Course Reviews

Over the years I’ve subscribed to or purchased just about every golf magazine known to mankind and I always laugh at the travel sections. I mean how many Average Joe’s (AJ) out there can afford to spend $400 / night for a room and then another $200-$300 for a round of golf? And that’s after paying airfare or gas or whatever to get “where you’re going!”

Hell yeah those courses are beautiful and yeah I’d like to play ‘em but I’m certainly not going to plunk down $1,000 or more for a two-day getaway to Florida or North Carolina or California or New Zealand or Vietnam or Ireland to play a round or two of golf. Nah, that ain’t gonna happen. I just can’t afford it.

Let’s Get Realistic

But what’d be nice to know is where I can go that won’t break my bank account and that might not require an overnight stay. I’m talking primarily public courses. AJ’s don’t typically play private courses so there’s no reason to even list them. What I’m looking for are courses with amenities, beauty, layout, pace of play, ease to get to (let’s say one or two day trips), etc. for a reasonable rate. Say $100 or less per round.

Now I know members of the Northern California Golf Association (which I am) can play Poppy Hills (one of the Monterey Peninsula’s golf gems) and Poppy Ridge fairly cheaply. But an 18-hole rate for a non-NCGA member is considerably higher than $100 which removes Poppy Hills / Poppy Ridge from inclusion in this list.

I only want courses that AJ’s can play without permanent injury to one’s bank account

Northwood GC

northwood gcRemember Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds? Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedron and most of the populace of a small northern California coastal village were attacked for no apparent reason by millions of big black birds. It was JAWS decades before the great white shark scared everyone out of the summer ocean waters.

Well many of the exteriors of The Birds were shot in and around Bodega Bay, California. Since I first saw that movie in the protective environment of my parent’s house as a little kid, I’ve often wondered, “what would I do if that happened to me?” I’ve now got my answer!

Northwood GC in Monte Rio, CAOn Saturday, July 21, I played Northwood Golf Club in Monte Rio. Northwood GC is on the Russian River about six miles inland from Bodega Bay. The fairways are surrounded and lined by 110-120 ft tall Redwoods. A nine hole course, it’s well-maintained and has a pretty well-stocked pro shop and a nice restaurant. The “driving range” consists of a netted batting-cage-like set up. I’ll confess, I didn’t use it – actually didn’t see the point. The practice green is serviceable.

After paying for nine holes ( couldn’t play 18 that day), I was told my buddy and I would be joined by two others. I think we waited 20 minutes before I heard our group announced as “next up.”

The first hole is a slight dog leg left but the bend is close and abrupt enough that driver is not an option. I took a hybrid 19 degree and place my slight draw in the middle of the fairway about 150 yards from the pin. After an easy 8 iron and four foot putt I had a birdie. The second hole begs for driver and I accommodated placing my ball dead-center about 270 yards. Great drive for me… I was feeling it. Alas after another 8 iron my ball ran through the green and into the rough. I chipped but barely made the green and two putted for a bogey. Ah… well… no big deal.

The course is not punishing. Good shots begat good lies. You’re made to pay with bad shots. The Redwoods are so tall and majestic that as you proceed to the back few holes you feel somewhat insignificant. These living things are hundreds of years old and have seen and felt a lot of golf. The course was designed by THE Alister Mackenzie – designer of Cypress Point and Augusta National – in the late 1920s. It is consistently rated as one of the top nine-hole courses in America. As an Alister Mackenzie design, your game needs to be more about shot-making and management than about pure power and distance. You do hear a lot of “thunk!” as wayward shots hit and ricochet between the Redwoods. Mind you, some of the Redwoods have trunks as large as Humvees, but most are probably 8-10 foot trunks.

northwood courseThere are two par 5 holes on the course (5 and 9) and two par 3 holes (3 and 8). The course is a par 36 and tops outs at 2,893 yards from the whites for nine holes. It’s easy to walk and actually very pleasurable. I’d recommend walking in fact. It was 90 degrees when we played so we took a cart (I always take a cart the first time I play any course).

In any case, I shot a two over par and was ecstatic! Maybe I’m getting the hang of this thing called golf. Doyathink? Nah… just lucky!

One other thing you should know… the course sits next to the super secret Bohemian Grove – the meeting and getaway site for the Bohemian Group. Don’t know about these guys? Check ‘em out by clicking here. In a nutshell, they run the world… and have done so since the 20s.

Back to The Birds. I think had I been Rod Taylor or Tippi Hedron, I would’ve grabbed my clubs and headed to Northwood to play 9 or maybe even 18. I’d get me some birdies that way…!
I’ll rate Northwood Gof Club a solid 4.75 out of 5. The only reason it’s not a 5 is because it’s not 18 holes!

Call ‘em up at 707-865-1116 and make your reservation up to 7 days in advance. Let them know you read a review at sandersgolf.com and is highly recommended.

Rating (1-5 stars): 4.75 stars.

These Crocs are No Crock!

Crocs Golf PrestonAs a walking golfer, I am always on what seems like a never-ending search/trek for the most comfortable golf show known to mankind.

Let me preface by saying I’ve played golf off and on for about 40 years and that I’ve tried nearly all brands (within my means) at one time or another. Early on I wore tennis shoes or running shoes. But as I got older and bigger, I wore a pair of my dad’s castoffs – big, heavy, leather soled brogues with metal spikes. I bought Keiser M3 Plus and used it regularly. Since I was in my teens the resiliency to bounce back from a long 18 hole walk was quick and relatively painless. I didn’t know any better and I’m not really sure if there were options but the very first pair of golf shoes I bought were nearly identical to my dads except that they were black and white and had tassels over the shoelaces!

As I began to play golf more regularly – and as I grew older – I began to notice that walking was beginning to be problematic because my feet hurt! The remedy was better, more comfortable shoes.

And so the quest began.

Fast forward twenty five plus years past Reebok, Dexter, Florsheim, Rockport, Adidas, Nike, HS Trask, Footjoy… more Adidas and I found what I believe was the answer… the Crocs Ace Golf Shoe. Here was a shoe that breathed, gripped well and was as comfortable as I demanded. I could finally walk a course and not feel like my feet couldn’t take another step. I even wrote about them on several websites.

Then as suddenly as they appeared – Crocs removed them from their staple of products. I wrote and asked Crocs if they were bringing them back. Crocs said they would do so with the next season. Unfortunately, the Ace Golf Shoe never did come back. And since the molded-in “spikes” on my one pair were no worn down, I was again out of luck.

But then I saw Freddy Couples wearing a nice looking shoe with no socks at The Masters! I investigated along with the rest of the world and found that his shoes were to be offered by Ecco at a fairly reasonable price. Reviews said their comfort was incomparable. I bought a pair at the very next demo days at my favorite range.

True to the word, they were very comfortable and I wore them happily for more than a season. But still my feet hurt after a round. Not as bad as they used to, but more than they did when I had my Aces.

A few months ago I saw that Hank Haney had partnered with Crocs. Crocs was soon going to be offering the by-product of their union – a new golf shoe! I was ecstatic. I pre-ordered a pair and a couple weeks ago, they arrived at my doorstep.

I’ve played a couple rounds and worn them a several times to the range. So far… to borrow a line from the original Tiger, “they’re GREEEAAAT!”

Truth be told, when I tried them on the first time my initial reactions was that they were a little snug. But I continued to wear them around the house (not to worry, the “spikes” are molded ala the Ecco shoes but still provide plenty of traction) and they started to ease up a bit. By the time I hit a medium bucket of range balls they’d stretched and begun to mold to my foot as is the nature of Crocs. I wore them as I drove home and actually got in the house before I remembered I was still wearing golf shoes. Even with the non-marking and soft molded spikes that’s a no-no (I must obey the wife). One of the cool things about wearing Crocs is that when you take them off after an extended wear, the soles of your feet feel soft and comfy. Really! The big positive is that they weren’t sore. Again that was after my first wearing of them – and then only to the range for an hour or so. The big test was coming in two next days as I was going to walk 18 holes.

Any trepidation I had about the fit of my Hank Haney Crocs was immediately thrown out when I put them on prior to leaving for the course. They fit perfectly – and comfortably.

The round was non-eventful except that it was extremely hot and made walking the back nine impossible (to continue we had to take carts – ugh!). I didn’t shoot particularly well (Hey, Crocs can only do so much! LOL!) But my feet never felt better throughout – and after – a round of golf.

Walking the fairways was a breeze. Even on uneven lies there was no problem – my feet didn’t slide in my shoes and traction was never a problem.

It used to be that I couldn’t wait to finish a round so I could get to my car and change into more comfortable shoes (typically Crocs’ Santa Cruz or Yukon) or flip-flops to provide instant relief from fatigue.

But not any more! My new Hank Haney Crocs are so comfortable I could wear them all the time and never be happier.

For the purists who believe golf shoes should have saddles and replaceable spikes or at least look athletic, these may not be for you. They’re more “Vans-like” in appearance with molded soles. But I bet with the possible exception of hand-fitted and hand-made golf shoes the Hank Haney Crocs are more comfortable than any other golf shoe money can buy. Crocs has three different models of them for men and one for women. All come in an assortment of color combinations. Mine are the Bradyns.

Well, I should say, my first pair are the Bradyns… I feel there are other pairs in my future.

Tiger’s iPhone App

Tiger Woods AppI recently downloaded the Tiger Woods GolfShot app for iPhone 4. It’s available for the Android Market too.

Tiger Wood’s GolfShot iPhone app In a word, awesome!

If you’re not familiar with the app, it features videos of Tiger’s swing from the side and behind. For each club! And, you can film your own swing and compare to his side-by-side. It isn’t pretty. But it’s informational. At $14.95 it’s a bargain and it can be used over and over again. I’d heartily recommend it.

More info here

Another app worthy to download is ViewTi Golf GPS. I got the free version and it’s very good. It can be used at nearly every course in the U.S. and some overseas. The courses reviewed on SandersonGolf.com are included. It is a true golf course GPS and provides detailed information. You can do worse by purchasing a stand alone golf GPS unit and ViewTi is a lot more friendly on your budget!

Are Golf Magazine Subscriptions Worth It?

Golf MagazineAre golf magazine subscriptions worth the money? At one point or another I’ve subscribed to at least four golf magazines. The two major ones eventually won out over the others when I whittled down. Now, I’m proud to say, I’m down to one subscription. I like the magazine and find it useful up to a point.

I like the tips and lessons – even though they sometimes contradict eachother – I can only laugh at that and chalk it up to another remedy to try! I like “in-depth” articles about best spinning bikes, the “quality of life” articles, etc. One magazine had an interview/article about Mickey Mantle’s golf pro a year or so ago and I thought it was excellent. The same magazine interviewed Rocco Mediate and Darren Clarke in separate issues and they were fantastic. Recently the Dustin Johnson interview brought more light on the man. Each of the articles humanized and normalized these men.

I do find the enthusiasm with which the magazines delve into Tiger’s woes a little over the top. Personally, I’m in a quandary about Tiger. I loved to see him win “back in the day.” But since that fateful Thanksgiving eve, I’m not so much of a fan. Though I still find myself rooting for him. I was charged up when he made his charge in the Masters on Sunday. I was really pulling for him. It’d be interesting to see if one of those mags could humanize him. I’m really not sure it can be done.

The subscription deals they offer are good – not too much money is shelled out for a two-year sub. You do get useful information – but the same info and more can be found on free internet sites (and I don’t necessarily mean this one!).

For an Average Joe, I find their recommendations for apparel absurd. $150 for golf pants? $200 for a cardigan sweater? $250 for shoes? Socks for $90? C’mon… what muni or weekend golfer is going to spend that kind of money? Same with their wine recommendations. I’ll have a glass of wine now and then, but it usually comes out of a box or $3.99 bottle! I like Duffy and the Shark, and they undoubtedly know of what they speak, but choosing a wine from one’s wine cellar just isn’t in the cards for 90% of the world’s golfers.

Having said that I know the magazine has to appeal to all walks of life – blue collar as well as white collar. That’s fine. No issue with that.

But if you’re going to have a wine column, why not also have a similar column devoted to afficianados of beer!? Now the magazine would be targeting 90% more golfers! Advertisers like large readership and cross-platform target audiences. It’d be a win-win situation. They could even put the article in the back!

I’ll keep my sub until it runs out. Then I’m pretty sure I’ll let it lapse.

Unless they add the beer column.

Slowplayers? Ugh!

There’s one thing being a cautious and methodical player and one thing being agonizingly slow. We’ve all seen golfers in the wrong fairway, trying to decide on hitting over the trees or under to get back to our own fairway. All the while, the group behind are waiting their turn to tee off and the foursome in the wrong fairway are forcing the wayward golfer to wait to make his shot. Meanwhile his partners are scrambling around their own shots and trying to blast a 300 yard second shot with a 5 iron when their driver only made 200 at best. UGH!

Now I know not everyone can make shots that remain playable in the correct fairway all the time. Heck even pros don’t do that. But what really chaps my hide is those guys that wait and wait and wait to make that perfect shot that even a pro would try. Then duff it. Or maybe they hit – even hit it well – but they’re about 100 yards short of the group ahead – you know the one they were waiting for to clear the area! This is a common problem on public courses and it needs to be addressed.

That kind of play slows a round by hours when coupled with the same scenario playing itself out on several holes. The days of a 4.5 hour round are gone! But what can be done about it?