Getting on the green

Blogging about some of the world's best golf holes.

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Strathmore GC: Hole 1 | par 5, 516 yards

Strathmore GC, Strathmore, Alberta: Hole 1 | par 5, Blue tees: 516 yards

On a nice summer day in Calgary, it is worth a drive out to Strathmore for a challenging round of golf. Strathmore is a small town east of Calgary on Highway 1. Once you pass Chestermere, it is about 35 minutes of pretty fast driving. When you reach the town, you will see a big Canadian flag on your left.

Strathmore GC is a fun and challenging course. Take hole # 1 for instance, a long par 5 at 516 yards from the blue tees. Most of the time, you are greeted by the starter who is parked at the first hole. He likes to encourage higher handicap players to start at the white tees and I think it is fair. More golf courses should employ starters like this, who do their job to make golf more enjoyable. Why play a tee that is more challenging than your playing ability?

From the tee box, Mark didn’t know where to land his tee shot. Sometimes it is nice to see the pin but in this case, it is not visible. A good tee shot is straight or a little right but definitely, not left. Mark was recovering from hip surgery so he decided to take it slowly. He had a brand new Taylormade Burner¬†driver in his hands and he wanted to bolt it out there. He swung and his tee shot flew off to the right. He was in good position for his next shot. Jim was next. As a lefty, he would have to hook his ball to get it to the right side. He chose his Taylormade R9 driver and hit a beautiful draw to the middle of the fairway. Next up was me. I took out my Taylormade RBZ driver and hit it low to the middle of the fairway. With a lower trajectory, my ball ran a few more yards than Jim’s ball.

We got into our carts and drove up to the forward tees where Margaret bounced up to the red tee box and teed up her ball. She took one practice swing then she belted it out there. We are all in good position.

From the fairway, you can see the pin off at a distance. It was almost a sharp dogleg left but from the tee boxes, the pin was not visible. On the left side of the fairway, there were stakes marking off environmental areas. Here is where birds from all over would fly and nest here for the summer. I overheard the starter saying that the Arctic Tern would spend their summers here.

Back to golf, I had over 250 yards to go so I used my 4-hybrid to advance the ball. I would end up with a 9-iron shot to the green which was incredibly large. It was as big as a Olympic sized pool. The pin was located on top of a tier with a very small platform. This is where some accurate shot making is required. Jim was the best chipper around so I watched him intently. He always manages to chip it within 5 feet of the hole. Some people have that talent in their game and unfortunately, it’s not me.

We all made it on the green and were ready to putt it in. Margaret was first because she was the furthest. She took a tennis stroke and her ball flew off her putter like no tomorrow. The green was fast. Mark was next and he too, bolted it past the hole. I was next but Jim took his turn, feeling nervous because he just met Mark and Margaret earlier on the day. He finished off with a bogey. I putted last and tried to get a par but the ball seem to roll uncontrollably. I would end up with a double bogey.

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Hole # 7, Terra Lago GC, Indio, CA

Hole # 7, North Course, par 3, 132 yards

I love elevated tee boxes and when you get to play hole # 7 at Terra Lago North Course in Indio, CA, you’re in for a treat. Named ‘Peak-a-boo’, hole # 7 takes you high up in the desert where you can see most of the desert community across the horizon. Depending on the pin placement, the hole is certainly named appropriately. If placed in the far right corner of the green, the green is certainly playing peek-a-boo with you.

Today the pin placement was ‘2’ and it was a clear shot from the tee box. Because of the elevation, I chose to take one less club. At 132 yards, I normally would hit a 9-iron but today, I chose my 10-iron instead. If you’re playing with a set of Callaway Big Bertha irons (like me) then you’re lucky to have a 10-iron, otherwise hit a 3/4 swing with a 9-iron or a strong PW.

As soon as the group ahead of us cleared the green, I got ready. When both carts left the area, I was ready to hit my tee shot. I like to make sure that I don’t hit the ball into the group playing ahead of us. I hit a beautiful shot towards the green. It landed softly on and left me with a 6 foot putt. I would par the hole after misjudging the break.



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Hole # 1, Kauai Lagoons GC, Lihue, HI

Hole # 1, par 5, 491 yards

The staff at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club in Lihue on Kauai are so friendly that on a quiet day, you feel like you own the place. At least that’s what I would like if I ever won a lottery and bought the course from the Marriott. After checking in with the starter, they will give you a bucket of balls to warm up on. You can putt or you can head out to hole # 1. Because it’s a resort course, they will often let you out on your own rather than team you up with strangers.

Hole # 1 on the Kiele Moana course is a long par 5. At 491 yards from the white tees, the green is a long ways off. The fairway is nice and wide so your first shot doesn’t have to go down the middle. I am hitting my Taylormade Burner with a 10.5 degree loft and stiff shaft. With a slight draw on my driver, I end up in the middle. My playing partner Cynthia is teeing off with a Taylormade Superfast driver with a 13.5 degree loft. She always hit it down the middle – you know the type.

Both of our balls come up about the same. I am hitting my 4-hybrid and she chooses her 3-wood. With only 120 yards left, I chose my 9-iron and dropped the ball next to the pin. She had about 110 yards so she went with her PW. She also made it safely on the green. Both of us are putting for birdie and talk about birds. There are roosters, chickens and chick-a-dees everywhere. Kauai certainly is overrun by chickens. They don’t get in the way but they do make a lot of noise.

I two putt in for a par. She lipped out and had to settle for a bogey. That’s a nice start to a great round in Kauai.

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Hole # 9, Coronado Golf Course, San Diego, CA

Hole # 9, par 3, 153 yards

If you ever want to play island golf, take a drive out to the City of Coronado, just a bridge away from San Diego. A round of golf will only cost you $30 in the weekdays and $35 in the weekends. We had the pleasure of having our rental clubs paid for, by the airline that lost our clubs along the way. To reimburse us, they picked up the rental clubs, balls, shoes, tees and clothing. Later that evening when they located our clubs, they drove them out to our hotel.

Some people can play with any set of clubs but that day, I learned I could not. The set of rental clubs was a mixed bag of sorts which made it a long round for me but I enjoyed the course immensely.

Hole # 9 was memorable because it was a short par 3 over water. I remembered choosing a 7-iron to clear the 140 yards of water to get to the green on the other side. I had to make sure I wasn’t going to pull the shot, otherwise I would have to yell out ‘Fore’ to the guys on the 8th green because it shares the water with hole # 9.

I ended up hitting a stinger across the lake and onto the green. It was pure luck. Two putts later and it was a par – sweet.

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Hole # 2, Elbow Springs GC, Calgary, AB

Hole # 2, par 5, Blue tees, 507 yards

Playing hole # 2 on the Springs course at Elbow Springs GC in Calgary, AB is a treat for the golfer who hits a long straight ball because it’s all risk and reward. For the rest of us, we have to keep it from hooking into the woods on the left and slicing it to the lake on the right. Sand bunkers are placed strategically on the whole right side so that tee shots with a slight fade are safe.

My tee shot was exactly that yesterday when I played Elbow Springs. My playing partner Murray hit a long ball and straight too, so he ended up dab in the middle of the fairway. He was rewarded with a good lie and a good view of the green. I was off the green slightly. Anymore right and I would be digging myself out of the bunker. I felt blessed because it was dry.

With a straight fairway, all I wanted was a solid second shot to get myself a chance for a GIR. Unfortunately, I would duff my second shot with my hybrid. The ball settled on the fairway but 160 yards away. Murray’s drive was somewhere between 230 and 240 yards. He went with his 3-wood and ended up just right of the green. He was easily on the green in regulation after chipping on with his 58-degree Taylormade wedge. I had my troubles with a pulled hook followed by a bad chip. I ended up with a double bogey and Murray was in with a par.


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Hole # 13, Fraserview Golf Course, Vancouver, BC

Hole # 13, par 3, Blue tees, 180 yards

Fraserview is one of the hardest city courses to get a tee time for. It is popular in the morning, afternoon and twilight and people who live in Vancouver tells me that it is the most played course in the city. With the amount of cars parked throughout the day, I always wonder whether anyone works in this town.

Playing hole # 13 from any colour tee is a challenge. From the blue tees, it is an elevated tee shot guarded by a pond to your right. At 180 yards, most players choose to hit a hybrid. Strong iron players will use their 5-iron but it is hard to drop it on the green and limit the roll. Some better players choose to hit their 6-iron and hope that it will bounce on and roll closer to the pin.

My friend Allan chose his 5-wood and hit it straight towards the pin. Unfortunately, it ended up fading at the end and he was on then off the green. I chose my 5-iron and hit it well. It landed a little short of the green and rolled on. Allan joined me on the green after a nice chip with his 58 degree wedge. I pushed my putt slightly and it didn’t break at all. I thought everything rolls towards the pond but this time, it didn’t. I ended up with a par and Allan walked away with a bogey.

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Hole # 6, Inglewood Golf and Curling Club, Calgary, AB

Hole # 6, par 5, White tees, 548 yards

Hole # 18, Inglewood

Hole # 18, Inglewood

When you walk on a golf course as a single, you don’t get a chance to choose your playing partners. I played with two friends which weren’t friends of mine. Gary and Gord were members of the Inglewood Golf and Curling Club and these guys played fast. Perhaps it’s because of the golf club’s expectations that early morning rounds finish in less than 4 hours. Or the fact they wanted to stay one stroke back from the group ahead. Either reason, we finished our 18-hole round in just 3 hours.

I got off on a bad start and played horribly until hole # 6, a nice par 5 where I think I had redeemed myself. It was fustrating to say the least. My driving game was off. My irons were weak and I had no feel for putting. I probably looked like a hack to these guys. Both Gord and Gary were already on the fairway when I teed up my ball. I wanted this drive to count so I focused in on bringing my club back slowly until I felt the tension on my back. Once I felt it, it was time to unwind. At the top of my backswing, I like to think that it’s my right side that has to bring the club back square to the ball. I powered the clubhead through to impact and the ball went sailing up the middle. It landed about 10 yards longer than Gary’s ball and straight as an arrow.

I wanted to advance my ball to the 150 yard marker so I used my 4-hybrid to do that. The ball sailed straight to the 150 yard stake. Next came my 7-iron, setup to hit a slight slice to get the ball around the tree. It flew but it got caught up in the longer grass in front of the green. I had to use my 58 degree wedge to pop it up and onto the green. I ended up two putting for a bogey.

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Hole # 13, Maple Ridge GC, Calgary, AB

Hole # 13, par 3, Blue tees, 204 yards

Instead of waiting a couple of hours to get onto a fully booked course on a Friday, Rob (a marshal at the Maple Ridge Golf Course) advised the starter to let us join a twosome at the turn. It was great and we thanked Rob for thinking out of the box.

As we approached hole # 13, the group ahead of us had just teed off. Sam and I talked at the tee box. I told Sam that I had started a golf blog and for him to check it out after the round. He promised he would so Sam, if you’re reading this – welcome to my blog! Sam is a retired school teacher that taught English. His plans for retirement is to become a well-known writer for short stories. Best of luck to your writing career, Sam! If it doesn’t work, the Champions tour can use you.

I told Sam that I was aiming to hit the green with my Callaway 4-hybrid or go over the pin. There was no trouble at the back of the green meaning that if I had sailed it over the green, it wouldn’t be so bad to chip on. It turned out that my tee shot was perfect, straight and right at it. It would bounce and settle left of the pin. My wife’s tee shot was perfect as well, pin high and to the right. Both Len and Sam’s tee shots were short of the green but these two were magnificent chippers. I envied their short game, especially Sam’s sand play and Len’s bump and runs.

I walked away with a 3-putt for bogey while my wife celebrated a par with a 2-putt. The greens were a bit slow today because they were punched recently. Overall, it was a fun round with Sam and Len. Hope to see you two again the next time we play Maple Ridge.

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Hole # 1, Desert Dunes GC, Desert Hot Springs, CA

Hole # 1, par 5, Gold tees, 517 yards

Desert Dunes

Desert Dunes Hole # 17

The Desert Dunes GC in Desert Hot Springs, CA is owned by Canadians. That’s why you find so many cars in the parking lot with Canadian licence plates! Playing the gold tees, get ready with your ‘A’ game because you’ll need to hit all the clubs in your bag. Coming off the putting green, hole # 1 is a straight away hole. Try to aim your ball left then fade in to the center. I did the complete opposite, hit it straight in the middle and it faded to the right. If you follow me, you’ll be down in the dip where the night sprinkling settles. It’s actually pretty wet down there so I don’t recommend you hitting it to the right.

Staying up on the fairway is an advantage on most courses including this one. My drive ended up short of the long grass on the right but the ball was definitely above my feet. For the second shot, I hit my 4-hybrid off the fairway leaving me a tough 150 yards shot to the green. I came up short and my ball ended up in some pretty long grass just off the green.

I decided to hit my 58 degree wedge high up for a soft landing. Unfortunately, it ended up in the green side bunker. My wife who stayed on the fairway after her second shot, managed to land her ball on the green in three. She scored a GIR and two putted in for a par. I had to blast out of the sand and two putt in for a double bogey. A horrible way to start and it wasn’t going to get better. Stay tuned.

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Hole # 9, Lost Canyons GC, Simi Valley, CA

Hole # 9, Sky Course, par 4, Silver tees, 420 yards

With two courses to choose from, Lost Canyons GC in Simi Valley, CA is a true test for the low handicapper. For me, it’s just a humble reminder that I’m not as good of a golfer than I think. In my opinion, the Sky Course is more fair than the Shadow Course. If you like blind shots then go play the Shadow. Otherwise, if you want to play a decent game then stick with the Sky.

Hole # 9 is called the Sky Lake hole. Why? When you drive up to the hole, you can see why. A large lake spans across from tee box to landing area. It’s up to you how much of the lake you want to carry your ball. I like to aim my ball so that I’m left with 150 yards for my second shot. Big hitters can probably go for more but make sure you hit it hard.

I like my TaylorMade Burner Draw driver with a 10.5 degree loft. When I hit it well, I end up in the middle of the fairway – dry. My friend Stan usually hits it short and into the bunker that runs along the lake, right of the fairway.

My second shot is 150 yards right on the mark. The green always looks far away but it can be quite deceiving if you don’t choose the right club. I usually hit a 6-iron and hit it with three quarter power. It flies low and bounces up to the green. I’ve got a GIR and ready for a 2-putt. I finish the front nine with a par.