The Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour was rolling this past few days in northern Arizona and southern Utah, with stops at Bryce Canyon National Park, the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and Kanab, Utah.
Coral Cliffs Golf Course – Kanab, Utah
Home base this week was at a pal’s place in Kanab, Utah. Kanab is just on the Arizona/Utah border, about 1.5 hours north of the north rim of the Grand Canyon, This small town of about 5,000 is in a fantastic location with the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park all from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours away.
Kanab has a small and relatively unknown 9-hole golf course called Coral Cliffs. Of course, the name comes from the red rock cliffs which serve as a beautiful backdrop. The fine managment at Coral Cliffs allowed me to ride the course on a cart and bring my photo gear, including my aerial imagery rig (toy helicopter). Here’s one shot of the 5th, 6th and 7th holes from above. I’m still working on processing the rest of my images, but for now enjoy this one.
For more on Coral Cliffs, visit the Kahab page at Utah Golf Guru, a Hooked On Golf Blog sister site. Utah Golf Guru provides a list of every course in the state of Utah with photos, course details and even playing tips from yours truly!
I’m only a few weeks into piloting my toy helicopter aerial imagery setup. I’ve been working on building up my flying skills and also working on my photo/video setup so that I can capture higher quality images and video. There are still some big pieces to the puzzle like a new camera and some stabilization gear. Below is a photo video from last night’s flight around sunset at one of my home courses, River Oaks.
River Oaks GC, Sandy, Utah – Hole 3 (right) and Hole 5 (left)
One item I’ve ordered and am anxiously waiting for is a camera “gimbal” which will keep the camera level, even when the copter is pitching any direction. This will make the flyover videos of the golf holes much more stable and pleasurable to watch.
It is July 2, 2013 and I’ve arrived in one of my favorite places in the world, St. Andrews, Scotland. Though my Greek genes are dominant, I’m actually half Scottish. Greek mixed with Scot. That means I love links golf and feta cheese, often at the same time.
After checking in at the hotel in St. Andrews the first place my pals and I went was to the Old Course to get on the waiting list. The good news was that I’d be playing the Old with my good friend and caddie John Boyne, and my best friend Al Nelson.
While waiting, John and I were watching players coming home on the 18th hole. Our vantage point was directly behind the green. There’s a small fence there where locals hang out and watch the “gophers” come in.
Behind the 18th Green – Old Course – St. Andrews, Scotland
A ball goes through the green, a “wee bit” hot and settles in some long grass behind the green and about five feet in front of us. The grass is long enough that it has gone to seed. In comes the group, obviously Americans, to survey their shots. The player who hit the long shot is loud and obnoxious. This guy epitomizes the opposite of what I wished we Americans portrayed in foreign countries.
When Mr. Obnoxious American gets to his ball he surveys the situation. He’s presented with 10 inch long grass behind and around his ball and a very tricky, fast shot with a ton of break in it. He reaches down, presumably to move a few loose impediments, but that’s not what he did. Instead, he started pulling the grass right out of the ground. It was no accident. He was improving his lie. John and I were, as they say in the UK, “gobsmacked.” We looked at each other in silent disbelief.
Mr. Obnoxious then walked his line, checking out the break. Upon returning to his ball, as if to confirm to John and me what we weren’t sure we just saw, he started pulling grass again! By now his lie isn’t too bad. He hits quite a good shot which ends up about 14 inches from the cup.
We thought we had seen it all at that point but to our horror, we had not. Mr. Obnoxious then went up to tap his putt in. He stood over it for a second, concentrating, then took a huge swing at the ball and knocked it off the green, nearly to The Links road and the Tom Morris golf shop. Laughing proudly at himself he looked at his group and sarcastically shouted “oops!”
John and I were astonished.
I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “you spend thousands of dollars to go on the golf trip of a lifetime to the Home of Golf. You’ve waited your whole life to get to this place. You are playing the 18th green of the most famous and historic golf course in the world, where every one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport have played. You then cheat twice by pulling grass from your lie and then sarcastically and intentionally miss your 14 inch finishing putt, in front of the ghost of Old Tom Morris. You never bother to finish the final hole, or the round.”
I know Americans in St. Andrews are a double edge sword. The caddies love us and hate us at the same time. They hate us because of obnoxious jerks like this guy who make us all look bad. They love us because, well, we are the biggest tippers of all the tourists who go to St. Andrews.
I can’t imagine the agony this obnoxious American’s poor caddie had to endure, and the wee tip he probably received for his services. Surely the prior 17.5 holes must have been a nightmare. Who knows what other asinine things this guy did or said. Somehow I wish I could buy the caddie, hell, the rest of this guy’s group, a wee pint to kill the pain.
To my friends and caddies in Scotland: we’re not all like that.
The club has been considering a course redesign by Rees Jones and the membership voted last week. 60% of the votes were in favor of NOT doing the redesign.
I’d have to say this is once more a case of “sometimes the best decision is to do nothing.” I don’t feel the course needs a major overhaul. It could use some tweaking, sure. Fixes in drainage and irrigation and a few other maintenance things would be appropriate. Perhaps a few new strategically placed tee boxes. Not $5+ million worth of work and certainly not work which would close down ⅓ of the course for three consecutive years.
Some of the membership seems to think the course will lose its playability and stature as time goes on. “We have a great club at the present time, but we have to look to the future and make sure we can say this ten years from now.” I’m not sure where this line of thinking comes from. Members make a great club first, then the course. 10 years from now the course will still be a gem and a joy to play and its only about 1300 years younger than the Old Course at St. Andrews. Do the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club worry so much about upgrading the course so that it would still be great 10 years down the road?
Hidden Valley Country Club – Poisoned Tree – Mountain Course 8th Hole – click to zoom
Vandalism Reward Bumped Up To $10,000
In the same article last week I mentioned that the club had offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the vandal (or vandals) who poisoned the trees on the Mountain nine, holes #6 and #8. Those were two of the three most strategic and crucial trees on the 27-hole course.
Add a 3rd tree now, and bump up the reward to $10,000.
The Valley Course hole #5 tree, a classic tree in the middle of the fairway which eats drives and forces players to execute great shots to either side, is now dying.
For someone to stoop so low as to poison trees on their golf course is beyond my comprehension. The golf gods will certainly curse these assholes with a lifetime case of the yips. This person (or persons) deserves some maffia style justice, the kind which involves a pair of pliers and a 9-iron. For good measure, add a Joe Pesci skull vice procedure like in the movie Casino.
I’ve been lucky to have played one Utah’s best golf courses with my dad many 100’s, of not 1000’s of times over the last few decades. Hidden Valley Country Club in Sandy, Utah is without a doubt my favorite course in northern Utah. HVCC is a fantastic mountainside 27 hole facility with tree-lined holes, great elevation changes and many fantastic views of the valley below and mountains above. Somehow they manage to produce the softest, yet smoothest and fastest greens around. My personal best score was a satisfying 68 (-4) there last year. I love HVCC and know practically every square inch.
Hidden Valley Country Club – Mountain Nine – 3rd Hole
A few years ago the club considered a course redesign by Matt Dye and wisely opted not to do it. During a redesign presentation one of the lady members pointed out to Dye and those considering the project that the course was wonderful as it was, saying, “why would anyone want to change this?”
Rees Jones Proposed Redesign – click to zoom
The members at HVCC, which I am not, are once again considering a redesign. This time by Rees Jones. The focus would be the greens and tees, with some modifications to bunkers and trees. Some of the reasons behind the redesign: The course was built a long time ago. Two architects contributed to the current greens design. The course is too short. The putting surfaces are not consistent. The drainage systems need to be updated.
Much effort is put into stressing that the goal is not to make the course more difficult.
While I (sort of ) understand these reasons, I once again question redesigning such a great course. I just mentioned how great the greens are, yet some think they need to be redone? Perhaps I don’t know that much about golf architecture, but I’m trying to think of which greens are so out of place on the course. I suppose I’ve always thought of them as they are, and not how they could or should be. Maybe the members should go play some of the muni courses in town with bad greens to remind themselves how great their greens really are. I don’t find the surfaces to be inconsistent. I find them to be consistently good and the speeds perfect.
I do understand the need for drainage work. The course can often be very soggy and spongy in places, yet very dry in others. Some of the tee boxes can be way too soft.
I can definitely imagine some tee box redesign and repositioning. Some good variation could be added to the course by putting boxes in different locations, providing different angles off the tee as well as different elevations. Right now some of the tee boxes can be a bit boring, with all the tee sets in the same strip, just a few yards apart.
Having grown up playing “mountain golf” I do love the way these types of courses frame up when lined with large mature pines like Hidden Valley is. That being said, I’m also as big a fan of links style golf as anyone. There aren’t any “tree lined” holes on the Old Course in St. Andrews. While part of me wants to see the trees and hole shapes stay, I’d be curious to see what a more modern design might bring in the way of playability and aesthetics. If I had any input at all, I would have suggested the club talk with Gil Hanse, Tom Doak or Baxter Spann about the redesign. I’d recommend getting a 2nd, 3rd or 4th opinion/bid on something as big and important as what the club calls their “biggest asset,” their course. I know if I was looking at spending over $5 million on a project, I’d want want to be sure I was making the right choice.
Hidden Valley Country Club – Poisoned Tree – Mountain Course 8th Hole – click to zoom
Recently the club was the victim of some bad vandalism. Gloves and poison were found in a garbage can on the course. Shortly after those items were found, two large trees on the 6th and 8th holes of the Mountain nine started to die (pictured right). These trees play a very strong role in the strategy of the holes. Without them, the holes become much easier and less challenging, as well as less attractive aesthetically.
Seeing these great trees dying makes me ill. I’m very saddened that someone would stoop that low. Certainly doing something like this is not in the spirit of golf and the golf gods will make these vandals pay.
Some theorize that the “flat bellies” of the club may be the source of the sabotage. If those trees weren’t there, the young and long hitters would be able to drive the short par-4 6th or reach the par-5 8th in two shots easily.
I suspect it is also possible the vandalism may have been performed by a disgruntled member or former member. Perhaps someone has an axe to grind and this is their way of getting back at the club?
A third theory I have is one I really hope isn’t the case. I do find it interesting timing that the course is considering a redesign at the same time this sabotage takes place. If I read the design notes correctly, these two trees would be eliminated in the new design. Coincidence? Was the vandalism done by someone who really wants the redesign to happen or worse yet, has a financial interest in the redesign taking place? As I said, I certainly hope this theory is not the case.
A reward is now offered by the club. $2,500 cash to whoever provides the club information leading to the positive identification of the person responsible for the damage.