Sunday, June 24, 2012

An Epic Golf Adventure - Colorado & Nebraska: 2012 Edition

After months of waiting with great anticipation, the time has finally come for my return to Colorado and Nebraska for some great golf!

Later today, weather-permitting, I should be on the first tee at St. Thomas G&CC, the Stanley Thompson designed gem just outside London, Ontario. Two of my friends from St. Catharines, Ryan and Steve, are joining me on this journey that will ultimately see us fly out of Detroit early Monday morning and arrive in Denver, Colorado around 7:45am.

From there, we have a pretty decent itinerary for our trip:

Monday -
Castle Pines GC
Castle Rock, Colorado

We'll be playing the course that once hosted the PGA Tour "International" event that was notable for its use of the Stableford format of scoring. Castle Pines sits 29th on the most recent Golf Digest list of the best American courses but more importantly, I hear the club makes the world's greatest milkshakes. I can't wait to try one!

At this point, we aren't scheduled to play a second round on Monday but if we do, we'll likely stay in the Castle Rock area and play the Jim Engh designed Red Hawk Ridge GC.

Tuesday AM -
Colorado GC
Parker, Colorado

I'm pretty excited to get the chance to play this recently designed Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw course, one that is hosting next year's Solheim Cup competition. I don't expect to be blown away but I've heard many positive things about the course. Regardless, I'm a big fan of Coore and Crenshaw so I have to imagine I'll like the place.

Tuesday PM -
CommonGround GC
Aurora, Colorado

CommonGround is a recent Tom Doak design in Aurora, CO that is getting good reviews for a low budget, municipally-run track. CommonGround is co-hosting this year's US Amateur with Cherry Hills and I understand the conditioning has never been better.

Wednesday and Thursday -
Ballyneal GC
Holyoke, Colorado

I'm finally getting the chance to return to one of my favourite courses in the world after first visiting in 2010. The advance weather forecast looks hot and dry so I'm elated about the chance to experience the golf course the way it was meant to be played. Of course, Ballyneal is a walking-only course and I'm really looking forward to how my buddies handle the walk in searing heat!

Friday, Saturday and Sunday -
Dismal River GC
Mullen, Nebraska

We finish the trip off with three great days at Dismal River, which is relatively close to the sublime Sand Hills GC. We are taking part in the 5th Major, an unofficial GCA event hosted by a Dismal member. There will be 60 guys competing for the big trophy in a two-man better ball competition and I am greatly anticipating the camaraderie out in the Nebraska sand hills. To top things off, Tom Doak, who is designing the second course out at Dismal, will be at the event for a day and will not only be talking about his newest course but also will be leading a tour of the new track! Perhaps I'll get the opportunity to play a little dirt golf while we're at it!

I plan on posting updates to my Twitter and Facebook accounts so feel free to follow along - check the right sidebar for those links. There will be a lot to talk about, considering that we plan on playing at least 14 rounds of golf in the 8 days we're away! I'll also be bringing a camera out with me and look forward to getting some great shots for future blog posts...maybe I'll get them posted in 2014 when I catch up with all my other reviews!

Here's hoping for decent weather!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Old Macdonald

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


Old Macdonald
Bandon, Oregon, USA

6944 YARDS (PAR 71)
COURSE ARCHITECT: Tom Doak & Jim Urbina (2010)
LAST PLAYED: March 21, 2011.
LOW SCORE: 83 (+12)

- Golf Digest Top 100 in America 2015: #55
- Golf Digest Top 100 Public in America 2015: #12
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Golf Courses in the U.S. 2015: #48
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2014: #10
- Golfweek Best Modern Courses 2016: #5

"Old Macdonald Golf Links, the fourth course at Bandon Dunes, pays homage to golf course architect C.B. Macdonald by asking one simple question:

What would Macdonald have created had the Oregon Coast been his canvas?

Inspired by Macdonald's iconic work, course architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina have crafted a course that seeks the answer upon vast greens, among myriad angles of play, and from the depths of fierce bunkers. By celebrating these classic concepts of design, we honor the traditions of this game we love."

- Overview of Old Macdonald from the official website

There is certainly some irony in the fact that the newest full-length course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort shares its name with a famous children's song. It's another stroke of genius from developer Mike Keiser and Old Macdonald, his homage to famous architect C.B. Macdonald, is a whimsical masterpiece.

Keiser enlisted the services of Renaissance Golf, the team behind Pacific Dunes, with one small twist - Tom Doak was asked to share design credit for this new course with his right hand man, Jim Urbina.

Macdonald's most famous design, The National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York, is notable for its use of "template" holes and Doak and Urbina were given the task of creating a new course on the Oregon coast using Macdonald's past work as inspiration.

Doak and Urbina exceeded all expectations with Old Macdonald, creating a course of great variety, with width to spare and greens large enough to land a plane on. The famous templates are all here but some of the best holes on the course are originals.

There are a number of highlights throughout the round. The 3rd hole, named "Sahara" is a 375 yard par four that features a blind tee shot up and over a huge sand dune that must also avoid the distinctive dead cedar tree on the hillside. The view once you reach the crest of the hill will make your jaw drop, as the whole course reveals itself in all its glory.

The "Short" hole comes at #5, a 175 yard par three to a diabolical green with some of the wildest undulations you can imagine.

Appropriately, the 6th is the "Long" hole, a 555 yard par five that features its own version of Hell Bunker and a very interesting green where three putts are commonplace.

The 7th is an original called "Ocean" and perhaps one of the more unique holes on the property. The green, at Mike Keiser's urging, was moved way up to the top of the hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean after the original routing was completed and the result is a touch of brilliance. The green may be the most diabolical on the course to hit and features one of the more stunning vistas at the resort. A true stunner and worth the price of admission all by itself.

The 8th is the "Biarritz" and features a downhill tee shot to a long green with a huge swale in the middle portion. The "Bottle" hole at #10 features a really cool green site and the 11th hole is a very interesting rendition of the "Road" hole, with a small but ominous pot bunker dictating strategy on the approach plus a large falloff area in the back right replacing the road that you find at St. Andrews.

The 12th hole is the "Redan", perhaps the most famous template in all of golf. It's a long par three with a green that flows from front right to back left, necessitating a right to left ball flight if you want any chance of hitting the green. It's a severe hole at Old Macdonald, much more difficult than its namesake at NGLA but not all holes are meant to be birdie opportunities!

The 14th is the "Maiden" hole and has one of the more distinctive greensites on the golf course and is followed by the wonderful par five 15th called "Westward Ho", an original that brings you close to the waterfront.

The 16th is the "Alps" hole which requires a precise and long tee shot in order to provide the player with an open look at the green, as it's obscured by the huge sand dune in front. This is a brilliant rendition of the Alps and one of my favourite holes on the entire property.

The course finishes with the "Punchbowl" and as expected, the green's bowl shaped design will help funnel slightly wayward shots back onto the putting surface.

Old Mac, as it's affectionately known, is a true wonder but it might not be for everyone. Those who admire links golf will love this course, with incredibly wide fairways, firm and fast conditions and immense greens with plenty of contour and interest.

However, those who only take to courses that require an aerial attack likely won't "get" Old Macdonald and will undoubtedly get upset about the inevitable bad bounces or the fact that the wind has such a huge effect on the playing conditions.

It's also, without question, a course that requires numerous visits before you can consider yourself an expert on all the options available to best play each hole, a trait it shares with great links courses like St. Andrews.

The out and back routing is inspired and Doak, as noted in "Dream Golf", operated a bit differently at Old Mac than he did at his other designs. Instead of looking at the landforms to see what sort of holes they might suggest, he actively searched for contours that would lend themselves to holes in the Macdonald repertory, like a natural Alps or a natural redan.

The scale of the course is almost indescribable, with long views in every direction and the bunkering is appropriately rugged and unique. The course played a bit slower than I expected, likely due to heavy rains but it was still plenty firm and fast considering the adverse weather and the fact that the course is still relatively new.

The design allows for multiple options on every hole with the possible exception of the redan, which I found a bit one dimensional and no where near as good as its older brother at NGLA. The ground game is in full effect here at Old Mac and you could spend countless hours fooling around each of the green complexes and never get bored.

I really enjoyed Old Mac and I think it fits in beautifully with the other courses at the resort. I'd rank it as my third favourite of the four at the resort but I reserve the right to change my opinion upon further review in the future. Again, I truly feel that this course takes the longest to figure out and having only played two rounds, I can say that my education at Old Mac is far from complete.

I can't wait to see it again and hope to get back soon.

As mentioned in my previously written reviews of Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails, I took very few photographs during my time at Bandon due to inclimate weather. Again, I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to fellow Golf Club Atlas member Tim Bert, who has been kind enough to allow me to utilize his photographs of Old Macdonald as showcased in his photo tour at GCA. If you're looking for more commentary on OM, please check out the link below:

- Tim Bert Old Macdonald GCA Photo Tour

Also, many of the photos here were taken by two of my playing partners during my trip, Bryan Izatt and David Elvins. Thanks to both for providing memories for a lifetime!

The clubhouse at Old Macdonald

1st Tee - "Double Plateau"

Approach to the 1st Hole

The immense green at the 1st

The par three 2nd Hole - "Eden"

The par four 3rd Tee - "Sahara"

The memorable cedar on the hillside of the Sahara

The remarkable view on the approach to the 3rd

Looking back toward the fairway from behind the 3rd green

The 4th tee - "Hog's Back"

The par three 5th - "Short"

The severely undulating 5th green

The par five 6th hole - "Long"

The beautiful vista at the 6th green

The par four 7th hole - "Ocean"

The uphill approach to the 7th hole

Me and fellow GCA'er David Elvins on the 7th green

Knocking home my par putt on the 7th

The amazing view behind the 7th green

Relaxing by the 7th green with fellow GCA'er Bryan Izatt

The halfway house at Old Mac, out behind the 7th green

The stylish 8th green - "Biarritz"

The par four 9th hole - "Cape"

The approach to the 9th green

The par four 10th hole - "Bottle"

The approach to the 10th hole

The 11th tee - "Road"

The approach to the 11th hole, with the ominous pot bunker cut into the green

The penalizing falloff in the right back portion of the green

The difficult tee shot on the par three 12th - "Redan"

The tee shot on the 13th hole - "Leven"

The diabolical 13th green

The uphill 14th tee shot - "Maiden"

Looking back toward the 14th tee from behind the green

The par five 15th tee - "Westward Ho"

The 15th green at sunset

The tough par four 16th hole - "Alps"

A drive short or left will leave this blind approach over the "Alps" dune

Whereas a long drive to the right portion leaves a look at the green

This bunker will devour any shots that barely clear the hillside

A great shot of me getting ready to hit out of the bunker on 16 - what a view!

Same shot, from the opposite direction

The par five 17th hole - "Littlestone"

The green at the par four 18th - "Punchbowl"