Tag Archives: Chambers Bay

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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.

salt gren

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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F As In Fox: Things An Epically Failed U.S Open Broadcast Could’ve Tried

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In the days following the 115th U.S. Open, the criticism of Chambers Bay has largely died down, but the throttling of Fox has not, and with good reason.

While there’s no guarantee of another major at Chambers, Fox is contractually capable of sabotaging these things for another 11 years (Tiger will be 51 and probably still stuck on 14 majors).

Fox is a football network clearly out of its depth covering golf. They produced a clueless, lifeless broadcast that did a complete disservice to a major that gave them only everything you could ever want in a golf tournament.

We won’t waste space repeating the rightly deserved criticisms here, but the whole thing got the blog thinking about the state of golf TV broadcasts in general and here’s why:

Fox promised to break the golf broadcast mold and instead took it to the kiln and had it re-fired. How much of that was dictated by the USGA, I don’t know, but that’s of no concern here. The lack of imagination and innovation, and let’s break it down further – effort – was where a lot of the ire should be directed, but it also speaks to a larger point: There’s a stultifying lack of creativity around the game right now and in particular in golf broadcasts, which have changed how much again this century?

Maybe the networks became lazy over the past 15 years from simply having to point a camera at Tiger and pray that he made the weekend, but golf broadcasts on the whole have progressed about as far as newspapers in that time, meaning they haven’t.

Fox’s playbook seemed to be to hire Holly Sanders, point a camera at her, and the course, and pray. We see how well that worked.

As followers of the blog know, we don’t take this tone often, but we come not to denigrate but rather to be the Golf TV Think Thank Fox had two years to visit and didn’t. (Oh wait, they shaded the greens; my bad.)

What follows is a list of a few things Fox could’ve tried if it actually cared about progressing the golf broadcast model. What’s odd is that some of these come straight from the football broadcasts Fox knows well. Such as …

Mike up a player – How has this not happened? Well, we know why it didn’t happen when a certain would-be-sailor was world No. 1, but then don’t stream them live. You revisit snippets like they do with the NFL players. Is there a reason we can’t get a wire on Jordan Spieth, who is an extraordinarily and unusually verbally expressive player on the course? He talks through an entire shot process out loud with his caddie. Don’t catch random bits. Give him a mike and capture the whole thing and thereby let fans into the game, just like it does in the NFL. And if you can’t mike a player for some reason, how about a caddie?

Seriously, how has this not been done, especially in a sport perceived as mostly having generic humanoids as players? Someone with a personality and media saavy, like Pat Perez, for instance, should jump at the chance to do this.

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Player profiles –
For the broadcast, this is two-fold, seeing as they eschewed any attempt to profile profiles (because Jordan Spieth is a household name already, right?) and introduce them to the uninitiated, but I more mean capturing them in a graphic box like they would with an NFL QB. Example:

Tim Tebow, Philadelphia Eagles
Strengths

Running

Weaknesses

Everything else, particularly if it involves throwing anything with laces

OK, that one is a bit exaggerated in jest, but you could easily do this in golf and give some feel for a player who’s known or unknown to you. If you don’t know the player, as a golfer you can identify to the player type. An attempt:

Jordan Spieth
Strengths

Clutch putter – the best on Tour and perhaps one of the best ever.

Unshakable on-course composure

A knack for rising to the challenge in big moments (see: 2015 Masters)

Weaknesses

A 21-year-old body doesn’t deliver some of the power of his peers – yet

A Tip To Try

Looks at the hole – not the ball – on short putts

You could capture quirks about players, especially unconventional ones like Bubba Watson, and make them known to average golfers who don’t necessarily have the acumen to catch some of this stuff.

Build a replica green complex and teach a little – Chambers Bay has the on-course footprint of a small nation state. They could’ve easily found room, and you know they had the budget, to build a 19th hole for TV purposes only that could’ve served as a place to teach. Recreate some of those crazy lies and show how they were, or could’ve been, played. On the whole, golf broadcasts teach very little in relation to what they could be doing.

You don’t want it to break up the flow of the action, but when the tournament field is in neutral – as it was for long stretches at Chambers – you’d have time to do this instead of show a parade of bogey putts.

The more golf I play the more I’m reminded how much the general public doesn’t know about the game. TV is the best vehicle for it, but they have to be committed to it. Instead, Fox committed to nothing.

tree

Document the building of Chambers Bay – The appeal of the tourney was largely the new venue, something we rarely see in a major, much less in such a break from tradition as Chambers Bay was with the U.S. Open’s traditional style of play. Having famed architect Gil Hanse on to do some course commentary was a nice thought, but not nearly enough. Something closer to the exemplary document the Golf Channel did could’ve been produced and parsed into something akin to ESPN’s 30 for 30 shorts and doled out over lulls in the action. That the course turned into such a story, which was totally predictable, only makes this even more of an oversight.

Send Joe Buck to the bench and go to the pen – Monotone Joe would’ve been great for a chess match or a bingo tournament, but not the U.S. Open. His lack of emotion, enthusiasm and any ability to set up his golf comrades, who were a JV team themselves, was a killer. (To that end, Jay Delsing? Jay Delsing? Does Jay Delsing even want to listen to Jay Delsing cover the U.S. Open?)

When you turn on ESPN for the British, you get a certain golf giddiness in the voices of Mike Tirico or say Scott Van Pelt, because they’re genuinely excited to be there. Golfers connect to that passion and are just the same turned off by a lack thereof. Buck should’ve been allowed to stay home and re-laminate his St. Louis Cardinals baseball card collection if he couldn’t get up for the big game.

Not going to speculate on replacements, but Fox has a year to figure it out. Make this priority No. 1.

Social media, anyone? – On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter/TV trend (sorry, Twitter), but I’d make an exception for golf broadcasts, which currently do none of this. I mostly don’t like that Twitter is used as a vehicle for easy sensationalism in a lot of other sports, but golf has many thought contributors who add much to the discussion and context while watching tournaments. I know because I follow these people.

It would’ve been only too easy to turn on Twitter during the Tiger-tastrophe, but I’d rather see it used to highlight great play and contribute to greater understanding of the game, but a little snark might not be a bad thing for comic relief in a sport that can always use a little. Speaking of which …

Anyone have Will Ferrell’s number? – I’m not trying to bring the Dennis Miller/MNF disaster to golf, but the game could use a lighter side along the lines of what David Feherty provides. Ferrell cut some legitimately funny short clips for Pinehurst last year (Will Ferrell predicts the British Open: “The French.”), showing a passion and interest in the game.

If you’re truly getting outside the box, why would you not try something like this? For example, Will Ferrell riffing on fescue. You wouldn’t have watched that? Really? You don’t want to make a mockery, but a laugh track certainly beats dead air or a broadcast that’s simply flat as Fox’s was.

Clearly handing Fox a 10-year deal for the Open was a major mistake. They’ve got a chance in 2016 at Oakmont to prove it wasn’t. I suggest they get busy – now.

Six Observations About Chambers Bay and the U.S. Open

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1. “Old” School Is Cool – When I walked onto Chambers Bay for the first time, I immediately felt transported back to my couch in past Augusts at 5 a.m. when the TV greeting of “We’re coming to you live from Royal Birkdale/Troon/Portrush, etc.” would send a giddy chill down my golf spine.

I’ve never been to a British, but it has to feel a lot like this, or at least that’s the impression you get as you start to walk and discover this tree-free (OK, one) and bunkered beautiful behemoth.

It’s an 8-year-old course with the feeling of something much older and ancient because of the aged look of the course and its link to links golf, the birth of the game. Chambers feels like it’s always been here, yet its history is being made in real time. How rare and incredibly cool for golf.

For sports comparison, let’s just say, the first football to fly at Jerry World was probably cool … but not this cool.

tree

2. Background … Check – Chambers is really two experiences in one. There’s the course and then there’s the setting, which is breathtaking. The Puget Sound background would be awesome all but itself, but the touches of the tree and the train are not only stunning scenery but also incredibly smart visual branding of the course (more on this in a second).

On TV, Chambers is doing for the Pacific Northwest what the Farmers does for San Diego: It’s the best TV commercial it could ask for. Someone on local sports radio said as much yesterday … and that was by noon.

Experiencing Seattle for the first time, I can tell you the representation is spot on. The awesome just kind of keeps on going here. The only way it could be better at Chambers is if they could reposition Mt. Rainier behind a par 3 or put it on a floating barge for the week.

A scenic aside: I saw a sunset here on Wed. that blew me away. The mountains not only reflected pink, but a pink shaft of light seemed to connect the mountains to the clouds. As a sunset connoisseur … wow. My only regret is that I was massively out of position for a camera phone photo.

train

3. Three Words: Trains Are Awesome – I’d been on the course for five minutes when the first train came by. I just happened to be on No. 16 and captured the photo at top. How incredibly cool, and what an awesome way to incorporate the culture of the area into the course design.

The use of the train in the framing of the holes is an absolute masterstroke of course design. It evokes the same appreciation I have for California course designers in the way they use the ocean and mountains. There’s a serious art to this, and it’s my favorite thing about the game from a creative perspective.

Moreover, what the train does is give added identity to holes in a way you don’t see on the British courses. Aside from a few holes on St. Andrews (The Road Hole & No. 18), I can’t conjure exact visual reference of many specific holes in the British Open rotation. No disrespect, but I just see a bunch of heavily bunkered and flat generic holes, which is purely my TV perspective.

By the time Sunday is over, I think golfers will have a lot of visual reference of Chambers, partly due to the train. I realized this as soon as I sent the above photo to a golf friend, who texted back, “What hole is this? I can’t wait to watch it on TV.”

The use of the train as added backdrop for greens and tees is equally brilliant. And my guess is if/when the Open comes back here, someone will have bought a branded locomotive. In the old days, that would’ve been a total TaylorMade move.

1318 Chambers

4. Nos. 13-18, What A Finish – Watching the holes in progression for the first time yesterday, I was struck by how visually strong this course becomes from 13 (the tough par 4) on. During the practice round near this stretch, I was highly curious how it would translate on TV. The answer: It could scarcely be better.

What I really like is that the visual intimidation factor of the course comes across akin to how it does at TPC Sawgrass. This is made-for-TV golf that totally works and will only become more dramatic and effective as the tournament pressure and circumstances ramp up.

Dear Golf Gods: Can you please send us a Sunday horserace?

barge

5. TV, Take Two – Aside from greens that aren’t well, green, (I had people asking me what was wrong with them), there’s another problem: The ball and hole aren’t always easy to track here, partly due to the lack of white-green contrast you normally get in golf. “Where’s the ball?” was a common refrain in our viewing session. Golf shouldn’t be like trying to track the puck in hockey, but that’s a bit of what we’ve got here. (Switch to orange balls, anyone?)

As for the hole issue, Fox actually highlighted one with a lime green circle late in the round. That didn’t seem to be the answer, but it was good to know someone had at least identified the problem and was trying.

Otherwise, the reverse angles of the course from Fox Island (and a barge perhaps; can I sign up to run Barge Cam?) are added awesome to an overall visual production full of it.

sculpture

6. The Spectator Experience, The Other Shoe – Following this tournament on the ground is a combination of brutal and impossible, more so than just your usual difficulty at a PGA Tour event. This course is walkable in the same way the Himalayas are … it really isn’t. By comparison, Torrey Pines, for example, is a literal and figurative walk in the park.

On the ground, Chambers Bay is a steep, dirty sand box to negotiate with very few places for foot soldiers to get a great glimpse of the action. (That said, I didn’t get to 15, 16, 17, where it undoubtedly has to better than in the higher elevations.)

In what few view areas they are, fans are herded there like wildebeests meaning hardly anyone sees anything. I “heard” Phil and Bubba hit tee shots yesterday but in reality saw nothing. It’s just not very possible here.

I’m not going to drag this section out as to not detract from an overall fantastic experience. From the hospitality suite (the Trophy Room) overlooking the course on Wed., I had a blast, and that’s the way to play Chambers Bay from a fan’s perspective. You pay a little more, but you enjoy it more, are a lot less frustrated and have a perspective on golf unlike anyone other. It’s a lot like what you see on TV, which is what this place is really all about it. That’s not a criticism, just reality.

I’ve seen it before and am happy to enjoy it that way until the day I actually come here and play, which I suspect millions will want to do after seeing the broadcast this week.

Maderas: 2015 U.S. Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

The venue alone already guarantees the 115th U.S. Open will be like no other. Built specifically for the purpose of hosting an Open, Chambers Bay is the first course to bring major championship golf to the Pacific Northwest.

If you’ve caught a glimpse of the course on ESPN or the Golf Channel, the Puget Sound backdrop all but guarantees this will be the most scenic venue ever for an Open. Whether it makes for great golf remains to be seen as no PGA event has ever been contested here. Chambers, the University of Washington’s college course, is a mere eight years old.

The uniqueness of the venue is the lead story, but the place holds the potential of an epic Open due to the game’s elite players playing their best right now. The tour could’ve scarcely scheduled the winners any better thus far to make the case for golf’s next generation.

What follows is our Open overview with predictions to follow from Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson, who’s turning into something of a savant at this. He’s 2 for 2 in 2015 (Farmers, Masters) at picking the winner. Can he go 3 for 3? You’ll see in a few minutes.

On to the preview …

paper

1. Hello, Chambers Bay – Built on ground that used to be a gravel quarry, one that helped pave many Seattle streets and roads, Chambers is links-like. It only has one tree, thus making for a venue you’re used to seeing over the pond. But the elevation changes are what keeps it from being a true links. The course is truly a roller coaster right down to its complex greens, which make Maderas’ look downright flat. You get the impression Chambers will look like golf in a pinball machine. Will it drive the best golfers in the world to tilt?

2. U.S. Open or British Open? – Like Pinehurst a year ago, Chambers is a departure from the U.S. Open norm of deep rough beating the field into submission. You may recall that Martin Kaymer putted his way to victory at Pinehurst, choosing the flat stick repeatedly in green-side scenarios. A similar game plan could be one of the keys to victory at Chambers.

The course is one of the longest in Open history, but advance reports suggest that length might be mitigated by dry conditions that are allowing the ball to roll. Two weeks of pristine, and unseasonably dry, Seattle weather have made for a fast course.

Predicting a score at with no professional track record is tricky, but ESPN’s Andy North suggests the pros have already caught a break with calm winds in the forecast. With its teeth in, North suggested, even par or worse might win.

3. Spieth-Mode – The last time Jordan Spieth was seen in a major, he was at the Masters doing a Marshawn Lynch impersonation – unstoppable.

It’s continued to be his year on Tour and he’s a favorite again at Chambers for two reasons: His caddie knows the place and Spieth is one of the few to have played Chamber in competition (the 2010 U.S. Amateur).

Given the way his year is going, it’s nearly unfathomable to envision Spieth not in contention and if it comes down to putting, who would you take over him right now? Anybody? Some are suggesting he’s knocking on the door of being the best putter in Tour history.

4. The Case for Rory – On his way to becoming world No. 1 – Spieth is 2 – Rory shredded Muirfield a year ago to win the British. So clearly this style of golf suits him.

Is Rory ready to re-capture his major momentum in what’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for him? There’s no question he’s got the length. But can he find the consistency to put together four steady rounds during what might become, as many are suggesting, a war of attrition and supreme test of patience?

5. Creativity Counts – Many golfers, including Tiger, have talked about how many ways there are to play the holes at Chambers Bay. Andy North suggested it’d take “25 to 30” rounds to truly learn the place.

There’s an emphasis on creativity and there’s no more creative player on Tour than Phil Mickelson. Could Mickelson at his crafty best pull it off this week to complete the career Grand Slam?

Mickelson went T-2 at the Masters showing he can still get up for the majors. He’s a dark horse this week, but an under-the-radar Phil could be dangerous.

Now on to our expert … Chris Mayson.

Chris: From what I have heard from the PGA Tour players, it sounds like Chambers Bay is pretty long and open but will throw up some tricky tests around the green. I have a feeling that this will produce a random winner from outside the top 40 in the world. Maybe a European who is used to playing links golf?!

My safe pick is Rory McIlory. Very boring choice, but he grew up on links golf, he hits it long and straight and is clearly the best player in the world.

May Southland: Golf & Go Coastal Cruises

May Southland

Golf fans attending the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in June will arrive by land, air and now even sea thanks to a new Orange County golf cruise company.

Golf and Go Coastal Cruises is booking two sailings with itineraries that include stops at Chambers Bay during the tournament. Other cruises they are offering up until the Open include stopping to play Chambers Bay.

Golf & Go owner Jamie Austin says there’s a lot of excitement around Chambers since it’s a new U.S. Open venue. According to Austin, a similar cruise to the British Open last year sold out in two weeks.

“It’ll be interesting to see if it sells out as fast as the British Open,” she says. “We’ve had lots of calls. And to be able to golf it around the same time is just as fun.

“It’s a beautiful course. You won’t be disappointed.”

Founded last year, Golf & Go is the only American cruise company specializing in golf cruises, which are more common in Europe, Austin says.

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The company, based in Laguna Hills, has partnered with elite courses up and down the West Coast – Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, Spyglass Hill, Half Moon Bay, to name a few – to combine world-class golf and destination for trips of three, four, seven and nine days for groups of 50 or 60 per ship. Their destinations range all the way from Vancouver, BC, Canada, to Ensenada, Mexico.

Having the U.S. Open on the West Coast this year is a unique opportunity for the company and golf fans, Austin says.

“We’ll have tickets available for your guests,” she says. “And the great thing about going via cruise is that you don’t have to worry about staying and finding a hotel. You just go, get back on the ship and resume your cruise.”

And you’re likely tee it up the next day. The cruises are designed to be golf-intensive, although they also offer itineraries for non-golfing spouses as well.

A teaching pro travels with each group to provide, among other things, on-ship instruction utilizing the last teaching technology – swing simulators, etc. Celebrity cruise lines even has a ship with an upper deck comprised of natural turf to allow for short game and putting practice.

The touring pro also accompanies the golfers to the course and monitors their progress.

“They are there as mentors and want to help you,” Austin says. “They’ll help you figure out what works and what doesn’t to try to help improve your game.

“Getting yourself more into golf is what the golf cruise is all about. And you don’t have to think about anything else. When you get off the ship, your clubs are waiting for you.”

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Austin has always been into golf, but not so much into cruising. Austin is a cruise convert, which says makes her an ideal promoter of the experience because she understands the objections and misconceptions.

“I was asked to go on a cruise several times and kept saying no. I didn’t like the claustrophobic thought of being stuck on a ship with a bunch of people I didn’t know,” she says. “Those are the things that stick in your mind when you’re not a cruiser and you don’t understand it.”

A trip to the Caribbean completely changed her perspective.

“It was a real eye-opener,” Austin says. “It was so much different than I expected.”

Among other things, the quality of the food and the level of activity far exceeded Austin’s expectations. She noted that it’s now common for wine tastings, cooking classes, shopping trips, and dancing and fitness classes to be part of cruise itineraries.

The primary concern the Golf & Go faces about a golf cruise is how to accommodate a spouse who doesn’t golf. Austin says this is addressed through a separate itinerary that combines ship activities and opportunities in the port cities.

“We work on itineraries through conversations with the group and through research of what’s going on at the port city, be it tours, festivals, concerts or whatever else might be going on at the time,” she says.

“We want to take advantage of everything our destinations have to offer, be it on the course, the ship or in the city.”

Golf & Golf is looking forward to offering the best both the golf and cruises industries have to offer. In particular, Austin hand-picked the courses the golfers will play.

“We chose these courses because I know people who’ve played them and I gathered a lot of information beforehand,” Austin says. “We’re excited to offer these courses to our clients and take them there on ships that are rich and luxurious.”

For more information on Golf & Go Coastal cruises, go to www.golfngocruises.com. To a book a cruise, contact Jamie Austin at 800.494.4067 or Jamie@golfngocruises.com.