Course Reviews/Travel

The Transformation of Santa Ana Country Club PDF Print E-mail


By Jason Bruno

Earlier this summer we made the cross country journey to Southern

California to experience the recent renovation of Santa Ana Country

Club in Orange County. Truthfully, renovation is an inadequate

description of what architect Jay Blasi accomplished at SACC. It's

actually a comprehensive redesign.


A true transformation.


For those of you not familiar with Blasi's work, Chambers Bay (site

of the 2015 US Open), the Patriot Golf Club in Oklahoma and the

2014 renovation of Sentry World in Stevens Point, Wisconsin (host

site of the 2019 U.S Girls Jr. Amateur) are front and center in the

design portfolio of the Wisconsin native. In a architectural sense, Blasi

is a five tool player - showing his extensive expertise of not just how

to craft thought provoking and fun golf holes, but also on routing,

infrastructure, strategy and land re-purposing. We gained valuable

perspective on his true brilliance. Not many in the business are as

generous with their time, providing us details and insight into what

the biggest challenges were on the Santa Ana project . . .


The previous version faced several challenges including:

Lack of pinnable space on Greens

Green drainage issues

Bunker drainage issues

Failing irrigation system

Using way too much water

Poor practice areas

Safety concerns

No sense of place

Too hard for most, easy for best

Lack of variety



Before -----------------------------------------------------After

Blasi won over the membership hierarchy at Santa Ana Country Club

with a comprehensive plan - convincing them that the entire property,

not just the golf course and its design had to be more functional and

sustainable. By the time the grow-in phase was complete in the fall of

2016 the critical objectives were achieved:













The New Design

The slightly downhill 358 yard par 4 - 1st known as "Santiago" is named

in homage to the original Santiago Country Club (located in Peters Canyon).

In 1923, the purchase of 144 acres became the site for what would become

Santa Ana Country Club.





Staggered sand grabs your attention right out of the gate. Avoid the left,

this bunker and tall grass natural areas make for a tough par. Kikuyu

fairways, not known for providing a fast n firm playing field, did chase

out more than expected.





The 310 yard par 4 - 2nd called "Ridgeline" features a slope that feeds

from the fairway to the well guarded putting surface. Playing quite a

bit shorter than the stated distance, choosing the proper tees brings

an enticing drivable component for many of the members (and guests).

However, if driving isn't a strength, Blasi provides several options here:

an accurate long iron, hybrid or fairway wood will provide the prudent

strategy of a wedge approach. The correct line is just right of the fairway

bunker. Any mishit approach may fall victim to one of several runoffs into

the bunker behind the green or the deep sand that guards left pin locations

(as shown). You could take this design and drop into Streamsong, Sand

Valley or Gamble Sands and it would fit perfectly. Instantly one of our

personal favorite golf holes anywhere.










The view from the tee on the 156 yard 4th "Saddleback". One the few swings

at SACC that involves a carry over water.










The 265 yard - 6th is another of those that you could play 5 times and employ

a different club/strategy off the box each time. "Narrow" plays uphill and requires

the utmost accuracy. Pick the stick you know will fly to a reliable yardage, 4 is a

solid score on this gem.









The tee at the 541 yard par 5 - 8th shows off Blasi's use of flowing Ribbon

tees and a vast "wash area" that isn't in play, but provides a substantial

drainage function and visual distraction that's just enough to take your

focus away from the need to pipe your drive on the par 5 that provides

the best "go for it" hole on the property.









The view from behind the mammoth "Biarritz" green at the 8th. Shortgame

shots around this complex are an absolute blast. Raynor himself would surely

say, "bravo Blasi."










The 563 yard par 5 - 11th "Twisted", features this massive waste area that

bisects both this and the 15th. Aptly named because of gnarled edges, some

flared corners, sideboards and backboards that both repel and funnel approach









Bank shots are encouraged . . .







. . . and this backboard comes into play with any back pin location here on the 11th.











At "Horseshoe", the uphill 340 yard 16th, big hitters can blow it over this

two tiered center bunker, everyone else must pick a side. From there a

precise wedge is all that's left.










Interesting short par 3's are a dying breed, but not at Santa Ana where Blasi

crafted a few masterpiece one-shotters. The 17th called "Beached" was my

personal favorite of the lot.









The green is anything but tame, hit the wrong quadrant and bogey

is highly likely here at 17. At only 125 yards, take dead aim.









The very reachable 479 yard finisher is an ideal opportunity to get one back

before adding up the card. The pot bunker front center acts like a catchers

mitt, we found out the hard way.




Blasi's Santa Ana plays a modest 6503 from the tips, but brings the opportunity

to use every club and shot in your arsenal, ground game included. We loved having

five par 3's and Five par 5's in the routing, it really contributes to more drama

during the round. The design left a distinct impression and the desire to play it

again, there's no better compliment than that. The greens and their surrounds

inspire creativity as well as any we've played in recent memory. Even those holes

that we didn't feature, like the "Punchbowl" 12th and "Washed Away" the par 5

- 15th still stand out several months after our visit. Since Santa Ana is a private

club the masses won't get the chance to experience it. If you get the invite, don't

pass on this Jay Blasi instant classic.






Dean Lenertz and our gracious host Jim Harmon (right), who we owe a big

thank you to for being the perfect guide around SACC.



To learn more on SACC: and

Jay Blasi Golf Design:























Bobby Weed Course Design / Long Cove News PDF Print E-mail




March 2019 - Bobby Weed Golf Design has been hired to continue

conducting planning and advisory services at Long Cove Club, in Hilton

Head Island, S.C., on the heels of the design firm’s successful restoration

last year of the golf course. The layout, designed by Pete Dye in 1981,

is often considered one of his most authentic and well-preserved designs.

“Long Cove wishes to protect its heritage and preserve its status as an

authentic Pete Dye design, never more relevant than now, with Alice

Dye’s recent passing,” said Bobby Weed. “With its original featuring,

innovative land plan and colorful history, it is perhaps one of the most

significant courses in the timeline of golf course design.”

This project is especially meaningful, as Long Cove was Weed’s first

assignment with Pete Dye and the genesis of Bobby Weed Golf Design.

“Long Cove was the beginning of my career in design and construction,

and of my nearly forty years’ relationship with Pete,” Weed said. “It is

a club and course that we are incredibly proud to be associated with.”

Constructed right after TPC Sawgrass, the golf course at Long Cove

Club represents a “time-machine” look into Dye’s work during one of

the most productive and brilliant periods of his career. The legendary

Long Cove construction crew, directed by Weed, included several

future golf course designers, including Weed himself, Tom Doak,

PB Dye, Ron Farris and Scott Pool. “Many of Pete’s courses have

been tinkered with, often by the man himself,” Weed said. “That is

not the case at Long Cove, which is largely untouched.

“Our main task is to maintain that authenticity. Preserving one of

our generation’s more forward-looking and contemporary courses

is a great honor and fit for us.

For more on Bobby Weed Golf Design:







Streamsong Continues Its Ascent as a Golf Mecca PDF Print E-mail


Story and photos by Jason Bruno

Just over a year after the official opening of Streamsong Resort's third

layout - Gil Hanse's Black Course, we returned to the resort to check

out the scene at the only destination on earth that can lay claim to a

portfolio of linksy landscapes crafted by the design teams of Tom Doak,

Coore Crenshaw and Hanse (with Jim Wagner).




By now you probably already know the story, but for us it began back in

May of 2012 when we toured the Red & Blue courses with original Project

Manager Tom Sunnarborg during the turf grow-in period (8 months before

the official opening), it was obvious that Streamsong was already well

beyond extraordinary long before a round had ever been played. It's been

nearly six years since we watched Coore, Crenshaw, Doak (and the man

with the vision behind it all) Mosaic's Rich Mack hit the ceremonial opening

tee shots. Sandscapes draped with enormous dunes left to evolve in nature

after phosphate mining was completed several decades ago - discarded by

one industry only to become a masterpiece in another. All themed in width

and angles on the firmest Bermuda turf you could imagine. For any avid

linkster either living in or traveling to the Sunshine State, it was and still

is hard to fathom this was even a possibility in Central Florida, and perhaps

the best part - Rich Mack made sure that it was accessible to everyone who

could make the trek to this remote location in Polk County.







After the initial opening of those 36 holes and the resort's lodge, Streamsong

could have rested on the accolades (both Red & Blue courses reaching Top

100 ranking status), but they didn't. Mack's vision moved forward another

notch, hiring Hanse to design the Black Course, which was largely a flat

parcel that lacked the built-in features given to Doak and Coore/Crenshaw

previously. What came out of the process was a big and bold Aussie sandbelt

style design, a two-acre putting course called "The Gauntlet" and 7 hole par 3

gem dubbed the "The Roundabout". It's an obsessed golfers dream hangout,

an anything goes practice spot that can be played from different tees to a

variety of hole locations. Easily one of our new personal favorite vibes in golf.





As pure as it gets, this par 3 playground allows and encourages Play

from any teeing ground to the target you desire. We could have spent

an entire day on Gil Hanse's eclectic 1,688 yard 7 hole beauty. The fourth

hole pictured above is the longest of the lot playing 160 yds over a gully

that fronts the green.






For those who have yet to visit the resort, allow for some links creativity in

your game. Although not a true links entity based on its inland location, the

3 routings provide plenty of proper "ground game" options. High spinning

lob wedge shots around these green complexes are often the toughest to pull

off, especially when a flatstick can be used from nearly anywhere within

50 yards. The likelihood of losing a golf ball is slim due to very generous

fairway widths throughout. Playability and options keep all players in the

game, while rewarding those with the skill set to pull off shots that reward

a better angle of approach. Firm and fast is the theme here, tight lies are

the norm, and although each layout at the resort has evolved from the same

minimalist ethos, that's where the similarities end. Each differs in how it

challenges you to score.




Blue 10th green complex




The Blue is a bombers paradise, but inside 100 yards and on the par 3's it's

a completely different story. Extreme bunkering that guards many tucked pin

locations requires a deft combination of pinpoint accuracy and creativity on

Doak's large confounding surfaces. This combined with tight Bermuda lies

in greenside swales makes saving par the exam equivalent of trying to destroy

a horcrux. For those who are genuine links enthusiasts or who want to express

their inner "Seve", the Blue is likely your flavor of choice.








Biarritz par 3 - 16th on the Red Course


The Red has been called by many as their favorite routing at the resort, and

with good reason. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw created a superb blend of

visual stimuli from each tee box, all while challenging the ball striker in you

at the same time. The green surrounds require a fair bit of imagination, but

without torturing your scorecard. If you strike it relatively well, you will have

chances to score all day on the Red. Holes 15 thru 18 are without a doubt

the best closing stretch at Streamsong. After numerous trips around each

over the last half dozen years, the Red has emerged as my personal choice.







Punchbowl 9th on the Black







Black 12th




Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner's Black Course is every bit as unique as the first

two designs at the resort, perhaps even more so. The vibe at the Black

Course complex (which is located just a brief 2 minute ride from the lodge)

is one the great scenes in American resort golf. The streamlined horizontal

clubhouse framed in black is home to the Pro Shop & Bone Valley Tavern.

The "Gauntlet" (a two putting course), along with the "Roundabout" and

driving range are all also part of the expansive Black Course compound.


As for the course design, it very well may be the best and most memorable

at the resort. Similar to Blue in that each challenge comes as you get closer

to your target, the green surrounds and putting surfaces on the Black are all

one height of cut (meaning the greens will appear and play larger than anything

you've probably ever previously seen or experienced. After our second spin on

the Black, I understand what many have expressed to me regarding their

frustration with the scale and severity of the greens undulations. Colleague

Ryan Adams (PGA Magazine) and I agreed that the Hanse team may need to

come back and modify a half dozen or so greens (for example the magnificent

uphill par 3 - 5th has very few truly playable pin locations, and the par 4 - 13th

(that has two greens), needs its left green to be completely redesigned, It's too

severe for its own good. The finishing 18th is a masterful hole design, but the

green is just too shallow to hold even a high soft approach with a long iron or

hybrid. However, designs like the short uphill par 4 - 2nd and the "Punchbowl"

9th are priceless gems that make the Black an absolute must play. With a few

needed tweaks the Black can be even better and more playable. Be sure when

you walk off of the Punchbowl to stop by the "Tin Can" and order the lobster &

shrimp roll, you can thank me later.






The "Tin Can" halfway house at Streamsong Black







*My outside the box suggestion on how to get the most enjoyment when

playing the Black Course - play your round with friends in a match play,

best-ball or skins game format. If you're going to play in traditional

grind it out stroke play, just be prepared to have more 3 (and 4) putts

than you may have ever experienced.






photo courtesy of Streamsong Resort

The lodging accommodations and resort cuisine at Fifty-Nine, P205 and Bone

Valley Tavern were spot on as always. Director of Golf Scott Wilson and his

staff continue to provide a truly superb golf experience. Whichever layout you

favor, it's a given that you'll leave the resort knowing that you just experienced

one the world's true golf meccas. We can't wait to see what Rich Mack and the

folks at Streamsong have in store for the next chapter . . .












Photo courtesy of Streamsong Resort


For More information visit:













PGA Golf Club Ryder Course Renovation PDF Print E-mail




By Jason Bruno

On a sunny and cool mid-December morning, PGA Golf Club showed off

its newly renovated Ryder Course to the golf media. PGA Golf Club is

the main attraction at PGA Village, the flagship property of the PGA of

America - located in Port St.Lucie, Florida (less than a two-hour drive

from Orlando and Miami and is just under an hour from West Palm Beach).

The home to 3 distinct golf course designs by Pete Dye (Dye Course),

Tom Fazio (Ryder) and Jim Fazio (Wannamker). The in-house renovation

project on the Ryder Course was led by 2016 Superintendent of the Year

Dick Gray.







Along the first tee these plaques commemorate past Ryder Cup











Named after Samuel Ryder (founder of the Ryder Cup), the Ryder Course

features a Carolina style setting where many of the holes gently traverse

through mature stands of Slash and Loblolly Pines. The Tom Fazio design

features numerous lakes and ponds along its fairways and green complexes,

many of which come into play. The Ryder Course renovation is the final piece

of a $10 million multi-year property-wide investment to upgrade every element -

from the clubhouse to last blade of turf on each of the courses.


“Our dedicated staff has accomplished an impressive transformation that

cements PGA Golf Club as a top golf destination in Florida,” says Jimmy

Terry, PGA Senior General Manager. “The stunning renovations are shining

examples of our dedication to providing great course conditions day in and

day out to our club and PGA members, as well as guests.”










The routing on the new edition of the Ryder remains unchanged,

however, all of the bunkers have been updated and new drainage

installed. Turf throughout has been replaced - Paspalum tees,

Celebration fairways and Tif-eagle greens provide an eclectic mix

of turfgrass - each specialized for a specific playing application.

Perhaps the two best examples of the renovation work and Tom

Fazio's design, come back to back at the par 5 fourth and par 3 fifth.









The tee box here on the left to right 484 yard par 5 - fourth is easily one

of our favorite and no doubt is among the most beautiful in South Florida.

The ideal line here is the dip in the tree line (W shape), with a slight cut

shot. Be sure to check the wind here and adjust accordingly. Anything

solid just inside the bunker line leaves a tasty risk reward proposition -

whether to lay up or go for the green . . .








The new green complex at the fourth was moved slightly left and given

a Dye style bulkhead.










If the fourth rewards power and courage, the 137 yard par 3 - fifth

is a brilliant challenge of your precision and restraint. The shortest

hole on the course will repel the greedy pin seeker, especially when

the pin is front left as it is here (shown above), play for the center

of the green and take your chances with the flatstick.









This image of the left to right finisher gives a great visual of the beauty

and style of the property at PGA Village. On the Ryder course all tees

have been framed by ornamental grasses (above).









A look at the approach on the last, shows off Fazio's signature bunkers.









What was a golf

property in decline

and disarray five

years ago, is now

back on the map

as of one of the

nation's most

memorable golf


Recent upgrades

to nearly every

facet of the property

- all three courses

(at PGA Golf Club)

along with the

clubhouse and dining

facilities is no minor


A big kudos to what

GM Jimmy Terry,

Agronomist Dick Gray

and staff have been

able to do here in

such a short period

of time.














For more information on PGA Golf Club:










North Course at Innisbrook Re-Opens After Renovation PDF Print E-mail


By Jason Bruno

A few weeks back in November, Innisbrook unveiled their newly renovated

North Course, also known as "Little Copperhead". Owned and operated by

Sheila Johnson's Salamander Resorts, Innisbrook's media event was day two

of grand re-openings for the resort company. Just a day earlier and 200 miles

northeast in the city of Palm Coast, the Ocean Course at Hammock Beach Resort

re-opened after a 13 month extensive overhaul. The renovation at Innisbrook

wasn't nearly as extensive, but was deemed necessary due to years of wear

and tear to one of the resorts most played courses. The most noticeable facet

of the six month project is the new Tif-Eagle Bermuda greens that now play

firm and fast providing a much more consistent putting experience.


Innisbrook's Managing Director Mike Williams who returned to the resort

after more than two decades away (when it was part of the Hilton portfolio),

returned to Innisbrook because of his passion for the Tampa area and the resort.

Williams spoke about the North Course renovation that focused on the greens:

"The North course is re-opening with exceptional putting surfaces that our

guests and members will truly enjoy playing. We never rest on our success

as a nationally recognized PGA Tour venue, and the popularity of the North

Course offers yet another championship golf venue that attracts golfers from

all over the world. We replaced all 18 greens, and it was a project that was

tremendously successful, on time and under budget."





Known as "Little Copperhead" because a portion of the North when it was first

designed by Larry Packard was orginally part of the Copperhead Course. The

renovation also included bunker re-conditioning, clearing of storm canals, tree

work and expanding greens back to their original size to allow for more pin





The flagship of Innisbrook Resort is the Copperhead.




The North is one of four courses at Innisbrook, which also includes the Island,

South and Copperhead Course - home of the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

In addition to Championship golf, Innisbrook also features 500 guest rooms and

suites, four restaurants, three bars, tennis facility, the Salamander Spa, Fitness

Center, six heated swimming pools, nature preserve, and three conference halls

with 100k square feet of meeting space.


For more information on Innisbrook Resort:
















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