As residents know, California is a winter wonderland not only for its balmy temps but also its sunsets, which tend to be more colorful than the summer variety. Thursday was a prime example. I’ve included a few photos and a video of Thursday’s display. The photo at the end shows you this one’s humble beginnings, but the key was a cloud layer that became an awesome canvas for a natural lightshow after the sun went down. Fascinating stuff.
And would you believe it came from this humble beginning?
If you love golf and you love Petco Park, Callaway Golf has designed your field of dreams on Tony Gwynn Drive.
On Wednesday, Callaway unveiled the Links at Petco, a nine-hole par-3 golf fun house set up inside the stadium giving you shots you thought you might only ever see on a video game. Seriously, who ever thought the fly balls at Petco one day would be golf balls?
Well, obviously, Callaway did.
In a genius dual use of a beloved sports venue, Callaway has given the game a much-need shot of creativity and pure golf fun under the sunny San Diego sky.
Our group teed off a little before 8 a.m. and was initially relieved to see the whole concept hadn’t been turned into a giant water hazard by the previous night’s deluge. What we discovered instead was an urban golf oasis set inside the familiar confines of a major league baseball stadium.
The course includes a “Happy Gilmore” hole
Looking out toward center field, painted targets, flags and palms tree now stood where you’d otherwise find a pitcher and his defenders. Golf gloves replaced baseball gloves and mitts. And “Play ball” meant tee it up and discover an unprecedented day for golf.
The routing was nine tee shots scattered throughout the stadium – eight being from the concourse – toward targets painted on the field. Greens were outlined with a circle drawn around each pin. A ball on the green equaled a par. A ball in the circle equaled a birdie. Anything else was a bogey. And put your putter away. No one’s holing out here. Tee shots only. And this isn’t BYOC. You can leave your sticks in the car. Callaway’s got you.
At each tee box, a Callaway bag offered your options. The selections broke down into right- and left-handed clubs for men and women within the appropriate range of options for the distance.
I will tell you up front, this is a tough track, especially with the wind blowing in.
Our group got off the No. 1 tee, behind home plate, in good shape, but then came the elevation change. Hitting from the upper deck toward the outfield, we quickly discovered the Pacific offers up about a three-club wind when it decides to blow.
The goal of getting a hole-in-one to instantly win a new Callaway drive suddenly seemed a little more daunting.
But the real prize was nine holes of pure fun and, for me, discovering Petco Park in a way I never had before. From warming up in the batting cages (our on-deck circle) to actually being at field level, it was a day at Petco unlike any other.
The familiarities of the game soon settled into the new venue. When a tee shot found the brown strip of dirt short of the outfield fence, appropriate ribbing about having warning-track power ensued.
As we were escorted around the course by our female caddie, Heather, the competitive juices soon began to flow and the desire to pull off a golf shot grew as we realized the true challenge the course offered.
Our group eventually racked up a respectable number of pars and even a few birdies on holes ranging from 45 yards to, with the wind, up to about 140. You never went deeper in your bag than an 8 iron.
But I did, indeed, hit an 8 on No. 9, a lengthy hole played toward a green in deep center flanked by a palm tree – and I crushed it. Granted, wind was at my back, but I put one in the cheap seats, an outcome I relished and celebrated on the tee. You can keep your birdie. I just went deep at Petco. I dug that long ball.
But if ever there was a day you wished for a little slow play, this was it. It was over too soon, but given the success (the event sold out in hours at $50 a player) you’d have to imagine it’ll be back after it ends its run on Monday.
And who knows? Maybe it’ll be coming to other big-league stadiums. Who’s up for a West Coast swing? For now, Petco is the Pebble of major league baseball stadium golf courses.
I’m glad I crossed this one off my bucket list, but then again, who would ever thought it would exist.
Congrats to Callaway on an excellent concept and execution. What a great place to play through. Let’s do it again – soon.
Taking a bit of inspiration from ESPN’s popular 30 for 30 documentary series, we present 9 for 9 – nine short videos that capture the experience of playing the nine holes at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. As you’ll see there’s much to see, do and discover during your day at The Ranch – and after. Have we mentioned the course is a quarter mile from the ocean?
On an overcast morning during my stay at Sunriver Resort, just outside of Bend, Ore., I decided to look for a hike instead of a golf course.
I was directed to Benham Falls, the trail for which started just on the edge of the sprawling and heavily forested Sunriver property. It turned out be one of the best travel audibles, and hikes, ever.
The hike begins with a tranquil stroll through the forest over a paved trail until at about the 2-mile mark you cross a wooden bridge over the Deschutes River. This is an optimal place to admire the scenery of central Oregon and even glean a little history of the river. There are educational signs posted along the banks about the discovery of the area, logging, etc.
Once you cross the bridge, it’s about 500 yards to that movie moment where you can hear the falls but not quite see them. In another 100 feet or so, you can get close enough to the river to see it turning turbid. Beyond that, you’re free to follow the beauty and power of natural unleashed for miles through towering canyon falls lined with pine trees and giant logs strewn across the river.
Not anticipating there’d be so much to follow and actually see (and I did have a later tee time to keep), I only tracked the falls through the first of its few dramatic and scenic turns in the river, but the trails give you some awesome and varied perspectives to do so. Those natural landings and outcroppings allowed for the videos that follow.
This was the first time I’d hiked a falls, and it made it immediately memorable and among the best I’d taken.
The short list of memorable hikes:
Sweetheart Rock in Lanai
Smith Rock (same trip – more on this in a later post)
So if you get to central Oregon, definitely hike the falls, and those to follow. It surely will be as memorable for you as it was for me.
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).
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.
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.
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.
During at stay at Pechanga Casino in July, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Kiyokuni Ikeda, the new head chef at Umi Sushi and Oyster bar.
He graciously agreed to let an amateur videographer study him at work while he made an umi roll, which consists of albacore, tempura shrimp, crab, jalapeno and spicy aioli. The results were, naturally, delicious.
The following videos allow you to study a master at is craft.