Pinehurst #2 Review — Don’t miss a green on the wrong side

Pinehurst #2. What to say, what to say. It’s been so tough to figure out what I wanted to say about #2 that I haven’t written this review until over 3 months after the Four Ball. And it’s even so tough now that I’ve been sitting here a while without knowing how to start.

TL;DR

After writing the post, I have a summary to share. Pinehurst #2 is somewhat of a bland course in terms of hole distinction and differences in important shots. But it is impressive in difficulty in that basically every bad shot, especially approaches, is penalized. This makes it an ideal home course if you’re trying to compete since every shot requires perfection, and every other course you’ll play will seem easier.

The Beginning

I guess the first thing to say is that my dad and I played #2 back in the day and were featured in the Pinehurst newspaper the next day. Don’t believe me? My mom found it can snagged picture of it before the Four Ball. This was from almost 10 years ago now, and holy crap were clothes baggy back then. Oof.

Holy baggy rain pants. It was pouring, pouring rain so much then that barely anyone went out and played. We were unsure if we’d do that ourselves, but not like you can reject playing #2 when down there. I actually remember when this picture took place. We walking up to the second green and a car stopped on the road that cuts between the 2nd green and 3rd tee and a dude with a camera stepped out. We walked up to the green, said he’s from the local newspaper and wanted a picture of us on the green to prove that people were playing the course despite the crazy daylong downpour. Fun times.

Besides the second green, I remember a few other parts of the course — 16 because of the pond, 17 because of the semi valley from the tee to the green that was just all that bermuda style rough, and 18 approach shot because I stuffed this hybrid to a foot or so and had a tap in birdie.

When playing earlier this spring, the course was a 1000% percent different. Somewhat because I bogeyed 18 instead of birdieing it, but also because of the unbelievably perfect weather, spring warmness, no clouds, no sogginess, and different type of missed fairway penalty.

With the intro over, it’s time for me to go through all the thoughts I have on the course.

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2017 US Amateur Oscars — Riviera, Bel-Air, and More!

Welcome to the 2017 US Amateur Oscars. I played like garbage with a dumb attitude during the tournaments, but hey! doesn’t mean I can’t give out the awards from the US Am!

I consider myself the host of these awards, but I don’t have an intro speech with jokes, even though I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about all the celebs who are members at Riv and Bel-Air, but can’t come up with any. Because of that, I’ll just lead off with the award for the best picture taken with a cell phone.

Best Picture Taken By a Contestant with a Cell Phone

Hello from LA, hello from Riviera, hello from the US Am, and the hawk says hello as well. #USAmateur #golfonthemind

A post shared by Golf on the Mind (@golfonthemind) on

Best Tournament Course

Riviera of course. And this isn’t just because it hosts a Tour event every year, but mostly because it really is one of the best tournament courses I’ve ever played. Here come the reasons.

My requirements for a tournament course are 1) All the holes look different enough so you play it once and remember every hole, and 2) no funky holes. I keep talking about how requirement number 1 is the key for any course to be considered good in my book, but number 2 is required for a tournament course. I won’t list here courses that host tournaments that violate those rules, but they exist in majors and on Tour. In Riviera’s case, it perfectly follows both the rules.

Proof that it follows the first rule – I played Riv 6 years ago back  in the college days, and I remembered the vast majority of the holes and their routing. And that’s not because I see them on TV during the Tour event.

And there aren’t funky holes out there. Some people might consider the par 3 6th as funky, because of the bunker in the middle of the green. Or maybe the par 4 8th with two fairways split by a waste area. But they’re not funky in the sense of required luck. When you hit a shot on those hole, you know where you can’t miss and where it’s ok to miss.

If you hit a bad shot you’re penalized, a good shot you’re rewarded. There are very few, if any, parts of the course where a bad shot stays in play. Throw in how long the course is (I had more irons 6 and over than I did wedges into par 4s, which is the first time in forever I remember that being the case) and you’ve got the perfect course to host a tourney.

Straightforward difficulty folks, that’s the best tournament course.

Most Enjoyable Course

I still haven’t figured out my exact definition of enjoyable course, probably something along the lines of which course I’d pick if I only would be able to play one from now on. Bel-Air wins the award on that definition.

Here’s some of the reasons.

  1. Bel-Air is easier, but not by much. It averaged ~1.2 strokes less than Riviera, but still averaged +4. Courses that are too easy definitely are on the opposite side. Courses that are too easy wouldn’t be on the enjoyable side, but compared to Riviera, I need something slightly easier to play all the time.
  2. Tunnels throughout the course. This includes, for example, the tunnel from behind the dumb (see the worst Bel-Air award below) 16th hole’s green to 17 tee. A volunteer told us members compete to see who can throw/roll their golf ball farthest down and closest to 17th tee. Sure, the tunnels are just connecting the course between the hills, but that’s a fun aspect you don’t see much. (Also, I won the competition in our group!)
  3. How about the celeb parts of the course? Like on the hillside to the left of number 4, which was the cave where Tarzan lived in the first Tarzan movie. The 8th hole were Howard Hughes once landed his plane to impress Katharine Hepburn. Or the original Bachelor Mansion to the left of 11 tee (which I can’t confirm cause I never watched that show back then, or even at all).

It’s not only those parts of the course that make it enjoyable; the design is fantastic. After playing these two George Thomas courses, he’s very high on my list of favorite course designers.

Best Hole at Riviera

Like most of these awards, it’s difficult to pick the winner for the best hole at Riv. In this case, I’m going to pick one of the more straightforward holes which I’m a big fan of. I’m go with number 9.

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Expect a perfect shot, and be surprised if it isn’t

The video below has the CBS coverage of the ending to this year’s Masters. If you want to relive the excitement from the ending, feel free to watch the entire clip, otherwise, fast forward to the 41 second mark which shows Justin Rose missing his birdie putt on the 72nd hole which would have forced Sergio to make his ~4-5 footer to tie.

Did you see his reaction? If not, here’s a screenshot of what he looks like after missing that putt:

Gasp!

Story Time

During my sophomore year in college, I’m like 75% sure I had the lowest putts per round average in the 2010-2011 NCAA season, at least against teams who kept their stats with Golf Stat. I’ve been trying to confirm or deny that but can’t find the past stats from the site. One of the biggest reasons for that is because I averaged something like 10 GIR per round which meant I needed to drain a lot of putts to keep the scores somewhat low. But despite how badly I hit the ball, I did drain a ton of putts.

The specific moment I’m talking about here was at the 2011 NCAA championship at Karsten Creek in Oklahoma, which played incredibly difficult then with the long bermuda rough and woods on every hole which meant a lost ball if it got anywhere near the forest. It was the 16th hole (my 7th) in the first round where this memory comes to life. I missed the fairway on the par 4, had to whack it out of that rough, and then whacked a garbage wedge shot to something like 30 feet past the hole.

I remember walking up to the green incredibly relieved to finally not have to hit any more full shots on this hole, and knowing, legitimately knowing, that I was going to make that for par. It was this downhill somewhat sliding putt that I read, stood over the ball knowing it was going to drop, and never had a doubt that it was going in.

I’m not lying by saying that over the putt. I knew that I was going to make it. And if it hadn’t, I’d have been surprised, just like Justin Rose above.

The Correct Attitude

It’s difficult to convince people here what the “correct” attitude on a golf course is. On Tour, there are club slammers (Jon Rham), there are giant fist pumpers (TDubs), small fist pumpers (PMick), there are expressionless players (DJ), caddie complainers (Bubba). For me, I slam my club too often (my b), but I’ve only mini-fist pumped twice in my life (both on the last hole of a US Am. qualifier when I knew I’d made it), and can’t say I complain to my caddie since I pretty much never have one (shoutout to Grant!). And those different on course attitudes can definitely suit people with different overall attitudes.

As the title of this post says, my advice is to always expect a perfect shot, and be surprised if it isn’t. I can claim I have proof of why this attitude is perfect from that NCAA putt, but I look back and wish I had extended that attitude from the putting green to all shots.

I cannot push this enough. When watching the Masters this year that showed Justin Rose being surprised rather than angry with his missed putt, I finally knew I had a way to prove that at least one of the top 10 players in the world has this attitude. And I’ll guess that others do as well, but we just can’t see it.

If you’ve read all the way down to the bottom of the post here, you need to use this attitude.

Tobacco Road Review — The Most Enjoyable Course I’ve Ever Played

When you go to the Tobacco Road website, you see a beautiful, sunrise picture of the par 3 8th green, the fairway of the par 4 9th hole in the background, and the following quote:

“HIGHLY DECORATED
NEVER DUPLICATED.”

When talking about my favorite golf courses, I always tell people that the only feature that I need to see to be a fan of the course is that I have to be able to remember every hole individually after playing the course once. I need novelty, distinction, uniqueness, some other synonym of those words, and I don’t care at all if the course follows the rules of other courses.

Tobacco Road nails all of my requirements, and if I had to choose one course I’d play the rest of my short life, it would be Tobacco Road.

The Beginning

“It’s a beautiful course and even though I haven’t seen all 18 holes of many courses I could tell it was unique. I also liked ringing the bells when you left the fairway”

– My sister Sara, when asked her initial thought of Tobacco Road

“I figured you were writing a review but did not plan to be quoted ha”

– My sister Sara, when asked if she knew I was going to use her quote in the review.

“i REALLY did not expect you to use my second gchat hahah”

– My sister Sara, messaging me on gchat, after looking over the post and seeing her quotes.

I’m not sure when I heard of Tobacco Road for the first time, either way, when my sister and brother-in-law flew down to NC for a 3 day weekend to play golf back in February, I told them to head to Tobacco Road to check it out, and frankly knew how much they’d like it (and by they I mean both of them because my sister wasn’t playing, but she rode along in the cart). I also made sure to have them post a pic from the course, and obviously they went with the approach to the 13th green.

Fast forward a few months to the end of May when Mike and I (and couple caddie friends) were down in Pinehurst for the US Four Ball.  Mike and I missed the match play cut, so we had an extra half a day before our flight back home, which meant that all four of us got a tee time at Tobacco Road mid morning, starting on the first tee.

I mentioned just above how an Instagram picture of the 13th hole approach shot is a frequently posted picture from the course. Another of the three main pictures is the view from the first tee to the fairway. Hills with shrubs for lost balls on both sides just before the landing area make it slightly intimidating, but they are also something that you’ll rarely see. Now, I’m lucky that I can hit drivers pretty far, far enough that from the back tees I can get so far over the hills that the fairway widens up enough. For those who don’t hit it as far, don’t worry, the fairway is still decently wide.

Rip D

You’ll find this view nowhere else. On to descriptions of course features!

Semi Bucket Greens

Moving about 300 yards from the first tee to a 220 yard approach shot, the first green is a great example of the semi-bowl greens that are common to Tobacco Road. From the pic below, you can see the slope from the left side of the green over to the right. Looking at the bunkers on the right, you can see the slope to the back left of the green, and the slope from the back left to front right. A green that’s a valley.

It’s a very common feature of Tobacco Road (and exactly opposite of Pinehurst numero dos), and slopey greens make you need to know where to land the ball if you’re looking for a tap in birdie.

Such a beautiful course.

In my case, after a well hit driver off the tee and over the left hill (which is where to aim since the opening of the semi-bucket green is the left side), I hit a cutter 4 iron that fed down to the hole a decent amount from where it landed to 30 feet away, and I ended up 2 putting for a birdie.

These semi-bucket greens do make the course easier, but difficulty is not at all what I’m looking for when picking a course to play over and over and over, and neither is a feature that can help lower your score. The thought of landing areas and the excitement of seeing the ball roll to the hole, combined with the uncommonality of this feature, is the experience I want.

Doglegs where you choose how much to cut off, aka Loop Holes

If people start talking about this type of architecture as a Loop Hole, I’m getting credit for inventing the term.

When playing Tobacco Road, one of the main things you’ll see here are holes with giant, waste-area-bunkers between the tees and the greens, and a giant fairway that wraps around the entire thing.

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PGA Tour Stat Analytics Part 1 — Are the Strokes Gained PGA Tour stats correlated to scoring average?

Welcome to the GOTM analytics series! Here’s where I’ll keep writing posts about stats from the PGA Tour and how they affect results, courses, players. I have a background in computer programming, love scraping data, and grabbed a bunch of data already from pgatour.com meaning it’s time for a series of posts where I analyze stats on Tour. If you want to look at the method and code that I wrote to snag this data, you can check out the post on my other blog, Big-Ish Data, specifically this post.

Considering there are tons of different ideas on golf specific stats, I decided to write golf posts here, and leave the other blog for more specific programming topics.

If you have other ideas for Tour stats analytics, hit GOTM up on Twitter and I’ll see what I can do!

And to start out, I just want to say that this post violates Betteridge’s Law because the Strokes Gained stats are very impressive at determining scoring averages, and defining which parts of the game players are good at.

Strokes Gained

Part 1 of the series here is analyzing the importance of Strokes Gained.  So what is Strokes Gained? Take a look at the PGA Tour’s press release. If you’re looking for a more technical explanation of strokes gained, read this article.

Basically, they know the average number of shots it takes a Tour player to hole out from a specific distance. They count the number of shots it takes a player to finish the hole from that distance, and then credits him for + or – strokes from the average, with a positive number indicating he is that many strokes better than the average. Then they add his strokes gained from the four different parts of a hole: 1) off the tee, 2) approaching the green, 3) around the green, and 4) putting. The total of those four is his total SG, but SG can also be broken down into the four components.

As an example, let’s look at Daniel Berger:

  1. Off the Tee: Berger ranks 39th, with an average of +.416.
  2. Approach-the-Green: Berger ranks 18th, with an average of +.595.
  3. Around-the-Green: Berger ranks 152nd, with an average of -.136.
  4. Putting: Berger ranks 25th, with an average of +.462.

To get Berger’s total SG, we add up all four averages to find a total SG of +1.337 which is exactly what the stats show for him here!  (Note that these stats are updated weekly, so depending on when you read this, the numbers may not match exactly.) Super cool, and fantastic to show different places where players are better, and where they probably need to practice more. Based on these stats, Daniel Berger may want to focus more on shots around the green, since his average there is pulling down his total SG.

The goal of this analysis is to answer questions about the SG stats:

  • How good is the Strokes Gained stat at predicting scoring average? (In case you’re wondering right now, it’s really really good).
  • Which of the strokes gained values is most correlated with a player’s scoring average?
  • If you have four different players who are all +1 strokes gained in each of the four different SG stats, which one would you expect to have the lowest scoring average?

Analytics terms defined

Before getting back to the golf stuff, I want to talk quickly about two terms you’ll need to be familiar with for the rest of this article to make sense: normal distributions and r-squared.

The scoring averages on tour follow a normal distribution, like this:

So normal.

Look at that! So pretty. In this case, the average scoring average is 70.923 with a standard deviation of 0.591. This means that 68.27% of player’s scoring averages are between (70.923 + 0.591 =) 71.514 and (70.923 – 0.591 =) 70.332.

Before running analysis on stats, it’s important to make sure they’re normally distributed. Clearly the scoring average stats are normally distributed, and so are the strokes gained stats, as I’ll show quickly below.

We’re good to go on that front!

One last definition to mention that I’ll talk about a lot is the coefficient of determination, also known as r-squared. You’ll see me mention this a lot. R-squared values range from 0 to 1, and the higher the r-squared value, the more correlated the data sets. And since all the data sets we are using are normally distributed, these numbers are correctly comparable.

SG: Total

When looking at Strokes Gained stats for the first time, I decided to check how correlated the SG: Total stat is with Scoring Average. Checking that there’s an initial indication of how correlated these stats can be. When I saw the following graph and how correlated the numbers are, I knew this was a great part of PGA Tour stats to analyze.

Look at how incredibly, dead, freaking accurate this is! The r-squared value is an impressively high at 0.926, and just by looking at the graph, you can see how correlated those dots are.

Another quick test to see how valid this regression is by checking that fitted line on the graph. Using the equation of that line, if a player has 0 strokes gained total will probably have a scoring average of ~71.079, which is very close to the average scoring average mentioned above of 70.923. Since the slope of that line is -0.96, it means that adding one stroke gained in total, your scoring average will drop by 0.96 strokes. Not exactly 1, but so close that it proves how correct that data is.

Ok, now time to test the more specific SG stats.

SG: Off-the-Tee

In case you’re not sure how golf works, the first shot you hit on a hole is off the tee. And in this case, the SG stat measures performance using all tee shots on par 4s and par 5s.

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Pinehurst #8 — Course Review — Not Hashtag 8, but Number 8

i’ve completely forgotten that course
having only been out there once
i remember 16 is uphill
from running that laser up to the group in front lol
– Grant Freitag, friend, and caddie for the week

Ahh the US Four Ball. We got lucky this past year for this the tournament. First was that our qualifier in the north was back at the end of September, which meant that my partner and I had the whole summer to get decent at golf rather than having to try to qualify in spring while rusty after time off from the winter. Second, this was the 3rd year of the event which meant that we got to play at Pinehurst, which was redesigned to host US Opens more often in recent and coming years.

Hosting the event at US Open courses was a great move by the USGA. The US Four Ball is a new event that took over the Pub Links (pour one out). As such, they got US Open courses to host the first 3 years of the event as a means of bringing the event legitimacy. We failed to qualify the first two years when the events were at the private clubs of Olympic Club and Winged Foot, but getting to play the public Pinehurst Resort, #8 and #2 turned out just as great.

This post is about #8, and it’s somewhat tough to describe the quality of the course. Am I supposed to give it a rating out of 5 stars? 10 stars? Compare the two Pinehurst courses and talk about which one I’d rather play? Talk about which course I’d rather play compared to the other courses I’ve reviewed? It’s a beautiful, decently tough, very great tournament course. If I’m picking a course I’d want to go play with friends who want to have some good bets, I’d pick this course.

TL;DR

Slightly off site from the other Pinehurst courses, which means more elevation change and a different feel. Classic Tom Fazio design which makes it and absolutely great course great to play.

This is the review for Pinehurst #8.

Different holes and big elevation change

lol I don’t want my quote at the beginning to make it seem like the course wasn’t memorable
I was just so stressed that first 9 about not fucking up that I wasn’t exactly as focused on the course and each shot haha
– Grant Frietag, after reading this review for the first time

There are two big things I like about courses. 1) Every hole and the routing is different, meaning that after a single round you’re able to remember what every hole is. You won’t have trouble recalling which hole was which. 1.5) I love elevation change, both because it’s fun to have to think about clubs to hit, but also because it makes it easier to remember each hole! If both of those things occur on a golf course, I’m a big fan, no matter the “quality” of the design.

Taking pics of the course and showing how easy it is to remember the hole difference is decently tough, so here are a bunch of pictures showing the fantastic elevation changes. Here we go!

Let’s start with the third hole. This is the approach shot up the giant hill to a green at which you can’t see the bottom of the pin. I didn’t take a picture of the drive on the hole which would show the elevation difference on the entire hole, but you can see the change here.

Purdy clouds.

Here’s the instagram picture of the 4th hole I posted, a downhill iron approach shot after a downhill drive, where, if you have the correct aim point on the drive, you’ll shoot it down the fairway and have a wedge in.

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GOTM Practice Series #7 — Worst Ball Putting

This is the seventh entry in the GOTM Practice Series. The goal of all the entries in this series is to not only to describe practice drills, but also make sure you know how to practice with the right mental attitude, something just as important as the physical act.

It’s been a while since the last post in the practice series so figured I should add more in the coming week! People always talk about how you need to have the correct mentality when practicing, and this drill is a great way to force that mindset.

How

 

Use two balls on each putt, and after hitting both from the same location, choose the hardest putt you left yourself with, and then hit both next putts from that location until you make both putts. Basically, imagine it’s a worst ball scramble on a putting green.

Play a 9 hole “course” where you pick an new type of putt for each “hole”, and keep score with how many over par you are. After, play 9 holes again and focus on beating your score from the first 9 holes.

What to Focus On

The big key here, besides focusing on each putt (which is something I’ll talk about in a different practice post), is to watch your first putt, adjust the break that you read for your second putt. Helps you figure out a read correctly, and also makes you focus on the second putt because there’s no excuse for that putt to be further than the hole than your first. And as I mentioned above, this really helps make you focus on putting as if you were competing on a course.

We-Ko-Pa Review Part 1 — Saguaro, which is a word that took me so long to learn how to spell.

The Phoenix area has plenty of 36 hole resort courses — Troon North, Greyhawk, Talking Stick, and in this case We-Ko-Pa. And if you’re in the area looking to pick one to spend a 36 hole day at, I can’t totally suggest which one to make tee times at, but playing a full day at We-Ko-Pa will never be a bad choice.

Story time From the Morning

From the AirBnb we were staying at in this baller little community in Phoenix with sweet looking one-story houses and tons of palm trees, we had about a 40 minute drive to the course. Now here’s some advice when you’re deciding which tee time to make. If you have the option of 7:40 or 8:50 tee time, you gotta pick 7:40. Biggest help of the day is that we didn’t have any traffic to the course which definitely would have been an issue for the 8:50. And if you’re playing 36 holes in one day, early tee times give you more time between rounds and also make sure that your first rounds cruises since you won’t have too many groups in front of you. (Also, if you’re playing golf in the morning, make sure to stop at a Dunkin and get a sausage-egg-and-cheese-on-a-sesame-bagel and medium iced coffee with cream and sugar. Perfect breakfast in my opinion.)

I got to the clubhouse at 7, paid, looked at all the apparel they have there with the We-Ko-Pa logo, and walked out to my cart to find my bag already loaded. Time to note one of the best things about We-Ko-Pa: they have so many carts that they don’t care if a group is using three carts by themselves. Granted, golfers are usually so nice that getting paired with randos isn’t a big deal if you have to share a cart, but it usually takes a little while to become friends with playing partners, which means sitting quiet and awkwardly at 7:30 in the morning isn’t completely ideal. Oh also, you’re not required to bring the cart back after your first round, which worked out perfectly because the We-Ko-Pa carts are charged enough so they won’t run out of energy when playing the entire 36 holes.

At 7:10 I drove up to the driving range which is a giant field with two levels of tee areas, really good grass, and pyramids of golf balls. Grass was in excellent condition and the range has a great feeling not only for warming up, but it also an ideal practice range. Considering I’d been hitting the ball like trash the past week (and past month really), I decided to just hit as many balls as I could before the round rather than hit a few putts to figure out the speed. This was the best decision ever for me considering I finally, finally figured out some swing thoughts and was hitting the ball way better than before. Remember people… keep your head down with your eyes looking straight at the ball, and stay in posture as much as you can, then you’ll hit it great. With that said, hitting putts beforehand is probably something I also needed to do considering I had four 3-putts that first round and thought of a GOTM Tip of the Day.

While I was striping the range balls for 10 minutes, a ranger called my name and asked if I wanted to tee off at the 7:20 tee time with the players who were already on the first tee of the Saguaro course. Since I didn’t know who I was supposed to play with for either tee time, I said screw it and was off to the first tee.

Somewhat Philosophical

One thing to mention here is the length of time I take before I write these course reviews. In this case, I played at We-Ko-Pa about 3 weeks ago and I definitely wasn’t willing to write this review right away, even though I did have opinions about the course on the drive back to the AirBnB. When you do anything, such as playing a new course, going to a store to buy new clothes, thinking about changing to a new job, listening to new music artists, you’ll right away have a first impression either positive or negative. Over time, your reactions can change and there’s nothing wrong with that. Stop here before you keep reading and try to think of something that you’ve started in the past and initially loved doing, but you began to view more negatively over time. Now think of something you weren’t a fan of initially, but then became a favorite of yours. Talking about your early opinions happens so much that you need to label those as initial opinions so people know those can change.

A great example of this type of modeling for reviews is YouTube user BIGQUINT who has tons of entertaining videos about his opinions of rap / hip hop albums with over two hundred thousand subscribers. If you want some examples, check out his review of Frank Ocean’s Blond(e) (I’m a huge fan of the album). The first three quarters of that video is his initial reaction to all the songs on the album with him dancing and talking about the difference between songs. During the last quarter of that video, he talks about his full reaction after listening to the album “25 to 50 times.” Another one of his great reaction videos that’s a few days old is about Kendrick’s new album DAMN. (I’m a big fan of that album too). Considering Kendrick’s album had so much hype that BIGQUINT felt the need to post a video about his initial reaction right away, he’s splitting up his initial reaction video with another one coming for his full reaction. First reactions exist, but those can change over time. Another example of the mindset is from this New Yorker article about the NYT restaurant critic, who mentions how he goes to all the places at least three times before being able to write the review.

On my end, these reviews that I’m writing here are somewhere in the middle — I’ve only been able to play the courses once, (they’re in different parts of the US, somewhat expensive, and need to make sure to make tee times in multiple days), but I also take my time before writing about them so I have full thoughts and am not just talking about an initial reaction. Sometimes when I’m writing, I even imagine I’m out there on the same holes again, this time hitting perfect shots. My initial reactions count, but these articles are my full reaction.

Allll that being said, my opinions of the Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa are exactly the same as I had the day I played out there. So sometimes opinions don’t change. Time for the full reaction on Saguaro!

TL;DR

Saguaro is a tournament style course, full of mini-doglegs that require thoughts about what to hit and where to aim off the tee, and full of changes in fairway and green style depending on how long the hole is. These types of designs constantly require correct planning and shot selection, which is ideal for tournaments and adds thought to a round of golf that you won’t usually find on other courses.

Mini-doglegs!

As I mentioned just above, one of the first things you’ll find on tournament courses are something I’ll call mini-doglegs. Overall, doglegs come in two styles. The first is the ‘standard’ dogleg which you’ll often find on tree lined courses, especially up north. Hit your drive dead straight with whatever club makes you stay just short of the end of the fairway, and then hit your second shot something like 60 to 80 or even 90 degrees to the right or left. Famous examples of holes like that are number 11 at Augusta National (drivers straight since it takes a lot of driving distance to fade it around the corner), 18 at Augusta National as well, number 1 at Brown Deer (course I play all the time), 15 at TPC Sawgrass, 8 at Erin Hills (check out the US Open there this year, though there is a slight possibility for hitting drives over the hill, but keeping it in the fairway that direction is very tough).

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Streamsong Blue — The Colors of the Wind Part 2

Part two of the Pocahontas themed review of Streamsong Golf Resort! If you’re just seeing this for the first time, I suggest you go back to part 1 and read that first so you can read about the Red course and how we spent the morning at Streamsong. With that being said, I’m going to just jump right into talking about the Blue course, the differences between Blue and Red, and then a bunch of pictures and descriptions of the holes out there!

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TL;DR

Part two of the review of Streamsong, this time Blue. Yes that sentence was meant to rhyme, and yes the course costs more than twenty thousand dimes, but when you have time, climb the hill to the Blue’s first tee, hit your drive and hit your approach shots carefully.

the Blue Course

We weren’t sure if we’d be able to play the Blue course in the afternoon after the Red due to the early sunset in March and how many groups had been teeing off that whole day. We checked with the guys at the pro shop who said we were pretty much free to hit the course when we were ready, but weren’t able to confirm we’d be able to finish before dark. After thinking about it, Mike and I headed out to the Blue course around 2:15 that afternoon.

There are two main differences between the Red course and the Blue course.

First, where the Red course had obstacles on the “safe” side of doglegs, the Blue course has wide open fairways. Thinking back, there are so few holes I can remember that literally don’t have fairways wide enough to catch every drive no matter how off center you hit it.

I’d like to expand a little on this type of design. There’s actually a reason for this style of course – it forces golfers to strategize about where to hit each tee shot, as opposed to holes that are straightforward (pun intended). Furthermore, the wide open nature of this style gives poor players a chance to keep the ball in play. This applies to both fairways and greens. There were plenty of times where I drove the ball too far to the wrong spot on the fairway that I wasn’t going to be able to get the ball close to the pins.

This whole explanation is summarized more succinctly by a quote from the famous Alister MacKenzie, most likely about Augusta National (MacKenzie designed, Jones owned).

We wanted the fairways to be wide so that every class of player could find a way to navigate each hole. The good player should be able to create an attractive angle for his approach with a drive into the correct spot. And the lesser player should be able to easily achieve a bogey without any undue stress.

This is exactly what I saw going on at the Blue course in terms of fairways — tons of holes with giant fairways that I was able to hit with crappy drives, but often made it incredibly tough to get the second shot close to the pin even if I was striking the ball perfectly. The Red had some holes like that as well, but the fairways were never close to as big as Blue’s.

Second difference between the courses is how the Blue course’s greens differ from the Red’s. Blue greens were much more of a classic, somewhat circular look, but with slopes and dropoff areas that make it tough to get the ball close, bringing three putts into play, while I mentioned in part 1 that the Red course had a bunch of giant and multi part greens.

Also speaking of MacKenzie quotes, here’s one about how long it takes to play golf.

Golf courses are becoming far too long. Twenty years ago we played three rounds of golf a day and considered we had taken an interminably long time if we took more than two hours to play a round. Today it not infrequently takes over three hours.

I have no issues with course length cause I like them being longer since I’m lucky enough to hit it pretty long, but give me those two hour rounds!

Time for course description and pictures. Again, if you want more pictures only slightly more pretty, look at the hole by hole tour on Streamsong’s website.

The first hole is a drivable par 4. From the tee box, you had a great view of a bunch of different holes on each course as well as the clubhouse.

Hole 2 is a par 5 with a mini fairway that requires careful consideration. Due to how downwind it was when we played, I hit two 3 irons to get it near the green. Both holes 1 and 2 had plenty of safe room near the green, but it was difficult to get up and down which left me with pars on both.

Holes 3 and 4 are both similar, uphill dogleg lefts with water to the left side of the fairways. Here’s the tee shot on 4, with bunkers on the safe side of the fairway that are ridiculously far to the right making the fairway really large, as discussed earlier.

And here’s what the approach to that green looks like. Being uphill and having a hidden view of the green are two things that make close approaches difficult.

Moving onto the 6th hole, another another drivable par 4 with the widest open fairway I’ve ever seen on a drivable par 4. This hole basically becomes a par 3.5 in a tournament setting. On the tee, you’re excited for a chance to make birdie, and should retire from golf permanently if you don’t. (Joke.) Having that mindset is key if you’re looking to score well.

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Streamsong Red — The Colors of the Wind Part 1

it good

MD Mueller

Don’t be confused by the title of this post because the courses at Streamsong Resort have nothing to do with Pocahontas. But the courses there have colors as names (Blue and Red), and when Mike and I played there recently it was super windy thanks to a cold front coming through. Also, GOTM went to a Disney-themed trivia night at a bar at home and we knew none of the answers other than the one about Colors of the Wind, the main song in Pocahontas. Also also, my sister and girlfriend sang that song using the karaoke system that was at our AirBnB the night after we played. So if you want to listen to that song while you read about how great the Streamsong courses are, here’s the link for listening on youtube. If you watch that music video, Pocahontas and John Smith do go swimming in a stream at one point, so that’s also a Streamsong.

At first I planned to review both the Red and Blue courses in one article, but I had too much to say and too many cell phone quality pictures to share, so I ended up breaking them into two posts. If you’re looking for part 2 of the review, meaning of Streamsong’s Blue course, check out the review here.

With that being said, here we go with Streamsong Red!

TL;DR

It’s incredibly modernly classic, and totally worth paying and playing. If you don’t want to read this awesome but very long article, that’s cool, but the pics are worth it and provide a good summary.

The Beginning

The day after I played 36 holes out at World Woods, MD Mueller flew down to Florida and and we drove an hour from our AirBnB on some highways, some back roads, and a somewhat long tiny road where the speed limit is 20 mph, and made it to the courses at Streamsong Resort.

Many modern resort courses, such as Bandon Dunes, Cabot Cliffs, and Sand Valley, require similar drives. All these places are decently far from any big city, and each of them has a large amount of beautiful land on which to build some of the best modern courses in the US – Streamsong included.

Similar to Victoria National in Indiana, Streamsong is built on what used to be a mine, creating plenty of hills and valleys and even lakes. When you walk out the back side of the Red and Blue courses’ pro shop / clubhouse  you see a few holes and the lakes and sand hills from left to right.

There are currently two open courses — the Blue designed by Tom Doak and the Red designed by Coore-Crenshaw. The course routes are close to each other and slightly intertwine. Actually, the sixth hole of each course returns to the clubhouse, allowing golfers the option to play a 12-hole course made up of the first six holes of each Blue and Red. And they even have a scorecard for the 12-hole option!  As of now, the Black course is almost done and will be open for play in the fall of this year.

The Red and Blue clubhouse is absolutely beautiful and looks almost like a modern apartment building. It’s made mostly of glass, is somewhat tall, and includes a restaurant / bar and a pro shop on the inside.

We were able to play 36 of the 37 holes currently open (with the 37th being the bye hole, a par 3 near the clubhouse to help groups that need a playoff hole to settle their bets) right after a cold front came through, leading to highs of mid 70s and super windy conditions with gusts around 25 mph. During the main season for the Florida resort, they have rules about no carts on the courses meaning that we were walking the entire day. This wasn’t an issue for me because apparently I’m in good shape, while Mike was riding the struggle bus at the end.

The first round on either costs about $225, and if you play 36 holes in one day like we did, the replay rate is around $150. Considering how highly ranked these courses are, we found the cost to be expensive but fair. The most expensive courses I remember hearing about are Pebble Beach for around $500, Pinehurst #2 for about $400 (Mike and I get to play there a couple times for free this year after qualifying for the US Four Ball this May), and I think Doral raised its price to about $400 as well for some reason which is dumb since that course isn’t that amazing. I digress.

Before our morning tee time for the Red course, we hit a few balls on the driving range with well-maintained bermuda grass. The range is downhill so you can see where every ball lands. Next to the driving range, we hit a few pitch shots on the very high quality pitching / chipping green  – super large with plenty of flags, which reminded me of Michigan’s practice area from back in college. In case you’re wondering, that’s exactly the type of green that you should look for if you want to get better at chipping and pitch shots.

As for the putting green next to the first tees, there was great grass again which did end up matching all the greens on the course, but for some reason there were no holes, only those wooden sticks they put in the green that have a like a real hole, but really don’t do much for you. After hitting a few putts at these sticks, it was time to head to the first tee.

The Tee Time

Here’s a pic of that first tee shot. See those bunkers? The one on the right is about 400 yards out – talk about depth perception issues. Also see how the entire right side of the landing area is open? I thought that too, so I hit a slice off the first tee to avoid the left side bunker. Turns out one of the few lakes on the course is actually just hidden by the mound to the left of the tee. A cut is still the type of tee shot to hit on the first in case you were wondering, just don’t slice it too much.

Butter cutters, always

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