Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sand Ridge Golf Club Course Review - Chardon, Ohio

Sand Ridge Golf Club 
Chardon, Ohio, United States

Tom Fazio (1998)

7,215 Yards, Par-72

Rating/Slope: 75.8/138

My Quick Review: Once rated among the top-60 courses in the country by Golf Digest, but I struggle to see it as even a Modern top-100.



Hole 1: Par 4, 360 Yards -- A solid starting hole.  Though there is plenty of room between the flanking bunkers, the hog's back fairway will serve to kick mediocre tee shots into the rough.  A semi-blind approach for those unable to crest the hill 250 yards from the tee.

Hole 2: Par 4, 383 Yards -- There is little room to miss here with a waste area right and trees/hazard to the left.  The clever golfer will choose to hit less-than-driver here to play to the width of the fairway.  A very interesting green -- certainly one of the most interesting on the golf course -- tilting severely from back-to-front and with a spine splitting the left and right halves (and note the interesting collection area short of the green)

Hole 3: Par 5, 545 Yards -- A rather blah tee shot, but that makes the view when cresting the hill even more impressive!  A sea of bunkers left, right and centreline awaits the golfer.  What is most interesting is that the one centreline bunker is the only one that adds strategic interest.  Looking back from the green the golfer is treated to a Dr. Mack-like bunker disappearing act.  Very cool!

Hole 4: Par 3, 186 Yards -- Pictures tell it all.  Green is much larger than it appears from the tee.

Hole 5: Par 4, 407 Yards -- Another bland tee shot but the interest is created on the approach with a Pine Valley-esque double green.  The hole is some 30 yards shorter (and the approach simpler) playing to the left green.

Hole 6: Par 5, 485 Yards -- Really one of the weaker holes on the golf course though one of the better greens...

Hole 7: Par 4, 419 Yards -- This hole has in one of a few holes on the course where the back tee is in another country; 50+ yards back and farther to the left, the hole would be extremely difficult from there.  From the tees I played the golfer is challenged with carrying the bunker on the left (about 230) but ensuring he does not push his tee shot into the bunkers on the right, which are some of the deepest on the golf course.  Nice green site at the bottom of a valley and atop a steep drop off into a ravine.

Hole 8: Par 3, 142 Yards -- A decent short par-3.  If nothing else it ticks the box re varying par-3 yardages/looks.  Green is actually quite interesting shaped like a boomerang, with a high spot/spine in the centre and a bowl where the pin is located.

Hole 9: Par 4, 374 Yards -- A short par-4 that is less-than-driver for most as the downhill fairway runs into water straightaway (but blind from the tee).  Really an awkward tee shot for a first-timer, but the ideal line is just inside the bunker on the right.  If the tee shot is placed successfully in the right-side of the fairway, the golfer is left with a wedge to a large two-tiered green that is open in front (and that back tier is tough to find as it slopes away from the golfer, though there is plenty of room to miss long in a collection area).

Hole 10: Par 4, 370 Yards -- A tee shot I am not used to seeing from Mr. Fazio.  For a man who is often accused of using too much eye-candy, there is little here to catch one's eye and even less to give an indication of an ideal line.  Once cresting the hill the approach is a straightforward one played from a downhill lie over water to a green that slopes towards the golfer.

Hole 11: Par 4, 441 Yards -- One of the most difficult holes on the course, not only is it long (480+ from the back tees) but it has one of the most difficult greens on the golf course.  Based on the drawings it seems the inside of the dogleg was intended to be waste area similar to that found left of the fairway but it was not completed that way and I think the small trees placed there instead are an eye-sore.  Golfers are tempted to try and cut the corner but only the longest of hitters will find fairway on that line and most will be best-served playing down the left side of the fairway to the leave an ideal line into the green.

Hole 12: Par 3, 150 Yards -- though short on the scorecard, the 12th plays uphill and into the wind and as such will be a mid to long iron for most golfers.  The green is separated into three sections, front-left, front-right and back (which slopes away).  Precision is demanded here as two-putting from one section to another is a very difficult task.

Hole 13: Par 4, 444 Yards -- The 13th starts the best stretch of holes on the golf course.  Played from an elevated tee the ideal tee shot will challenge the bunker on the right, but if you can't get past it don't play toward it as this will leave a blind approach over the bunker.  Missing the fairway left leaves a blind (and long) approach over green side bunkering.  A deep hollow that is difficult to see from the fairway guards the right side of the green.

Hole 14: Par 5, 511 Yards -- A mid-length par-5 on the scorecard, but it plays much shorter if one takes the direct route to the green (even yours truly was green side in two).  A feature I always like on reachable par-5s is a reward for the golfer that chooses to play the hole as a 3-shotter from the tee.  That is, the ideal angle of approach if trying to reach in two is from a drive down the right, but the golfer who knows he will playing the hole as a 3-shotter is best served playing his tee shot down the left.

Hole 15: Par 4, 311 Yards -- Even Tommy Naccarato would like this Fazio hole.  Excellent use of forced perspective on this short par-4, as the scale and shape of the bunkering, on both sides of the fairway, is perfectly calculated as to make the distance to each set of bunkers nearly impossible to discern.  Looking down the right side of the fairway there are actually 3 sets of bunkers, the first of which is only some 150 yards off the tee, there is another 70 yards to reach the second set, and the final bunker is green side.  Similarly, down the left, the first set of bunkers is 175 yards from the tee and there are nearly 100 yards between this set and the single bunker past it.  The green is also one of the most interesting on the course full of subtle movement, a welcome change from the large, sweeping undulations found on many of the greens at Sand Ridge.  The pin pictured is in a particularly interesting spot with a subtle, but effective, run-off behind the pin on a green that slopes generally from back-to-front.

Hole 16: Par 4, 385 Yards -- A nice cape-style hole though perhaps with a miscalculated risk-reward equation to tempt the golfer to cut-off a little more than is advisable.  Per my host's recommendation, the smart play is a 3W toward the bunkers on the right, not flirting with the left bunkers.  The preferred angle is not from the left.  The green is very large, generally tilting from right-to-left.  A deep, Raynor-esque back bunker will catch those that bail-out long.

Hole 17: Par 3, 200 Yards -- The tee shot is more intimidating than difficult as this green is massive.  Too many slopes and undulations on the 17th green to summarize, but it's a very strong green.

Hole 18: Par 5, 531 Yards -- One of the least interesting tee shots on the golf course, most players will be happy merely avoiding the bunkers on the right.  The second shot must avoid a well-placed centreline bunker.  Longer hitters can try to carry it and use a feeder slope on the right to reach the green in two.  Otherwise, playing left of the centreline to the narrow portion of the fairway will leave a simple pitch into the green, while playing right will leave a longer semi-blind approach over a bunker.

Old Memorial Golf Club Course Review - Tampa, Florida

Old Memorial Golf Club 
Tampa, Florida, United States

Architect: Steve Smyers (1997)

7,389 Yards, Par-72

Rating/Slope: 76.0 / 142

My Quick Review: An excellent test with a nice mix of difficult holes and birdie opportunities; Old Memorial looks more difficult than it plays.

The entrance road to the golf course is off a busy city street in a not-so-great area with a sign that reads 'Golf Corse' in big black ink in a child's handwriting.  A single gate sits at the end of the road.. understated and no way you're finding the place by accident.

When I drove in there was a lot of commotion as it seemed like every one of the very large caddie program's caddies was out front with a bag or waiting for a bag.  Valet takes your car and your clubs are given to your caddie and you're set to go whenever you want.  I chose to eat lunch first.  How could I not? The owners of Outback Steakhouse own Old Memorial, the food has to be decent.  Figuring I had to order beef, I ordered the cheeseburger wrap, which looks disgusting and tastes great and offers a 50/50 chance of a heart attack when you start your round.  A plate of Skor and chocolate cookies offered gratis for dessert and I was ready to lumber to the 1st tee.

I was told I was getting a great but eccentric caddie named Mike, who had once been featured in Golf Digest.  I told Mike I wasn't that in to keeping score but he said he would keep mine for me.  OK...

After I hit my approach to 18, he says to me, 'you ran the table on the back-nine!'.  I had no clue what he was talking about.  He then showed me the scorecard he used to keep my score and told me I hit the last 11 greens in a row.  A copy of the scorecard is below.. 

The start at Old Memorial is extremely difficult.  My caddie noted that it was clever to route the 4th hole close to the clubhouse as some golfers choose to leave after struggling with the opening quartet of holes!  The first hole played into the wind the day I played it and the view from the tee, especially for a first-timer, is rather intimidating.  Large scale bunkers run all the way down the left, and though the golfer may be tempted to try to cut the corner, it is near 300 yards to carry all the bunkers.  Fortunately, there is ample fairway width should the golfer choose to play to the right.

A bold line from the tee provides the golfer the option of running the ball onto a putting surface that tilts from left-to-right.

The second has a more confined feel, playing between tall trees on either side.  A massive top-shot bunker runs along the right, and like at the first, the tee shot is more intimidating than difficult.

Once again, the scale of the bunkers make a large target feel small.  Bunkers seemingly everywhere make a simple mid-iron approach look more difficult, though there is ample room to miss short and long of this large green.

The third hole can stretch to near 670 yards and like the 1st plays into the wind.  From the back three sets of tees the view from the tee is of nothing but forced-carry hazard.  From the Founders tees, which I played, the golfer must only avoid a right-side fairway bunker.  Another anecdote: John Daly played the newly-opened back tee on a cool and windy day. He hit a driver and a 3W and was left with 190 yards to the pin.  His caddie suggested a 5-iron and John said 'nope, pick it up.  I don't play holes that require D-3W-5i'.

Anyways, back to the hole, after two-well struck shots the golfer will be left with an approach to a sunken green from ~125 yards.

The 4th is a remarkably difficult par-3, and third hole out of four that played into the wind.  My caddie suggested a shot of 220 yards was needed to reach this front-pin.  3W it is!  The putting surface is almost completely blind, blocked-out by a bunker that protrudes into the golfer's view of the centre of the green.  There is ample room between bunker and green, and the only really bad miss is long.

The 5th is another long par-4, and with the predominant wind at Old Memorial offers the first downwind approach of the day.  The tee shot is a simple one if the wind is blowing as expected, but with an opposite wind, finding the left-side of the fairway from which the approach is considerably shorter, is a real challenge.  Another demanding approach to a peninsula green that offers a huge bailout to the right and a fun kicker that will allow drawing approaches to run onto the green.

The 6th is a split-tee par-4.  The picture below is the right (more interesting and shorter) tee, which asks the golfer to choose his line over the hazard carefully.

The approach should be a mid-iron or less to a narrow green with a putting surface that is blind from the fairway, blocked-out by deceptive bunkers short of the green.

Fairway grass ties-in the collection area right of the 6th green to the 7th tee.  The picture also shows undulations in the run-off area that make running recoveries a real challenge.

The 7th is something of a connector hole, not really interesting, but certainly not easy.  Downwind, the hole requires a very short iron to an island green, surrounded by sand where long is the worst miss.

The 8th is a short par-4, theoretically driveable for some with the right wind conditions.  Accuracy over length should be the mantra on the 8th tee, as approach angle is far more important than length.  

The 8th offers two greens.  The left green (pinned) is the much easier target and which is best approached after a tee shot hugging the water on the left.  The right green is diabolical -- thin, angled, sloped, deeply bunkered left, and falling off right and long.  Approaching this green from anywhere but the right side of the fairway is near impossible.

The 9th is a long par-5 that can be greatly shortened by bombers able to carry their tee shot over trees on the left.  Golfers of only human capabilities will be faced with an interesting second shot decision whether to play over a hell's half acre type feature.

The 10th is a mid-length par-4 that doglegs left that failed to capture my interest.

The 11th is Smyers adaptation of the redan and it is an excellent hole.  Like the Tillinghast redan at Somerset Hills, bunkers sit well short of the green to intimidate and catch the foozled tee shot.  A monstrously deep left-side bunker inspires fear from the tee, but it is the best miss.  

From the high point on the kicker short-right of the green, the whole green tilts to the back-left portion of the green.

In true redan fashion, the worst miss is long-right where a deep bunker and even deeper run-off lurk.  Recoveries from either spot have little chance of finding the green.

A well-done split-fairway par-5 at the 12th.  It is 225 yards in the air to reach the narrower left portion of the fairway, but finding it turns this 560 yard beast into a reachable in two par-5 for even this pea-shooter.

Contouring short of the green makes this seemingly simple approach considerably more interesting.

The short par-4 13th will be driveable by some depending on wind conditions.  Taking on the longer left-side carry leaves a much preferred angle into the green.

The 14th continues in the same direction as the 13th and from the back tee demands a 260 yard carry into the wind to reach the fairway.  The approach from ~125 is as seen below:

The 15th is a simple but difficult par-4.  Like the 4th hole at Dye's The Golf Club, low-key bunkers run along the right side of the hole but cannot be challenged by the majority of golfers.

A definite change of pace at the 16th as the openness of the last 8 holes contrasts sharply with this tree/hazard-lined fairway.  I think this is like the feeling on the 7th tee at Highlands Links where the hole feels narrower than it is because of the openness of the previous holes.  The Club has worked to widen the 16th to a more playable width recently.

A real second-shot decision.  50 yard wide bunkers cross the fairway 100-150 yards short of the green.  Tee shots missing the fairway will likely be forced to lay-up, but finding this green with anything more than a wedge is a real challenge.

A very cool raised green surrounded by fairway cut.  Anyone think this looks like Augusta?

The 17th is a good mid-length par-3 that like the 7th is encircled by bunkers.

The 18th is a potential round-ruiner and was once called one of the greatest finishers in the country by Golf Digest.  Like at the 16th, the Club has widened this fairway.