Course Reviews/Travel


Course review: Southern Hills Plantation PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

Located in Brooksville, just north of Tampa, Southern Hills Plantation is amongst Pete Dye's best creations

 

Southern Hills Plantation Golf Club is located in Brooksville, Florida. An exclusive private club,

this Pete Dye layout is long and tough, but not as penal as many of Pete's marque designs,

this layout can be mistaken for a Fazio.The clubhouse and atmosphere have the feel of a club

in Atlanta or Charleston, and as you navigate the rolling terrain throughout the routing,

You have to remind yourself that You're actually in the Sunshine State.We visited the club

just two weeks before PGA Tour Q-school sectionals were played, and on a beautiful morning

we would not be disappointed.

 

At 7557 yards from the tips, Southern Hills is the 2nd longest track in Florida (Bella Collina

is 7594). Z and I opted to play one box up at 7,000 yds, while MK choose to take on the

entirety of Dye's challenge.Since the rating and slope is 77.2/138 from the black tees

. . . . choose your box wisely.

 

The slight right to left par 4 first is a nice starter that leaves a mid to short iron approach.

The short 2nd, at 392 yds from the gold tees presents another prime opportunity to score

. . . then strap on your game.At 238 from the tips, the par 3 third starts the onslaught of "Dye".


The fourth at Southern Hills Plantation

 

The 618 yard uphill/downhill par 5 seventh, has to be seen to be believed, a straight

uphill tee shot to a semi blind landing area that plummets dramatically downhill

with the fairway cambering left to right. There is no flat lie or stance as you hit your

approach towards the putting surface below.

My favorite hole at Southern Hills Plantation: the par 5 seventh

 

 

The short uphill ninth is a tricky hole that requires precision on the approach to a

blind surface that sits some 50 ft above the fairway.

 

The inward half starts with the par 4 tenth at 463 yds, and the eleventh at 491 yds

respectively.  At 3863 yds, the back nine will bury even the strongest of players.

 

The dogleg left par 4 fourteenth at 507 yds and the strong finish at the straightaway

eighteenth (481 yds), are what make this course worthy of PGA Tour Q-school (sectional

qualifier).

 

The sweeping par 5 sixteenth

The staff and amenities are what you'd expect from a club of this stature . . . first class.

The golf course is without a doubt amongst the finest in the state. . . Thanks to Jim

Kiernan and his staff for the great hospitality.

This exclusive club is available for selective play for non members as a stay and

play guest through Hampton golf (Hamptongolfclubs.com), or through a membership

at ExecGolf (Execgolf.com).

 
World Woods: Rolling Oaks Renovation PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

The par 4 ninth

 

 

On October 30th, LinksNation.com attended the grand re-opening of World Woods "other"

course  . . . . . Rolling Oaks. The Brooksville, Florida facility long known for its marque layout

Pine Barrens, and its magnificent practice grounds (which includes a 360 degree driving range,

a 9 hole short course, a 4 hole practice course and the worlds most spectacular practice putting

green) has now given the "B" course a facelift in an effort to be the Barrens equal.Rolling Oaks

had been closed from June thru October during the restoration, and  officially re-opened to the

public on Monday, November 1st .The tees at most of the par 4 and par 5 holes have been

lengthened by some 20 to 30 yds. The greens have been transformed from the old standard

of Tif Dwarf bermuda (which has alot of grain), to Tif Eagle Bermuda that plays much

faster and rolls much more true (with very little grain affecting the ball as it loses speed).

The greens were also restored to their original size that Tom Fazio crafted back in the early

ninety's.

 

They started by adding some brute, lengthening the layout from 6,985 to nearly 7,300 yds.

The new tees aren't even on the scorecard yet, but believe me unless your handicap is close

to scratch . . . don't bother with the gold tees.

The routing remains unchanged, hole seven (now at 470 yds from the tips) is still a brutally

tough test . . . but the outward finisher, number nine (pictured above) is a right to left

beauty through the towering pines that still leaves me in awe when I gaze out from the tee

box down the fairway. This hole alone is worth the tariff and the ride to West Guam, You

will feel as if you're in Pinehurst on this hole, and for alot less cash.

 

The inward nine starts with a beautiful par 5, at just a shade under 600 yds it takes three

solid strikes to have a shot at birdie.The 235 yd downhill par 3 sixteenth, is the best one

shotter at Rolling Oaks, although the short waterfall laden eighth is the favorite amongst

the masses.

The short uphill par 5 eighteenth is well guarded by sand fronting the green, but worth

a go in two if you pound one off the tee. The renovation at Rolling Oaks makes it

a nice compliment to the mighty Pine Barrens. Overall, you'd be hard pressed to find

a more unique place to play golf. The beauty of the property, the absence of any residential

real estate development, and the quality of two Fazio masterpiece layouts for a modest price,

make World Woods perhaps the best value of any golf facility in the United States. Let them

know that LinksNation.com sent you.

 

For more info visit :  http://www.worldwoods.com/

 
A Day At Whistling Straits - Part 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

When you see this sign at the entrance, you know it's going to be a special day

 

 

After an amazing day at Erin Hills, we couldn't wait for the next morning and our ride up the road

to Kohler,Wisconsin and the famed Pete Dye Straits course. Only one problem, I woke up early (5

a.m) and realized that my c5/c6 herniation in my neck (from an auto accident a few years ago) had

pinched the nerve in my neck while sleeping on the couch at our home base (the Kennicott

compound). My Chiropractor Dr.Andrew Wasserman and his guru masseuse Deni were 2k miles

away, not good.I let Baker know that I might end up being a just a writer/photographer for the day

(it was too late to cancel the tee time and why should I ruin his day). I've tried a few times to play

with this condition, and when you can't rotate the coconut to the left, you have no shot at making a

golf swing, forget actually trying to play a shot at or to a specific target.It wasn't like we were goin

to a 9 hole pitch n putt, we were going to one of the toughest layouts on the planet.The first thing I

tried was a prescription medicated patch that I had brought just in case of this situation, then we

baked some kind of pillsbury pop n fresh french bread because I was about to take some

anti-inflammatory drugs and knew my stomach was gonna take a hit.After all that, still no relief or

neck rotation.As we started our trek north up hwy 36, I took a few anti-inflammatory pills of

another brand and started somekind of spastic stretching of the upper and lower spine in an effort

to take the pressure off my neck . . . the fine folks of greater Wisconsin probably thought I was

having a seizure.

After about an hour of this insanity, I found a stretch that freed up some rotation in the neck, or

was it all the drugs I had just taken ? Either way, I atleast felt like it was possible to try to make a

swing.We arrived at Whistling Straits about 2 hrs before our tee time, and we did all of the oohs

and aahs first, and then headed to the range to see if my neck would allow me to be a participant,

rather then a spectator.Hitting nothing but half wedges for the first 10 minutes, it seemed likely that

I could actually play, but once I hit the longer clubs and had to torque my upper body we would

know for sure. A few twinges when I tried to step on a 3 wd or Driver, but other then that it was

manageable. The five anti-inflammatory pills were in full effect now, so all systems were go.

Baker and I spent about 40 minutes or so chipping out of the rough and long fescue to acquaint

ourselves with Mr.Dye's gnarly turf that lines each hole.Definitely not like bermuda rough (fescue

and bluegrass is like hitting out of spaghetti as opposed to our bermuda back home, which is like

some fluffy cotton candy).

After rolling a few, we met our caddies . . . John McDaniel was our guy, and Malakai was the

looper of our playing partners Jim and Gregg Lynes. We figured out in a New York minute that

Johnny Mac was a quick study and absolutely hysterical.It was a gorgeous Autumn day off the

shores of Lake Michigan, (61 degrees) but the wind was rippin out of the southeast at 25 mph.

Starter Mick Mikkelson got us off the tee at 1:30 pm, and J Mac promised me we'd finish, but I had

my doubts since the sun was setting up here in dairy country around 6:15.

We were playing one tee up from the tips (around 7,000 yds), and since the wind was "Whistling"

(Johnny Mac said it has that name for a reason, and you boys are experiencing it first hand), and

the neck issue . . . I figured it was all the challenge we could handle on this day.Jim and Gregg

were playing up a tee, maybe they were the smart ones.Gregg had driven over from Iowa to tee it

up with his brother on an all golf weekend. We piped our opening tee shots into a serious hook

wind, and when we arrived at our golf balls, we had some short shots to the front pin. Baker hit his

shot, and the wind dragged it left some 30 yds from where it started and into the cabbage.I had

131 to the pin and had to hit 8 iron, the wind did the same to mine, and left me a flop shot from

the gnarly stuff to the elevated green. Scott and Jim eventually ended up in the same nasty pot

bunker, Pete Dye must have enjoyed locating it there. An adventurous chip in by Gregg and an up n

down for me was a relief heading to #2. Scotty B and Jim were not as fortunate.

 

When we made the right hand turn around the dune to head to the par 5 second tee, the wind was

right in our chops. Scotty B hit it high and straight, and I smothered one into the only bunker I was

in all day (out of 1100 or so).  After some chopping it around, I made a 30 ft bomb for par, and

Scotty B was starting the way he did yesterday (it would be tough sledding on this day as well).

 

The sign says it all

Pete Dye gets the par 3's right

 

The third hole is the first par 3 on the course, it is called "Oh Man", a spectacular one shotter,

downhill and right on the lake (in fact, Dye put all four par 3's on the waters edge, brilliant!). On

this particular hole, the lake is on your left with the spectacular par 3 seventh right behind

you.After a miss hit mid iron short, a solid bump and run netted par, Baker hit a nice tee shot to the

back right portion of the green and had a lightning fast putt down the slope that resulted in a 3 putt

bogey.

 

The fourth hole is the hardest par 4 on the course and required all the lumber in the bag to even

get close in two.Gregg and Scott both had an adventure on this hole.Jim minimized the damage

and I managed to one putt again to save par.

 

The par 5 fifth is a long double dog leg . If you ever get to play this hole, don't let your caddy

convince you to carry the hazard and all of the dunes down the right (unless you can fly the ball

300+ in the air).J Mac pumped me up, and I took the bait. . .  after what I thought was a good tee

shot, my ball would have needed a Lojack to be found (no luck). However the flatstick saved

another, with a 35 feet downhill bomb for par.

The double dogleg fifth

 

The par 4 sixth is one of my favorite short par 4 holes anywhere, a left to right hole with a huge

dune on the right side of the fairway that partially blocks your site of the green from the tee.A short

delicate pitch to this heavily sloped back to front green is the tough part about this one.Baker and I

were both off the green up on the high left side trying to figure out a way to stop the chip/putt to

this front hole location.Neither of us did very well, running it well past.I was fortunate that my next

shot, a putt from off the green found the bottom of the cup for par. As we went to seven, I realized

that I had only taken 5 putts for 6 holes, that certainly can't last for much longer.

 


Not a bad place to spend a Saturday

5 iron tee shot on the seventh

The seventh hole is every bit as beautiful as the hole with the same numerical value at Pebble

Beach, but much tougher. Playing 203 yds with the wind blowing hard left to right towards the

water and slightly downwind, I was between 5 or 6 iron . . . Johnny Mac said he liked the 5, I took

his suggestion into account as well as: my even par score wasn't an indicator of my ball striking, it

was all short game, and because of the neck issue, swinging hard seemed like a bad idea.The ball

was compressed at impact and came off flushed right at the target . . . without a doubt the best

swing I'd made in Wisconsin.The ball carried two yards over the the stick and released some 40

feet away from the hole.In hindsight, 6 was probably the right stick but when you're not on, you

have to be honest with yourself and play for the slight miss. Scotty B struggled on this hole as did

Gregg, but Jim striped his shot and just missed his roll at bird. I narrowly missed my bird and had

my 1st two putt of the day as we walked to the eighth tee.


The eighth is a sweeping left to right par4, with Lake Michigan on your right. It reminds me very

much of the tough ninth at Pebble Beach, as where everything funnels down to towards the water.

One this day the wind was sweeping left to right as it was on the the previous par 3.I bailed left i

nto the rough, and made bogey (Pete Dye has been modifying this green since the PGA ended two

months ago, making it much smaller).This hole collectively killed the group.

Scotty B and Jim looking for their tee shots on the eighth

 

The ninth at Whistling Straits is as pretty to look at as the ninth at Winged Foot (which is the best

outward finisher I've ever played), but this one is not nearly as tough. After a drive down the

center of the fairway, a 7 iron approach and a green in regulation, my putt for 36 just stayed on the

edge. That might have just been my favorite nine holes I've ever played, I hope the inward side

can keep up.

 

The ninth on the Straits

 
A Day At Whistling Straits - Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

 

 

How's this for a work environment ? Malakai (Jim and Gregg's caddy) cool chillin at the office.

 

Yep, even Irish sheep on the Irish course

 

I must admit, I wasn't sure what to expect out of the Straits course. Like everyone else, I'd

seen and heard all of the hype, and some of the criticism . . . . . I expected sort of an artificial

over the top faux links style layout. In reality it may be that, but it didn't feel that way, it has

an authentic Irish/links feel and atmosphere.

We were enjoying every bit of it . . . and there were 9 bits left, so onward we go.

After Johnny Mac and I went to the halfway house to load up on tasty morsels, we hit the trail

to the back nine.

The short tenth

 

Number ten is a short right to left par 4, which plays uphill but is only 360 yds  from the blue

tees. If you take the same line 270 yds out (that is more in play for the better player), you'll

have a wedge approach to a green that will repel anything short, the ball will feed back down

a severe slope, running all the way back towards the fairway.Gregg and I were unfortunately

just short, but somehow stayed on the slope. I chose flatstick, and holed it from about 3 yds

short of the green. The rest of the group got out of the hole without incident.

The flatstick stayed hot . . . .  but knowing fully that the course will somehow exact its revenge.

 

 

 

 

I took this photo from the fairway looking back up at the Eleventh tee box

The Eleventh is a 619 yard par 5 that plays downhill (in the photo above, the tee is at the top

of the picture) until you hit your approach to the elevated green. After a well struck short iron,

Scotty B nearly made bird. I botched the approach as well as the chip and putt. This is a memorable

hole . . .  who am I kidding they're all amazing.

The 560 acres of land where Whistling Straits sits today, was a military airfield back in the day.

It was known as Camp Haven (Whistling Straits is actually in Haven, Wisconsin just outside of Kohler)

in the 1950's.The land was later bought by the Wisconsin Electric Power Company and when Herb

Kohler bought the land in 1995, it had been slated to be a nuclear power plant.Kohler hired Pete Dye

to design the course, and instructed him to create a course in the likeness of Ballybunion in Ireland.

The Straits course opened in 1998, and later the Irish course opened in 2000.


The par 3 twelfth (pictured below) is the shortest on the property, but is no less spectacular.

Johnny Mac called a wedge, and I acquiesced knocking it 20 ft right of the target. Scotty B hit the

front left knob and it trundled towards the flag, leaving a 12 footer for glory.As a group, none of us

converted the deuce.

 

The short par 3 twelfth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scotty B launchin one on 13, while J Mac and I track the flight.

 

If right is death on this hole, then the left rough is purgatory . . . a machete would be better

then an iron from the left linguini.

 

This is probably the most underrated hole (and possibly my favorite, Johnny Mac's as well) on the course, the

403 yd 13th. The green sits down on the shelf against Lake Michigan. This photo doesn't to do it justice.

 

J Mac told me to pound it over the trap sticking up on the knoll, I didn't trust the line and

bailed slightly left. . . . the  problem was, I nailed it and it went straight into the gnarly rough.

All I could do was hack an 8 iron out and hope for the best.Baker was in the fairway, as was Jim.

The 8 iron scampered down the hill just six feet right of the green on the fairway cut. Flatstick

away, and nothing but the bottom of the cup.At that point the tally was 15 putts/13 holes, and

all you could do was laugh. At even par for the round, things wouldn't get easier.

Fourteen is a short tight little right to left wrap around par 4 playing only 360 yds, a well played

tee shot leaves a wedge to an elevated and well sloped putting surface. A definite birdie hole,

but if you're on the wrong part of this green it will be a challenge to two putt.After wedges in,

Scotty B had a good look at feathers but couldn't get it to go down. I was lucky to two putt from

where I was on the green.

Jim and Johnny Mac at the tee

 

Fifteen looks like a links hole from Ireland, at 450 yds it's a bit of a sleeper.Water is to the left,

but it isn't in play . . . stripe it between the sand dunes and get on the green. Scott and I once

again did just that, and walked with par to the exciting par 5 sixteenth.

 

 

 


The tee box on the 535 yd par 5 sixteenth

 

 

This is the risk reward hole that is your last real chance at glory.This hole is reachable

for the longer hitter, and  similiar to ffiteen off the tee.A smooth draw off the right side

will kick left into the middle of the fairway, and leave you with the decision of the day.

Baker and I were down main street, with a chance to get on in two. A ripped approach

with the 3 wood came up just short of the uphill green. A mediocre chip to the high side

of this front left pin left me 8 ft to go one under for the round, J mac gave me a nice split

the right edge read, but I didn't trust it and played it a hair higher . . . the ball didn't curl

and ran another 7 ft by.You pay the caddy to give you the read, then you go rogue, not

smart.Luckily, the comebacker dropped as we approached the most intimidating hole of

the day and the ledger stood at even par.

 

 

Since the sun was nearly set when we played the signature hole, aptly named "Pinched Nerve", this stock photo

illustrates the all or nothing shot that awaits you on this 220 yd beast.

 

The pin was in Sunday sucker position when we played it, back left nestled right up against

the nasty that awaits you if you take it on and miss left. Scotty B pulled his into the nasty,

Jim needed an abacus to tally his adventure (but actually had a nice recovery shot just past the

pin on the collar), Gregg hit a money shot to the left center of the green and I drilled a hybrid

right over the huge knoll on the right corner of the green with a slight draw. . . but perhaps a

hair on the safe side, it ran just barely through the green into the spinach. After a nice 2

putt Gregg had a highlight 3 to take home, my flop from the thick stuff ran 10 feet past and I

grinded knowing it was my last hope to stay at even par (eighteen is not in anyway a birdie hole).

The putt didn't drop and there went 72. "Pinched Nerve" is an amazing golf hole at the climax of

a round or championship.You have to hit your most solid and precise shot of the day to have a

chance there, even a well struck shot that is a hair off can and WILL cost you.


Night was upon us and we only had the home hole left. It's the only hole on the course that I

would consider a little goofy, almost looks like Pete tried a little too hard to make this finishing

hole spectacular and impossible at the same time.I checked out the Dustin Johnson bunker up

on the right side and instantly realized that the officials got the call right, he and his caddy were

caught up in the moment and lost sight of their surroundings.

This place has 1000 bunkers, most of which line and border each hole . . .  even with people

standing in it, there is no doubt that it's a bunker.

 

We scrambled to finish, and we did. Johnny Mac reminded me of what he said on the first tee

nearly 5 hours earlier "I promise You we will finish today". . . . He was right, but just barely.

Johnny Mac is heading home to go to work with his Pops in North Carolina. After all, we

carded a 73 (25 putts), not a bad finish to your caddy days, hope to run into You again my

friend.

_

The four leaf clover eighteenth green

 

Afterwards we had a few drinks with the Lynes Bros, and then dinner at the club. I can

honestly say, of all of the places I've been, there is no other place I'd rather spend a day

playing a round of golf than at Whistling Straits.

Is it quite possible that the surreal scenery, perfect weather, post PGA Championship

conditions, great caddy, amazing company and 25 putts might have had an influence on

that statement . . . . . . certainly, but my only reply

would be (as Johnny Mac relayed the acronym earlier in our round) I.I.W.I.I - it is what it is.

 

 

 

 

Another one off the bucket list . . . it will be tough to top this one


Gregg Lynes

Jim Lynes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
October In Wisconsin - Erin Hills Golf Club: Part 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   

 

 

 

October weather in the midwest can be questionable at best, especially in the Dairy State of

Wisconsin. Scotty B, my brother in law Bruce Superman (yes that is his real name) and

I, arrived at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee late on Thursday to low 40 degree temps. What we

had in store, was a bucket list weekend (which is essentially what this site is about): Golf at

Erin Hills on Friday, Whistling Straits Saturday and Fins vs Packers on Sunday at Lambaeu.

We were hosted by Steve Kennicott and his wife Penny, at their beautiful 6 acre compound

some 50 miles or so south of Milwaukee.They offered up their guest house, and I only hope

that we get the oppurtunity to offer up such hospitality one day in return.Steve is a Chicago fan

living in Packers country . . . a rarity in these parts . . .  hoping to tap into his knowledge of the

second city, when the Ryder Cup comes to Medinah in 2012.

 

 

Our October home base in Wisconsin, the Kennicott compound

 

Friday morning we headed north to Erin Hills, anticipating the quality of a layout that will host next

years United States Amateur Championship and in 6 1/2 years hence, the 2017 U.S Open Championship,

 not many venues, especially those as young as Erin Hills reach such stature( Erin Hills opened in 2006).

We were greeted upon arrival by a very friendly bag drop crew, as well as the pro shop personnel, . .

all top notch service staff.Thanks to Head Professional Ben Fahrenholz for the invite.Starter John Cehle

got us going off the first tee at 12:24, along with our caddie Kyle Murhpy and a single who joined our

group, named Tim Rayer from Philadelphia.The weather was picture perfect for an October day of golf in

the land of the (not so) frozen tundra, a balmy 61 degrees at tee off.

As it turns out, our caddie Kyle was a standout player at Marquette University, just up the road in

Milwaukee. Kyle had been the the assistant golf coach there the last few years, and became the interim

head coach late last season when coach Tim Grogan resigned.When it became time to hire a new coach

after the season, Marquette went in another direction hiring Northwestern coach Steve Bailey, Bailey decided

to let Murphy go and in doing so, Marquette lost one of their own (Bailey hired one his ex-players from

Northwestern David Merkow to be his assistant).Murphy then interviewed and became one of the finalists

for the University of Minnesota job, when longtime amateur legend John Harris decided to throw his hat

in the ring, and as we all know . . . . it's not what you know, it's WHO you know.Consequently, Kyle

Murphy has decided to get out of the golf business. After walking 8 miles of Wisconsin countryside talking

golf with him, he is qualified, and well informed . . . he just hasn't found his spot yet. I hope somebody in

the golf business, gives him a shot before he moves on to another field, the game doesn't need to lose

good people that would be a solid asset to any company.I digress for certain, but Kyle Murphy is worthy.

 

J.B, Murphy, Nick, Scottie B, and Tim Rayer at the halfway house

 

The first at Erin Hills is a benign par 5 that can be reached in two with a huge drive off of the

 right bunker, but starting off you might be conservative as I was, an unforced error with a 

wedge brought bogey. A tough way to start on a gettable opening hole.As we walk to the second

 tee, I ask Murphy what his best score is out here, he remarks 71 from the 7820 yard tips (Kyle

played in 2006 U.S Am at Hazeltine).He says that no amateur player that he has looped for at

Erin Hills has broke 80, from any set of tees. We were playing at 7227 yds, I told him the goal

today was to be the first . . . the bogey at one didn't help the quest.

 

 

 The par 5 first

 

Number two is a tricky little left to right par 4, with a blind tee shot over a large knoll on

the left. The green is generous in size for a short iron approach, but is stingy if you miss.

The green is positioned like an upside down soup bowl . . . miss the surface and everything

will funnel off and down, leaving a tough up and down. I sank an 8 footer for bird here to

right the ship.

I won't critique every hole, but the downhill third is a 498 yd par4 from the tips (Pictured

below), and it is a sight to see. This hole would stand up against any hole around. Keep the

tee shot right center to avoid the fairway bunkers, and for a slightly better angle to this

elevated green. A great save here, kept the score level par . . . meanwhile Scotty B was

struggling to find a rythum.

 

 

 The par 4 third

The short par 4 fourth requires an accurate tee shot that will reward the player with a short

iron approach. At the fifth, the approach shot is key to a slightly uphill green.

The par 5 seventh is long and pretty, with an elevated green that has a high plateau on the left.

 

 The par 5 seventh

 The ninth is a dramatic looking short par 3 playing around 150 yds. The photo below tells

you all you need to know.

 After a superslick two putt par to the back right hole location, 38 was the tally after

nine holes . . . on pace to break Murphy's looping run without anyone breaking 80 at Erin

Hills. If the inward nine is as good as the front side, this place could easily be in

my top 5 fave tracks. Part 2 (the back nine) to come . . . .

 

 
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