HOG World Tour
Cabo del Sol Ocean Course – Los Cabos – click for more
I had the pleasure of playing a round of golf last week in Los Cabos, Mexico at the Cabo del Sol Ocean Course. It was a pleasure playing with the Director of Golf (DoG) Greg Tallman.
The Ocean Course is a Jack Nicklaus signature design with some great elevation changes and some fantastic seaside holes. The taco stand at the turn is world renowned.
I’ve just uploaded some featured Cabo del Sol Ocean Course photos to the Hooked On Golf Blog image gallery for your enjoyment. I’ll be posting my review later so stay tuned.
Greetings from beautiful Los Cabos, Mexico. So glad to be here. Crazy life I live right now. I was on the North Sea in northern Scotland a week or so ago, and now I’m on the Sea of Cortez!
Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar Golf & Spa Resort – Los Cabos, Mexico
I’ve just spent some time in the pool with my Nikon and uploaded some photos of the current Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour location, Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar Golf & Spa Resort – Los Cabos, Mexico.
Check ’em out by clicking the photo above. More soon.
Its (British) Open Championship week. Lots of previews and prognostications by golf writers, bloggers and media as to whether Tiger Woods will win. Lots of people predicting a flame-out for Rory McIlory or that Phil Mickelson’s FIVE wedges and no driver will get him his first Claret Jug. No need for me to post another nauseatingly repetitive preview. Instead, I’m chronicling my recent rounds on the golf course which has hosted more Open Championships than any other…
My pal Boynie (left) and myself at the Home of Golf – 2011
I have to admit that after my trip to St. Andrews in 2011, I thought the Old Course was not a terribly difficult golf course. I’d come into that trip hoping to break 80 (2-3 handicap) on the Old Course. Despite my nerves, I shot 80-77 my two rounds there, from the tips. I didn’t find the course to be overly difficult or long and felt like I lost a few shots to simply not having any experience in links style golf. I found one bunker in two rounds on the Old Course, hole #4, which led to a double bogey. The rough was manageable. I could hit even a longer iron from the rough and hit a green in regulation or get close enough to have putter in hand for the next shot.
There were tough holes like #11 (par-3) and the Road Hole. I was +4 on those two holes for the two rounds.
When I arrived in St. Andrews a couple of weeks ago I had thoughts of breaking my record on the Old, 77. I could do it if I didn’t make double on #4 or bogey #11 and/or I could make birdie on the easy 8th or 9th holes. It was definitely possible in my mind, shooting a round in the low 70’s.
My ball striking was better than it was two years ago coming into this trip. New, great irons, a new and longer driver. Solid putting as always. I thought my game, despite being one stroke higher in handicap index, could produce some magic on the Old.
I keep saying “I thought” or “had thoughts.” Yes those are all past tense. The Old Lady had other plans for me. I was about to learn a lesson. I was about to see a tougher side of the Old and it would expose parts of my game which I didn’t realize were as weak as they were. Perhaps it was just the mental part which was weak. Maybe it was just that the conditions were tough and I’m being a little hard on myself.
All of the above.
The conditions these two past rounds on the Old were far different than back in 2011. Yes the ground was still as hard as Interstate 15. Yes there were some new tweaks to the course, like the two new bunkers on hole #2 short right of the green. I did manage to test those bunkers out first hand. They’re penal.
The wind this time around was much stronger and on most holes was a cross wind. It was strong enough to force my driver sight lines some 40-50 yards from the intended area where the ball was to finish. That messed with my brain. A gag reflex in my normally solid driver swing ensued. On hole number one in 2011 I hit wedge into the green both times. With a very strong hurt-wind, I hit hybrid on day one and 5-iron on day two. That’s a little different than wedge. Hole one is short. Having to hit hybrid into that green is crazy!
All the “out” holes on the front were extremely tough with a that hard, hurting cross wind. In attempts to hit the ball low or draw it, I’d either smother them low left or hit a double-cross, giant ballooning slice which would be insanely magnified by the wind. Those shots looked like they’d blow all the way to Carnoustie. Needless to say my fine caddie and friend John Boyne had his work cut out for him just finding my tee shots. We found all but one. The ones we did find though, were more often than not in bad situations like bunkers, sides of dunes or in the hellishly long rough.
YOU try to get out of this!
More on the rough.
The Old Course is the host of the 2013 Women’s British Open Championship, coming up a couple of weeks after the trip. The course was already transforming into “championship” form and the rough was waist deep in some places. They were already putting up the fencing and grandstands.
The rough was extremely difficult, not manageable like 2011. On the 2nd round for example, I made it into the rough left of the Road Hole. I took out my sand wedge and attempted to blast it out to the fairway. Three mighty lashes later my ball was out. The first mighty lash advanced my ball about one foot. It was a fine shot. The ball went nice and straight. If those ladies in the Women’s Open find that rough they’ll be in trouble.
Many holes during those two rounds had similar stories. Missed fairways led to deep rough or those very difficult bunkers. Hitting either one meant a guaranteed bogey or worse.
There were many “bogey or worse” situations.
I became a bit beaten down by the conditions and my score. The Lady sensed my lack of respect the last couple of years and took it to me. I resolved myself to simply enjoy the moment of playing the Old Course, and not worrying about the number on the scorecard or the level of my play. That helped. I tried to enjoy each shot as best I could, whether it was my solid tee shot on the par-3 8th the 2nd day, which I had to play 20-30 yards right of the green due to the wind, or my 8th shot (yes, 8th) on the Road Hole. That 8th shot was a perfectly executed running 9-iron from about 50 yards which ran up the false front and snuggled to about two feet from the pin. The one-putt capped off a “solid nine” on the Road Hole.
At least I finished in style. By the time I reached the 18th hole on the 2nd round, the wind was helping. It seemed like that was the first hole of the 36 where the wind didn’t hurt. My tee shot was far past Granny Clark’s Wynd, the road which dissects holes #1 and #18. I was almost to the Valley of Sin. I hit a less-than-stellar running 9-iron to about 25 feet, leaving me with a severely breaking putt from left to right, a back right pin.
I made the birdie putt.
9-3. Quintuple bogey-birdie. A fine finish on the Old. Only golf can produce such painfully joyous irony. The birdie on 18 was my 2nd birdie in four rounds on the Old, the other two rounds being par. On the positive side I’m -2 lifetime on the finishing hole of the most famous golf course in the world.
A Little Scared, or Scarred
I had a couple of opportunities, though unlikely, to take on the Old Lady again before the trip was over. I didn’t work it too hard, rather preferring to play somewhere else, which I did. I was a bit relieved. I realize that sounds completely ridiculous. Having the chance to play the Old Course and feeling relieved not to does sound crazy. I’d had enough though. The lovely Old Lady had proven her point. She sent me home with the two highest scores I’ve shot all season, on any course.
Even more nutty is to consider that I paid thousands of dollars to fly to Scotland for such punishment.
I can’t wait to do it again.
4:52 a.m. Unfortunately I’m not up this early to watch Open Championship coverage. I’m sitting in gate B9 at the Salt Lake City International Airport waiting for a flight to the next Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour stop!
I’ll post some pictures when I arrive at the next, mystery tour stop. The photo is the first clue. Can you guess where?
Par-3 13th at Kingsbarns
A week ago Friday I played one of my favorite golf courses on this planet, Scotland’s Kingsbarns Golf Links. This was my 2nd round on this brilliant course, my first back in 2011. In 2012 I posted my Kingsbarns Golf Links review. This is simply a recap of last week’s experience as well as a refresher to HOG readers to check out my review and photos of this world class course. If you get to St. Andrews to play the Old Course you MUST, I repeat MUST play Kingsbarns.
I’ve said many times that the best part of running a popular golf blog is the great people I meet. I’d like to thank my new friend Alan Hogg, Director of Golf at Kingsbarns, for his hospitality. I had a great time chatting with Alan who has one of the best jobs in all of golf. We laughed at the fact that his last name is Hogg and how his last name stands for “Hooked On Golf.” I could really tell he reads the blog because he made comments he only could have made if he’d read some of the articles. That impressed me.
Difficult But Fun Conditions
I have a couple of unbelievable stories from my latest round at Kingsbarns. The winds this time around were substantial. I started off par-par on the first two holes and was feeling great. I realized the strength of the wind when I reached the par-5 3rd though. My drive had a tiny bit of fade spin on this hole which runs with the shoreline of the North Sea to the right. Once my ball was above the dunes the wind took it and threw it into the north sea. It was crazy. The ball is flying with a very small fade, then takes a 90 degree turn to the right and is gone.
The par-3 8th hole is an amazing little par-3 with teeth as sharp as a shark’s. Arriving at the tee my caddie Gordon told me “I’m no givin’ you a yahdage. Here’s ur 4-iron. Hit i’ as hard as ya fookin’ can at the rock wall.” I did just that. I crushed that 4-iron at the rock wall on this downhill shot. The wind grabbed it, held it up and threw it into the green side bunker right, pin high. After the shot Gordon told me that my crushed 4-iron on this downhill shot traveled an impressive 131 yards.
The next hole, the par-5 9th was equally as entertaining due to the wind. I’d managed to crush a driver and then a 3-wood to a good position, 136 yards from the green. Gordon and I spent a few minutes debating which club to hit. That 136 yard shot was either a hybrid or a 3-wood. I went with hybrid, killed it, and ended up a few feet short of pin-high. That’s a club that can go up to 240 yards at home and I just hit it 130 yards and hit it well!
Kingsbarns 15th hole – click for more
I ran into some trouble on the signature par-3 15th hole (pictured above). My 4-iron was blown into the rocks short of the hole and it bounced around for what seemed like 15 minutes. The drop area was left of the green. From where I was I could hit putter, which is always my choice if I can. Never had this happen until this point. Gordon my caddie shot the yardage with his laser and gave it to me. I’ve never lasered a yardage with a putter in my hand. 70 yards.
Gordon my caddie lasers my putt at 70 yards!
Food & Beverage
The restaurant at Kingsbarns serves fantastic food and the tastiest “wee pints” anywhere. Perhaps the wee pints taste that much better after playing such a satisfying round on a world class golf course. Maybe it is the views from the windows which overlook the 18th and the North Sea. Pebble who?
I enjoyed the Kingsbarns chili. Chili is a popular dish in Scotland.
Look For The HOG Ball Marker
In 2011 the nice chap George Lawrence who was the starter at Kingsbarns had an amazing golf tee collection he’d been building for years. Players who had unique tees gave them to George. I gave George a Golf Space tee which was proudly displayed. George retired and new starter David Wilkie too over. David is doing something similar, building a ball marker collection. I’m happy to report that the Hooked On Golf Blog marker is one of the very first, prominently displayed right where players pick up score cards and tees! Look for it when you’re there!
HOG Ball Marker at Kingsbarns! Glorious!
I’m hurting right now. It is painful to write about Kingsbarns and look at my photos. I’m aching to go back and it has only been a week. I’ll be back no doubt. Hopefully sooner than two years.
Hooked On Golf Blog Kingsbarns Golf Links Review
Kingsbarns Photo Gallery (now 100 images)