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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SilverRock #9: Short, Sweet par 3

SilverRock # 9

SilverRock # 9

After playing the difficult #8 at SilverRock Resort, La Quinta, CA, the ninth hole is a simple par 3 at 148 yards from the blue tees. No use going long because there is a mountain of rocks behind the green. Some veteran players have used these rocks as a back stop but I don’t recommend it. Who knows how your ball is going to bounce off the rocks?

For me, I’m always coming up short because the green doesn’t look that far. If the pin is on the right then coming up short is fine because you can hit a nice chip up to the hole. But if the pin is on the left side then you have to hit enough club to get over the sand bunkers that guard the pin.

If you hit the green then you are putting for birdie. This is a beautiful hole to birdie or par it.

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Crystal Ridge GC: Straight Tee Shot Required on #1

Crystal Ridge GC: #1

Crystal Ridge GC: #1

Hole # 1, par 4, 375 yards

Teeing off on the first hole on any course can be a nerve racking experience and on Crystal Ridge GC in Okotoks, it can be for those of you who slices their tee shot. If you are playing the blue tees, make sure you grab a club that is going to guarantee you a straight tee shot. Too much left is no good and probably out of bounds. Right is not good either because the clubhouse is there, just behind the trees. Straight is it.

Once in the clear, you can aim for the green which has a bunker on the left and water behind the green. I got in the sand and easily popped it out. My playing partner wasn’t so lucky because she hit her hybrid too long and her ball was wet. After a week of hot sun, the greens had dried out and it was hard sticking the balls close.

On the green, I had a 10 foot putt. I found the greens to be a good speed, not as fast as a 8 on the stimp meter but close behind. Counting the lost ball I hit left, I ended up with a triple bogey. She did too. At least we were even after one hole.

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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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SilverRock Resort: Hole 4 | par 4, 355 yards

SilverRock Resort, La Quinta | Hole # 4, par 4, Blue tees: 355 yards

Bighorn sheep at SilverRock

Bighorn sheep at SilverRock

Standing on the blue tees on hole # 4, all you can see is sand, sand and more sand. Talk about intimidation. First up is Mike from the Tri-City, south of Spokane, Washington. He has driver in his hands and he plans to beam it down the middle. Mike has a really tight swing but he hits it a long way. His tee shot flies through the air and he runs out of fairway. His ball ends up in the desert wasteland which is on either side of the fairway.

I’m next up. I also have driver in my hands and plan on going down the middle too, but short of Mike’s tee shot. I take it easy but I found myself hurrying at the top of my backswing. I would go over the top and come down from the outside in. My ball would fly left and into the desert wasteland where Mike’s ball was. I really didn’t want that but it happened.

The two girls hit and they were both safely in the fairway. Mike and I drove up to see the damage. I had 140 yards to go and Mike had 120 yards. Both of us would have difficult shots, having to blast out of the desert wasteland which consisted of small rocks and rough sand. It would mean scratched up clubs for us, no matter what we used.

I decided to hit a little more club and grabbed my 8-iron. Mike chose a PW. My ball would end up short of the sand trap right of the green. Mike would sail his ball to the back of the green. The two girls were safely on the green and were ready to putt.

Mike and I would both end up with bogey. The girls walked off with a par each.

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Hole # 6, Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert, CA

Hole # 6, Mountain View Course, par 5, 455 yards

If there’s water on the course then my ball will find it. It’s not a mind game with me and water doesn’t really play on my psyche neither. It’s just my golf ball and its obsession with water.

When you drive up the path on hole # 6 on the Mountain View course at Desert Willow, you see water off the tee box. It’s not really in play but it’s a good reminder that water is in play further up the fairway. Gord was first up. He stood on the tee box nervously and waggle his driver like Jason Dufner does. After a few minutes, Gord went into motion and hit a nice drive to the middle of the fairway. Jim was next up. As a leftie, Jim likes to cut the ball so he would start it right and have it draw into the center. With two balls in the fairway, I was up next. I was hitting it pretty good so I was confident that I could join my playing partners and hit it near the center. My ball sailed straight but stayed left. 

On the second shot, we all hit our hybrids except for Jim. In his younger days, Jim would hit a long iron but now at 75, he had to hit his 3-wood to get up to our 4-hybrid distance.  I decided to fade one over the water hazard and onto the landing area just before the green. There’s water that dissects the fairway and it requires a wedge to get it close to the pin. By the time I got up there, I couldn’t find my second shot. I think it must have rolled in. Jim also couldn’t find his ball but he thought he must have went to right and lost it to the water hazard on the right side of the fairway. Gord’s ball ended up in the palm tree oasis to the right of the pond.

From 100 yards out, I played a stroke penalty and hit my ball to the green. Jim followed with a 80 yard pitch shot to the green. Gord decided to sit it out and watch us putt. We were in for a count of 7.

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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.

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Hole # 4, Water Valley Golf Course, Water Valley, AB

Hole # 4, par 5, 420 yards

Hole # 4

Hole # 4

We had a golf tournament at Water Valley Golf Course earlier this month. When we were planning for the long drive hole, we decided it was going to be a long par 5 hole so we chose hole # 4. When we arrived at the course two hours before our first tee time, we asked Mike Anderson, the Head Professional at Water Valley whether hole # 4 was a good driving hole. He said yes.

When our group came up to hole # 4, we walked up to the white tees and surveyed the hole. It was a beautiful hole, perched up high on top of a hill. Down below was a hourglass shaped fairway. If anyone was going to win long drive, he would have to land his ball in the narrowest part of the fairway.

I noticed the long drive stake ahead and it was a long way from the white tees. Wayne went first because he was a low handicapper and played from the blue tees. He hit right but landed safely before the bushes. I was up next and I was teeing off from the white tees. I hit it well but it got caught in the longer grass. A few more feet and it would have landed on the fairway and rolled. Kam was next to hit. His tee shot ended up right as well, near Wayne’s ball. The lady in our group, Genevieve hit a beautiful drive from the red tees to the middle of the fairway.

It was clear that neither of us would win the Men’s Long Drive but it was interesting to find that Brent who had played from the black tees ended up winning the long drive challenge. It was a tough long hole and we were lucky to walk away with a bogey.