Posts Tagged ‘50 states’

We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course in Fort McDowell, AZ

wekopa saguaro

Sean, me, Ryan and Mike

The Stats

Tee Time: August 7, 2015, 7:58, 101 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, 2006

Playing Partners: Ryan Cohan, Sean Cohan, Mike Harvey

Tees: Purple, Par 71 (70.2 rating/132 slope/6,603 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 83 (41-42); 36 putts; 9/14 fairways; 9/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke

The Course

Four years in the desert and I finally made the trip out to We-Ko-Pa Golf Club with summer rates begging me to play. The pair of courses, Saguaro and Cholla, come heralded as two of the finest places to play golf in the entire Southwest. It’s always a battle between the two here and the two at Troon North for the top spot in many rankings. The best part about being a resident is I can play all four and judge for myself. We started with the Saguaro, and I’ll be sure to loop back for the Cholla shortly. The Saguaro course is younger by a few years, having been commissioned after the Cholla course proved successful. Saguaro was designed by the elite duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who have a “lay of the land” philosophy to designing the courses that has led to some world-class golf around the world. Just take a look at this resume! On top of the fantastic golf, We-Ko-Pa features some stunning desert scenery. I’d love to take my clubs and camera out for a twilight round and catch a radiant Arizona sunset over this layout. Even a morning with some rain produced some stunning photos. So stunning you might just look at the pictures and ignore all my three-putts.

wekopa saguaro hole 5

A dramatic view of the rain over the desert at the 5th tee

The first is one of many lengthy par 4’s. At 443 yards, it doglegs left with a wash about 100 yards short of the green. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also a few short par 4’s at the Saguaro course. Take the 299-yard 2nd for example. Up here in the drier air at 1,450 feet of elevation, the ball goes a bit further. There are four holes under 322 yards that are theoretically reachable with a great shot. This one slopes and kicks to the right, with bunkers waiting on the front and left of the green. There’s your reason to lay up right there. The 3rd is a tough, dogleg-left par 4 where you can’t see the green from the tee. And then there’s the monstrous par-5 4th, weighing in at 609 yards. A good drive to the crest leaves a nice view and an open second shot to set yourself up for a good approach. The first par 3 is the 159-yard 5th. It’s a fairly straightforward par 3 with a slight false front. It’s also the site of one of my favorite pictures taken of a golf course to date (see above). That one’s going to look sweet on the wall. Continue reading

Merion Golf Club (East)

Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA

merion golf club east

Me, my dad, Larry and Robin

The Stats

Tee Time: July 28, 2015, 9:36, 90 F, sunny

Designer: Hugh Wilson, 1911

Playing Partners: Robin Baggett, Larry McNabb, my dad

Tees: Middle, Par 70 (71.3 rating/144 slope/6,126 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.2 index)

Stats: 79 (44-35); 34 putts; 6/14 fairways; 9/18 greens

The Course

I had the extremely good fortune of getting to play Merion Golf Club’s East Course in Ardmore, Pennsylvania to get to 23 states completed. Known for its unmatched collection of great golf holes, several memorable US Opens and those wicker-basket flagsticks, I looked forward to this on my calendar for three months. Christmas came early. A couple of things about the club first. This is the first club I have been to with this much history. Built in 1896, the heritage and tradition run deep. Caddies are mandatory, there aren’t any yardage markers. No golf carts. No hats indoors. The course is always kept in championship condition. Slick greens, long rough and narrow fairways. Pace of play isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a requirement. Members who don’t complete rounds in under 4 hours get reprimanded and repeat offenders are temporarily benched. They honor the rules here. Not even a breakfast ball. I have a few friends who would struggle with that one. And really, if you’re going to knock it around at a place as esteemed and historic as this, the letter of the law is the only way to go. The club works hard to keep Merion the same as it played when it first opened, and it’s awesome to think you’re experiencing the course just as Bobby Jones did. Fortunately, they don’t go completely old-school and make you play with wooden woods and feather-stuffed balls.

merion golf club hole 11

The 11th, in 2015 as it was in 1930

The best thing they made me do was leave my cell phone in the car so I had nothing distracting me from the experience. The men’s locker room has an air of antiquity that’s like walking back in time a few decades. Located upstairs where the heat gathers, it has metal lockers probably from 1965 that look like they were once used by at Philadelphia Eagles training camps. And the post round shower, which you will need if playing in the summer, is as refreshing as a Costa Rican waterfall. Trust me. On the short drive to the practice range, around 8am, we noticed the flagsticks were adorned with actual flags and not the wicker baskets. Turns out they have to bring them in every night before sundown due to thieves running out and taking these unique souvenirs. They replace them as play progresses in the morning. I hadn’t thought about stealing a flagstick, as cool as they are, and when when the idea entered my head I realized it wouldn’t fit in my travel bag. Would’ve looked pretty sweet in my garden, though. The other thing about the wicker flagsticks is that the poles are noticeably thicker than your standard flagstick. I hit one dead center with a chip and it had no room to drop into the cup. Oh well, I’m clearly over it.

merion golf club east hole 1

The 1st

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The Golf Club at Equinox

The Golf Club at Equinox in Manchester Village, VT

golf club at equinox

Me

The Stats

Tee Time: July 22, 2015, 11:50, 69 F, scattered showers

Designer: Walter Travis, 1926/Rees Jones, 1991

Playing Partners: Bill and Rich (I said BILL and Rich, not these guys…)

Tees: Gold, Par 71 (70.8 rating/129 slope/6,423 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (8.2 index)

Stats: 86 (44-42); 28 putts; 6/15 fairways; 6/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

golf club at equinox hole 1

Just look how beautiful this scene is on the 1st tee

Finally the journey to new states resumes. It’s July 2015 and the last new state I had visited prior to today was New Hampshire in July 2014. A year later I’m about a par-4 west of Portsmouth, in the Green Mountain State, Vermont. Located in the small town of Manchester Village, The Golf Club at Equinox was an easy target for me. I spent the last couple weeks in Cooperstown visiting my parents and rubbing elbows with Hall of Famers (or in Bert Blyleven’s case, having bunny ears cast upon my head) for induction weekend. A top rated course in Vermont, Equinox is a scant 99 miles from my parents’ new cottage. Of course, if that’s 99 Arizona miles, this is about an hour. In New England, it’s 3 hours of winding upstate two-lane highways in a soft-top Jeep that is as quiet and comfortable as a John Deere tractor.

Bert Blyleven

Thanks Uncle Bert

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Bellevue Country Club

Bellevue Country Club in Syracuse, NY

bellevue country club

Jerry, Charlie, my dad and me

The Stats

Tee Time: July 21, 2015, 11:00, 90 F, overcast

Designer: Donald Ross, 1914

Playing Partners: Charlie Cline, Jerry Wallace, my dad

Tees: White, Par 71 (70.7 rating/132 slope/6,157 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.2 index)

Stats: 89 (42-47); 31 putts; 2/14 fairways; 2/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke

The Course

As much as I love playing courses designed by old school architects, I’ve amazingly only played one Donald Ross course to date: the Biltmore down in Miami, recently featured on Ballers! Luckily, I was able to get a second taste of the famed architect. Upstate in Syracuse is Bellevue Country Club, a design from 1914 that still has teeth today. All the freshest movable-weight drivers, speed-enhancing gradational core golf balls and spin-milled wedges on the market couldn’t get me around this place any better than a member playing 1930’s Spaldings and hickory-shaft persimmons. The setting is spectacular; a quiet country club atmosphere that focuses on pure golf.

bellevue country club hole 1

The opening hole at this Donald Ross design

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Sandpiper Golf Course

Sandpiper Golf Course in Santa Barbara, CA

sandpiper golf course hole 12

Sandpiper, the land of dramatic panoramas

The Stats

Tee Time: June 28, 2015, 8:20, 75F, sunny

Designer: William Bell (1972)

Playing Partners: assorted (tournament)

Tees: Gold, Par 72 (72.8 rating/131 slope/6,646 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.7 index)

Stats: 91 (48-43); 34 putts; 6/13 fairways; 3/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

Best I recall, there are two spots on the California coast for golf that everyone agrees are the best. Obviously the trio at Pebble Beach and then the south course at Torrey Pines in San Diego. In between, in Santa Barbara, is a coastal course that is worthy of the same praise the others get. Sandpiper Golf Course, just north of Santa Barbara on the 101, features six holes that take you right up to the cliffs or beach of the Pacific Ocean, and another with an approach that fills the viewfinder with pristine blue ocean. Well, once they clean up the oil

sandpiper golf course hole 10

A very pretty, very scary approach at 10

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Quintero Golf Club

Quintero Golf Club in Peoria, AZ

quintero golf club hole 3

The dangerous par-4 3rd

The Stats

Tee Time: May 24, 2015, 10:46, 84 F, breezy

Designer: Rees Jones, 2000

Playing Partners: Bob, Bud and Jim

Tees: Gold/Silver Combo, Par 72 (72.0 rating/140 slope/6,655 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 89 (43-46); 30 putts; 8/13 fairways; 3/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes

The Course

Long weekend and the need to get away from the house led me an hour northwest to the highly-recommended Quintero Golf Club. It’s a long trek from Scottsdale, especially considering there are about 300 golf courses closer than this joint in Peoria. So instead of going through the tedious process of getting someone to drive with me to check it out, I just booked it on a 3-day weekend before the heat comes in. It all worked out, and I had the pleasure of playing with Bob, Bud and John Flanagan of New Jersey. They were as Jersey as they come. Not Jersey Shore, thankfully, but more Sopranos. Fun guys, though. They had no idea the battle they were about to put themselves through.

quintero golf club hole 4

Looking past a jumping cholla at the 4th tee

Quintero really is a spectacular golf course; it’s designed by the renowned Rees Jones, whose name is all over the country at some of the most revered courses in golf. The man clearly knows how to keep you on your toes. I’m pretty sure this is my first course of his. It’s well worth the drive. Once you get off the I-17 (if you’re coming from Phoenix or anywhere east of there), the scenery gets prettier by the mile as you pass by Lake Pleasant and head into the craggy hills. However, it’s remote. Quintero is as much a part of the Greater Phoenix area as Pluto is part of the solar system. Even the drive from the clubhouse to the first tee is 5-10 minutes in the golf cart, depending on how many volts you’ve got. On the first tee, my tips from the starter were “the fairways are wider than you think” and “the greens are stimping at 11.” That’s pretty damn fast; even the USGA only recommends 10.5 for the US Open.

It would've been a lot more fun if this guy gave me that Stimp reading

It would’ve been a lot more fun if this guy gave me that Stimp reading

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Cowboys Golf Club

Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, TX

cowboys golf club

Me and Greg (and a cutout of the Golf Channel’s Charlie Rymer photobombing us)

The Stats

Tee Time: April 12, 2015, 8:30, 78 F, Cloudy

Designer: Jeffery Brauer, 2001

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: Silver, Par 72 (72.6 rating/135 slope/6,563 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 83 (39-44); 38 putts; 10/14 fairways; 11/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes

The Course

cowboys golf club hole 13

The gorgeous approach to the 13th

There’s a lot of expected extravagance at the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. Four replica Super Bowl trophies prominently displayed just inside the pro shop. A six-foot wide Cowboy star in the middle one of the fairways. A Cowboys magnetic pin given to all golfers to wear that lets the cart girls know you can eat and drink for free. Markers at every hole detailing various moments in the Cowboys’ rich football history (just ignore those past twenty years or so since their last Super Bowl…) Golf carts without numbers but labeled with names of Dallas Cowboys of the past instead (we got Randy White). There are constant reminders that this is the world’s only NFL themed golf club. Though being the world’s only NFL themed golf club is a lot like being world’s only golf-themed football stadium. What? Exactly. Especially to a non-Cowboys fan like myself, all of this can detract from what is a very good golf course that more than holds up to the Jerry Jones-driven hype. Even that great carnival barker who just happens to own an NFL team can’t oversell this well-constructed track. You probably won’t even hear him, what with the 747’s coming in for landing at the nearby DFW airport all day. Maybe that’s why I played well here, I couldn’t even hear myself think.

So I guess that means we were cart #54?

So I guess that means we were cart #54?

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