With the 2015 Masters Tournament in the books and the U.S. Open coming up sooner than we think, tour pros and media are now in Chambers Bay mode. Chambers Bay is the location of the 2015 U.S. Open. Some players and caddies are now playing “recon” rounds at the course, and media are starting to post their Chambers Bay material.
That said, I thought it would be a good time to remind any HOG readers that I have a gallery of some Chambers Bay photos for those who are wondering what the course looks like.
Chambers Bay – Click to see the HOG Chambers Bay Photo Gallery
Foolish folks are calling Chambers Bay “America’s St Andrews.” This is about as dumb a statement as I’ve ever heard or read. First, St Andrews is a town in Scotland, not a golf course. Are these pundits saying that Chambers Bay golf course is America’s version of a town in Scotland? I believe the comparison they are trying to make is between St Andrews and the OLD COURSE, which is IN St Andrews. Having spent much time on both courses I must say the two are hardly similar. In fact they’re more dissimilar than they are similar. If I had to compare Chambers Bay to a course in or near St Andrews I would compare it to the Castle Course, but even that is a stretch.
Click the photo above or the following link for more Chambers Bay pictures. I have a bunch more I’ll try to dig up and post later.
The Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour made a quick stop to enjoy the very warm weather of Mesquite, Nevada this past weekend. After enduring the largest snowstorm of the year in Salt Lake, it was time to get out of dodge. The golf was a side-trip though, as I was in town to attend and honor a golf buddy and disabled Iraq war veteran at a local fundraiser.
This trip there was more than golf gear in the HOG Tour Van. Along for the ride this time was the big hexacopter (drone) I built for capturing photos and videos of golf courses from above. I managed to snap some nice pictures ahead of the morning groups Saturday, as well as some nice video clips like the par-5 5th hole video below.
Below is a photo of the par-4 6th hole which goes into a very cool desert canyon bowl.
The most popular golf course in Salt Lake, perhaps even the whole state of Utah, is Bonneville Golf Course and for good reason. This is one of my “home” courses (yes I have several) and I really have fallen in love with the layout. The greens are always well maintenanced, and challenging. There is a very good amount of elevation change at “Bonney.” And one of the most unique oddities about the course is the fact that it has no fairway bunkers. None. Can you think of any course which has no fairway bunkers?
Left of hole #2, irrigation materials staged…
Since its beginning, Bonneville has been watered by hand. “Night watermen” pick up big hoses and patrol the course starting at about sunset, and work until sunrise to keep the course green and playable. I’ve befriended several of the night watermen, one who is no longer with us. A plaque sits at the base of the tree behind the par-3 17th green, dedicated to my friend Jeff. Night watermen are a unique breed; one which is going to be out of a job very soon. Construction on the long awaited irrigation system has begun.
Bonneville Golf Course Aerial Photo by Tony Korologos
Last year I had a fantasy idea about tagging along with the night watermen and a video camera at Bonneville to do a sort of behind-the-scenes interview/story. I dropped the ball, favoring my beauty sleep. Maybe I’ll still have the chance if their services are needed before the irrigation system is completed.
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.
Fantastic Balcomie Golf Links in Crail, Scotland
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.
Coolest Pro Shop in the World!
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.
In fact, the whole time we played the course my group of pals kept playfully looking around and saying “Pebble who?”
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.
Par-5 2nd Tee – “Ower The Knowe”
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.
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.
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.
Room With A View – Crail Golfing Society – click for more
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.
St. Andrews is my 2nd home. I’m so happy there. The golf, the history, the pubs, the people. No I didn’t mention the food. Four out of five ain’t bad… The “auld grey toon.” There’s no place like it.
Most of St. Andrews’ offerings for lodging, like the Ardgowan Hotel, are very old 2-3 story buildings with cramped space and tough access through tight doors and stairways. They’re just fine, and most are located walking distance from the Old Course.
The Fairmont Hotel offers something quite different than those old cramped rooms. Space. The Fairmont is a very large hotel a few minutes drive from the Old Course and about eight other courses. The hotel provides extremely spacious rooms and every amenity one might want or need when on a Scottish golf trip.
Fairmont Hotel – St. Andrews, Scotland – As seen from the Torrance Course – click to see full gallery
The hotel is located on the Scottish coast, featuring fantastic views. The property occupies some 520 acres.
The Fairmont offers several different types of accommodations: Standard rooms available with four different views, five different suite configurations, two family style rooms, and manor homes.
Even the smallest offering, the standard room, has about 4-5 times the space of the smaller hotels in town. In fact, I’d venture to guess that the bathroom in my room at the Fairmont on my last golf trip to Scotland had more square footage than my room at the Ardgowan.
Warm and comfortable rooms at the Fairmont Hotel in St. Andrews
From the robes to the heated towel racks in the bathroom, the standard room amenities are but a dream compared to the old town’s offerings.
The manor homes, which I’d love to try out the next time I’m in St. Andrews, are stand-alone homes which are over 4,000 square feet. Perfect for a golf group.
The Fairmont offers full spa treatments and unique packages which would come in handy after a long cold (yes it can be cold in Scotland) day on the links.
Hot tub and pool. I’ll be here next visit to St. Andrews!
I personally found the hot tub and swimming pool to be such a fantastic treatment for all the stiff muscles in my back and my aching lower body, a result of playing some 6-7 straight days of 36-holes. If you’ve never golfed in Scotland, there are no carts (buggies as they’re called in the UK). All golf is walked and the ground is as hard as Interstate 5. Your feet and knees WILL ache after a few rounds. Book it.
Food & Beverage
After a long day of chasing the white spheroid, a good meal and a “wee pint” are in order. The Fairmont has numerous culinary offerings and plenty of great places to enjoy a splash of scotch or a wee pint of Belhaven Best, a local brew I’ve come to love. My group spent quite a bit of time in the Kittocks Den & Bar, celebrating our triumphant shots on the Old Course, and lamenting over the not-so-triumphant ones.
May I help you? “Yes. A wee pint of Belhaven Best please!” Splendid
Each morning the hotel offers a fantastic breakfast buffet fit for a king, or a monarch. Check your Scottish history on that one. The dining area for breakfast was the gigantic atrium area, seen below.
Atrium area… Breakfast buffet
I think I could hit a full sand wedge and not hit the ceiling in the atrium.
Nearby golf courses include the Old Course, New Course, Kingsbarns, Castle Course, Srathtyrum Course, Eden Course, Jubilee Course, and Balcomie Links a short drive away.
To supplement the property and the great local courses, the Fairmont has two on-site courses, the Kittocks Course and the Torrance Course. I had the pleasure of playing the Torrance Course (pictured below), a wee combination of Scottish and American golf architecture. A mere walk from my room at the Fairmont, the on-site courses feature fantastic views of the nearby sea and the town of St. Andrews.
The Old Town serves as a backdrop for this approach shot on the Torrance Course
The Fairmont offers a different, more luxurious type of lodging and experience than the old salty rooms found in downtown St. Andrews. A far cry from a small room with a bed.
The hot tub alone is worth booking the Fairmont. It was a life-saver on the achy bones, which walked over 100 MILES of golf the last week I was in St. Andrews.