Golf Courses

Augusta National over the years

by Derek on April 8, 2012

in Golf Courses

History Shots (via

Scotland Golf Trip, Part 2

by Phil on March 31, 2012

in Golf Courses,Travel

One of the things I liked most about playing golf over in Scotland was that even though the courses are famous all over the world, they haven’t been turned into ultra-touristy golf theme parks.  Don’t get me wrong.  You can certainly go into the pro shops of any of these courses and pay out the nose for a crappy hat or ball marker with the club logo on it.  But for the most part, the focus remains on the golf and golfing experience, not in squeezing every last penny out of you.  Either that, or I’m a sucker for getting every last penny squeezed out of my wallet.

One thing to keep in mind when visiting over there is managing the expectations you have for what constitutes a “good” golf course.  Here in America we tend to equate super green grass and well manicured fairways and rough as a sign that a golf course is nice.  We also look for some kind of “signature” element that stands out, such as a waterfall in the middle of a pond on the course.  If these are your ideas of a great course, you would think a place such as St. Andrews is ugly.  The beauty of a real golf course lays in the design of a course, in the way that a course seems to naturally blend into the the land on which it sits. [click to continue…]

sunset hills memorial golf park

This one is just kind of creepy.  If you’re a die hard golfer near Bellvue, WA, you can now spend eternity buried in a bunker at the Sunset Hills Memorial Golf Park.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Sunset Hills has built a replica golf course/cemetery.  This gives new meaning to being “dead” in a hazard.  Be warned though, sand traps are reserved for cremated remains only.

The course will naturally feature a leaderboard where your name will be listed if you’ve reserved a “future tee time.”  I guess you’re winning if you’re still upright?

Sunset Hills (via SI)

Thanks to Phil for sending this my way.  Planet golf has a really interesting story on the revival of Royal Melbourne as a championship golf course.  Most Americans probably don’t know it, but Melbourne has been in drought conditions for most of the last 10 years.

So how exactly do you get a golf course in shape to host a major tournament without a reliable source of water?  Well, you build a $4.5M stormwater harvesting system.  Then you convert your fairways to a more robust strain of grass and you hope that you at least get enough rain to make sure you didn’t just waste millions of dollars.

Another interesting fact:  The greens are a bent grass variety known as Sutton’s Mix which has been in use at Royal Melbourne since the 20′s and is not found on any other course in the world.  Who knew?

Planet Golf

Today was supposed to be the last day of operations for Hillandale Golf Course in Durham, NC.  The long-time area staple planned to shutter operations as of today, but late last week, Sun Trust bank, the trustee of the course’s operating foundation, announced that it was extending the closure indefinitely so that a possible deal could be reached with the city of Durham to take over the course.

The course lost money for the last 3 years in a row despite getting 35k rounds played last year.  How did they manage that?  Well, the pro shop owner Zach Veasey has (had?) what I’m told is one of the best deals in golf.  The foundation receives revenues from the modest greens fees.  This money is used to cover all of the maintenance costs for the course.  Everything else including food and beverages, equipment sales, lessons, etc goes to Veasey.  Admittedly, he runs a great pro shop, but it does seem like it would almost impossible for a golf course to make money (or at least break even) when all of your profit generating revenue streams are going to somebody else.

Veasey’s contract to operate the pro shop runs until March of 2012.  The deal that looks to be coming together is that the city will take over ownership of the course from Sun Trust’s foundation.  Then former Hillandale pro Karl Kimball’s newly formed management company will then lease the course from the city and take over all of the operations, including the pro-shop, F&B, course maintenance, etc.  This will effectively eliminate the city’s risk in the deal.  The city had previously been hesitant to take over the course if they were going to have to inherit and continue with Veazey’s operating contract.

The plans for the course will be discussed at the city’s Nov 10 council work session.  Hopefully they’ll be able to come up with an agreement that keeps the course open and available to the residents of the Durham area.  It’s really a nice little course with very affordable rates.  It’s also walker-friendly, which is really nice these days when many (if not most) new courses are cart-only.

Ballyneal Golf and Hunt Club

by Derek on June 27, 2011

in Golf Courses

ballyneal 4th tee

The view from the 4th tee box at Ballyneal

I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days at the Ballyneal Golf and Hunt Club in the sand hills of northeastern Colorado.

If you’re not familiar with Ballyneal, it’s a 5-year old private course (designed by Tom Doak) that has quickly become one of the premier links courses in the US.  It’s a top 100 Golf Digest course.  Golfweek ranked it at #6 on their top modern courses list (anything built within the last 50 years).  Golf Magazine has it at 83rd in the world and 48th in the US.

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Map of USA

This past December, Michigan resident Ed Ronco completed the 50-state checklist by playing a round at the Royal Kaanapali in Maui (I highly recommend Kapalua if you’re heading to Maui FWIW).  He came up with the idea 7 years ago after realizing that he had already played in 23 states.

Through the use of creative routing of family vacations and several golf-specific trips, Ronco was able to bag every state.  Alaska and Hawaii were two of the tougher states to cross of the list, mostly due to the travel/cost involved.

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A floating golf course?

by Derek on May 1, 2011

in Golf Courses

Maldives Golf course Underwater Tunnel

That’s right, a floating golf course is exactly what the Maldives is planning to build.  The course will be made up of floating platforms, each containing 2-3 holes connected by underwater tunnels.

The price tag?  A cool $500 million.  I don’t even want to think about what the greens fee will be.  But then again, unless it’s something astronomical, I’d probably be willing to pay it if I’m ever in the neighborhood.

Wired (via Geoff Shackelford)

Davis Love III

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes interviewing Davis Love III.  We talked about the Ryder Cup and how he thinks we match up against the Europeans. You can tell that he’s excited about being a Ryder Cup captain and has been thinking quite a bit about what he needs to do to lead the team to a win next year in Chicago.

We also discussed his philosophy for course design, introducing Michael Jordan to the game (and the role Jordan may play at the Ryder Cup), and cigars.

You can check out the full interview below:

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Last week, George Strait bought the Tapatio Springs Golf Resort just outside of San Antonio, TX.  Tapatio Springs was built in the early 80′s and has changed hands several times over the past few years as golf resorts around the country have struggled to stay afloat.

The financial details of the purchase haven’t been disclosed, but the resort was purchased last summer out of foreclosure for $4.5 million by the Textron corporation.  It sits on 250 acres and includes 27 holes of golf and over 100 hotel rooms.

This story is particularly interesting to me because my Father grew up just south of San Antonio in Pearsall, TX with George Strait (he had 30-something people in his graduating class).  Given that I’m going to be at the Valero Texas Open this week, I may be making a side trip with my Father up to tour the resort and possibly play a little golf.

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