Thursday, March 30, 2006

Muskoka 2003: Bigwin Island

Bigwin Island Golf Club
Lake of Bays, Ontario, Canada

Course Architect: Doug Carrick
Established: 2002
Personal Rounds Played: 2
Low Score: 80

I had the good fortune of meeting two new friends during the spring of 2003. I met Jay and Ryan, friends themselves, at the club when I was looking for a game one day.

Both Jay and Ryan were about five years younger than myself but we hit it off right away. So much so that they asked me THAT FIRST DAY if I was interested in going on a Muskoka golf vacation later that summer.

A bit odd in the timing but the thing that makes golf the greatest game on earth is the way it makes friends of strangers so quickly.

I was in.

Ryan's buddy Brian joined us to make it a foursome. The plan was to stay in a Holiday Inn in Huntsville for the majority of the vacation and we'd just commute to each of the courses on a daily basis.

So we were on the road for the four-hour drive from Niagara to Muskoka on Monday morning. First up was the South Muskoka Golf & Curling Club in Bracebridge, a 1974 Robbie Robinson design.

The course features a lot of dramatic elevation changes, customary for the Muskoka region. It also masks its short length (6400 from the tips) with clever doglegs and treelined fairways.

It certainly isn't a memorable course by any means but it was pleasant for sure. Great value in fact, as we played for less than $40.00. Unfortunately, my game wasn't on for this round or most of the trip for that matter, as I ended up making a quad on my way to an ugly 85.

We were up at the crack of dawn Tuesday for the trip to Bigwin Island Golf Club, pretty much the BIG DAY for the vacation.

I'll try to enlighten my readers who may be unaware of Bigwin's interesting history.

The Island used to be a getaway for famous socialites back in the 1920's and Stanley Thompson layed out a nine-hole course in 1922, with the second nine built eight years later.

Bigwin would become the hotspot of choice for Hollywood celebrities and all the rich and famous by the 1940's. Clark Gable, Ernest Hemmingway and the Rockefellers were regular guests.

However, the Inn fell into disrepair in the late 40's and lost most of its luster, eventually closing by 1970.

The land was eventually purchased by a couple of businessmen in the late-80's and Doug Carrick was commissioned to lay out a new 18-hole course.

You have to take a five-minute boat ride to get to the island, which is a thrill in itself. The picture above shows (left to right) Ryan, Jay and Brian after we arrived on the island. The gorgeous clubhouse is in the background.

I think the course itself is a bit overrated, likely due to its incredible setting. The fairways are unbelievably wide and the par threes, in my opinion, are too similar and pretty weak as a whole.

All that said, I'd likely still rank it in my all-time personal top-ten as far as courses played. At least I think so...that's a list I'll have to draw up sometime...another fun project for me!

Highlights start with the 181 yard par three second (shown above), a downhill one-shotter with a glimpse of the Lake of Bays behind the hole through the trees.

The 523 yard par five third hole is another pretty hole (see above). The hole is called 'Serpent', likely for the way it snakes from right to left and back to the right again at the green complex. The hole features a very wide fairway, with a bailout area on the right but carry bunkers on the left side - attempt to clear those bunkers and you're left with a much shorter second shot - and one that can get home in two. This hole was notable for the deer that were grazing about two feet from the cart path, completely at home and comfortable with golfers standing five feet from them.

Very cool.

Number five is a 404 yard uphill par four called 'Tower' for the structure resting at the top of the hill on the right side. The tantalizing climb to the top leads to the best view you can possibly imagine when you get to the sixth tee.

'Lookout' is a 462 yard par four that drops at least 100 feet from tee to fairway. I can't properly describe the feeling of hitting a tee ball that seemingly stays in the air for 20 seconds - pure joy about sums it up. The first photo is a shot of me literally STEERING the ball down the fairway while the second shot is of Jay. The hole certainly isn't tight but when you're THAT HIGH, you feel as if you're forced to guide the ball.

I think we all reloaded at least three times before making our descent. :)

It's pretty hard to top that hole but there are still a couple beauties out there. Nine is a neat 408 yard par four with great options off the tee due to a double fairway that's split by cross bunkers.

The fourteenth hole is called 'Twister' and is a 403 yard, almost 90 degree dogleg left that drops severely from tee to green. Needless to say, the name is very fitting.

And the finishing hole is just beautiful, a 574 yard downhill par five that bends around the Lake of Bays. I've heard reports that this hole alone costed well over a million dollars - I'm not sure if any of my readers can substantiate that but it certainly makes for an interesting tale either way.

We were able to play 36 holes at Bigwin and the pro was nice enough to allow us to play the second 18 for only the cart fee.

I shot rounds of 82 and 80 and I can say without doubt that this day was one of the best golfing experiences of my life.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pot Pourri

We're at the end of March and it looks like golf season is coming earlier than expected!!!

It's been an exceptionally mild winter here in the Northeast with very little snowfall overall. The temperature today almost hit 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) and the forecast for the week sees temps hitting 16 degrees by Friday!

A few of the courses in the area are open for business and I'm told St. Catharines might be ready for play this weekend, which would likely be one of the earliest openings on record.

I'm an 'April Fool Baby' so early season golf would be a great birthday present for yours truly!

I've been keeping myself busy by house hunting with the girlfriend. The housing market is completely out of control here in our neck of the woods - I certainly didn't expect to see the prices as high as they are now.

We've been looking for the past couple of weeks and I can say that the process has been exciting yet very intimidating as well. The search continues...

The Buffalo Sabres are mired in a huge slump right now and they succumbed for the sixth consecutive game tonight, losing 5-4 in a shootout to the New York Rangers. The Rags may be Buffalo's first round playoff opponent and it's not a favourable matchup for my team - I'd much prefer the Sabres play the bigger and much slower Philadelphia Flyers.

It won't matter if the Sabres continue to play without the spark they showed through the first sixty games, however. Poor defensive zone play and lackluster goaltending will add up to a quick exit so they will have to get their act in gear over the last ten games of the season and regain some of their previous swagger.

We'll be back on topic for my next post. I'll likely write about my experiences on a 2003 golf trip to Ontario's cottage country - the Muskoka region.

Here's a preview, with a shot of me standing on the tee of one of the most exhilarating par fives in Canada.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Finishing off the '00 Trip

It's funny how your impression of things or events change over time.

I say this because I was doing a bit of architect research over at, a nice Golf Magazine-sponsored reference site for courses. While looking at the courses I played on this trip, I realized that I had made comments back in 2000 on each of the courses we played.

Of course, I had nothing but positive things to say about Cog Hill at the time!!! Weird. I even noted that "the staff is genuinely interested in making sure you enjoy the experience"!

I wonder if I meant GENERALLY interested...

I did mention the fact that the bunkers were poorly maintained and that the greens hadn't been cut but I still gave them a 4 out of 5 for conditioning.

Well, I'm a much harsher critic six years later.

I'm a lot more experienced as well, having played a great deal of excellent golf courses in the past half decade so my expectations have increased.

Anyway, back to the trip.

We moved on to Ohio for our last three rounds of golf. The centerpiece of the vacation was an INDY Car Race in Lexington, Ohio - the guy who planned the vacation was a huge CART fan and had full paddock passes for all four of us for the entire weekend, including practice runs, qualifying and the actual races (there's an INDY 'Lights' competition as well).

We played the Maumee Bay Resort in Oregon, Ohio first (Arthur Hills - 1990), a links-style design right in the middle of a state park. I loved the place back then (all fives at!) but in reality it's just a run-of-the-mill type of design. Nothing really memorable except for some variety on the green complexes. It doesn't help that I shot an 85 out there! That's my buddy Rick teeing off the par-four third hole with Jamie and Will looking on in the photo above.

We played Punderson State Park GC next, in Newbury, Ohio, a pleasant parkland course designed by Jack Kidwell in 1969. Well conditioned course and fantastic value ($25 or so) and it has a couple of great holes, most notably the par four eighth.

The 420 yard dogleg right (seen below) is intimidating off the tee, due to the treelined fairway. There is also a bunker on the left side in the landing area off the tee that acts as a target bunker. The second shot is played over a large pond to a small, very undulating green. Pretty hole.

I ended up shooting an 81 even though I hit 10 greens in reg. It didn't help that I had 35 putts for the round.

The final round was scheduled for Pebble Creek Golf Club in Lexington. The William Mitchell design (1974) is decidedly unremarkable but my round there certainly wasn't!

I came out of the gates quickly, sinking a 25 footer on the short par five 1st hole for EAGLE and the game was on! I threw one birdie and two bogeys in there on the front side for a -1 35. I was still one under when we hit the relatively easy 14th, a 391 yard par four. I ended up hitting my approach into the greenside bunker and bogeyed the hole to move back to even on the day.

My career best score at the time was 73, likely shot years earlier. Needless to say, I was nervous as hell the whole back nine.

I was even when I hit the uphill 534-yard par five 17th, a hole that doglegs 90 degrees to the right just past the landing area off the tee. I drove it perfectly, laid up to about 90 yards and then threw a dart at the green with my wedge, the ball stopping about 8 feet away.

In she went for the birdie!

My buddy Rick asked if I was even for the day.

"One under", I muttered, trying DESPERATELY to get the score out of my mind.

The 18th is a pretty easy finisher, a 356 yard uphill par four. There is a creek that runs across the fairway about 180 yards from the tee but that shouldn't be a problem for any well-struck ball.

I took out my two iron and hammered it right down the pipe. Whew! Mission accomplished.

I had about an 8-iron left and slightly pulled the approach but it caught the fringe, leaving me with a difficult 30 foot downhiller.

I was shaking like you wouldn't believe. I completely choked on the putt, running it about 7 feet by.

7 feet for my first ever subpar round.

I didn't even scare the hole.

Three putts on 18 for a 72 and I was completely inconsolable, even though I had shot a personal best. Thankfully, I got over it quickly and posed for a photo with the scorecard in hand. I have that photo and scorecard mounted in my office.

It took five years before I would better that score and those rounds have been documented on this site already (68, 71 and 71 in September 2005).

Here's hoping for a 67 sometime in '06!!!

Monday, March 20, 2006

On to Dubsdread

Cog Hill Golf Club #4 - Dubsdread
Lemont, Illinois, USA

Course Architects: Dick Wilson and Joe Lee
Established: 1964
Personal Rounds Played: 1
Low Score: 87

We drove to Illinois immediately after having lunch at Warren GC in Notre Dame. We ended up driving through THE most terrifying rainstorm I've ever seen. My buddy was so enthralled with the rain that he was filming the storm while we were driving instead of helping me navigate.

"Shut that (insert colourful word) camera off and HELP ME OUT HERE!", I screamed.

You literally couldn't see anything but the taillights in front of you. Unfortunately, we needed two cars for the trip due to all the camping gear and without cell phones, I was forced to press on and follow the car in front which held our two other partners in crime.

We were to play Cog Hill #4 the next day, the distinguished Dubsdread Course which has hosted the PGA Tour's Western Open since 1991. The Dubsdread Course was ranked inside the top-50 best public courses in the world by almost every notable golf publication so we were jacked to be playing out there, to say the least.

However, we really worried about whether the course would be ready to play the next day due to all the rain. So when we arrived in Lemont, we drove right to the golf course to check things out.

Needless to say, it was very wet but the pro indicated that everything should be fine for the next day. We ended up staying in a hotel that night since setting up camp in a foot of water didn't sound enticing. Plus, we wanted to be fresh for our big day!

Well, I wish it was all roses but I must say that overall, I was pretty disappointed with my experience at Cog Hill. Things started off poorly when the guy behind the counter wouldn't even throw in a yardage book with the $150.00 US green fee and was rude to boot. Cheap buggers...wait...maybe I'M the cheap bugger! Ha!

I stood on the first tee, shaking like a palm tree in a stiff Florida breeze. I wish I understood why I was nervous but I barely got the ball off the tee, hitting a really weak toe hook short of the bunkers on the left. I had to pitch out to the fairway, hit a nine iron to 40 feet and SUNK THE PUTT for a routine par.

Easy game...umm, not so fast Pro!

I'd three putt the short par three second for bogey and then doubled the next two holes after that. I finally was able to right the ship with consecutive pars on eight (shown above) and nine but was an ugly 44 on the front side.

I made another par on the short par four tenth, getting up and down from the front bunker but three putted again on the par five eleventh for bogey.

It just wasn't going to be my day.

I finished my round of 87 with a double bogey six on the very difficult 18th hole (shown below), a 448 yard brute with bunkers right off the tee and a large pond fronting the left side of the green.

The golf course wasn't in great shape due to the weather but you'd think for $150.00 you would get a course with RAKED BUNKERS. Not least on this day. The greens were much slower than I expected and the overall conditioning was shockingly poor for such a highly thought of course.

I will admit that the course layout and design is solid. There is a lot of variety in the design and it certainly is a good test of golf. I think that they need to do something about the excessive tree growth out there - you can leave yourself some blind shots out there FROM THE FAIRWAY due to the overhanging limbs. I doubt Wilson had that in mind when he laid the course out 40 years ago.

There were some highlights: the 16th hole is absolutely gorgeous. It's an uphill dogleg left par four with a fairway that slopes from right to left towards a ravine. The pear-shaped green complex is protected by bunkers short left and long right. A beauty and a beast.

The aforementioned 18 is also a fantastic golf hole, with a very difficult tee shot and an intimidating second.

I can't help but feel disappointed with the day. I was really excited about the opportunity to play such a well-respected course but left wondering why it merits so much attention.

I thought it was a very nice course but top 50 in the world? Not in my opinion.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Warren Golf Course at the University of Notre Dame

*** Now on the Tee has MOVED to our own domain!!! ***


Warren Golf Course
Notre Dame, Indiana, USA

6744 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE ARCHITECT: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (1999)
LAST PLAYED: August 8, 2000.
LOW SCORE: 80 (+8)

After staying the night in Michigan, we ventured into Indiana with the intention of playing a course in South Bend called Elbel. We didn't realize that we crossed a time zone going into the state so we had a lot more time than expected.

So we headed to the Notre Dame campus to look around and kill some time. We took a couple pics of the football stadium and then noticed a golf course just down the road. There were barely any cars in the parking lot and no one was on the driving this place even open?

Since I wasn't playing much golf at the time, I didn't do any research about the courses in the area and just left the planning to another guy in our foursome. I had no idea that Notre Dame had a golf course on campus.

We headed into the 1800's-style clubhouse and marvelled at all the memorabilia behind the glass cases before moving into the well-stocked pro shop. There we found out that the course was indeed open to the public and only $35.00 or so to play. So we made the call to Elbel to cancel and handed over our cash to the girl behind the counter.

Needless to say, it was the right decision!

The Warren GC was a real treat to play. It may sound like hyperbole, but the course seemed like it had been there forever (although the soft edges around the bunkers required a lot of care when getting in and out). The land itself is decidedly unspectacular but I'd say Coore and Crenshaw did a great job maximizing what they had.

"We wanted an old-fashioned, traditional golf course, one based on subtleties rather than special effects", Crenshaw has said of Warren GC.

C&C have always believed that 'width' is one of the most important elements to a solid design. This ensures playability for all players, regardless of skill level.

That belief is evident here, with very generous landing areas off the tee. Accuracy IS very important, however, if you're to have a proper angle into the cleverly designed green complexes, many of which have false fronts.

Highlights for me included the short 143 yard fourth hole and its severely sloped putting surface and the 495 yard downhill tenth hole with a dangerous second shot requiring a carry over a creek that runs diagonally across the landing area.

Another beauty is the 16th (shown below), an uphill 345 yarder that presents a multitude of options off the tee due to a creek that runs diagonally away and to the right of the player. The fairway opens up to the right but you have a much longer carry over the creek to get to the short grass. If you try to hug the left side to get closer to the green, you risk flirting with five bunkers protecting the landing area.

17 and 18 are both brutes, which makes me assume that C&C are big believers in offering their biggest challenges at the end of the round.

Interestingly enough, there wasn't a par for the course at the time (not sure if this has changed). I'm told that often in Scotland and Ireland, par for the day depends on the weather conditions - a par four on a calm day may turn into a par five on a gusty day.

I ended up shooting a solid 80 on the day and thoroughly enjoyed the whole Warren GC experience. The ambiance is terrific and we got a treat when the bored course marshall followed us around for five holes.

"Are we playing slow?", I asked.

"No sir", he replied. "I'm just enjoying your games. You don't mind if I tag along for awhile do you?"

So we had a gallery of one during the middle portion of the incoming nine and were regaled with tales and anecdotes from our new friend.

What a great day! But we had big plans for our next round...the supposed crown jewel of the entire vacation would be played the next day in Illinois...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Guess I'm a Stat Guy...

It's the curse of being an accountant's son...

I absolutely love statistics. I track almost every stat on the golf course and input it into one of those handicap software programs: fairways hit, greens in regulation, putts, sand saves.

I figure that if I can dissect those numbers and pinpoint my weaknesses, I may be able to knock a stroke or two off my score next time around.

I've improved every year since taking the game up again in 1999 so I'm not going to deviate from what has become the norm.

I have another little quirk as well when I play outside my home club.

Some guys collect ball markers from courses they visit. Others pick up those logoed golf balls as a memento.

I collect scorecards and if possible, yardage books from every course I play. I also try to take a few pictures at every course I play.

Taking pictures proves to be difficult sometimes because you don't want to hold things up out there. It's also tough at these courses that force you to ride a cart, which I absolutely hate by the way. Golf is a game best enjoyed on foot.

But that's a debate for another time.

I've had plaques done up for a number of my great golf experiences, with my scorecard and some of the pictures all matted in. They're great for the office walls and they offer a reminder of why you're working so hard - so you can get back out there and play again as soon as possible.

I was reminiscing a bit last night, going through all of the old scorecards and I jotted a couple of things down. Based on my collection, I've played 64 golf courses other than St. Catharines over the past seven years and 130 total rounds at those places - a staggering number for a guy who seemingly plays 75% of his golf at his home course.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the great experiences I've had traveling to different courses over the years!

We'll start with the golf trip that really got me back into the game in 2000. Let's set it up...

I had terminated my long-standing membership at St. Catharines G&CC because of my huge workload and the fact that country club golf was way too expensive for a 26 year old a few years out of university. I wasn't playing much at all but decided to go on a roadtrip through the mid-western US with three friends, playing in a different state each day and camping to keep costs down.

We started with an outing at the unremarkable Sutton Creek G&CC outside of Windsor, Ontario, a Robert Heaslip design. I started the vacation off with a wonderful triple bogey on the 520-yard par five opener on my way to an 85, a score that just a bit higher than average for me at that point.

I probably was about an 8 handicap back in 2000.

We stayed at a campground outside of Windsor that night and the next morning ventured across the border and into Michigan. We drove to Jackson to play the delightful Cascades Golf Club, a Tom Bendelow design from the late-1920's. Gorgeous rolling terrain and tree-lined fairways that demanded accuracy off the tee.

I played spectacular golf that day. I went out with a 3-over par 40 but then got red hot, notching birdies at the 10th, 11th and 14th holes with a bogey inbetween at 13. I bogeyed the tremendously difficult par-four 17th hole, a severe dogleg right that punishes those who've never played the course before due to a semi-blind tee shot. I cursed my way up 18 and bogeyed that too for a superb +3 75, easily my best score in years.

The next day we were scheduled to play a non-descript course in another state. However, fate intervened on our travels and we ended up here...

The course opened one year earlier, although I don't think it got much play in '99. The second hint is a biggie...

There was no par rating for any of the holes on the golf course...

Who's going to take a guess? It's a pretty cool story about how we arrived and I'll talk about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Bit More on Golf Course Design...

I've had the privilege of exchanging a couple of emails with noted Canadian golf course architect Ian Andrew over the past couple of days! Mr. Andrew is behind all of the recent restoration and renovation at St. Catharines Golf and CC, my home club.

Out of respect for his privacy, I won't be disclosing anything from those emails here.

However, that doesn't mean I can't talk about MY thoughts on St. Catharines G&CC or design in general!

When things get a bit greener (and warmer) here, I plan on taking my trusty digital out on the course and giving my readers a hole-by-hole rundown of St. Catharines. I'll talk about each hole's design, the options made available by the designer plus strategies for playing each hole.

Should be a fun project for me!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

June 2006: Tentative Tournament Schedule

Following up on yesterday's post, here's what my possible tournament schedule looks like for June this year:

Mon. June 5 2006
I may give this tourney a go this year too and should make a decision soon, especially since my preferred qualifying course, Cedar Brae, is filling up fast. My buddy Ryan is a member out there and I've had the pleasure of playing the excellent course about six times over the past few years. This is the biggest amateur tournament in the province.

Sat. June 10 2006
NIAGARA MEN'S TOUR: EVENT THREE (Links of Niagara at Willo-Dell, Niagara Falls, ON) -
This is the third leg of the amateur tour and it's arguably the crappiest course on the rotation this year. Really flat and uninteresting layout; completely wide-open and not long. I expect scores to be really low at this stop.

Unknown Weekend in June
I've participated in this extremely fun tournament for the last two years, playing with my buddy Toast last year. Unfortunately, the experience wasn't fantastic last year (as mentioned on my blog last June) due to Rolling Rock pulling their sponsorship. The course is excellent, however...a real treat to play. I'd like to go back again.

Funny enough, that's it for scheduled tournaments for June, although there are a number of other events worth noting.

Club matches will begin in June, meaning I'll be playing at least one Langley Cup match (St. Catharines G&CC 0-7 Handicap Match Play).

As mentioned late last year, I'm pretty sure I won't be defending my two consecutive Newlands Cup wins (Overall Match Play at St. Catharines). It's a real grind and difficult to book all of the matches in with my hectic work schedule. I'm not 100% sure but I'd say there's about a 75% chance I won't participate in the Newlands this year.

The opening rounds of the Niagara Cup may be played in June as well, but I doubt it...they always leave it to the last minute!

Also, if I decide to qualify for the Match Play and somehow make it, the main tournament takes place between June 6th and June 9th at Rocky Crest in Muskoka.

You never know!

Monday, March 13, 2006

May 2006 Tentative Tournament Schedule

I'm trying to do a bit of planning for the upcoming golf season and thought it would be fun to post a penciled-in version of my tournament schedule for 2006 and the probability of me playing the event.

We'll start with events in the month of May. I'll post a new month each day until we're done.

Mon. May 1 2006
I attempted to qualify for this event a couple years back with my good buddy Jay but we played horribly, only making two birdies between us. The actual tournament is on May 18th at Oakdale Golf and CC, a club I've never played. I don't have a partner lined up for this yet so I doubt I'll hand in the application.

Sat. May 6 2006
MEN'S OPENING DAY (St. Catharines Golf and CC, St. Catharines, ON) -
I haven't played in the opening day tournament since 2002. It's a four-man better ball tourney and I'm interested only to get my game into tournament shape early.

Sun. May 7 2006
NIAGARA MEN'S TOUR: EVENT ONE (Bridgewater Golf and CC) -
The local amateur tour opens at Bridgewater Golf Club. I finished 11th overall on the tour last year and my goals have been elevated this year: I'm not just looking to compete anymore...I want to win an event! And I want to finish in the top five overall.

Mon. May 8 2006
I tried for this one a couple years back as well and fell flat on my face, playing my worst round in years. I obviously love match play so this tourney has a certain appeal and I'm at least a bit familiar with Caledon Woods now. The actual tourney is at Rocky Crest GC in Muskoka.

Mon. May 15 2006
The mid-am rules were changed to allow entry to anyone over the age of 25 rather than the previous age of 40. The local qualifier is being held at Pelham Hills GC, a really crappy track that I'd rather not spend the entry fee on. The Club at Bond Head is a tantalizing option but I have to remember the goal, which is to get into the main tournament that is being held at the venerable Rosedale Golf and CC in downtown Toronto. I have to make a decision on the qualifying course soon.
CHANCES OF PARTICIPATING: Oh, I'm playing in this one! 100% Lock!

Sun. May 28 2006
NIAGARA MEN'S TOUR: EVENT TWO (Grand Niagara GC - Rees Jones Course, Niagara Falls, ON) -
Event two on the tour takes us to the brand new, Rees Jones-designed Grand Niagara Golf Club. I played here last year and was impressed with the conditioning. The course itself is pretty flat but very long from the tips. Scores will be high I bet.

Unknown May Weekend Date
NIAGARA CUP QUALIFIER (St. Catharines Golf and CC) -
If you've read my past posts, you know I've played on the St. Catharines Niagara Cup team for the past couple of years. It's essentially a team competition among the courses in the region. The qualifier is over two days and you get to throw out your worst score in hopes of qualifying. I played crappy in qualifying last year but was lucky enough to be a 'Captain's Pick' for the event.

Well, that's only May and there are four 'for sures' in there.

We'll see tomorrow what possibilities exist for June!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My Favourites: Golf Websites

The first 'My Favourites' post from Now on the Tee!

Our first subject is golf and I thought I'd talk about some of the interesting websites I frequent concerning the game.

Golf Club Atlas is a fascinating site devoted to the discussion of golf course architecture. There are sections on course design history and its evolution over the past century, interviews with noted architects, reviews of great courses across the world and much more.

The best part of the site is the vibrant discussion forum and it is frequented by many of the top architects in the world, most notably Tom Doak, who designed the much-heralded Pacific Dunes Golf Course in Bandon, Oregon. Pacific Dunes is rated in the top ten courses in the entire world. Canadian restoration expert Ian Andrew, who is behind all of the renovations at my club, St. Catharines G&CC, is also a major contributor to the forums.

I'm completely a lurker on the site and don't even have an account set up there but my interest in course design, along with the effects design has on a player's strategy is palpable. I visit this site every day.

The aforementioned Andrew has a blog he updates daily called The Caddy Shack. He talks about his thoughts on course design, his current projects and many other topics related to the game. He's very strong-willed (he had been working under Canada's most celebrated designer Doug Carrick for over 10 years and recently went out on his own due differences in design philosophy) and his posts make for entertaining reading. I check this out every day.

One other blog of note is from Robert Thompson, a columnist for the National Post, one of Canada's national newspapers. Going for the Green gives his take on golf courses and their design while also discussing issues from the PGA Tour. Thompson used to maintain his own 'Blogger' site but sold out to (hehe) about a week ago. The site is now pretty ugly but the content is usually top-notch. I check out Thompson every couple days.

Mike Weir, everyone's favourite Canadian touring pro, maintains his own website as well. It's pretty indepth and not only talks about Weir, but keeps up with all of Canada's touring pros and their efforts. I especially enjoy his caddy's comments before every tournament - Brennan Little (a good player in his own right) usually makes a post on the Wednesday of the tournament week and discusses the course, the state of Weir's game and their strategies for the week. Really good stuff. I'll check this site out usually later in the week and on the weekends.

Those are all the sites I visit on a regular basis. I also check out the following sites a bit less frequently:

St. Catharines Golf & CC is my home course's page. It's a private club located right in the middle of the city. I'll go here more often in the summertime, mostly due to the fact that I'm the guy/sucker who books all the tee-times for the guys for the weekends. The site needs work, aesthetically speaking and both Toast and I have given some input to the higher-ups about possible improvements.

The Niagara Men's Tour website keeps me updated on my position on the tour and contains scores and results of all the events. Follow along during the summer!

On weekends, I'll always check out the PGA Tour Leaderboard on the official page, containing real-time updates. If Weir is playing, I'll usually check his progress a couple times a day. If it's a major tournament, I've usually got the page minimized in the background all day at work...don't tell my boss! ;)

One of my readers got me hooked on The Reluctant Jam Boy, which details the adventures of a Virginia-based country club caddy. Absolutely inspired commentary here but he's been inactive since January...I hope he gets back on the 'posting horse' when it warms up again.

A few other sites of note include the Golf Association of Ontario site, which has some good content and info on all the provincial amateur tournaments (I'll be attempting to qualify for a couple this year...more on that in another post).

Lastly, a great site for checking out golf courses in Canada is Teeing it Up. The site has subsections for golf in Ontario, Niagara and Muskoka. Really handy!

So there you have it! Some day soon I'll talk about golf instruction and the books I've read or tips I've received to improve my game.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I'm Going to Florida!

I'm pretty pumped about the fact that I'll be taking my first spring vacation in five years late in April.

Harris, Preston and I will be venturing to PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida for some intense golfing action!

4 days...4 nights...7 rounds of golf.

Ooh baby!

PGA Village has three championship courses on site. Tom Fazio is the architect of the North and South Courses. The North has rolling terrain, towering pine trees and a 'distinctly Carolina-like feel' while the South is a more traditional Floridian layout, with palm trees and wetlands.

Pete Dye designed the third championship course, a links-style course with plenty of waste bunkers and wetlands.

The Dye course is reportedly the toughest while the South is the most exhilarating.

We'll be living it up in grand style for the four days, staying on-site in one of the two-bedroom villas.

Unfortunately, our buddy Toast is unable to get away from work and will miss all the fun. We're hoping to find a fourth to even everything out and bring the costs down a bit as well.

Flight, accomodations, golf, car and breakfasts are all covered on the package. We only have to fend for ourselves for dinner. Any suggestions from my readers in Florida?!?! ;)

I'm REALLY looking forward to the vacation. It's been a long time coming! It will be nice to get in a bunch of golf before my tournament season begins in earnest in May.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I'm About to Go on a Posting Rampage!

Well, we've finally hit March!

That means golf season is right around the corner!

It's been an unusually mild winter here in our neck of the woods, with very little snowfall. Today, it's about 5 degrees and there's hardly any of the white stuff on the ground.

I'm going to be posting more regularly from now on. Blogs are meant to be updated frequently and I'm going to make a promise to post at least five times a week from now on...if possible!

Ha! I've already given myself an out!!!

Back to work for me!

Friday, March 03, 2006

St. Patty's Day Comes Early?

Not literally, of course!

Tonight, the Buffalo Sabres honour one of the greatest players in its history by retiring the number of Pat LaFontaine in a ceremony before the Sabres/Maple Leafs game.

LaFontaine is arguably the greatest American-born hockey player ever and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He only played six years in Buffalo, three of those years were filled with injuries, but he made his mark both on and off the ice.

His charitable contributions to children in the Buffalo area are well documented and he's easily one of my favourite Sabres of all time.

I'll be attending the game tonight, so maybe I'll throw a picture or two up on the weekend.

I also (finally) get my new car today so it's turning out to be a great Friday!