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 # 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.


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Hole # 2, Shadow Ridge GC, Palm Desert, CA

Hole # 2, par 5, 478 yards

Mark and Bud, my playing partners at the Marriott Shadow Ridge GC in Palm Desert, CA fell silent after watching me struggle out of the greenside bunker on hole # 1. You can see the worry on their faces, wondering whether we could keep up with them and whether our level of play was sufficient on a course like this.

Hole # 2 was a par 5 with water on the right side of the fairway. There was trouble on the left too, with long grass and waste land. Mark decided to hit first and he pulled it left again. His ball went into unchartered land and he had to take a drop. I was up next. I concentrated on hitting a nice smooth tee shot which I did. My ball sailed straight down the middle and long too. Bud was up next. He ended up hitting short and right.

After Mark and Bud’s second shot, I drove up to assess my situation. I had about 220 yards to go. Instead of reaching for my hybrid, I chose to hit a 6-iron. I wanted to come up short of the green but dry. My balls tend to like water and whenever there is a lake, pond or creek, my ball manages to trickle in. I made good contact with the ball and it landed about 60 yards short of the green. I decided to lob it in with my 56-degree wedge and I had a 12 foot putt left. I would two putt in and walk away with a par. I could see that I was redeemed. Both Mark and Bud congratulated me as they accepted me into their league.

 

 


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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 # 11, Westin Mission Hills, Gary Player Course, Rancho Mirage, CA

Hole # 11, Gold tees, par 5, 548 yards 

Hole # 11

Hole # 11

If you get a chance to play this course, do so but bring lots of balls. Also a good dosage of courage too, because you’ll need it to score low on the Gary Player course at the Westin Mission Hills. Hole # 11 is brutal. From the gold tees, it looked narrow. Perhaps, I was spooked on the front 9, after slicing my ball and finding it in someone’s back yard near some patio chairs. After that experience, I wasn’t too confident off the tee and wanted to call my insurance agent to up my liability insurance.

Sure enough, when you have doubt in your mind, your muscles tenses up. The fairway was split into two, green on the left side with expensive homes. And water on the entire right side with expensive homes just on the other side of the lake. How do you take the water out of play? Or how do you take the million dollar homes out of play?

Tensed and all, my drive was nowhere to the calibre of a good and relaxed drive. It ended up short of the water edge and a million miles away from the green. I decided to hit my new 4-hybrid (ie. Taylormade Rescue Burner 4-H) and luckily, it flew straight toward the cart path. I really didn’t acknowledge how good I hit it until I found it, nestled in the fluffy grass. When you lay down your iron in this grass, you lose complete sight of it. That’s how fluffy it is. I should have learned something but I didn’t. I had less than 100 yards to the green, located on the other side of a watery grave. It really didn’t look far and I didn’t want to hit it long since there was someone’s patio on the other side of the green.

I decided to hit a sand wedge. The ball popped up and went straight into the lake. It flew no more than 60 yards, probably because I went completely underneath the ball. I couldn’t get a divot out of that and lost distance because I couldn’t compress the ball. From the edge of the water, I hit my fourth shot but pulled it left. I had to chip on and two putt in for a double bogey. It was a tough hole.