The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

What's in a name? The owners of two courses, both called TimberStone, may soon find out

By Peter Finch

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But what about a TimberStone? That’s the gist of a federal lawsuit filed recently in the Northern District of Illinois. (Hat tip to Rob Harris of GolfDisputeResolution.com for spotting the suit.)

TimberStone Golf Course at Pine Mountain (below) has been around since the late-1990s. Set in Iron Mountain, Mich., it’s a popular, Jerry Matthews-designed course that carries five stars (out of a possible five) in Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play reader ratings. In 2000, its sixth hole -- a 413-yard dogleg left over water -- was cited as an “honorable mention” when Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins and Ron Whitten ranked “America’s Best 18 Holes.”

loop timberstone 1.jpgThe TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell, Idaho, (below) is no relation. It opened
three years ago and charges a mere $39 including cart for 18 holes (vs. $100 at the other TimberStone).

Loop timberstone2.jpg Michigan’s TimberStone takes exception to Idaho TimberStone’s use of the name, arguing that the Idaho course -- even though it is 1,700 miles away -- could be confusing to consumers. Idaho's TimberStone contends that’s unlikely and points out that its director has a local landscaping business with the same name.

Would anyone honestly think the two courses were related? Perhaps. But if the court rules in the Michigan course’s favor, imagine the lawsuits that might follow. I count 12 U.S. golf courses with “Augusta” in their names. I count 20 whose names include “Pine Valley.”


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Courses & Travel

A reversible golf course? Tom Doak's plan for Forest Dunes is a course you can play two ways

By Peter Finch

When Lew Thompson began contemplating a second 18 holes at Forest Dunes Golf Club, the much-loved course he owns in northern Michigan, the Arkansas trucking executive made one thing clear: The new design had to make him say “wow.”

He got his wish. The architect Tom Doak came up with a plan he’d been mulling for the better part of 30 years: a fully reversible 18-hole course. That is, you can play it forward or backward, depending on the day.

Construction is underway on the as-yet-unnamed course(s), with August 2016 as the targeted opening.

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Though Forest Dunes is ranked among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses, it has struggled financially for years. Part of the reason is its remote location, in tiny Roscommon, Mich. When Thompson and a silent partner bought the Tom Weiskopf-designed course in 2011, he created a five-year strategic plan to turn Forest Dunes into more of a destination, says Todd Campbell, general manager. That included adding more lodging and more golf.

Right now it has 65 beds, more than twice the number when Thompson took over. Campbell says his “gut feeling” is that it will end up having room for as many as 150 guests in the years ahead.

Doak was one of two finalists in the running to build the new course, Campbell says. He recalls a meeting with Thompson and Doak about a year ago. When the architect had finished his presentation, Thompson leaned back in his chair and said, “Tom, it looks really nice, but I’m not wowed.”

At that point, says Campbell, Doak reached down and pulled out some additional documents. “I think this is going to wow you,” he said.

Doak had with him a plan for the second 18 that can be played in the opposite direction of the one he’d just pitched. “Our jaws just hit the floor,” Campbell says. “It was goose-bump city.”

It won’t be the first time a golf course has offered two routings on the same property. At the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, they used to reverse directions regularly and in fact they still play it “backwards” one day a year.

But still, it’s not exactly common. “As far as we can tell, this will be the only truly ‘reversible golf course’ in the world,” says Campbell. Forest Dunes will alternate the course each day, he says. He imagines it will be par 72 in one direction and either 70 or 71 in the other.


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Courses & Travel

What would you shoot if a pro was driving for you? Recalling a bold Golf Digest experiment

By Sam Weinman

Whatever your individual philosophies about golf, let's agree the game would be much easier if you could drive the ball 330 yards down the center of the fairway. That's true at the game's highest level, as was made apparent by Rory McIlroy's win in the Bridgestone Invitational with a 334-yard driving average. And it would be true at your course, wherever that is.

Think about it: that long par 4 with trouble down the right side -- wouldn't it be considerably less daunting if you knew you were hitting wedge in from the fairway? What if every hole was like that?  How many strokes off your typical score do you think you could shave?

Golf Digest set out to answer these questions more than two decades ago, when writer Peter Andrews and tour veteran Mark O'Meara played together at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, Fla., for a story in the May 1991 issue. Andrews was an 18-handicapper who was convinced he could be shooting in the 70s "with only a few measly extra yards off the tee, assuming 50 yards qualifies as measly." O'Meara was by then a PGA Tour star -- not yet a winner of two major titles, but already with six tour wins to his name. The concept was quite simple: playing from 6,279 yards, Andrews played O'Meara's tee ball in on every hole, and O'Meara played Andrews'. 

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The result was about what you'd expect when you take some of the variables out of a mediocre golfer's hands, but still leave him with enough room to make a mess.  Using O'Meara's respectable pre-titanium 260-yard drives, Andrews shot 82 (playing Andrews' drives, O'Meara shot 75). It was about 10 strokes better than his average, but as Andrews noted, he never quite took advantage of O'Meara's help.

"And so it went; Mark clicking off pars and birdies whenever I left him on anything Luther Burbank would have recognized as grass, and me constantly being offered the glittering prize, but able, only sporadically, to gather it in," Andrews wrote.

Do you think you could fare better? What if you didn't just have any tour player teeing off for you, but the premier driver in the game? If you could hit Rory's tee ball at your home course, what sort of difference would it make? Let us know in the comments section below, or chime in on our Golf Digest Facebook page.


(Illustration by Arnold Roth)
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Courses & Travel

Higher handicap golfers can enjoy Bandon Dunes, too

By Ashley Mayo

In 2013, I went to Bandon Dunes with three other guys. Our ages ranged from 26 to 32, and our handicaps ranged from 2 to 5. This year, I went to Bandon with seven other guys. Our ages ranged from 28 to 70, and our handicaps from 1 to 25. Same destination, two very different groups, one very similar outcome: we all had a blast.

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Our crew played The Preserve as an eightsome on the day we arrived. 

Whether you're an avid, accomplished golfer who thrives on a good challenge, or a weekend warrior who attempts to avoid any and all trouble, the five courses at Bandon Dunes manage to offer enough of a test for single-digit-handicap golfers without being too overwhelming for double-digit-handicap golfers.
 
Our higher-handicappers had this tremendous fear of losing a lot of golf balls. As it turns out, they lost very few. Don Scheck, a 23-handicapper, lost just one ball in five rounds (he lost it at Pacific Dunes), and says the courses are playable because there aren't a lot of forced carries, especially off the tees. "My drives mostly landed short of trouble as long as I hit them straight," says Scheck. "Approach shots and putting are what did me in."

Brian Bakst, a 22-handicapper, says he returned home with more balls than he brought. "And better ones," says Bakst. "When I went into the junk, I often came out with two or three beauties."
 
Scott Davies, who started playing golf when he was 65 years old (he’s now 69), says that the courses are not as intimidating as they might seem. "Having a caddie was a big assist," says the 25-handicapper. "And playing Preserve (the 13-hole par 3 course) first really increased my sense that I could play these courses and have fun. I lost a couple balls at Pacific Dunes but not otherwise."
 
The best decision we made all week was taking a "Links Lesson" led by Master PGA Professional Grant Rogers and PGA Professional Jake Sestero. They taught us, in just one hour, how to play golf in the wind, how to hit bump-and-run shots with putters, irons and hybrids, and how to lag putt.
 
"Some of the lessons I learned there carried with me the whole week," says Eric Hyland, an 11 handicapper. Among them: 

--Light hands on fast putts. 
--If you can run the ball up to the green, run the ball up to the green. Keep it low.
--Remember, the golf holes like to win, too.
--You might as well be the person having the most fun in your foursome.

That lesson was equally important to our higher-handicappers as it was to Tom Freeman, our 1-handicapper. "There aren't many courses in the United States where you'll learn how to hit a bump-and-run hybrid 123 yards, and then use it to give yourself a 4-foot birdie putt," says Freeman. "It's something I'll laugh and smile about for years."
 
I asked everyone in our group to answer the classic question that all golfers should answer after they’ve played each of the four regulation-length courses at Bandon Dunes: If you had 10 rounds to play at Bandon, how would you divvy them up? Collectively, our double-digit handicap golfers slightly prefer Old Macdonald—wild bounces on that course generally feed toward the green and can turn so-so shots into stellar ones, and it’s actually quite difficult to lose a ball there—and our single-digit handicap golfers would rather face Pacific Dunes—Tom Doak’s extreme design requires shot-making skills.

Other than that, our higher-handicappers and lower-handicappers appreciated Bandon Dunes just the same. "You better laugh when you think at the start of your shot that you're putting for birdie and then leave the hole with a double," says Tom Scheck, a 9-handicapper. "Good shots are going to roll under the lip of a bunker. It's a lot like life. You better roll with the good and bad bounces or you'll spend most of your time in misery."

But isn't it that kind of misery that keeps us nutty golfers coming back for more?

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Courses & Travel

Bandon's Mike Keiser keeps building golf courses when others are shutting them down

By Peter Finch

Like a lot of people I know, I got home from a recent trip to Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and immediately began dreaming about my next visit. Developer Mike Keiser has created something extraordinary, reflected not just in the accolades (it has four courses in our ranking of America’s 100 Greatest) but in the satisfied smiles you see on golfers all over the property.

One knock on Bandon is that it’s hard to reach, especially if your trip doesn’t begin in the western U.S. But Keiser has a couple of other projects in the works that, if everything goes as planned, will bring the Bandon experience to the East Coast and the Midwest. The former is the Cabot Links Resort in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and the latter is Sand Valley in Rome, Wisc.

How can he keep building all these courses when news about the golf economy is generally so dour? The difference is the sand, he says.

“As you know, these are links golf courses built on sand and using fescue grass,” Keiser explains. “Most U.S. courses are built on dirt. People love the links courses. They always have. They’ve flooded over to Ireland and Scotland for decades, for that reason. The Wisconsin courses won’t be links because they’re not on the ocean, but they will be virtually treeless and links-like.”

Here are updates from Keiser both of these projects, as well as a third one near Bandon.

Cabot Links
 
loop cabot links.jpgKeiser partnered with Canadian Ben Cowan-Dewar in 2007 to build the first course (pictured) and now they are adding a second 18, this one designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. "We're in the last two months of completion," Keiser says. "By sometime in September we'll have everything seeded, then we’ll get through the winter and as early as next August, we'll probably have limited preview play for our hotel guests." He imagines an official opening for this second course, known as Cabot Cliffs, in 2016.

For the moment, getting to Cabot Links is every bit as tough -- if not tougher -- than Bandon Dunes. You fly into Halifax, then drive three and a half hours north. But Keiser is "95 percent confident" the government will build an airport nearer to the resort, with direct flights likely from Toronto if not New York and other U.S. cities eventually.

Right now there are 48 rooms on property. Keiser is building “at least” another 24 in time for the opening.

Sand Valley

For this 1,500-acre site, set about an hour and 45 minutes north of Madison, Wis., Keiser imagines multiple courses. "We're near the final 18-hole routing" on the first, also designed by Coore and Crenshaw, Keiser says. "It will be final after a mid-August trip with Bill and Ben and my son, Michael, and me. We'll also nail down a final clubhouse site, at which point we’ll begin grading the course. Next year we’ll put in the irrigation, do the fine grading in September 2015, and by 2016 we'll have some founder play."

Founder play? Keiser rounded up 155 investors -- "friends who wanted to be part of a golf-course project" -- to help finance the development. It was a sort of Keiser Kickstarter. "They get all kinds of freebies," he explains, including a chance to play the course first.

He’s already talking about starting a second course there. "My philosophy is 1 plus 1 equals 3," he says. "One course is a curiosity, two is a destination."

Who will design the second course? "Well, it's known that I think highly of the boy genius Tom Doak and also Gil Hanse," he says. "Bill and Ben's two key guys are Dave Axland and the Canadian architect Rod Whitman (who designed Cabot Links). They work as a team. So I'd say those three are all contenders." Keiser says he expects to have an announcement about the architect by November. 

Eventually he'll build some lodging on site, but for the time being he expects guests will stay at the nearby Lake Arrowhead and Northern Bay resorts. "We want to help the existing economy," Keiser says.

Bandon Links

This is a separate project, located a few miles down the road from Bandon Dunes. It's a 36-hole municipal facility that's to be designed by Hanse. Keiser has gotten approval from the state parks department to do a land swap that will make the project viable for him, and now he’s waiting on federal Bureau of Land Management and Coos County approvals. "I estimate we'll get all that done in two years and then Gil Hanse can go to work," he says.

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Courses & Travel

It's Play 9 Day, which means we should all skip work and go play golf

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

It's Play 9 day! Does your boss know? You should tell your boss.

In case you're not already familiar, "Play 9" is a joint USGA-PGA-Golf Digest initiative that aims to bring more people into the game by encouraging them to play nine holes more often. Not having enough time is undoubtedly one of the biggest obstacles to people playing more golf, and nine holes is a pretty handy way around that. You may remember those Rickie Fowler commercials about it around the time of the U.S. Open.

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Rickie also talked about it on CNBC's morning show, Squawk Box, on Wednesday.

 

As part of the initiative, the USGA is hosting a tournament through its website. And if this post has suddenly inspired you to leave work and go play a quick nine, here's a list of the country's most nine-hole friendly courses, many of whom are offering special rates as part of the initiative.

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Courses & Travel

The St. Andrews skyline will look a little different for the 2015 British Open

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

The Hamilton Grand -- or Hamilton Hall, as it's more widely known -- is one of those distinctly Scottish buildings that litters the skyline of St. Andrews. It's among the town's more recognizable landmarks, sitting just behind the 18th green of the Old Course, a wedge from the R&A clubhouse.

And it’s looking a little grander these days.

In work that was completed earlier in 2014 the building now boasts a sixth floor and a four-bedroom penthouse, according to a company representative. The penthouse is believed to be valued at around $11 million and is part of a series of renovations being undertaken by owner Herb Kohler, a process included a 30-bedroom expansion.

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Hamilton Grand opened in 1895 as a hotel and remained as such until World War II, when the military used it to aid its war efforts. After that is was sold to the University of St Andrews and used as a residence hall for students until 2006. In subsequent years the building fell into disrepair before Kohler bought the property in 2009 with a view of turning it into a luxury apartment building.

In the before and after shot below, you can see a new row of windows and the penthouse extending over the dome on the right side of the building. It won't be a huge adjustment to the one, but a noteworthy one for St. Andrews' most astute followers.

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Courses & Travel

Allerton Park: Where John And Paul Strolled, Even Golfed A Little

By Geoff Shackelford

HOYLAKE, England -- Maybe if Allerton Park had the same ring to it as "Penny Lane" or "Strawberry Fields," the quaint Liverpool golf course might have been immortalized into a classic Beatles tune. Instead, the 18-hole Liverpool muni and nine-hole par-3 course that Paul McCartney had to cross to so he could strum guitars with John is hallowed ground to hardcore Beatles fans.

Related: Why you're not hearing any actual Beatles songs on ESPN this week

Those who have studied the early years of music's most prolific, famous and enduring songwriting partnership know the 5,494-yard course was the bridge to late afternoons trying to figure out how Buddy Holly played the opening chords to "That'll Be The Day" and developing their writing process. The former estate-turned-city-course sits between Paul's more modest home on Forthlin Road and John's more upscale abode on Menlove Avenue.

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"John lived just the other side of the golf course, literally and metaphorically," McCartney has said. "People don't realize how middle-class he was. It's a very fancy neighbourhood."

McCartney has recounted how on the late winter days walking back through the specimen tree-dotted course or on a particularly quiet path through Allerton Park, the almost-haunted vibe would prompt him to play his guitar and sing at the top of his lungs to "steady his nerve." If anyone came along, McCartney would pretend it wasn't him. Yet one night a cop halted him to ask what on earth he was doing. Paul has said that he thought and arrest was coming. Instead, the cop famously asked for a guitar lesson. McCartney says their golf passion was limited, and for the sake of rock and roll history, golfers will forgive them.

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"We'd go round for a laugh. We weren't very good but we'd do it. It was there, like Mount Everest, so you do it."

Today Allerton is still a stunning parkland property, controlled by the Liverpool City Council and managed lovingly by the Large family. Fourth generation pro Jonathan Large manning the counter on Saturday as the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool played out, while his father Barry, the head professional, rolled in to check up on things even though the course was closed due to the drenching overnight rains.

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The flattish parkland course, with large, beautifully-conditioned greens, could use a slight cleaning up and upgrade of the former estate's horse stables-turned-clubhouse. The city will be bringing in a management company to spruce things up, but hopefully only so much so that the Large's continue to oversee what has been the family business of instruction and course operation for four generations, including the years when those mop-topped lads took a short-cut to their dreams.

Related: 9 classic Beatles songs you didn't realize were about golf

All Allerton Park needs is love. It's just the kind of place golf must better appreciate: a casual, playable, open green space that is fun for beginners, kids, older golfers.

Or as Paul so succinctly puts it, a place to go around for a laugh.

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Courses & Travel

Here are some pictures of the second hole, before and after Tiger Woods played it

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HOYLAKE, England -- The second hole for the British Open course at Royal Liverpool is a 454-yard par 4 resting slightly out of the way on a plot of land on the eastern edge of the property. It runs parallel to the par-4 first, but limited crosswalks make it challenging to get to any decent viewing areas on No. 2, so spectators generally just jump from the first tee straight to the third hole.

An exception to this strategy, however, is often made when a big name golfer comes through. Because this year's British Open is Tiger's first major back since last year's PGA, I thought it would be fun to see how big the hole's crowd looked before Tiger played it, compared to when he was playing it. Here are the results; the pictures on the left were taken at just after 1:15 p.m., and the ones on the right were taken from the same spot just after 2:15 p.m., when Tiger's group was putting out.
140718-tiger-before-after-518.jpgThe top row of pictures was taken looking down the left rough about 100 yards away from the green. The bottom row of pictures was taken from just right of the green. As you can see, in each picture the stand completely fills out, and the gallery on the ropes swells to about three or four rows deep.

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Courses & Travel

Some of the rough at Royal Liverpool is so high that you can literally hide in it

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HOYLAKE, England -- U.S. Open rough may be heavy, but it's got nothing on the British Open in length.

The rough just off the fairway at Royal Liverpool is generally about a foot high, but there are spots around the course that are much higher. You have to miss it pretty big to find the really long stuff, but the rough about 25 yards left off the tee on the third (which comes into play because of the tight out-of-bounds on the right), 14th, 16th and 17th holes gets about five feet high.

Don't take my word it, here's the proof. To put things in perspective, I'm 6' 2":

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On a side note: if my boss asks where I am, don't tell him about this post.

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