I have owned plenty of types of putting mats over the years. Usually they are small, cheap, and allow you to hit 6 footers mostly flat on the ground until a ramp of foam at the end allows the ball to drop into a circle of emptiness that can be considered a hole. The biggest problem with those putting mats is that it never feels like you’re hitting an actual putt on a real live green.
When I first was finally able to check out David Roesch’s indoor learning center for this winter, besides the three net set-up with a couple simulators, by far the most impressive thing I saw there was this large putting mat frame that allows you to adjust the amount of break. So my brother-in-law and I decided to make a version of that ourselves.
Because of the fakeness of most mats, we want a mat that has the feel of an actual putting green and allows us to hit different types of putts in a basement or garage. With our finished product, we can hit full putts over 10 feet (and of course shorter as well). We have aluminum holes that make the sound you expect when making a putt on a course. We have enough width where we can hit from various places and it doesn’t feel like the same fake putt over and over. We also have fake turf that’s by far the best I’ve ever used.
There are more than a few of these types of these large adjustable mats out there that you can buy around or over the $10k price point. The one we built ended up costing $1,152.63. It isn’t cheap cheap, but as you’ll see in the list of costs at the bottom, a large chunk of that is from reusable tools. Our next version of this will cost much less.
The goal with this post is to tell people what we did, what we learned, what we’ll do differently in our next version, and convince others to build their own.
The first step is to figure out the dimensions of the mat. This mostly depends on size of the empty floor you have available. For us, we were able to clean a 14×6 foot rectangle of space in the basement.
Thoughts on sizing: 6 feet wide is pretty comfortable. We’re able to stand on either side of the hole and hit a putt without being uncomfortably close to the hole or the edge of the mat. This is great because I’m standing about the same place as I would be if we were on a practice green hitting between holes. Going down to 5 feet wide – or maybe even 4 feet wide – is a possibility.
That said, bigger is better. For our dimensions, we ended up stretching as far as we could within the space. I think our initial guess was 12×5, but after moving around some things Mike had in the basement, we were able stretch the dimensions. Remember, this mat isn’t going to be moving. It’s heavy, we’re not looking to bring it with us when we travel, and there’s really no downside to making it as big as possible.
Finally, we decided to have only two holes on the mat in a symmetrical way. Each is in the center of the 6′ width where the back of the hole is 20″ from the end. We decided on 20″ just because, so don’t feel like it needs to be closer or further away. We thought of adding a couple more holes to add more options, like on the low side of the mat, but the 6 foot width is enough to let us hit varying shorter putts so the single hole on each side is more than good enough.
With the dimensions figured out, the next step is to build the frame. This was the biggest part of the build and the one that caused a couple unforeseen issues down the line. Next time, we’ll know how to get it right the first time, and likewise for people reading, don’t feel bad if you make mistakes too.
I mentioned above that we’re not looking to move the putting mat, but at some point, we might want to. Therefore, we decided to make the frame in two identical pieces, each 6’x7′, and connect them in the middle using bolts.
Here’s a final picture of the first half of the frame. Hopefully this picture is big enough so that you can get a sense of how we constructed it. Three of the outer edges have two long 2x4s screwed together, and the edge closest to us in the picture has a single 2×4 because this is where the two halves of the frame will be connected to each other.
To build this first half, we did the math to determine the number and the lengths of the 2x4s that build the of the frame, making sure to keep in mind that 2x4s are 1.5 inches thick which clearly will affect the lengths. This step will depend on the exact dimensions of your frame. If you look at the corners, there’s a bit of a zipper connection between the edges. Cool, but not important enough to make a difference in the overall structure.
One afternoon in 2011, while sitting behind the 9th green at Erin Hills to sign our scorecards after finishing playing our first round at the US Amateur, our group was legitimately looked down upon by a standing USGA ranger who asked us why he shouldn’t give us a penalty for slow pace of play. We had finished the par 3 9th a few minutes beforehand where I’m pretty sure we all missed the green and tried to get up and down which I did from one of the front bunkers by making a 6 footer. On the hole before, the snap dogleg 8th, a guy in our group missed the fairway to the left so we all walked around looking for his ball in the fescue before we were able to go hit ours. Because there was a lost ball to search for and we finished on a difficult par 3, we were then asked why we didn’t deserve a penalty.
Spin forward 6 years, and my brother-in-law and I were playing in the 2017 US Four Ball. During our first round on Pinehurst #8, on the long par three 13th hole, the guys we played with had trouble off the tee and through the green. After finishing the hole, we were told that we were behind the allotted 14 minute time limit, so we had earned ourselves a pace of play warning. We walked to the 14th tee where we sat down on the bench because we were waiting for the group in front of us to move towards the green. That’s right, we got a pace of play warning from the USGA and had to wait on the next tee. All because we played a long par three that some in the group had trouble on.
This writing isn’t just about the USGA and their feeling and enforcement of the pace of play. Slow pace of play is a huge issue these days, and keeps getting pushed higher and higher in talking points. How bad is the problem? What are the fixes? We all have thoughts, but the possible solutions are not straightforward at all.
Why write about this?
Last week at the end of the Euro Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic stop (and before Bryson’s comment about being happy to play the Saudi event), Euro Tour twitter posted a video of Bryson talking to his caddie about a shot on the final hole of the event. It’s a minute and 13 seconds from the time he begins talking to the caddie to when he hits the shot. He discusses lots of things like distance, landing spot, and air density, which I assume was because he knew he was being recorded and wanted to push his “scientist” branding image even further.
People took off on trashing him in replies to the tweet about how slow he is and how much he overthinks his wedge shot. I tweeted this response, which I’ll now somewhat retract. Clearly Bryson’s wedge shot should have been hit quicker considering it was a wedge shot with complete lack of outside elements.
Brooks Koepka was interviewed a couple days after, where he said “I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball; it’s not that hard,” and “It’s always between two clubs. There’s a miss short, there’s a miss long. It really drives me nuts, especially when it’s a long hitter because you know you’ve got two other guys, or at least one guy that’s hitting before you, so you can do all your calculations. You should have your numbers. Koekpa continued to say “If it’s blowing 30, I understand taking a minute and taking some extra time with some gusts, you know changing just slightly, I get that, but if it’s a calm day there’s no excuse.”
Not just Kopeka, others on Tour seem to all be of the same opinion of Bryson’s slowness.
In the Bryson video’s case, the slow play is because of overthinking the slow shot process. This is a problem, yes, but Koepka brings up the number one cause for slow play that I see most often: Difficulty.
What causes the slow play?
Similar to the DeChambeau video, the Euro Tour posted this video of Ian Poulter and his caddie’s conversation last year. . The timing of this video is kind of ironic since it was the week after the Euro Tour’s shot clock tournament where they enforced a time limit. People complained about the time it took him to hit the shot, but not as many as complained about Bryson. Poulter’s shot plays over 210 over water to the green with a big wind blowing. You’ll also notice Poulter is +3, meaning that the course is playing pretty hard. The stronger the wind, the more it takes to ensure you’re hitting the right club.
Besides wind, firm course conditions is another weather aspect that slows down play completely. Approach shots must really be thought about in terms of how short and where to land it compared with flat, wet ground. That takes time. Also if you’re reading this, remember that landing distance is the distance you should be thinking about, not necessarily the distance to the pin.
Course design with difficult green complexes can slow down play. Elevated, slopey greens are a great example. A missed green then brings into play imagining the putt or chip with the swales and roll outs. From there, pins placed in slopey areas lead to more 4 footers for par rather than tap ins. You’re going to spend more time over that 4 footer.
The final big cause of difficulty is the amount of trouble on a course and how long it takes to search for a ball. This is a huge part of slow play on public courses. Huge.
One of the new rules for 2019 which I’m not a fan of at all is limiting for searching for a ball from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. This doesn’t affect guys on Tour because of the spotters and fans in the area and, well, the fact is that they hit it pretty straight.
For public players, they don’t follow that rule to begin with. Never has anyone pulled out a cell phone to start a timer to ensure the search doesn’t go beyond 5 minutes. People have different opinions on how to deal with search. Some throw a new ball down relatively quickly, following the local new rule about (knee) dropping in the fairway where the lost ball was estimated to end up. Others take their sweet time either enjoying not wanting to lose a ball, or playing in a betting game where every shot counts so they want to try to find the first. And then we have to add how many times we’re searching for multiple balls on the same hole but different sides of the hole.
Maybe that’s why people keep pushing for courses to be wider with less rough and no trees. Fewer lost balls means way quicker play. Hmm.
How should it be fixed?
I talk of difficulty as the number one reason for slow play, but that can’t be changed at a tournament level. The fixes they need to look for are ones that work to get the players moving quicker, but in a fair and reasonable manner.
Asking questions using Twitter’s polls is a fun time to get people to think and talk about their opinions. Instead of only replying on the twitter threads, it’s easier to write here than be restricted by the 280 characters. These first three polls were all asking the question as to how much the course setup can change scoring – pin positions, the penalty of the rough and the speed of the greens.
How much of a difference do hole locations make?
Pins in any high level event are incredibly tucked, which leads the question, how much of a difference does that make?
At Firestone last week, there were plenty of examples of players missing short sided, causing difficult up and downs. There were also plenty of times where they stuffed it (on? to? at?) a pin, where the ball ended up between the edge of the green and the hole. Anecdotal evidence is never an accepted way to prove questions involving numbers.
If someone could give me the ShotLink data, that I could match up with pin sheets, we could get a sense of scoring averages depending on how close to the edge of the green the pin is. Yet apparently to get the data, I’d need to submit this giant form with tons of information, including my address, and the “institution” I’m a part of. Unfortunately, golf writing is not part of a university.
I voted for 2-3 strokes. Pin position makes a difference, there’s no denying that, but I can’t see too much other than a couple strokes a round.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Off the Tee: Berger ranks 39th, with an average of +.416.
- Approach-the-Green: Berger ranks 18th, with an average of +.595.
- Around-the-Green: Berger ranks 152nd, with an average of -.136.
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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!
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.