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Courses & Travel

Gil Hanse tabbed to design a third course at Streamsong Resort and a fourth could be on the way

Streamsong Resort's two golf courses had quite the debut in Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses issue, which came out earlier this month. And now the trendy Florida destination is about to be enhanced.

On Tuesday, Streamsong unveiled plans for a third course, which will open in the fall of 2017. The Black Course -- joining the highly-rated Red and Blue Courses -- will be designed by Gil Hanse.

Related: David Owen's buddies trip review of Streamsong

Hanse is the co-designer of Castle Stuart Golf Links among others and he recently renovated Trump Doral's Blue Monster. He is currently working on The Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, site of the 2016 Summer Games. Construction on Streamsong Black is expected to begin this summer.

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Streamsong Resort -- located within 90 minutes of both Tampa's and Orlando's airports -- opened in December 2012 and has quickly established itself as a premier golf spot. Streamsong Red, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, checked in at No. 100 on Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest, the only new course to make the list. Streamsong Blue, designed by Tom Doak, wasn't far behind at No. 120. The two courses rank 18th and 24th, respectively, on Golf Digest's ranking of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses. The two rank No. 1 and No. 3 -- sandwiching TPC Sawgrass -- in our ranking of Florida's top public courses.

"We're honored to be a part of such an amazing venue and to be able to develop a layout alongside Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue, which were designed by the three architects I admire the most," Hanse said.

Ranking: America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses

While the layouts of the Red and Blue Courses intermingle, the Black Course will be isolated on a southeastern portion of the immense property, which used to serve as a phosphate mine. The resort also said it's looking into adding a fourth course, the details of which would be provided at a later date. Just a guess, but adding more potentially great courses isn't going to hurt the resort's reputation or popularity.

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Courses & Travel

Watch Ron Whitten answer questions about America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses ranking

Last week, Golf Digest released its 2015-16 list of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses. And on Tuesday, Golf Digest Senior Editor of Architecture, Ron Whitten, appeared on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" to discuss the game's oldest ranking.

Related: Photos of the top 20 golf courses

Whitten talked about the nation's top tracks with former Golf Digest editor Matt Ginella. He also answered questions submitted via Twitter on everything from how deep the list goes to our other important rankings like America's 100 Greatest Public Courses and our Best in State.

Ron takes the process so seriously he doesn't cut his "playoff beard" for a full year before the biennial rankings are released. Kidding. Sort of. Here's footage of the segment in case you missed it:

Of the courses on the Second 100 Greatest list, Whitten said, "It's not a consolation prize, but what it does is tell you who might contend next time around."

Related: Find a place to play with our course finder

What are some of the courses he thinks might make more noise when the ranking comes out again in two years? Streamsong (Blue), Trump National Doral (Blue), Desert Forest, and Chambers Bay, the site of this year's U.S. Open.

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Courses & Travel

Shock! Horror! Zach Johnson says St. Andrews is his least favorite of all the British Open courses!

During his Wednesday press conference prior to this week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions event in Hawaii, Zach Johnson said something quite interesting: That St. Andrews, the home of golf and the site of the 2015 British Open, was his least favorite of the courses on the Open Rota.

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He's not the first person to say that -- Lee Westwood once said something similar, and Scott Hoch famously said it was "the worst piece of mess I've ever played." For what it's worth, Johnson's logic is totally reasonable. But it's always a little surprising when a top pro doesn't declare his undying affection for a course like St. Andrews. Johnson says it's a perfectly nice course, but because his not-especially-long game doesn't really suit the layout as much as some of his competitors, he's never really grown fond of it.

In Zach's own words:

"[St. Andews] is my least favorite in the rotation. I say that and I love that tournament and I still like St. Andrews. That's how much I love that tournament. I think St. Andrews is terrific but it's my least favorite...

"I feel like it's one where you just gotta hit it left and you gotta hit it 290 in the air and it just doesn't favor me. I say that and I'm telling you right now it's my favorite tournament to play in and I like St. Andrews. It's just not my favorite of the other ones I've played. They're all so good. I mean Muirfield is phenomenal. My first was Troon and I thought that was terrific. Turnberry is great. Lytham is tremendous. Carnoustie is brutally hard, but it's great. That's my rationale there."

Again, totally fair, and I even suspect there might be quite a few others on tour quietly nodding their heads in agreement.


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Courses & Travel

This might be the most useless sign in the history of golf course signs

Coober Pedy Golf Course's claim to fame is that it's the only golf club in the world to offer reciprocal playing rights to St. Andrews. The Australian course is also one of the few grassless around, which, since it was created in 1975, has helped earned it a kind of cult following.

In any case, its grassless-ness renders signs like this pretty useless, but at least they have a sense of humor about it. Thanks to Reddit user skaschmidt for the picture.

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Courses & Travel

Happy 89th birthday to Pete Dye, who is still the undisputed most sinister golf course designer in the world

We're not sure how Pete Dye celebrated turning 89 on Monday. But there's a good chance the birthday festivities included him taking some time to think of more ways to torment golfers.

Related: Meet Pete Dye, the Prince of Dirt

Despite his age, Dye remains one of the most prominent golf course architects. As for being the most diabolical? Well, he wrapped up that title decades ago.

Golf Digest's most recent ranking of America's toughest courses is dotted with Dye designs. The list, especially at the top, almost reads like a collection of Pete's greatest hits -- which isn't too surprising considering he once said, "Golf is not a fair game, so why should I build a fair golf course?"

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Dye designed four of the top eight courses on the list beginning with No. 1, The Ocean Course in Kiawah, S.C. That's HALF of the top eight. The other three in the top eight are Whistling Straits (Straits Course), TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course), and PGA West (Stadium Course).

Dye's courses are known for more than their challenging layouts -- the spectacular views at The Ocean Course and Whistling Straits, for example, come to mind -- but mention any of those tracks and your first thought is heartbreak. Mark Calcavecchia's shank on Kiawah's 17th at the 1991 Ryder Cup. Dustin Johnson not knowing he grounded his club in one of Whistling Straits' countless bunkers at the 2010 PGA Championship. And any number of misadventures at TPC Sawgrass' island green.

Related: America's 75 Toughest Golf Courses

Of course, there are others. Another famed Dye gem, Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., only checks in at No. 30 on the list. But despite its difficulty, it finished on top of another impressive ranking. When PGA Tour players were polled on their favorite tour courses, Harbour Town came out ahead of any course not named Augusta National.

So, happy birthday, Pete, and congrats on still being so well liked -- despite all the anguish you've caused.

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Courses & Travel

This is the coolest miniature golf course that you'll see today

If you find yourself in Tennessee over the holiday week, you should probably check out D&D Miniature Golf.

The miniature golf venue in Clakesville, Tenn., combines blacklights and 3D glasses to offer a Fantasy Forest-feel, according to The Leaf-Chronicle, which first reported on the venue. The mini-golf course features unicorns, dragons and fairies, among other things. Prices range from $7.50 for kids to $9.50 for adults.

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Jazzed-up miniature golf courses like this are growing increasingly more common as they try to find new ways to attract more customers. A miniature golf course in Oregon recently featured lasers on one of its holes, while a minor league baseball team in Ohio spent the off-season turning its stadium into a miniature golf course.

"Golf alone doesn’t make it any more," David Callahan, CEO of Putt-Putt Golf, told Bloomberg TV in August. "You can’t make that business model work."

And that seems to be the goal here for Todd Lindburgh, the course's designer, who set out to create a "a one-of-a-kind event."

"Everyone will find something they like," he said.

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Courses & Travel

Here's how you can play some of the best golf courses in the country in 2015

Do you have a golf course -- or perhaps a list of courses -- that you've made it your goal to play next year? Golf Channel posed that question on Morning Drive a few days ago, and we thought it was a good one, so we explored it a little further.

It turns out that The First Tee of Central Ohio is auctioning off a handful of rounds at some of the swankiest, most-desirable courses in the country. It'll cost you, but split it between a group of other people and it's not totally unreasonable. And besides, it's for a good cause.

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Bidding on most of them doesn't end for another six months, but each has a "buy it now" price that hovers around $5,000. You can check out the full list here.

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Courses & Travel

I've found the answer to golf's problems. It's in Westport, Connecticut

"They're not making courses like that anymore."
--Longshore Golf Club professional, John Cooper.

In the context of golf's present struggles, this qualifies as a dissertation. Cooper isn't suggesting that his Westport, Conn., muny, which rose from an onion field in 1922, represents any startling design, or that it threatens to make a list of courses Golf Digest considers great. He's certainly not going to argue that Longshore is a "stern test of golf." If it's any test of all, it's an open book quiz, with the curve running pretty high. It's "sporty," he says. And you give him that.

Longshore measures only about 6,000 yards from the back. Its par is 69. It is flat and its greens are not superfast, running in the 9-10 range. Bunkers, of which there are about 70, are a work in progress, and a bit stony.

But visit Longshore on a weather-friendly weekend or weekday afternoon and you see the sport all those industry meetings and symposia seem to be pleading for: men, women, boys, girls, couples, families, buddies and retirees, carrying, pulling carts or riding, but moving steadily -- four hours even on Sunday afternoons, a pace most places don't even aspire to anymore -- around a pretty course where bunkers are eye-browed with golden fescue and the fairways are cut not too tight and plenty wide.

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On the warm-up range -- irons only -- hitters spend half their time staring out at the water where sailboats, motorboats, rowers and fisherman work the waters of the Long Island Sound. Often there's a circle of Sunfish where kids enrolled in the sailing program are learning to tack -- or right a capsized Sunfish. Clearing out the "garbage" trees and shrubs along the landfill-based range was Hurricane Sandy's gift to Longshore. It created The Most Spectacular View on the Dinkiest Range in Golf.

The second gift the course got was a First Selectman, Jim Marpe, elected two years ago. Marpe plays golf, was one of Accenture's founding partners, and ran partly on a campaign to bring Longshore Back. His "This is not right!" video from the pockmarked first green went viral. Marpe hired a Parks and Rec man who raised golfing kids here and who has a membership at Pinehurst. ("I don't think you can ever go wrong by having high standards," says the director, Charlie Haberstroh.) They hired ValleyCrest, the course maintenance firm, a year ago, and what had become a rundown track with abominable greens got turned around and became Longshore again. It isn't recording the 40,000-plus rounds it did in its heyday, but numbers are creeping back into the mid-30,000s.

I played Longshore a lot this summer with a group of guys who liked to tee off about 1:00 on Sunday afternoon and be off the course by 5. It never failed. A couple of us belong to private clubs but found the pace and the convenience of those afternoon rounds irresistible. The fact that we could "score" was nice, too. Longshore is, above all, playable.

So in the middle of industry meetings convened to solve the problems that keep players away from our game -- time, expense, difficulty -- I kept coming back to this "easy" little muny. When architect Bruce Charlton told last month's USGA Pace of Play Symposium, for example, that "If we kept designing courses like we did in the 1980s" --- meaning very challenging ones -- "we'd be out of business."

The acknowledgment that playability is an important factor not only in pace of play, but also in the sport's attraction to new players, is a theme that's been repeated often lately. David McLay Kidd, who designed Bandon Dunes, said in a Golf Digest story on the year's Best New Courses, "I'd gotten romanced by notions of defending par and resistance to scoring. So I built courses that were difficult. I admit it." Those courses, says Kidd, "took some of the joy and enjoyment out of the game," he says. "I wanted to put the idea of fun back into the game."

At Longshore, fun for beginners is a par or two. For the studs, it's threatening or even breaking par.

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Data is the word in golf initiatives these days. The USGA and its affiliates are measuring walking speed, the effect of tee-interval variance, course flow based on hole sequence, the role of the first group of the day, play patterns, you name it. With that data they hope to be able to advise operators on how to make their facilities more friendly, and "pace-ful."

But it also makes sense, if you find a place where it all seems to be working, do the data in reverse. Like finding the ingredients in Coke, sort of. So here is Longshore's formula.

1. Gentle Course Rating (68.8) and Slope (122).

2. Group spacing. Nine-minute tee time intervals

3. Easy start: A 350-yard par 4, a 150-yard par 3

4. Balance, part 1:  Half of par 4s short (350 and under), half long (390 and up)

5. Balance, part 2: Half par 3s 150-to-170, half at or over 200. Even strong players are proud of staying even on the par 3s.

6. Fairways: Wide, 30 yards at least.

7. Greens: Well-maintained with reasonable speeds: 9-10; short but real rough.

8. Pace: Marshals move things along and help find balls (!) especially in the fescue. They don't lecture. Pace was once a big problem. "We spend a lot of time monitoring and tracking marshals, and I've got some good guys now," says Cooper.

9. Options: Walk anytime, pull anytime, drive a cart anytime.

10. Dress code: Up to you.


11. Clubs: Active Men's and Women's clubs that lobby for course, pace, tournaments.

12. Levels of play: All. Active 18- and 9-hole women's groups.

13. Beginner programs. "Get Golf Ready is the best thing to happen to golf," says Cooper. "We had people come from as far away as Milford (20 miles away).  "I said, 'How did you end up here?' Lady said, 'You're the only one who called me back!'"

14: Cost. Longshore is delightfully affordable, just $26 on the weekends for residents, and $19 for juniors during the week.

It's tempting to assign part of Longshore's popularity and success to its setting, and there's no doubt that helps. From the course itself you get glimpses of the water, though no holes abut it.

You're more likely to notice on the road that leads into and around the course and its accompanying inn, dog walkers, bikers, joggers and nature-appreciating photographers who occasionally stop to watch a golf shot or, politely, wait for a tee shot to happen. The feeling is a little "beachy," as Cooper puts it, but mainly of a park dedicated to fitness, with golf being part of, but not the sole object of, that goal.

"Longshore is challenging for those who want to be challenged and straightforward for those who are there for a recreational experience," says First Selectman Marpe. "It's kind of a country club experience without the cost or complications that can come with a country club."

And that's working.

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Courses & Travel

Deal of the Week: Chase the Shark in Great Exuma

The Atlantis mega-resort soaks up a lot of the vacation attention the Bahamas receives, but is probably closer to a Las Vegas experience than a true island vacation. Great Exuma is a little more work to get to -- and more expensive -- but worth it for the golf vacationer who is looking for some solitude. 

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The Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma took over the property from the Four Seasons in 2010, and they've amped up attention to the Greg Norman-designed Emerald Reef Golf Course. That's a good thing, because the 2003-design winds it way out onto a spit of land jutting into the ocean, and offers one of the toughest tests in the Caribbean.

Now, you score two free rounds on Emerald Reef if you book any Sandals stay of three nights or more. If you book a butler-level room -- which features (as you can imagine) a personalized concierge doing your bidding, you get free unlimited golf during your stay. 

The rates aren't at the bargain end of the spectrum, but Sandals Emerald Bay offers a premium, all-inclusive experience -- food at seven restaurants, and unlimited top-shelf booze. Basic rates start at $600 a night for two people, and rise to $1,200 for a oceanside butler villa. 

You can fly direct to George Town, Exuma from Atlanta and Miami, or take the short hop from the main Bahamas airport in Nassau.

Great Exuma is known for its solitude, reef diving and shark watching -- all of which was on display during the famous speargun battle in the 1965 James Bond classic Thunderball, which was shot north of Staniel Cay in Exuma. Any of the energetic charter captains can take you there, and most will swear that they know Sean Connery personally.  

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Courses & Travel

The 7 coolest changes made to TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course

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Tom Weiskopf spent nearly every day at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium course this summer overseeing renovations at his course.

Though he calls Montana his full-time home, TPC Scottsdale is still one of Weiskopf's signature designs (along with co-designer Jay Morrish), which is why Weiskopf wanted to return to Arizona to oversee the entire course refreshing.

The course will re-open on Nov. 15 after being closed from April-November to implement the changes. Superintendent Jeff Plotts, who has been at TPC Scottsdale the last 10 years, gave me a tour of the facility last week before it opens. Here's a photo summary of the touch-ups that you'll see when the PGA Tour heads here again for the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Super Bowl weekend.

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The view down No. 1 tee will look pretty similar to anyone who's seen it. Moving some desert off the fairway will give players more options off the tee. This slight tweak reflects the theme of the changes overall at the Stadium course: an aesthetic "refreshing" of the course to modernize it both for the PGA Tour player and the daily resort player.

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As a fan of classic architecture, Weiskopf added a coffin bunker on the front of the par-5 13th is a nod to St. Andrews. It's a change intended to add some signature to the par 5. And if you go for the green from the tightened fairway, there's certainly a chance you'd end up in here.

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One of the more significant changes to the Stadium course comes at the par-3 fourth hole. Weiskopf elevated the green significantly, to add more difficult to this hole that will play about 195 yards now from the championship tees.

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As another nod to classic design elements, Weiskopf has redone the fairway bunkers here at the 18th hole to include church-pew rows, a la Oakmont. The carry over the water had become a standard line for pros (above photo). Now, these church pews about 305 yards off the tee will put even more of a premium on an accurate tee shot on this home hole.

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The 14th green at TPC Scottsdale is a completely new look. Previously, the green on this par-4 was situated to the right. But at the suggestion of Plotts, the green was moved way right and elevated. Now you'll find some memorable views of the Superstition Mountains in the distance on this elevated green.

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There are actually completely new greens at Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 14. And all the greens were resurfaced, a change that Plotts said was definitely necessary. Here's the view of the new second hole green.

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And we couldn't not provide an inside look at No. 16. It was awesome to stand on the tee and watch the stands being built months before the tournament. With the Super Bowl the same week, the Thunderbirds aren't going to have any problem selling seats this year. Should be another raucous scene at the party-hard 16th!


Photos: (top) Getty images; Previous look at the 18th hole: Jensen Larsen; others: Jeff Plotts
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