Tag Archives: Blake Dodson

JC Golf: U.S. Open Preview & Picks By The Pros

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          As the year’s second major, the U.S. Open, arrives, storylines abound that, refreshingly, don’t involve Tiger Woods.

Unlike the Masters, Woods’ absence at Pinehurst has been barely a blip on the media radar this week. Instead, players who are actually playing in the tournament have been the storyline and, of course, the course itself.

According to my golf-centric Twitter feed, these are the lead stories going into the tournament.

  1. Can Phil Mickelson complete his career Grand Slam?

After his win at the British Open last year, Mickelson has now won them all, save for the Open, at which he’s finish second an incredible six times, including at Pinehurst 15 years ago. Despite his clout of having won five majors, a Mickelson victory seems a bit unlikely when you consider his atypically quiet year on Tour. And he’s tinkering with his putting grip (going to the claw), which is already drawing doubters. As one columnist wrote, “There goes Mickelson, out-thinking himself again.”

But a Mickelson victory would certain give the Tour season a shot in the arm. As would …

2. Will Jordan Spieth Finally Break Through?

The Next Big Thing in golf would erase the “Next” with a major championship. To do it, he’ll have to learn to close, something he’s been unable to do thus far this season. But after finishing second to Bubba Watson at the Masters, a breakthrough at the U.S. Open would announce an arrival that seems inevitable. But as Jack Nicklaus says of Tiger Woods’ major chase: You haven’t done it until you’ve done it.

3. A Classic Venue Restored

Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore oversaw a $2.5 million renovation of the No. 2 course to restore it to the original Donald Ross design and a more natural state. Among other things, that meant removing turf and restoring bunkers and waste areas. As a result, this Open isn’t expected to play like an Open in that it won’t have ankle-high rough. However, in the practice rounds the pros have reported that the greens have been tough to hit, thus the winner’s chance possible riding on a strong short game, which (back to No. 1) … hello, Lefty.

But the course setup has some forecasting controversy …

4.  Could We See A Rules Controversy Like the 2010 PGA?

The 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits is where a rules controversy erased Dustin Johnson’s best chance at a major victory. He grounded his club in what he believed to be a waste area instead of a bunker. He thus invoked a two-stroke penalty that cost him the championship.   

Similar course conditions at Pinehurst abound, meaning the rules official is certain to get a workout this week. Something to watch for, but here’s hoping we don’t have another major overshadowed by a rules controversy.

There’s also the chance for Bubba Watson to notch a second major and really put some sizzle into the Tour season. But none of our JC pros chose him. Their picks are listed below.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch

Rory McIlroy – I think he has momentum on his side and his game 9and mind) are now sharp enough to return to top form

Adam Scott – He has become one of the most consistent players on the planet (hence his No. 1 world ranking), he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game, so if the putter is working he should be a favorite

Long Shot…..Webb Simpson – Wait a second, a former champion as a long-shot?  After the 2012 championship, his game has fallen off, but he is getting hot at the right time and has the experience to prevail.

Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn –

Webb Simpson – Played well in the FedEx.

Troy Ferguson, Head Golf Professional, Twin Oaks –

Graham DeLaet. Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn

Jordan Spieth – Too young to be scared of the U.S. Open.

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Reidy Creek and Oaks North

Sergio Garcia – My wife’s favorite.

JC Golf Spotlight Hole: No. 9 at Rancho Bernardo Inn

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Just as the classic short par-4 10th at Riviera Country Club in LA tests the pros on tour, No. 9 at Rancho Bernardo Inn offers its own set of temptations, options and risks.

The temptation is seeing the green 306 yards from the back tees and grabbing driver –  thus ignoring the sizeable pond and pine tree on the right – and going for glory.

Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Blake Dodson says this option has progressively paid off with time thanks to advances in club and swing technology. For the same reasons, the risks have also changed – for the golfer and the course.

(Note: the ninth green sits adjacent to the resort’s banquet facility.)

“With the modern equipment and the modern swing, it’s a very attainable golf hole,” Dodson says. “In 1962, the year we opened, the driving average on tour was 240-250 yards. You used to challenge the hole and the water would come into play.

“Now the Aragon Ballroom comes into play.”

Yes, a tee shot flying the green and ending up in the landscaping is a legitimate concern these days for talented and well-equipped players.

“A better player can get there with a 3-wood,” Dodson says.

The reward is a possible eagle or even birdie. The risk, for most of the recreational field, is a ball in the water and a sour end to the front nine.

“I’ve seen a lot of watery graves and good scores lost there,” Dodson notes.

But Dodson says there is a time and place for the driver play.

“When the pin is front left, that completely makes sense,” he says. “If you’re drawing the ball off the water, there’s a bail-out left and it plays into an easier chip.”

But he cautions about OB left.

“If it comes in hot (and turning left), it ends up in my cart barn. I’ve seen that, too.”

For his part, Dodson espouses a layup, especially after a birdie on No. 8, a very attainable par-5.

“You want to give yourself the best chance of that birdie/birdie finish,” he says.

That means playing to set up your most comfortable second shot.

“Some days I’ll take a 6-iron just to have a confident full swing on my second from maybe 150 yards,” he says. “I’d rather have the full swing and control the flight.”

And that avoids the most common predicament Dodson sees, which is a driver that doesn’t quite reach its destination.

“Then you probably have an awkward distance with your wedge,” he says. “ You’re at less than a full swing, which a lot of people struggle with.”

As far as Dodson is aware, no one has ever holed a tee shot on No. 9, but he says that’s only a matter of time.

“I expect we’ll see an albatross there,” he says.

However, that soon may become a bit bigger challenge than it is now. To help No. 9 stay challenging in today’s equipment environment, Dodson says the course is looking at lengthening it.

“That’s one of the few places on property where we can add yardage,” he says. “We’re considering it.”

Some golfers may not appreciate that, but the Aragon Ballroom and the cart barn certainly will.

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 The sand trap lurking behind the green at 9; you don’t want to be hitting out toward the water

Ask The Pro: Rancho Bernardo Inn’s Blake Dodson

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It’s always golf season in California, but for golfers in most of the country, this time of year is when their thoughts turn to their golf gear and making upgrades.

With that in mind, Rancho Bernardo Inn Director of Golf Blake Dodson touches on three equipment areas – driver, hybrid, putter – that deserve your utmost attention this spring due to changes in trends and technology.

How often should you upgrade your driver?

“If you’ve got a driver that’s more than three years old, you’re running on antiquated technology. The technology turns over so fast now that your driver is like your computer.

“For the golfer, life is too short to play bad golf. Get modern technology.

“If you’re a beginning golfer, there’s such a flood of second-hand technology out there that there may be driver a year or two behind that could be a real steal for you.”

How much more prevalent is it becoming to carry multiple hybrids?

“We’ll, I carry two. I used to hit 1-irons and 2-irons, but they don’t make those any more. But I’ve made the transition and you’re seeing people now carrying as many woods and hybrids as you are wedges.

“They’re easier to hit and you get a lot distance out of them.

“When you look at a look of college kids, they’ve been carrying multiple hybrids for years and you’re going to start seeing that evolve through the rest of the game.

“That’s the big shift in the make-up of people’s bags. Three-irons and 4-irons are becoming like the eight-track for a lot of people – outdated.”

The banning of the anchored stroke was the big putting story of 2013, but oversized putter grips seemed to be the next biggest. How much are you seeing this trend reflected in recreational players?

“It’s lighting in a bottle for people. My advice is to use one but to try the different sizes. The size of the grip needs to correlate to the size of your hands.

“It’s all about how the putter rests of your hands, especially if you have larger hands. And for those people, these grips have especially been salvation for them.

“You want to have an oversized putting grip installed professionally, so let your pro help you with sizing and make sure you get into the right equipment.

“The grips helps you have firm wrists and soft hands and takes the play out of your putting stroke, which is what we’re all after.”