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.
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!
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 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.
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.
- 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…
… 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.
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”.
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.
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.
This week’s PGA Tour event is the Wampo! which is the shorter acronym, and hopefully what the twitter hashtag will be for anyone tweeting about the tournament.
Another interesting note is that if you go to their website, they mention that the two words are either “The Greatest Show on Grass” or “The People’s Open”. But then if you go look at their twitter, they use the hashtag #greenestshow for every tweet (and unfortunately not #wampo yet). So many phrases and words that they want associated with their event.
This week I really wanted to post a song from Run the Jewels new awesome album that was released on Christmas, but pretty sure I can’t exactly post one here since every song on this album has a bunch of swear words. So guess I’m going to go with an old Arcade Fire songs from 2010.
The 16th Hole
If you hit the green, the fans will cheer for you. If you miss the green, the fans will boo. This glorious simplicity allows for maximum cheering because most everyone watching at that hole will be drunk all day!
Currently, the 16th hole looks like this, which is an awesome pic from last year by GOTM correspondent Wyatt when he was at the event. The entire hole is surrounded by so many seats it basically looks like a colosseum, which is also what a bunch of people nicknamed the hole at this point!
Interesting that pretty much every seat there these days are boxes, paid for by sponsors, meaning there are only a few normal seats. So if you have a standard ticket and want to watch the 16th hole, you gotta get there early in the morning and just be prepared to sit there until players come through. And probably drink a lot cause that’s what everyone does all day.
Besides how cool the hole looks now, it’s actually interesting to look back on older versions of the hole to see what it looked like before. The most interesting thing to note is how TPC courses designed by Pete Dye are all built with hills on the side of the holes so every fan who’s at that hole watching would be able to see easily above the person in front of them. TPC Sawgrass is like this, so when you watch the Players Championship in May, you can check out some of the same little hills that everyone can see off of.
A couple weeks ago, according to this Golfweek article here, the R&A director of rules talked with European Tour players before their tournament in Abu Dhabi and mentioned the new rules that the R&A and USGA are talking together about changing for 2020. Now we’re not sure if these are exactly the rule changes, or what the specific wording in the rule books would be since the phrases aren’t concrete, but we definitely have enough information here to talk about if we think they should change the rules or not. Note that each of the heading sections of this article are the phrases copied directly from that article, not my words. Here we go!
Reducing the search time for lost balls from five minutes to three
The easiest way to explain this is by pasting the tweet by Kyle Nathan:
Like, are they trying to change this rule to make rounds quicker? If you’re playing in a tournament and have to look for a golf ball, that two minute difference isn’t going to make the pace of play that much shorter. The pace of play in tournament rounds is long either because people’s attitude change and they take too long before hitting a shot, or because the course is set up way more difficultly than normal and everyone has way harder shots and shoots a bunch a more.
If you’re just playing for fun, don’t spend an entire 5 minutes or more looking for your ball. Look quickly, and if you can’t find it, toss a different one on the ground and keep playing.
Allowing players to repair spike marks on greens
Ooh here’s an awesome change. There’s no reason not to allow people to fix any random big bump they find on greens. Those could be new ball marks, ball marks that were crappily fixed by someone who created them, or bumps that came from someone who doesn’t know how to walk correctly.
I remember playing tournaments in the past where everyone in our group would have to look at a giant bump on someone’s putting path and figure out if the person is allowed to fix it. That’s just super annoying, and for the most part, we all just tell the person that they can fix it because who cares where the bump came from. If this rule does get implemented people should be able to fix any of the giant bumps they want to.
This also would help any tournament on Tour since the players mostly use super spiked golf shoes which create a bunch of bumps that the putts of the players with the latest tee times have to roll over. You know how you don’t step in the putting lines that the players in your group are putting through? Probably good odds that someone in the group behind you will putt through where you actually stepped.
That being said, I think there are two issues to consider. First, I can see this as being super annoying to play with people who would spend a ton of time trying to flatten every little bump on the green on the entire path of their putt. Second, imagine someone has a 3ish footer, and they take their putter, and pound the green so hard that you have like a ravine where the ball can’t move out of it on the way to the center of the hole. As long as the rule talks about how light you need to flatten the spike marks, or just how fixing the spike marks is to flatten the green rather than create that ravine, then we’ll be all good. Overall though, good rule change here for sure.
Verdict: Ooh awesome
Allowing players to drop a ball from any height when taking relief rather than the current stipulation of shoulder height
I’m a little confused about this one here, because this change could create a couple problems, and I’m not really sure why they wanted to change this rule. For example, when you’re in a hazard you’re not allowed to have the club touch the ground (which is also an odd rule), but you’re allowed to have the club touch the grass. So you can almost have the club touch the ground. If they change this rule then, and it doesn’t matter how high to drop the ball, would you be able almost have the ball touch the ground before you “drop” it? If that’s the case, than you can get the ball so close that you’re basically putting it on the ground where you want and having great lies no matter what.
I’m guessing this is a possible rule change since shoulder height is different for a bunch of players, and letting you decide how high to drop it from will make that equal for players. Though really, the difference from dropping it like 6 feet compared to 4 feet isn’t too different since the ball’ll be moving fast either time before it hits the ground. Since dropping it really close to the ground can make drops not act like drops, we really gotta wait for more info and description of the change to see if this could be a good idea.
More of an emphasis on using red stakes for water hazards while still allowing yellow stakes in some cases
Excellent, excellent, excellent. Last night, my brother-in-law and I were trying to sit and explain to my mom the differences between the rules of red stakes and yellow stakes (and even red stakes with green tops) since she wasn’t exactly sure, even though she’s been watching golf for 25 years
Quick info here: yellow means you can replay the shot, or drop the ball on the line that the flag and the point where the ball first went into the hazard creates as far back as you want. Red staked hazards are the same, except also you can drop two club lengths in any direction from where the ball entered the hazard, or on the other side of the hazard, just no closer to the hole. If that doesn’t make sense, check out this article which also describes the difference.
This doesn’t seem exactly a rule change, but rather advice for golf course designers or greenskeepers too tell them to just make pretty much all their hazards red instead of yellow. Just make every water hazard have the same rules and be done with it.
There are so many rules in golf that knowing the rules and not messing up when playing in a big tournament is somewhat tough. I’m a big fan of simplifying the rules, and getting rid of the yellow stakes for most hazards is a great idea.
Now that I’ve said that, there still might be the case for allowing some yellow stakes on a course. For example, having red water hazard stakes on the 17th green at TPC Sawgrass would be a little weird, and probably not what I’d want. Like if you hit it in the water over the green, you’d be able to drop it on the green for the most part, assuming you can find a place on the green that isn’t closer to the pin than where it went into the hazard. Same if you had too much spin on the ball, and it landed on the green and spun back into the water. As of right now with the yellow stakes, that means that if you miss the green in the water, you’re dropping in the drop area. Much more standard and easy to know than if it had red stakes. But really, that’s the only case I can think of that means yellow stakes are better. Use red for the rest.
Extending this rule actually makes me want to talk about this other rule I thing they should change to make golf better, but I’ll hold off here and probably write an article about all the rules golf should change to make it better. Look for that next week.
Verdict: Excellent x 3
Eliminating the use of club lengths for taking relief
Hey! I think this rule change is similar to the reason for the possible change of how high you can drop a ball that I talked about above. They want to make it similar for people of different heights, and in this case, similar for people with different lengths of their longest clubs. Time for some math.
Looking at putter lengths here, a long putter can be up to 54 inches if you’re tall (not Bernhard though). So two of those putter lengths for a drop would be 108 inches. Now Jimmy Walker’s driver is currently 42 inches after he made it 3 inches shorter than everyone else’s driver, and two of those lengths for a drop would be 84 inches. The difference is 24 inches meaning two feet! Now that’s a big difference.
So how exactly would this new rule tell players how to figure out how long they can go for their reliefs? Would tell players exactly how long their drops could be? Would players need to walk around with measuring tapes? Maybe just say they have to use their drivers and not putters since drivers are pretty much the same length and a couple inches won’t make that big of a difference.
I’ll admit here, that the first time thinking about this rule change didn’t really seem like a good one. But after the math, and thinking about the difference between longest club lengths from guys on tour, it seems like a reasonable change.
Last comment here overall — all these rules in golf are for tournaments. Remember, if you’re just playing with your friends for fun, you can do whatever you want. Drop balls after hitting it in a hazard wherever you want, look for your crappy shots for as long as you want, drop the ball from as high as you want, from how far away from the hazard as you want, and fix whatever you want on the greens. Play quick, and have fun.
We’re back! No more tumor in my brain, and starting to feel better from the surgery, so time for more weekly previews. Though the fourth tournament of the year, this southern California event is by far the best full field tournament thus far and is on our first NFL-less weekend since September 2016 (we don’t count preseason or Pro-Bowl). A tournament with a lot to watch for coinciding with our first football-free weekend makes for an extra fun preview. But first, music:
Yes, Tiger Woods is playing. And if you didn’t know that before reading this, then you really need to follow golf more because everyone’s been talking about him playing this week. This is his first tournament in 17 months! So get excited.
It’s really going to be interesting watching him and seeing how he plays. Back a few weeks ago when he played in the Hero World Challenge, Tiger had the most number of birdies, but still finished T15 (30 players total).
Basically he’s like Brett Favre. Brett really was a great quarterback when he played in the NFL, tons of touchdowns, tons of great passes, but anytime he had the lead going into the 4th quarter, all us Packer fans would sit there worried that he was going to mess up, throw an interception, and we’d lose the game because of it. Oh Brett.
Oh yeah, the other thing about Tiger is his new clubs selection! Nike’s decision to get rid of making clubs meant two things. First, they decided to increase the number of clothes they’re going to make with the Nike swoosh, so Tiger, Rory, and now Jason Day will all be wearing that. Second, all the Nike sponsored players need to find a new brand for all their golf clubs! For example, Rory switched over to Callaway equipment a while ago before his injury. Tiger however, hadn’t told people what clubs he was switching to until this (Wednesday) morning! Drumroll please….
TaylorMade!!!!!! What’s interesting is what he claims to have done to determine which club brand to go with. Apparently he tested all different brands for several months and eventually chose TaylorMade because those clubs were “better” for him. But why did he actually choose TaylorMade? Like was it the quality of the their clubs that really made him decide to use those from now on? Or did it also have to do with the amount of money and advertising that they’re going to give to him?