Category Archives: Reviews

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Golf Channel’s Top 5 In San Diego

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In case you’re looking for a round during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey … a pretty strong list, but we’re obviously fairly partial to No. 2.

But there’s certainly fodder for debate here amongst San Diego golfers. Let the debate begin …

Torrey

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Maderas

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The Grand

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Aviara

Aviara Golf Club

Aviara Golf Club

Coronado

Coronado

Photo: www.golfcoronado.com

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Playing Nine At … Petco Park?

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I’m participating in Callaway’s Links at Petco nine-hole golf event today. To get my updates, please follow me on Instagram @socalgolfblog. The blog will be updated later, but Instagram is your best bet for instant images and impressions of an event that has generated a lot of curiosity and interest. Looking forward to it … just hope they had the tarp on last night.

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Four Observations About The Playing Experience At Tetherow

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My five-day golf-athon in central Oregon began at Tetherow in Bend, which, unbeknownst to me in advance, was like being thrown in the deep end of the pool on your first swimming lesson.

I learned later that this notoriously tough Scottish links course was dubbed Death Row by locals after it opened in 2008 but has since been softened by eliminating some of the more troublesome fairway bunkers. But the challenge on the greens remains – and it’s a doozy. It was even more so for me coming from California and its slower summer green speeds. The slick greens at Tetherow felt like they were rolling like a 16 to me.

But, with the help of a caddie, I eventually settled in and began to embrace the challenges of the course while enjoying the mountain surrounds and uniqueness of the layout.

And that’s the real takeaway here. This is a gorgeous golf course that dazzles you and challenges you and calls on you to tap into your creativity to conjure up plays you’re likely not making elsewhere – putting from 50 feet off the green, for instance.

If you’re open to your short game being pushed to the limit, then you’ll enjoy playing here. My short game is my strength and it shined on the back nine, salvaging a scorecard that left me wondering if I’d score at all after a messy front nine.

The bogeys I’ll forget; the layout I’ll remember, especially the stunning 17th, a par 3 that might alone be reason enough to play here.
What follows are my first impressions and a few tips for playing Tetherow.

opening tee

Love Links Golf, Even When It Doesn’t Love You – If you haven’t played links golf much, or recently, Tetherow might be a jarring experience for you.

As I’ve said, the style of play takes some getting used to and will test you in the transition. I drove it in some gnarly rough with my opening tee shot and then, despite hitting it exactly where caddie told me, found my tee ball in grassy side-hill lie on the second, depriving me at least 50 yards in a fairway that was a mere two yards away. Those are the breaks of links golf.

And those breaks have broken some of the best.

“Players who are single digits come out here and shoot 90,” our caddie revealed.

To avoid that sort of scorecard whiplash, you’ve got to be smart around the greens and know what pins to attack and what pins only invite misery.

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On most courses, the tee shot is half the battle. It feels more like 25 percent here. Saddle up your short game and get ready for a wild ride.

A True Caddy Course – We were fortunate to have a caddie, and I can’t imagine playing this course for the first time without one.

Besides guiding your play, they help you appreciate the intricacies of the course and the myriad of shot options.

I had what looked to be a fairly straightforward chip on one of the first greens until the caddie started to consult. He proposed one alternate chip to back the ball into the hole and then, pointing behind me and to my right, said, “Or you can use the mound and hit it back here.” Or I could putt.

Personally, I love that variety, and how much fun would a scramble be here?

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Even with his assistance, however, there was no saving our group on No. 9, an uphill par 4 with a distinctive split pine tree in the fairway. My drive found the fairway, but my approach to a back pin bounded over the green. When I talk about leaving certain pins alone, this is what I mean. The play was leaving it out right or short, but not long.

The hole was cut just above the slope of the green. My pitch back ended up 50 yards down the fairway. I wasn’t alone. I took a six on what initially looked to be my first par of the round.

Fortunately, I bounced back with a birdie on the short par 4 10th to kick start a solid back nine.

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Bandon In Bend – I’ve yet to play Bandon Dunes, but from the photos and first-hand accounts, Tetherow had that feel to me. I asked our caddie about the comparison.

“We’re the closest thing to it in central Oregon,” he said. “We just don’t have the ocean.”

No, but they do have ponds, mountain views and a layout that delivers one unique hole after the next in a setting that seems older than it is. It’s so natural that it’s like the course has always been there.

The short par 4s, such as the 10th, in particular are a blast here and tempt you to grab driver when that’s not always the smart play. You’ve got a lot of options off the tee here on most holes. You can play to your strengths and stay playable and then take your chances on the greens.

You’ll have fun discovering this course, but don’t pick a favorite hole until you’ve played …

No. 17 tee

No. 17 – There are some holes, like the cliff-side par 3 at Kapalua’s Bay Course, that you’ll always remember the first time you played them. This is one of them.

We’ve posted about this hole already, but it bares repeating. Set in the backdrop of an old quarry, this hole simply amazes at first sight.
With a snow-capped mountain perfectly framed in the distance, you glimpse a gorgeous green with a wealth of sand and scrub between you and the hole. But you’re not thinking about the desert. You’re looking to conjure your swing of the day – even if takes two. If you’re only playing this hole once, you don’t want to walk up to anything less than a putt.

I pushed my first attempt into the canyon wall and watched it trickle into the sand. I flushed my second and found it sitting beautifully on the back fringe. A mulligan par sent me to 18 with a smile and little care about the next outcome. No. 17 made my round.

Here’s guessing it’ll make yours too.

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For more information on golf and tourism in the Bend/Redmond area, go to www.visitcentraloregon.com.

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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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Southland: Salt Creek Golf Club Course Overview

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Aug. Southland

Thanks to the U.S. Open being played at Chambers Bay, links golf has enjoyed an unusual amount of time in the spotlight in 2015.

One course hoping to capitalize is Salt Creek Golf Club in Chula Vista, the most links-like course in San Diego.

Located 15 minutes south of downtown, Salt Creek arrives at its 15th anniversary in the wake of changes in ownership, its clubhouse and its course setup.

The Salt Creek staff is hoping those changes and a month of promotion of links golf turn more people on to the experience. But General Manager Armando Najera and Director of Golf Marco Ochoa know links golf will never be for everyone.

“We have a lot of people who really love it, and then there are some people who it’s just not their thing,” Najera says. “But the people who love it like that it’s a different golf course every day. You can hit the same spot in the fairway two straights days and end up in two different spots because of the wind.”

Getting people to that second round can be tricky, Ochoa says, on a course with multiple blind tee shots and layout quirks to master.

“You get a feel for the golf course after about three to five rounds,” Ochoa says. “But the problem is that a lot of people don’t give it that second chance because it’s not what they’re used to.”

That said, Salt Creek has tried to use exposure of the U.S. and British opens as teachable moments and founder players, especially younger ones, receptive.

“We had our biggest summer attendance ever this summer at our (five-day) golf camps,” Ochoa says. “We’re doing our part to grow the game.”

course view

The learning curve with links golf is something you saw play out in real time at Chambers Bay as the pros played it for the first time.

“When you fight links golf, you only get in more trouble,” Najera says. “You’ve got to adapt to the style of the golf course.”

That means good shots won’t always have good outcomes, but bad ones can also get good breaks.
“The course is firm and quick with rolling and sloping hills,” Ochoa says.

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But that terrain also for creative play, Ochoa says, especially in the short game.

“It’s bump and run, or we’ll have people putt from 50 yards out,” he says. “You can do that here.”
It takes a similar mix of creativity and club selection off the tee.

“You’ve got to play from the fairway here and sometimes that means taking iron or hybrid or 3-wood off the tee,” Najera says. “It’s not a course where you want to take driver every hole.”

The course is 6,900 yards from the tips, but usually plays shorter due to the terrain, depending on the wind.

“There’s a breeze every day,” Ochoa says, “but when we have Santa Anas, the course can play 500 yards longer.”

salt clubhouse

To enhance to the links look and feel of Salt Creek, the new ownership group, Pacific Hospitality Group, gave the clubhouse a faux finish resembling the clubhouses in Scotland.

It also added a deck that can accommodate 80 people and now overlooks the 18th hole, which used to be No. 2. Swapping the par 5s has improved aesthetics and demeanors, Najera says.

“It gives the course a more traditional feel,” he says, “and it’s an easier par 5 so more people leave the course smiling now.”

Keeping locals coming back and attractive new players from players such as Arizona and Canada is crucial to Salt Creek’s success, but Ochoa says the added exposure and appreciation for links golf in 2015 can only help.

“We’re a much different golf experience than anything you find in San Diego,” he says. “It’s what sets us apart.”

Salt Creek By The Numbers

BLT

2 – Meals you can get out of the BLT, the par 5 of BLTs

14 – The hole closest to Mexico, which you can see from the green

15 – Time in minutes south from downtown San Diego

2000 – Year the course opened

2012 – Year the course came under new ownership

90 – Drive in minutes between Salt Creek and its sister course, Warner Springs

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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.

Coasterra

Maderas: Introducing Coasterra

Coasterra

Coasterra, San Diego’s hottest new restaurant concept, launched this week with a private party and is set to open mid-August on Harbor Island.

Coasterra offers a modern Mexican-themed menu and impeccable views of San Diego from across the harbor. A wrap-around patio offers dining ambiance unlike anywhere else in the city. It was nine years in the marking, but chef Deborah Scott and Cohen Restaurant group got it right. What an exciting new addition the local restaurant scene and wonderful complement to adjacent Island Prime.

Welcome to San Diego, on behalf of your partners at Sunroad Enterprises and Troon Golf. We look forward to dining with you very soon.

Here’s a look at Coasterra:

patio

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wine

interior

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Creamed corn

bathroom

violins

The evening’s entertainment – the Electric Angels

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Movie review: “The Squeeze” Brings Golf, Gambling and the Semi-Return of Shooter McGavin To Your Screen

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Update: “The Squeeze” came out on DVD on June 9th

In 1986, Paul Newman and Tom Cruise teamed up to make a sequel to “The Hustler” called “The Color of Money,” a road-trip film about a pool hustler and his protégé.

Trade green felt for green grass and you’ve got a rough outline of “The Squeeze.”

In this case, Christopher McDonald (Shooter McGavin from “Happy Gilmore”) is a gambler like Newman and named Riverboat, and Jeremy Sumpter (“Peter Pan”) is the Cruise-equivalent undiscovered golf protégé named Augie.

Riverboat aims to pit the modest-appearing Augie in high stakes matches that supposedly harken back to the earliest days of the game. (The film is based on the real-life exploits of a golfer named Keith Platt.) The tandem eventually teams up for a high-stakes finale in Vegas shot at the spectacular Wynn Resort and Casino course.

I won’t spoil the ending other than to say it’s a thriller with a twist that leaves you guessing as to the actual outcome.

I wasn’t sure if the ending worked when I first watched it, but another friend viewing it for the first time enjoyed the ambiguity. You’ll have to decide for yourself after it comes out on VOD, iTunes and select theaters on April 17th.

As a genre, golf movies are few and far between (the last you likely saw was yet another “Tin Cup” re-rerun on The Golf Channel). But director and writer Terry Jastrow’s film certainly adds something unique to the mix.

McDonald as Riverboat channels Shooter McGavin’s slick, conniving ways and combines them with a little more charm and Southern business saavy, that is if your business is playing the odds. He really carries the film, but Auggie is no slouch, nor is his game.

Jastrow got 1,000 applicants for the part, which mandated a 5-handicap or less. A final call of eight to 10 players/actors made the cut to audition on the first tee at Bel Air Country Club in LA.

“I wanted to see these guys play under pressure, be it before me or with camera’s rolling,” Jastrow said during a teleconference promoting the picture. “Jeremy hit a 300-yard drive and made a bunker shot.

“I said, ‘We found our Augie.’”

The golf scenes measure up to the skill and authenticity Jastrow sought. You won’t be disappointed. And one particular trick shot will likely teach you a new use for your putter.

Jastrow knows a thing or two about authenticity in sports. He was under the tutelage of the legendary Roone Arledge at ABC Sports and won seven Emmys.

Besides the authenticity, the variety of the matches (they play cross-country to open film, for instance; this isn’t tournament golf) keeps you engaged and entertained.

The film culminates in a showdown between River Boat and Vegas gambling king pin Jimmy Diamonds (played by Michael Nouri) that turns life or death for Augie.

The poker scene that leads to the final golf showdown has been praised for its authenticity as well, but it’s the golf that gets you and keeps you until the end.

For a movie with a smaller theater release, it’s a major when it comes to getting a lot right about the game and making it fun to follow to the very end.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaR8BTP0XdI

The Squeeze is now featured on iTunes Movie Trailers.

Link: iTunes- The Squeeze

Available in Selected Theaters, VOD and iTunes

APRIL 17th

The Good Stuff

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Shop the TaylorMade 2014 Holiday Gift Guide and get free shipping on all orders! Offer ends 12/25/14.

One of the first pieces of writing advice I ever received remains one of the best, and I’ve practiced it daily ever since I was told it as a junior in high school: “You read the good stuff to write the good stuff.”

I practice it daily by trying not to start my writing day until I’ve read something good. Good might seem a bit of a nebulous goal, but I know it when I read it. The good stuff originally came from Sports Illustrated and mainstream print but has now migrated to blogs and websites I have in my reading rotation, which still largely consists of sportswriting.

Annually, the good stuff arrives in The Best American Sports Writing anthology, a compilation that, as the title says, consists of the best work from the previous year. Having your work included is like winning the Heisman or an Emmy for a sportswriter.

This series started the year I graduated high school – 1991 – and I’ve literally grown up with it as a writer. I just picked up the most recent edition as plane reading for my upcoming trip to Hawaii. Past volumes have been my travel books for years. I’d simply grab a few years at random and toss them in my bag and then later re-discover a great read and get engrossed all over again.

And that’s what these books do for writers: they suck you in. They always arrive before Christmas and are always my most anticipated read of the year. My ritual used to find the book at the bookstore, thumb through to see how many selected stories were familiar to me and then immediately rush home to retire to the couch and fall in love with writing all over again. It was always a great escape from the start of winter.

I read ever story and every page, but I never read the book cover to cover. I hop around looking for treasure buried in subjects where I don’t usually tread as a reader: mountain climbing, bowling, chess, etc. These in fact are the stories I usually learn the most from because they’re making me going somewhere I really don’t want to go as a reader, but the storytelling is so compelling, I have to finish.

And I just used the word “learn” and that’s the other things you do with these books a writer. You learn what works, the tricks of the trade and, perhaps mostly important, where the bar is, i.e., what the good stuff really looks like. You know because you’ve just been handed 300-some pages of it.

I could go on and on about favorite stories from these volumes over the years, which would be a fun list to do, but instead I’d like to focus on the other great read you can count on from these books – the foreword.

The foreword is written by the series editor, Glenn Stout, and I liken it to a coach’s pep talk before the big game. Glenn annually uses this space to pontificate on the state of the craft or offer some industry insight before commenting on the compilation of this year’s volume.

His letter gets you excited about writing and even more stoked to read that year’s volume than you already are. Mostly they make you want to get your stuff in next year’s volume.

His foreword this year is particularly great because it reflects on the history of the series. He talks about his experiences with it over the years and how it has now influenced an entire generation of writers – including me and mostly certainly many of my colleagues.

Before his annual solicitation for submissions, he closes with an anecdote that kind of says it all about what this series means to writers. He talks about a sportswriter reading the book on the bus and an aspiring writer noticing and inquiring how to get started in sportswriting. The writer hanfs his him the book and says, “Just read this.” Yep.

In his foreword this year, Glenn also acknowledges the words of appreciation he has received from writers about the series over the years. Mr. Stout, consider this the letter or email I’ve always been meaning to write and have never sent. Probably the highlight of my Twitter experience was finding you on there and being able to follow my unmet mentor in my chosen craft.

I try not to tell people things they already know, but, Glenn, you truly have a dream job, and thanks for fostering the dreams of us writers over the years and reminding us annually what the good stuff really looks like.

Editor’s note: My post-script to this post is that my current collection of these books regrettably stands at one. When I moved to California, I left the majority of my collection behind. I looked at my books and limited myself to one box given that otherwise I moved out here with only my clothes, a TV, my golf clubs and my car.

Parting with those books was tough. They really are your textbooks and you come to cherish them like children. My only solace was I figured they were retrievable in a Kindle world or via a used book store. But while I’ve made the leap to digital with books, I have a feeling I’ll always prefer this book in print. There’s just something about that ability to pick it up, open it at random and be carried away in the dreamy way I wish all writing worked.


Product Review: ClubCrown Stripe – Take Your School Spirit to the Course

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Save up to $100 on the SLDR Driver, the #1 driver on tour. Offer expires 12/31/14.

With the college football season headed to the home stretch and bowl season and college basketball tipping off, this is the height of the college sports year.

If you want to take your college spirit to the course, ClubCrown has an easy way to do it with a product that allows you to customize your clubs in the design of your favorite school.

For $19.99, you can purchase the ClubCrown Stripe, a stylish decal and alignment aid that is easily self-applied to your woods.

I was offered one to review and rather than my alma mater, Iowa State, I chose the school of my most spirited California golfer friends, a Texas A & M alum.

We took her Callaway Big Bertha and customized it quite quickly after watching the following video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xbT8hOun54.

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Your kit comes with the actual stripe and a practice stripe, but we didn’t find the practice stripe necessary. After watching the video, the application was quite simple.

The key is proper alignment of the stripe using the sweet spot sticker you put on your club. As long as you properly align the stripe and take the time to smooth out the stripe so as to eliminate any bubbles or wrinkles, you should be home free.

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The string you pull to cut the decal works quickly and cleanly, leaving you only to discard the unused portion of the stripe before you’re finished.

The final product is quite impressive and now comes in the colors of some 70 schools. It can be applied to every wood, from driver to rescue and is available at Roger Dunn.

It aids alignment not only being in the center of the club, but also by being the exact width as the ball.

And the product can also be removed without causing any damage to the club’s finish.

To order, or learn more about the product, go to www.clubcrownstripe.com.

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