Golf Blog

The Final Countdown (2015)

We have reached the time of year when people look back on the past 365 days and do some reflection.  I always like to take this opportunity to summarize my year in golf.  In review, I have been lucky enough to play some truly outstanding golf courses this year.  2015 was probably the most adventurous golfing year of my life.  I played golf in 3 countries and I am currently at 145 rounds and counting.  I met numerous new friends, shared hundreds of laughs, and 3 putted way too many times.  

In typical New Year's fashion, I have decided to count down this year's greatest hits.  I have selected the top 5 favorite golf courses that I have played in 2015.  Each day as we count down to New Year's Eve, I will reveal  another member of my top 5.  The suspense is sure to be obscenely great as the courses are slowly revealed.

 

#5 - Erin Hills - Erin, WI

Starting our list off in style is Erin Hills.  The course will host the 2017 US Open and I had an absolute blast approving the course for Open Play.  Erin Hills pulled off a squeaker with so many hot tracks in the running for the 5 slot.

In the end, the variety and interest from tee to green pushed it over the edge.  The course challenged just about every aspect of my game and there wasn't a single hole that didn't reach out and grab my attention.  "Oh man, this shot is going to be fun" was a common phrase.

#4 -  The Golf Club at Black Rock - Coeur D'Alene, ID

The Golf Club at Black Rock roars into the 4th position as we continue the countdown to 2016.  Designed by Jim Engh in 2003, the course sits next to the beautiful Lake Coeur D'Alene.

Black Rock is a course that has about 5 signature holes and some of the most unique approach shots that I have ever played.  The 11th hole pictured on the right features an uphill approach over several waterfalls.  The 13th features more waterfalls and is immediately followed by another great par 3 over a canyon with a rocky backdrop that can generated some interesting bounces.

Although many of the features are clearly man made, Black Rock quickly grabs your attention and does not let go until you finish up on 18.  

#3 - Chambers Bay - University Place, WA 

The home town favorite comes into our countdown at #3.  The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr and opened for play in 2007.  A mere 8 years later it would host the US Open.

Chambers Bay was heavily criticized for the consistency of its greens and it's appearance on television during the US Open.  While, the color of the course and the greens where not as perfect as tour players are used too, Chambers Bay is a first rate golf course and experience.  Each green complexes provides the player with a lot of options for creativity and unique short game options.  Chambers Bay never lets me down!

#2 - Cabot Cliffs, Nova Scotia

While Cabot Cliffs will open for general play in 2016, I was able to get a sneak preview in 2015!  Golf Digest's Ashley Mayo did a great job of setting up the fantastic trip.

Cabot Cliffs has already earned high praise as the Best New Course of 2015 and it certainly did not disappoint.  The course starts out strong and features plenty of oceanside golf early.  By the time you get to 15, you are already having the time of your life.  Things go into overdrive as Cabot Cliffs delivers 4 of the best finishing golf holes that I have ever seen.  If you can make it out to Cabot Links/Cliffs you will be very glad you did.

#1 - Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, WI

Winning a squeaker over Cabot Cliffs, Whistling Straits is my favorite course played in 2015!  Designed by Pete Dye, Whistling Straits is a bonafide championship venue, most recently playing host to the 2015 PGA Championship.  I would take on the course only a couple of weeks after Jason Day's recording setting victory.

Whistling straits was a thrill from the beginning to the end, there was not a hole that I wasn't thrilled to play.  The course makes excellent use of it's lakeside property with 8 holes directly on Lake Michigan.  Whistling Straits provides plenty of challenge while still allowing the golfer to make some creative and fun recovery shots.  This course is one of the best in the country.

Happy 2016 from the 3rd hole at Whistling Straits

Happy 2016 from the 3rd hole at Whistling Straits

Hello Wisconsin!

In town for a wedding on Lake Geneva, I seized the opportunity to play some of the best golf courses that Wisconsin has to offer.  A fantastic lineup of Erin Hills, Black Wolf Run, and both courses at Whistling Straits were on the agenda.    

After dropping off the wife and some friends after the wedding, I drove the hour or so to Erin Hills for my first Wisconsin golfing experience.  I was fortunate enough to join a great group of guys who were on the tail end of their 27th consecutive annual golf buddies trip.  Read the full review on Erin Hills and see all the pictures here.

The very cool par 3, 9th hole at Erin Hills.

The very cool par 3, 9th hole at Erin Hills.

The early morning view on the range at Erin Hills

The early morning view on the range at Erin Hills

Erin Hills will host the 2017 U.S. Open.  This will be an excellent new course for the Open and I am excited to watch the action.

Next up on the agenda was the Irish course at Whistling Straits.  Living in the shadow of it's next door neighbor, the Irish course does a great job of holding it's own.  

The course has a cool American links feel to it and served as a great warm up for it's big brother.  Read the full write up on the Irish course here.

the 16th hole at Erin Hills figures to be a pivotal hole in the 2017 U.S. Open.

the 16th hole at Erin Hills figures to be a pivotal hole in the 2017 U.S. Open.

Plenty of tall fescue to hunt down wayward teeshots on Whistling Straits' Irish course.

Plenty of tall fescue to hunt down wayward teeshots on Whistling Straits' Irish course.

The opening hole on the Irish sets a great pace for the round.

The opening hole on the Irish sets a great pace for the round.

One of the most scenic par 3's on the Irish course is the 6th hole.

One of the most scenic par 3's on the Irish course is the 6th hole.

The difficult 17th hole.  The superintendent cut us some slack with that pin position.

The difficult 17th hole.  The superintendent cut us some slack with that pin position.

 Whistling Straits was easily the most fun I had photographing a golf course.  With all of the huge sand dunes, there are tons of places to get unique vantage shots of the course.  It was hard to narrow down the shots for the gallery.

I got up on some of the partially taken down grandstands to get this one of the 15th hole.

I got up on some of the partially taken down grandstands to get this one of the 15th hole.

John Daly fired 3 balls into the lake here on the 7th and then threw his club in after it during the 2015 PGA.  A kid in a boat would later retrieve it.

John Daly fired 3 balls into the lake here on the 7th and then threw his club in after it during the 2015 PGA.  A kid in a boat would later retrieve it.

Next up was the Straits course at Whistling Straits.  Playing host to the 2015 PGA Championship just weeks prior, they were still taking down some of the final grandstands.  I managed to sneak an official program from the rubble beforehand, so I was ready to go.

There are no carts allowed on the Straits course and caddies are required.  Which means none of those cart path bounces or scuffed balls.  Although that won't save you from finding Lake Michigan on the course's 8 lakeside holes.  

The difficult par 4 8th hole.  I almost hit it in the lake and made a great par save from the beach.

The difficult par 4 8th hole.  I almost hit it in the lake and made a great par save from the beach.

The par 3 3rd hole is the 1st in a series of 4 jaw dropping waterfront par 3's.

The par 3 3rd hole is the 1st in a series of 4 jaw dropping waterfront par 3's.

One of my favorite moments in the 2015 PGA was when Jason Day flat out chunked one 20 yards short of the green with a wedge.  Unfazed, he got up and down for par and went on to win the tournament with a record -20.  What a stud

One of my favorite moments in the 2015 PGA was when Jason Day flat out chunked one 20 yards short of the green with a wedge.  Unfazed, he got up and down for par and went on to win the tournament with a record -20.  What a stud

Out of all the courses I have played Whistling Straits might just be my favorite.  It's a close call with Pebble Beach for the top spot.  Be sure to check out the full review and writeup here.

Here is the finishing 18th hole.  A great spot to watch the action.

Here is the finishing 18th hole.  A great spot to watch the action.

For the final round of my Wisconsin trip, I was greeted by these swans at Black Wolf Run.  After 3 days of taking on Pete Dye designs would I finally get the best of Pete?  Be sure to read the full review here.

Black Wolf Run is a must play for any golfer visiting the Kohler area.  The course features two 18 hole tracks, the River and the Meadow Valley course.  I played the River which is the more popular option. 

A big thanks to everyone that I played with and to the courses for being such tremendous hosts.

Plenty of risk reward options at Black Wolf Run

Plenty of risk reward options at Black Wolf Run

The tough 11th hole at Black Wolf Run

The tough 11th hole at Black Wolf Run

The view from the tee box on the par 4, 5th hole at Black Wolf Run.  Oh yeah.

The view from the tee box on the par 4, 5th hole at Black Wolf Run.  Oh yeah.