Getting on the green

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


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Sunset Hole at Palm Royale

The sunsets in the desert are always spectacular, especially when you’re finishing up on Palm Royale CC in La Quinta, CA. When the sun goes behind the mountains, watch for the colors in the sky. There can be purple, orange and streaks of red in the sky when the sun is setting.

Hole # 18 is a challenging stretch to finish off your round. It is short but not easy. It will test your short iron to the max. From the blue tees, it is only 120 yards give and take 5 yards. Often the pin is tucked in the right corner where there is a small waterfall and a small sliver of grass to land it on. If you want to stay dry, don’t attempt to draw your ball. Instead from the tee, hit a fade so that most of your carry is over land.

Water plays havoc on the whole right side. If you can carry your shot all the way to the green then go for it. But don’t blame me if you go in the sand trap or fly the green to the clubhouse.

Yesterday, Rick from Kelowna, BC hit a beautiful shot high up to the heavens and down to the green. He had a 2 foot putt to a nice birdie putt. What a great way to finish off a round in the desert. It’ll be another year before Rick is back for more of the desert.

His wife Linda wasn’t so lucky but she had enjoyed her time on the course meeting nice people and vacationing from the cold snowy days at home.

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A Little Chambers Bay at Muirfield

Drivable par 4 at Muirfield Lakes

Drivable par 4 at Muirfield Lakes

This week I played two courses in the Calgary area that made me feel like Jordan Spieth at the US Open in Chambers Bay. Both courses had holes that were very drivable and with a good tee shot, I had a chance to putt for eagle. Hole # 2 on the Maple Ridge GC is reachable from the white tees and most big hitters with a fade can easily roll their ball onto the putting surface. But from the blue tees, getting on the green in regulation is still good.

The other course I played on was in Lyalta, AB where Muirfield Lakes GC is located. Drive east on Country Hills Blvd to Lyalta then make a right. It is a nice course to play and it would remind Jordan Spieth of Chambers Bay or something from the Scottish links because of the gnarly long grass and open fairways. Hole # 2 on Muirfield Lakes is drivable from the blue tees. With a good draw, players can get on easily from the tee box. They need to start it right then draw their ball in. I did and I was looking at getting an eagle from 20 feet. It’s not everyday you feel like Jordan Spieth at the US Open but for one hole, it was exhilarating. My heart was pumping fast as I lined up my ball and made the putt. It rolled as though it had a purpose then suddenly it stopped an inch from the hole. I had to settle for birdie. The eagle would have been nice but for a moment, I felt like Jordan Spieth on the final round at Chambers Bay, sinking it to win the US Open.


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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 # 1, Indian Wells Golf Course, Indian Wells, CA

Indian Wells

Indian Wells Player’s Course

Hole # 1, par 5, Player’s Course, 494 yards

Never played here but always wanted to and finally, I’m here on the first tee. The course is immaculate and the greens are fast. At least that’s what our host, Judith says about both courses here in Indian Wells. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the whereabouts of Indian Wells, it is a small desert city just southeast of Palm Springs. To get here, you have to fly into the Palm Springs (PSP) airport and head east on I-10 until Washington. Take a right turn at the top of the ramp and drive for about 10 minutes. You will pass the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on your right where they play the BNP Paribas Open every March. When you reach Highway 111, turn right and in 5 minutes, you will be in Indian Wells.

The first hole can be intimidating from the blue tees because you have to sail it past the starter and a desert waste bunker in front of the white tees. I decided to play from the white tees because it was my first time and I didn’t want to get beat up. From the tee, my drive went straight and towards the bunker on the right. The ladies teed it up next and both were in great shape. From the middle of the fairway, I could see trouble on the whole right side. Everything seem to slope right and if you went too right, your ball would end up below the fairway and onto the Celebrity course that played on the other side of the wash.

I hit a 4-hybrid and the ball settled just in front of some hedges. I had about 148 yards to the green that looked pretty deep. I used a 8-iron to scoot the ball up there but it came up short of the green. I decided to use my 52-degree wedge to get it close and the ball ended up on the right tier. The greens were exceptionally fast on the putting green and I thought it would be the same on the course. I was right, lightning fast. My ball sailed past the hole and I was looking at an uphill putt. I would walk off with a double bogey to start my round at the Player’s Course.


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Hole # 5, River Spirit Golf Club, Calgary, AB

Hole # 5, Millburn 9, par 4, 408 yards

Hole # 5

Hole # 5

It brings back memories of the Alberta floods earlier this year when you see the devastation of fairways and tee boxes at River Spirit Golf Club on Highway 8, west of Calgary. In June, there were so much water spilling off the banks that entire fairways were under water for days. Debris in the form of large trees uprooted and boulders were carried down river, scraping and carving up land.

Mike who is a member at River Spirit, gave us hole-by-hole commentary of how the floods had affected his golf club. Hole # 5 tee box was devastated. When you stand at the blue tee and look back, you no longer see the black tees which used to be way back and surrounded by dense forest. Today, you see a cliff where the black tees used to be and a clearing. The river runs behind the hole and gravel lines the banks. Mike told me that there used to be trees from the end of the tee box to the trees that are still standing, about 150 yards away.

It is amazing to think what Mother Nature has done. Hole # 5 used to be 408 yards but now, it is shorter. It used to take two good shots to come close to the green. Now it is a drive and a mid-iron to the green.


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Hole # 6, River Spirit Golf Club, Calgary, AB

Hole # 6, Millburn 9, par 4, 302 yards

Hole # 6

Hole # 6

This is the time of year to play River Spirit, a golf course west of Calgary, AB with views of the Rocky Mountains and farmland. The autumn colours are most vibrant against blue skies where golf is really a walk in the park.

We drove up to hole # 6 on the Millburn course where there were no noticeable damage to the hole. The Alberta floods in June 2013 swept away a lot of fairways and tee boxes on both the Spirit and Millburn 9’s but this hole was spared. We hiked up to the blue tees while Sean kept going to the black tees where he tees off. Sean was a student of the National Golf Academy in town and held a 8 handicap. He said he used to play a 22 handicap until he took lessons at the academy where they showed him his swing on video. They corrected his bad habits and really grooved his swing. Sean was a good player but he would occasionally spray his tee shot. Unfortunately, he would hit his tee shot left of the fairway, into dense bush.

Mike was up next. As a leftie, he had a natural draw to his swing but after playing 26 holes, it was developing into a pull hook. He compensated by aiming very left and drew his ball into the fairway. He was lucky that his ball didn’t keep going, otherwise it would have been in the right rough. I was up next. Standing on the tee, I couldn’t help but to notice how narrow the fairway looked. It was the framing of the hole. All around you were forest. The fairway was 200+ yards away and bordered by two large trees. It was like threading a needle with your tee shot.

I made sure I kept my head down as I swung my club. It went well and straight down the middle. Sean wasn’t as lucky. Three on the fairway weren’t too bad. I managed to walk away with a greens in regulation and a par.

 

 


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Hole # 14, Collicutt Siding GC, Crossfield, AB

Hole # 14, par 3, 116 yards

Hole # 14

Hole # 14

If you haven’t played Collicutt Siding Golf Club and you live in Calgary then you should. Take Deerfoot Trail and head north towards Edmonton. At 2A to Crossfield, take the exit and turn left at the top of the ramp. Drive for 5 minutes and make a left on Western. Follow it to the golf course.

It is surprisingly good for golfers of all ages and skill levels. First of, something that I haven’t seen before – a kids’ tee box. On every hole, there is a set of lime coloured tee boxes that lets kids tee off on. Also, it is only golf course that you can run your cart on the fairway leading to a par 3.

Hole # 14 plays off the new clubhouse which was built in 2005. It is quite a nice looking clubhouse with a pro shop and restaurant facilities. From the white tees, the green is located on the other side of a creek that winds through the fairway. A large bunker in the front protects the pin.

I was first up and decided to hit a soft 9-iron. My ball flew straight towards the pin, over the bunker and just on the edge of the green. Rob was next. He hit a wedge high up and ended up in between my ball and the pin. Holly was next up. She played the white tees with the guys and ended up short and into the creek. Cindy played from the red tees decided to hit a hybrid. Unfortunately, her ball would clear the bridge but find the long grass on the other side of the creek.

I was first to putt and found the hole to be uphill. There was quite a lot of slope to it and I didn’t give it enough roll. I would end up with a bogey. Rob was next to putt and he also bogeyed the hole. No one walked away with a par. It looked like an easy hole but we all were challenged.