It’s been a couple weeks now, and with things settled down from the 2018 US Amateur out at Pebble, it’s time to go through thoughts from the week. I’ll start with the courses, general thoughts that deserve their own sections, and then random thoughts at the end.
Holy crap the greens at Pebble are tiny. The first thing I noticed when walking to the 1st green in the practice round. And then noticed the tininess even more pronounced on the 2nd and 4th holes. Then, for some reason, I always thought the 12th green would be decently large, due to it being a long downhill par 3. Nope, tiny tiny. When I got to the 13th hole, I noticed that green seemed bigger than the others, and a local caddie said that it was redone in the past year.
I like small greens. It’s a yes or a no for a good shot, rather than with wider greens where I pretty much never aim directly at the hole and usually every shot is fine.
Looks completely different, and not just because of an ocean
Talking about course design sure is a dangerous area to write and talk about. But I love courses that are different, and Pebble does not match up with any designer out there. That isn’t because it’s next to a large body of water. There are courses next to large bodies of water that make it clear who designed it (I’m looking at you Whistling Straits and Pete Dye), but Pebble does not match others. Give me this type of course inland and I’d like it close to as much.
No gimme birdies
I hit the ball decently far (though at the US Am these past two years, I wasn’t the longest hitter in any of the groups, practice rounds included), so I like courses with par 5s that I can reach, or get close enough with two straightforward shots and have an up and down for birdie. At Pebble, hole 6 was the only somewhat reachable par 5, and yet, you can’t see where the tiny green is over the famous giant cliff, or really where to aim. Other than that hole, the others aren’t reachable and you won’t have any version of a gimme birdie.
Didn’t play short
The course is listed just at around 7,000 yards, but it sure doesn’t play that short. First reason was because of how many forced irons off the tee there are. Holes 1, 4, 8, 15, 16 you’re laying back off the tee. Secondly, the par 3s aren’t particularly long. 17 was the only one listed over 200 yards, and with the 115 yard 7th, those were some of the shortest groups of par 3s you’ll find on any course. Both reminders that listed yardage doesn’t always match how long the course feels.
Hit Driver on 3
Notice how I didn’t list hole 3 as an iron off the tee, which is because you need to hit driver. The bunkers straight away are positions where it’s tough to make sure the ball stays between, whereas there’s tons of open room to the left slightly hidden by a group of trees just off and to the left of the tee. The other part is how the green is angled to the front left, so missing to the left is absolutely the best spot. Even if you’re in the fairway, you can’t aim at the right pin over the bunker. Missing left in the rough is fine, hitting in the bunker is fine, and missing to the right where you’re in the fairway is also fine.
This comes up every AT&T, and will again at the US Open next year, so watch what the players do and what the announcers say. And for the US Open, I’ll be able to gather the shot dispersion data and do some analysis.
Bigger greens, but lots only have a few places to put a pin
Check out the yardage book picture of #8 green. Green is decently sized, but there’s pretty much nowhere to put the pin other than back left or back right. We found that a lot at Spyglass.
Long rough, some wispy, some thick
Read the bold sentence above and that’s pretty much what I wanted to say. The rough was decently long at both courses, but it felt a little more in play here at Spyglass.
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.
As the title says, I’ve always thought that only one important part of a putting setup is that:
The back forearm needs to align with the putter shaft.
The big reason I figured now would be a good time to write about putting setup is Tiger’s change of putters, where he moved from the same old blade putter to a mallet.
This is a newsworthy change since he’s been with the Scotty Cameron putter forever, but more importantly, I noticed while watching him the second round at the Quicken Loans National, is that his putting stance changed as well.
See the difference?
The argument is that having the arm aligned takes wrist movement completely out of the equation. If you’re looking to feel what I’m saying, take a putter, bend those wrists to create a giant angle between the forearm and putter shaft, and try to keep the putter head stable. You can’t. The less movement the better. Another thing to think about is why people switched to anchored putters. One long shaft takes wrists out of the equation, similar to the affect forearm alignment does.
I’ll also say that the majority of the people reading this already have the forearm shaft alignment, because it’s the natural, athletic way to handle a putter.
If people can come up with a reason that not having the forearm shaft aligned is better, let me know. I want to see what you can come up with to disagree.
Remember though, setup isn’t the most important part of putting. Attitude is. I’ve written before about how the best mentality over a putt is to expect the putt to go in, and be surprised if it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter your setup, but if you don’t think the ball is going in the hole, you’re toast and will never be a great putter.
One thing to remember here is that camera angles sometimes make it difficult to know fore sure what the arm alignment is for the players. Google image searching only gets so far, but hopefully people agree with what these pictures show.
I’ll start with Jack Nicklaus, who, as you know, has quite the odd overall setup, but that back right forearm goes right up where his putter shaft is aligned. It was hard to find a picture of him exactly from behind, but here’s one of him right before making the winning putt at the British in 1970 at St. Andrews and launching that putter in the air with two hands.
Brad Faxon was another initial thought as he’s considered the best putter these days, and has credit for being the putting guru. Searching for his setup brought me to this picture in a forum, which includes Aaron Baddeley, who is considered the world’s best putter by this random British golf blog.
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.
Welcome to the 2017 US Amateur Oscars. I played like garbage with a dumb attitude during the tournaments, but hey! doesn’t mean I can’t give out the awards from the US Am!
I consider myself the host of these awards, but I don’t have an intro speech with jokes, even though I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about all the celebs who are members at Riv and Bel-Air, but can’t come up with any. Because of that, I’ll just lead off with the award for the best picture taken with a cell phone.
Best Picture Taken By a Contestant with a Cell Phone
Best Tournament Course
Riviera of course. And this isn’t just because it hosts a Tour event every year, but mostly because it really is one of the best tournament courses I’ve ever played. Here come the reasons.
My requirements for a tournament course are 1) All the holes look different enough so you play it once and remember every hole, and 2) no funky holes. I keep talking about how requirement number 1 is the key for any course to be considered good in my book, but number 2 is required for a tournament course. I won’t list here courses that host tournaments that violate those rules, but they exist in majors and on Tour. In Riviera’s case, it perfectly follows both the rules.
Proof that it follows the first rule – I played Riv 6 years ago back in the college days, and I remembered the vast majority of the holes and their routing. And that’s not because I see them on TV during the Tour event.
And there aren’t funky holes out there. Some people might consider the par 3 6th as funky, because of the bunker in the middle of the green. Or maybe the par 4 8th with two fairways split by a waste area. But they’re not funky in the sense of required luck. When you hit a shot on those hole, you know where you can’t miss and where it’s ok to miss.
If you hit a bad shot you’re penalized, a good shot you’re rewarded. There are very few, if any, parts of the course where a bad shot stays in play. Throw in how long the course is (I had more irons 6 and over than I did wedges into par 4s, which is the first time in forever I remember that being the case) and you’ve got the perfect course to host a tourney.
Straightforward difficulty folks, that’s the best tournament course.
Most Enjoyable Course
I still haven’t figured out my exact definition of enjoyable course, probably something along the lines of which course I’d pick if I only would be able to play one from now on. Bel-Air wins the award on that definition.
Here’s some of the reasons.
- Bel-Air is easier, but not by much. It averaged ~1.2 strokes less than Riviera, but still averaged +4. Courses that are too easy definitely are on the opposite side. Courses that are too easy wouldn’t be on the enjoyable side, but compared to Riviera, I need something slightly easier to play all the time.
- Tunnels throughout the course. This includes, for example, the tunnel from behind the dumb (see the worst Bel-Air award below) 16th hole’s green to 17 tee. A volunteer told us members compete to see who can throw/roll their golf ball farthest down and closest to 17th tee. Sure, the tunnels are just connecting the course between the hills, but that’s a fun aspect you don’t see much. (Also, I won the competition in our group!)
- How about the celeb parts of the course? Like on the hillside to the left of number 4, which was the cave where Tarzan lived in the first Tarzan movie. The 8th hole were Howard Hughes once landed his plane to impress Katharine Hepburn. Or the original Bachelor Mansion to the left of 11 tee (which I can’t confirm cause I never watched that show back then, or even at all).
It’s not only those parts of the course that make it enjoyable; the design is fantastic. After playing these two George Thomas courses, he’s very high on my list of favorite course designers.
Best Hole at Riviera
Like most of these awards, it’s difficult to pick the winner for the best hole at Riv. In this case, I’m going to pick one of the more straightforward holes which I’m a big fan of. I’m go with number 9.
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.
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.
i’ve completely forgotten that coursehaving only been out there oncei remember 16 is uphillfrom 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.
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 memorableI 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.
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.
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).
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.