My Year In Golf: Airports, course visits and behind-the-scene looks at championships

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Jordan Spieth of the United States considers his options with Rules Officials on the 13th hole during the final round of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on July 23, 2017 in Southport, England. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

My Year In Golf: Airports, course visits and behind-the-scene looks at championships

Golf

My Year In Golf: Airports, course visits and behind-the-scene looks at championships

It was, as always, a jumble of airports, golf course visits, behind-the-scenes looks at championships and time spent with architects and superintendents. Here are the moments that made the strongest impressions, in no particular order.

Spieth’s bogey at Birkdale’s 13th

Two weeks after Jordan Spieth’s amazing win in the British Open, I chaperoned a group of Golfweek raters to Royal Birkdale for a round. While folks warmed up, I ran out to the far corner of the range to try finding the spot where Spieth hit his crazily wayward drive and whence he hit his third shot (after taking an unplayable) on the way to the one of the greatest bogeys ever. I’m still amazed how far off line and how he managed to get back into play from a position that afforded him virtually nothing to work with.

Formby Golf Club, England

Same trip, during which we played a trio of British Open venues (Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St Annes and Royal Liverpool/Hoylake) around Southport. I came away from the week blown away by the elegance, grace and complexity of lesser-known Formby, with its heather, dunes, pine trees, railroad line and snug fit to a wild stretch of dunes land comprising holes Nos. 6-10.

Erin Hills, par-5, 18th hole

The hole played 635-667 yards for the 2017 U.S. Open. I thought it brave of me to try playing it from back tee during a preview round. I figured I had done well (as a 14-handicap) to get on the green in four, thanks to a full 9-iron to 10 feet (missed the putt). That’s akin to normal golf. But then watching the U.S. Open, with player after player (even senior golfer Steve Stricker) hitting that green in two was yet another crushing reminder of how different the pro game is from that of your everyday amateur. You can pour through all the ShotLink data you want. But when you experience the gulf like that it’s a real stunner.

Overdue hole change

Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Scotland’s 7th hole, a long par-4 created (along with hole Nos. 8-11) after World War Two, always sat out of place, on a broad, featureless farm plain pulled well back from the bluff edge. Now comes word, finally, the hole is being moved 50 yards to the right along the edge, for a direct look-down onto the rest of the golf course. The clearing work has started, and the new hole, designed by Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert, should be ready by 2019.  As an example of what it means for a hole to “want to be” somewhere, I walked out there during a round in October and found hundreds of golf balls in the area right of the existing hole that was being cleared of gorse. Truly, this will be a case of a hole coming home.

Re: Keney Park par 13th for my year Column

The 13th hole at Keney Park golf course in Hartford, Conn. (Bradley S. Klein/Golfweek). 

Late fall golf

Keney Park, a municipal tract in the middle of the stressed north end of Hartford, Conn., recently restored by Matt Dusenberry. (Full disclosure: I was historical consultant on the project). It was the Saturday following Thanksgiving, a full field shotgun gathered for a 10 a.m. start in relatively balmy weather (low 50s). I threw nine clubs (four wedges, along with 6-iron, 8-iron, driver, rescue and putter) into my MacKenzie Walker bag and played one of the most enjoyable, easygoing rounds of the year without ever having the wrong club to play. It was a reminder of what golf means when it goes back to basics.

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