On Le Golf National and the Debate over Professional Tournament Venues

In the wake of the 2018 Ryder Cup, commentators pointed to the design and setup of host venue Le Golf National as a crucial factor in the European victory. Le Golf National has long been considered a ball-striker’s paradise, a course where accuracy off the tee and into the greens tends to be more important than raw power. Astutely, in preparing the venue for competition, Ryder Cup Europe emphasized the penal tilt of the design, growing out the rough and keeping the fairways narrow. Team USA found its distance advantage largely neutralized, and Team Europe thrived on the ball-striking prowess of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari.

Seeing this as a rare triumph of old-school precision over new-school power, some suggested that Le Golf National should be a model for future tour venues. This argument, which I will spend much of this post refuting, stems from a premise that actually I agree with: because of advances in ball, driver, and instructional technology, power off the tee has become a disproportionate advantage in the professional game.

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This Is the Mecca of Affordable Golf on the West Coast (and You Probably Haven’t Heard of It)

In Southern California, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, there is a lesser-known region that offers some of the finest affordable golf in the United States. That region is Ventura County, and the courses include Buenaventura, Olivas Links, Rustic Canyon, and Soule Park. Last week, my dad and I played all four of these courses, and not once did we pay a green fee over $35.

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How to Do a Monterey Golf Trip: A Local’s Perspective

First, if I were you, I would go to the Oregon coast instead. But if you have already been to Bandon Dunes, or if you have an “in” at Cypress Point, or if you simply yearn to check Pebble Beach off your bucket list, then come to Monterey. There is plenty of good golf here.

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Hole Story: The 2nd at Pasatiempo

The Gist: Overshadowed by more famous holes on more dramatic sections of the property, the subtle 2nd at Pasatiempo Golf Club may actually be one of the best examples anywhere of Alister MacKenzie’s design philosophy.

Pasatiempo Golf Club (Santa Cruz, CA)

2nd Hole

  • 437/420/376 yards
  • Par 4
  • 8/8/6 handicap

Oh, I can just hear the Twitterati clicking the reply bubble: “Well, sir, the 2nd is not even one of the top five holes at Pasa! What of the 3rd or the 11th? Or the 16th, which was Dr. MacKenzie’s personal favorite par 4?”

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A Tiger in Winter

A review of The 1997 Masters: My Story by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein

  • March 20, 2017
  • Grand Central Publishing

When Tiger Woods won the Masters by 12 strokes in 1997, I was 13 years old, and I had already been obsessed with golf for a couple of years. My favorite players were Ben Crenshaw, Corey Pavin, and Steve Stricker. As I watched Tiger shoot 65 on Saturday, however, I realized that the guys I rooted for were in trouble. This 21 year-old, with his cool, austere clothes and his wiry power, was Google, and they were AltaVista.

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A U.S. Open Rota?

This past weekend, as Brooks Koepka overwhelmed Erin Hills on his way to a three-stroke victory in the U.S. Open, golf obsessives on Twitter debated whether the venue was any good and, more interestingly, whether the tournament could use a new identity. Beneath all of the bellyaching and inexplicable rage, there was actually an engaging discussion.

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Aetna Springs: A Neglected Tom Doak Gem in Wine Country

  • Aetna Springs Golf Course
  • Pope Valley, CA
  • Par 35, 3057 Yards
  • Opened in 1891, redesigned by Tom Doak with Jim Urbina in 2006

UPDATE: On January 14, 2018, just seven months after I posted this review, Aetna Springs Golf Course ceased operations.

I first heard about Aetna Springs Golf Course, a nine-holer in the northern reaches of Napa County, in volume two of Tom Doak’s Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. He rated it a 6 on the Doak Scale (by comparison, he gave TPC Harding Park, future host of the PGA Championship, a 5) and wrote, “there are a lot of good holes for such a little piece of property; it’s a lovely place to go and play.” Doak’s firm also happens to have redesigned the course, so my first thought was, What shameless self-promotion. My second thought: Hey, that’s pretty close to where my in-laws live.

I don’t get to play Tom Doak courses very often, much less for $23 per nine.

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