Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Proud Canadian

Today marked the end of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the games finished on a high note for Canadians, as our hockey team took the gold medal in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over the Americans.

Making the event even better was the fact that the hockey tournament MVP was USA goaltender Ryan Miller, who just happens to tend goal for my favourite hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres. A well deserved honour for Ryan.

My non-Canadian readers may not properly understand just how big a deal this game was for our country but I'm willing to bet that almost 75% of our country was watching this game today.

Not only did Canada win the gold in both women's and men's ice hockey, but our country ended up winning 14 gold medals in total, setting a new Winter Olympics record in the process. Through this two week period, I actually became a fan of curling, something I never would have contemplated at the start of the games. In fact, my wife and I are considering playing in a mixed league next year for fun.

That's the power of the Olympic games for you!

Our athletes were tremendous, as were all the organizers and volunteers who helped make this event a success. It's a very proud moment for all Canadians and I commend everyone involved.

I am one very happy Canuck today!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Glen Abbey Golf Club

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


Glen Abbey Golf Club
Oakville, Ontario, CANADA

7112 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE ARCHITECT: Jack Nicklaus (1976)
LAST PLAYED: June 25, 2009.
LOW SCORE: All Scrambles/Shambles

- Canada's Top 100 2017: #61
- ScoreGolf Top 110 in Canada 2018: #67
- ScoreGolf Top 59 Public Courses in Canada 2017: #40

"Glen Abbey was one of the first golf courses done with the spectator in mind...we did a wheel spoke design, where you had a central gallery, a halfway-out gallery and a following gallery where everybody could have a variety of ways to view the golf. It’s an idea that I came up with and it seemed to work."
- Jack Nicklaus

If you were to walk up to any golf fan in the US or abroad and ask them to name one Canadian golf course, there is no doubt in my mind which name would pop up the most.

St. George's? Doubtful. Cape Breton Highlands? The National? No chance. Banff Springs? Might get a few picks but no sir.

For better or for worse, it would be Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, making it the most famous course in Canada.

Really, it just goes to show how important a role hosting a PGA Tour event plays in marketing your facility, especially when it's a national championship. The Canadian Open, one of the world's longest running national opens, has been held at Glen Abbey an astonishing 25 times over the 100 year history of the event through 2009. It is believed that the Old Course at St. Andrews is the only course in the world to host more national championships.

That may be the only time in history you see Glen Abbey and the Old Course in the same paragraph. Okay, I've now done it twice!

Don't get me wrong - Glen Abbey is a very solid test of golf but its popularity in recent years is waning. Once one of the top events on Tour, the Canadian Open has seen its popularity diminish substantially over the years due to a number of factors. The event currently takes place immediately after the Open Championship so you can imagine that many pros aren't exactly thrilled with the prospect of flying all the way overseas to play in Canada after a major, even if the RCGA charters a private plane for anyone interested.

Another reason is the fact that the RCGA, in many people's eyes, has become too enamoured with holding the Open at Glen Abbey instead of moving it around the country like most would prefer.

Most pros have a love/hate relationship with the Abbey, none more than Canada's darling, Mike Weir. He missed cut after cut at the Abbey and didn't hide his dislike for the course until finally realizing that he'd have to just accept the fact the Open would often be played at a course he wasn't comfortable with. If he had any intention of winning, he would have to figure out a way to get the ball in the hole there and since then, he's had a couple of good runs, barely losing to Vijay Singh in a playoff a few years back.

Even I have a love/hate relationship with the place. I vividly remember sitting on the second tee during a Canadian Open in the mid-80s and having 1981 champion Peter Oosterhuis, now a commentator for CBS Sports, toss me one of his balata golf balls as he made his way over from the first green. Talk about the thrill of a lifetime for a ten year old kid!

I also remember being close to tears on the driving range as a 16 year old, having won entry into a Canadian junior tournament being held at the Abbey. For the life of me, I couldn't stop snap hooking the ball during my practice session and not even my father could straighten me out. I remember taking a ten on the fourth hole and my old man bailed on me after seven holes, saying he couldn't bare to watch me.

I was shattered and ended up having to get up and down from the water on 18 for par to shoot something like 95. I finished second last in the field - that day taught me that there is always someone who finishes worse than you, even at the worst of times...or so it seems.

I've warmed up to the place in recent years, having played the course five years in a row in a charity event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Halton. Glen Abbey was the first solo design from Jack Nicklaus, who had previously worked with famed designers like Pete Dye and Desmond Muirhead on Harbour Town Golf Links and Muirfield Village respectively. It was designed in cooperation with the RCGA as a permanent home for the Canadian Open and it is widely considered one of the first courses designed with tournament play and gallery in mind.

The course starts out with a short, very routine, 502 yard par five with a long but narrow green. This hole would normally get torn apart by the pros but they played it as a par four in the 2009 Championship.

The second hole is quite lovely, a 414 yard par four that has the fairway abruptly end at a gully about 140 yards or so from the green. The approach is uphill to a green protected in front by a large bunker.

The third hole, shown in the two photos above, is a lovely 156 yard par three that bears a striking resemblance to Golden Bell, the 12th hole at Augusta National. Both holes feature short irons over water to extremely shallow but wide putting surfaces. This hole, at the center of the green, is only five or six paces long and demands a very precise shot.

The hole that killed me as a kid is a 417 yard par four over water, as seen above. The green is quite small here as well and the top left is well protected by bunkers in front.

The fifth is another shortish par five measuring 527 yards from the tips. It's a dogleg to the right and you definitely need the left-to-right shot in your bag off the tee in order to give yourself a shot at reaching the green in two. An enormous bunker protects the green short left and the green itself features many swales and bumps.

Number six is a straightaway, 437 yard par four with a tight landing area. The relatively flat green sits up a bit from the fairway but otherwise there isn't much to this hole. Not much more on the seventh either, a 197 yard par three over water with some interesting green contours.

The eighth is a dogleg right, 433 yard par four with a bunker protecting the inside of the dogleg. The green sits at a bit of an angle to the player here, making the hole a bit more interesting as a result.

The final hole of the front side is a beauty - a 458 yard par four that has a large lake that runs for about 100 yards in front of the green. The putting surface, like most at Glen Abbey, is quite tiny and chipping and pitching is made more difficult due to the amphitheatre setting of the green.

The tenth is a 443 yard par four into a relatively tight fairway and the approach must be hit into a very tiny little green that slopes sharply from back to front. This is one of the holes I always shake my head at upon playing - the greens are so small out here and precise iron play is a must!

Now, if I'm being honest, the first ten holes out here aren't really remarkable. It's solid but unspectacular golf.

Then, Nicklaus takes us to the spectacular valley holes.

The tee shot on the 11th, shown above, is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The 452 yard par four plays well downhill into the valley below, with a fairway guarded by towering trees and a bunker right.

The approach is terrorizing - likely a mid-to-short iron over Sixteen Mile Creek to maybe the smallest green on the golf course, so small that there is a second green that sits to the right of it to help give the main green some needed vacation time every now and then. This is simply a tremendous hole and usually plays as one of the most difficult during the Opens played here.

The par three 12th, shown above, is another beauty, measuring 205 yards from the back tees and featuring a shot over the creek to a pretty shallow putting surface. There used to be a wicked tee set up on the hillside many years ago but for some reason it's not in play anymore.

The 558 yard par five 13th is a tremendous risk/reward hole. Pretty straightforward drive but the real decision comes on the second shot - do you layup in front of the creek or do you give it a go and try to reach the green in two? The creek is actually pretty wide in front of the green and swallows up a lot of golf balls. There is major undulation in this green and there are chipping areas to the left and in behind the putting surface to reak havoc on misplaced approach shots. A very manly par five.

The 457 yard par four 14th might just be my favourite hole on the golf course, especially from the back tees. The ever-present creek winds throughout this hole and you have to decide how much of it you want to cut off with your tee shot. This diagonal type hazard is used brilliantly here by Nicklaus and if you want to set up a short iron approach to the severely undulating and elevated green, you'll need to be bold with your line off the tee. Tremendous hole with a really fun green too.

The par three 15th looks pretty benign on the card at only 141 yards but the green, shown above, is no bargain. It slopes severely from back to front and you have to really control your spin to ensure the ball doesn't roll off the front and down a huge false front. Keep your ball below the hole!

You venture back up from the valley for the last three holes. The 16th is the best birdie chance on the golf course, a 516 yard par five that doglegs hard to the left. The approach shot is likely played from a downhill, sidehill lie to a very wide but kind of shallow putting surface that is protected by a little pot bunker, shown above. The bunker was added in recent years and doesn't really fit in with the hole in my opinion. This hole has been played as both a par four and five in recent Opens but was changed back to a par five in 2009 to bring some excitement back. Fun hole for amateurs and pros alike.

The 17th used to be a beast and was notable for all the bunkers that lined the fairway. Those bunkers are pretty much obsolete now due to technology, as most players can blast right past them on the 436 yard par four. Still, a very interesting, "S-shaped" green surface here, as you can see in the photo above.

I truly believe that the 18th at Glen Abbey is one of the most famous risk/reward, closing par fives in golf. At only 524 yards from the tips, it's eminently reachable for many players but the second shot must be played over a huge lake to a very shallow putting surface protected by bunkers in back. The hole has forever been etched into golf history after the remarkable 218 six-iron shot Tiger Woods played from the fairway bunker onto the back fringe of the green, over the water to beat Grant Waite in the 2000 Open by a single shot.

I've tried the me when I say it's almost unfathomable what he did there.

This is certainly a tremendous 'stadium-type' course and is very fan-friendly with all of the mounding and amphitheatre viewing areas throughout the course. I've also warmed up considerably to the architecture over recent years.

Glen Abbey offers quite a bit in shot values, offering many risk/reward opportunities while also requiring deadly accuracy with irons and a deft touch around the small putting surfaces. Playability also ranks high out here, especially off the tee. The fairways are quite generous but the Abbey most certainly is a second shot course with the small greens.

The slope and course rating out here is quite high from the backs but I don't really feel it plays that tough. Of course, I haven't played a round with my own ball in about 20 years so it might be a bit tougher when I'm not playing in a scramble. This was Nicklaus' first design and he gets caught repeating himself numerous times - every par three but one plays over water and there are way too many dogleg rights, something Nicklaus incorporated into his early work due to his left to right ball flight. The valley holes offer tremendous variety, however, and are extremely memorable.

The aesthetics wouldn't necessarily be a strong point at the Abbey but the beauty of holes 11 through 15 can't be denied.

I've never really played the golf course at peak condition, quite shocking since the annual charity event I play is usually only about a week or two before the Open. The greens are never smooth, run slow and the fairways are shaggy as well.

It's always cool to play a Tour course but there is a lot of housing on the outskirts of the holes that mar the landscape somewhat. However, as said numerous times, the valley holes are a delight.

The land is pretty flat here and other than the long hikes down into the valley and back up, there is no reason you can't walk this course.

I've been warming up to Glen Abbey quite a bit as the years have gone on. The front nine isn't really remarkable, save for the second, third and ninth holes but the last eight holes are truly wonderful.

Overall, this is a tremendously FUN golf course to play, with five par fives, all reachable from the proper tee and some neat par fours sprinkled in as well. It's a very expensive course to play during the summer season and it's hard to say if the value is there for the dollar.

What I can say is that I always look forward to my rounds at the Abbey and I never leave disappointed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Course Rating System

I've been thinking of reworking the way I rate courses for quite a long time. However, I haven't been able to really come up with something better than the Golf Digest system I've been using since I started this blog, even though a lot of it is maddening and utter hogwash. I even thought of scrapping my ratings altogether and I still may do that down the road but instead, I've been trying to simplify things just a bit.

Some of the GD terminology is off-putting and pretentious, to say the least. What does the average golfer know about 'shot values' and what they are? Do they even care? I'd guess no.

In my new ratings system, I'll be combining all of the criteria that are "Design-related" into one category called Architecture and Design, including shot values, playability, resistance to scoring, design variety and memorability.

I will also have separate categories, as I have in the past, for Aesthetics, Conditioning and Ambience and I will also have a bonus category for Walkability.

Here is a breakdown of all the criteria and what I'm looking for:

Architecture and Design: 62.5% of Overall Rating

- Shot Values: How well does the course pose risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse in a variety of ways throughout the round.
- Playability: How well does the course challenge low-handicappers while still providing enjoyable options for high handicappers.
- Resistance to Scoring: How difficult, while still being fair, is the course for a scratch player from the back tees.
- Design Variety: How varied are the holes in differing lengths, configurations, hazard placements, green shapes and green contours.
- Memorability: How well do the design features (tees, fairways, hazards, vegetation and terrain) provide individuality to each hole yet a collective continuity to the 18.

Aesthetics: 12.5% of Overall Rating

- How well do the scenic values of the course, including landscaping, vegetation, water features and backdrops, add to the pleasure of a round.

Conditioning: 12.5% of Overall Rating

- How firm, fast and rolling were the fairways and how firm yet receptive were the greens on the day you played the course.

Ambience: 12.5% of Overall Rating

- What is the overall feel of playing the course and the quality of the atmosphere and setting.

Each of the criteria, including those within the Architecture and Design category, will be rated on a four point scale:

0.5 - Deplorable - Even the most optimistic player would be hard pressed to find a single positive
1.0 - Poor - Very few positives
1.5 - Below Average - More negatives than positives but nothing really deplorable
2.0 - Average - Nothing remarkable and nothing truly offensive, with just as much bad as good
2.5 - Above Average - More positives than negatives but nothing really inspired
3.0 - Very Good - Only a few notable flaws and a few inspired moments but nothing exceptional
3.5 - Exceptional - Just one or two very small issues but generally exquisite
4.0 - World Class - Even the harshest critic would be hard pressed to find a single flaw

There will also be a one point Walking Bonus available to courses that should be pretty self-explanatory.

Again, I won't be breaking down the rating of each individual criteria within the Architecture and Design category in my reviews for simplicity sake but all of them will be of equal importance in my overall course rating, which will be out of ten.

This system may be flawed according to some who think architecture is the only thing that is important when rating a course. I certainly can accept that but in my world, there are a few more things, namely walkability, conditioning, aesthetics and ambience, that are of utmost importance when I'm judging whether I want to go back to a particular place and tee it up again.

All the courses I've rated in the past will be re-evaluated according to this new system and eventually I'll have all the courses I've played rated and ranked.

If anyone has any ideas to make this better, I'm all ears! Either way, ratings and rankings always bring much debate and I'm looking forward to any feedback, both positive and negative.

EDIT: March 13, 2011
So yeah, I'm not using this stupid system anymore. Nothing to see here! ;)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Taboo Resort

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


Taboo Resort Golf & Spa
Gravenhurst, Ontario, CANADA

7340 YARDS (PAR 71)
LAST PLAYED: September 28, 2013.
LOW SCORE: 82 (+11)

- Golfweek Best Canadian Modern Courses 2015: #13
- ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2014: #53
- ScoreGolf Top 59 Public Courses in Canada 2015: #32
- Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 in Canada 2015: #91

"When we first stepped foot on this property, it felt like we had found a piece of land intended for golf. A golf course that would provide challenges of both skill and mind, while never letting you forget about the breathtaking natural vistas that abound. Simply put, playing Taboo will be something very, very special."
- Ron Garl

Taboo opened to a ton of hype back in 2002, having aligned itself with Canada's best touring professional in Mike Weir right out of the gates. It was to be the centerpiece of the newly restored Muskoka Sands resort and was marketed as a destination course of the highest calibre in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario, about two and a half hours north of Toronto.

Taboo was marketed as Weir's "home course" and while I'd bet that he visited the course less than a handful of times over the years, it proved to be quite the partnership for Taboo, especially when Weir won three times in 2003 and locked up his first and only major to this date in the Masters Tournament.

I've had the opportunity to play Taboo twice as of this writing, including the first summer the course was open in 2002. That was part of a cool Muskoka golf vacation that I took with friends Jay, Ryan and Bryan where we would see South Muskoka G&CC, Bigwin Island and Deerhurst Resort's Highlands Course.

The Taboo portion of the trip was much-scrutinized in the planning stages - we were essentially flying blind since the course hadn't even opened when we were putting the trip together and the exhorbitant $150.00 green fee for a brand new course seemed like a recipe for disaster.

After much debate, we ended up biting the proverbial bullet and included it on our rotation. It would be our last course in Muskoka before heading off to Hawk Ridge GC in Orillia on our way back to Niagara so we were already on a high, especially after our 36 hole days at Bigwin and Deerhurst the previous two days.

I'm happy to say Taboo did not disappoint - it is one of the prettiest courses I've ever seen. Garl utilizes the wonder of the Canadian Shield to tremendous effect, routing the course around the myriad granite outcroppings on the property. The effect is stunning to say the least.

We had a glorious day weather-wise, as you can see from the photo of us taken on the first tee above. That's Jay, Bryan, Ryan and myself from left to right. Oh, how I long for the days when I was 29 years old and didn't have a care in the world!

The first hole of note is the 3rd, a 204 yard par three, shown above. I sense that Garl got his inspiration for this hole from Pine Valley, as there is a waste bunker that runs the entire length of the hole. The green is framed by a massive granite outcropping in back and it certainly comes into play as I found out the first time I played the course, hitting it with my tee shot and seeing the ball ricochet well right to the back of the green.

The fourth hole is a 553 yard par five that plays uphill at the end. A player looking to go for it on their second shot will have to successfully navigate an outcropping that runs right through the fairway about 60-80 yards from the green, as you can see in the photo above.

The fifth hole, shown above, is a 430 yard par four with a hazard that bisects the fairway about 300 yards or so from the back tee. The second is played to a green protected by bunkers left and has a ridge that runs diagonally from back left to middle right.

The 6th hole is an eye-opener. A 443 yard par four from the tips that has a very wide stream that winds through the entire hole, running from the front of the tee all the way down the right side of the fairway before bisecting it about 100 yards from the green.

The approach shot is shown above, with granite outcroppings galore and a wicked greensite set between the trees. This is a hell of a golf hole and is super intimidating from the tee.

The wow factor hits its peak on the 7th hole, a 218 yard par three that plays entirely uphill and features rock walls running down both sides of the hole from tee to green. As you can see above, it's an awe-inspiring view and I'm sure it's the most photographed spot on the course. It's another hellacious test of golf and I say that with admiration.

The ninth hole, a 449 yard par four that doglegs right and plays uphill to a neat greensite is a strong finish to the outgoing nine

The 10th hole is a 460 yard par four that plays well downhill off the tee, as seen above and is framed by towering pines down the right side. The second shot continues downhill to a narrow but long green surface that is protected by a bunker on the right side.

A bit of repetition sets in on the 206 yard par three 11th. In basic terms, it's the twin sister of the par three 3rd hole in that a waste bunker runs the entire length of the hole, only this time it moves to the left side as opposed to the right side. Just like the 3rd, the hole is framed in back by a granite outcropping.

I birdied this sucker on my first attempt so I can't be too upset but it's a bit puzzling that Garl would design two holes that look, feel and play the exact same way on the same course.

The par four 12th hole, shown above, is a 421 yarder that plays off an elevated tee and has a creek that runs diagonally through the fairway about 270 yards from the back tee. It's an interestingly designed hole - you can play a long iron or fairway metal over to the left side to give yourself a good angle at the green that is framed by a bunker to the right. Or, you can hit driver to the right side to shorten your approach but that bunker is now directly in front of the putting surface and needs to be navigated. Pretty solid golf hole but I wonder if the strategy isn't mixed up a bit - shouldn't the bolder play off the tee be rewarded with the easier shot?

I'm willing to bet that the greensite on the 13th hole was one of Garl's favourites. The routing here seems a bit forced, as the player has to make a long drive from the 12th green to the 13th tee, only to hit the tee shot back towards where you came from. That doesn't detract too much from one of the stronger two-shotters on the course. The tee shot is played over a vast waste area to a narrow fairway framed by a bunker on the left and a granite outcropping on the right.

The approach must clear a creek that runs about 50-60 yards in front of an elevated greensite with a huge false front and is framed in back by an immense granite wall. It's a truly gorgeous hole and features a pretty awesome green too.

The 14th is a very tough, 444 yard par four that requires an exacting approach shot. The 16th hole was the biggest disappointment for me the first time we played in '02 - it was a 484 yard par five that doglegs hard to the left with a tall tree sitting in the middle of the fairway in the target area. The tree is only about 250 yards from the tee and anything that runs past it hits the rough. Unless you have a controlled right-to-left shot in your bag, it might be best to leave the driver in the bag, which was a flaw in the design in my opinion. It seemed that this hole was 'forced', like they wanted another par five on the course in order to get to a par 72 - even the tee shot is played from a chute that required some quirkly routing from the 15th green to the 16th tee.

I strongly felt this hole would be better if they cleared some trees down the left side and made it a shorter par four. Well, I kind of got my wish - by the time I played the course for a second time in 2006, the hole was changed to a par 4 but it was still playing the same length as before and I don't think they cut down many trees, meaning you still have a hard time keeping a driver in play and having a long iron or fairway metal into a green designed to be a par five is a recipe for disaster. So, at the end of the day, I still think the hole is weak.

The 17th is a beauty but again, there is some repetition here as well, as this 436 yard par four is eerily similar to the 10th hole from the tee box. Both play off elevated tees, both dogleg right around the trees but thankfully, the approach shots to each hole are unique.

The 18th is complete eye candy as you can see above, a 563 yard par 5 that plays well uphill and features granite outcroppings all over the fairway the entire length of the hole. The second shot is likely blind to the elevated greensite that features an open front and you'll likely be pretty exhilarated after finishing on such a high note. A bit over the top, but a fun hole to play.

We were one of the only groups on the course the first time we played so we were hopeful of getting a replay round in before heading out later that day. Both Bigwin Island and Deerhurst allowed us to play a second 18 for only the price of the cart but the stubborn folks at Taboo would have none of that, saying the only discount available would be if we played after 4pm for their twilight rate, a hefty $95.00. We were a bit put off by their snobby attitude, especially since they weren't busy at all and were still operating out of a trailer at that point but hey, it's their golf course.

We didn't play a replay round but that didn't diminish the experience too much for us. I shot a group best 85 that first time out and followed up by shooting 82 (+11) in 2006, playing well both times, for the most part. Good courses penalize bad shots and reward good ones and I felt that the place was more than fair in that regard, even with the bold design and the prevalence of the granite.

This is a pretty interesting golf course to play. You are definitely encouraged to move your ball off the tee and accuracy is definitely demanded out here. There are some thrilling moments available on some of the par fives, specifically on the 4th and the 18th where you can challenge the outcroppings in a bid to reach the green in two shots. From a playability standpoint, the fairways aren't necessarily wide but at least there aren't too many forced carries throughout the course. That said, this isn't an easy golf course for the beginner and even one of the guys in our 2002 group ran out of golf balls during his round.

This course has one of the highest course and slope ratings in Canada but I don't feel it's overly difficult if you're on your game. The charm at Taboo really lies in the setting as opposed to the design. There are certainly some strong holes out here but there's a couple instances of repetition that bother me a bit and hinder the score in this category. I think Garl's vision here is strong and the way the granite matches with the blowout waste areas is unique and captivating. That said, I think that the course as a whole is slightly less than the sum of its parts.

Without doubt, the strongest part of Taboo is the aesthetics. From the striking granite throughout the course to the beautiful and mature trees lining most of the holes, this is just a beautiful setting for golf. I can't imagine how much dynamite was used to build this place but it makes for compelling golf.

I was suitably impressed with the conditioning the first time I played here in '02 considering the course had only been open for a month.

We were pretty fortunate the first time we played in that we were among the only ones on the course. That meant a pretty quick round, relatively speaking. That wasn't the case the second time playing in a corporate event. Still, it's a lovely setting for golf.

Some quirky routing and quite a few long green to tee transfers mean carts are necessary out here. The first hole is a huge hike from the clubhouse and the practice area is way out there too.

The resort has gone through a number of changes in recent years. First of all, Mike Weir isn't affiliated with the club anymore, with that partnership coming to an end a couple years back.

They have a fancy wooden clubhouse now, as you can see above and the resort itself is pretty cool as well, as I found out during a four night stay in 2006 during a business conference. By that time, the resort also changed names from Muskoka Sands to Taboo Resort Golf & Spa, a curious decision for a resort with as much history as they had with the old name.

To summarize, Taboo is one of the prettiest courses in Ontario and it has some interesting design elements. Without doubt, it has it's quirks but aesthetically speaking, it's absolutely breathtaking. If you're ever in the Toronto area, I'd strongly urge you to make the two hour drive to play this track and it's a must if you ever find yourself in the Muskoka region.

With the exception of the group shot on hole #1, the approach shot on #6 and the tee shot on #12, all of the photos in this post were taken from Taboo's Official Website.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Buy These Books!

I know I've already talked about both of these ventures in the past but I wanted to give one more shout out to a couple friends of Now on the Tee who have books on the market.

I recently finished reading Jim Colton's One Divot at a Time... after receiving my copy through Amazon Canada. It's a great read of Jim's adventures on the course with his best buddy Jeff (nicknamed Jefe, pronounced "Hef-eh") and Jeff's brother Jimbo, who combined make up the vaunted "triumvirate". Along the way, they play such esteemed courses as Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes, Rich Harvest Farms, Arcadia Bluffs, Sand Hills and Ballyneal, among others. I particularly enjoyed the chapters that focused on their various competitions, like the death match at Arcadia between the Tang brothers that had Jim walking the course as official scorer and photographer and of course, the much-revered Ballynizzle Cup weekend. There's also a particularly inspired bit of creative writing in the last chapter, titled "The Demise of Tom Doak" that had me smiling the whole way through.

It's available on Amazon Canada for only $13.69 - I'll say it again, if you enjoy my ramblings here at Now on the Tee, you'll really enjoy Jim's book since we seem to have a similar writing style. The book is labeled as "Volume 1" so that gives me hope that a sequel could eventually be in the works.

The other person I want you to look into supporting is Tom Collins from The Reluctant Jam Boy. Tom is on the road trip of a lifetime - he's spending the entire year following the PGA Tour by car and writing weekly recaps of his adventures along the way.

He's currently employed by Universal Golf but is supplementing that by writing E-Books for each Tour event that are available on his blog through Google Checkout for only $2.50 each. You can find the link to his E-Books right here and he already has completed his 30+ page recap of the Northern Trust Open from Riviera Country Club from this past weekend. If you're on the fence or want to get an idea of what you'll be getting for your $2.50, check out his free E-Book from the Turning Stone Resort Championship from last year.

Tom is attempting to give golf fans something completely different than the generic drivel we read on a daily basis. It's really a no-holds-barred look at the Tour and Tom isn't just sitting in a media tent and watching the action unfold on a television screen. He's on the course, getting soundbites from players, caddies and fans alike and it makes for compelling reading. It's a hell of a journey he's on and I have to imagine it would make for quite a book once his year is complete.

Now go to these sites and support their great work!

Lots coming in the days and weeks ahead. I plan on writing course reviews for all the remaining Top 100 courses in Canada that I've played so that will keep me occupied probably until the start of golf season here in Canada, which looks to be about six or seven weeks away.

I've played 23 of the top 100 in this country according to ScoreGolf Magazine yet I only have reviews of four of them at the moment, as you can see in the right sidebar. So lots of writing ahead!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Looking Forward with Positive Thoughts

It's rare that I talk about anything non-golf related here but I hope you indulge me for a bit.

I've had a very rough four week period personally, with two family members spending time in the hospital. Two very important family members.

My father is generally a pretty healthy man but was hospitalized in February last year with severe gall bladder issues. He actually went into surgery to remove the gall bladder at that time and they had to stop the surgery midway through due to the fact he had developed pancreatitis and going forward would have jeopardized his life.

Doctors put him on a special diet to try to bring down the inflammation in his pancreas and although he had two other short stays in the hospital in '09, he started getting better toward the end of the year. It seemed that all was well.

It wasn't.

He suffered another attack about three weeks ago and was hospitalized again. He would get transfered to Hamilton from Niagara Falls due to them having better facilities and it was also closer to his specialist. He was still in the hospital seven days later when the doctors told him he needed emergency surgery RIGHT AWAY. Our family drove up right away and about five hours later we finally saw him being taken out of recovery. The doctor found a stone that had somehow lodged into his bowel that was 6.5cms by 4.5cms, the largest he's ever seen. It was basically the size of his entire gall bladder. The doctors were so amazed, they got him to sign a waiver so they could write a case study on this situation for future med. students.

It seems like they finally found the problem, a full year later and my father was released from the hospital only days after the surgery and is already back at work fulltime only two weeks after the operation. Truly incredible.

We went from feeling blessed to feeling helpless just this past Monday. My little 15 month old son Evan had been battling a bug of some sort since Friday that week, his first bout of illness since he was born. Three days later, he was still out of sorts and Monday night he started vomiting every couple hours. My wife had taken him to the doctor earlier that day since he seemed a bit lethargic and the subsequent vomiting pushed him right to the edge. By Tuesday morning, he was as limp as a doll, sitting in my wife's arms and barely moving.

We rushed him to the hospital and after ALMOST GETTING SENT HOME, we finally saw the pediatrician who told us his blood work showed severe dehydration due to the vomiting and he needed to be admitted immediately and hooked up to an IV.

Watching the nurses unsuccessfully try to get the IV in THREE TIMES was unbearable. I tried to be strong for my wife and my son but I was a mess. Seeing a little child in that much was pure torture.

He had a really rough night on Tuesday with the IV, as it was constantly malfunctioning and we found out later that it had bent a bit in his arm. They took it out around 6am on Wednesday when he finally wet his diaper (a good sign) but he still wouldn't eat or drink anything.

The doctor threatened that if he didn't start taking pedialyte (an electrolyte drink that has a terrible taste), he'd have to get the IV put back in. So we tried everything possible: pedialyte freezies, popsicles, putting the stuff in sippy cups, regular glasses, ANYTHING to get him to keep drinking.

He had a decent night on Wednesday and started to eat a little bit and thankfully, his bloodwork on Thursday came back pretty much normal. He was still very weak and he was having trouble walking without falling. But he was seemingly getting better.

We were finally able to take him home that afternoon, and I'm happy to report that Evan is back running around and seems just like his old self over the weekend, thus ending the worst three days of my life. Bar none.

I truly hope I don't have to see the inside of a hospital again for a very, very long time.

More golf stuff to come this week. For now, here's a great photo of my father and his grandson taken a couple months back.