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St Andrews New Course Review

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, February 29th, 2016
Categories: Course ReviewsGolfGolf Course ArchitectureGolf CoursesGolf For WomenReviewsTravel
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Now that I’ve confirmed the pending third HOG World Tour trip to St Andrews, Scotland, I can’t help having Scotland on my mind.  It is a magical place.  Sadly 99.999% of the courses in the United States do not play like true scottish links courses.   Scottish golf is a natural, hard style of golf I far prefer to the overly-soft, over-watered, too green, over-manicured courses here in the USA.

One thing most golfers who have not been to there don’t realize is that there are a ton of courses in the town of St Andrews, not just the Old Course.  That’s why I’m always giving people grief when they refer to the Old Course as St Andrews.  “Hey have you played St Andrews?” they ask.  I say, “which course?”  St Andrews is the name of the town, not the course(s).  In the town itself the other courses besides the Old Course include the New Course, Jubilee Course, Eden Course, Strathtyrum Course, The Dukes, and the Balgove Course.   All but the Balgove are within walking distance.  In a few minutes by car one can find even more courses: Castle Course, Torrance Course, Kittocks Course,  Saint Andrews Bay Course, and Kingsbarns Golf Links.

The closest course to the Old Course is the New Course.  While the Old Course dates back to around 1400, the “New” Course opened in 1895.  Yeah, that’s “new” alright.  The New is literally next to the Old.  You can miss a fairway on the Old and the ball may end up on the New, and vice versa.  I don’t recommend that though, because the New is out of bounds if you are on the Old and vice versa.

New Course Overview

Old Tom Morris is the architect of the New Course.  The new is a par-71 course which tips out a 6,625 yards, short by modern standards.  The new has many very similar designs and feels as the Old does, but is a little more straightforward and less quirky.

The course rating is 72.8 with a slope of 127 from the tips.  For those of you in the UK, the standard scratch score (SSS) is 73.  The rating would make the New just a tiny bit tougher than it’s next door neighbor, the Old.

Tee

From the tee, the new presents some great challenges.  The course can be a wee bit (as they say in Scotland) tight.  Errant tee shots will be penalized by bunkers, deep rough and in the worst case, gorse.  If you don’t know what gorse is count yourself lucky.  Gorse is a very nasty dark green bush with thorns which feasts on a strict diet of golf balls and the occasional golfer.  Going into the gorse after a ball is usually not a good idea, unless you like scratching the hell out of yourself and ripping your fine golf apparel to shreds.

Some tee shots can be intimidating

Given the shorter nature of this course and the typical hard ground, driver is not necessary on many of the par-4 or even par-5 holes.  The longest par-5 is 518 yards.  Once again, distance isn’t the most important part of the tee shot at the New.  Accuracy is.

Fairway

The fairways can be tight on the New Course, but fairly flat in most places.  If the golfer has managed to avoid the pitfalls mentioned in the tee description, the approach from the fairway is fairly straightforward.

Left rough approach on the 18th hole

If the golfer misses the fairway but avoids bunkers and gorse, the rough can be very thick and inconsistent.  Difficult lies in the rough may be tempting for the golfer to hit the hero shot, but it is often wise to be more conservative and get the ball back into play.

Green

The greens at the New are quite different than the Old. They’re considerably smaller and less undulating but still guarded well via bunkering and adjoining gorse and rough areas.

Because of the smaller greens, the hard ground, and the ways the greens are protected by bunkering or natural obstacles, I find the greens at the New fairly hard to hit. This puts a premium on short game. A green reached in regulation is not an overly difficult two-putt proposition like the gigantic greens on the Old.

Amenities

The St Andrews Links Clubhouse is a very spacious and large facility featuring the pro shop, Swilcan Restaurant and lockers with showers. I’ve enjoyed a few meals in the Swilcan Restaurant and knocked back some refreshing beverages while overlooking the 18th green. Such a great spot.

St Andrews Links Clubhouse

St Andrews Links Clubhouse

Next to the clubhouse is a nice practice green for getting the feel and working on short game. There is no driving range. The nearest range is a bit of a walk or very short drive to the St Andrews Links Golf Academy.

Tip

The St Andrews Links Trust sells a few different great golf packages. I highly recommend purchasing a three-day or seven-day “ticket.” These packages allow the golfer to play unlimited golf in either three days or seven days on the six Links Trust courses other than the Old. In the middle of the summer there is so much daylight that a hardcore golfer could literally play 3-4 rounds in ONE DAY. I’ve done the 3-day twice now and loved it. In one day I played 18 on the the Jubilee, 18 on the New, and a relaxing 9-holes on the Strathtyrum Course.

Final Thoughts

The New is a fantastic links style golf course. It’s a great course on its own and serves as an excellent alternative or backup for times when the golfer is not able to get a tee time on the Old Course. Plus the cost is a fraction of the Old.

I highly recommend experiencing the New Course when traveling to St Andrews to play golf. The New provides a tremendous and satisfying links experience.

Related Links

Kingsbarns Golf Links Review

Balcomie Links Golf Course, Crail Scotland

Fairmont Hotel St Andrews Review

Ardgowan Hotel St Andrews Review


Pechanga Resort & Casino Review

Written by: Tony Korologos | Thursday, November 5th, 2015
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf CoursesGolf For WomenGolf LifeGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviews
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Recently the Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour spent some time at Pechanga Resort & Casino, located in Temecula, California. My stay was fabulous and I enjoyed as much of the amenities, food, and golf as I could squeeze in. I didn’t get to it all, so I hope to return and finish the job soon! Let’s take a look at Pechanga Resort & Casino.

Pechanga Hotel Left - Golf Clubhouse Right

Pechanga Hotel Left – Golf Clubhouse Right

Overview

Pechanga is a resort/casino which features 517 luxurious rooms of varying levels. The casino area is enormous, as big as any mega-resort in Vegas. As one walks in the main entrance, indoor waterfalls and interesting interior design please the eye.

Within the casino areas just about any form of gaming one would like to experience is there, from blackjack, craps, slots, to a massive bingo parlor. It’s all there.

It would take a week of three-meals per day to scratch the surface on Pechanga’s dining offerings, from fine dining to a food court which rivals large malls.

After a long day of recreating, work, or winning megabucks at the casino, Pechanga offers a full spa with various treatments and services.

Last but not least, “The Journey” at Pechanga is the on-site golf course which features fantastic views, elevation changes, and prime golf conditions. Check out the Hooked On Golf Blog Journey at Pechanga review here.

Location Location Location

What would a perfect golf/casino/resort location be? I’d say somewhere warm with access to major international airports, perhaps close to major metropolitan areas. And to put it over the top I’d say it would be located in a great area for vineyards wine.  Pechanga fits the bill on all accounts. The resort is located almost exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego in Temecula, California. When I was flying in I was able to choose flights by comparing cost to LA or San Diego airports. This time around, it was the best deal to fly into San Diego and take the 45-60 minute drive north to Temecula.

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Golf Course Review – Journey at Pechanga

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, August 31st, 2015
Categories: Course ReviewsGolfGolf CoursesGolf For WomenGolf LifeGolf LifestyleHOG World TourReviewsTravel
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I’ve heard a lot about the golf course at Pechanga and I’m glad I was finally able to make the short trip down to Temecula, California to check it out.  The course is called Journey, or sometimes referred to as Journey at Pechanga.

Location Location Location

Journey at Pechanga is located on the property of the fabulous Pechanga Indian Reservation resort/casino in Temecula, California.  Temecula is in a perfect location roughly midway between San Diego and Los Angeles.  When booking my flights it was nice to be able to choose between the LA airports or San Diego.  I ended up choosing San Diego this time around because the cost was a little lower.

Pechanga Hotel Left - Golf Clubhouse Right

Pechanga Hotel Left – Golf Clubhouse Right

Journey’s routing brings it in the hills behind the resort, and gives the course some great elevation changes and views.

Overview

Pechanga is a very challenging golf course featuring five sets of tees.  With five sets of tees players can choose how much of the challenge, or journey, they wish to bite off.  From the tips, the Copper tees, the course plays to a par-72 with a course rating of 74.8 and a slope of 142.  In plain English that’s one tough journey.

The course architect for Journey is Arthur Hills.  I’ve played many of Mr. Hills’s courses and while he has some architectural signatures, his design at Pechanga is quite unique and original on a few levels.  Part of the uniqueness of the course design is the challenges Hills had in preserving sacred areas and sacred items on the property.  Players who are unaware of these sacred items might complain or wonder why there’s a large tree in the of the fairway.  After solid drives I found myself directly behind a couple of those large trees with no shot at the green.  I was irritated for only as long as it took me to remember these are sacred trees.  Then I took my bogey and moved on.

There are several spots on the course where huts can be found, and some very old historic structures.

Modern huts, homes, are not on the course and never will be.  I love courses like this which aren’t developed for the strict reason of selling lots.  Major points scored on this for Pechanga.

Tee

Tee shots at Pechanga are probably the strength of the course design.  Hitting the tee shot accurately is perhaps the most important shot on just about every hole.  Many tee shots present forced carries and very large elevation changes, requiring precision and good math skills at figuring out the yardage to elevation change difference.  Coming from a mountainous area, the elevation changes were right at home for me.

Tee shots sometimes present the player with risk/reward options, like the par-4 5th hole.  At around 300 yards a bomber could play aggressive and try to drive the green.  There’s not much room for error though with a stream dissecting the landing area and a lake the player must carry.  On my first time around the course I chose a conservative route on that tee shot, hitting hybrid to the left fairway.  From there it was a sand wedge to five feet and my first birdie of the day.  The second time I played it I played more aggressive and ended up making bogey.

The next hole (#6) is a par-4 that provides the most dramatic elevation drop of about 300 feet.  Drives seem to stay in the air for an hour or two from that tee box.  In the photo below I’m about to launch one on #6.

golfer hitting golf shot from elevated tee

Par-4 6th Hole Tee

Another great tee is on the par-3 17th (pictured below), with a large drop and a view of the resort and parts of Temecula in the background.

Pechanga Golf Course 17th Green

Pechanga Golf Course 17th Green

I almost aced 17 on my first go-round.  Unfortunately my playing partners just missed out on some free beer.

Fairway

The fairways at Pechanga are generally fairly wide and not terribly difficult.  If you’ve managed to find the fairway, you won’t be faced with a tricky or unfair stance, but you might have issues due to the aforementioned sacred trees.  It happened to me twice, once on the first hole and once on the par-5 9th.

First fairway before the early morning marine layer has burned off. Note the trademark tree in fairway…

A few fairways are split, giving the player two routing options.  One option is often for the more aggressive player and one for the conservative.

Green

During my round at Pechanga I found the greens to roll smoothly.  They were receptive to good shots, even spinning a few back.  Some greens like the 18th featured large undulations and tiers while others like the 2nd and 3rd were more flat and subtle.

golf green

15th Green at Pechanga

Many greens are guarded by some stern bunkering.  Greens located on the hillside often had a favorable uphill side to help deflect errant shots above the green onto the green.  But that same slope would severely penalize errant shots which hit the downhill side.  I know this first hand.

Flow

The gap between the 5th and 6th holes is literally about a five minute drive in a golf cart, including a massive elevation change.  That may be the “Journey” right there!  There’s another big gap between 16 green and 17 tee.  Because of some of these long gaps between holes and the steepness of the hills I really don’t see walking the course as an option.  The walk from 5-6 could take a fit individual 15-20 minutes.  Those gaps make some of the routing/flow a bit on the funky side.

Practice Areas

Pechanga has a great driving range with high quality range balls.  There are actual greens and bunkers in the range providing players the opportunity to play real golf shots at targets with forced carries.   This is a great alternative to the ranges on some courses where the target is “north.”

The short game area is perhaps the best of the practice facilities at Pechanga though.  There are several short game greens with side-hills, chipping pitching slopes, and bunkers to practice from.  That’s where I should have spent most of my time, and where most players would benefit as opposed to pounding drivers all day on the range.

golf practice area

Short game practice area

Finally the practice green (below) provides an accurate representation of the speed and feel of the greens on the course.  More importantly though, there’s a bar/cafe about 20 feet away.

golf green

Pechanga Practice Green

Amenities

The clubhouse is quite an architectural piece.  Inside are the pro shop, locker rooms, and a great restaurant called Journey’s End.

pechanga clubhouse

Journey at Pechanga Clubhouse

The pro shop is full of a massive apparel and equipment selection.  If you forgot something or need some new gear, they have it.

I had breakfast at Journey’s End a couple of times and the huevos rancheros was fantastic, along with the pancakes.

Conclusion

The Journey produces some very fun resort golf between all the great amenities the hotel and clubhouse have to offer and the Arthur Hills designed golf course itself.  The course can play as relaxing or as challenging as a player may want with it’s diverse set of tees.  Bring some extra balls and bring a camera.

Related Links

Journey at Pechanga photo gallery.

Pechanga Resort/Casino photo gallery.


Review: Balcomie Golf Links, Crail, Scotland

Written by: Tony Korologos | Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf Course ArchitectureGolf CoursesGolf LifeGolf LifestyleHOG World TourOlympic GolfReviewsTravel
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Not far from the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland is a fabulous, authentic, old-world links course in the town of Crail called Balcomie Links.  Balcomie Links is one of two courses on the property.  The other course is Craighead Links which opened in 1998.  Craighead Links was designed by Gil Hanse, one of today’s most popular golf architects, and the architect of the 2016 Rio Olympics golf course.

Old Tom Morris is the architect of Balcomie Links.  Old Tom finished up Balcomie the same year he finished up the “New Course” in St Andrews, 1895.  The course plays to a par of 69, and a total yardage of 5,861.  If you are a yardage snob you’ll have to adjust a wee bit.  Once you do, you’ll truly appreciate the splendor of this course and the overall par and length will matter not.

Balcomie Golf Links

Fantastic Balcomie Golf Links in Crail, Scotland

Perfectly Understated

The personality of Balcomie Links is fantastically understated.  The pro shop has to be the coolest shops I’ve ever seen.  I imagine golfers sitting on this bench as children, learning to golf from mom and dad.  They grow up sitting on this bench.  They grow old sitting on this bench, and life is good for them.  I’m envious.

Balcomie Links

Coolest Pro Shop in the World!

Location

Located a 20-30 minute drive from St Andrews, Balcomie Links is located on an unbelievable stretch of land which borders the North Sea. I can’t think of more than one or two holes which don’t have a view of the North Sea, and most of the holes are right on the water. If this course was in California it would give Pebble Beach a run for its money.

Pebble who?

In fact, the whole time we played the course my group of pals kept playfully looking around and saying “Pebble who?”

Tee

Tee shots at Balcomie Links are so enjoyable and fun.  Tom Morris was quite creative with the layout, and there are tee boxes in some very interesting places.  Some tee boxes are by old buildings (below), while others cross holes.  Some are by mortar and rock OB walls that must be hundreds of years old.

balcomie links crail scotland

Par-5 2nd Tee – “Ower The Knowe”

Fairway

The fairways at Balcomie links welcome golf shots and don’t provide too much penalty if they’re not perfect.  The wide fairways provide an enjoyable walk, but on rare occasions present challenging angles and blind shots if the ball finds the wrong resting place.

Fairway approach to the double green on the 11th

Some fairways, in old Scottish links golf style, cross each other.  Keep a keen eye open for other players and rest assured the locals who know the course will do the same for you.

Green

Due to typical high winds, the greens at Balcomie Links only run between a seven to a nine on the stimpmeter.  In other words fairly slow.  American golfers may be used to faster greens, so it takes a few strokes to get used to whacking putts that hard.

crail balcomie

Forced carry to an elevated green with the North Sea in the background. Fabulous!

The greens are not severe, but are tastefully protected via bunkering and other hazards, like the North Sea!  A few holes feature some strong elevation change approaching the green.

Crail Golfing Society

The town of Crail is the home of Crail Golfing Society, the 7th oldest golf club in the world.  The clubhouse overlooks the links, with the beautiful blue water in the background. Crail Golfing Society was kind enough to allow us to enjoy their fine food and a wee pint following our round.  One of the best meals I had on my last Scotland trip was accompanied by one of the best views, as seen below.

crail golfing society

Room With A View – Crail Golfing Society – click for more

Final Thoughts

When trying to come up with words to describe the experience at Balcomie Links the first two which came to mind were “authentic” and “true.”  Golf here is authentic, as are the people.  There’s nothing gaudy or commercial here.  Balcomie Links is about TRUE and traditional Scottish links golf and is uninfluenced by the outside world.

Boy is it a world I’d love to live in.

Related Links

See the whole gallery of Balcomie Golf Links images!

Carnoustie Golf Links Review

Kingsbarns Golf Links Review

Ardgowan Hotel St Andrews Review

Fairmont Hotel St Andrews Review


Michigan’s Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club Review

Written by: Tony Korologos | Friday, August 15th, 2014
Categories: Course ReviewsGolf Course ArchitectureGolf CoursesGolf For WomenHOG World TourReviews

I could move to Michigan, at least during the warmer months.  Winter?  Not so much.  The golf in Michigan is so astoundingly good and interesting.  The topography and vegetation lend themselves to such fantastic golf which can compete and even crush competitive golf destinations like Florida, South Carolina, California, or the northwest.  The terrain with its great rolling hills and elevation changes makes a great canvas for golf architects to paint their masterpieces.

shepherd's hollow golf michigan

Secluded is an understatement… click to zoom

One such masterpiece is the Arthur Hills designed Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club, located northwest of Detroit about 45 minutes in Clarkston, Michigan.  Shepherd’s Hollow is secluded in a densely wooded area, not near any kind of visible development.  Each hole has its own space.  Nothing shared.  No side-by-side fairways.

Courses

Shepherd’s Hollow features 27 holes.  Unfortunately I was only able to play 18 of the 27 during the HOG World Tour stop.  I MUST get back there soon to play those again and experience the nine I missed.

There are five sets of tees at Shepherd’s Hollow, allowing the course to accommodate players of all ability levels.  The tips for each set of 18 runs roughly 7,100 yards.  The primary 18 is an absolute beast of a golf course, rating at 76.0 with a slope of 147.  A scratch player would do well to break 80 from the tips.

Tee

Tee shots at Shepherd’s are impressive.  The view from each tee is of a hole lined by trees on each side and landing areas which are anything but flat.  Tee placement is crucial to have a chance at par, and on this course pars are good.  Nearly every tee shot features some kind of elevation change, requiring good strategy and calculation from the golfer.

I really like the different tee sets at Shepherd’s.  Different tees don’t just mean a change in yardage.  The angle and even elevation of each tee shot is different based on the play of the day.

A very unique feature with regards to the tees is how they are marked.  Rather than having two tee markers sitting on the ground which the player must tee off between, one pole on the side marks the teeing area.  See image below:

Tee marker above left, working the tee shot right-to-left above right!

Fairway

If you manage to hit the fabulous fairways at Shepherd’s Hollow, you’ll be presented with challenging lies and approaches.

The stance may promote a draw but the approach may require a fade.  One other course does that very well, Augusta National Golf Club.

Green

Ah the greens.  What lovely surfaces these are.  Such great conditioning and such fun to putt.  Tiers, slopes, and swells make putting a fun (but fair) challenge.

A challenging two-putt prospect…

Hitting the proper area of the green on approach is as challenging, for finding the wrong spot makes two-putting an accomplishment.  Once again, not unfair, but very challenging.

Facilities

The clubhouse and its setting are tremendous.  The clubhouse’s classy architecture perfectly fits in with the environment.

Such a great clubhouse…

Inside the clubhouse is very warm and inviting.  The pro shop is full of great gear and apparel while the food and beverage provides some fantastic selections.

The back patio is magnificent!  I could hang out there all day.  See below.

Nice place to collect your winnings and enjoy a frosty beverage…

Conclusion

If asked to come up with one word to describe the whole experience at Shepherd’s Hollow I’d use the word “pure.”  The whole experience from the facilities to the course to the area… PURE.

Links

More Hooked On Golf Blog Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club photos.

Other Michigan golf course reviews


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