Last week I was happy to play my first round of 2016 at one of my home courses and favorites, Bonneville Golf Course. Bonneville is the most popular golf course in the state, home of some of the best greens around.
Last season they switched from manual/hand watering and installed a controversial automated irrigation system. That’s all done now and a byproduct of said irrigation system is a change on the first hole. The first is a very reachable par-5. I’m usually approaching this green with anything from 9-iron to a 5-iron depending on conditions. Just short of the green is a very steep slope which historically has had very deep grass. That deep grass typically ate balls up, keeping them from bouncing up to the green. It also made chipping a challenge.
Shot taken with my phone, so not the best quality. This is the slope which is now cut short.
That long grass is gone now. Apparently one of the reasons for the long grass was a watering issue. Now that there is a better irrigation system, that grass can be, and is cut short like the fairway. I’m not sure how this will play out yet. It could mean many more 2nd shots will bounce up onto the green. It could also mean that short shots and bad chips which don’t make the green may roll back anywhere from 10-30 yards.
It’s going to be interesting to track the scoring and analyze my approaches on #1 this coming season and see how what seems to be a minor change affects the outcome.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Kingsbarns Golf Links Review
Balcomie Links Golf Course, Crail Scotland
Fairmont Hotel St Andrews Review
Ardgowan Hotel St Andrews Review
It is with great pleasure that I post to inform HOG patrons of a major HOG World Tour event taking place in July of this year. I’ll be heading to Scotland for a third time and checking out many new courses in the Scottish northeast. Courses on the list for that swing are Fraserburg Golf Links, Cruden Bay, and Royal Aberdeen.
Cruden Bay – Hole #8
Following those courses the HWT will be back in St Andrews for a third time. On the way south we will be stopping to to play Panmure at Carnoustie, then on to St Andrews proper. Courses on that list include the tremendous Kingsbarns Golf Links, the Old Course, the New Course, Eden Course, Castle Course, Jubilee Course, Strathtyrum, and Balcomie Links.
I’m thrilled. Not a day goes by that I don’t daydream about the upcoming July tour. I’m not in golf shape yet. I put on some insulation over this brutally cold and snowy winter. I look forward to getting into golf and walking shape and of course, getting my game ready for real golf. Links golf.
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 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.
Today was likely the last round I’ll ever play at one of my all time favorite golf courses, Wingpointe. Wingpointe is at the Salt Lake City International Airport. The course is known as “Utah’s Links,” and is the design of well known golf architect Arthur Hills.
14th Hole – Wingpointe Golf Course
The city of Salt Lake owns/operates the course and will be shutting it down November 15th, 2015. It’s a damn shame.
Panorama view of Wingpointe’s 3rd and 4th holes
I have many great memories at “Wingy” and she will be missed. Somehow, despite the bad soil there, the greens were always fantastic.
Panorama of Wingpointe’s 13th and 14th holes
For many years Wingpointe was my home course, and I had a nice relationship with the pro Lynn Langren. From the black tees, the course is (soon to be was) one of the most challenging courses in the state, especially with wind.
The course seemed to always fit my eye and I’ve shot many great rounds there under par.
If it isn’t too cold I may try to play it on the last day it is open, if it isn’t covered in snow.