads "Mental errors." Recognizing the false front green is only half the batle. Ending up short of the green after not carrying the ball to the safe section of the green counts as a mental error. Pictured right is the 1st green at Mike Strantz's Royal New Kent outside Williamsburg, VA. Misplayed shots are severly penalized as the ball will roll to about 40 feet short of the green leaving a dangerously slick uphill pitch back to the green. Mishit it, and it's back at your feet...or worse.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Phil Mickelson and family, it's the March of the Penguins

Recently I endured a Hollywood director's mind-numbing rant about how angry he was that "March of the Panguins" blew away pretty much everything last year at the box office. "I can't uncerstand it" he moaned. "It had no production, no budget, no plot and one star, who never appeared on screen once!"

How dare it! I thought. God forbid people should shell out $10 and not be treated to a gratuitous fiery explosion chasing some chump down a hallway! How could people not be drawn to such a great movie season featuring so many memorable remakes and sequels such as "Dukes of Hazzard" "House of Wax" and "Triple XXX 2" and "Bad News Bears."

The New York Times also panned March of the Penguins in a fit of sadly political metaphor noting that "it exchanges nihilism for family values." Notably, it gave a good
review to such "enduring" horror schlock films "Hostel" and "Saw 2," which time has shown to be utterly forgettable.

While I choose not to pass judgment on the POLITICAL issue, I'll note that family values are not lost on everyone and have endearing moments.

Cut to Phil Mickelson. MIckelson and family are just like March of the Penguins...And not just because he resembles a penguin. Yeah, he's a little chubby, a little frumpy, a little dopey-looking. And yes, he does kinda...well..waddle down the fairway a bit...it's not the most graceful gait.
But that's not it.

People gravitate to him because family values are not dead in America. In fact, they are still a strong, surging groundswell. And while the media may attack Phil for such "atrocities" as 1) not living up to their hype; 2) taking on Tiger, the media anointed
chosen one in "equipment-gate"; 3) having too pretty a wife and too cute kids; and 4) exchanging equipment before the Ryder Cup; the observant and dedicated golf fan sees right through their nonsense.

We see right through it even faster than we see through Dan Hicks' vacuous Tigerphilic play-by-play calls.

Phil has endured vehement media firestorm unecessarily. First, he became poster boy for the most overused, worthless, disgraceful, stupid and unecessary talking point - "who is the best player never to win a major?" "Zero-for-whatever" they kept counting.

Has that nonsense ever been used anywhere else in the history of sport? Ever heard "greatest team never to win a super bowl" or "greatest manager never to win a world series?" No. Phil alone had to endure such ignominy. Good thing now there are too many players to warrant any consensus on the issue. Now its just for chumps who have nothing else to write or talk about.

Well Phil sure got that monkey off his back in spectacular fashion - he
beat it to death with a gap wedge. He took "BPNTWAM" and buried it in a coffin, threw the coffin in the river, and hurled the river into space. But was that good enough? No.

There was "equipment-gate," the offhand comment about the Woods and Nike union. Another firstorm of controversy. Next, the media would pin the U.S. loss of the Ryder Cup on him too - first for switching equipment right before the tournament and then for two poor shots.

And worst of all, last year the media banged the drum; "Phil is a phony...all he talks about are his family and his kids."

Funny thing though - the patrons and real golf fans aren't buying it. "Real golf fans get Phil and love Phil" said golf fan and U.S. Open attendee Andrea from Asheville, NC. "He reminds us of our own lives. He's not untouchable like so many other tour players. There is a warmth there. Not only to us, but it's nice that we get to see those glimpses with the family too."

To some in the media, the story rubs them as sacchrin-sweet. "Well we don't buy into alot of that" said Brian from Manhattan who watched Phil's victory at Baltusrol. "They like to think that we believe everything they tell us and sometimes they get convinced were listening. The casual fan may be influenced by what he reads and what he sees on ESPN, but real golf fans know ESPN knows nothing about golf and TV announcers know little more, if any. And let me tell you something. We root for Phil."

So Phil went out and won the PGA last year too. Much to the delight of all greater NYC...and
Arizona...and the golf public at large. So what does the media yell about? He blew off the Tour Championship and the Mercedes.

Oooooooooooo...the Toooooour Chaaaaaampionship....Yeah, like we were all glued to that to begin with. Let me know how this year's turns out...I'll be out playing.

(seen right, Phil, Amy and Evan celebrate Phil's victory at the PGA on the 18th Green.)

Go ahead. Try and name one incident where Phil caused any real trouble. He never threw a camera in a lake, (Woods-Williams) screamed at a patron (Woods), made obscene gestures (Singh/Kaye), dropped repeated f-bombs and m-f bombs (Woods...at one point five years running most fined player on tour) demanded to be paid for the honor of representing America (Woods/Duval), raked a green at the national championship while the reigning Masters champion (Woods), took a divot out of the sixth green at Riviera (several), ridiculed Annika for wanting a week with the guys (several) or whined about a course set up (several).

When has he ever stalked off the course in anger without signing his card (Daly), comedicly hit five balls in a row in the water (Daly), swung at a moving ball (Daly), acted like some kind of redneck Zorro signing body parts (Daly) or drank so much he couldn't function the next day (Daly)?

Did he ever once lose patience with a writer out of anger for the POINTED questions he got asked time and again early in his career? Was there ever a snap, snipe or sour note? Not once. He took it all and he took it like a GENTLEMAN.

No...somepeople just don't like Phil because, for the most part, you can walk 360 degrees around him and there's no dark side. Which means there is precious little to write about during silly season. The rest? Well you know what? There comes a point when it's nobody's business. Just because you play good golf does not mean you give up the right to have what happens in the family stay in the family.

Where that line is remains unclear, but Phil has never run from us like Woods. Or Singh. Or others.

Well guess what Hollywood and New York Times. March of the Penguins not only showed us that you don't need special effects and "megawattage starlets" to make an enduring masterpiece, it also showed us that people do care about heartwarming stories, good sportsmanship, acting noble and being humble. People care about hard-working, non-preening overachievers who put family first. In fact, they sure are more inspiring than the examples set by Drew Barrymore (laughing as her mansion burned down before driving off with comic "genius" Tom Green in his sports car), Johnny Knoxville (hey he calls himself "Jackass" - so there ya go) Paris Hilton (don't even get me started started).

We aren't buying the stale coffee Hollywood and the media are selling anymore.

Cut back to Phil. No, media, we don't believe he's a "phony." We don't thnk the love of his family is merely an act and thast there is really some "American Beauty" undercurrant at which to "look closer." No, people still like to root for the good guys (Pittsburgh Steeler fans sure abound everywhere, don't they). Just as we found it touching the way penguins waddled and stumbled, yet loved, nurtured, survived and thrived so too are we drawn to a great Pheel good story. A story of waddling and
stumbling (at first) in his career, then a story of survival, victory, nurturing and love.

Hating a guy because he chooses to be a loving husband and parent in the public eye. I think we all pray that that never becomes fashionable.

(Seen to the left, the emporer penguin, with several chicks and his mate, will protect his young by sheltering him beneath a fold of fatty skin.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My Fossil Trace article is up at Golf Observer and more here!

What a great job Dan King and Sal Johnson did on my Fossil Trace piece too with the photos and captions. Golf Observer is without question the number one site for all things tour and travel related for golf.

Here's some more photos. Enghchased me up the side of the fossil monument with my own ball retriever to play the shot. That's site archaeologist and paleonotogist Dr. Martin Lockley pointing out a huge Triceratops footprint. So cool to call a guy "Doctor" when he's wearing a headband, shorts and hiking boots. Dr. Lockley, the world can't thank you enough for seeing the light Jim spreads about paying homage to the ancestral history of his sites for golf. Also, here's Jimmy Hajek bowing in homage as Engh hit a 660 yard pa5-5 in two.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Talking Stick (North Course) - Minimalism is the real deal in Scottsdale

9998 E. Indian Bend Road
Scottsdale, AZ

Architect: Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore
Par: 70 (35-35)
Price: $125-$170 in high season, $75 in low
Excitement: 8/12 (11/12 for purists)
Difficulty: 6/12
Design: 6-1/2 stars (out of 7)
Conditioning: 5-1/2 stars
Natural Setting: 5 stars
Overall: 6 stars
Value: 6 stars

To all you casual golf fans who are impressed with waterfalls, brand name designers, "augusta white sand" in the bunkers, stained glass windows in the clubhouse, scenic views of (insert "Statue of Liberty," "Utica, NY farmland," "Donald Trump's latest monstrosity," etc.), and "magic gates" that open when you drive through them to the course, book tickets to Scottsdale, AZ.

Right now. There's a golf course you NEED to see.

What's that? Forests of giant saguaros? Yeah, we'll see them, but not where we're playing.

Waterfalls? Nope, won't really be needing any, but thanks all the same. I'm trying to cut down.

Lost balls? No, the fairways we'll be playing are 80 yards wide...no you read that correctly 80 yards.

Who designed it? Coore and Crenshaw. Yes, Ben Crenshaw who captained the Ryder Cup team. What else has designed? Why quite alot...have you heard of Sand Hills? No? How bout Bandon Trails? No...the Scottish kid and "that dude who's helping Nicklaus on Long Island" ***pause for gasp*** his name is Tom Doak by the way, built the OTHER two excellent courses there...well, how bout Kapalua, you've heard of that, I assume?

Yeah, the course you just saw on TV. I thought you would know it...

What? You've never heard of golf like this? Its called "Minimalism" and guess what casual fan, it's firing on all cylindars all over the country. Crenshaw and Coore have set off a trend which purists have championed, serious intrepid golf fans are embracing and which still flies under the radar screen because it trades bells and whistles for truly great golf holes that make you think.

Thinking...before hitting a golf shot...it should not be as frighteneing a concept as it seems.

Talking Stick North is dead flat, is in a scrub-choked, but otherwise not particularly verdant corner os the desert and features some of the widest fairways you have ever seen. "Minimalism" basically means that the designer moved little to zero earth in layout out ("routing") the golf course. Basically, they planted sticks for tee boxes, planted sticks for green sites and designed the holes around this most basic of plans. Minimal interference with the native vegetation, minimal expense and the widr fairways are a welcome change to the very narrow limited turf/target designs the area touted as its best for so long.

What's the draw? Easy...some of the most ingenious designed golf holes in America.

Lets just take a look at two holes for a quick illustration...Nos 2 and 12.

At first blush, the second hole, a 510 yard par-5 seems a little incongruous...the tee box and green are set hard by the out-of-bounds boundary, but the fairway extends 80 yards to the right. But a closer look reveals the hole is fiendishly clever in its intricacy.

First, the threat of a REAL penalty, stroke and distance ***reload*** keeps you honest and maybe a little nervous. Plus, there is zero rough to save a hot running drive from jumping past the barbed wire fence. Suddenly you need that extra room out to the right.

However, the further right you play, the more the bunkers come into play. And believe me...the bunkers at Talking Stick are large, deep and have steep faces. Grab a snickers...you're not going anyway for a while.

The 80 yards give you all the angles you need, yet the OB keeps people frightened.

Genius...a masterpiece.

Tomorrow - the bifurcated fairway of the 12th hole provides more great options.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Great golf in North Dakota, Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin? Oh yaaaa!

I crack up every time I hear Frances McDermott giving that Scandinavian "jaaaaa" during "Fargo." But the secret is out, the public golf in Minnesota, North Dakota and Northern Wisconsin is no joke.

North Dakota has a trinity of great, affordable public golf. Start with Jim Engh's Hawktree. Located just outside Bismarck, the best point for entry for your trip, the course won "Best new course" for 1999. It was Jim's first breakout work as a solo designer and heralded his arrival as a master of contour shaping and new age bunkering. Best of all, prices rarely top $50

Two hours west in the sleepy but scenic town of Medora lies Bully Pulpit, winner of this years Best New Affordable Public Course. Michael Hurdzan has been quietly designing stunning, yet strategic layouts in the more undiscovered parts of the U.S. for some time. Thus year, he broke through with his first outright win. Bully Pulpit features alot of great views for "looky-loos" a la Redlands Mesa, but also has solidly designed holes and a routing which talkes solid advantage of the site.

Finally, the western end of the trail finishes at Links of North Dakota by one of golf great designer/professors, Stephen Kay. The course is also colloquially known as "Red Mike" due to an interesting and colorful local legend. A rustler named Mike was captured and interrogated rather sternly by local authorities. When he refused to give up the location of his stash, they tied him to a chair and set a fire underneath it to get him to talk. Ever the tough guy, Mike the Rustler didn't squeal - they had to let him go - hence the name Red Mike. Both Bully Pulpit and Red Mike top at $50, but look for a reasonable increase at Bully Pulpit to reflect it's ratings victory.

What about to the east? Using Duluth as a point of entry, Jeff Brauer will be your leading architectural guide, having won awards with the two resort courses at Giant's Ridge and The Wilderness, a half hour from each other. The Giant's Ridge courses run about $80 in high season and appear to be built on some great terrain for golf. On the eastern end, Big Fish G.C. by Pete Dye also made a ratings splash and is a mere two hours from Giant's Ridge, just an hour and a half from Duluth. I hear rumblings that they want to add another 18 and want to have it be a strategic masterpiece. Look for the new course to really make some noise when the designer is announced. I'm betting they'll do alot better than just tapping some old retread touring pro who's name has cache to casual fans.

Mid April is pretty much the earliest one can expect reasonable playing conditions.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Apache Stronghold G.C. - Globe, AZ, poor conditions but excellent design.

Those of you who watch the British Open regularly or play in the UK will be familiar with the term "Biscuit Brown." Loosely translated, that's the UK term for brown baked, fast, firm links style fairways. They are not green and lush, but play just fine.

Those of you who watched the final round of the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock saw the concept taken to a whole new level completely - ad absurdem. It took four fire trucks all the way from Melville to stop that four-alarmer at the seventh green, for example. The hole was burned to a crisp and was unplayable.

Unfortunately, its time to call the San Carlos F.D. because the entire back nine at the Tom Doak designed, and San Carlos Apache owned Apache Stronghold is, to use technical jargon "fully involved."

I ws warned about deteriorating conditions at Apache before going out there. I also thoroughly read (three times) Tom Doak's The Anatomy of a Golf Course where he outlines the benefits of biscuit brown - both the firm fast links style of play and the fact that its cheaper to maintain. Nevertheless, while the front was a dormant (IN HIGH SEASON???) biscuit brown, the back was unplayable.

Also, Apache Stronghold is two hours east from Scottsdale (where there are hundreds of golf courses.) When journeying to Globe, travellers are reminded of some of the most dire poor living conditions in America in a heartbreakingky depressed area. When pulling into the parking lot of the Casino Resort - it looks like you'll only have tumbleweeds for poker partners and that the locals at the motel checking you in are the only people present.

Its a true wild west ghost town.

Maybe they dont have the money (the San Carlos Apaches shelled out $75, 000 for overr seeding and are doing some irrigation work) or maybe they lack the inclination or knowledge, but Tom Doak's excellent design is going unnoticed and underappreciated.

Tom gave us a treasure trove of design features - Biarritz greens, two punchbowls, perpendicular hazards, risk reward par-5s, a true redan (with the green running away,) false fronts, basically he used as much of his wide arsenal as he could find on the property. The result is an asymmetrical 37-35 routing which is a one after the other encyclopaedia of design.

Unfortunately, with conditioning unplayable on the back, we are seeing the limit of "if you buildit, they will come"...its "if you build it and reasoanbly maintain it, they will come" - but not twop hours from a golf mecca to something that will underwhelm even thought the deisgner did a great job.

San Carlos Hwy
San Carlos, AZ 85550

Architect: Tom Doak
Par 72 (37-35)
Excitement: 8/12
Difficulty 8/12
Design: 7 stars (out of 7)
Conditioning: (back 0.5 stars, front 4.5 stars) 2.5 stars
Natural Setting: 4.5 stars
Overall: (pending improvements to the conditions) 3.0 stars

Monday, January 09, 2006

Marcus Vick, former Virginia Tech football quarterback arrested on firearm charges

Last week, two ESPN radio jockeys were debating how embarasses the Vick family must be after Marcus stomped on an opposing players defensless calf with his cleated size 16. Vick was kicked off the football team, permanently dumped after the Gator Bowl. The ESPN apologists (all bow down to the Holy Church of the Professional Athlete), simpered that compared to Billy Carter and Roger Clinton, Vick wasn't all that bad.

Boy, what do they think now? Probably nothing. They're ESPN. They don't have to apologize when they are wrong. It never happened. Just lose those tapes in the archives and fast!

Surpassing even his brother's famous Ronald Mexico footsteps, Marcus Vick has this time made himself a felony charge defendant and faces three years and a $75,000 fine.

Here's the facts, courtesy of the AP wire. You be the Judge of this guy:

"Former Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick, booted from the team last week for his behavior on and off the field, was charged Monday with pulling a gun on three teenagers during an altercation in a restaurant parking lot.

The 21-year-old Vick was charged with three misdemeanor counts of brandishing a firearm, and was released on $10,000 bond.

Police said the parents of a 17-year-old boy reported that Vick pointed a weapon at their son and two others during an altercation at a McDonald's in Suffolk, a southeastern Virginia city where Vick's mother lives, Sunday night.

If convicted of all three counts, Vick could be sentenced to up to three years in jail and a $7,500 fine, police spokeswoman Lt. Debbie George said in a statement.

On Friday, Virginia Tech kicked Vick off the team, citing the cumulative effects of numerous legal problems and his unsportsmanlike conduct in the Gator Bowl, where he was caught on tape stomping on the left calf of Louisville All-American Elvis Dumervil.

He also received a speeding ticket and a ticket for driving on a suspended license in Hampton on Dec. 17 while under a "zero tolerance" policy from Virginia Tech.

The policy was implemented when Vick was suspended in 2004 because of several legal problems. He later came under further scrutiny because of replays of his actions against Dumervil.

Vick claimed it was accidental, but hurt his cause by claiming to have apologized to Dumervil, the NCAA sacks leader. Dumervil said he received no such apology.

Saturday, Vick announced he had decided to turn pro."

Funny...a Va. Tech spokesman refused comment other than to note Vick's conduct "speaks for itself."

As my buddy Steve Czaban always writes, NFL players frequently call what we label as debauchery and anti-social behavior "Tuesday." See the "Wont you take me on a sea cruise" Minnesota Vikings. I for one am glad they fired that mindless chump that masquraded as a coach. He makes neanderthals look civilized by comparison. Gotta love it when an owner gets "doing the right thing" so fast that an hour after finishing the season you here a thud, a door slam and a gratuitous "And stay out!"

Start the clock on Vick Va. Tech expulsion hearing. ...and well deserved.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Resorts, hotels and places to stay and restaurants for your Arizona Golf trip

Here are some recommendations when you are booking your trip to the Valley of the Sun and points beyond for your golf vacation. They are in no particular order.

High End:

1) The Boulders Golf Resort, Carefree, AZ
Price: $298 and up for unlimited golf and one nights stay in a casita.
Setting: 7 stars
Value: 5.5 stars
Golf: 5 stars

The Boulders is a must play and stay at least once in your life. It is a world-class resort in the gorgeous community of Carefree, 15 minutes north of Scottsdale. The entire resort is nestled in the giant monzonite boulders piled high on top of each other. The golf is good, with Jay Moorish's South course, a par-71 out and back course as the centerpiece. Individual rounds run from $95 in summer to $250 in winter.

2) The Arizona Biltmore, Scottsdale, AZ - another solid choice and my next destination when I return to Scottsadale. Convenient to all major Scottsdale Golf.

3) Ventana Canyon, Tucson, AZ
Price $199 and up for unlimited golf and a nights stay in the Resort (not the Loews).
Setting: 7 stars. Set in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mtns near trhe Saguaro National Forest
Golf: 4.5 stars. Fazio built both the Mtn and Canyon Vourse himself (not his signature team!), so its better than his McFazio work of late (see Turning Stone Casino...or on second thought...DON'T)
Value: 6 stars.

4) Enchantment, Sedona, AZ - the only choice for refined ladies and gentlemen. Call it The Boulders North, just substitute the striated Red Rocks for the monzonite Boulders.
Price:$300 and up
Setting: 7 stars
Golf 4 stars. I actually find the resort course charming and low impact. Its 5500 feet above sea level, so I hit the ball like an animal.


1) McCormick Ranch (Millenium Resort), Scottsdale - The umber one choice for Mid Range. Huge three room villas in a centrally located area convenient to everything - golf, restaurants and shopping.
7401 N. Scottsdale Rd
Price: $250 Villas, $100 rooms
Value: 5.5 stars
Setting 5 stars.
Golf: N/A - set up your own trip.

I stayed here this trip and it was just perfect - everything I needed at a great rate. The number one choice for families and golf groups.


Resort Suites:

If you're on a budget, this is the choice. www.resortsuites.com. Can setup packages.


1) Sapporo - phenomenal sushi and habachi dinners. great digs and beautiful young women. I wished my girl was with me this trip just to take her here. Check out the torches...amazing. Seen below, Gary and Chris from Bowling for Soup and I enjoy Eel, Lobster and pear martinis.

2. Tonto Grill - what a great deal. The most expensive meal on the menu - filet mignon was $24. Most dishes are about $18. The Flauta of lobster and shrimp was a meal of itself and the New Mexican penne pasta with feta and red peppers and onions was quite an original take. Seen below, rock meets golf course architecture as Brian Silva and his wife Madeline party like rock stars with your author and BFS. Rock on Honorable Ones.

3. Zinc is a terrific French Bistro/cafe. Try the steak.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pictures of Jim Engh's new Blackstone C.C. in Arizona

Seen left, Palo Verde (left) and Ocotilla (right) are just some of the interesting vegetation Jim Engh had to work with along with Saguaro Cacti to frame the edges of Blackstone C.C. in Peoria AZ.

Played Blackstone today with friends. We were the only ones on the course all day. I'll have longer piece on my website shortly. The course opened in Sept, is par 72 with a 40-32 split.
You read that correctly. There is a front 10 and a back 8. The course does not return to the clubhouse at 9, but at 10. Thats just the way the land dictated to engh that the best holes were laid out, so go with it, I have no problem. Sure, the card reads 36-36, but thats a formality not a reality. Yes, typical of engh, its 5 par-5s and 5 par-3s. All the things Engh has become famous for are there. First, yes, the bunkers are muscle bunkers, but they are muscle bunkers on steroids...anywhere from 12 to 15 feet deep with gigantic sidewalls. The bunkers were not overseeded, so the had the golden halo around them giving them. Some of the bunkers werre a little too much, particularly 17 where the left half of the green on the par-3 is totally blind. Right pins, you can see. Also the bunker on 12 was humongous. There also were sidewalls to many greens rebounding errant shots back to the green. Jim had outstanding vegetation to work with...multi armed saguoros, rare palo verde, gorgeous ocotilla, dangerous jumping
cholla, more subdued sausage cholla...great plant life. The course was also much more walkable than most of his other work...maybe only one tough walk between tees. There were tons of punchbowl greens and great contours. Greens were fantastic - multi-tiered, multi-club and with loads of undulation. Routing - terrific with one exception. First, the holes constantly change direction so the severe wind makes you constantly check your shot alignment carefully...except for 11, 12, 13 which all run in the same direction, which caused a problem...they also all run directly into the setting sun. 15 runs in the same direction too. We had trouble tracking the ball in flight. Conditioning was good enough to carpet your home...clubhouse will be finished soon. Price = really good. 60K as an introductory price, but after they sell enough memberships it'll go up to 75, then 85, capping at 105. Monthly is tween 450 and 650, depending on when you get in. No you dont have to own property. My fave stretch is from 5-8. If you like engh,its worth joining. If you're a hardcore purist, you might find some of it contrived. Looked to me like about 300-400,000 cubic yards of earth moved.
To my left, the green at the short par-4 6th has tyopical Engh player friendly sidewalls to rebound shots to the putting surface. Below, the view from behind the par-4 8th green.

We're moving to a new 7 star rating system for golf courses

As of today we are moving to a new seven star rating syatem to give a little more striation to our ratings. Some reviews will be re-published and updated to reflect the change. This does not affect anything written before today. if you find it on the site vefore this message, its out of five, but from now on we use seven.

OK, now back to live action...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sharin' in the We-ko-pa Groove in Scottsdale - We-ko-pa Golf Club

18200 East Toh Vee Circle
Fort McDowell, AZ 85264
Architect: Scott Miller
Par 72
Excitement Level - 10/12
Difficulty - 4/12 White, 7/12 others
Conditioning - Four and 1/2 stars
Cost - $195 peak, $135 reduced
Value - Four to Four 1/2 stars (seasonal)
Design - Four and 1/2 stars
Overall - Four and 1/2 stars

Tees Ydg Rating Slope

Tournament 7225 73.0 136

Back 6740 70.0 131

Middle 6114 67.5 121

Forward 5289 69.9 119

Try to make your woman match your move,
and I'm sharin' in the We-ko-pa (Weekopaug) groove...
- Phish

Somehow, the fantastic design at We-ko-pa Golf Club outside Scottsdale flies under the radar despite being ranked as high as #38 in the U.S. for public courses by Golf Magazine. Maybe it's because people need to feel like they have to patronize a huge resort like The Boulders or a former tour facility like Grayhawk when in Scottsdale. Maybe it's because Troon North's reputation as "king of the kitty litter courses" (as George Peper calls desert courses) still dominates the landscape. But the secret about We-ko-pa is begining to spread - and it is more than ready for its closeup.

The Yavapai Indian Nation, owners of the We-ko-pa Golf Club in the Fort McDowell Region of Scottsdale had the courage to think out of the box for a resort and embrace one of the wisest trends in the golf industry...spend less money and move less earth and get a better golf course.

We-ko-pa (Yavapai for "Four Peaks," the name of a nearby mountain range) is not just another pretty course in the desert. Scott Miller has produced his most daring and interesting work to date. While not entirely "minimalist" like it's more well known neighbor Talking Stick, Miller used the dry washes present on the site as the bulk of the course's risk reward options. Remember, like wetlands back east, dry washes in the desert may not be excavated, nor built up because they are the primary way for water to travel on the property. Once the Army Corps of Engineers (or whoever was responsible in this instance), marked off the "zona rojos" (red zones - my term for places an architect cannot touch) on Miller's topo map, he could turn the map into a jigsaw puzzle and wove the course in out and around these areas.

The result shows particular skill and gracefulness. Miller fully employs Alistair Mackenzie's concept of creating a "line of charm." This means that on many holes, there is some peril in the direct line of flight between the tee box and the ball, whether a bunker or a stately specimen Saguaro Cactus. Fairways can be as wide as 80 yards, offering multiple angles of play both to the left or right...or you can try to pound one over the hazard or lay up short. As the widest desert course yet built, Miller empowers the golfer to dictate his own method of attack or to use the rope he hands you to hang yourself by being tempted into a shot you can't execute. Miller also employs optical illusions, frequently placing bunkers 30 yards short of the green, but giving them the appearance from the fairway of being greenside. Further, in high season, the bunkers are not overseeded so their collars have an attractive golden hue, offering a contrast in color and texture.


Miller grabs you right out of the gate with a fantastic diagonal cross hazard to carry off the first tee. Bite off more of the hazard to get closer to the green and have a better angle of approach. The first green has severe undulations and is a true assessment of the rest of the day's challenge.

The course has remarkable consistency throughout. There are moments where being on the wrong side of the fairway will result in a semi blind approach (the fourth hole), at others fairways are bifurcated by bunkers, bushes or cacti. The sixth, for example harkens back to the fabled fifth at Crystal Downs in Michigan (only in reverse form) with its centrally placed bunker and green wrapped over a heavily contoured hill.

Most players love the scenic three-shot eighth with its green set below fairway level guarded by a rock walled wash cutting from back left to front right. Obviously the wash doubles as the main conduit for rainwater. The green setting is gorgeous, with a magnificent view of the McDowell Range behind.


The course is low impact from the whites. At 6,100 yards, par-4s rarely top 390 yards. That's a little too short as perhaps four par-4s may be driven. When you step back to the blues however, it's 6,700 yards and the six-iron in your hands is now a fairway metal and the angles are more severe. It's another golf course entirely. A set of tees in between would not go wrong. Of course, everyone wishess it were a bit less expensive, but it is slightly more affordable than the rest of the other top Scottsdale offerings. Come in low season for a much better deal.

Following their success and in keeping with their wise choice of the first architect, they chose to rev up an encore of the Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore "Back to the Future" Minimalist tour (yes, capitalize "Minimalist" from now on) and let it fire on all cylindars in the desert. Coore and Crenshaw has already scored significant successes in the desert with Talking Stick North being one of the conessoiurs' choices in a hyper-competitive market flush with great golf. According to Director of Golf Jeff Lessig, "all 18 holes at the new site have been cleared. Hole design and shaping are on an aggressive timetable and the course will potentially open by December of 2006." The Yavapai have not determined the name for the new course or the new name for the existing course, but marketing plans to have a decision shortly.



Coming Soon!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Falls G.C. - Henderson, NV - for Las Vegas, it's good

101 Via Vin Santo
Henderson, NV

Architect: Tom Weiskopf
Par - 72
Excitement Level – 7/12
Difficulty – 7/12
Conditioning – Three and 1/2 stars (NOTE: Played in dormant season. The conditioning was fine, just dormant. Greens are five stars.)
Cost - $275 Peak, $100-$150 for off season packages
Yearly memberships – No
Value – Three Stars (depending heavily on season and package)
Overall rating – Three Stars

Everything in Las Vegas is calculated within a micron to seperate you from your cash. In general, the golf is potentially just as much of a poor value. When you start with that premise, you realize that you have to be particularly vigilant in shopping for a place to spend your hard earned golf fund. Most courses are grossly overpriced, over marketed and underdesigned. To that end your best choices in Vegas are still a step below North Carolina, Colorado, Boston, Arizona (stop me anytime)...

Nevertheless, Las Vegas is America's playground, so if you're coming you probably have resigned yourself to spending more than you should. Just do yourself a favor and avoid the "theme" golf courses that are more a casino-like amusement park rathyer than a serious attempt at golf architecture.

Now that that's out of the way your best choices are The Revere at Anthem and, even though the prices are high, Wolf Creek (in Mesquite) and The Falls.

As I always say, anything over $200 is too much for golf, so if you come to the Falls, come either on a less expensive resort package or in off season. Rack rates of $275 are just not worth it, but the $100-150 rate is respectable for Vegas and comperable
to other Weiskopf courses.

Similarly the architecture is good. Remember, my goal is two-fold: 1) help readers distinguish between the "truly great" and the merely "very good" and 2) show you good golf values. For Vegas, at the right time, The Falls one of the better values. One problem is that houses are being built and large portions of the course may become crowded with homes, although not so close as to cause many broken windows. Power lines also remain to clutter the otherwise excellent vistas of the mountains and Vegas strip

Tom Weiskopf is a solid designer who has turned out an excellent body of work. I thnk once he embraces the Mackenzie doctrine of the line of charm (putting hazards DIRECTLY in the line of play between the tee box and green), he will ascend to the highest echelon fo the pantheon of great designers. He showed flashes of brilliance at Forest Dunes for example, where he really let his hair down on the back nine. It's true...when you push yourself further than you think you can go, then go further and
make moves spontaneously, completely forgetting the mechanics and rules, that's when you produce something really brilliant. he had a few moments here, but also a few mundane moments as well.

His work at the Falls is remarkably similar to his work at Castle Pines North, (see this article) but without CPN's terrible 15th and 16th holes. Speaking broadly, I still think Troon North is his best work and Forest Dunes in Michigan is his boldest and most original, but The Falls is still solid golf.

Just like at CPN and Forest Dunes, Weiskopf insists on giving us five mild warmup holes. I know this was a staple of Robert Trent Jones who championed easy first holes and building a course to crescendo, but those days have past and it's time to put aside some of Jones' more questionable. If people are paying $100 a round at a resort 1) they are not just rolling up and strapping on spikes without practice like Jones said - they have hit all the premium balls on an amenity-laden range for an hour and 2) they deserve to play 18 great holes, not 12. In tha regard
sometimes Weiskopf builds some of the best 12 holes courses in America. (again see "Dunes, Forest")

The first two holes feature cross hazards, but more to limit the length of drives rather than to offer risk-reward options.

The best holes on the front are 4,6, and 8. The short par-4 fourth has a nice semi-blind green setting. The par-5 7th is interesting as it winds through a narrow valley than ends with a bifurcated fairway. 8 is pretty drop shot par-3.

The teeth and backbone of the golf course appear at 12-14 and are well worth the price of admission. Twelve features TWO blind shots, one through a notch in the craggy mountaintop before finishing on a cliffedge at a picture window green. (SEE PICTURE) Thirteen is a short but dangerous driveable par-4 (Weiskopf always gives you one...) that Tiger hit from the back tee at 378 yards. Man, those Wheaties must really work...or maybe it's the altitude. Miss the green and...welljust look at poor Bennie Perez here. The Good Reverend has a friend in high places though as he got
up and down form there (see pic).

Unfortunately, the finish fizzles a bit. 16 is as unplayable and unecessary as the 16th at the TPC Scottsdale. Ranging from 220-180, water guards the entire left side, but the green is also surrounded by bunkers, which precludes hitting a draw. The hole just doesn't work because you can't risk a fade over the water and a draw risks the bunkers. Give us one or the other. The only option is dead straight and as golf writer Art Spander once wrote, "Only straight is not so great." 17 is similarly unecessarily watery. To play devil's advocate, at least when he gives you a water hole at the Falls, the fairway is MUCH wider than the other more narrow fairways that run through the canyonlands.

18, a short par 5, is an excellent finishing hole as the water is really out of play, far to the left.

All in all the course has an awful lot of water for a Weiskopf design and has too many "resorty" moments that detract from the many excellent holes early on the back. Strangely, even the resort seems to acknowledge in its marketing materials that it "builds to a crescendo on the back nine." Nevertheless, it remains one of the only real choices in the Las Vegas area and the Hyatt is an excellent alternative to the strip. Caddies will be available in 2006...good thing, because with no walking paths on the back nine it's pretty much unwalkable by everyone except hardcore purists and Bighorn Sheep.

One last thing about the design - the greens were perfect. They rolled as true and smooth as any tour facility. They were slick without being over done. Excellent job by the superintendent and staff.

The clubhouse is an attractive mission style building and the food was excellent. Try the tuna burger...outstanding choice.

All in all you should play The Falls. The staff are some of the most knowledgeable about golf design I have met and serious players congregate here, so you'll have solid playing partners with which to enjoy your round. Just plan your trip so as tom maximize your dollar.

Happy New Year from Jay, and A. Vitullos & Sons and A.T. Harris

Have a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2006!

Something a little different today before I get to back to golf. I want to thank A. Vitullo & Sons of Utica, NY for many years of terrfic formal and businesswear. Being an Italian from Upstate New York, it's a miracle I'm literate. (Relax everybody! It's a joke!) But even though upstate New York gets a bad rep for cold weather and a lack of restaurants, they have a great deal to be proud of up there...family values not the least of which.

One of the area's great secrets for generations is now ready for its closeup. A. Vitullo & Sons has provided world class formal and business wear to refined gentlemen for four generations. Now they have become an official outfitter of the gentlemen who work for the Martha Stewart show and will be prominently featured later this month on Martha's morning show. Just as every gentleman should own good suits, so to should he own his own formal wear and the tux I bought at Vitullo's has gotten me through two Grammys, several New Years Eve's and various nights on the town with ex-girlfriends. My outfit below is from Vitullo's, excepting the shirt and the white half vest, tie and scarf that I alternate in on occasions, which were proivided by A.T. Harris of New York City. Vitullo's is located at the New Hartford Shopping Center in New Hartford, NY and while you get New York City or Paris serrvice and quality, you get an amazing price as well. Even if you are from NYC, make the trek up there and you will not be disappointed. As every NYCer knows, anybody can find a great $60 steak, the trick is to find the great $20 steak that loks and tastes like $60. You kow how New Yorkers flock to Woodbury Outlets for bargains and quality? You now have a new destination.

A.T. Harris, also a Rolls Royce of fine men's formal wear is also a must for a gentleman's wardrobe and is located on 44th Street between Lexington and Madison in NYC on the second floor. When you go in there, just smile politely when they tell you how many presidents and mayors they outfit, it's part of the routine. But hey, they certainly have earned the reputation.

Speaking of New Years Eve, best wishes to my team, to Nancy (great pick with Ra, Luxor - and Red Square), all my clients, friends, family, the Golf Observer team, the Golf Magazine team, Chelsea, Rocky, BFS, Lee and Sherri, Czabe, Paris, Cameron, The Downings, David Rose, Jay K, Bob C., the Pho Society, the Honor Roll (If you know I love and respect you, you made the honor roll;), GCA, Brian, Jim, Tim, Tom from Traverse, Dan and Jennifer in N.C., Jeff Levy and the RobRit Law team, J9, Taylor Crothers, Whitney, and one more person...ALL YOU READERS! May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true.