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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Early reports from Winged Foot - Rough!

Early reports from the "kinder gentler" Winged Foot with its intermediate rough to "make the punishment fit the crime" (Mike Davis quote) are showing high scores in the "punishment" department. Two golf writer colleagues of mine report the fairways so fast balls contain less in the fairway and when the ball rolls to the edge of the second cut, that's high enough to require two shots out at least.

Other sources report both several touring pros already spending weekends in Mamaroneck and having mixed results "expirimenting" with shots out of the spinach. My early guess of a -3 wining score are looking pretty good about now.

Also, hat's off to my Golf Magazine colleagues for the best U.S. Open preview pieces out there. Finally, my colleague Connell Barrett did a fantastic job detailing the horrors of David Feherty's alcoholism in this month's GM. Our thoughts and prayers are with you David for a long, clean and healthy recovery. Connell ws part therapist, part scribener and full time friend to David during this long process. The article is an important salvo in the war against merely branding victims of addiction and savaging them as weak or lacking character.

No mow grass for golf? also Canadian Golf Writer Awareness Week

This just in. Imagine never having to mow the grass on a golf course. No, I dont mean astroturf (like the 15th Ladies' tee box at Bully Pulpit)...I mean hormonally supressed plant growth. Check out this article on Cybergolf.

Next, welcome golf writer J.J. Gowland to the Cybergolf family. Jill (as she's known to her friends), is also the author of Confessions of a sandbagger, a tale of bloody revenge to make the Bride in Kill Bill seem like a member of the Vienna Boys choir. Somehow, the club sandbagger ends up waste deep in the muck in a hazard and his victims use a gruesome combination of self-help aggression as a form of psychological healing. Cheater's justice as they might say in Vegas. Here's her latest piece.

Jill's from Canada BTW - so let's make today part of Canadian Golf Writer Awareness Week. Here's the Golf Observer article of my Golf Observer Colleague, Lorne Rubenstein.

OK Rob Thompson and Jeff Mingay...you're next on the tee box!

This will have to be part of a great "Canadian Golf Awareness Week" where we showcase great Canadian Courses. I'll put out the call now (If you ever wanna catch a wild Canadian, hide in the rushes and use the patented Canadian Call. The Call goes "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOLSOOOOOOOOOOOOOON! MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLSOOOOOOOOOON!")

You can also leave them a trail of hockey pucks to follow. Sheesh! Anytime they drop a puck in Edmonton nowadays, the fans take it as a clarion call to invade North Dakota.

And since I brought up North dakota, how bout a photo. Bully Pulpit, third green.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hawktree Golf Club - Bismarck, ND (Jim Engh)

3400 Burnt Creek Loop
Bismarck, ND

Architect: Jim Engh
Par – 72
EQ – 7/12
Diff. – 7/12
Design – Five and ½ stars
Natural Setting – Five and ½ stars
Conditioning – Six stars
Cost - $60 peak, $50 twilight and replay+ cart $15 per person
Value – Six stars
Overall – Five and ½ stars

Tees Yards Rating Slope

Falcon 7085 75.2 137
Hawk 6444 72.1 130
Eagle 5640 74.0 125
Owl 4868 69.7 116

When I told one New York City friend I was taking three days to play golf in North Dakota he looked quite bemused. He was actually polite enough to inquire if I perhaps had taken leave of my senses. When I assured him of both my sanity and my conviction in pursuing my trip to its conclusion he stood blinking vacantly for a few seconds, almost as if he were contemplating whether I was potentially dangerous. I was pleased to reassure him that North Dakota courses have won two best new course awards in the last five years (Hawktree in 2000 and Bully Pulpit in 2005 for those of you scoring at home), that there is as scenic a landscape as can be found anywhere in the country complete with horseback riding, hiking trails, fishing, National Parks and wildlife preserves and that North Dakota is no more remote for travel than Texas for most Americans.

He still didn’t believe me.

Too few people have taken advantage of all the wonders North Dakota has to offer. It’s like they actually believe things that could be headlines right out of that comedy newspaper The Onion:

“North Dakota really just East Montana, South Saskatchewan
“Area Nimrod actually bragging about going to North Dakota
U.S. to Canada: Trade you North Dakota for hockey pucks”
“Wife concusses husband with nine-wood for suggesting North Dakota for vacation spot”

All right I better quit the North Dakota jokes or Jim Engh, a native North Dakotan, will bust my head. Nevertheless, the secret is out – golf courses in North Dakota are claiming numerous awards for their stellar designs and unspoiled natural setting. North Dakota is no joke…and it’s dirt cheap.

Hawktree Golf Club in Bismarck is Jim Engh’s second solo design project and his first public effort. Engh, a one time North Dakotan, was thrilled to create a great course in his one-time home state. “I grew up riding on a tractor in my dad’s lap, so it’s nice to close the circle so to speak and come back home.”

The course is unmistakably Engh and, therefore, looks nothing like either Bully Pulpit or Links of North Dakota. Instead it’s Engh’s now familiar sidewalled fairways, bowl-shaped green settings (both of which give player-friendly bounces and help keep play moving) and squiggle-shaped muscle bunkers, this time filled with black slag, a burned coal by-product instead of sand.

As usual, Engh had to move a goodly amount of earth to accomplish his now trademark look and feel, in the range of 300-400,000 cubic yards. Engh is not a minimalist and his trademark rounded contours will never be mistaken for “natural,” but so what. He derives the basic themes for his holes from strategies and designs he imported from Ireland and Scotland. Even though the holes look different from anything you’ve ever seen before, they still test the same proficiency at golf as any other course. Sometimes the sidewalls keep a ball in play that would have been lost on another course and sometimes the sidewalls of the muscle bunkers are more severe than at classic layouts, but the variety is refreshing. Besides, people tried to sit on Mike Strantz’s originality when he first broke out and we all know how that turned out.

Engh has some other recurring themes in his work regarding routing that are present at Hawktree, as well as almost every other Engh course. He loves ending on a par-5 to increase the potential 18th hole swings in fortune and he loves giving players five par-5s and five par-3s in a round. As usual, the par-5s at Hawktree are all showstoppers. The fifth looks right out of Sanctuary with it’s squiggly fairway contours and severe uphill approach which tapers as you near the green. Seven features another Engh staple of the design repertoire, an expansive water hazard at the green ringed by a sunburst shaped bunker to “save” balls so they don’t bounce in the water. Engh has used this hazard successfully at Redlands Mesa (13) and Sanctuary (13) as well. At the closing hole, Engh tucks the green behind left sidewall mound. Approached from the left are blind and uphill, approaches from the far right will be clear.

Except for 3, you don’t get any break on the par-3s. Two are particularly long and all carry over scrub brush (the 8th, 180 yds. and 13th 208 yds.), another is all carry over water (the 15th, 150). Only the drop shot third, which plays to a green framed by four trees with an expansive view of the hills beyond provides a breather. Otherwise, the par-3s are “survive and advance.”

After the fifth, the long par-4 12th is the best hole on the course. 430 yards long, the downhill drive will reach one of several staggered landing areas. The hole then bends gently to the left and reveals a figure-eight green set on the edge of the hill over looking the vale of most of the rest of the back nine, and with the Northn Dakota hills beyond. It’s a singularly beautiful hole that requires your best drive and crispest fairway-metal or long iron to reach on regulation; a stout par-4, yet a charming one as well.

Engh gives you plenty of room off the tee to hit driver all day. The only exception might be the short, narrow par-4 16th. A fairway-metal or long iron will be played to an island of fairway between to brooks. A short-iron approach will be all that is left to a green set above a deep water-filled chasm.

As Engh’s work has progressed, his routings and individual hole designs have become even stronger. Hawrktree is primordial Engh. The greens are a little more flat than his later work and are not as varied in shape. Indeed, his greens are the flattest of North Dakota’s “Big Three.” Thus is by far his easiest public course to walk. It makes one reflect upon exactly how much of the “unwalkable” myth of Engh’s courses is owed to their extreme altitude.

Hawktree compares favorably to the other area courses. While it as not as strong 1-18 as Engh’s later work at Lakota (which enjoys an even stronger natural setting and more of Jim’s “Scottish flavor” holes) or Fossil Trace (Engh’s U.S. rejoinder to Eddie Hackett’s “Miracle at Connemara” – both of them managed to build a terrific public course on a tough plot of land on a shape string budget), it needs to be played if you’re in North Dakota.

Who knows? If all else fails, I could sell this story to The Onion. It’s right up their alley – “Lunkhead Golf Writer actually recommends North Dakota for golf vacation.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Links of North Dakota by Stephen Kay


5153 109th Avenue
Ray, ND

Architect: Stephen Kay
Par – 72
EQ – 7/12
Diff. – 7/12
Design – Five stars
Natural Setting – Five stars
Conditioning – Four stars
Cost - $50 peak, $35 reduced

Value – Five and ½ stars
Overall – Five stars

Tees Yards Rating Slope

“Five” 7092 75.1 128

“Four” 6639 73.1 123

“Three” 6242 71.3 119

“Two” 5650 68.6/73.8 114/126

“One” 5249 71.6 122

Architect Stephen Kay built the Links of North Dakota in a remote but pristine plot of land in the northwest corner of the state. The course sits bordering a gorgeous corner of Lake Sakagawea and meanders among heaving natural grass covered dunes. The course is only twenty-eight miles from the nearest town (Williston), but the landscape seems as primal as when Lewis and Clark walked there with the Lake’s Native American namesake exactly 200 years ago

Kay is an interesting figure. He is not only an architect but a professor and one of the game’s greatest historians. His other designs include, among others, McCullough’s Emerald Links, a tribute outside Atlantic city which is a collection of holes from UK courses and the Architect’s Club in central New Jersey, a collection of holes he designed in the style of revered architects such as Old Tom Morris, Alistair Mackenzie and Charles Blair Macdonald.

Kay is also a minimalist. Indeed LND embraces minimalism to such a degree, it feels like a throwback to the way was played many decades ago. Colorless rocks are used for tee markers with only bare wooden posts marked “one” through “five” to indicate the player’s teebox. Fences are mesh wire and dirt trails serve as cart paths. Port-a-potties are done over as wooden stalls (Stay calm…that’s the outside only! The inside is a modern convenience.) In keeping with the old-time spirit of minimalism, the course is an easy walk. The course’s rustic old world feel reminds some of Kelly Blake Moran’s work at Lederach in Pennsylvania, particularly the greens and their hurly burly contours.

Just like the great seaside courses of the UK and Ireland, LND has three primary defenses; the blustering west and northwest winds, the severe green contours and the undulating fairways which frequently present uneven lies.

The wind makes a joke of the listed yardages everywhere, but nowhere is the discrepancy more prevalent then on the par-3s. As a result, all four par-3s all test distance control. The short third plays severely downwind to a shallow green fronted by bunkers. Eight, while only one club longer on the card, plays severely into the wind and is fronted by a deep brush filled chasm and a savage, sod-faced bunker. Seventeen, while 184 on the card, plays two to three clubs downhill. Only the mid-iron11th is sheltered from the wind as it sits in a sheltered bowl. A bunker reminiscent in size, shape and location to the famed “Devils Asshole” at Pine Valley guards right hole locations. This hole also features a great hump in the green and other severe contours making it the most sevre green of the par threes.

The front nine plays out to the lake for the first two holes, then tacks inland to the best holes on the front, the short, downwind, reachable par-5 fourth and the long par-4 fifth which tacks back to the lake before finishing at a picture window green set at the edge of the bluff overlooking the water. The excellent long par-4 sixth plays along the bluff with the lake along the left side and a serene grassy meadow along the right.

The back features one terrific hole after another. The best hole on the course is 12, a murderously long par-4 (473/438/410) into the teeth of the prevailing west wind. The fairway slopes so severely right to left, everything kicks down a huge ridge to the left side. If you find a flat lie, please point it out so people can take a picture for posterity. Once on the green, the adventure continues as the green appears to be draped over the top of a hippopotamus with a gland problem.

The shortest par-4 on the back, thirteen, is also the narrowest hole on the course and plays severely uphill. Sixteen, featuring another picture window green, overlooks the broad expanse of farmland below and its terrific reverse Biarritz green with a long speed bump bisecting it lengthwise.

The back nine routing is perfectly symmetrical – 5,3,4,4,4,4,4,3,5. The excellent routing ensures the wind affects shots from many different directions, downwind, into the wind and varied crosswinds. The long par-4s on the back mostly play downhill but into the wind, the shorter par-4s generally play uphill but downwind.

With excellent green contours and inspired use of the land – the serene flattish landscape of the lakeside holes balanced against the rugged, rolling terrain on the inland holes, Kay shows how an outstanding course embraces the character filled undulations rather than flattening them and removing all interest. Even the blind drives over bunkers on two and four are an interesting challenge – particularly at two where bunker bisect the fairway diagonally from back left to front right.

If there is a drawback, the greens were far to slow the day I played and were a drop on the dry side. In keeping with the rustic feel, the fairways are left a little long, so the ball contains well on the severe ground undulations. Finally, the par-5 18th does not fit with the course. A great 18th is a summation of all that came before, but 18 here explores a completely new area of the course, the least interesting. It borders some guy’s ranch with OB all along the left and scuttles back to the clubhouse from the absolute rear of the property, completely away form the lake and the undulating terrain of the back nine.

Nevertheless, form the moment you walk in and see the wooden “No Coolers – violators will be hung” sign to the minute you dodge bison leaving the property in your ground transport, you know LND is the most natural course in the state.

The course is also colloquially referred to as “Red Mike” after an accused cattle and horse rustler. According to both local legend and the book The Wonder of Williams (as in Williams County, where the course is located), a group of vigilantes sought to rid the region of thieves. While out on one of their purges, they came across Mike camping in the wilderness.

The vigilantes tied Mike to a chair in the middle of what now is the golf course and lit a fire underneath him. They demanded he tell them the location of other thieves and their cache of rustled animals. Mike turned red while the fire burned but provided no information. They had to release him. Ever since, the area has been known as Red Mike Hill.

Pix: top, second green on the edge of the lake. Bottom, par-3 eighth

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Our great new movement in Golf Course Architecture

We are starting to see a peak in golf course design; an epic peak. It’s the kind of dramatic change for the better that we may not see again for an age but which changes much that happens afterward for the better.

Bandon Dunes, Tobacco Road and Black Mesa are not merely golf courses. They are part of a larger phenomenon; a movement away from over-marketing and price gouging, worthless, meaningless superlatives and self-aggrandizing billionaire developers. Playing these courses at the turn of the millennium, when they were young and raw and undiscovered was a singular experience. It was an experience which unified, galvanized and energized everyone who was there as a witness. It meant something. No explanation, no flowery prose, no physical memento can match the feeling of knowing that you were there at that time in that place and joined by others just as unified, galvanized and energized by the course as you were. It was as though our energy and love of the game had struck sparks and roared into flame time and again.

More than that, there was a fantastic universal sense among Golfers (true Golfers - capitalized, in italics – not merely people who play golf) that the philosophy underlying these designs had begun to spread.

We were winning. After decades in the dark, the tide had turned. There is now a sense of inevitable victory over the outdated and addled forces that have compartmentalized, overpriceded and homogenized our noble, egalitarian game. With men like Engh, Silva, Doak, Spann and Strantz and many others, (forgive me if I left your name out) we are riding the crest of a beautiful wave.

Now, with just a few dollars and a few days, you can head west or south or whatever direction and with the right kind of eyes, you too can see the crest of that wave – see the high water mark that has been set.

Happily, I do not doubt that many new courses will be built in the coming years that will require further exploration and analysis. In the meantime, it gives me great pleasure to think that generations of golfers will have a fuller knowledge of Tobacco Road, Bandon Dunes, The Rawls Course and Black Mesa to match their exposure to the greatness of TPC Sawgrass, World Woods and PGA West. Some of these courses you know well, but many may be obscure. You may have never even have heard of the existence of some. But each one is magnificent deserve full exploration and should be shared with as many people as possible.

Full many a flower may be born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air, but not if I have anything to say about it. That's why I am a golf writer.

The picture is 16 at Black Mesa outside Santa Fe, courtesy of Eddie Peck and Black Mesa.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Good work Media Guru, Eat Golf, Bogey Lounge, John Flemma fairway wood craftsman

Yes Geoff Shackelford and Rob Thompson are the Gold Standard when it comes to golf weblogs, but others have strong content and unique individual voices too.

Bogey Lounge and Hooked on Golf (aka the media guru) have been part of the Golf Blog family since near the beginning. Both blogs have grown into useful websites on a wide variety of topics from the tours to equipment to courses. They have also grown their brands...literally in Bogey's casey as he has the Brand Lounge. Media Guru started his my space for golfers project and as seen alot of success. I'm guessing Jam Boy had the kibosh put on him when he got a promotion. Shame he writes so little now - he and Golfers Muse were really funny. Where have you gone Musey? We miss you.

Towards the end of last year, we saw another spike in new blogs. While Texas Golf and GolfChick have carved out niches as really nice people and fun little reads (Texas - GREAT job reporting the Barton Creek sale!) and while Luke Swilor's Road to the tour makes for a good story, the cream of that crop is Rich from Cali's Eat Golf. Rich recently asked me to provide him with a review of my driver. I was happy to oblige and wanted to reprint the piece here so you'll all have something to read while I wing west to North Dakota with my fellow entertainment lawyer Jay Kogan. Here it is:

"You'll laugh but I'm a few years in the past with my Driver. I swing a Big Bertha Steelhead Plus I bought in 1999. I'm 5'7" and 134 lbs and a Hobbit sized guy needs to swing a Hobbit sized club - not a football helmet on a stick. It's a small roundish head with a steel shaft, but it feels great slipping into the slot and flies straighter than any Taylor Made I've used. I suppose when someone gets me a Titleist, I'll be off like a shot, but after a year of futility with Taylor Mades seraching for an extra 30 yds and only hitting 4 fairways a day, its was just common sense to trade back. I make up the lost ground now with my Pixl Wedge and Ping Pal 2 putter. Besides - Technology Schmechnology. It's not who can play with a tennis racket and a superball - It's who can play with a rake and an Easter Egg."

One last thing on golf blogs. I want to encourage every blogger who remembers him to honor Mike From Texas, one of the original golf bloggers and a great correspondent who passed away last year due to a heart attack on 6/3/05. My own remembrances are two: first, he had a singular sense of us being a community and strove to keep us together and writing often to and about each other. Sadly, while we have grown alot in the last year, the sense of interconnectedness and community has suffered some. I'll also remember Mike as being a huge fan of both Mackenzie and Mike Strantz. He got me to visit one of his favorite courses - Pasatiempo and I know architecture better for it. What are some of your favorite remembrances of Mike?

For those of you scoring at home, the rest of my bag is as follows:

3,5,7 woods - Perhaps the best clubs in my bag, this set are Tight lies knock offs for heads (Toski brand), with Paragon low torque shafts and Golf Pride Lite wrap grips. These were custom made by my 82 year old dad in the basement and not only do I vouch for them, but many players across the country too. From Bandon Oregon to NYC, people who tried my woods have called dad for a set. He makes other clubs, but his "Flemma Family Fairway Woods" are rightly famous for craftsmanship, quality and excellent value. One guy from Bandon pulled out my three-metal for his second shot on #9 at Bandon form about 265 out. He hit it on a trajectory I dream about - a penetrating ball flight. It dropped 8 fet from the cup and he made the eagle. He called dad in a couple days and bought a 3-5-7 set. Other "lunkhead entertainment industry golf buddies" (as I call them in my U.S. Open preview piece for Cybergolf), have ordered sets of two or individual clubs. I swear by my set and can't wait for dad to teach me to make 'em.

4-9 iron, sand wedge. Original Ping Eyes. Red. Circa 1983.

48 degree wedge - Wilson forged. Very little bounce and sharp blade.

52 degree wedge - Pixl with trademark and patented hexagonal grooves (hell yeah, it's legal).

Ping Pal Putter - vintage 1983.

New Jersey cracking down on steroids, performance enhancers, and Bethpage Red scores low

1. New Jersey will become the first state in the country to institute and drug testing policy for high school athletes. The program will screen random athletes for about 80 different designer performance enhancing drugs ranging from amphetamines to steriodal based old-style drugs banned for years. Final details will be released June 7. One state elected official, Sen Richard Codey was reported in the New York Post as saying "Taking steriods is cheating."

Nice to see someone gets the message, unlike ESPN, who empower and enable cheaters with their "Bonds on Bonds" series. Recently, Bonds graced us all with his magnanimity by reminding us "Barry Bonds has broad shoulders and can bear the burden placed on him. I forgive them for what they have done to me." Sadly, someone in Bristol is saying "Now that's great television!"

Oh, Playmakers, where have you gone?

2. Continuing our discussion of Greater NYC golf courses, Anonymous asks why I don't like Bethpage Red. As most of my readers know, I love the Black but believe there is only one course worth playing at the entire complex. See my earlier article for Golf Club Atlas where I wrote "Upon Further review, the play stands as called - I won't play the Red."

Here's my reasons:

1) A lack of interesting holes and a lack of variety in the holes. It is 18 holes of mundane parkland golf. OK...13 has interesting lines of charm with a waste bunker bisecting the fairway perpendicularly. And 1 is a stout par-4. And maybe the good conditioning wins points, but on the whole there is little that is memorable. 15 is a dog of a 90 degree angle par-5.

2) The Black is sitting mere feet from the Red. Therefore, the Red is the "wingman." Imagine, if you will, your best friend playing the Black while you're next door slumming it on a course you could find anywhwre in America in generally any city with speakable public golf.

As Hollywood Jack said to Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential "Oh, I see how it works. You get the girl, I get the coroner???"

3) With the exception of 13, there is nothing there I have not seen before.

Now, with regard to the Blue? I'd rather go to my law office and work all day.

So, I stand by what I said before to all my fellow architecture experts and golf writing collegues: If you wanna play the Black, I'll join you...if you wanna play the Red, I'll caddy for you but wil only play the 13th.

I'll play one hole with you.

There is one course there and it is Black. You keep your silly little Red and Blue.

The pix above are courtesy of Golf Photographer Chuck (Charles) Cordova of Forest Hills. Top pic is the par-4 6th, bottom pic is the par-5 4th.

Bethpage (Red Course)

Design: 3 and 1/2 stars (all ratings out of seven)
Natural Setting: Four stars
Conditioning: Five and 1/2 stars
Value: Four and 1/2 stars
Overall: Three and 1/2 stars

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More on North Dakota Golf, Hudson Hills, Wintonbury Hills

Here are some more details and links about Golf in both North Dakota and Minnesota. Jay Kogan and I will be reporting live from Bully Pulpit on Saturday with further reports from Links of North Dakota and Hawktree.

During the remainder of May, the team will pick off the few remaining stragglers in the NE/mid-Atlantic region - a mere four public courses, along with some stately Northeast private designs as well. Then in June its on to the U.S. Open. I'll report daily from the media tent for Cybergolf, and have follow up and extras here. I'll also have a new piece on South carolina golf for Golf Observer in June as well.

For those of you who liked my U.S. Open preview piece for Cybergolf, I'll be writing on the British Open next.

The Fall Tour begins with a huge bang. Besides a late August return to Pradera, in my not so humble opinion, the greatest of Jim Engh's great work, - to coincide with the Bowling For Soup Summer Tour Closer Concert...can you say mega-watt rock show? - plans are in the works for two enormous surprises on the private side...one new opening and one celebrated instant classic. While plans are not yet concrete, there is the distinct possibility of another epic "Rockers vs. Architects" golf event a la last January. The tour then returns east to...LONG ISLAND for two epic days. Deets coming.

October will bring the fall tour to a rousing crescendo with two days at Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham and St. Anne's and (possibly) Royal Birkdale. I'll also be proud to introduce you to two phenomenal sleeper courses. There are precious few British Open venues, but still plenty of world class golf in Great Britain and Ireland. In Northern England, Wallasey is a gorgeous sand duned seaside links and Alistair Mackenzie's Reddish Vale is a terrific heathland, inland course covered in colorful heather and with devilish, sloping greens and scenic green complexes.

Finally, "Anonymous" asks my opinion on Hudson Hills and Wintonbury Hills, two courses within a reasonable drive from NYC. While I feel they do not rise to the level of the courses I outlined in yesterdays posts (as their designs are not as strong and the value factor is a drop lower), they have some interesting holes form an architectural standpoint and are worth a days exploration for study. Pete Dye sketched the routing of Wintonbury for the town of Bloomfield for a dollar. With a relatively tight plot of land, he got some excellent holes - especially 14-16, excellent par-4s in particular. However not only do 1-3 play parallel to 10-12 - they look far to much like each other. 1 looks and plays like 10, 2 looks and plays like 11, etc. There are also two places where cart riders will actually be turned into the teeth of an oncoming golf shot (most notably 4...some chump nearly killed me with a push off a nearby tee. In contrast, I especially liked the stretch of 4-9 - several long par-4s balanced by a short par-4 at 5 and strong par-3 at 9. The conditioning is superb. I also love the blind tee shot on 16 - it's played at a scenic steeple.

Hudson Hills was recently renovated by Mark Mungeam and he rescued a really nice golf course. The front is the stronger side as the holes on the back play back and forth along each other.

Wintonbury Hills:

Design: Four and 1/2 stars (all ratings out of 7)
Natural Setting: Four stars
Conditioning: Six stars
Value: ($75 out of town) Three and 1/2 stars
Overall: Four stars

Hudson Hills:

Design: Four and 1/2 stars
Natural Setting: Four stars
Conditioning: Six stars
Value: ($75 out of town)
Overall: Four stars

Monday, May 15, 2006

Richter Park still offering great value to NYC golfers

Danbury, CT stills affords NYC public golfers something New York City cannot - a public golf course with an interesting design and at a fair price. You really don't need to patronize any of the $80 and up courses when you live in NYC. Alternate Bethpage (Black only), Richter Park in Danbury, Casperkill, Centennial (at twilight), and although Tom Doak will disagree with me, NYers still have a soft spot/blind spot in their hearts for their old favorite - The Monster at the Concord Hotel - and there is little reason to whimper. Each course gives you a chance to get out of the city, play some great golf and get a terrific meal without breaking the bank. The picture above is of the par-5 7th green at Richter.

Richter is a nice muni in good condition with some interesting holes, some beautiful views at a great price. (Around $62 in high season). Highlights include the two par-3s on the front, both all carry over water, one a shofrt iron, one a long iron/fairway wood. My pesonal favorite on the entire course is the long par-4 6th. The blind drive should start at the big tree on the right and draw gently toward the big tree on the left. The long iron/fairway wood approach to the elevated green will be played with the ball above your feet and cannot go left under any circumstances as the green drops 60 feet straight down to the edge of the river.

Looky-loos love to squeal about the fact that the par-5 12th green sits surrounded on three sides by water in the middle of the river. It is an inspired green setting.

If there is a weakness, it's the short par-4 15th. The tee shot calls for a draw, but unfortunately requires the shot to be played in the direction of the course's famous quicksand hazard. Expert deisgners always make sure they never ask you to START the ball AT a penal hazard and hope it curves away because its not fair if you hit the ball where you want, it doesn't curve ENOUGH and you incur a penalty. They would rather you go inthe hazard by hittin gto MUCH of a shot shaoe...not too little.

For those of you who never heard of Richter, you read that right - a nasty and downright dangerous quicksand bog guards the entire right side. They lost a bulldozer in it building the course.

Ss for food, you have two super choices. The course has terrific fish, steak and pasta at the in house restaurant. Ask for Tracey and tell him I sent you and you'll not only get a great meal and service, but some sterling golf talk as well. For those of you who have to hit the road, Rosy Tomorrow's, while having a godawful name, has the best sports bar fare and widest menu I have see between Stamford and Worcester.


Design: Four and a half stars
Natural Setting: Five Stars
Conditioning: Four and a half stars
Value: Six stars
Overall: Five stars

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tour Announcement - North Dakota

The team here at AWITP is heading out to North Dakota.

You read that correctly...there is indeed great golf with North Dakota. Jim Engh designed the 1997 best new course winner Hawktree in Bismarck. Mike Hurdzan just won bext new course for Bully Pulpit in Medora. Finally, at trails end Links of North Dakota (also called Red Mike for those of you scoring at home) architect and golf design professor Stephen Kay designed an excellent course.

All of them are less than $50.

What's not to like?

Also, we're very psyched to introduce Jay Kogan, Esq. of DC Comics as our partner in crime for this trip. Jay moderated the debate between myself, Stephen Kay and Bob Clarida of Cowan Liebowitz on can you copyright a golf hole back in October and, as general counsel to DC, is basically Superman and Batman's lawyer.

Ever wonder how Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the rest of the Justice League get out of having to pay for all the collateral damage they cause every time they have to kick Solomon Grundy's ass? (SOLOMON GRUNDY!) Ever wonder who keeps the Helen Thomas' of the world at bay when they try to skewer Commissioner Gordon or Chief O'Hara for cruel treatment of villains and terrorists and Gene Hackman? Jay Kogan.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Happy Birthday Nancy and Mom!

Happy Birthday wishes to two of my favorite women in the whole wide world! First, my mom celebrates her $%#@th birthday. You know how mom's are all a little strange? Here's one of my mom's idiosyncharies...nobody knew when the heck her birthday was. You see, a smudge appears on her birth certificate and the "3" which looks like a "5" was supposed to be a "3" but was interpreted as "5"...that is by everybody who didn't say "No, Jeanne, you were born on the 8th."

If you think that's confusing, try talking to to the relatives who said she was born on the 14th!

Anyway, all her life we celebrated on the 5th...except this year when she "officially" made us celebrate on the 3rd. In keeping with tradition, while we caught up on the 3rd, I'm posting on the 8th;);)

Her present? Golf at HIAWATHA LANDING!!!

Now, also Happy Birthday Nancy Carpenter. You read about her here. Who is she? Well to paraphrase Marti Dodson of the band Saving Jane:
She is the prom queen I'm in the marching band She is a cheerleader I'm sittin' in the stands She gets the whole bed I'm sleeping on the floor She's Miss America and I'm just the Guy next door:)

Cybergolf carries my U.S. Open preview piece

Thank to Jeff and Bob over at Cybergolf for carrying my U.S. Open preview piece.

Here's the link. Enjoy. Some short snipets are below...

On past U.S. Opens and the setup:

"At Oakmont in ’73, Johnny Miller torched the course that Sunday for a major championship record 63 (which he now shares with Nicklaus, Weiskopf and Janzen).

It was the greatest single Sunday score in the history of the majors.

Now before the 1974 Open began, USGA representatives were quoted as saying “The USGA does not retaliate.”

Maybe the Open sound byte everybody remembers is “we’re not trying to embarrass the greatest golfers in the world…” but the “retaliate” sound byte sure looks funny when you see the ’74 opening round scores. The leader was Gary Player alone at level par. Irwin, Watson and Palmer shot 73, Nicklaus shot 75 and Mister 63 himself, Johnny Miller shot 76.

“Does not retaliate?” My fanny! I’m surprised they got off that easy. With six to eight inches of rough, fairways only 23 yards wide and green speeds that topped double digits on the stimpmeter on some of the most severely pitched greens in the country, the pros never had a chance."

On the setup changes under the new regime of Mike Davis:

"Davis didn't go into specifics of how high each tier of the rough would be, but said, "We're trying to fit the penalty with the crime a little better than we have in the past, so the guy who misses the fairway by a little bit has a better shot than the guy who misses it by 15 or 20 paces." Additionally, on shorter par-4s the rough will be longer and the transitional rough narrower than on longer par-4s where there will be more room side to side.

This is an enormous departure from past Opens, where the straightest hitters and best putters won. Depending on the speed of the greens, this could lower the score in relation to par a small degree. Perhaps as low as -4…if the green speeds stay playable. That’s the other critical factor."

On lengthened holes:

At the 16th (previously 457 yards -- now can go back to a max of 485 yards). This hole never surrendered anything when it was 457 yards. The added length means driver for just about anyone in the field. The green has been added onto a bit but it's still designed for the shorter club as the hole generally is a par-5 for the members. That means it still will not be receptive to and contain hot low approaches with long irons and fairway woods. Whether the player carries a hybrid is a matter of the individual, but look for balls in the back of this green complex the first few days.

On Fuzzy Fezler making all Mamaroneck polite society swoon with "the shorts heard round the world:"

"Exhausted and baked by searing heat for a week, Hale Irwin’s winning score in 1974 was 287 – seven over, the course had played to par 70 that year– the highest score in relation to par in a major championship. It was good enough to win by two shots over Forrest Fezler who shocked the world not only with his tenacious play, but by changing into shorts on the back nine on Sunday to beat the ghastly heat.

When the Open returned in ’84, nobody remembered teasing Fezler about having, as one pro quipped “the best shins on Tour,” but they sure remembered the rough.and green speeds."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bobby Knight Golf Instructor - Glad he's not a doctor either

"This is an Emmy winner right here. You can write 'Tony' all over this." - Bobby Knight. Can you say "Bonds on Bonds..." Quick! Call John Eisendrath over at ESPN! We have a winner that's riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight up their alley!

Here is the link. ***WARNING*** Foul Language.

Why is someone googling "Fossil Trace golf cart girls?"

The cool thing about websites is you can see who's checking you out and what they were looking for.

Take this for example. While doing a routine check on what people were googling when they found me, someone was searching...get this..."Fossil Trace golf cart girls."

Come again??? Why on earth would somebody be googling that? What did they expact to find? A pinup calendar? Is there some contest I don't know about?

Crazy thing is somehow my site comes up first....the search picked up my interview with Jim Engh as having "Fossil Trace," "golf cart" and "girls."

Thank you word based search engines.

Nevertheless, Jim Hajek! Call your office! And keep a sharp eye out for over testosteroned lunkhead golfers...moreso than normal!

Shut up already Charles Barkley

ESPN thoroughly disgusted me and betrayed every ordinary citizen ever burdened with any kind of addiction when they rolled out Charles barkley to offer "expert analysis" on, get this, he gambles too much money when he loses.

Could someone point me to any poignant analysis in the disgraceful rant that followed? What exactly are we supposed to have learned by the fact that he gets free passes from hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt the rest of the world would be whacked over? What horrors has he looked in the face? Like losing a family...or going bankrupt...

What possible good did he and ESPN do when the proffered this as the answer...spend a little less money each hand...

Its a good thing for us they're not doctors.

No, we get sold snake oil...just like ESPN's stance on Bonds and steroids. Very quickly, the world...through a glimpse only ESPN had the "courage" to show...we learn how banal and racist and indeed mentally disturbed Baroid Bonds really is. They and they alone are counting Bonds' flawed totals and they and Bonds and the few knee jerk fans can shiver in their little psychological igloo if they day he passes Ruth ever comes...let alone Aaron.

ESPN can mouth all they like that steroids are bad, but then the agenda goes back to empower the athlete, enable the bad behavior for the sake of today's headlines and a few paltry sales more or confused, addled eyeballs.

Worldwide leader in sports? My fanny. Worldwide leader in getting and glorifying the most insensitive ego-centric lunkheads and getting them to say the most offensive lowest common denominator sound bytes.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pix of the redan (number 11) at CC Charleston

I dont have time to do a full blown piece today, but two quick things need to be addresses. First, in case anyone is confused from OLD pictures of CC Charleston...those wings you see? On either side of the bunker. Those were MEANT to be the green when Raynor designed it and will be again. The green got smaller over decades as the green got cut smaller and smaller. The green once wrapped entirely around the bunker...and will again.

Now, these pix are of Number 11 at Country Club of Charleston - their rightly famous Redan. So deep the bunkers, so severe the slope and so dramatic the false front that this hole even bequiled no less a personage than Ben Hogan so that he snarled from the "mumble tank," "Well you have 17 great holes here..."

Monday, May 01, 2006

CC Charleston, Golf Observer, and the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot

Hat's off to Sal Johnson at Golf Observer for doing a great job with my Tobacco Road - Pulp Fiction piece. It's here.

I'm particularly keen on the photo captions...like "They had a hi-fi phono. Boy did they let it blast!" Enjoy...I had a lot of fun writing that one. Thanks to all my architecture friends who were my test market...you guys are brilliant.

Also, thanks to the Cybergolf guys for posting my Rawls Course piece.

For the future, my 2006 U.S. Open preview piece will by at Cybergolf in about two weeks, maybe less. I'll be covering the tournament for them in June and will have at
least two pieces a day.

For Golf Observer, my next piece will be a review of Brian Silva's restoration of Country Club of Charleston. For a little taste, here are pix of the great "Lion's Mouth" Green complex, located at the 16th hole. Notice how the gaping maw of a bunker
sits almost totally encircled in sand. Now also notice how you THINK you are snookered if you're on one "ramp" and the hole is on the other. But also look at the amazing slope from back to front! So you can actually SPIN a putt from one ramp to the other and leave yourself 5 - 12 feet for your two-putt.

Amazing...just like the contours that aid you in getting around the bunker or rough at 7 at Crystal Downs, 6 at Riviera and 14 at Black Mesa. We think the only other one like it in the country is at St. Louis Country Cl;ub, but my sources are scouring books to check that.

For those keeping score at home, I paced off 26 yards from front to back and from side to side. here about three-four feet of elevation change from front to back. Typical of the goemetric...almost baroque work of Seth Raynor. You'll also get a Cape Hole (with an interesting historical twist!), a great redan, a biarritz with a twist (the swale is a false front!) and other staples from the repertoire of National Golf Links of America. Enjoy.

More to come at www.golfobserver.com.