Friday, January 27, 2012

Olympic Golf

The ancient game of golf is on its way to the ultimate global forum: the Olympics. Next up: building a golf course worthy of the occasion.

By the end of next week, after months of jockeying, a winner will be chosen in a world-wide competition to create the course that the world's elite golfers will play at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Eight of the biggest names in golf design, including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Gary Player and Tom Doak, will make their final, 45-minute presentations to the selection jury on Tuesday and Wednesday. Soon after, a contract will be awarded for what is without question the most glittering golf-architecture prize of the decade.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jersey Meadow, Houston

 .6671 Yds, Par 71, Slope 136, by Carlton Gipson.

They say:
"Jersey Meadow Golf Course sits on part of what was once a 1,236 acre ranch owned by Clark W. Henry.
The ranch was originally home to the F & M Dairy and one of the world's largest and best herds of Jersey dairy cattle.   
In failing health Mr. Henry and Mr. Leroy Kennedy began a joint land venture that took the old ranch and laid the groundwork for what would become the City of Jersey Village.   In the late 1950's a parcel of land was sold and earmarked as an employee only course for Cameron Iron Works. That course would become 
Jersey Meadow Golf Course. 

"In the late 1980's well known golf course architect Carlton Gipson redesigned the course and helped make it the outstanding test of golf it is today. "

Ohhhhhh, I played Jersey Meadow because it was sort-of the closest to my brother house . . . I wish I'd gone down to Memorial Park, in a way, instead, especially when I re-remembered Houstonians suffer  from a spatial disability . . . anything 20 minutes away on a freeway is deemed "close" . . . 8^D .. . but I'd played JM several times back in the 90s so I tho't I might enjoy it  . . . I knew it would be flat, but da-a-a-a-a-a-a-ng. The wind did get up a bit,  the live oak trees crowding the fairways, and the generous amounts of water intruding into play make it not a total dog-track, and since I didn't break par, I guess you could say it was tuff enuff . . . 8^) . . . 

They've suffered from the drought here, too, and in winter they let all the grass go dormant, even the greens, instead of over-seeding, which they had done at Brackenridge, also -- apparently new Greenskeeping Theory in Texas -- but it was all playable, fairways had good lies, tees in good shape, bunkers well sanded, and greens rolled true and pretty quick . . . but you need to have those trouble shots in your bag, like off the hardpan out from under the live-oaks . . . 8^D . . .

#1, an easy starting hole. . .I didn't realize it was a par 5, tho't I could cut the dogleg and wound up in the hardpan under the liveoaks . . .fatted it out, then chunked a wedge short of the green . . . many of the pins seemed to be in the middle of the green this day, which you'd think would be easy, but since so many are hump-backed, it turned out to exagerate any putting inaccuracies, long/short, left/right -- like you can see here in the gree. Bogey.

#2, a rather easy, longish hole, dogleg right. I arrogantly and successfully cut-off the dogleg this time, then blew my half 7iron past the pin. 3putt bogey. I played this day with two young flat bellies. They hit the ball far as me, but suffered from direction-control . . . 8^D . . . a little nervous at the start, but intent just on having fun, good companions.

#3, somehow -- on some holes I just step up, see the shot, and try the shot successfully, leading me to the false impression that I know what I'm doing . . . flattened my swing, hit a tight low wind-cheating draw away from the water into the middle of the fairway . . . then thinned my shortiron into the face of the elevated green, so that it trickled up 12 ft short of the pin . . . mirabile dictu! and uphill put for birdie that I converted! Invoke Hubris.

#4, not PBFU, exactly, but let's be honest, yes: thot my shot was all over the flag and instead it plugged into the bunker. double bogey.

#5 dont remember a thing, an unremarkable hole . . . I had a camera glitch here, so these photos are captures from video I unintentionally took instead of stills. . . 8^/ . . .

#6, shortish par 4, chunked the shortiron, 3putt bogey.

#7, a very reasonably lengthed par 5, with the wind. . . my t-shot drifted off into the right rough, which I tho't was fair enough, but . . . that hid the green behind a copse of trees, which made not for a playing obstacle, but a strategic obstacle, since I mistook a neighboring green for my target since I couldn't see the correct green . . . I hit an awesomely majestic 3wood pin high 60 yds left of the pin . . . 8^( . . . wedged over to where you see in the green shot for a 2putt par, dangit.

#8 -- I could *swear* that this used to be #17, but I am old and prone to misremembering . . . I recognized it right away, but the uncertainty still threw me for a loop . . . I hit a midiron, but a fairway wood would have been better . . . against the wind I didn't get around the corner, and my second shot fairway wood clipped the tops of the trees on the corner and fell into some tall grass, from where I chopped the ball out into a bunker, then over the green and up-up-down for a 7. . . .shoot .  . 

#9 hit a reasonable drive on this reasonable par 4, then mulling failures on the previous hole, actually shanked a shortiron into the #1 fairway . . . even more upset, then, chunk,chunk,putt,putt,putt for another 7.

The flatbellies stopped for a hotdog and bag of iced beer cans, and I gave into the peer pressure for my own hotdog . . .hadn't had one in a couple of years, and I tho't it might assuage my back-to-back triplebogeys. . . got some cheetos, too, to make my guilty pleasure complete.

The back9 at JM is definitely more open & windblown than the front9 . . .doesn't mean that there's no trees, they're just not so tight, which is good, makes it more interesting.

#10 posed a hyperbolic poser of this condition right away, with the stiff cross-wind wanting to blow the ball OB right. This is an ugly little prospect here with the cart barn right at hand, but, well, there it is . . . I aimed left and just let the wind bring my shot back -- all the way to  the right rough, less than 5 yds from the OB . . . tough  .. . both the flatbellies were over the fence . . .OH! This is the #1 handicap hole . . .I pulled some fairway wood pin-high left of the green and didn't get up and down.

#11 is a nuthin' par 3. I 3jacked from the front fringe. I wouldn't waste 2 pix on such a hole with such results except that it demonstrates the heinous center pin positions on this course, if you can see it in the photo. . . my lag putt 1 foot offline rolled 9 ft away off the mound in the middle..

#12 presents the opposite problem of the first two holes of the back9, vis a' vis wind-management, which I failed, and wound up in the copse of trees left of the fairway . . . with a strange confidence based (I speculate) on vaguely-remembered past experience on this very hole I punched a scuttled 3iron off the hardpan, from under the trees, between the traps, so that it rolled right by the pin. . . I tho't it might go in. . . It wasn't as close as it had looked from back there, but I nailed that 15ft uphiller for a birdie, too . . . filling me once again with that magical illusion of competence. . . like the Rainman: "I'm an Excellent Golfer!"

#13 looked to be tougher than on paper, since it was against the wind, when it would normally be with the prevailing wind . . . that made it easier for me, I just hit directly into the breeze at the water and came up safely short, a few yards from the pampas grass you can see from the tee. But I foozled my 3wood still trying for the green in 2, then in irritation blew my approach w-a-a-a-ay over the pin, 3putt bogey.

#14 maybe the most interesting hole on the course, in that the way the water intrudes into the landing area *might* take the driver out of your hand . . . I was confident I could manage the wind and aim at that big tree on the right, which was mis-placed, as I promptly one-hopped into the water, wind-blown, 7 yds from safety . . . dummy. . . dropped a new ball by the water and hit 7iron up on the green, 2putt bogey.

#15 - don't remember a thing . . . simple flat slight dogleg.
#16 with the strong wind behind us, and gusting, I just let out a belt-loop and hit it as hard as I could . . . kinda leaked out to the right, almost pin high. . . like my 3wood on the front9, *IF* it's online, I am putting for eagle . . . sigh .. . lobbed up for a 2putt par. I was on the otherside of the far green in the picture . . . 8^D . . .

#17 this was a nasty, link-style par 3 against the wind . . . I would've come up short still, tho' I took pains to absolutely get over that bunker, aimed left against the crosswind, but there's a slope there where I landed and the ball trickled down almost to the water on the right. I guess that's why that guy in front of us is over there too. . . 8^D . . . bogey.

#18 with the wind is just not as worrisome as it would be, against. . . Aware of my last tee shot this day, and for a while in the frostbitten europe, I made sure to hit it exactly square. . . perfekt . . .I was right in the middle, but I was surprised to see the young flatbellies had outdriven me, slightly over in the right rough . . . with the wind, I was thinking I needed to hit a 3/4 wedge into the green, and promptly chunked -- twice -- into the water, which I could not abide, so I dropped a 3rd ball and hit a full wedge that stopped where it landed 4ft left of the pin -- not exactly in its pitchmark, but closeenough . . .a tough-sidehill kneeknocker. . . easy tap-in, which I have generously counted myself for a par, since I am on vacation, and out-of-training . . .I have to be good to myself, or who will be? . . . 8^D . . . 

so: 48-40=88* (with an asterisk), with 2 birdies, two triple bogeys to finish the front9, two missed greens (1 par5 in 2 (#7) and 1 par4 in 1 (#16)), if you see how I mean. A middling 3 on the Scottsdale Scale . . . it's so flat, without any wind it would be defenseless . . . 

but I AM intrigued in ways I can't quite articulate, the way that I happened to birdie the 3rd hole on both sides, and almost hit the green under regulation on the 7th hole of both sides. There is some science to golf course layout where the sides should resemble each other, resonate with each other, without being too identical, and in such a course, apparently almost-featureless, to have such resonance cannot be accidental and must have been the result of some skill of the architect, making the most of an unremarkable site.

before I teed off, I enjoyed a breakfast sandwich, a pleasure denied me for almost 3 years, in Europe . . . bacon-egg-cheese on a jalapeno bun . . . not quite a rave, but good.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brackenridge Park, San Antonio

6243 Yds, Par 71, Slope 126, by A.W.Tillinghast, re-fit by John Colligan,

They say:
"Brackenridge Park Golf Course, which is the oldest public golf course in Texas, was the first ever host to the Texas Open Golf Tournament in 1922. This historic golf course has the honor of being the first inductee into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame."

It's hard for me to say how the original Tillinghast design has been changed . . . and whether it could be considered an improvement, except in this way: I have also played Memorial Park in Houston, a contemporaneous effort by Braedemus,  Gus Wortham in Houston, another Tillinghast, the Blackhawk CC in Madison, WI, by Tillinghast, and "The Horrible Horseshoe" hole at Tour 18, from Colonial CC, another Tillinghast design. From those courses I have inferred certain design principles that I see are kept or not kept in the modern redesign by Colligan:

he has dropped / added holes . . . a former par 3 was pointed out to me . . . it looked like a really interesting hole, all carry and trouble all around that looked like a net loss to me, in that the terrain is sorta flat as a whole, and any trouble is an adornment

he has artificially elevated some greens, this is a net gain, imvho, much more challenging and interesting, shot-value-wise and visually.

he has left well enough alone (imvho) in many cases, so that the original routings, layouts, green complexes, bunker shaping, remains. There are some straightline fairway edges and squarish greens that look old fashioned to me, but not necessarily in the Tillinghast mold, so I don't know whether Brackinridge got an "economy" job way-back-when, or if it was done for modern greenskeeping reasons.

an entirely competent, desirable, effective re-fitting.

the course condition was forgiveable: playable, but damaged, from winter conditions and The Drought.

c.f. Top 10 Tillinghast courses,28242,1682923,00.html 

#1 you can see from here what you will see all day . . . tight fairways crowded by large live-oak trees, elevated greens well protected by large bunkers . . . it's perplexing, I had no sense of proportion/distance visually, so I just whaled away . . it's so tight in places I'm not sure that experience would oftne give you abetter idea, unless you had complete driving control, no wind, and radar-irons . . . 8^D . . . sliced my drive safely over those big trees on the right, chunked my approach, bogey.

#2 seemed sorta unfair, 210 yds to an elevated green one can't quite see -- sorta like a Rees Jones design -- which I solved by popping my 7wood up, and chunking a few approaches till I took a mercy-killing gimme (of morethan 10 ft) . . .one of those holes you just wanna go back and get a good start on to see if that helps . . .

#3 - number 1 handicap hole -- I don't remember how I wound up on the edge of the left woods, but I hit a sparkling 7iron from there to reach in regulation. . . two putt par.

#4 a medium length par 4 where I hit a not so solid drive, then another sparkling 7iron above the hole . . .19 ft hooking downhill that I managed to bounce gently off the pin . . . we were sorta casual about pulling the pin, playing with the grandson and S-I-L, just to expedite play, if you see how I mean . . . our playing partner agreed I could count it as a birdie . . . 8^) . . 

#5 in PBFU mode I hooked into the left woods . . . got my distance, but I looked to be in jail over there. I hit some shortiron out of the woods thru a window in the trees -- another sparkling shot that made me question "who needs practice?" It helped that the green orients that way (opened up to the left side). . . 2putt par.

#6 again fills the mind with doubts, at least for the first timer . . .I used those two big trees in the middle as a target, but sure enough they were in the way of my 2nd shot . . .I tried a knockdown hook, but just came up short and couldn't get up-and-down. bogey

#7 is just more of the same, keep it straight and on the short grass and you'd be fine, but I hooked again into the woods . . . full of hubris from my iron play I tried drive a 7 iron thru a tiny hole in the canopy up high and nicked a branch . . . my 3rd was my patented 3iron scuttle off hardpan under the trees, but it rolled over the green into a bunker . . .triple bogey.

#8 is a kinda fearsome par 3. our pin was in the far back corner. . . I just hit a half 7wood and hoped for the best . . .I tho't it might be high enough, but the green wasn't receptive enough, and it rolled over the back end slope. made a presentable links-style bump-and-run to a makeable par putt, but missed.

#9 is a long goddam dogleg to be the #17 handicap hole, IMVHO. I didn't notice the length, and i did wonder why it took me 3 to reach the green. Bogey.

#10 is a gorgeous hole. I was warned by our playing partner that it played longer than the yardage, but I didn't see why that would bother me, but yes indeed, my 4iron came up short on the front fringe. I actually made par with a good two-putt up the side-sloping hill, which sort of surprised me.

#11 seemed a very ordinary hole to me, but then if you hit a good drive and approach, most holes may seem very ordinary, que no? Par.

#12 had me licking my chops, for an eagle opportunity, but I leaked my drive right into the trees and had to hit a trick shot out into the fairway, short of the creek. Easy from thereto lob up onto the very elevated green and 2 putt, even for me.

#13 back-to-back par5s . . . usually interesting . . .both potentially reachable, IMVHO (501 & 498), but I leaked right again, punched 5iron out to the left side, again, and hit 9iron to the middle of the green.2putt par. I will have to conduct an introspective review as to why par 5s seem easier in the US than in Europe for me . . .8^D . . .

#14 is a long par 4, #2 handicap hole. The regular we were playing with hooked his ball into the woods there on the left and was grumbling about it -- the obvious play, length aside, is to steer way right of those trees, but influenced, I tomahawked my drive over there too . . . I was busy with the grandson on the other side of the fairway while he hit, and when I got over there I looked around for my ball unsuccessfully. "Up here!" called the regular. . . I don't think you'd get away with it in summer when the trees are leafed out, but my seeing-eye ball had not only missed the trees but then bounced in the hardpan backout to the edge of the fairway, just short of a fairway bunker. . . by the scorecard, that drive's only 250 or 260, but it felt like the longest drive of the day. I hit not-quite-full 7wood on a rope to the green. . . there was a tree screening the left 2/3 of the green from me, but I tho't I might get a baby draw out of it. . .  I tho't it would be over the green when I hit it but the ball plowed into the front slope, popped up to the right front corner, and sat . . . i had a very long putt for birdie 50+ feet, which I got within 4 ft, so I gave the par a 1 handed give-it-to-myself effort that lipped out, cuz I didn't wanna ruin the good feeling of those first two shots with a 3jack. . . not for competition, for sure, but heck, I'm on vacation, and haven't played in two months, and putting is the weak point, anyway.

#15 is a funny little par 3, uphill and short. . . I caught my shortiron a little thin, and tho't it might even be perfekt, but it stuck in the front slope / false front of the green . . . and easy enough up and down, straight up the slope, even for me.

#16 could be one of the most unfair holes i've ever seen. The regular kindly discussed allthe permutation with me for getting over that giant tree in the fairway and still staying in the fairway, out of the creek. . . I didn't have any yardages to go by . . .  He hit is shot over the tree into the first tree over creek and sighed with satisfaction . . . so I tried to do the same . . . what I see now is that you have to hit your drive high and about 245 to do what he did. . . its a little down hill, but I don't think he hit another ball that far all day . . . 8^D . . . it looks like 220 to the creek from the tee, so I *could* conceivably hit a fractional 7wood to get over the tree and short of the creek . . . as it was, my ball came down  in the middle of the fairway after ticking the tree . . . still about 170 uphill to the hole. . . I chunked a 4iron, then a wedge, then a chip, then a 2putt double bogey. love to do that one again. but it IS a puzzler.

#17 is another puzzler / breather. . . that is, if you can just bunt your drive out into the fairway and then pop a wedge onto the green, nothing can go wrong. . . if OTOH, like me, you slice over into the rough on the right, and can't quite catch the wedge clean out of the tall grass uneven lie, then you too can have a double bogey . . . 8^D . . .

#18 par3 finishing holes are a hallmark of antique designs, now I think it is probably an inviolable rule that this is Not Done. Par3s slow down play, and we don't want that on the last hole, and in competition it lessens the opportunity for scoreboard movement . . . ordinarily . . . in my case, either irritation at 16-17, or my weary legs meant that I came huge over-the-top and splashed down by the far left edge of the green. . . I just held the pin for the others at that point..

so using Dave's Liberal Vacation Scoring Methodology, I come up with 45-42-87, with one birdie . . . on the back 9, there, I had 6 straight pars to start, before the tricked up 16 & 17th blew my mind. . . or you could say I got tired, too.

That back9 is rather amazing, for a duffer, I guess a good golfer would just tear it up, overpowering the par5s, and ignoring the mental hazards posed in the last 3 holes . . . #10 that plays longer than the card, the back-to-back par5s, followed by the heinously difficult #14, the short par 3, then the unfair #16, the mandatory-birdie-hole #17, and the hit-after-a-long-wait par 3 #18 . . . if you see how I mean . . .

#2 & #8 on the front9 are the only holes that really registered on me . . . just not as interesting as the back . . . a solid 3 on the Scottsdale Scale, I should say, sort of like The 500 Club, or even Sanctuary, in PHX, in the way that the back9 is so much better than the front.