Wednesday, June 22, 2016

We-Ko-Pa Saguaro

"Sting" is putting it mildly Ben. Set in the rolling Fountain Hills just outside of Scottsdale, We Ko Pa's Saguaro course has a LOT of bite to it and will test any amateur golfer.

Almost every hole necessitates a carry over desert scrub brush and/or gullies. The only way to truly attack this course is to drive it long and straight, otherwise you will be picking cactus needles out of your ball all day.

Since the course is set amongst rolling hills, you are often hitting to the tops of hills and if not, you are looking at blind second and third shots.

Unlike its sister course "Cholla", the hole and all of its danger is clearly in front of you. It is one of the ultimate target/execution desert courses you could play in Arizona. There are zero houses surrounding the course (a rarity from what I learned from my Arizona playing companions) and you really are out in the middle of nowhere playing golf.

Just like Talking Stick, my favorite Coore Crenshaw hole at Saguaro was the split fairway par 5, always an interesting challenge especially in a harsh desert landscape.

You will notice the course is very green which is a function of the course being on Indian land and thus having different water rights than other local courses. If you playing golf during the Summer in Arizona, definitely look at places like We Ko Pa who will have top notch conditioning. 

The grass on the greens was kept long to keep it from dying in 115 degree heat but the greens were very consistent so once you nailed the pace you could do pretty well on the greens.

My driver really wasn't working on the day I played the course so it was a pretty frustrating experience playing a course that requires long and straight drives but once I got to 150 yards and in, I could score pretty well. It all comes down to the boom stick here but my incompetence aside, I could see why Saguaro is constantly ranked in the top 5 golf courses in Arizona (considering the amount of courses in Arizona, this is no small feat). 

The staff were all super friendly and the routing kept things interesting throughout. This course is truly a class above in Arizona.

For more info on We Ko Pa, check it out here:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Talking Stick North

When you think desert you think sand. One of the biggest things about playing Talking Stick North is trying to avoid the sand at all costs, which isn't easy as the duo has sculpted the course so you find your way into bunkers very easily. 

Bunkers, bunkers everywhere and where is my rake? (its a famous poem for sure).

Arizona has a problem; it has a ton of amazing golf courses but very few of them are not in housing developments. So when you can play a course that just sits in the desert and is surrounded by the mountain beauty of Arizona it is a true joy and C+C make a really nice desert course that sits in this landscape and let's you enjoy nature.

This design philosophy is no more apparent than on the Roadrunner hole

which actually has a roadrunner hanging out on it.

I got such a kick out of this and if you play TSN definitely be on the lookout for all manner of wildlife as prairie dogs, birds of all feathers and even a random coyote are present for your round.

The common complaint about Talking Stick is that it is very flat and there isn't a lot of variety in the holes but for the North course I will have to disagree. While there are similar design features on multiple holes (the most notable are forced carries across the desert scrub on tee shots):

those design features are actually interesting and add variety to a flatish terrain. Plus, I would argue that not every course has to have rolling hills and valleys to keep a golfer interested. I quite liked TSN and my favorite definitely has a lot of character to it:

I am a huge fan of split fairways, probably due to growing up and watching the split 8th hole at Riviera. Here at TSN it is a fantastic hole with a real risk/reward depending on which way you play it.

I gambled, went left and barely cleared it (maybe with a generous desert hop or two). The split continues almost all the way up to the green and makes for a really fun hole.

The green conditions were good and as I played this course on the leading edge of Summer, the grass was longer to stave off death so the putts rolled slower but true.

One of my other favorite things about TSN was the pace of play. I was allowed to go out as a single and I got around the course in about 2.5 hours. Even 3somes/ 4somes I saw got around in under 4 which is great. The staff is really friendly as well and I had an enjoyable time at Talking Stick.

Overall I say the course is well worth your time if you are in the Scottsdale area and I look forward to my next visit!

For more info on Talking Stick check it out here:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Talking Stick South

Arizona is a weirdly beautiful state. Most of it looks like it stepped out of John Ford Western with its miles of scrub brush and towering rock formations. People have harnessed the power of the rivers to turn this desert into a place of grass and trees and none of this is more evident than playing Talking Stick South.

Unlike many of its Arizona brethren,  TSS feels much more like an Eastern Course than a desert one.

The routing is on rather flat terrain which leads to complaints of a lack of variety amongst some of the Arizona golf community but even with a straightforward layout Coore and Crenshaw add in some signature touches like their bunker sculpting:

This course does lay it all out there in front of you that is for sure but Coore and Crenshaw try to take par away from you at every turn by subtle design work which shows up the most around greens. Many of the courses I have played recently have placed their pins in tight positions so if you miss on the short side of the green you are in trouble. Well at TSS, many of the holes increase the penalty for missing the green on the wrong side with severe slopes which make it close to impossible to knock the ball close to the hole:

The real jaw dropping feature of the course is water! Water plays into many of the holes on the back 9 of the course and having played several Arizona courses, this is a rare sight indeed:

Overall I liked TSS and appreciated C+C's attempts to gin up rather uninspiring terrain to give every golfer a test. It is a little weird to be playing a parkland-like course in the middle of Arizona and the pace of play lags a bit but TSS can give you great tee shots and beguiling approaches to the green to keep you interested.

Talking Stick also has a North course designed by the duo, which will be reviewed as well on this site, and is a true desert course that more embraces the surrounding terrain but if you get a chance, play 36 just for the mind trip of playing an Eastern course in the desert.

For more info on Talking Stick South, check it out here:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Getting On Private Courses

Look at the left side of this blog. You will notice 22 courses in North America that C+C have designed (not counting their renovation work, individual designs, etc.) and a full 11 of which are private. Private golf courses in the United States are almost NEVER opened to the hoi polloi and only if you scrounge a friendship, a business connection or go to a charity event do the rest of us get to peer inside the gate.

Many people have lifted the curtain on courses in print and on the web but very few people tell you HOW they got onto these tracks. I have started the process with my own Cypress Point Quest but John Sabino has really upped the ante with his recently released book "How To Play The World's Most Exclusive Golf Clubs" and boy does he take you all over the world and how to get into these places.

This "how to" knowledge is key when accessing C+C courses like Sand Hills (pictured above). John breaks down throughout the book how he got invites to courses, tips and tricks including fascinating 21st century tricks that even for me as an old hand of the Twitterverse made me perk up my ears.

What all these techniques come down to are establishing personal connections but John offers novel ways to make them happen. The real problem when undertaking a quest like this is geography. The private courses are spread from Tahoe to New Jersey, from Georgia to New York. I am based in California and while I come from the East Coast, I have limited contacts in most places and clearly I need to up my networking game by connecting with people in the same geographic locale as the courses.

So what have I been doing so far? I have written letters, I have made connections through Twitter and I am keeping my ears open at the private clubs I am lucky enough to play to see if there are multiple members. Whether this gets me to 22 or not remains to be seen but I bet I will take a healthy chunk out of the list in the next few years.

John's book will put on the right track to making those connections and I highly recommend you checking it out!

Check out John's review of some C+C courses:

Sand Hills:
Friar's Head:

Want to buy John's book? Check it out here:

All pictures are taken from Mr. Sabino's book are for review and commentary purposes only. All copyrights in such work belong to him. Check out his book and blog for some great golf reading! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Coore Crenshaw Quest Update! 2016 Plans

As all three readers of this blog knows, I am on a quest to play as many of the Coore-Crenshaw designed golf courses as I possibly can.

This year I am really ramping up my C+C game and thought I would update you guys on what is going on!

In a month I am going on an Arizona golf adventure and will be knocking off 3, count em 3, Coore-Crenshaw courses, We-Ko-Pa and the two courses at Talking Stick. I have never played golf in Arizona and I am expecting hot, heaping, heat but also great golf courses.

Next up, and BIG news, I have been invited to play at Sand Hills Golf Club!!!! I am beyond excited and have been bouncing off the walls since the invite. So many people say its a golf-life changing experience and I can't wait to experience it for myself!

Part of my Sand Hills trip will take me through Colorado and if I can manage it, I am hoping to get a round in at Colorado Golf Club, which sounds like an ultra-hard C+C track. This hopefully won't be my only trip to the heartland this year as Sand Valley is having a soft opening for its CC course in Wisconsin and I hope I get to see it in person!

Finally, my in-laws live in Texas. I love Texas golf and Texas in general, it really is a country onto itself in many ways which I find fascinating. What is also fascinating is that Texas has 3 Coore/Crenshaw tracks and I am hoping to play Barton Creek and figure out a way to play Trinity Forest which is opening in Dallas this Fall.

In summary: Coore/Crenshaw courses played so far 1 of 22. Definitely will be played after this year 6 of 22. Maybe possibly if I am a good boy will have played by the end of the year? 9 of 22! Wish me luck and if you do have any inroads to Coore/Crenshaw courses send them my way to!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kapalua Golf Review

When you are traveling in the rolling remote hills of Maui you would never think that they contain one of the highest ranked courses in the world but boy do they! Turning onto Plantation Club Drive you have little idea what is in store for you but what is there is a MUST play for any golfer out there.

It was also a must play for me as it kicked off my Coore-Crenshaw quest in earnest. It was fitting this was my first C&C course as the Plantation Course was one of their first co-designs and as with every C&C course I play, Ben will be coming with me.

The most, MOST impressive thing about the course is the views. Whether you are going down a hill or looking back as you go up a hill, the Pacific is the feature of this course and a true wonder to behold.

The views take your breath away and there in lies some of the defense of the course as you are often distracted just looking at everything. Some courses have a mix of houses and views and there are several homes at Kapalua but you can count them on one hand and the course and the hills speak for themselves.

Speaking of hills, wow does Kapalua have them! Up hill

down hill

blind shots OVER hills

(tee boxes down below, aim for the stick!)

this course mixes it up in a variety of ways. The fairways also slope given the nature of the hills and the valleys around the course so knowing where to put your first shot is paramount on this course. Your second shots and beyond will all depend on it. Of course, what does it matter, if your second shot has this view?

Not to say there aren't some penalties on this course for mishit approach shots. Twice my approach was slightly off target and found this stuff

and once the ball goes in it, good luck to you finding it and/or getting it out. I felt like the rough was slightly toooo close at some points for my hacker self but that just means I have to stop missing it left damnit ;).

Let's take a brief break for the moment to wax poetic about the great routing through nature that the course takes itself through. One of my new favorite things are Cook Pines and this course has them in abundance:

The front side of the course also loops around a huge ravine/canyon with a crazy elevation gain/loss that has to be seen to be believed, truly an inspired routing.

Part of me wonders though if they could have routed a few holes through the canyon as there is a tremendous amount of wind on the course and since you are on tops of hills all the time you are facing at least a 2 club change. There is nothing I would change about the course, it is the best I have ever played by whoo boy was it windy when I played.

(that flag was almost coming out of the hole)

Hawaii tee times are pretty consistent across the board. Want to play early in the morning when there isn't much wind, be prepared to pay. Want to play after 1pm, the course is yours for a song. The day I played I started out at 1pm and was facing a wind of 20-30 mph but it made the course just as interesting although I would love to play it again without wind to see what the differences might be.

The bunkers and greens were in amazing shape for the most part as they should be with the PGA tourney looming in January.

Two of the greens were still recovering from being punched which was slightly surprising but didn't ruin the experience for me in the slightest. As with any course, definitely check what the aeration schedule before you play.

So what was my favorite hole you ask? Well its Numero 11 a downhill par 3 that overlooks Honolua Bay with a deadly bunker to the short left, death if you go long and a bailout if you go right.

(bit of tour sauce there)

Ru MacDonald of the Scottish Golf Podcast asks all of his guests if they could go back to Scotland and hit/re-hit one shot, which would it be? For me, give me a bucket of balls and let me hit shot after shot onto this green.

Coming down the stretch was amazing as you felt the history of every hole and none more so than the 18th. Everyone took a picture here. Everyone stopped to savor the views and why would I be any different?

The 18th is a very long par 5 and I found myself with a longish 3rd shot into the green from the rough. Using a tip from my playing companion, I hit the ball short and at the middle "Carts" sign and watched as the ball took the hill and the grain and ended up 10 feet from the pin!

Alas, I missed the birdie putt but I made the par on 18 as well as a few other holes that day which made me feel a "slight" kinship with the tour pros (really slight but still...).

Overall, my playing Kapalua was my favorite golf experience by far. The views, the history, the course itself, all were interesting and engaging and well worth your time. As for my first C&C course, well it was a doozy and I can't wait to see what the other courses have in store for me over the next year.

I would also like to give a shout out to the staff at Kapalua. Troon runs the facility and the staff were all awesome and accommodating and the round was a quick 4:10 which was fantastic as well.

My wife deserves a lot of credit as she is the one who took all of these amazing pictures and was there for me whether I par'd or triple bogeyed and it was an awesome round having her there.

Finally, Kapalua Plantation is the number one course in Hawaii and one of the top courses in the world for a reason. I highly recommend you find that reason for yourself and play this beauty. It is my favorite course by a mile and I think it will become yours as well.

For more information on Kapalua check it out here:

A few last pics: