This week’s review covers a course I have wanted to play for awhile and finally got the chance to recently.

City Club Marietta is a municipal golf course in Marietta, GA. Although my impression of munis is usually that they’re not up to snuff, I had higher hopes for this course. I thought I had played all of the munis in and around Atlanta, so it was good to see that there was another out there.

In reality, the course was better in my imagination.

City Club Marietta is a very, very short course located on an old military site. The terrain is fairly undulating, with a large hill leading down into a valley through which the holes play, the hill being perhaps the most notable feature of the course.

At under 6,000 yards, the course is EXTREMELY short. It almost feels like playing an executive course. Par 5s are not greater than 500 yards, which seems very odd when coming from some other courses around. The course makes up for some of the length loss with tightness. However, nothing can make up for it completely. For example, the second hole is a 250-yard par 4. Even though it’s a dogleg with trees and a little uphill, I can probably hit a 4-wood onto this green from the tee box. And the trouble near the green isn’t so daunting that I would shy away from hitting it either. Although I admire some holes under 300 yards for being cleverly designed, this one does not offer any “risk” to go with the reward of going for the green.

Speaking of, the greens are nothing more than OK. I was surprised to find that they were bent grass, but they were not tight, had inconsistencies, and generally were just OK. Moreover, the course was not marshalled. My friend and I played the front 9 in about an hour and a half, but got caught behind a slow group that never let us through on the back side.

This course reminded me of Cobb County’s version of Bobby Jones Golf Course. Each county has a muni that plays about the same way. It’s designed to be very easy so beginners can play it, but inevitably it is just too much hassel to be worth playing for an experienced player. Moreover, they’re too expensive. $39/person on a weekday afternoon is WAY too much to play this course.

One interesting note as well: driving to the course feels very strange. The clubhouse sits as a nice, southern building. However, it appears that a Hilton was built next to the clubhouse a number of years ago. As such, when driving into the parking lot of the course, there is almost no signage to tell you that you are in the correct place. Instead, you see giant Hilton signs to the massive Grecian Empire hotel. Only when you near the front of the hotel do you find a sign directing you to the golf course on the left. Although it makes for an interesting view from the fairway on 9 and 18, the course has a strange feel to it–almost as if the hotel is an insane asylum, or the hotel from The Shining.

Moreover, the course is in an odd spot. Although it’s not far from Marietta, it’s kind of difficult to get to. I felt like there was too much driving away from the highway for as close as it looked on the map.

On a high note, however, I hit what is probably one of the top shots of the year for me. A 355-yard downhill par 4 10th, this was the result:

That is my ball mark to the right of the pin. Literally, I LANDED 5 feet right of the stick. Although I missed the eagle putt, that ball was KILLED. So that was a high point. The view from the tee is below, although you can’t see the green (it doglegs to the right).

All in all, the course is just not up to snuff. Too short, too bad of shape, too crowded. At $39/person, I would recommend skipping this one.

Cost: 2/10
Maintenance: 3/10
Greens: 3/10
Layout: 2/10
“Fun” factor: 3/10
Proximity to the City: 2/10
Overall: 2/10

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Play of the Week 24

September 26, 2011

The POTW this week…or maybe for the whole year…is Bill Haas.

The Tour Champion and proud owner of $11.4MM is none other than son of former PGA Tour player Jay Haas. Like Jim Furyk last year, Haas had a 3-shot lead coming down the back 9 Sunday of The Tour Championship. Like Furyk, Haas bogeyed down the stretch. However, Haas’s bogeys gave Hunter Mahan a shot at a win–if Mahan could’ve birdied the extremely difficult 18th hole. Mahan par’d to force a playoff. The first hole was a replay of the 18th hole. Both players hit their shots short and right, Mahan in the sand, Haas in the far more difficult bermuda rough. Haas hit his ball to about 15 feet, Mahan to about 5 feet. Haas stood up and hit the 15-footer with 2 feet of break to the bottom of the cup. Mahan made par.

While Haas’s putt could’ve been enough for the POTW, it was the second playoff hole–the 17th–where Haas showed his metal.

Haas put his drive into the bunker on the right side of the fairway. Now, I’ve hit the drive at 17. It’s tough. Just look below. However, I’ve never hit it in a PGA Tour event, so I can only imagine what it must feel like. I certainly don’t blame the guy for bailing right.

Unfortunately, from the bunker, Haas hit his ball over the left of the green, which has a steep slope leading to water. Mahan put his drive in the fairway and his approach to the center of the green. It looked all but certain–Mahan was the champion.

In a stroke of luck, it hasn’t rained more than 2 inches in the last 2 months here in Atlanta, and the East Lake was a little low. There is a rule that, if you can see more than half of the ball in water, you should be able to hit it out. Haas’s ball found ground under the surface of the East Lake, and he had a shot. That is when Haas took the tournament.

Did you see that? Let’s look again.

No way.

One more time.

The playoff ended on the next hole, when Haas made par and Mahan bogeyed from the front-right bunker. Haas won the tournament without hitting a single green-in-regulation for any of the three playoff holes. A tremendous tournament capped off by an amazing playoff and a heroic shot.

To you, Bill Haas, you have earned this POTW. We salute you. And your enormously bloated bank account.

This review is long overdue. It is overdue not only because LG and I played it a few months before starting this blog–and it would’ve been a tremendous subject at that time–but also it is overdue because LG and I both feel that this is one of the top courses we’ve ever played.

In April of 2010, LG and I traveled to Las Vegas for a golf & gambling week to celebrate our nearing graduation from law school. We had a great time and played some great courses, one of which we both reviewed for our first course review of the PF (here https://thepowerfade.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/a-review-of-tpc-las-vegas-aka-the-canyons/ and here https://thepowerfade.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/tpc-las-vegas-part-ii/). At the same time, we made a trip to Mesquite NV to play what has been hailed since its opening in 2001 as one of America’s 100 top courses: Wolf Creek.

At $195/round, LG and I played 36 that day (the rates were a little lower in the afternoon, but April is still the most expensive time of the year to play). We were the first car in the parking lot at 6AM and the last car to leave at 8PM. We stayed overnight at the Virgin River Hotel, Casino, Eatery, Bowling Center, and Ice Cream Parlor (although it’s actually only a hotel/casino, it actually does have all of those things). Am I ever thankful I did that.

Wolf Creek is an amazing golf course. It is unlike any other place I’ve played–including some of America’s top 100 and several PGA Tour spots. The course is an amalgamation of what LG and I call “17 signatures holes (and one afterthought hole).” At almost 7,000 yards from the tips, the course actually plays fairly short given the massive elevation changes and the desert air.

The reason LG and I are reviewing this course now is that we recently returned on our trip to Vegas a few weekends ago. At the end of August/beginning of September, the rates are as cheap as you can get. The course was in rougher shape than when we played the first time, as the fairways had been burned out and were ready for overseeding. In fact, we played the day before the course closed for two weeks in preparation for overseeding. However, the price was right, and at only $55 per person, it was well worth the return trip. (note, pictures in this part of the review are from April.)

As a reviewer, the course is just downright fun. There are MANY holes where standing on the tee makes you shiver, if not for the amazing views then for the torture of the shot you’re about to hit. Many balls are hit from elevated tees, where the player must blast the ball 50 to 100 feet down into a canyon below. The course is EXTREMELY challenging off the tee but actually quite easy from the fairway. Many shots into greens were under 160 yards, making for some pretty simple approaches. Although there are dead spots, the course plays pretty fair.

And, if you’re not shivering from the views or the challenge, you might actually be shivering from being 100 feet up on a ledge with no guard rail. Some of these places…well…it doesn’t feel right. Both LG and I almost fell into a canyon trying to retrieve a ball he hit. Although the staff tells you not to go into the desert, it’s not that difficult to trek in and find your ball most times.

I must say that my favorite hole of all is the one that is ranked #4 most challenging, the par 4 14th. After a few fairly easy holes, the 14th comes with a huge carry over a ravine into a split fairway. The view is tremendous, with a large, freshly-cut green hill as a backdrop for which to aim. The green is fun. The first time we played, LG hit the cart path right of the green, and the ball kept going and going down the hill. LG had a full 8-iron to get back up near the green, but he pulled it off.

(LG Commenting:)
After the beautiful 14th, the golfer is then treated to one of the shorter drives to the 16th tee.  Wait, 16th?  Sorry, we forgot the 15th.  To us, so did the designer of the course.  We described the course as 17 signature holes and one “afterthought” hole because the par-3 16th just feels a little out of place.  Even from the back tees, this tiny little par three measures only 125 yards from the tips and plays significantly shorter because it is straight downhill.  During our first adventure to Wolf Creek, JK and I came to this hole thinking, wow, I hope 16-18 leave us with something to think about.  After JK teed off however, he looked over at me and said “Hey.  Just hit it in the hole.”  I replied, “Yeah, okay.”  “No, seriously.  Just hit it in the hole.”  At that time, we were playing from the blue tees which left us exactly 116 yards to the flag.  I took my PW and hit one of the first shots where I remember thinking “wow, that was pure.”  The ball drew slightly as though drawn by the flagstick.  It landed about 3 feet passed the flag and rolled back toward the hole.  JK and I watched and sank to our knees as it lipped out and rolled to the left of the flag.  With that memory in mind, I was looking forward to the 15th more than any other hole during our second trip.  This time, I made the mistake of overclubbing and, well, that’s where the story of JK and me almost falling in the canyon came from.

My near hole in one on this trip, however, came from the par-3 11th.  That’s right folks, I’m about 15 feet away from 7 holes in one if you count them all up.  This time, the 11th was playing around 215 yards from the tips (straight downhill).  JK hit some absurdly short club like a 7 iron while I was hitting my hack 5 iron.  I had the honor from the devilish 10th hole (somehow double won).  After putting a good move on this ball, it landed just short of pin high and right of the green.  We watched from the tee as it trundled down the sidehill slope and rolled straight toward the pin.  We both watched fixated as it slowed near the flag and stopped 2 feet short of the hole.  JK was kind enough to concede the bird.  Maybe I’ll get that Ace next time, Wolf Creek.

All in all, Wolf Creek gives the air of a top-ranked, championship caliber golf course with the finest accommodations. The clubhouse grill is top notch as well, serving great food and great views of the course. Every hole is an opportunity for a computer background photo. At $200/round in peak condition, it’s certainly not cheap, but it is completely worth it for every golfer.

Price: 6/10
Value: 9/10
Experience: 10/10
Condition: 9/10 in April, 6/10 in September
Course Accommodations: 8/10
Cache: 9/10
Overall: 9/10. Even though there are literally hundreds of courses in and surrounding Las Vegas, I will continue to return to this course on most of my trips there.

After about a 13-year hiatus, I recently had the opportunity to return to a good golf course in Alpharetta known as the Trophy Club of Atlanta. At 6:52AM on a Thursday morning, the course was only $29/person on Golfnow.com, so I decided it was a good chance for me to return. Before my review, I’ll give a little background to this club.

For those who don’t know, there have been several major players in the Atlanta golf scene over the years. Most of the conglomerations end up dissolving somehow. The current such conglomeration is Canongate Golf Clubs, which has privatized many courses around the perimeter of the city of Atlanta, specifically bringing in distressed public and formerly independently private clubs with the allure of corporate funding. Although it’s a neat idea, it hasn’t panned out well as the membership rates have continued to dwindle over the years. Before Canongate, Eagle Greens had purchased a number of courses in Northeast Atlanta (between Atlanta and Athens, generally), but they went out fast in a blaze of glory.

However, before all of these was a small coalition of courses known as the Champions Club. Champions Club originally owned Champions Club of Gwinnett, Champions Club of Atlanta, and Champions Club of Appalachee. The “Champions” logo went under and was rebranded under new ownership, the “Trophy Club.” The Trophy Club of Gwinnett eventually cut out of the group and became the Country Club of Gwinett. The two remaining Trophy Clubs were eventually bought by mega-conglomerate American Golf Corporation. I’ll spare you all a rant on American Golf Corporation, but needless to say, they’re not one of my favorite management companies.

What does this mean for today? Well, not a whole lot. The course is what it is. However, what it tells you is that the course shares a shell with some “sister” courses in the area, all being similarly short, tight designs that are generally well-laid out and fair. Understanding these things can let a player know whether to go to either of the other two courses, assuming the player forms an opinion after playing one of them.

The reason I haven’t played this course in 13-or-so years is not because I dislike the layout. In fact, I have played Country Club of Gwinnett many times in the last few years (not since this blog started, though. Maybe I need to return. Hmmmm). It’s just that 1) it’s in Alpharetta, which is a ways from my usual stomping grounds, and 2) it used to cost far too much. The only reason I played it before was that I had a junior golf tournament there. I still remember driving out with my dad. The course was pristine back then. I played terribly but I remembered the course well. Some of those holes stuck with me all this time. Quite an interesting memory.

But enough mumbo jumbo…on to the review.

Trophy Club of Atlanta (in its current iteration) is a public golf course in Alpharetta, GA. The course features champion bermuda greens which both my playing partner and I found to be unbelievably challenging in that their speed on downhill putts was TREMENDOUSLY faster than the speed on uphill putts. Although they are certainly well-kept, it seemed as if breaks were very hard to read because the influence of the hills was so tremendous. A downhill putt would roll so quickly that it didn’t take the break. An uphill putt was very much influenced by grain. Those who read our blog regularly know that LG and I are very into putting, and a good putting experience (not necessarily putting up great numbers, but enjoying our experience) is important to an enjoyable round.

What I did find interesting is that, at 6700 yards from the tips, the course is an interesting 72.5 rating. Many of the holes are short but tight, requiring precise driving to keep the ball in play. My playing partner and I hit a lot of irons off the tee (and, I’m sad to admit, many of them were very poor). While it’s a completely different feeling from hitting drivers all day (which can wear you out mentally), it certainly wasn’t easy.

The upside to this, however, is that the greens for most par 5s were reachable for me, even from the back tees. Of the four par 5s, I hit 7-iron right of #2, 5-iron just short of #9, 6-iron onto #10, and 3-iron onto #18 (into wind). I do hit the ball fairly long (drives in the 310-range), but two of the holes were manageable even if I didn’t have quite the length advantage that I do.

Interestingly as well, the course plays around a rather large man-made lake in the center of the property, just like Country Club of Gwinnett, with other holes winding through neighborhoods. Shot making is pretty critical, and it just so happened that I had a good ballstriking day, but keeping the ball in play is CRITICAL on this course.

At $29 with cart, the course was definitely worth the cost.

As always, however, I must state that there are several drawbacks. First, the greens. Bermuda just sucks. Any course that has it is not going to get much credit from me. So far, the only course I’ve played where the bermuda was not noticeably different from bent was at East Lake Golf Club (site of the Tour Championship). Even there, however, the underpinning of the surface was VERY hard, so stopping the ball on approach shots (especially with V-grooves) is not an easy task. These greens were highly variant in speed from one green to the next, and many breaks were unreadable due to the influence of the grain on the speed. Lipping out 10-foot putts is not a fun way to play the game, and it happened to me all day. Additionally, the rough is inconsistent. In some places, it was no different from the fairway, in others it was hardpan, and in others we literally lost balls because they were sitting down in the thick shrubbery. Although I don’t mind SOME risk/reward holes where I might have to take out a 5-iron on certain days, the par 4s on this course were abominably short. Only 3/10 par 4s on the entire golf course (we played the first hole from forward tees on the starter’s request) were over 400 yards, and the ones that were shorter were WELL short–339, 326, 367, 374. While the layout was interesting, there were many spots where you could get in A LOT of trouble without knowing it would be so bad (just like Country Club of Gwinnett, which now I am feeling more and more like I should review). A few trips around the course doesn’t guarantee you’ll know where to hit it either. It had good elevation changes on some holes and really ugly layouts for others. And many of the holes played too close to houses.

All-in-all, the course was definitely worth the price of admission. If it weren’t so far away, I’d probably go back. But knowing it has bermuda greens makes me more hesitant about getting back out there.

Price: 8/10
Condition: 7/10
Greens: 6/10
Green Stimp speed: 7/10
Layout: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Proximity to Atlanta: 5/10
Overall: 7/10

Play of the Week 23

September 19, 2011

This week’s POTW is….me. Something always seems wrong with our self-service POTWs, but this week I have to say–I’m pretty happy. After a pretty dismal stretch, the last five sets nine-holes (or each 9 of 45 holes) have all been in the 30s, including 3 nines of -1, 35. Although none have been played on long courses, I finally figured out how to get my ballstriking back to where it was years ago. With the putting and chipping I have been working on lately, it’s been a good ride. The only problem–just about every course in GA has aerated their greens within the past few weeks, so I’m not scoring like I would be if the greens were still pristine. However, it’s been a fun week or so.

What did I change? I started hitting 3-iron on the range and really working to make an inside-out swing. The consistency has been tremendous. Hitting clubs like they were made to be hit…well, it helps.

So here’s to me!

New Post Now Ready

September 15, 2011

We apologize for misposting the currently-posted review of Wolf Creek in Mesquite, NV. The post is up and running at https://thepowerfade.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/course-review-wolf-creek-mesquite-nv/

Thanks to all our readers.

-JK