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:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Coore Crenshaw Bucket List

Golf is not just a collection of famous golfers and famous golf names but also of famous course designers. Designers and their courses are often like writers and their penmanship, you can immediately tell the writer by the pen strokes (or in the case of people reading my writing, that it looks vaguely like English but they have no other clues about what is going on in the sentence).

As I have gotten back into golf, I have gotten more and more into course architecture. This has been spurred on by reading Geoff Shackelford (and playing the amazing track that he designed at Rustic Canyon) and also reading the amazing book Wide Open Fairways by Bradley S. Klein.

All of this research has laid the groundwork for me to come to appreciate Coore and Crenshaw's design aesthetic. C+C Music Factory (as I call them) are all about shotmaking and using the natural features of the land rather than bulldozing over it. I love courses like that and want to play ever single one of them if I can.

Here is a brief rundown on the courses on my C+C list that I want to play and WHY I want to play them. Like Pokemon, I want to PLAY EM ALL!

1. Sand Hills. I say this course name to most golfers and they go d'wah? It only happens to be the 11th best course in the country. The issue is that it is in Nebraska so most people aren't aware of it but from every review I have seen, golfers LOVE this course and it is my number one "bucket list" destination. The problem? It is private and I am not an heir to the Omaha Steaks fortune in order to play it. Of course, I hope someone reading this can get me on (call me Jenny 867-5309).

2/3. Bandon Trails/Preserve. Growing up on the East Coast, if someone had said to me that THE golf destination I would want to go to was on the Oregon Coast instead of Florida courses, Myrtle Beach, etc. I would have thought they were crazy. But here we are, in crazy town as I am chomping at the bit to go to Bandon, in no small part to the course having 2 C+C courses (a regulation course, Trails and a par 3 course, the Preserve). Golfing 36 holes a day, walking next to the ocean, enjoying C+C courses? Sign me up! Plus the Bandon resort is managed by Kemper Sports, a top notch golf management company (a theme that will come up repeatedly on this list) so after I lose a ton of balls on perfectly maintained courses, I can have great food and a great time at this track.

4. Streamsong Red. Despite all those nasty, terrible things I said above about Florida, it does have great courses and what is quickly becoming one of the best in the nation is Streamsong. This course used to be a phosphate mine and C+C turned up the jams and made it into a world class course. The change alone is fascinating enough but the pictures that Ashworth recently took of the place would convince any golfer to go.
Of course, this place is once again managed by Kemper so put that as reason 412 to go.

5.  Kapalua Plantation Course.  When you say Hawaii, I say, of course! I was recently on Maui and while I didn't get a chance to play the same course that PGA event is played on every year, I mean to rectify that on the next trip. This course has crazy elevation gains and losses (lots of downhill tee shots, my favorite) and beautiful views of the Pacific. Have a Mai Tai, will travel, that is my motto so next time in the islands, its Kapalua for me!

6/7. We-Ko-Pa/Talking Stick. Most of the courses on this list are all over the place. Hawaii, Florida, Nebraska. I live in California and don't exactly have Trump money to go around and play all of these places so where can I go that's close to SoCal and get some bang for the ol C+C buck? That my good friends is Arizona with not 1 but 3 golf courses by the dynamic duo. Not only 3 courses but 3 courses within 30 minutes of each other. I fly into Phoenix and get to Talking Stick with 2 different C+C tracks each with their own unique character to them. We-Ko-Pa has Saguaro which from the tee shot on this website alone, is worth the price of admission.

8. Barton Creek. Not everything has to be deserty, coasty or phosphatey. Texas has some great golf courses and its time I turn my attention to the rolling hill country near Austin and Barton Creek. The 18th, going across a creek to a "low lying" green (whatever that means) is supposed to be impressive and if I can get my BBQ on along with some birdies, so be it! 

9.  Dormie Club. I just love their website, the "#2 best course you can play". Its great, I'm sure they try harder (as the old car rental ads went). The photos of this place look great, tons of pine straw, weirdo bunkers and pine trees. Basically Pinehurst No. 2 but much, much more reasonable prices. Plus 3/4 of their pictures are in black and white, I don't think I could wrong here.

10. Friar's Head. I started this list with a private course and I am going to end this list with a private course. Of course, what a course by course! I mean, just look at the pictures of this beauty! Lord knows how I can play this course but I would be willing to brave the LIE in order to do, and that says a lot.

11.  Cabot Cliffs. I love all things Canada. Moose, maple syrup, hockey. The latest from C+C not only resides in Canada bumping it up several notches but involves the word "cliffs" and based on the early images of this course, there are plenty of those to tickle the fancy of any golfer. This is a must go methinks!

12.  Trinity Forest. I have family in Dallas but why bother visiting them if they aren't near a C+C course :P? Well that will all be solved in 2016 when TF opens. This course is already primed for greatness, having the Byron Nelson Classic already slated to be there plus hosting college golf tourneys, I bet this puppy is going to be great. The downside is that it is private but I hope I can get an invite and play the latest and greatest from C+C.

13.  Sand Valley. In the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, Sand Valley is slowly but surely creeping into existence. I am super excited about this course and will hopefully get out there in 2016 for the soft opening (fingers crossed!).

14.  Colorado Golf Club. Ultra private and apparently ultra hard, CGC just south of Denver this course seems like a really tough but fun test. It is also home to the 2013 Solheim Cup so you know its quality. I am planning a golf trip to the heartland and if I can manage it, I really hoping to play this track!

15. Old Sandwich Golf Club. I don't know much about this course but their website says the club was built "for the love of the game and the land" which is right up my alley. I love New England and the golf courses there so I am really looking forward to this one (if I can get on)!

16. Hidden Creek Golf Club. I used to live in New Jersey and while its a nice state, I wasn't completely enamored by it. However, if I knew there was a C/C course hanging out there, my perception would change right quick! This looks a beautiful track and hopefully one I can visit one of my times back East.

17. East Hampton Golf Club. Friar's Head gets all the publicity on the Island but to my eye EHGC looks just as beautiful. This looks like another classic course in the making and it will be definitely part of my Northeast visit!

18. Clear Creek Tahoe. Every time I talk to people here in California and I ask them where are some of their favorite spots, ultimately Lake Tahoe comes on the list. Of course one of the most beautiful spots in the state have a beautiful looking C+C course! It seems ultra private so I am not sure how I am getting on this puppy but hopefully I will!

19. Cuscowilla. One day I hope to see Augusta National with my own eyes. Each year I keep entering the lottery to get tickets to attend the Masters but so far no dice. If I am lucky enough to go, you know I will be begging, borrowing or stealing an invite to this great course!

20. Chechessee. Another private course, this time in South Carolina. C+C have a lot of tracks in the South and this one looks just as spectacular as the others!

21. Warren Golf Course. A hop, skip and a jump from Chicago, North Bend's own WGC is a very affordable C+C track. A lot of Coore and Crenshaw's courses are expensive or private so its great they have an affordable track and I look forward to playing it!

22. Austin Golf Club. Not much is known about this course which adds to its appeal. One of the great C+C secrets. What awaits behind its gates?

Want to see what other courses C+C have designed? Check it out here!