Category Archives: Highlight Hole

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Highlight Hole: No. 13 At Pronghorn Golf Club (Nicklaus Course)

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After three days of being treated to some of the best and most beautiful golf central Oregon has to offer, I discovered a golf hole that trumps them all.

The par 4 13th on the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Golf Club is a sight to behold, a joy to play and shrine to Oregon golf at its dramatic best. And perhaps best of all, you get a 360-degree appreciation of this magnificent golf hole (more on that in a bit).

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No. 13 is a short dogleg right par 4 played to green guarded by a pond on the right and a massive sand trap in the back. Truth be told, the trap is mostly scenery (you shouldn’t be in there) but it adds a visual accent to the hole akin to the how the beach complements the ocean. In fact, that’s what it looks like: Pronghorn Beach.

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The tee shot with tail wind is played over the pond to a generous fairway with a fly-over pot bunker. The approach is the type of shot golfer’s live for.

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With likely a wedge in hand, you’re looking at a shot that’s a feast for the golf senses. The backdrop is a massive rockwall with two waterfalls to the right filling a pond that should be taken mostly out of play with a decent drive. A sizeable green gives you ample room for a safe landing in regulation and a shot at a cherished birdie or par. (One caveat about my playing experience: We’ve had absolutely perfect weather; local rumor is that the wind can really blow here.)

A bit like No. 3 at Monarch Beach, the famed par-4 ocean hole, this is hardly the toughest hole on the course – and believe me, Tom Fazio gives you plenty of those – but it’s one you’ll never forget. But unlike No. 3 at Monarch, you get a preview and a post-view of No. 13 at Pronghorn.

You glimpse it for the first time passing by on the front nine – we could hear the excited golf banter on the tee (“Can I just build a house here?) – and then unexpectedly get to experience 13 again on the 18th tee, where you get a bird’s-eye view of the hole.

The view from 18 allows you to appreciate the creek that feeds the waterfalls and tempts you to pull a wedge and try the ultimate flop shot back to the 13th green. But alas, the tee shot on 18 awaits and a close to an extraordinary golf experience that is sure to give you an indelible impression of golf in central Oregon.

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Highlight Hole: No. 17 At Tetherow

No. 17 tee

The blog is on a Pacific Northwest swing. You’ll see this content being presented over the next few weeks, if not longer.

Here’s a sample. This is the par 3 17th at Tetherow, a links course in Bend, Oregon. After being treated to repeated stunning uses of the desert topography, towering trees and snow-capped mountain vistas, you can come to the par 3 17th, which is the most gorgeous use of it all.

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Carved out of an old quarry, this hole is simply striking from the tee and one you savor as you tee it up from about 165 yards.

Looking back from the green, you appreciate the array of desert autumnal hues.

No. 17 green

What a start to my introduction to golf in central Oregon. You’ll be reading much more about the area and courses in future posts.

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Swing Thought: Petco Park As A Par 3

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So if you’re playing Pecto Park as a par 3 from the elevated tee – the Altitude Sky Lounge – you’d split the Ps in SUPPLY and play the wind, right? I’m thinking an aggressive line. That sand doesn’t worry me. Looks like you’d get a fairly friend lie.

But who am I kidding? I’d probably end up playing a recovery from the concession stands.

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Highlight Hole: No. 17 at the Grand Del Mar

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The blog is about to go on a mini-vacation, but wanted to post this from my round this week at the Grand Del Mar before signing off. I’ll be writing more about the Grand after the break so you can look forward to that. It was one of the biggies I hadn’t played in San Diego, so it was nice to finally have the experience.

I’d heard about golf at the Grand in general over the years, but not in specifics. Well, here’s one of the secrets its keeps from golfers who don’t play their rounds at that price point: They might have the toughest par 3 in San Diego.

I haven’t spent much time pondering that list – No. 11 at Torrey (South) comes to mind along with No. 17 at Encinitas Ranch and, if we step a couple paces past the county line, No. 17 at Journey at Pechanga is worthy – but let’s make 17 at the Grand the tentative No. 1 seed.

Difficulty isn’t your first thought when you come to the hole; it’s beauty. I mean, look at it.

Tom Fazio built a masterpiece here with a half-island green guarded by water on the left and a postage stamp of a bunker on the right (“That’s a busy little bunker,” our caddie assured us) and surrounded by a setting that evokes Aviara comparisons.

You admire the scene for a bit, then realize you have to play it … and then the caddie gives you the yardage.

“It’s 242 yard from the pro tees,” he says, “but it plays 256-260 because it’s always into the wind.”

Gulp. We opted not to even play that one for fun. Phil just practiced here. 3-iron? Hybrid? I’d love to watch that.

It’s 216 from the blacks, and 178 from the blues – our tees. I played it like 200 and pulled hybrid. I hit it great, but then the familiar shot shape showed up – starting right, hooking left … uh oh.

My ball bounded off the left bank – but, hey, pin-high – and joined the half dozen other Titleists in the lake. My playing partner fared no better.

I simply took a drop, finished out and doffed my cap to a hole that makes you feel like just got a taste of the PGA Tour. And, appropriately, I was going home within the hour as would be the case at (insert your Tour event of choice here).

While driving to 18, I started to talk strategy for 17 with the caddie and recalled a Tom Watson lament from earlier this year. He wondered my players never check their ego and lay up on a difficult par 3.

It doesn’t take Dr. Phil – or Dr. Bob Rotella, for that matter – to answer that one, but you could certainly make a case for Watson’s strategy here. There is ample room short to place a 7 iron and then wedge it in and hope for a one-putt.

But the fun in that would be … ?

I hope I get another crack at 17 sometime because it just made my list of San Diego holes where I’d like to make par or better. But there’s only one way I’m going to do that …

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6 tee

Video Post: No. 6 At Journey At Pechanga, A Tee Shot Unlike Any Other in SoCal

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Those who’ve played it never forget it. Those who return always look forward it.

The tee shot on the par 4 6th at Journey at Pechanga is simply unlike any other in SoCal. In a region with elevated tee shots in spades, this is the grand daddy of sky balls and dramatic drops to the fairway.

The hole plays a daunting 488 yards from the tips, 458 from the blacks and 441 from the whites, but the elevation change and friendly breeze knock that number down a bit. I’ve birdied it from the blacks going driver/8 iron. That, however, was not my outcome from the tips recently. After my best drive of the day came the buzz-kill question: “Did you see it land?” I had not.

Monday lie

Ugh. I’m sure you can finish the story of that one.

But finding the fairway sets you up for a round-making birdie or a super satisfying par.

Here are a couple looks at a tee shot that makes golfers salivate.

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A Change To The 18th Green At Journey At Pechanga

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Above: Before and after

In response to player comments and criticism over the years, Journey at Pechanga has reworked its 18th green.

The severely undulating and taco-shaped Biarritz has been softened into a shape more resembling a curved potato chip, according to the Journey staff.

“It was a big decision,” Journey at Pechanga Director of Golf Scott Mallory said. “Ultimately we knew we had to listen to our guests. Before we softened the green, golfers may have been lucky to get off the green with a three- or four-putt. Now that it’s not so unforgiving, we have a phenomenal finishing hole. With two good shots, you can make birdie.”

Journey at Pechanga opened in 2008 after a lengthy planning and design process by Steve Forrest, Arthur Hills and the Pechanga Tribe. With Biarritz greens being an occasional calling card of Hills, Journey’s hole 18 was intended as a challenge of golfers’ forethought and skill. For pros like Mallory and others who golf often, the hole didn’t seem daunting. For weekend golfers and resort players who make up most of Journey’s customer base, however, the green became a frequent topic of contentious conversation.

“This change up makes the hole so much more fun and playable,” Mallory said.

The Journey staff points out to that the new green allows them up to eight possible pin placements, as opposed to only five before the reconstruction. Greenskeepers also like the change because it allows pin areas to recover better from foot traffic and ball marks.

SD Tourism: Five Camera-Phone Worthy Golf Holes in San Diego

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Editor’s note: This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority – www.sandiego.org – promoting golf in San Diego. blog.sandiego.org/2015/04/five-camera-golf-holes/

With nearly 90 courses to choose from, golf in San Diego is a veritable feast for your game – and your senses.

From jaw-dropping elevation changes and stunning sweeping vistas to breath-taking ocean views and brilliant botanical beauty, San Diego courses have all.

The following is all-too-brief list of some of the most camera-phone worthy holes in San Diego.

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1. No. 3 (South Course) at Torrey Pines (La Jolla)

This iconic par 3 on the South Course, site of the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Opens, is San Diego’s most famous golf hole. Golfers worldwide make the pilgrimage just to hit this elevated tee shot and watch their ball soar into the blue horizon of the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop. There’s also the captivating view of La Jolla in the distance. Played mostly from 160 or 149 yards, this isn’t the toughest hole at Torrey by any stretch, but it’s certainly the most memorable – and photogenic. Its sister par 3 is No. 6 on the North, which features a nearly 200-foot drop to the green and plays directly into an ocean breeze. A birdie on either hole is a bonus. A whale sighting is a double bonus.

No. 6 at Journey

2. No. 6 at Journey at Pechanga (Temecula)
After playing irons shots at Torrey, it’s time to pull out driver to play this awesomely elevated par 4 at Journey at Pechanga. Trust us when we say you will remember the first time you get glimpse of this tee shot. You’re basically hitting the ball off the side of the mountain and watching it soar like a dimpled seagull to the dogleg-left fairway below. The backdrop is a vast overview of Temecula that makes it seem like you can see all the way to wine country. And cheers to you if you hit a big one here. You’ll feel like Paul Bunyan.

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3. No. 14 at Aviara Golf Club (Carlsbad)

Aviara, which is literally an 18-hole botanical garden, has several worthy candidates, but we have an affinity for No. 14, which is in the most remote part of the course. Like holes No. 3 and 11, 14 is an impeccably landscaped and elevated par 3 played over water. The green here is huge and gives you a second scenic treat when you reach it. To the left is a beautiful waterfall complex that’s home to an array of water birds splashing in the pond and soaring in the skies. A Golf Channel announcer said of No. 14 once, “If this hole doesn’t make you want to play golf, I don’t know what would.” Our sentiments exactly.

No. 3 at Coronado

Photo courtesy of www.greenskeeper.org

4. No. 3 Coronado Municipal Course (Coronado)

The setting of the Coronado course – surrounded by San Diego harbor – makes it unique, but the glimpse you get of the Coronado Bay Bridge, a San Diego landmark, on holes 2 and 3 in particular is something special. We’re going with hole No. 3, a par 4, for the list because it gives you the most unobstructed view. As you progress through your round, you’ll also catch glimpses of passing Navy ships, downtown San Diego and the Hotel Del Coronado. Being perfectly flat, it’s an ideal course to walk and take in the evolving scenery around you.

No. 7 Encinitas Ranch

Photo courtesy of www.jcgolf.com.

5. No. 7 at Encinitas Ranch (Encinitas)

The view at the par-4 7th at Encinitas Ranch isn’t so much about what’s in front of you as what’s behind. Looking back from the tee box, you can see a sweeping view of the two previous holes and a familiar blue hue in the background (the ocean). The scene is a pleasant surprise the first time you play the course and something you forward to when you return. And a bit like No. 14 at Aviara, this hole offers two distinct visual experiences. Your downhill approach is to a green accented by two star pines and a vast view of the valley beyond. When walking off the green, don’t forget your clubs – or to take a picture.

Highlight Hole: No. 3 at Aviara

Aviara 3

Editor’s Note: You can find my overview of the playing experience at Aviara at the San Diego Tourism Authority’s web site: bit.ly/1ydQlF4

The short par 3 3rd at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad is the course’s signature hole, and for good reason. It’s as fun to play as it is botanically beautiful. The hole is at its peak this week for the LPGA’s KIA Classic. You know it when the reddish/orange tree in the backdrop is in bloom. It’s simply stunning.

The hole has a longish green that slopes back to front and is surrounded by a creek, ponds, a waterfall and a dazzlingly array of colorful foliage. The green is accessible by a wooden bridge, which only adds to the ambiance.

The hole is played from split tee boxes, which change the challenge and perspective on this hole. It plays to a max yardage of 149 yards and 147 from the blue tees.

Members will tell you that while a front pin may make the hole play shorter, a putt back to a front hole location is a slippery proposition. The better scoring opportunities are middle and back.

This hole also provides a preview of what are arguably the strongest group of par 3s in San Diego. Each are beautiful, and only the uphill par 3 6th doesn’t involve a carry over water.

Simply seeing No. 3 live and in peek condition might be worth the price of admission on its own this week. People I sent the above photo to this week thought it was photo-shopped. Nope. It’s just that good – naturally.

What follows is a photo tour of this spectacular par 3. I hope you enjoy the views.

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3 again

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from bridge

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JC Golf: Highlight Hole – No. 18 at Rancho Bernardo Inn

RBI 18

One of the most distinctive finishing holes in all of San Diego, and not just JC Golf, is the 18th at Rancho Bernardo Inn.

This closing par 5 starts with an elevated tee shot that can involve carrying a culvert and ends with an uphill approach to a triple-tiered green fronted by a creek and surrounded by two ponds with fountains.

The green view is the glimpse of the course that greets golfers at Rancho Bernardo Inn, and it’s stunning.

But for all its scenery, it’s a hole that requires more strategy than any other on the course. Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Bryon Penfield says No. 18 is one of the ultimate examples of a hole solved over time and rarely on the first try.

“You’ve definitely got to strategize there,” Penfield says. ”If you’ve playing it for the first time, you might get into some trouble.”

The hole is equal amounts trouble and temptation, which is another reason the hole is a local favorite.

“That hole is the most talked about amongst our regular players and guests,” Penfield says. “It’s got a unique design. It’s not your every-day golf hole.”

William Bell, the architect of Torrey Pines and many other public courses in Southern California, designed Rancho Bernardo Inn.

“His courses usually have some character,” Penfield says, “and No. 18 is a great example.”

Curiously, No. 18 was a much different golf hole when the course opened in 1962. Penfield says only a lake is present in photos of the hole’s original design.

“It was all grass and a lake,” Penfield says. “William Bell came back and added the water features later.”

And the lost ball count was forever changed.

The hole plays to 544 yards from the black tees, 527 from the blues and 508 from the whites. Not matter the tee, the tee shot immediately presents a challenge and a decision that makes this hole play as two different games – the first being a lone-drive contest.

A culvert crosses the fairway and comes into play off the tee. From the black tees, Penfield says it’s a 260-yard carry to cross, all be it often with a tail wind.

(Rule note: There is a bridge for golf cart crossing at the canal. For the most part, everything left of the bridge is considered a free drop by local rule and to the right is the water hazard. The area is marked in red.)

This is where the hole tempts the ego perhaps at the better judgment of strategy. It’s a macho moment to carry the culvert, but it doesn’t always prove to be the best play, Penfield says.

“There are a lot of different strategies there depending your length. Some guys will just fly it,” he says. “I’ve learned to play it as a three-shot hole.”

As have I. “Successful” crossings have sometimes left me blocked on the right side by trees. The rule here, Penfield says, is not to comprise your second shot with your first. Play short of the culvert and to the left of the fairway bunkers.

“The second shot is really big there,” he says. “Even if you make it, you’re still 220 out to an uphill, three-tiered green looking at creek and waterfall. That’s a challenging shot, probably a hybrid for most people. But a good par 5 does present that challenge.

“What people don’t realize on their second (laying up) is that the fairway slopes severely right to left. You’ve got to know to land it on the right side. If you’re even middle left, it might trickle into the water.
“You’ve got to pick your spots on every shot on 18 starting right from the tee shot. It’s a hole that always has you thinking.”

Penfield favors an iron shot on the second.

“The best way to do in most cases is to drive it short of the channel, then take a 7-iron or so layup and try to be between 80 or 90 yards in. Then you’ve got a full sand wedge to an uphill green.”

The mistake many make on their third is to under-club and bring the water into play, or they try to get too precise to a front-pin on the triple-tiered green.

What few realize, Penfield says, is that the hole offers a significant bailout area long and left. He factors it on the occasions he does try to go for eagle.

“If I go for it, I set up left and try to hit a cut. That way, if I don’t hit the cut I’m still OK,” he says. “But I’ve made it a couple times.”

Those who’ve reached in two, however, are far outnumbered by those who’ve found a watery grave for a potential birdie or par.

That sinking feeling is something nearly everyone who plays the hole has experienced, Penfield says, and it seems to only make them more determined the next time.

“We give people a golf course that makes them think a little bit,” he says. ““Our men’s and ladies’ clubs have played that hole for years and it still keeps them guessing. But that’s what a good golf hole should do.”

What’s been your experience at No. 18? Strategies? Successes? Failures you learned from? Please share your stories with us.

Highlight Hole: No. 8 at Aviara

aviara 8th

As a rule, downhill par 5s in golf are just fun. Throw in some scenery and you’ve really got something special.

That’s what you have in No. 8 at Aviara in Carlsbad, home of the LPGA’s KIA Classic.

No. 8 plays to 519 yards from the blues and 489 yards from the whites, but you can throw those numbers out because of the topography. It plays much shorter.

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The tee shot is one of those that gets your juices going. There’s nothing but downhill and an interstate-wide, tree-lined fairway in front of you. Ideally, you want to be right here for the best approach angle and the good news is that you can go even more right than it seems. But the left side is manageable too; you just won’t be harboring hopes of getting home in two.

Strip one 290-300 on the right and you’re in the go zone here, but with an asterisk. The green is fronted by water – a creek to the left that fills a pond on the right. If the pin is front right, you’re laying up. A narrow green and surrounding water make it too much of a risky play.

However, pin middle or left and you’re likely thinking eagle, as the LPGA players undoubtedly do.

I’ve never gone for it here. My usual play is driver then 6- or 7-iron to a comfortable wedge shot. The approach amphitheater is one of the best on the course. At about 150 yards, you have a waterfall in the left, creating a bucolic setting.

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Looking down on the sizeable green, this is an approach shot you can feel comfortable sticking from a ways out, but I’ve always felt most comfortable about 100-120 yards out on the right side. A correctly judged shot should leaves you with a look at birdie, though there’s always that putt, which at Aviara tends to be slippery.

approach

The walk to the green from behind gives you another view of this beautiful hole to appreciate, looking back over the water and up the fairway.

The par 5s at Aviara, as at most courses, are your chance to really make a mark on the scorecard, but that’s particularly true at the 8th. You’ll be kicking yourself a bit if you let this one get away. No. 8 falls within a trio of downhill holes at Aviara that set up for a strong close to your front nine.

The recommendation here is to play the percentages, take a little time to appreciate the views and best of luck with the putt.