Play of the Week 26.5

October 31, 2011

The more significant play of the week for this week (sorry Sergio) goes to JK’s family.  Congratulations on your newest addition – A new baby girl!!  Soon JK will have his own foursome and will have no need for LG.

Congratulations from your PF family!

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Play of the Week 26

October 31, 2011

This week’s POTW should actually be a POT(2)Ws – Play of the 2 Weeks.  Sergio Garcia has racked up back-to-back wins on the European Tour.  Two weekends ago, he took down the Castello Masters by an astounding 11 strokes to break a three year dry spell, and he backed that up this weekend with a one-shot victory over the most interesting man in the world – Miguel Angel Jimenez – at the Andalucia Masters.

Sergio always seems to peak right around Ryder Cup time.  Here’s to you, El Niño.  Keep up the strong play, and we’ll look forward to watching you dominate.

Yet another Golfnow.com treat – a 57% discount at Half Moon Bay Golf Links (The Old Course) – is the subject of this review.  A word of caution for Golfnow users: While the last two rounds I’ve played through Golfnow have been marvelous, this one was less than stellar due to the fact that Golfnow did not warn me that the reason the rate was exceptionally good this weekend was that the greens had recently been aerated (within the last week).  I know that I should be skeptical of deals that appear to be “too good to be true,” but greens fees at 50% off are not “too good to be true” for normal conditions when a course is not able to fill its tee sheet.  At minimum, I believe that Golfnow should warn purchasers somewhere beyond the small print that the course has recently been aerated, if that is the case.  That complaint aside, even aerated greens cannot tarnish my impression of the Old Course at Half Moon Bay.

Sunday was a picture perfect day in Half Moon Bay, CA.  70 degrees, clear skies, and a slight N-NE wind made for a perfect conditions for good ball striking.  As the round progressed, and as we got closer to the ocean, the wind picked up and became more of a factor in shot selection and strategy.  My sense is that these conditions are not necessarily the norm for this course.  Playing at Half Moon Bay should come with the expectation of high, gusty winds and generally gray conditions.  Though the marine layer will burn off over the course of the day, the wind will pick up as well.

The Old Course reminded me, in a few distinct ways, of the Presidio Golf course in San Francisco.  This is not all-together surprising since the two were designed by Arnold Palmer.  Both courses provide distinct risk-reward opportunities, generous landing areas on longer holes, distinct aiming lines, and the occasional forced carry over clear-and-present danger.  In the case of the Old Course, the par-5s generally had open landing areas, par 4s generally tell you the exact line to take via a fairway bunker or natural depression in the course, and the par 3s provided all the clear-and-present danger necessary to create exciting shots.  The 16th hole also provides the prototypical Palmer “hero” shot.  A well-placed drive leaves a short iron or wedge approach to a raised green guarded by a ravine.  The ravine cuts sideways across the fairway at an angle that punishes a hook or an overcooked draw.  If the pin is cut on the left, the middle of the green is the best target.  Unfortunately, this reviewer did not take a great picture of the approach on the 16th hole, so below is the picture from Half Moon Bay’s website taken from the back of the green toward the tee.

A quick note about the facility as a whole:  Half Moon Bay is home to two courses: the Old Course and the Ocean Course (designed by Arthur Hills).  Though one of the two gentlemen playing with me made the off-hand comment that “the locals play the Old Course,” I got the sense that this was more or less the case after talking to the starter and pro shop staff.  The Ocean Course provides wonderful scenery and interesting golf holes, but the Old Course provides a more interesting and complete test of a golfer’s skill.  That being said, I personally think the comparison can be likened to choosing between chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies: I’ll take either at any time, and the more I get, the happier I am.

The Old Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links

The Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links

If there was one complaint I had about the Old Course, I think it must be that I felt as though I was playing golf between houses the entire round.  When I think about my favorite holes on the course (16-18), part of the reason I enjoyed them the most was that they did not have any visual distractions around the course architecture.  It may also be that I am a sucker for ocean views, but I’ll let the views from 17 and 18 below speak for themselves.

17th Tee

18th Tee

The signature 18th hole at the Old Course is simply outstanding.  Though this course does not have the fame of Pebble or Cypress, I would argue that the scenery and the feel of the 18th at the Old Course is on par with those courses.  The ocean breeze is most definitely a factor on this hole, generally creating a strong crosswind that forces the high ball hitter to start the ball over the water if a reasonable approach is desired.  The preferred trajectory here is a low, running shot that does not run so far as to leave a severely uphill approach.  In keeping with the theme of this course, the rolling hills in the landing area will likely prevent a flat lie for your second shot.  Most players will miss left on the approach for fear of going near the water on the right.  One of the most interesting parts of this hole is the amphitheater setting created around the green.  The approach is played directly into the rear entrance of the Ritz-Carlton where lots of seating is available for the hotel guests.  During this trip, there were several people seated and watching groups come in.  The pressure is squarely on your short game and putting if you are at all intimidated by a large gallery.  Take your best shot and be sure to tip your cap to the fans.

18th Green

Overall, Half Moon Bay offers two wonderful courses that will both challenge and delight.  The courses are difficult and beautiful.  If you are lucky enough to get a chance to sneak out, be sure to check the aeration reports.  Even with the 57% discount, $80 is a bit pricey to me when the greens are essentially sand boxes.  I will certainly be keeping an eye on golfnow.com for my next chance to take a loop at Half Moon Bay.

Cost: 5/10
Maintenance: 8/10
Greens: n/a – aerated
Layout: 8/10
“Fun” factor: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

This post is about a golf experience. LG and I rarely post about playing private courses because the purpose of our blog is more to inform the readers of things we think will benefit them, not to tell them of the awesome times we had doing XYZ that they may never have the chance to do. It is my stated life goal to play Augusta National, and hearing about someone getting to play there certainly doesn’t get me any closer to it. However, when one of us has a golf experience, we hope our readers find value in enjoying the experience with us. In this way, perhaps when they enjoy a similar experience they can share it with us.

As such, this post focuses on a recent round I played at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, GA. Although few have heard of it, Peachtree Golf Club is a special place.

Peachtree Golf Club is the home of Bobby Jones. It was “designed by two Joneses,” being a collaboration of the mind of Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones. Few people know that Bobby Jones was a successful attorney in an Atlanta law firm, having attended Emory Law School for one one year prior to passing the Georgia Bar and Georgia Tech and Harvard for his Undergraduate studies. (Emory University–LG’s undergraduate alma mater–and a Mechanical Engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology–my alma mater and my degree). As such, the greatest amateur golfer who ever lived needed a place close to the office to keep his skills sharp, and Peachtree was his home. Having spent time walking the grounds of Augusta National in the past (’97 and ’06), I understand why Mr. Jones enjoyed Peachtree.

At only 200 members, the club boasts little. Its locker room is reminiscent of some mid-60s-designed munis in the area. The scorecard is a single-fold, white cardboard sheet with no pictures–only yardages, handicaps, a single logo of the club, and enough room to list scores. The club has no pool, no tennis, and wastes little on grandeur. You wouldn’t even know the club was there if it weren’t posted on a map–only a line of shrubbery with a driveway and a sign stating “private property” indicates that anything is there. However, it is nonetheless a surreal feeling walking on ground that you know was visited time and time again by the greats of the game. Georgia amateur legend Jeff Knox is posted in the clubhouse as the recent champion of many club championships. No doubt the greats of the game–Tiger, Vijay, Phil, Ernie, etc.–visit before the Tour Championship to hone their skills on the state of Georgia’s signature bermuda rough.

Walking out to the practice range, the pristine zoysia turf appears on the 1st and 18th holes as if it were manicured carpet–not an imperfection to be found. The bunkers appear as white as Corinthian marble. An understated elegance fills the course, as if the land were blessed for the purpose of being the mecca of golf.

As far as course statistics, it is not overwhelming by any stretch. The course is only 6700 yards at its longest. However, the layout is not only challenging, but extremely fair. Much like Augusta, the lightning-fast greens make certain pin placements a serious trap. The second hole, for example, is a 511-yard downhill par 5. The green is guarded by water. The green’s setup is very much reminiscent of the 13th at Augusta National. Having said that, many of our readers will understand the problem with going for the green in two. I hit a 5-iron into the green from 211 (downhill), but bailed left. And the problem with bailing left at Peachtree #2 is the exact same as Augusta #13. I faced a VERY tricky shot over a ridge. I hit my chip into the water and replayed, hit it to 7 feet, and made the bogey putt.

Although I shot a fairly poor 79, I set a personal record of 26 putts, including 11 one-putt greens (it would have been 25 putts, save for a three-putt at the 9th green). However, the more important personal record is 139 feet of putts holed, an absolutely unbelievable number. One of our fellow players–a former college golfer at Vanderbilt–stated “that may be the best putting day I’ve ever witnessed.” And even though I carded a triple bogey and a double bogey (both rare for me), I enjoyed every second of the experience.

To all of the readers out there: I hope you have a similar experience at some point–a chance to feel history and something you love at the same time. You may never play Peachtree, but if you ever have that moment where you’re in the middle of something special, take the time to savor it–it is worth everything. So far, it’s the closest I’ve been to my life goal.

The 14th at Peachtree Golf Club

Play of the Week 25

October 9, 2011

This week’s POTW is us! A celebration of the first anniversary of the PF!

Congrats, LG, on keeping this thing going for a full year. At over 10,000 hits, we’ve started off well. Here’s to keeping it going for many years to come.

-JK

Last Friday, LG had an opportunity to visit the Frys.com Open for its second round. The Frys.com Open, this year, is being played at Cordevalle in San Martin, CA just south of San Jose. I mention this because, during my time walking around the course, I heard rumblings that another local course, The Institute, was in the running to take the tournament. In either case, the tournament was, and will continue to be, a nice respite from work.

I could attempt to do a review of the course from just walking it, but watching some of the best players in the world essentially make a mockery of this top 100 beauty in pristine conditions would probably not be in keeping with our prior reviews. I must say, after watching these players play, the game (and course) looked much easier than I would have expected. I’m sure the course would be happy to dissuade me of this notion.

I arrived at Cordevalle at 6:40 am, admittedly to be one of the many gawkers in Tiger’s 7:40 am gallery. As was my previous experience at the Presidents Cup at Harding Park, spectators are made to park in the next county over and bussed in to a make shift entrance at one end of the course. My suspicion that the fog might delay the start of the tournament was confirmed when, on the driving range, a tournament official announced “2 hours.” Unfortunately, this was later extended to two and a half.

I spent a good part of the morning at the driving range watching players warm up and generally screw around due to the fog delay. It was great to see how these guys warm up, but at the same time demoralizing to see how good some of these guys are without even appearing to try. If you get the chance to go to a PGA event, I recommend spending some time watching players at the range. Not only do you get a chance to see them hit more than one shot without having to walk and jockey for position, but you get a better sense for how the pros think through their shots and how they correct for errors.

I quickly stopped by the putting green to see if I could pick up some practicing tips, but watching the pros was less than helpful. As I would expect, they aren’t actually practicing at the putting green, for the most part, rather, they are just getting a sense for the speed of the greens.

As 10 am crept up, I made my way to the tenth tee to watch Tiger. The gallery had grown to 7 deep by this time.  I can honestly say we were herded.  I felt that mooing was appropriate.

Rather than opine on whether Tiger has his swing back, here’s an account of the first three holes:

10: huge drive in the middle of the fairway. 3/4 wedge to 8 feet. Par after the birdie putt burns the edge.
11: 236 yard par 3, stuck to 4 feet. Birdie.
12: drive left, layup short, wedge to 20 feet, birdie putt misses by 2 inches.

Later on, Tiger makes three birdies in a row, including one at 16: a 210 yard par-3. Here is the result of his approach:

3′ 5″ for birdie.  The next closest to the pin for the day was over 9 feet.

I also had the chance to follow Mitch Lowe who is the subject of a previous review: Review: Lesson with PGA Professional Mitch Lowe and the Fleming Course at Harding Park*. In particular, Mitch made a great birdie on the par-5 9th hole. His playing partners were not able to capitalize  on the same opportunity. One found the water short left, the other missed his 20 footer.

All in all, the experience was fantastic. I got to check out a course that I would normally not be able to play, skip out on work for a few glorious hours, watch the best players in the world play the game, and meet some nice people. While watching golf on TV gives you a complete picture for the action, being there and seeing it live is clearly the way the game should be taken in. TV, despite the advances in technology, cannot give a true sense for how fast the pros swing the club, the actual ball flight and variation in trajectory, and how much better the pros are at controlling their shots. If you get the chance to support a PGA event, do your best to make it there for at least part of a round. You won’t regret it.

*Mitch is now teaching at the Golf Links at Half Moon Bay.  I recently had a lesson with him there and found it incredibly helpful, as the previous lesson.  The unique part of lessons at HMB is that there is no driving range, so your lesson is all out on the course.  I found this particularly useful for my short game and iron play.

RIP: Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011

Today, the world lost a true genius.  Few people can really say they changed the world.  Steve did.  I can think of more than one lesson I’ve had involving an iPhone video.  I can think of more than one range session where I’ve used my iPod.  I can think of more than one review that i’ve written for this blog on either my iPad or MacBook Air.

Steve, you changed the way we communicate with our world.  From the PF,  Thank you.

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Today is a sad day for our country and our world. Steve Jobs, one of the only true innovators left in our modern generation, has left us. I attended a breakfast this morning where one of Jobs’s career employees, Walt Wilson, spoke of Jobs’s impact on the world. Steve Jobs lived with a fire and brilliance that few can achieve. He followed his pursuits with excellence, and he treated business with a carelessness that belied his success, but was the ultimate cause of it. Walt Wilson quoted Steve Jobs in a speech he delivered to Stanford University’s graduating class of 2005:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Thank you, Steve, for following your heart–and for teaching us all that we can be successful doing the same.

You will be missed

-JK

for the full text of Steve Jobs’s speech, visit http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html