Memorial Park Redo Earns Raves, But Will It Draw A Decent Field?

It’s been swell to read all of the positive reviews this week of Tom Doak and Brooks Koepka’s renovation of Memorial Park, host to next year’s Houston Open.

But as Brentley Romine writes, a fall date on the PGA Tour is not an easy sell to players. Will the rejuvenation of a muni make a difference next year?

In a world where many pro events are contested on private or expensive courses, the addition of Memorial Park to the Tour equation in Houston is a breath of fresh air.

“One week out of the year the PGA Tour is going to play an amazing golf course that was actually built for them, built with them in mind, but with the different teeing areas, for the other 51 weeks out of the year, the citizens of Houston are going to be able to play a world-class golf course for a reasonable amount of money,” Harmon said.

“… The city is going to love it. Everybody’s going to want to play there.”

But will the Tour’s stars? This year’s Houston Open field marks the weakest non-opposite-field event in nearly five years, according to the Official World Golf Ranking, which rates the strength of field a 73.

Either way, the story of a public course rejuvenation is always more important to golf than the coming and goings of PGA Tour players who, uh, come and go like ships in the night. So either way, 2020 at Memorial Park should be special.

Butch Harmon posted some nice images of next year’s venue on Instagram:

Sheep Ranch To Debut (To The Public, This Time) In June, 2020

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While the mystique of the Sheep Ranch was fun, that such an extraordinary stretch of coastline with Coore and Crenshaw architecture will soon be available to the public, is better.

From Jason Lusk’s Golfweek report on Bandon Dunes resort announcing the official opening date.

The original 13 greens with an unset, play-as-you-like routing built by Tom Doak lay just across Whiskey Run Lane to the north of Old Macdonald, one of four existing 18-hole layouts at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in southwestern Oregon. The property wasn’t walled off or exactly private, but golfers needed to know whom to ask to secure a tee time.

That all changes June 1, 2020, with the highly anticipated opening of the Sheep Ranch.

Bulldozers and construction crews replaced those 13 greens in the past year, as Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed a new 18-hole course that will feature nine greens on the hundred-foot cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.

You can read more at the official site. And here’s a teaser:

Jack Nicklaus To Renovate His Muirfield Village Design (Again)

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Tim Rosaforte reports on Jack Nicklaus announcing to the Muirfield Village members a planned greens redo, not the first for his co-design with Desmond Muirhead.

Most noteworthy may be the efforts to lengthen the 11th and 15th holes, two splendid back nine par-5s he’s been unwilling to stretch out. Does Nicklaus believe regulatory help is not coming and this is why he did so, or is he believing that even with some sort of change in equipment rules, the tees are still needed?

Flyovers: Hirono's C.H. Alison Restoration

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Always high on the list of courses architecture aficionados hoped to see restored: C.H. Alison’s design of Hirono Golf Club design. Not only did it exhibit some extraordinary bunkering, but the amazing property has long been seen as one of the more dramatic in golf and deserving of a sensitive replenishment.

Brad Klein at GolfAdvisor.com scouted out the work recently and filed this piece.

And now architect’s Mackenzie and Ebert are tweeting side-by-side aerials showing the work before and after. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen such a thing and it’s quite compelling.

You can check out the holes posted so far at their Twitter account.

Here is the third hole. And if you go to full screen with a decent connection, the details really shine through.

Stanley Park: Rare MacKenzie Public Course Under Threat Of Redevelopment

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Sad news just up from this week’s Walker Cup after plans were unveiled to redevelop one of the few Alister MacKenzie-designed public courses in the world. Worse, it’s a green space in Blackpool and will leave just nine holes in a world with so few MacKenzie’s available to the public.

Thanks to reader Rob for this BBC story on the plans for Stanley Park.

Plans to build 250 holiday lodges and an adventure zone on a municipal golf course have been unveiled. 

However, the £45m investment would cut Blackpool's Golf Club course, in Stanley Park, to nine holes. 

Holmes Investment Properties (HIP) has been revealed as the preferred developer to build the UK's first Adrenalin World attraction on the site. 

Initial plans have been submitted to Blackpool Council but they have angered the club's members and residents. 

Good! Give ‘em hell. Though sadly, the opposition does not seem aware of the course’s historical significance. He designed the course in 1924 and it opened in 1925, arguably near the height of his career.

Faxon And Friends Buying (And Saving) Metacomet Where He Learned The Game

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What a great story to read from NBC 10 News’s Joe Kataya on Brad Faxon joining with others to buy (and save) Metacomet, a 118-year-old Donald Ross design struggling for over a decade now. 

Kataya writes:

“I wasn’t looking out for that, it kind of came to me. A group of guys got together and thought Metacomet is kind of a gem here in the state that’s got a lot of history. It’s 100 years old, it’s a Donald Ross course,” Said Faxon.

This course means so much to Faxon since he is a member dating back to the 1970s, where he learned the game of golf there with his father and club pro Joe Benevento.

(Mid-Round) Interview: Rahm On Ireland Golf, How Blind Holes Can Simplify Things

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Tim Barter’s mid-round interviews for Sky Sports always remind that players respond well to good questions and that they are capable of sharing wisdom mid-round without threat to world peace or rankings points.

Jon Rahm’s comments about links golf and blind holes added to the immensely enjoyable day one proceedings from the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Rahm’s comment that blind holes simplifying things for the player could be the best reverse thinking and positivity I’ve ever heard from an elite player. Really neat:


Irish Open At Lahinch: Course Setup And Broadcast Notes

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Brian Keogh at the Irish Golf Desk talked to Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Tournament Director Miguel Vidaor about Lahinch and his course setup options.

In short, Vidaor loves the course and his enthusiasm will only add to your interest in the week. He has no plans to trick up the course, but they have options.

 “If conditions are really calm, we can tuck the pins away and we have some cracking hole locations, like back right on six, long on 13. Nine! We have a 50-yard long green. We have cheeky ones on 10, short ones. We can do all sorts of things.  We can really play with it here.”

Vidaor also notes that the Dell’s left side is just nine paces deep. Old Tom strikes again!

The broadcast times and team, with Golf Channel sending an A-team:

EUROPEAN TOUR

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Dates: July 4-7

Venue: Lahinch Golf Club, Lahinch, Ireland

Tournament Airtimes on GOLF Channel (Eastern):

Thursday         5:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Friday              5:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Saturday          7 a.m.-Noon (Live) / 3-5:30 p.m. (Replay)

Sunday            7 a.m.-Noon (Live) / 3-5:30 p.m. (Replay) 

Broadcast Notes:

Three spots available into field at 148TH Open: The top-three finishers (in the top-10) not previously qualified for The Open at Royal Portrush later this month will earn an exemption into the field.

Knox defends: Russell Knox defeated Ryan Fox with a birdie on the first playoff hole to claim his second European Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Wallace, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Eddie Pepperell, Tyrrell Hatton and Padraig Harrington.

GOLF Channel Broadcast Team:

Play by Play: Rich Lerner

Analyst: Curt Byrum

Tower: Tom Abbott

On-Course: Jim “Bones” Mackay / Warren Humphreys

Interviews: Jay Townsend

Q&A With Paul McGinley, Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Host

In recent years we’ve celebrated many venue selections that defied common wisdom about who could host a modern pro golf tournament. From Gullane to Castle Stuart to even places like Detroit Golf Club last week, the game has visited some pretty special spots.

Other than the Old Course, I can’t imagine there is a more unusual golf course in tournament golf history to host than this week’s Irish Open venue, Lahinch Golf Club.

Paul McGinley is the longtime European Tour player and former Ryder Cup captain who will host this week. As a traditionalist and lover of all things Ireland, he’ll be the perfect ambassador. He explains how the idea came about, what will happen to the goats and how he anticipates the blind par-3 Dell will work thanks to an innovative setup.

GS: How did Lahinch’s selection happen?

Paul McGinley: In the South of Ireland, we've always played Lahinch historically. So we're all very familiar with it and we’ve all won around there. The irony is, the only guy of all the Irish guys on tour, other than [Shane] Lowry, that hasn't won there is Rory. All the rest of us have won around Lahinch. So we're all very familiar with it growing up. And the second thing is, everybody seems to love Lahinch.  The fact that the 18th and the golf course goes right up to town, with the town nestling around it, and you’ve got the ocean framing the other side. So when I was asked to host by Rory, I went away and I thought okay, now where are we going to go what venue are we going to? Knowing that The Open was going to be at Portrush and knowing that the commercial market as well as the spectator market was going to be very much gravitated to the south while the top half of the country gravitated towards the Open Championship, we started looking around at potential venues and I thought, “you know what, the one outstanding one here is Lahinch.”

It haven't been held before and I think that's a golf course certainly worthy of hosting. We could make it a par 70, instead of 72, and then the other box that we ticked is of course the people of Lahinch. And there's three people there that I’ve known very well for a long period of time, Padraig Slattery former captain who was very successful in the PR world, John Gleeson who is a retired oil trader and very successful, and Paddy Keane who is the director of golf there.  

I've known these guys personnel for a number of years and I thought, wow, the personnel, combined with the golf course, combined with the opening of the new commercial market, is a package that I believe would work best. Then it was a question of presenting that to the European Tour and the sponsors, Dubai Duty Free, and I became convinced that this is the right place. 

GS: Is there anything comparable that you can think of in terms of design that professional golf has visited in the modern era?

PM: That's a good question, I mean it's old, it's historic and it’s fun.  I always loved Castle Stuart as a Scottish Open venue even though I know it's a modern style golf course,. And I'm a great believer that difficult doesn't mean great.  Lahinch is not the most difficult golf course,  but it's a really fun golf course to play. And that for me is the most important thing. It's a bit like Prestwick, I have to say. In Ireland we refer to it sometimes as the St. Andrews of Ireland. It's quirky in some ways. And then you put in the fact that it's always in great condition and you get quality people down there that will ensure putting on a really good show.

GS: Have you talked to players much about what to expect in terms of holes teeing off across other holes, the Dell and other design elements like that? 

PM: I’m wearing many hats so I’ve put on my players cap and tried to imagine how are player's going to react and how are they going to feel, so the condition of the golf course is important in terms of keeping a close eye and communicating with the R&A as to what they're doing up in Portrush last week. Fairway widths, rough height, green speeds, how the bunkers are going to be raked, the firmness of the greens, really all the things that they’re doing. I'm trying to mirror those down at Lahinch so the players get a really good brief going into Portrush.

GS: So you’ll be involved in the day-to-day golf course set up as well?

PM:  I've overseen it with Miguel Vidaor, who is one of our best tournament directors, of the European Tour. Miguel and I have been keeping an eye on what the R&A have been doing at Portrush. Not that what we’ll do is an exact copy because obviously hole designs are different. But particularly in terms of green speed, we’re trying to mirror it. But I also don’t want to break the guys’ back. I don't want a level par or two or three or four under par winning. I expect a winning score hopefully between ten and fifteen on the par with good weather conditions. If the weather conditions are poor it'll be five to ten under par. That's really good prep in my mind for the guys who are going on to play the Open two weeks later. And also would provide a great champion on a true links course with the really good quality field that we have.  

GS: Will you be camping out at the Dell to see who the guys deal with a hole unlike anything they’ve played in the world of golf?

PM: I've been a bit worried about that, and I’ve been thinking a long time about what are we going to do with the Dell. How am I going to convince the players that this is not a bad idea?  A par-3 where you hit over a stone on top of a hill to a green that is about eight yards wide. So what we've done is with the European Tour’s ok, is rent the house behind the tee box. And there's a huge big front garden where we've put a grandstand in there and to the right of the tee box we've put a huge big TV screen.

So as the players hit the shot, they’l see the ball taking off and their heads will then move to their right hand side, they'd be looking away from where the ball is. The ball will be tracked by a TV camera as it goes over the hill and whether it’s on the green or not. So if they have a hole in one they will know before they leave the tee that it's been a hole in one. So it's just creating a little bit of showbiz around a very traditional hole in the golf course, and also taking away a little bit of the edge of the criticism they might have.

GS: Last thing, will the famous goats roaming the property be present during the tournament?

PM: Unfortunately not. With twenty 25,000 people a day out there and hopefully sellout crowds, their safety would be in question. It would have been nice to have them and we inquired about that, even maybe corralling them just to have them there, but the animal rights groups said no, lets not go there with the crowds. Because if something were to happen it would be a travesty.

GS: And the town will play a major role in the week?

PM: It’s a town and golf course everyone loves. It’s your favorite aunt. And more than anything I wanted to unite the two of them and make it a fun festival for families. Sure, there’s going be a few pubs and the lads like to drink, but there's also going to be lots of fun activities to make it a family day out. The local council have been great, as have the local police in terms of one way systems around the town these small quirky Irish roads. The local council have agreed to close down the town each evening from four o'clock to eleven o'clock for pedestrians only, so you can walk to town where there’ll be a stage with Irish music and food outlets on the street, face painters for the kids and just a real festival with golf being in the middle of it all.

A preview Tweet on the Dell, playing as the 5th this week:

And one more photo…

State Of The Game 96: Paul McGinley And The Irish Open At Lahinch

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Rod Morri, Mike Clayton and yours truly chatted for a bit with longtime European Tour player and 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley about the upcoming Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch Golf Club.

This is arguably the boldest venture yet by the European Tour to an exotic and historic work of architecture, surpassing even Gullane in terms of sheer audacity. McGinley and his foundation host this year.

The iTunes link or you can listen below, or wherever you get podcasts.

How Notre Dame's Warren Course Landed The U.S. Senior Open

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John Fineran does a nice job summing up how Notre Dame’s Warren Course by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw made the right moves in earning it’s way onto the national stage this week with the U.S. Senior Open. The course struggled in its early years with maintenance issues but eventually got those right and now is the first university course to host a senior major.

That’s one of the reasons the United States Golf Association — after seeing Warren play host to the 2010 Women’s Amateur Public Links, several NCAA men’s and women’s regionals and several USGA qualifying events — announced in 2016 that Warren would be the first university golf course to host the event.

“The USGA was on board from the start,” Cielen said. “They said, ‘Look, we don’t have to change anything significant here.’ In fact, they paid us the ultimate compliment, ‘We can tee it up just the way it is.’”

Ben Kimball, the USGA’s senior director of championships, confirmed that in May.

“We’re here first and foremost for the golf course,” he said. “This is a fabulous Coore and Crenshaw venue. It’s going to be intimidating. Let’s face it, when you play in a USGA national championship, (the golf course) should be a little intimidating. Fair, yet intimidating. This is the biggest championship in all of senior golf. We want (players) to have butterflies in their stomach.”

The story also includes a sidebar explaining this week’s re-routing.

This 7-year-old video offers some insights and visuals as well:

How Gary Woodland's Incredible Wedge Shot Was Influenced By (Restored) Golf Architecture

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You may have heard…Chandler Egan and friends remodeled Pebble Beach for the 1929 U.S. Amateur into the Pebble Beach we’ve come to know. Over time, many features have been lost to the point of dysfunction in U.S. Open conditions. The boiling point was reached in the 2010 U.S. Open when the 17th green could not be held. As we detailed in the above link, a remodeled 17th hole was an opportunity to see if Pebble Beach would play better in the 2019 edition.

I’d say it did.

Since that U.S. Open, the green was expanded and the bunker faces reduced. The neck of the “hourglass” green created by Egan had been reduced to a sliver, the green unpinnable anywhere near the surrounds. The square footage restoration estimate was over 1000 square feet and while the green was still not as large as the original, the remodel made the 17th was made functional again.

But more important than the reclamation of architectural roots or reminding us of this wonderfully bizarre vision by Egan, the expansion gave Gary Woodland the opportunity to hit a shot for the ages, requiring him to clip the ball and land in a very small area and join Pebble Beach’s other 17th hole classic moments by Nicklaus and Watson.

The shot reminds how important golf course design is to giving us golf-watching thrills, and the vitality of caring for architectural gems.

They Love Raynor! Women's U.S. Open Competitors Approve Of CC Of Charleston

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Bob Spear in a special to The State reports a runaway success for Seth Raynor’s CC of Charleston design, which came off beautifully on TV thanks to restoration work and super Paul Corder’s team pulling it all together.

Even the players, who were put through a tough test, raved after a tough weekend where Jeongeun Lee6 prevailed to win the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

Lydia Ko, who illustrated the notorious 11th hole can be conquered by making a hole-in-one there Sunday, called the Charleston layout “a great representation of golf courses. It’s not tricked up. It’s right in front of you, but it can play really tough. ... A great venue.” 

“Really tough” proved prophetic to those who started the day within four shots of the lead. Only Lee6 broke par. 

Ford, the general chairman, felt all pieces of the puzzle came together “as close to as perfect as it could have been. We wanted the players to have a great experience, and they have. And the golf course has proved itself to be a great test of championship golf.” 

No doubt about that, Paula Creamer said. 

“The crowds, the venue here, it’s been awesome,” she said. It’s a good U.S. Open venue for sure.” 

Said Gerina Piller, who shared fifth place: “It’s phenomenal. The place is great. The golf course is great.” 

The USGA likes its championship courses to play firm and fast, and Charleston certainly did. Superintendent Paul Corder and his staff drew accolades for the conditioning. 

Tiger: "I forgot how small the green complexes are" At Pebble Beach

Besides relishing the return to a course where precision iron play is rewarded, it was interesting to see Tiger’s reaction to the state of Pebble Beach after a recent practice round.

From Will Gray’s report at the Memorial:

“I forgot how small the green complexes are. Add a little bit of firmness and speed to them and they get really tiny,” Woods said. “But seeing some of the new greens that they had re-done, taking a look at some of the new pins was nice to see. So come next week when I start concentrating and focusing on Pebble Beach, it will be nice to have those images.”

Part of Tiger’s forgetfulness has to do less with eroding brain cells and more with encroaching bunkers and the continued shrinking of Pebble’s greens since the last Open.

Two More Looks At Seth Raynor, CC Of Charleston

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The USGA’s George Waters does a nice job summarizing who Seth Raynor was, what the template holes meant to his work and seizes on the clever ways Raynor compartmentalized his green complexes.

The golf course architecture of Seth Raynor provides plenty of surprises. His work is built around concepts from classic holes that he never saw in person. He never played much golf, yet managed to design some of the most highly regarded golf courses in the U.S. His designs contain elements that are harshly penal and extremely forgiving. Perhaps most importantly, Raynor managed to provide a great golf experience for the best players and for those with more modest abilities.

And don’t miss Andy Johnson’s look at CC of Charleston as the venue you’ll most want to enjoy on the 2019 calendar (at least domestically!), and as he notes, the first Raynor design to host a men’s or women’s Open.

Getting In the Mood For CC Of Charleston: A Raynor Gem Hosts The U.S. Women's Open

In a special contribution to Golfweek, historian David Normoyle has filed a fantastic read on Country Club of Charleston, host of this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.

Some of Seth Raynor’s boldest green complexes will be on display, as well a course with a fairly typical history of change, modification, misunderstanding and then, in recent years, a realization of what a gem they had.

“The benefit of a targeted approach to restoration work is that new (old) information can occur at any time,” said club archivist Forrest Norvell IV, who found the 1938 aerial and 1925 Mayberry plan. “The targeted approach allows flexibility to accommodate the lessons of new research and can also be more inclusive, building support of the membership as you go along.”

The 11th hole at the Country Club of Charleston is a replica of the 15th hole at North Berwick in Scotland. At 177 yards, the hole features a raised and reverse Redan green with a false front and two large bunkers. The tee box is situated on what used to be a Confederate battery. “I expect the 11th to be a household name by the end of the Women’s Open,” said Kyle Franz, the designer charged with leading the club’s latest restoration.

Graylyn Loomis posted this review with hole photos that show the course in winter. Don’t scroll too fast by the 16th!

Ran Morrissett’s review for GolfClubAtlas.com is older but still does a nice job highlighting the design’s best elements.

The No Laying Up gang filed this video feature on the course:

Fox’s broadcast schedule for the U.S. Women’s Open:

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Video: Looking At Lost Masterpiece Lido Then And Now

Hopefully you caught our Golf Channel PGA Championship piece last week on the later years of A.W. Tilinghast’s career, if not here it is.

And for those who missed this fine piece on the Lido by Brendan Havens with Tim Rosaforte narrating, it’s a fascinating look into Long Island golf and this lost C.B. Macdonald masterpiece. Done through the eyes of golf architect Jim Urbina and historian Connor Lewis, who has recreated the course digitally.