Friday, December 13, 2013

Stone Eagle Golf Club, Palm Desert, California - Golf Course Review and Photos

Stone Eagle Golf Club

Palm Desert, California, United States

Architect: Tom Doak (2005)

6,840 Yards, Par-71

Rating/Slope: 72.5/136

My Quick Review: Desert golf at it's best.

1) A very interesting and bold decision to route the course up and down the mountain. Yes, it made for many stunning downhill vistas, but it also required a lot of very uphill holes and blind shots, two things that are often avoided.

2) There is a unique mix of minimalism (very hard to use this word in that setting) and obvious hand of man. I know I have read Tom Doak say that minimalism is not so much about not moving dirt as it is about making it look like dirt has not been moved. I think Tom realized that in this setting, everyone knows there is no 'golf course just waiting to be found' and as a result he had a freer hand to build contours in the fairways and around greens. Still, I think at times he wanted to make it feel like they used the land's natural features and he chose to integrate bold rock outcroppings into the strategy of the holes.

3) There was a discussion earlier about the equal use of contours that feed to, and away from, greens. I think at Stone Eagle the balance is tilted towards contours that feed towards greens, but this theme is used remarkably well. In particular, the contouring around the second green is as fun, creative and intelligent as anything I have seen.

Hopefully a few pictures will help...

No golf course in this setting will look natural:

The second green's surrounds are exceptionally well done. First, we have the 'ramp' short-right over some foreshortening bunkers that will feed balls onto the front portion of the green. Second, there is the back-board on the back-right portion of the green. The backboard is angled such that depending on the angle one hits the backboard, the angle of return can be vastly different. And finally, what really makes the green, is the 6 foot swale that runs diagonally on the left side of the green. Not only does it emphasize the importance of playing boldly on the tee shot, but it also creates the balance in contours towards and away from the green. Here are a few photos:

There are holes like the 4th, which uses the tilt of the land and a seemingly natural stream from the tee. Add that rock outcropping by the green and this hole has a very natural, 'found' feel.

But then the golfer plays a hole like the 6th, which is stunning, but looks like a hole has been blasted out from rock. Nothing natural there. The 6th also emphasizes a constant theme at Stone Eagle. The golf course is visually intimidating but there is more than ample width to play to, especially when the golfer chooses a safe line.

The green at the par-5 13th is a punchbowl of sorts, but it's real fascination is the internal contouring. The pin pictured is at the bottom of 3 slopes, and as I mentioned to my playing partner after we both hit it to 3 feet, I kind of felt like it was hard not to hit it close with a wedge. Of course, these slopes make this hole location easy but are also there to protect other portions of the green.

This kicker short of the 12th can be used to bank shots onto the green, but play slightly to far to the right and shots will be repelled back toward the tee and leave a very difficult pitch over the corner of the mound. A very cool give and take.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dundas Valley Golf Club, Dundas, Ontario - Golf Course Review and Photos

Dundas Valley Golf Club

Dundas, Ontario, Canada

Architect: Stanley Thompson (1930)

6,403 Yards, Par-71

Rating/Slope: 71.3/127

My Quick Review: Another Thompson Gem; Dundas Valley is an outstanding mix of rolling land, quirk and fun.

Tee shot at the par-5 first:

The 150 yard, uphill 2nd:

A terrific long view from behind the 2nd green, back down the 1st:

The 3rd drops down before rising to the green, playing alongside one of a series of ridges that run through the course:

After the remarkably difficult 210 yard 4th, the golfer is offered the opportunity to make a birdie at the 5th, provided he is comfortable with playing a blind approach:

Routed straight up and down a gentle rise, the 6th is a short par-5:

And the 7th a confusing par-4 requiring a blind tee shot and drop-shot approach:

After a semi-blind tee shot at the 8th, and another at the 240 yard par-3 9th, the golfer is once again asked to trust his instincts playing a blind tee ball at the short par-5 10th. After driving over a diagonal ridge, the golfer faces a decision as a second diagonal ridge cuts across the hole 100-yards short of the green:

A hog's back fairway at the 360-yard 11th adds challenge to an otherwise simple hole:

The par-5 12th is plenty wide from the tee, but narrows considerably as the golfer approaches a green set neatly in the corner of the property:

A duo of uphill par-4s at 13 and 14. For a change of pace, the 13th has an open green-front and front-to-back sloping green, allowing the golfer to consider a running approach. The 14th is a stunning hole, where the golfer will do well to play to the right, but the tilt of the fairway and the Line of Instinct will always pull him left.

Something of a routing quirk, the drop-down 15th requires a doubling back to reach the 16th:

The 17th is a simple golf hole, but it shows how much interest can be created by a raised, bunkerless green in an attractive setting:

The par-4 18th, at 465 yards, is perhaps the most difficult hole on the golf course. The narrow tee shot intimidates, the rolling fairway challenges, and the open green front and left-to-right kicker short of the green accommodate.

Pacific Dunes Golf Course, Bandon, Oregon - Golf Course Review

Pacific Dunes

Bandon, Oregon, United States

Architect: Tom Doak (2001)

6,633 Yards, Par-71

Rating/Slope: 73.0/142

My Quick Review: The Consensus No. 1 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, I found Pacific Dunes slightly disappointing with the 'signature' ocean par-4s being prettier than interesting.

Hole 1: Par 4, 304 Yards

Hole 2: Par 4, 368 Yards

Hole 3: Par 5, 499 Yards

Hole 4, Par 4, 463 Yards

Hole 5: Par 3, 199 Yards

Hole 6: Par 4, 316 Yards

Hole 7: Par 4, 464 Yards

Hole 8: Par 4, 400 Yards

Hole 9: Par 4, 406 Yards

Hole 10: Par 3, 206 Yards

Hole 11: Par 3, 148 Yards

Hole 12: Par 5, 529 Yards

Hole 13: Par 4, 444 Yards

Hole 14: Par 3, 145 Yards

Hole 15: Par 5, 539 Yards

Hole 16: Par 4, 338 Yards

Hole 17: Par 3, 208 Yards

Hole 18: Par 5, 591 Yards