Royal Troon Golf Club (Ayrshire, Scotland, UK)

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Royal Troon has a good share of ordinary holes, but several spectacular ones as well, including the famous short par-3 eighth, the “Postage Stamp.”

“Tam Arte Quam Marte” is the motto for Royal Troon Golf Club.  “As much by skill as by strength.”  It’s an appropriate motto for the host of the 2016 Open Championship. Troon is not a course that favors the bombers.  It’s a relatively straightforward links that rewards the player who can find the middle of the fairway and the middle of the green, then drain some putts.

I had the pleasure of playing Troon last month, just one month before the Open.  It was a phenomenal experience.  The course was in great shape and, although it’s not the most interesting layout, it is still a great challenge, both for weekend golfers like me, and for the tour pros.

Here are my thoughts about Troon, which I hope gives readers some insight about the course before the Open, and also if they ever plan to venture over to Scotland for a round.

Continue reading Royal Troon Golf Club (Ayrshire, Scotland, UK)

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CordeValle (San Martin, CA) *Updated for 2016 U.S. Women’s Open

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The par-5 third hole is one of several scenic holes at CordeValle.  But not only is the course beautiful, it’s also a great venue for a championship event like the U.S. Women’s Open.

Earlier this year, I wrote a lengthy review of CordeValle, host of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open…which takes place this week!  It’s the biggest tournament on the Women’s calendar, so I’ve given my review a little makeover to serve as a guide for the tournament, and also for anyone interested in visiting CordeValle for a round in the future.

Continue reading CordeValle (San Martin, CA) *Updated for 2016 U.S. Women’s Open

2016 U.S. Open Preview: surviving Oakmont

There’s winning a U.S. Open, and then there’s winning a U.S. Open at Oakmont, host of this year’s 116th running of the event.  The Pittsburgh area course is a synonym for brutality.  It’s tight, the rough is savage, there are bunkers everywhere, there’s a 300-yard par-3, and the greens are the slickest in the world.  A win at Oakmont isn’t just another victory in a major.  It’s golf’s version of the Medal of Honor.

So…who will this week’s hero be?  Read on to find out.

Continue reading 2016 U.S. Open Preview: surviving Oakmont

Quick thoughts on my week in Scotland

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In addition to being fabulous for golf, Scotland was the most welcoming country I have ever visited.  Pictured here: The tee shot on No. 18 at North Berwick, heading back into town.  

I returned yesterday from a weeklong golfing trip to Scotland and WOW, what a trip!  As expected, I got in four rounds of golf at Royal Troon, Prestwick, North Berwick, and Carnoustie.  I also snuck in a Coldplay concert and did a little sightseeing.  I’ll have plenty of things to say and pictures to share in the near future.  But first, I wanted to share some quick thoughts about my trip.

My trip was way too short:  Going to Scotland to play four rounds of golf is like going to California to see Disneyland and nothing else.  It’s a great time, but you’re leaving a lot on the table.  There are so many fine courses in Scotland, and many of them need to be played more than once to be truly appreciated.  Four rounds is simply inadequate.  One of the guys I played with was on a 29-day trip to Scotland and had taken four previous trips to Scotland.  He’s doing it right #lifegoals.

The Scots are incredibly nice:  The folks in Scotland, without exception, were the most welcoming and friendly hosts of any country I have visited.  At every course I played, there was always a staff person or a member who showed me around and was keenly interested in learning where I was from, where I’ve played, etc…  The kindness extended beyond golf, as well.  At one pub I visited, for example, I asked the bartender what whisky I should try (I am not an expert), and she spent a good 5-10 minutes with me chatting about the different kinds and letting me taste a few.

Get a caddie: My first round in Scotland was at Royal Troon, a course known for being relatively straightforward by links golf standards.  I therefore figured a caddie was unnecessary.  Huge mistake.  Even this most basic of links courses played much differently than the courses I am used to in the United states.  I probably would have saved 10 strokes with a caddie and appreciated the course even more.  A caddie will set you back 40-50 pounds plus a tip, but it’s worth it, especially if you are already paying big bucks for a round at a famous course.  I paid for a caddie for subsequent rounds at Prestwick and Carnoustie and had a much better experience.

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Ahead of me is Mr. 29-days-in-Scotland, who was wise enough to hire a caddie for his round at Royal Troon.  I was left wandering the gorse alone.  Pictured here: Troon’s par-4 11th hole.

Expect to play with Americans:  In each of my four rounds, I was grouped exclusively with other Americans.  I asked one of my caddies if Americans make up the majority of visitors, and he said absolutely–probably about 85 percent of golfers are Yanks.

Take the train:  Every golf course I played was an easy walk from a train station.  In fact, Prestwick is literally right on the other side of the tracks from the train station.  For those visitors looking to do some big city visiting while in Scotland, I highly recommend staying in Glasgow and/or Edinburgh, then taking the train to the golf course.  Prestwick and Troon were about a 35 minute ride from Glasgow, while North Berwick was less than half an hour from Edinburgh.  Many of the other courses in the country are also next to a train station and an easy ride from a big city.

Did I try Haggis?:  Of course I did!  At multiple places.  For those who don’t know, Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish described by Wikipedia as “a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.”  Sounds gross you say?  Wrong!  It’s freaking delicious, especially with some well prepared neeps and tatties.

What to expect on this blog in the future:  I’ll get back into my USA frame of mind by writing a quick U.S. Open Preview later this week.  After that, I’ll surely write detailed reviews of the four courses I played in Scotland, plus a few more in-depth posts about some of the highlights and lowlights of my Scotland trip.

-AB

 

 

Preview: A week in Scotland

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I’ve got my passport, a little cash, and some light reading for my plane flight.  I’m ready for Scotland.

My wife loves Coldplay.  That’s why I’m golfing in Scotland next week.  Allow me to explain.

My wife found out a while back that Coldplay would be touring in Europe this summer.  She explained to me how desperately she wanted to see them live.  I rolled my eyes at the thought of flying from San Francisco to Europe to see a concert, and told her she had no shot with Chris Martin anyway (that’s Coldplay’s lead singer).  But, being the all-around great guy that I am, I said we’d try to find a way to make it happen.  It occurred to me that we were already planning a trip to Boston at the beginning of June for a wedding, so it made sense to see if Coldplay was playing anytime the following week and, if they were, hop over the pond for an extended vacay.

So I checked tour dates.  Sure enough, Coldplay had a concert on their European tour scheduled for June 7…

In Glasgow.

My internal golf sensors exploded.  I now had an excuse to hit the links in Scotland.  So an agreement was easily reached with my wife:  I’d go see Coldplay with her, but have free rein to golf the rest of the time.  It was a win-win.

Like any avid golfer, I’ve been yearning to tee it up in the home of golf ever since I can remember.  I’ve read all about the great courses there, and I come accross stories and blog posts all the time about others who have ventured to Scotland for a golfing trip.  I’ll now be one of the lucky ones.

Read on to see my itinerary:

Continue reading Preview: A week in Scotland

Poipu Bay Golf Course (Kauai, HI)

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Poipu Bay Golf Course is beautifully framed by Kauai’s rugged mountains and coastline.  Pictured here: the green at the par-3 17th.

Readers of this blog know that I am fond of Maui.  But Kauai isn’t far behind on my list of happy places.  The Northern-most island of Hawaii has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, featuring a rugged coastline along the Pacific Ocean and forested mountains that are a deep but vibrant color of green that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world.

Not surprisingly, Kauai has one of the most scenic courses I have ever played, Poipu Bay Golf Course.  Poipu Bay makes superb use of Kauai’s beautiful surroundings, providing great views of the lush mountains, and even better views the coastline.  The course design isn’t too shabby either.  It’s a Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout that has a nice variety of holes that are playable for novice golfers but that also give low handicappers a decent challenge, particularly in windy conditions.

Care to hear more about the course?  Of course you do.  Please, read on.

Continue reading Poipu Bay Golf Course (Kauai, HI)

Product Review: Nike RZN Tour Black vs. Srixon Z-Star XV

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Nike and Srixon won my heart by making high-performing yellow golf balls: the Nike RZN Tour Black (left) and the Srixon Z-Star XV (right). 

A few months ago, I published my manifesto on why I was going to start playing colored golf balls.  Since then, I’ve played several rounds with two high-performing yellow golf balls: the NIke RZN Tour Black and the Srixon Z-Star XV.   It’s time to share how I think they perform, and which ball I’ve decided to play.

Continue reading Product Review: Nike RZN Tour Black vs. Srixon Z-Star XV