Golf & The Art of Business

The beginnings of a book by David Gilroy

Archives for Golf Course Review

Quintero Golf Club (Scottsdale) – Course Review

Quintero Golf Club Course Planner coverToday’s outing was at Quintero Golf Club. It’s a decent distance out of Scottsdale, at least as far as Gold Canyon, if not a bit further. We are staying at the Talking Stick Resort so it was pretty easy driving on the 101 freeway, then I17 north and SR74 west, even coming back at 6:30pm there was very little traffic.

The course has a few houses around it but you did not feel like you were playing in the middle of a housing estate like many of the Scottsdale courses “inside the 101 freeway. There were a few houses, but very little.

The course offers five different tee boxes, ranging from 5,043 off the Jade tees (think Reds in the UK) to 7,249 off the Black tees. I settled on one up from that, Gold at 6,875, but again, was disappointed as with yesterday at We Ko Pa that in many cases these tees had been moved up to the Silver tees (full distance being 6,437 yards). So, I guess I was playing a course of around 6,500 yards.

For my US friends, the Slope Rating on the Gold tees is 143 which gives me an effective Course Handicap of 9 (I shot 10 over (with a treble bogey) so just about played to my handicap.

It struck me today, as I’d not thought about it before that there are some different terminologies used in golf in the US compared to the UK. For example :-

  • Stroke Index = Handicap
  • Handicap = Index

This was most confusing when, the other day, MrsG asked one of our playing partners with what his “Handicap” was and he just gave her the blankest of blank looks.

There were no rattlesnakes on the course today, but we did see a couple of Javelinas for the first time. Javelinas for the uninitiated are small, very hairy pig like creatures that are native to Arizona.

Playing midweek the course seemed pretty quiet. There was nobody in front of us until we ran into a single player on the 13th and that was only because he was being held up by the group in front of him. So we dropped back and played the last four holes with a couple of Canadians down from Calgary (they’d played five courses in three days!!!).

The service at Bag Drop was very efficient, then we had a 5-6 minute drive to the range/1st tee, bear in mind that seems like quite a long time in a cart (buggy). This was definitely a “non-walking” course, even with a temperature that was only just in the 70s, the green-to-tee walks were quite lengthy on at least half the holes and there were some brutal climbs/descents.

The course was pretty challenging I have to say. I messed up from the tee on the 3rd (par 4, 390 yards) with two balls in the water so I five off the tee, a 4 iron to three feet and a one putt gave me a treble bogey.

The greens were immaculate, some of the smoothest we’ve played on since we’ve been in the US. Some decent slopes on the greens, but not stupid. I had a VERY good day with the flat stick, 10 single putts was testimony to that. It’s what kept my score to a decent 10 over par!

One weakness for me was the bunkers. Not the positioning, that was great, but the sand, if you could call it that. Very stony, very little of it which meant there was a high chance of thinning the ball so you end up trying to take more sand and then hitting it heavy with the risk of leaving your ball in the bunker. A bit of attention needed in this area methinks.

There where three par 3 “drop holes”. From the Gold tees these were 188 yards (9th), 190 yards (6th) and 201 yards (16th). Even with a “crib sheet” which suggested their true lengths club selection was almost impossible for someone who does not play these kinds of courses regularly. It was a bit of a lottery to say the least.

One unusual thing which we’ve seen on other courses, particularly here in the Scottsdale area is that it seems quite usual to have par 5 holes with low Stroke Indexes/Handicaps (see above). Take Quintero for example, Stroke 1 hole is the par 5, 550 yard 8th. This is hole with a big dogleg right over a ravine between the 1st and 2nd shots.

A three wood to the landing area and a slightly heavy 3 wood left me an 8 iron to the green and two putts for a “5 for 3”.

The Stoke 2 hole is the par 5, 515 yard 10th. This was downwind hole so bear that in mind. A decent drive to the middle of the fairway left me 220 yards to the pin. I launched a 3 rescue into the air, hit, the green, and bounced off into a bunker through the green. A decent bunker shot and 3 foot putt gave me a “4 for 4”.

I can think of very few holes on UK courses that are both par 5 and the two lowest strokes on the course. Can you think of one?

Overall I thought the course was great, possibly the best of the four we’ve played so far here in Scottsdale. I would definitely come back and play it again.

We Ko Pa – Saguaro Course – Review

We Ko Pa Saguaro Course Planner coverToday’s outing was at We Ko Pa on the Saguaro Course which is Scottsdale desert golf at its finest. We were a bit rushed when we first got there as I’d misjudged the the length of time to get there. We were paired up with another single player, which was fine as it slowed down our pace of play just a little so we barely caught up the group who’d teed off 30 mins before us.

After 7 holes I was beginning to think that the wide open fairways were making the course a bit easy as I was 1 under par at that point, but a double bogey on the par 5 8th with a four putt and a bogey on the par 3 9th put me in my place!

The back nine played a but harder with me scoring 5 over par for a total of 7 over (my handicap at home is 7, but if we apply the UGA course handicap for a Slope Rating of 132, then my course handicap is 9, so I was two under that.

Having played three desert courses in three days my observation is that if you keep the ball on the fairway then you can score really well on these kinds of courses. “Resort” style courses tend to have generous fairways, short (if any “rough” as we Brits would know it) and as long as you can putt well, decent scores are there to be made.

Moving the Tees

One thing that has been common to many courses I’ve played over here is the course operators “desire” to have people play off the right set of tees. I’m all for that, as 28 handicap player wanting to play a course from the tips at 6,900 yards is a recipe for disaster both in terms of their enjoyment of the game and the pace of play for everyone else.

So, when you are “told” to play off the Purple tees at 6,603 yards, at least have the grace to put the tees in the right place, not generally in the place where the White tees would be (6,252 yards). Not that it’s big deal, but please don’t make such a big deal of telling me how the “…course plays much longer” and then shorten the course.

The Saguaro Course

The course was fantastic. The wind was up, there were relatively easy, short par 4s and a couple of pretty long, tough par 3s. With five sets of tees there’s one for every level of handicap golfer.  The course planner was EXCELLENT, the front cover is a bit understated (see below) but for every hole you got not just a colour pictorial view of the hole but the kind of diagram you expect the Pros to use, including a thumbnail of the green showing the slopes…I’d like to think my iron shots were accurate enough to ensure I “left the ball in the right place” on the greens…but they’re not most of the time, hence one four putt!!

We did not get to experience the clubhouse but I did notice as I went to apply my factor 50 sun cream that there was a shower and towels were provided, which is no always the case at US “resort” golf courses.

One of the non-golfing highlights was the baby Rattle Snake we came across (see photos below). Our playing partners were quite confident it would not “strike” at us as it was laid out flat, not coiled…still did not go too close and it did make me think about whether I’d go and search for a ball if I hit one into the desert (I did on the 12th and I did go look for it, found it, hit it, but still made a bogey)!

Would I go back?  Definitely.

Gold Canyon Golf Club – Dinosaur Course – My Day Out

img_2266Today’s outing was to the Dinosaur Course at Gold Canyon Golf Resort. About a 45 min drive from The Talking Stick Resort where we are staying it is well worth the drive. Par 70, 6,323 yards off the Black tees, and for my American golfing friends, a Course Rating of 69.2 and a Slope Rating of 135.

I’ve written before about the USGA Slope Rating system in the US and what it’s supposed to do to level out handicaps. Take for example my 7.3 handicap. On the course I played today the USGA Course Handicap Calculator gives me a handicap of 9. I’ll take that any day ;-)

I shot a 78 with a two birdies on the 16th and 17th – putting in from the fringe on 16 and holing a 25 yard bunker shot on 17! So we can call it one over or one under my handicap depending on which handicap we talking about!

It was into the men’s room as soon as we’d dropped off our bags (which were given a quick wipe and put on our cart (buggy) and on went the factor 50 sun cream.

So what of the course? It was fabulous. Although the course is only about 1,400-1,600 ft above sea level, when it’s 100 deg F the ball is going to go further and one of the most difficult things for me was picking what club to hit when playing my irons. For example, my 8 iron carried 170 yards down wind, downhill on one hole and barely 135 yards on another.

One thing, if you are not straight off the tee, make sure you bring lots of balls. If you miss the fair way on a desert golf course you are only going to find your ball less than 50% of the time I reckon and when you do find it, it will be surrounded by stones so you play it at the risk of damaging your clubs. Gold Canyon has a local rule that allows you to drop the ball where it last crossed the edge of the fairway for just a one shot penalty…very nice of them!

The course goes up and then goes down, it meanders round a few houses but equally gives you fantastic views of the mountains to the east of the course. It was truly beautiful.

The most difficult hole must be the par 3 14th. 201 yards from the Black tee but it drops around 50+ feet to a steeply sloping back-to-front green and into the wind. Need any more information!!! The stroke index was 6, but it plays much harder than that I suspect.

I’d definitely go back and play the course on another visit.

We popped into the bar after the round for a quick drink. Seemed like a perfectly nice place to hang out after you’ve played.

Any gripes? Not really. I could moan about the lack of a locker room to have a shower afterwards and wash off the dust & the grime, but that’s just not the “US way” at public golf courses, they never have locker rooms, they just don’t.

There is a second course at the same place called Sidewinder. Par 71, 6,144 yards off the Black tees, you can tell it’s a little easier. It looks a LOT easier when you look at it. No real elevation changes and pretty wide fairways. Not sure we’ll go back and play it though, too many other beautiful courses in the area.

Pebble Beach Links – My day out

So, that was that. Pebble Beach Links, done, played. We rocked up in plenty of time to go to the range and hit 50 balls or so, a bit of a chip & a putt and then it was down to the 1st tee.

Our playing partners were two brothers, Rick & Steve Rash (Scottsdale & El Paso respectively).

Then, driver down the 1st, what was I thinking! Great hit, but wrong line put me under a tree, a punch out and a decent wedge to the green, left me 10 feet away, and that’s where the fun started, a three putt on the first green.

The greens were some of the quickest and with the most slope of anything I’ve ever played on. Not massive obvious slopes a lot of the time but every green had slope on. Never has it been made more obvious to me that when we are watching the Pros play and the commentators talk about the importance of “leaving the ball in the right place on the green” that they know what they are talking about.

By the time we’d got to the par 5 6th hole which is a frightening hole into the wind, it hard started to rain, and I don’t just mean rain, it absolutely tanked it down. I made a terrible 7 after putting a ball in the ocean off the tee!

The 7th is an awesome hole, it was only playing 110 yards, but again, terrifying into the wind & rain. Walked off with a 5.

The 8th, 9th and 10th are great holes. One of the holes I was most looking forward to was the 14th. I managed to hold the the green on that hole (you have to have watched the AT&T Pro-Am to understand that comment. It was my best hole of the day I think, A terrible drive to a left fairway bunker, low lip and so smoked a 3-wood to leave me 190 yards to the green. 3-rescue to 12 feet and missed the birdie putt, but made a par.

The 17th and 18th are two fantastic finishing holes. The 17th a long/short (depending on which portion of the green the flag is on straight out to the ocean. The 18th is as iconic in real life as it looks on television.

So, the bottom line you want to know. Is it worth the $495? Let’s compare it to some legendary UK courses and another US course. St Andrew’s Old Course @ $260 and the West Course at Wentworth @ $495 (£360 which includes a caddie) and Pinehurst No.2 @ $410. I’ve been lucky enough to have played all four. Which one would I rush back to? The Old Course. It’s the only one of the four where the hairs were standing up on my arms on the first tee. Of the two US courses Pebble Beach would get my vote every time. Don’t get me wrong they are all fabulous courses and if money was no object you would play them all the time, but it is.

So, let me ask myself again, is it worth it. Yes, definitely, and as soon as the savings plan adds up to enough, I’ll come back and play again. The condition of the course (perfect) and the views (over the Pacific Ocean) are much, much better than the Old Course, but there was no “magic” like there is at the Old Course. I do wonder if that’s because I’m a Brit and not an American, it might be. Much as I’ve watched the AT&T Pro-Am and the US Open in 2012 (well done Mr McDowell) Pebble Beach still does not hold the mystique for me that the Old Course does.

Spyglass Hill at Pebble Beach – My day out

The clock at Spyglass Hill up close and personalI don’t know why I thought of it, but it struck me in the plane on the way over that like most US golf courses, I would have to buy a course planner for the courses at Pebble Beach. But then I caught myself and said, “Really, at $385 for a round at Spyglass Hill, surely they will throw in a Planner”?

But no, my first thought was the correct one. When we got to the Pro Shop at Spyglass Hill the planner was an extra $10. When I commented on the fact that I had to pay for one, the lady behind the counter bless her, thought I was complaining that the price was too high. I corrected her and said that frankly any course in the UK that charged that much money would throw in a planner. Either that, or they’d put their charges up $10 and then include the planner and make everyone feel better.

OK, rant over, the annoying thing is that I know tomorrow on Pebble Beach Links that the same thing is going to happen!

Anyway, all the service we received at the Pro Shop and from the cart people and Starter was extremely attentive. There was one bit of weirdness though. When we finished the round as we came off the course, I was invited by a lovely man called Rick to “take a seat” and he them promptly used an air gun to blow all the dirt off my shoes (fine) and give them a quick rub over (fine) but then he stuck the air gun down the side of my shoe and my foot and gave it a decent blast…hell, it tickled and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing.

Once we’d checked in it was down to the driving range where you were hitting off grass and with proper balls, no yellow “range balls” here, no sireee. Not only that, but the range balls were free which is completely disconnected from the charging for a course planner.

At the first tee I was introduced to my caddie, Brennan. A young lad with a degree in Kinesiology but most importantly a decent knowledge of the course. When checking in at the Pro Shop they made a point of making sure I knew what the “standard” gratuity was for a caddie. The problem was without my reading glasses, I think I could just about make it out! Brennan, if I short changed you, I apologise.

Spyglass Hill – The Course

The course itself was immaculate. Smooth fairways, super slick greens. Just a joy to play. The pace of play was OK at 4:40 (target time is 4:30) with a fair amount of standing around waiting for the group in front but could not see if they were being “held up”. We did get warned by Brennan to expect 5:00 to 5:30 for Pebble Beach itself (I guess there must be a lot of standing around taking photos…well, either that or looking for balls).

There were deer everywhere on the course, one photo below just about has one in it if you can pick it out.  I didn’t actually hit one although our playing partner, Bill, commented that some people thought they were “vermin”.  Turns out he was right, back in 2007 Daryl Hall (some might say the better looking half of that classic Philadelphian 1980s soft hair rock combo Hall & Oates told the then chat show host Howard Stern “Kill all the fuckin’ deer!”.  Turns out Mr Hall suffers from Lyme disease, a nasty, multi-symptom illness borne by deer ticks and he’s called for the extermination of “disease-carrying giant rats” he blames for his condition.

There is an excellent choice of tee boxes ranging from 5,381 yards (Red) to 6,690 from the Blues. I chose the Gold tees at 6,538 to give myself a bit of a challenge.

There some generous landing areas on most fairways and as I’ve already said, the greens were fantastic. You hit the ball on the right line, the ball goes in! Having spent the last six months in the UK playing on some shocking greens all over the country (Saunton excepted) I was a bit worried about adapting quickly, but 30 mins on the practice green was all it took to get a pretty decent handle on the pace.

I think there was a pin sheet, but forgot to get one, Brennan compensated though!

Oh, and my golf, well, even though I say it myself, it was pretty decent (see scorecard in the photo gallery below). 5 over for 18 holes on a course I’ve never played before, single bogeys at worse and two good birdies at 9 and 17. So, VERY happy with my first outing at Spyglass Hill.

Even better news was the Manda’s golfer’s elbow did not stop her playing her first full round for over six months, her elbow was a bit sore afterwards but hitting through the ball it was fine unless she took too much turf, no surprise there really.

The Links at Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius

The Links Golf Course planner

The Links Golf Course / Belle Mare Plage

Our flight arrived in Mauritius sixteen hours after we left London Heathrow.  13 hours in the air and a 3 hour layover in Dubai made for quite a long trip.  We flew with Emirates and paid a bit extra to sit in the “middle of the plane” as my friend politely calls it, everyone else knows it as Business Class!  Even better, the first leg was on the new Airbus A380.  Now, I’ve travelled the world a fair bit in my tender 50 years but I’ve NEVER flown on a aircraft so big, it was enormous,

Anyway, back to the golf.  Our hotel for the 10 days we are here is the Belle Mare Plage on the east coast which means we have the choice of two golf courses, The Links and The Legend.

Check-in took no time at all and before we knew it we were in the shuttle bus on the way to The Links course for a 2:00 tee time.  Turns out we’d completely forgotten about it being “winter” in the southern hemisphere and that by 6pm it would be too dark to play golf.  As it was we were able to get off around 1:40pm as a three ball.  The only problem with getting off so quickly was the lack of a warm-up!!

On The Links course, buggies are compulsory, which after 16 hours of travel was probably a good thing.  We (MrsG and I) were paired up with one other person, who announced his handicap as 23, so when we said we were off 7 & 12 he said “Don’t worry, I’ll pick up when I have to”.  And yes, he did have to a few times.

So, off to the 1st tee.  A pulled drive meant a chip out of some trees (no snakes) then a missed green, two poor chips and two putts meant I signed for a triple bogey 7 on that hole.  The second wasn’t much better with a 7 on a par 5.  It got much better from there after I’d warmed up (golf swing not body temperature).  5 over for two holes translated into 11 over for the whole round, so the rest of my game was fairly tidy (one birdie and one other double bogey).

I think this is a course where you should definitely buy a course planner.  There were a lot of blind shots and frankly, a 23 handicapper telling a 7 handicapper where to hit the ball (even if he had played the course before) did not really help much…sorry Alan (just in case you ever read this!).

That said the course was very enjoyeable.  It was a bit siggy in places and overall there was no much run on the ball when it hit the fairways so it played its full length which was 6,044 yards off the white tees.   I did try to play off the blue tees (6,495 yards), but the group behind us included one of the club professionals who politely suggested I walk down to the white tees!

Overall I enjoyed our first round of the holiday.  I found the greens a tad on the slow side even compared to what I’ve been played back in the UK during the spring.  Perhaps they had not been cut for a day or so and we were playing in the afternoon after all, so maybe there had been some growth.

The clubhouse was exactly what I expected from a hotel course.  Great changing rooms, free showers & towels and a very nice bar area with excellent service.  If you are looking to play golf in Mauritius then you could do worse than play at The Links at Belle Mare Plage.

Wolf Course @ Pauite Golf Resort

It was a mistake.  We should not have gone to play golf today.  It was blowing an absolutely hoolie in Las Vegas itself, let alone what it turned out to be like out on the desert plain on which the three courses at Pauite are located.

I’m not going to make any excuses for my 19 over score (remember I play off 8), the course was just too tough for me, particularly as I thought I should play off the Black tees (7,009 yards on the card but playing more like 6,900 on the day based on where the tee markers were on the tee boxes).

The course was superb and on any normal day will still be a tough challenge, but as it turns out there are very few windless days in the valley where the course is based so if this is a course you are going to play, you might want to check the local conditions at the course before going.

The fairways have a quite narrow strip of rough alongside them, then it’s all desert, so hitting the fairways is the order of the day.  I missed quite a few and when the ball is hitting stones and rocks over 200 yards away, seeing where it bounces and ended up is quite a challenge.  For example, on the par4 7th hole (470 yards) I missed the fairway but caught the rough with my drive.  However I pushed my 3 wood second shot right and saw it heading for the rocks and lost sight of it.

When we arrived at where I thought it might have landed it was nowhere to be seen.  So it was off to my second ball and a chip and two putts later I walked off with a triple bogey seven.  As we walked off the green and drove to the next tee, there was my ball, sitting on the tee box some sixty yards from where we had been looking.

As the photograph on the right shows, one other really interesting hole was the island green on the par 3 15th.  It only plays 162 yards but in today’s wind it seems a million miles away, that and the fact that the pin was on the right and the wind was coming hard from the right, getting anywhere close to the pin seemed (& was) almost impossible).  A bogey four seemed like a reasonable score to me, although was we walked onto the green I realised just how big it was and that I could have hit much more club than I actually did.

Anyway, great club, go play it, it’s worth the 40 min drive out from Las Vegas.