Golf Blog

A 3rd Option to Consider

In order to play golf in America, you basically have two options to get out onto the course.

1.) Pay a lump sum of money and monthly dues to belong to a private club.

2.) Pay a daily fee to play public courses.

For the majority of my golfing career, I did not want to be tied down to just one course and If I spent my money on a private club, it would be difficult to justify the cost of paying a green fee elsewhere.  So I have always opted for the 2nd option.  The good news is that there is a 3rd way to go about things.  It may not make sense for everyone but it is a viable option for the passionate golfer who likes to travel.

  • $7k initiation fee $3,150 annual dues
  • Access to a network of Private clubs

Imagine, every time you take a golf trip, being able to visit your own private golf club and not just any private club, but one of the state's best.  I haven't visited Ballyhack yet, but if you click on Arbor Links or Briggs Ranch, you will get a taste for the high quality of these clubs.

If the $7k initiation fee is holding you back, it's not due for 2 years.  The club operates under a spend off model so every time you spend money on cottages, guest fees, or even beers for your group, that total comes off of the $7000 fee.  So if you manage to drink $7k worth of beer over two years, you owe nothing.  Or, if you manage to eat $6500 worth of steaks, you would only owe $500.  A pretty cool motivation to make sure you get the most out of your membership.

Briggs Ranch is a Fazio Texas gem.

Briggs Ranch is a Fazio Texas gem.

Palmer's Arborlinks brings the beach and the trees.

Palmer's Arborlinks brings the beach and the trees.

The best part about the whole deal is that It's a fairly new organization that is adding clubs at an aggressive rate.  Even with 3 clubs, there is tremendous value here and there are ongoing negotiations with several other well known clubs as I type this.  The goal is to have 20-22 courses in the network by 2022 all scattered across the US.

If you are a corporation reading this, there is also an option for you.

  • $20K initiation fee
  • $9,450 dues per year for 3 designees to use.
  • Can add more designees at $1,000 a piece, up to 10 additional.

PJKoenig blog readers that sign up by December 31st 2017 at midnight will receive $1000 off the initiation fee for individual users and $2000 off of the corporate initiation fee.  Just click here and send me a message if you are interested.

Comments on the Cleveland VAS Irons

I recently came across an article that mentioned the Cleveland VAS golf clubs and it brought back memories of the 1990's when the clubs were popular.  For those not in the know, VAS stands for Vibration Absorption System.  Which, I am pretty sure was a load of marketing garbage, but people really bought into it back in the 90's.  I did a little research and here are some of the comments I found on the irons. These are real comments from real people.  Well... real internet people.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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  • " I was so impressed with these irons that I have already purchased a back up set." - James
  • "The looks only a mother could love." = David
  • "Easily the best feeling irons I've ever hit. - Mike P.
  • "Found the driver on Ebay for $1... Best investment I ever made." - Ty T.
  • "I am not convinced that the VAS plate absorbs too much vibration. - Jay
  • "Took my Rocket Blades out and put my VAS's in and shot my best round in 10 years." - Mark
  • "An incredible damping effect." - Andy M.
  • "I love the finish.  I love the matte pewter finish."  - JB
  • "I don't think I could commit to the swing, I'd either be laughing or puking." Mikey D
  • "I sold them in 1999 and I have regretted it ever since" - Tim
  • "Those irons may be even uglier than Corey Pavin's mustache." - BG.
  • "It may look unshankable, but trust me, you can still shank it."  Steve R. from Rhode Island
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Personally, I never owned a set of the Cleveland VAS irons, but I remember a player in high school who did.  That kid's name is Travis Hampshire, so I decided to google Travis.  As it turns out, Travis is no longer a kid and actually went on to play an event on the PGA Tour, the 2011 Traveler's Championship.  Was it the VAS effect that trampolined him to the PGA Tour?   We may never know.

Alex Dunlop Golf

Over the course of my 25 year golfing career, I have had less than 5 lessons.  At most, I would pick a swing thought that made sense to me and just go with that.  I am a feel player and that works for me.  I always knew that my swing wasn't perfect, but I also knew that it was good enough to break 70.  

However, after playing a round with Golf Teacher Alex Dunlop, I decided to take in a long overdue lesson.  I was actually looking forward to getting some expert eyes on my swing and receiving some feedback on things that I could work on.  As an added bonus, Alex's office has a first class view of Newcastle Golf Club and the City of Seattle.

The view from above the clubhouse at Newcastle and the Rusty Putter; an 18 hole putting course.

The view from above the clubhouse at Newcastle and the Rusty Putter; an 18 hole putting course.

Chances are, your office isn't as green.

Chances are, your office isn't as green.

One of the best parts about taking a lesson with Alex is that he is a straight up cool dude that likes to talk about golf.  We could have hung around and shot the shit for an hour, but we decided to hit some balls as well.  Alex is Trackman certified and immediately as we start the lesson, I am getting feedback in terms of numbers.  Now, these numbers didn't mean much to me at first, especially since I have always played by feel.  The good news is that Alex is an expert on explaining what these numbers mean and keying in on the numbers that actually matter.

For me, it was just one number that we started on with my driver.  That number was attack angle and according to Alex -2.5 was not good.  After a series of interpretations and suggestions that made sense to me, I was able to understand what it felt like to change that -2.5 to a +2.5.  After grooving that feeling over several months, my drives are much longer and there is less dispersion on my tee shots.

On the latest session, Alex and I worked on consistently compressing my iron shots.

On the latest session, Alex and I worked on consistently compressing my iron shots.

Here I am compared to Brooks Koepka.  A model player for shaft lean.

Here I am compared to Brooks Koepka.  A model player for shaft lean.

One of the coolest aspects about Trackman is that you get full digital copies of your lessons afterwards.  The photos above are snap shots that I took from the videos on my phone.  If you wanted to, you could pull up a lesson while you are sitting in a staff meeting.  You can literally hear Alex and I discussing things as we review the video and crack jokes about how much better I am at golf than Brooks Koepka.  

My case is nothing special for Alex, it's just business as usual for him.  I had the opportunity to sit in on another lesson and the story was similar with even more measurable success over the past 2 years. 

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When I first started working with Alex 2 years ago, I carried a 24 handicap, now I am a 10.
— Zander, Student of Alex Dunlop Golf

Alex is the youngest ever winner of the Western Washington Chapter’s PGA Teacher of the Year for 2015 and is generally regarded as one of the best teachers in the state of Washington.  You can find Alex at Newcastle throughout the week or head on over to his website to learn more.  

Golf Town New York!

With the New York area playing host to nearly 20 of America's top 100 golf courses, it is without a doubt one of the best areas for high end golf in the country.  The issue for most golfers is that the majority of these courses are private clubs.  Don't get me wrong, for a weekend golfer looking to pay a daily fee, you have got some great options with Bethpage Black, or nearby Ferry Point.  However, most passionate golfers have their eye on Long Island or Westchester as these regions pack a serious golf punch.  Getting an invitation to play some of these exclusive clubs is partly what makes these rounds so special.  I was fortunate enough to have a couple of these "Bucket List" courses on the agenda.  Let's jump into it, as I get excited just warming up to it.  Click on any of the photos to visit the full course gallery.

  • Quaker Ridge Golf Club

Coming in at #71 on Golf Digest's Top 100, Quaker Ridge is a Tillinghast gem and an excellent way to start off my adventure.  The course is pure classic golf and the greens are regarded as some of the finest in the country.  I found this to be especially true as I was one of the first to head out in the morning, following right behind the maintenance crew.

Given the challenge on the greens, there are certain places you can't afford to miss.  Unfortunately, I found just about all of those places.  A great start course wise, a bad start score wise.  

 

  • Old Oaks Country Club

A quick afternoon tee time was just what I needed to address my early morning swing woes.  As it turns out, that was definitely not the case.  However, I didn't mind my poor play one bit as the walk around Old Oaks is a fantastic one.  It was my second Tillinghast course in the same day.  The only way you can pull that off on the west coast is to own a private jet.  I do not own a private jet.

The highlight of the day was playing through a fourball on the 5th hole and nearly holing out for eagle.  As I tapped in for birdie, I pretended like I hadn't doubled the last two holes.

 

  • Hudson National Golf Club

Resting on dramatic bluffs above the Hudson River Valley, Hudson National is regarded as one of Tom Fazio's finest designs.  The design is not a natural one, as Fazio dynamited over 130,00 cubic feet to match the terrain with his design.  Built in 1996, Hudson is one of the more modern additions to the Top 100, coming in at #95.

The site used to be home to Hessian Hills Country Club in the 1920's.  However, a fire burned it down in the 1930's.  In an odd coincidence, my golf game would also go up in flames for my 2017 round.  Remnants of the old clubhouse can still be seen today along the 4th and 5th holes.  Remnants of my golf game would also survive the fire.

 

  • Essex Country Club

After playing Shoreacres in 2016, I immediately became a Seth Raynor fan.  Unfortunately, there are not many Raynor designs and none near my home base of Seattle.  So when I had an afternoon open up, I gladly signed up for some twilight action at Essex.  The club was founded in 1887 and is the oldest in the state of New Jersey.  A composite design by Banks, Raynor, and Tillinghast, Essex is one of the 25 founding clubs of the USGA.

I had the pleasure of employing Spencer for my round at Essex.  When it comes to caddies, Spencer was just about as enthusiastic as they come.    Quick quote from Spence:  "Oh yeah, our greens are big... Big enough for your ass."  With the help of my man Spence, my game was back on track.

 

  • Maidstone Club

Having found my groove at Essex, I was stoked to be heading out onto Long Island and paying a visit to Maidstone.  The club was founded in 1891 and architectural credits go to Willie Parker Jr.  It also has as a pretty sweet whale logo.  I had heard great things about Maidstone and I was pretty fired up to play.  

The holes on the ocean definitely stand out, but the entire design is very enjoyable and a lot of fun to play.  Fun fact:  The house to the right of the tee box on #15 has bullet proof windows to protect itself from errant tee shots and I guess.. gunfire.  Although, in East Hampton, people are not too concerned about flying bullets penetrating their million dollar homes.

 

  • Bayonne Golf Club

The last thing I said before I found the entrance to Bayonne Golf Club was "Oh man, I definitely made a wrong turn."  It is easy to think you are in the wrong area as you pull in from the nearby industrial area into the private gates of Bayonne.  It's a touch of Scotland that some how found it's way into New Jersey.  Built on top of an old waste disposal site, Bayonne does an excellent job at providing the golfer with a links experience... A links experience with a view of Manhattan.

The day started out with rain and by the 4th hole, it was pouring down pretty good.  Not good for pictures, but not a problem for this Seattleite.  However, by the 7th hole, the rain had lifted and we ended up with a pretty good day for golf.  Nothing quite like the feeling of pealing off your rain gear as the sun hits your shoulders.   

  • Aronimink Golf Club

I had originally visited Aronimink Golf Club in 2016 and it was easily one of my favorite Donald Ross designs.  So when I got a chance to head back out and see the Gil Hanse renovations, I was pretty excited.  If you follow golf course design, you know that Gil Hanse is the hottest architect in the game right now.  It's basically Zoolander but for golf nerds.  See video below for clarification on this point.

After visiting several of Hanse's renovations, I have found them to be very well done and non intrusive.  As a member at Maidstone described it to me, "It's not like he changed the nose on the Mona Lisa, he just scrubbed off all the grime and dirt that had built up over the years.  Now we can see the beauty of the original intent."  The renovation at Aronimink is no exception.  When the BMW Championship visits in 2018, I am sure the players will rave about the course.

Aronimink has one of the coolest clubhouses in the game.

Aronimink has one of the coolest clubhouses in the game.

 

  • National Golf Links of America

After several days of dealing with the big dogs, it was time to bring in the really big dogs.  National Golf Links of America is the ultimate creation from the father of American golf course architecture, Charles Blair McDonald.  This is his masterpiece.

When Stephanie Wei of Weiunderpar.com informed me that we had a tee time, I nearly threw up and definitely peed my pants.  As a fan of the classics and a fan of golf course architecture, NGLA or National, has been at the top of my bucket list for quite some time.  I had studied it from above via Google Earth and now it was time to study it from ground level.  I was beyond excited.

Unfortunately for my score, that excitement would carry over to the first hole and I would promptly open up with a double bogey.  The good news is that the golfer within would emerge and manage a handful of birdies and a score in the 70's.  Every hole is a study in architecture and a joy to play.  

 

  • Fishers Island

The cape hole at Fishers is a crowd favorite.

The cape hole at Fishers is a crowd favorite.

There is an old saying that goes "The only thing better than playing NGLA, is playing NGLA and Fishers Island."  Naturally we hopped onto the ferry to Fishers Island to honor this ancient saying.  Another Seth Raynor gem, Fishers Island is widely regarded to be one of Raynor's very best designs.  Because the course is basically on it's own private island, it offers a golfing experience like no other. 

There are some outstandingly good template holes at Fishers Island and I was particularly impressed by the "Punchbowl" and "Biarritz" options on the front nine.  Other highlights include a birdie bomb on the first hole and the bounce I received on the 8th that led to a very memorable eagle.  

Fishers Island was also one of the most interesting courses I have photographed from the air.  Be sure to check out the gallery.

The best part about the New York area is that you could easily do 3-4 trips of similar quality before you would run low on amazing new courses to play.  This golfer will have to return.

FedEx Cup Predictions

For years, the PGA Tour and players alike have conceded that the FedEx Cup and the season ending playoffs are not perfect.  However, it is an honest attempt to make the end of the season compelling and interesting.  Here are my projections for the 2017 version.

  • Jason Dufner will not win the FedEx Cup.  With 50 billion to 1 odds, don't empty your bank account banking on Duf man going from #30 to #1.  If you decide to bet anyways, here are Dufner's 9 simple check marks to victory.
    • Jordan Spieth must finish 29th or worse
    • Justin Thomas must finish in a 3-way tie for 6th or worse
    • Dustin Johnson must finish T4 or worse and wear blue shoes
    • Marc Leishman must finish T3 or worse
    • No more than 32% of the field can birdie the 3rd hole
    • Jon Ram must finish in a 3-way tie for second or worse
    • Rickie Fowler must finish T2 or worse
    • Pat Perez must not have bacon for breakfast
    • Jason Dufner must win the Tour Championship
  • "How does the FedEx Cup points thing work?"  will set a new record for number of times googled.
  • The Golf Club at East Lake was an amusement park in the 1890's. Tony Finau will make East Lake his own personal amusement park in 2017 and cruise to a 4 shot Tour Championship victory.
  • With 24th ranked Finau pulling out the Tour Championship victory, 176 individual alternate victory scenarios will emerge for the FedEx Cup.
  • The top 5 (Spieth, DJ, JT, Leishman, and Rahm) will all finish outside of the top 5 for for the Tour Championship, putting their chances of FedEx Cup victory into question and plunging the tournament into chaos.
  • Math difficulties and confusion will overtake the scoring booth.  
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... Mass hysteria!!
— Bill Murray - Ghostbusters

 

  • The following flowcharts will serve as the scoreboard during the entire back nine.
Brooks Koepka!?!?!

Brooks Koepka!?!?!

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  • World renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will be called in to provide live scoring projections and updates.
  • Neil crushes the call and kills it in the scoring booth.
Neil Calls the live FedEx Cup action.

Neil Calls the live FedEx Cup action.

In 5-billion yrs the Sun will expand & engulf our orbit as the charred ember that was once Earth vaporizes.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson on Spieth's birdie attempt on the 17th hole

 

  • With Rickie Fowler facing a 5 footer to finish in a 3 way tie for fourth place, Webb Simpson eagerly looks on.  Webb is not sure if a two way tie or 3 way tie from Rickie coupled with his 3rd place finish will be good enough for a first place finish.  If Fowler 3 putts and finishes in solo 5th, would he need a bogie from DJ on 18, or would the 3 way tie from Hoffman give him 2nd place??
  • After holing his put for a fourth place finish, Rickie reluctantly fist pumps.  Did he just win $10M or did he just win $1.5M.  Nobody knows!! The excitement and tension is unbearable.
  • On his way to the airport, Justin Rose receives a call from tournament organizers letting him know that he has indeed won the 2017 FedEx Cup!!
  • The bad news for Justin Rose is that he will get stuck in traffic as he turns his car around and heads back for the trophy presentation.
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The Canadian Rockies

When you think of the top 5 public golf destinations in North America, do the Canadian Rockies come to mind?  Probably not... but it should.  For most of the US, it's a relatively short flight to Calgary and an hour or so drive into the heart of the action.  Between Jasper, Banff, Kananaskis, and Canmore there are 6 courses on the trail.  Let's dig into the details of my recent adventure into the Canadian Rockies and sort out the details.

My partner in golf crime for the trip would be McKenzie O'Connell, most people call her Kenzie or Kenz, I decided to call her K Dawg.  Now, K Dawg is a 5 handicap and certainly a valuable addition to any golf trip.  She also jumped right in and showed off her impressive golf modeling chops.  Things were starting off nicely. 

The view looking back on the restaurant atop the Banff Gondola.

The view looking back on the restaurant atop the Banff Gondola.

Golf hard, model hard.

Golf hard, model hard.

After getting into Banff, we took the Gondola up for a view of the local scene and had a fantastic meal at the top, courtesy of Brewster Travel.  In terms of easy things to do in Banff, I would highly recommend the gondola ride.  With views of downtown Banff and the surrounding mountain ranges, it was an excellent preview of what was to come.  

Afterwards, we headed back to our first class accommodations at the Delta Hotels Kananaskis Lodge.  The hotel was centrally located in Alberta and has easy access to local hiking and biking trails with outstanding views of the Rocky Mountains.  A world class spa will be opening in 2018.

In the morning we were headed out to Kananaskis Country Golf Course for our first round of golf in the Canadian Rockies.  Designed by Robert Trent Jones and opening in 1983, the 36 hole layout is a favorite of local Albertan golfers.  In 2013, floods seriously damaged the course and it has been shut down for the past 4 years with funding and rebuilding underway.  In a sneak peak event, I was able to get some of the first photos of the new course, as 27 holes will officially open to the public for the 2018 season.  You can click on any of the images throughout the post to get the full course gallery.

Image courtesy of Robert Trent Drones.

Image courtesy of Robert Trent Drones.

The dual green on the Mt Lorette 18.  You can see the 9th hole on the Mt Kidd 18 still under construction below the mountains.

The dual green on the Mt Lorette 18.  You can see the 9th hole on the Mt Kidd 18 still under construction below the mountains.

The Mt Kidd 18 will open with 9 holes available in the beginning of 2018

The Mt Kidd 18 will open with 9 holes available in the beginning of 2018

The best part about the event at Kananaskis was the emotion demonstrated by the participants and the staff as they returned to their course after a 4 year hiatus.  I watched as head professional, Bob Paley, high fived and hugged a couple of familiar faces, afterwards he would turn to our group with a huge satisfied smile on his face... "See, this is the stuff that I miss the most, the people, the camaraderie... it's just the best."  Bob was immediately one of our favorite people we would meet on the trip.  The only downside was that smoke from nearby wildfires would cloud the view of the normally spectacular mountains.  

Next up was paddle boarding courtesy of Rebound Cycle, we would change that to golf paddle boarding as K Dawg would pull off a pretty sweet trick shot effort! 

When traveling with a golf model, it is necessary to note that just about every location is a modeling location.  Here are some of those shots from early on in the action.  As a published Golf Digest model, I would push Kenzie to be the best model she could be, while providing her with the experience and modeling guidance that she needed.

Golf stairway modeling

Golf stairway modeling

Model off standings: PJKoenig: 1.  K Dawg: 0

Model off standings: PJKoenig: 1.  K Dawg: 0

Next up on the Canadian Rockies agenda was Silvertip Golf Club.  With 600 feet of elevation change, Silvertip offers some outstanding views of the Three Sisters and nearby mountain ranges.  Unfortunately, the normally amazing views would be partially clouded by smoke.

As a professional, I’ve played all over the world and I find the Silvertip Golf Course to be one of the most spectacular I’ve ever played. Between Les Furber’s incredible layout and the scenery, it is easy to see why.
— Stephen Ames - 4 time PGA Tour winner & Member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
I would come out of the gates firing with birdies on the 1st 2 holes,  The flames would fizzle.

I would come out of the gates firing with birdies on the 1st 2 holes,  The flames would fizzle.

With several rounds under our belt, we were ready to put the pedal down on the EZ-GO and turn up the golf action.  With an early start on the Stewart Creek Golf Course, we would find our golf groove for a day of 36.  

Stewart creek is one of the more unique locations for a golf course as it is actually built on top of an old coal mining operation.  The shafts and tunnels run beneath the golf course and several of the mine entrances are still visible on the course.  We were told it was safe, but I took it easy on the divots to avoid plummeting through the fairway and into any abandoned mine shafts.  A big thanks to our host Greg for helping us avoid the pitfalls!

This coal mining shaft would cease operation in 1978.  

This coal mining shaft would cease operation in 1978.  

With several mine shafts and several models on the property, this was naturally the perfect time to start production on our 3 part series: "An Introduction to Male and Female Amateur Mine Shaft Modeling"  As you can clearly see in the video, I have increased my lead in the model off competition with a score of 2-0.

The stunning downhill 9th hole:  I would get nasty and make a 2!

The stunning downhill 9th hole:  I would get nasty and make a 2!

From time to time, I would find a slight gap in the smoke coverage and get a shot of the mountains.  These views are commonplace on all of the courses we would play in the Rockies.

From time to time, I would find a slight gap in the smoke coverage and get a shot of the mountains.  These views are commonplace on all of the courses we would play in the Rockies.

Next up on the tour of the Canadian Rockies was the highly anticipated Fairmont Springs Banff Golf Course.  We were in for a treat as veteran Golf Broadcaster, Luke Elvy, would join us for the round.  Luke is one of the best dudes you can play golf with and he was happy to lend advice, share stories, and even call the action as we golfed our balls.  He also has an Australian accent.

Exhausted from the mine shaft modeling, I would take the day off from the competition.  Surprisingly, K Dawg would still only manage a narrow victory..  Update; PJKoenig 2  K Dawg: 1

Exhausted from the mine shaft modeling, I would take the day off from the competition.  Surprisingly, K Dawg would still only manage a narrow victory..  Update; PJKoenig 2  K Dawg: 1

Kenzie would nearly make an all world 2 on the "Devil's Cauldron"  Check out the video here.

Kenzie would nearly make an all world 2 on the "Devil's Cauldron"  Check out the video here.

Even with a heavy dose of smoke covering the mountains, the Stanley Thompson course was a highlight of the trip.  The course is strategic, scenic, challenging, and fun to play.

A shot from behind what was originally the 18th hole.  The routing has been changed due to clubhouse and capacity demands.  

A shot from behind what was originally the 18th hole.  The routing has been changed due to clubhouse and capacity demands.  

For the final round of the trip we headed out to Canmore Golf & Curling Club.  In 1926, the original course was only 9 holes with sand greens and coffee cans for holes.  In the 1960's a curling rink would be added, and today, Canmore offers a full test of golf with stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges.  Thanks to our host Darren Cooke for showing us around.

Even during a historically dry season, The short par 3 11th at Canmore Golf & Curling Club is still a stunner.

Even during a historically dry season, The short par 3 11th at Canmore Golf & Curling Club is still a stunner.

Local golfing stud, Jack Stoliker would come out of the gates hot and birdie the 1st two holes.

Local golfing stud, Jack Stoliker would come out of the gates hot and birdie the 1st two holes.

The view from above the 10th hole at Canmore.  

The view from above the 10th hole at Canmore.  

One of the most compelling parts about the Canadian Rockies is that there is a lot more than golf in the area.  Even though our trip was compromised mostly of golf, the opportunities for hiking, helicoptering, kayaking, shopping, and of course, modeling, are endless.

With only one day left in the model-off competition, I decided to give Kenzie a chance to even the score on the downtown streets of Banff.  Naturally, K-Dawg rose to the challenge and pulled off some sort of movie shopping montage.  It is important to note that the original score called for Billy Idol's Dancing with Myself.  However, Billy Idol did not return our requests for copyright approval.  With the score even at 2-2, a return trip is in order.

Sand Valley

On May 2nd 1999, Mike Keiser opened a little golf resort called Bandon Dunes.  It was located in a remote coastal area of Oregon that was hard to get to.  Most golf experts told Mike that he was crazy for building a course in such a remote location.  But golfers came in droves to play the highly regarded David Mclay Kidd layout.  Two years later, Pacific Dunes joined the original course and then came Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald, and finally Bandon Preserve.  It is easily one of the greatest golf success stories of this generation.

After adding Cabot Cliffs to his portfolio of courses in 2016, Mike Keiser decided to open another golf resort in a remote location.  This time it's in the middle of Wisconsin, it's a little easier to get to, and its called Sand Valley.  With preview play already open on the resort's second course, Mammoth Dunes, and a par 3 course in the works, the Bandon Dunes formula that worked so well is looking to repeat itself.

The view from "Craig's Porch"  which is named after Craig Haltom, the landowner who originally brought the land to Mike Keiser's attention.

The view from "Craig's Porch"  which is named after Craig Haltom, the landowner who originally brought the land to Mike Keiser's attention.

The view of the clubhouse as you drive into the property.

The view of the clubhouse as you drive into the property.

Sand Valley Facts

  • The course opened to the public on May 2nd 2017, exactly 18 years to the day after Bandon Dunes opened.
  • Sand Valley is 4 hours from Chicago, 3 hours from Milwaukee, 2.5 hours from Whistling Straits, and 2.5 hours from Erin Hills
  • I drained a 40 footer on #5 for birdie and fell over attempting an overly unnecessary fist pump.
  • The course is designed for walkers only. 
  • The brisket tacos at "Craig's Porch" for $1.50 will knock your socks off
  • Ashley Mayo hit the opening tee shot at Sand Valley.  She found the fairway... she always finds the fairway.
  • Sand Valley has 53 rooms with 107 beds on property
  • The team of Coore & Crenshaw built Sand Valley and David McLay Kidd is the course architect for Mammoth Dunes.
  • Because of the name's negative connotation, the name for the par 3 course, "Quicksand" is up for review.
  • I disagree with the up for review thing.  Quicksand is an awesome name.
Even the parking lot at Sand Valley is filled with sand.  You can see the resort's par 3 course in the top left and the 1st tee and 18th green on Mammoth Dunes on the right.

Even the parking lot at Sand Valley is filled with sand.  You can see the resort's par 3 course in the top left and the 1st tee and 18th green on Mammoth Dunes on the right.

Sand Valley was built on top of a sand bed left behind from a glacier.

Sand Valley was built on top of a sand bed left behind from a glacier.

The green on the par 5 4th hole

The green on the par 5 4th hole

It's tough to make an uphill par 3 look this good.  Coore & Crenshaw  have figured things out at Sand Valley

It's tough to make an uphill par 3 look this good.  Coore & Crenshaw  have figured things out at Sand Valley

During my visit to Sand Valley Resort, I was able to play 6 holes at Mammoth Dunes and I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the other 12 while they were under construction.  For those of us outside the world of golf course construction, It's a unique experience to view a course in it's various stages of development.  I much prefer them with grass.

The sand dune I am standing on here partially obstructs the view of the green from the tee on the par 3 16th.  Given my experience with golfer's and their reactions to blind shots, this one should spark some debate.

The sand dune I am standing on here partially obstructs the view of the green from the tee on the par 3 16th.  Given my experience with golfer's and their reactions to blind shots, this one should spark some debate.

Basketball soon to be replaced by golf ball.  Kidd uses these basketballs to get an idea of how the green will break when finished.

Basketball soon to be replaced by golf ball.  Kidd uses these basketballs to get an idea of how the green will break when finished.

Fresh seed at Mammoth Dunes is coming in nicely.

Fresh seed at Mammoth Dunes is coming in nicely.

While creating Mammoth Dunes, Kidd and his team uncovered an old housing foundation.  Instead of removing it, they made a bunker out of it.  It's gnarly and awesome.

While creating Mammoth Dunes, Kidd and his team uncovered an old housing foundation.  Instead of removing it, they made a bunker out of it.  It's gnarly and awesome.

With Sand Valley Resort off and running, Wisconsin is quickly turning into one of America's go to destinations for amazing public golf.  With Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, Sentry World, and Erin Hills all a reasonable drive away from one another, the area is poised to see a dramatic spike in buddy trips and birdies.  I know I added a couple to the tally.

To get an idea of the courses you would like to visit, you can view all of my course photos from Wisconsin here.

Go Goleta

Recently, the Goleta Department of Tourism invited me to help create the greatest promotional video that the world has ever seen.  While the world's greatest tag may be a bit of an exaggeration, Goleta is certainly an excellent place to spend a weekend.  

If you are like me, you are probably not familiar with the city of Goleta.  Located just 15 minutes outside of Santa Barbara, CA, Goleta resides right on the Pacific Ocean.  The best part about traveling to Goleta is the airport.  Since the airport is the size of a Spanish villa, it only took me 15 minutes from landing to arrival at the Pacifica Suites hotel.

My buddies for the trip were members of our San Francisco Skeeball team, Adam and Trevor.  That's right Ron Burganskee, Bill Braskee, and Gary Buskee (skeeball aliases) were getting back together.  The trip would start off in Goleta Style with the arrival of an all world gift basket comprised of local Goleta offerings.  Our group would dive into this gem with enthusiasm

First up on the agenda was a visit to the popular Sandpiper Golf Course.  With camera crews present, the pressure was on to deliver high quality golf shots combined with superior modeling skills.  Amidst the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, we delivered in style... Goleta style.  The back nine at Sandpiper Golf Course is exceptionally good and a couple of those birdies should definitely make the highlight reel.

The par 3 11th at Sandpiper sits right on the beach.  View the rest of my photos here.

The par 3 11th at Sandpiper sits right on the beach.  View the rest of my photos here.

After golfing up an appetite at Sandpiper, our group headed to M.Special, a local brewery that has cornhole, giant Jenga, and several standout ales.  We even brought in a Mexican fare lunch as the cameras descended on our dining experience.  If you have never eaten tacos while being filmed at close range, I can assure you it's a pressure packed experience.  We would rise to meet the challenge and consume our chips and salsa like seasoned models/actors.

Trevor displays his newly found skill at field goal beer golf, an impromptu skills challenge that probably won't become popular any time soon.

Trevor displays his newly found skill at field goal beer golf, an impromptu skills challenge that probably won't become popular any time soon.

Maintaining your food model face is difficult work

Maintaining your food model face is difficult work

After lunch, it was time to return to the Pacifica Suites and proceed to pool party like only Burganskee, Braskee, and Buskee can.  The video and picture below should give you an idea of the top notch pool action that happened.

Our final round of the buddies trip was at Glen Annie Golf Club.   With views of the pacific and the rolling foothills of Goleta, it's a fitting end to a fantastic weekend.  Be sure to check out the rest of my photos here. If you are interested in making your own Goleta style experience, you can get started here.

A view of the 10th hole at Glen Annie with lemon trees in the backdrop.

A view of the 10th hole at Glen Annie with lemon trees in the backdrop.

The sun sets on an excellent Goleta weekend over Glen Annie Golf Club

The sun sets on an excellent Goleta weekend over Glen Annie Golf Club

Ohio? Oh, hell yeah.

If you take some time to study the areas of the country in which you can find some of the very best golf in America, you will eventually land on Columbus, Ohio as a golf destination.  Since Sean Ogle of Breaking Eighty and I routinely study these types of things, a trip was planned and an all-star itinerary was born.

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When we first arrived in Columbus, instead of heading straight to the golf course, we took a local tip and headed straight to Super Chef's.  With an array of breakfast options, we decided on "The Hulk," a green waffle sandwich with sausage, bacon, egg, and cheese.  This waffle sandwich would play a surprisingly critical role in the trip's proceedings.

After "The Hulk" was consumed, it was off to Scioto Country Club for our first round of golf in Ohio.  Things started off innocently enough until I noticed that Sean had his head down on the golf cart steering wheel.  Sean would announce that he was not feeling well and then proceed to birdie the next two holes.  Later on in the round, Sean would violently lose his waffle sandwich in the turn stand and then proceed to drain a handful of 20 footers.

The 18th hole at Scioto Country Club

The 18th hole at Scioto Country Club

The 10th hole was a favorite

The 10th hole was a favorite

In true "Breaking Eighty" form, Sean would break 80 along with a life long losing streak.  I would shoot 80 to Sean's 79 and Sean would capture victory over me for the first time.  It was a true Michael Jordan "Flu Game" moment.  Apparently The Hulk punching around in Sean's stomach had given him some sort of magical golf powers.

After playing the course where Jack Nicklaus learned the game, Scioto, it was on to play Jack's crowning architectural achievement, Muirfield Village Golf Club.  

Having grown up on a public executive course with a green fee of $5, I had no concept of how good golf courses could actually be.  For a while, I thought executive meant that this is where high powered corporate executives play golf.  As far as I was concerned, the 1905 yard course at Arlington Park was the bee's knees.  That was until my Dad took me on a trip from Indiana to the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.  I remember standing behind the 14th green, just totally amazed.  Only in my wildest dreams as a youngster, could I have imagined actually being able to play this golf course.

In a fitting moment, my only birdie of the day would come at the 14th hole.  Picture taken from where I stood as a kid during my first PGA tour event.

In a fitting moment, my only birdie of the day would come at the 14th hole.  Picture taken from where I stood as a kid during my first PGA tour event.

The tree on the 18th is just as fantastic as it is strategic.

The tree on the 18th is just as fantastic as it is strategic.

The 12th hole at Muirfield is a real gem of a par 3.

The 12th hole at Muirfield is a real gem of a par 3.

After an outstanding day at Muirfield Village, our power twosome would head out to The Golf Club.  Out of all the golf clubs in the United States, this one is The Golf Club.  We had heard good things coming in and the course would not have any trouble living up to it's name.  The Golf Club was designed by Pete Dye in 1967 and Pete actually consulted with a 27 year old Jack Nicklaus on some of the potential shot options on the course.  

Compared to some of Pete Dye's other designs, the features are less challenging, but significant in their subtlety.  From what I can tell, it wasn't until the 1970's that Pete Dye started really hating golfers and the course falls into the category of courses you will want to play over and over.  The course has a similar feel to Crooked Stick which was built around the same time.  

These railroad ties and bunkers are probably the coolest hazards that I have ever encountered.

These railroad ties and bunkers are probably the coolest hazards that I have ever encountered.

Just a slight rise of about 2 feet separates the fairway from the green on #10

Just a slight rise of about 2 feet separates the fairway from the green on #10

The bridge off of 17, my 2 iron would find the water.

The bridge off of 17, my 2 iron would find the water.

The 5th hole is one of the more unique green complexes.

The 5th hole is one of the more unique green complexes.

While Sean recovered from his bought with The Hulk, I would turn a day of 18 into a day of 54 holes, with an afternoon visit to the Ohio State University Scarlet and Gray Golf Courses.  With an executive course and a championship course both designed by Alister Mackenzie, these courses make a great addition to any Columbus trip.  Pro tip: just don't show up in your Michigan gear.

The view from above the Scarlet and Gray courses at Ohio State University

The view from above the Scarlet and Gray courses at Ohio State University

Just as Sean's food poisoning was subsiding, we would run into a second obstacle when weather would force us to move things around due to wet and soggy conditions.  Thinking quickly on our feet, we would be able to secure a tee time at the somewhat nearby Valhalla Golf Club.  As far as replacement rounds go, this was about as good as it gets.  

Unlike Phil Mickelson at the 2014 PGA Championship, we would finish 18 with plenty of sunlight.

Unlike Phil Mickelson at the 2014 PGA Championship, we would finish 18 with plenty of sunlight.

The island green 13th hole at Valhalla.

The island green 13th hole at Valhalla.

In addition to a world class golf course, Valhalla also has one of the coolest hang spots, or "man caves" I have ever seen at a golf course.

Complete with a putting green, full bar, and 2 Trackman simulators, the man cave provides the ultimate post game experience for those that can't get enough golf.  In the photo, we are watching the PGA at Quail Hollow, while golfing at Bethpage Black in the basement of Valhalla.  You could spend 2 days down there.

After honing or games on the simulators, it was time for one final round at the highly anticipated Camargo Club.  Having already played one of Seth Raynor's designs at Shoreacres, I was pretty excited to get a second helping from the classic architect.  As expected, we would not be let down.

The potentially drive-able 4th hole at Valhalla

The potentially drive-able 4th hole at Valhalla

The aptly named "Short" hole at Camargo Club

The aptly named "Short" hole at Camargo Club

After taking this photo, I would roll in a spectacular 35 footer for birdie. #shamelessplug

After taking this photo, I would roll in a spectacular 35 footer for birdie. #shamelessplug

Widely known for it's amazing collection of par 3's and huge greens, Camargo Club was an absolute blast to play.  The club itself is very minimal compared to some of it's counterparts and has an brilliant classic feel to it.  

As Sean was no longer suffering from stomach woes, his golf super powers had worn off and he suffered from a vicious streak of missed putts.  I took it to him with a nice little 75 and all was right in the golf universe again.

Since we didn't end the trip with birdies, we decided to finish it off were we had began, with a local tip on a place to dine.  Zip's Burgers is the place to go when in Cincinnati.  The atmosphere is top notch with an electric train that runs around the ceiling of the eating area.   Sean and I naturally would order up the Girth Burger and I would recommend it.  This time the tip would pay off and we would sail out of town with satisfied and settled stomachs.

A view from the Redan on 15 at Camargo Club.  The original Redan at North Berwick is also the 15th hole.

A view from the Redan on 15 at Camargo Club.  The original Redan at North Berwick is also the 15th hole.

Colorado

If you are looking for some distance gains with the driver, you may want to consider a trip to Colorado instead of forking over $500 for the latest and greatest.  With the entire state resting at least 1000 meters above sea level, you will gain at least half a club, no questions asked.

This was my first golf visit to the "Centennial State" and Colorado has some serious golf options located just outside of Denver.  First up on the agenda was Jack Nicklaus' Castle Pines.  The course opened in 1981 and from 1986 to 2006 hosted the International, a PGA Tour event.  In certain circles, Castle Pines may be even more well known for it's milkshakes.  I finally would know the feeling John Travolta expresses in the clip below from Pulp Fiction.  They are seriously that good.  After a glorious introduction to golf in Colorado at Castle Pines, a day of 36 at Cherry Hills and Colorado Golf Club was on the calendar.

It's quite possible that Travolta prepared for his role as Vincent Vega by visiting the Castle Pines shake shack.

Click on any of the images to view all of my photos from that course.

Click on any of the images to view all of my photos from that course.

The view of 18 from the clubhouse at Castle Pines

The view of 18 from the clubhouse at Castle Pines

 Cherry Hills is most well know for the 1960 US Open in which Arnold Palmer erased a 7 shot deficit to claim victory.  Being a part of Arnie's Army for as long as I can remember, I couldn't have been more excited for my visit.  If there was a single swing that earned Arnie the tile of "The King" his drive on the first hole at Cherry Hills was it.  Palmer would find the green with a persimmon driver and balata ball on the 346 yard par 4.

Would I be able to drive the green and duplicate the feat?  Would I birdie 6 of the first 7 to shoot 65?  Could I live up to the legend?  The answer would be a resounding no.  Even with superior technology, I would come up 30 yards short on #1 and only manage two birdies in the first seven holes.  I was pretty stoked about those 2 birdies with one coming on a holed out bunker shot.

A view from Arnie's tee box on #1 at Cherry Hills.

A view from Arnie's tee box on #1 at Cherry Hills.

A look down at Cherry Hills

A look down at Cherry Hills

After a fantastic morning round at Cherry Hills, I headed down the road to Colorado Golf Club.  CGC was created by the architectural duo of Coore & Crenshaw.  Having enjoyed several of their creations, I was excited for the afternoon round.  Adding some more flames to the fire was Instagram sensation Karin Hart.  Karin is a newcomer to the game, but she has picked things up nicely.  

Karin recovers from the rough looking stylish

Karin recovers from the rough looking stylish

The short 2nd hole kicks off the par 3 fun at Colorado Golf Club.

The short 2nd hole kicks off the par 3 fun at Colorado Golf Club.

Aside from the course, one of the highlights from our round at Colorado Golf Club was our forecaddie, Sadie LeCheminant.  Usually, I struggle to find serious value in a forecaddie, but Sadie brought the heat to our foursome.  A former professional snow boarder, Sadie was easily the best forecaddie I had experienced.  Book her today if you are serious about having a well informed and joyous time on the golf course.  

Sadie dials in the yardage, she would later dial in a well timed golf quip.

Sadie dials in the yardage, she would later dial in a well timed golf quip.

Next up was the 3 hour drive to Holyoke, CO and Ballyneal Golf Club.  With a population of 2,313 people, you probably have not heard of Holyoke.  However, Ballyneal is doing a great job of putting Holyoke on the map.  Even though it's in the middle of nowhere, Ballyneal has a small cozy resort feel to it.  Everything a golfer could want is right on the property.  With a large putting green course, a par 3 course, and a championship layout, you won't run out of golf to enjoy.  Left to myself, I would play until darkness covered the course, then I would play 3 more holes.

The wildly fun 6th hole is a drive-able par 4 with a uniquely shaped green.

The wildly fun 6th hole is a drive-able par 4 with a uniquely shaped green.

The 6th hole at Ballyneal

The 6th hole at Ballyneal

After a drive back to civilization, I would find myself in Colorado Springs looking at The Broadmoor Hotel.  The Broadmoor is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and it's visitors have included heads of state, celebrities, athletes, and business tycoons.  In 1986, George Bush woke up with a hangover in the Broadmoor and decided "he would drink no more."  The Broadmoor parties hard.

There are also 3 golf courses at The Broadmoor and I was scheduled to take on the East Course.  The East course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr and Donald Ross.  The course has hosted a number of USGA events over the years and will host the 2018 US Senior Open.

In an attempt to save up some golf karma, I would go birdie free during my round at The Broadmoor.  However, I would score with my pairing and join up with two fantastic gentlemen.  After the round, we would tour the hotel.  It's worth a visit even if you are not staying on the property.

Originally established in 1918, The Broadmoor Hotel has 779 rooms.

Originally established in 1918, The Broadmoor Hotel has 779 rooms.

The short 17th at Bear Dance

The short 17th at Bear Dance

For the final leg of my Colorado tour, I would take in a recommended local course called Bear Dance.  Despite it's name, the course was not designed by Jack Nicklaus and I would not dance with any bears.  However, I would resume my dances with birdies and get my fist pump on 4 times.

In a very anti climatic end to the trip, I would par the final hole of the trip and stop at a Taco Bell on my way out of town.  I usually prefer the birdie and Arby's exit strategy.

The astoundingly large bear paw bunker at Bear Dance was not actually left by a 15,000 pound bear.

The astoundingly large bear paw bunker at Bear Dance was not actually left by a 15,000 pound bear.