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U.S. Open: Hole-by-hole analysis of Olympic Club

Bradley S. Klein

As you’ll see this week at the U.S. Open, the hardest part of playing Olympic-Lake Course is keeping the ball in play. You’re constantly fighting the terrain and watching the ball roll out the “wrong way.”

Olympic Club has buried plenty of great champions.

In 1955, Ben Hogan fell apart down the stretch and eventually lost in a playoff to an unknown Iowa practice-range pro named Jack Fleck.

In 1966, Arnold Palmer squandered a seven-shot lead down the final nine and tied Billy Casper, who won the next day in a playoff. Scott Simpson was a surprise winner over Tom Watson in 1987 at Olympic. And in 1998, a future Hall-of-Famer lost his lead at Olympic as 54-hole leader Payne Stewart could not hold off Lee Janzen.

Maybe it’s too much to attribute all of that fate to Olympic’s design. But at a course where the ball can do some strange things, even the game’s best players struggle to maintain control and will find their best efforts thwarted by frustrating bounces. As Watson says of Olympic, “there are a lot of tee balls you’re hitting into fairway slopes. . . . If you’re cutting the ...

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Renovations put best face on Kauai golf

Martin Kaufmann

The June 1 issue of Golfweek includes a story on a visit I made to Kauai in April. That was my first time in Kauai, and what I found striking about the island is how much it had to offer, particularly for golfers. 

Given Kauai’s size – it’s the fourth-largest of the Hawaiian islands – I’d feel comfortable recommending at least seven courses, all of which are located on the eastern half of the island. As I noted in the story for the magazine, Wailua Municipal has hosted three Amateur Public Links championships, and yet it sometimes get overlooked despite its convenient location just north of Lihue Airport.

The Kauai experience has benefited from money, and lots of it. Over the past five years, most of the courses and major resorts have undergone seven- and eight-figure renovations. So I felt as though I was catching Kauai at an opportune time.

In cleaning out my notebook, I came across some material on the golf courses that I didn’t have space to include in the print version, but thought was worth passing along here.

Makai and Prince golf clubs– These neighboring North Shore courses used to have the same ownership ...

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First Links: A new starting point

Placing the uninitiated golfer on the first tee of a course stretching 7,000 yards or more makes as much sense as letting a newly licensed driver on a German autobahn.

But that’s exactly how our sport welcomes beginners who still are trying to get their swings in gear.

As if it weren’t difficult enough to sort countless swing thoughts or avoid ball-sucking hazards, new golfers often clog open fairways, unleashing the wrath of frustrated players waiting behind them.

It’s little wonder the game isn’t growing.

But the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the PGA of America have proposed a fix for the problem, a plan to create what is obviously missing: Bunny slopes – or golf’s version of them.

Raising awareness in the golf industry of the need for beginner facilities – staples at virtually every ski resort – is the mission of First Links, a new grant program designed to help existing course owners add such amenities to their properties.

“What we really need is something in between going to a driving range and stepping up to a championship golf course,” said John LaFay, president of the ASGCA Foundation.

Hoping to join an industry-wide ...

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Kaufmann: Florida governor's recycled idea belongs in the trash

Martin Kaufmann

Why is it that some of the worst ideas get recycled more often than cheap plastic?

A year ago, Florida Gov. Rick Scott threw his weight behind a ridiculous proposal for a Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail, which would have put the state on the hook to build as many as five courses in state parks. It was difficult to identify a single redeeming element in that boneheaded legislation. It ignored the fact that Florida’s golf course market already is plainly oversaturated. The legislation envisioned a no-bid contract for Nicklaus. And the idea of building in state parks promised to provide one of those rare instances when the environmental lobby could stomp its feet and scream, yet actually seem reasonable.

So when the legislation was yanked in March 2011, we Floridians assumed we wouldn’t hear anything more about such folly. Ah, but apparently I’m getting naive in my old age.

In a recent interview with my colleague Alex Miceli, Scott said he continues to “look at programs to add more golf courses around the state with a variety of well-named golfers.” Scott added, “I tell people all the time, If you can show a return for state taxpayers ...

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The scenic route north to Jasper

Martin Kaufmann

JASPER, Alberta – Icefields Parkway is a 144-mile road that parallels the Continental Divide, connecting the Canadian national parks in Banff and Jasper. The road’s evocative name – its pedestrian moniker is Highway 93 – is fitting, but only hints at the sights in store on one of Canada’s most scenic drives.

Driving northwest out of Banff, drivers pick up the parkway near Lake Louise. Even on a drizzly July day, hundreds of visitors are drawn to the serene emerald lake, which is situated in a mountainous cove and set against the Mount Victoria Glacier. Tourists hike, they canoe, they shop or dine in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – anything to be near the lake.

The parkway draws its name from the Columbia Icefield, and some visitors like to pile into giant snowcoaches for a 90-minute ride across the Athabasca Glacier, the tongue of which hangs off the mountain within walking distance of the road.

Jasper, upon finally arriving, is best viewed from the Tramway, which sits on the southern edge of town and rises 3,200 feet up Whistlers Mountain, to 7,472 at the upper station. From there, ambitious souls can scramble another 400 feet or so up to ...

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Analysis: In Rio, a false start amid all the games

Bradley S. Klein

Nobody thought getting Rio de Janeiro ready for the 2016 Olympic Games would be easy, least of all for golf.

After a closely-watched public bid to award design of the proposed championship venue went to American course architect Gil Hanse last month, Rio 2016, the committee responsible for building the course (and other sports venues), has yet to move forward. It doesn’t own the land that has been identified as the course site, and the committee can’t persuade the city to come up with the money to acquire the land and build the course.

The 220-acre site in the Barra district southwest of downtown Rio and near the proposed Olympic Village is intended not only to serve as venue for the 2016 golf competition, the first in the Olympics in more than 100 years, but is planned as a public-access “legacy” course to help promote golf development in a city with no other daily-fee course. The city doesn’t own the land and has been forced to negotiate with the title holder, entrepreneur Pasquale Mauro.

The city is reluctant to seize the land by eminent domain. It would prove too politically sensitive to claim private land for such ...

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McCabe: Masters mystique is alive and well

Jim McCabe

AUGUSTA, Ga. – What remains the heart and soul of a practice round during Masters week is “the walk.” You needn’t chase down players to pepper them with questions. You needn’t pursue a topic of conversation. You needn’t investigate or interrogate or interview.

You need only listen, watch, and observe to get an understanding as to why there sits off Washington Road down here a mystique that has no equal in the massive sports landscape. So magical a place is Augusta National that a 61-year-old whose excellence in the game has earned her perpetual glory as a World Golf Hall of Fame member, but whose life feels completes now that she has walked upon the hallowed ground.

“First time for me. I’m just here to soak it all in,” Pat Bradley said. “And to be here because of my little nephew, well, it’s heaven.”

Gifted enough to have won three majors in a season and six in all, Pat Bradley would much prefer to talk about the PGA Championship that her nephew, Keegan Bradley, won last August. Stunning and improbable, that Sunday at East Lake some 140 miles east, the emotions from which remain so strong ...

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Florida resort owner wants an LPGA event

Alex Miceli

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Since expanding her Florida resort portfolio last year, Sheila Johnson has had her eye on playing host to an LPGA event.

Last week at Innisbrook Golf Resort, site of the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship, the entrepreneurial Johnson, head of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, upped the ante for the women’s game. After meeting with a potential sponsor, she spoke about parlaying PGA Tour success into similar gains with the LPGA.

“My first baby step or grand step that I want to make is, I want to secure a LPGA event at our properties,” said Johnson, whose Salamander stable also includes Reunion Resort near Orlando and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast.

Salamander has dubbed its three courses that span mid-Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic “The Legends of Golf Trail.” To that end, Innisbrook hosts the ISPS Legends Tour Open Championship, the season-ending event on the LPGA’s version of the Champions Tour.

The LPGA, with only 15 of its 27 tournaments this year in the U.S., could use more domestic events. The season-ending CME Group Titleholders moved from Orlando to Naples this year. Reunion was site of a regular LPGA stop in ...

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What's your 'birdie yardage'?

Bradley S. Klein

It has taken me years to figure out by rigorous calculation what instinct told me all along. I’m most comfortable and having the most fun when I’m playing tees in the 6,200-yard range. 

My bet is that I’m not alone in wanting to enjoy rather than suffer through a round. I’d also bet that most players in my index range (9.4 trending to 12) are starting from tees that are way too long. From what I see, too many golfers think of their games not in terms of what they usually do, but in terms of what they rarely achieve. If they’ve birdied the occasional 440-yard par 4, they think it’s OK to play courses that are 6,800 yards.

It’s like the player who tries to carry the bunker 240 yards because that’s how far he hits his drives – conveniently not calculating how much ground roll goes into those drives, and overlooking the fact that many drives travel only 185 yards in the air.

Kudos to clubmaker Barney Adams for speaking out last year and suggesting that golfers play courses at yardages they actually could handle. His “Tee it ...

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Tait: Let kids play for free, watch the game grow

Alistair Tait

Want a radical solution to grow the game? Let children play for free.

It’s time to own up to an unpleasant truth – golf is not growing in the western world. It’s shrinking. That’s why we should set the kids free.

There’s never been a better time to join a golf club in the British Isles. There was a time, say, 15 years ago when clubs in my area to the north of London had long waiting lists. No more. Those same clubs are openly advertising for membership. Many have dispensed with joining fees. Yet many are struggling to attract new members.

Some clubs are even going to the wall. Lamerwood in Hertfordshire was a lovely course when it opened in 1996. I had the pleasure of playing there with Retief Goosen. Those were heady days, when clubs like Lamerwood had marketing money to spend on a future U.S. Open champion.

Drive past Lamerwood now and sheep graze on what used to be fairways. Only the discerning eye can pick out what were formerly tees, greens and bunkers. Lamerwood was one of many courses in this part of Hertfordshire looking for business that has long since ...

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In Miami, 36 holes of muni magic

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The Miami area is well known for its luxury golf resorts, including stalwarts such as Doral, Turnberry Isle and the legendary Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. But the region also has become a bustling scene for public golf, as evidenced by my recent 36-hole day spent on two of the area’s finest municipal tracks: Crandon Golf Course Key Biscayne and Miami Beach Golf Club.

Both courses were packed with golfers, delays between shots weren’t uncommon and I had a hectic 30-minute dash through downtown Miami to get from one to the other in lunch-hour traffic. But I have had few more enjoyable days of golf.

Crandon, located on a barrier island southeast of Miami, is part of a municipal park owned by Miami-Dade County, and once there in its protected natural surroundings, it’s hard to believe you’re just 10 minutes away from downtown Miami.

After eating breakfast in the charming village of Key Biscayne, I teed it up with a pair of friendly Crandon regulars, Alan Raphael and Ed Geller. Our games were similar, I relied heavily on their expertise and we had an absolute blast – despite a wind that gusted to 20-25 ...

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Savoring Mexico's best, one sip at a time

Martin Kaufmann

LOS CABOS, Mexico - After spending a recent morning here playing very bad golf on a very good golf course, I wasn’t averse to the idea of submerging my head in a bottle of some of Mexico’s finest tequila.

Fortunately, Carlos Novelo intervened and provided a more sober introduction to this country’s favorite spirit. Novelo was waiting for me when I arrived at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar, which is only about a 3-wood away from the entrance to Cabo del Sol, home to 36 holes of Nicklaus and Weiskopf goodness.

Novelo was there to give me a CliffsNotes tutelage on the proper way to drink tequila. First lesson: Get a good glass. There’s a time and a place for shot glasses, and this wasn’t it. Novelo brought out fine cognac glasses for our tasting of four tequilas.

“If I want to get drunk, I get tequila and drink shots,” Novelo said. “But if I want to enjoy all of the flavors of tequila, I’ll drink it like this. It’s all about, how do you feel and what are you trying to achieve.”

Second point: Aroma is an important part of the tasting process ...

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Grupo Questro CEO still bullish on Cabo

Martin Kaufmann

Grupo Questro is a major developer in Mexico, and particularly in Los Cabos, where three of its properties – Puerto Los Cabos, Cabo Real and Club Campestre – encompass 5,500 acres. Eduardo Sánchez Navarro, CEO of Grupo Questro, talked with Golfweek about those properties and the outlook for Los Cabos.

Golfweek: How has the Cabo market changed since your company got involved there in the 1980s?

Sánchez Navarro: There used to be nothing in Los Cabos – maybe a couple of hotels, few people traveling there, maybe 5,000 people living in the area. Some of the important things that have happened is that Los Cabos has been developed through integrated developments. At the beginning, you had three really big integrated developments: Cabo del Sol, Cabo Real and Palmilla. When you do integrated developments, the place comes out better because you don’t have segregated parcels. Also, 15 years ago we did the master plan for the whole Los Cabos area. That was very important because it didn’t allow people to come in and do high-rises and allowed us keep it low-density, high-end development. . . .

I think another important point was when we privatized El Dorado. It used to be public, but ...

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Querencia CEO: Baja still has 'tremendous potential'

Martin Kaufmann

LOS CABOS, Mexico – Jorge Carrera was appointed CEO of Querencia, a private golf club and residential community here, in July 2004, just as real estate sales were hitting their peak. Querencia benefited greatly from that, in part because of the quality of its golf course, which was designed by Tom Fazio and is ranked No. 2 on the list of Golfweek’s Best Courses of the Caribbean and Mexico.

More recently Carrera has had to navigate Querencia through recessionary times, which have forced the community to delay development of a second golf course that Gil Hanse has been selected to design. Long term, however, he remains upbeat about prospects for Querencia and the Los Cabos region.

Carrera recently talked with Golfweek about real estate and tourism in Los Cabos.

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Golfweek: What is your assessment of the real estate market here?

Carrera: We had three wonderful years – 2005, ’06 and ’07 were magnificent years. We more than doubled the membership from when we acquired it. We were able to design and build the clubhouse, design and build the infrastructure, utilities, and fiber-optic throughout the whole development for communications, put some product in places like the condominiums and the villas that were ...

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Possible savior for Woods' N.C. design emerges

Golfweek Staff

The Cliffs, the financially troubled network of high-end communities in North and South Carolina that includes Tiger Woods' stalled mountain course, will be under new ownership.

As for the future of High Carolina, the Blue Ridge design south of Asheville that would be Woods' first U.S. creation, that remains uncertain.

Buyers Steve and Penny Carlile, a Marshall, Texas, couple whose Carlile Group intends to buy The Cliffs out of bankruptcy, told the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times that they will inject more money into the clubhouses and golf courses and oversee sales efforts in The Cliffs' eight communities. The Carliles already had a vested interest in the success of the project, which stalled amid the recent economic recession, as property owners at High Carolina. However, fewer than 50 of 1,100 planed lots have been sold there, and only two homes stand in the 3,000-acre development, according to the Citizen-Times.

Steve Carlile called High Carolina "a remarkable property that needs a remarkable solution."

Work on Woods' design was stopped last year, with only about one-fourth of the rough grading reportedly completed.

Tim Cherry, the chief financial officer of The Cliffs, said that ClubCo, the subsidiary that owns the golf ...

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