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!

Pocahontas GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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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World Woods — Odd name, worth the trip

In general, all Florida courses are the same — they’re flat, have mini lakes everywhere with cattails everywhere, and they have houses on all sides of every hole. World Woods is not like that.

The club is based an hour north of Tampa, meaning that the land is as hilly as a course in North Carolina. There are a few lakes, but definitely not a main part of the course. And luckily, you’re not able to see any houses to the side of any hole (incidentally, they do have stay and play villas, but they’re 6 miles from the courses). Oh, and Tom Fazio knows how to build unique and tournament-esque courses, both of which you’ll find at World Woods.

Despite the name of the club, I was a huge fan of playing out there. Being a single player, I got paired with a father and son in the first round who were really friendly. We were one of the first groups off in the day and we cruised around so quickly, never had to wait, and we never cause the group behind us to wait either. We got along so well that we even decided to flip tee times for the second round of the day so we could play together again. Unlike the first round however, the afternoon round was packed and slow. However, this was not a big deal because the weather was (somewhat) warm, and we were in carts which makes 36 holes super easy.

I’ll admit, I’d never heard of World Woods at all before I got a suggestion to play there from the guy I played with earlier in the week that Palm Beach par 3 course, the first full day in Florida. I hadn’t heard of the club before, and wasn’t exactly sure about the quality considering how unique, and frankly odd, the name of the club is. Which is funny because there’s another famous club in Florida with an odd name, but more on that in a later post.

Now, if you ever talk to someone who’s played the courses there, expect the following quote where the player tries to make it obvious that they’ve played there, and that they know what the designs of the courses are.

Oh yeah, World Woods, I’ve played there before. Really cool courses. One of them is designed like Augusta National, and the other like Pine Valley. I could totally tell that was the case on my own when I was playing the courses, because I know a lot about what those top courses are designed like. And I’m definitely not claiming that because I was told about the comparisons before I played. I figured that out on my own.

This quote is a lie. If anyone ever talks about playing World Woods, the first thing they’re going to say is that Rolling Oaks looks like Augusta National, and Pine Barrens is designed to look semi like Pine Valley. Which means that 1) they’re only saying it to try to seem smart, and 2) make you think that they know course designs better than you. Incidentally, this is also the first thing that I’m writing about the courses here, so I guess I fall into that bucket of “being smart about course design” as well. My bad.

Though these differences are actually the case, Rolling Oaks does look like Augusta National does on TV cause I haven’t actually played there unfortunately. They both have wide and beautiful sloping fairways, wavy greens the way that basically every MacKenzie course is designed like, and bunkers that have the same edges that you’ll see at the Masters. Pine Barrens on the other hand has slightly tighter fairways, surrounded by more pine trees along with smaller greens, and more wide and semi-waste area bunkers, which I assume Pine Valley is like because I’ve never played there either.

TL;DR

  • Two courses
  • both different enough to be distinct
  • slightly far away from main areas in Florida
  • cheap enough to be a great deal compared to other courses in Florida, ~$170 for playing 36 in one day
  • and if you go, plan on playing 36 holes in one day. You get a cheaper replay rate and can bolt afterwards.

Considering I hadn’t heard of World Woods before, and also wasn’t exactly sure when I’d be close enough to that area, I just called them a few days before my round and was given a tee time on both courses within less than a minute of talking to a guy behind the desk. I rolled up early in the morning, went in and paid for the first round. Like I mentioned above, the courses themselves are really cool and in great condition, but damn did that clubhouse look like one at a not-too-expensive municipal course. Or maybe a clubhouse that courses build cheaply while constructing their fancy / giant clubhouse that most courses of this nature have. I’ll take great courses over a great clubhouse however, so I didn’t mind that at all.

I hit some balls, went over to Pine Barrens course before the starter realized they told me I was playing Rolling Oaks for the first round, so I drove over to Rolling Oaks…

Rolling Oaks

… aka Augusta National. We started on the 10th hole and I instantly I agreed that the course very much has a look like Augusta. 10th hole is a long par 5 with giant fairway, which is good for an opening drive, that slopes down and to the right, all the way until you have a 100 yard uphill third shot to a green that has two bunkers on both sides of the front part of the green which make it look very much like the 2nd hole at Augusta National. Check out the green in this instagram post.

I also took a picture from the back of the 10th green that shows what the fairway was looking like from.

Smoothness on smoothness

Not only did the first hole look like something that could be at Augusta, but pretty much every other hole did too. For example, here’s the 15th hole with another bunker and green combo that shouts “you’re not in Florida, you’re at Augusta”.

If you ever play this hole, don’t worry, there’s tons of green behind the bunker so going long is probably better than short and in the bunker.

The signature hole of Rolling Oaks here is frankly a little odd in my opinion. It’s the 8th hole, our second to last of the morning, a downhill par 3 with a mini lake that looks added into the hole for funsies. The rest of the holes looked natural and similar, and this hole green was just thrown in there because why not.

Fake looking lake IGOTMO

Couple notes about the course. None of the bunkers have rakes surrounding them, instead you’ll have a mini rake in your cart that you’re supposed to bring to every bunker shot. Luckily, I only forgot to bring the rake back to my cart once.

The greens on the course are super smooth, look great, but are decently slow. Half of that is based on how slopey the greens are and greens that are too quick would make putting annoying, and I’ll assume the other half of that is Flo-rida based courses with tons of play and people walking all over. Here’s a tip though if you’re on the course: play more break on your putts. The final three feet of basically every putt we hit snapped at the end and we kept missing low. If you know this about the greens, and you make some more putts when you’re playing RO, hit us up on twitter and give us the assist.

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Golf Course Design Identifiers — Pete Dye

Pete Dye is just one of the most distinct modern day architects. It’s possible to play other courses and know who was the designer based course features, but Pete Dye courses are the most simple to recognize.

Recently I was in Florida and played a few courses around there. The second to last course I played was the Pete Dye course at PGA Village. During the Instagram story , I started commenting on what to expect from a Pete Dye course because of the obviousness of his design. In the image I posted after that round (below) I mentioned some of those same things and compared him to Pablo Picasso which is somewhat random.

Because of how easy it is to know you’re playing a Dye course, I figured it would be useful to write down and add some pics of all of the features of a distinct Dye course. Some of the pictures here are mine, and other I found just poking around on the internet. All of them have links back to where I found them, along with who gets credit for the image itself.

TL;DR

  • Wood Planks / Railroad Ties
  • Long fairway bunkers between fairway and hazard
  • Plenty of Mini Bunkers
  • Greenside bunkers with giant lips
  • Double dogleg par 5s
  • Difficult 18th holes

If you have other pics from Dye courses and want them in this post, hit us up on twitter with them, I’ll post them in here if they’re good and link back to your twitter account as well.

Keep in mind here that these things are not the case with every Dye course in existence. Dye’s original courses were different from the most recent ones, and many of the different parts of his courses came about by copying the ideas from designers before him. He has an interesting article here from a book he wrote outlining his design philosophies. One of his first comments about his philosophy is about Radrick Farms course in Ann Arbor, which I played so many times back when I was on Michigan’s team with practice rounds and even a tournament there my freshman year. When I first thought of Dye courses, I knew that Radrick Farms didn’t exactly fit with these current features, and his comment about the course proves that true.

When we began to build our first important course, the one at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, we favored the style of Robert Trent Jones, the leading architect of the time. We copied his technique of building long tees and large bunkers alongside big sloping greens at the university’s Radrick Farms course.

In another quote from that article he discusses his designs of Crooked Stick where he takes greens from UofM’s main course, an Alister McKenzie design, and uses them on Crooked Stick.

So I got a chance to build back in Indianapolis. Nobody else would hire me, so Alice optioned some ground and raised some money, and we started Crooked Stick. So I brought the two greens from the University of Michigan out there to Crooked Stick, that’s the 14th and 15th, that belonged to Mr. McKenzie

Wood Planks / Railroad Ties

Starting with probably the most well known feature on so many Dye courses is him (or his wife) using planks of wood all over his courses.

Starting with the 13th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links, and using a quote from his speech, Dye made a comment about the start of him using boards on the bunkers.

Going behind all this, I was getting a little back, and my bride was there, Alice was there, and I said, Ally, we’re getting behind and this tournament is coming down the line. I said, there’s a good bulldozer operator named T.P., can you take him over to the 13th hole and do something. So she disappears and goes over there, and I came back three or four days later and here the tees are built and the bunkers are built. And she was smarter than I was, she didn’t use those railroad ties, she put cypress boards outside of the bunker.

And here’s an image of that 13th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links, by Golf Course Gurus.

Considering Harbour Town was one of Dye’s first courses back in 1969, him using boards on the course appear everywhere. Very often in bunkers, but also on greens and fairways as well.

Here’s the 11th hole at Whistling Straits, giant bunker in front of the par 5’s green with wood on the face of the bunker. Note the size of that giant greenside bunker, description of that coming later.

How about the third hole at The Golf Club, New Albany, Ohio? Multiple bunkers, and even space between bunkers is guarded by wood planks.

There are plenty more bunkers on basically every course Dye designs, so again, send pics over on Twitter if you have them from your favorite Dye courses.

Long fairway bunkers between fairway and hazard

Another big, common feature about Dye courses, that isn’t seen too often with other designers, are long and thin fairway bunkers that are between the fairway and a water hazard to one side of a hole. The idea of these bunkers, first off, is that they look very pretty. And second, they somewhat act as a both a guard for a ball not going in the water if it’s rolling in the direction away from the fairway, and acts as a penalty if the ball is landing just in safety after flying over the water.

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#GolfRules2019 — What the USGA and R&A are Thinking

Here we are folks! New rules that are suggested by USGA and R&A! A little ago, there was some info on possible changes and we wrote an opinion piece on the rules that were leaked. Now the full information of rules changes for 2019 just came out online and on the Golf Channel, however, when looking through USGA and R&A websites, neither of them had a web page that just straight listed the changes. Each of their sites made you click a bunch, and had odd images along with the words.

So figured, to help everyone out on this Wednesday morning, I’d copy and paste the info for the possible changes so you don’t have to click a lot. If you do want the full info however, go here for the R&A coverage, and look here for the USGA. Otherwise, just quickly read the possible changes that I copied and pasted. Look for opinions from GOTM coming soon as well.

When Things Happen to Your Ball in Play

Ball at Rest Accidentally Moves

  • Accidentally moving your ball while searching for it: There is no longer a penalty.
  • Accidentally moving your ball or ball-marker when it is on the putting green: There is no longer a penalty.
  • New standard for deciding if you caused your ball to move: You will be found to have caused your ball to move only if that is known or virtually certain (that is, it is at least 95% likely that you were the cause).

Replacing a Moved or Lifted Ball

  • New procedure when you don’t know the exact spot where your ball was at rest: You must replace the ball on its estimated original spot (rather than drop the ball at that spot); and if the estimated spot was on, under or against growing, attached or fixed objects (such as grass), you must replace the ball on, under or against those objects.

Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected

  • Your ball in motion accidentally hits you, your equipment, your caddie, someone attending the flagstick for you or a removed or attended flagstick: There is no longer a penalty (such as when your ball bounces off a bunker face and hits you).

 

Taking Relief

Dropping a Ball in a Defined Relief Area

  • Relaxed dropping procedure: The only requirement is that you hold the ball above the ground without it touching any growing thing or other natural or artificial object, and let it go so that it falls through the air before coming to rest; to avoid any doubt, it is recommended that the ball be dropped from at least one inch above the ground or any growing thing or object.
  • Defined relief area: The ball needs to be dropped in and played from a single required relief area (whereas today you are required to drop a ball in one area, it can roll away and you need to re-drop if it rolls to any of nine specific places).
  • Fixed measures define the relief area: You use the fixed distance of 20 inches or 80 inches to measure the relief area (no longer using one or two club-lengths); this can readily be measured by using markings on the shaft of a club.

Lost Ball

  • Reduced time for ball search: A ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current five minutes) after you begin searching for it.

Embedded Ball

  • Relief for embedded ball in the general area: You may take relief if your ball is embedded anywhere (except in sand) in the general area (which is the new term for “through the green”), except where a Local Rule restricts relief to the fairway or similar areas (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).

Ball to Use in Taking Relief

  • Substituting another ball: You may continue to use the original ball or substitute another ball, whenever you take either free relief or penalty relief under a Rule.

 

Rules for Specific Areas of the Course

Putting Green

  • Putting with flagstick left in the hole: There is no longer a penalty if you play a ball from the putting green and it hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.
  • Repairing damage on the putting green: You may repair almost all damage (including spike marks and animal damage) on the putting green (rather than being limited to repairing only ball-marks or old hole plugs).
  • Touching your line of putt or touching the putting green in pointing out target: There is no longer a penalty if you or your caddie does either of these things, so long as doing so does not improve the conditions affecting your stroke.
  • Replacing your ball if it moves only after you had already marked, lifted and replaced it: Anytime this happens on the putting green, you replace the ball on its spot – even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason.
  • Your caddie marks and lifts your ball on the putting green: There is no longer a penalty if your caddie does this without your specific authorization to do so.

Penalty Areas

  • Penalty areas expanded beyond water hazards: Red- and yellow-marked “penalty areas” may now cover areas the Committee decides to mark for this purpose (such as deserts, jungles, or lava rock fields), in addition to areas of water.
  • Expanded use of red penalty areas: Committees are given the discretion to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate).
  • Elimination of opposite side relief option: You are no longer allowed to take relief from a red penalty area on the opposite side from where the ball last entered the penalty area (unless a Committee adopts a Local Rule allowing it).
  • Removal of all special restrictions on moving or touching things in a penalty area: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments (such as leaves, stones and sticks) or touch the ground with your hand or your club in a penalty area.

Bunkers

  • Removal of special restrictions on moving loose impediments: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments in a bunker.
  • Relaxed restrictions on touching the sand with your hand or club when your ball is in a bunker: You are now prohibited only from touching the sand (1) with your hand or club to test the condition of the bunker or (2) with your club in the area right behind or in front of the ball, in making a practice swing or in making the backswing for your stroke.
  • New unplayable ball relief option: For two penalty strokes, you may take relief outside the bunker by dropping a ball back on a line from the hole through where your ball was at rest in the bunker.

 

Equipment You’re Allowed to Use

Damaged Clubs

  • Use of damaged clubs: You may keep using any club that is damaged during the round, no matter how it happens (for example, even if you damaged it in anger).
  • Replacement of damaged clubs: You may not replace a damaged club, unless you were not responsible for causing the damage.

Damaged Ball

  • Substituting another ball for a cut or cracked ball: You may substitute another ball if your ball in play on a hole has become cut or cracked while playing that hole; but you are no longer allowed to change balls solely because the ball has become “out of shape.”

Distance-Measuring Devices

  • DMDs allowed: You may use DMDs to measure distance, except when prohibited by Local Rule (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).

 

How You Prepare to Make a Stroke

Alignment for a Stroke

  • Expanded restriction on caddie help with alignment: Your caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind you from the time you begin taking your stance until you have made your stroke.

 

Promoting Faster Pace of Play

  • Encouraging you to play promptly: It is recommended that you make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds – and usually more quickly than that – once it’s your turn to play.
  • Playing out of turn in stroke play (“ready golf”): This has always been allowed without penalty, and now you are affirmatively encouraged to do so in a safe and responsible way for convenience or to save time.
  • New alternative form of stroke play: The Rules recognize a new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play, where your score for a hole is capped at a maximum (such as double par or triple bogey) set by the Committee, so that you can pick up and move to the next hole when your score will be at or above the maximum.
  • Other changes to help pace of play: The simplified dropping procedure, reduced time for ball search, expansion of penalty areas, greater use of red penalty areas and ability to putt with the flagstick in the hole should all help pace of play as well.

 

Standards of Conduct and Trusting Players Integrity

Insisting on High Standards of Conduct and Trusting Player Integrity

  • Playing in the spirit of the game: New provisions are added to reinforce the high standards of conduct expected from all players on the course and the Committee’s discretion to disqualify players for serious misconduct.
  • Code of player conduct: Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for the breach of standards in that code.
  • Elimination of need to announce intent to lift ball: When you have good reason to lift your ball to identify it, to see if it is cut or cracked or to see if you are entitled to relief (such as to see if the ball is embedded), you are no longer required first to announce to another player or your marker that you intend to do so or to give that person an opportunity to observe the process.
  • Reasonable judgment standard: When you need to estimate or measure a spot, point, line, area or distance under a Rule, your reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if you did all that could reasonably be expected under the circumstances to estimate or measure accurately.