Jamaicas Newest Treasures

By George WhiteApril 24, 2001, 4:00 pm
From the tee boxes, all you can see for miles and miles around is the aqua-blue splendor of the Caribbean, two miles straight down and 100 miles straight out toward Cuba. This the White Witch golf course, which Robert Von Hagge and Rick Baril have carved out of native rock from the sides of mountain terrain.
White Witch LogoAnd from the fairways, all you can see are the remnants of the Rose Hall Plantation of the 1800s, the early aqueducts and sugar mills in this historic acreage just outside Montego Bay, Jamaica. This is the Three Palms Ocean Course of the Wyndham Rose Hall Resort and Country Club, sister course of the White Witch. The caddies will tell you the story of Annee Palmer, the notorious former owner of Rose Hall who murdered her three husbands one by one and had them secretly buried near the beach, each under a palm tree.
Von Hagge, who has designed more than 250 courses around the world, was charged with designing the properties. The two courses are the apex of his career. I have only seen golf course property like this three or four times in my life, he said. This land is magnificent. Von Hagge layouts have been venues for eight regular and Senior Tour events already this season, which pretty much says it all about his credentials.
Three Palms LogoThe White Witch, which was the nickname of the 4-foot 11-inch Palmer, belongs to the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The course starts with the No. 1 handicap hole, a par-5 which sweeps down into a valley from the clubhouse and range, the highest point of the course. Both courses share a common trait ' they can be extremely testing or rather gentle, depending on which tees you choose. The first hole on the White Witch is certainly an example of this as it sweeps and twists and turns down-down-down to the green 550 yards distant from the back tees.
Sixteen of the 18 tee boxes on the Witch offer a gorgeous view of the Caribbean. Number 3 is one such memorable sighting. The sea is visible from perhaps a 200-foot elevation and the beauty forms a vista of sparkling surf. Its difficult to play with such a view to distract you. But there is great golf ahead, so we must press on.
The sixth hole is intimidating from the back and middle tees, necessitating a tee shot which must cross a yawning chasm. Once youve reached the fairway, though, keep it left and youll be able to avoid the trouble. The green offers another enchanting view of the sea.
On to the backside ' the 10th, which is a 620-yard par-5 from the tips but very manageable when played from a shorter tee for the drive over a valley to the plateau fairway; the 14th, a par-3 down to a green hidden behind a pond; the 16th, a par-5 of a swiveling double dogleg ' keep it left because a big valley runs along the right side. Every shot seemingly is uphill or downhill, every view seems to be of the Caribbean or of the ruins of the old plantation.
During a four-hour round, said Von Hagge, the golfer only spends 10 minutes actually hitting shots. Weve got to give him something to look at during that other 3 hours and 50 minutes. That was very easy to do at these courses.
At the Wyndhams Three Palms, Von Hagge took an old layout and virtually redid it all. The course is at a lower elevation with two of the holes actually on the ocean. However, much of it winds through lush tropical vegetation. It is a more level course, though some holes do rise and fall with wild gyrations. Aqueduct ruins are everywhere and the course constantly passes by one historic spot after another.
John Rollins (the late landowner) told us to leave the ruins alone, so we went back to the drawing boards and worked around them, said Von Hagge. What you see is one old aqueduct after another as you play around them at the Three Palms.
The course becomes a walking history lesson as you pass by such scenery. The holes are named ' the second is Great House because it looks up the hill directly into the old plantation home; the fourth is Dead and Gone because an old cemetery stands guard beside the tee of this par-3 over water; the ninth, a perilous adventure which culminates into a green the other side of a chasm, is Aqueduct because the long ruins lie just off the fairway.
Hole 18Other adventures await ' the par-3 15th, Mountain Falls, a spot where Annee would come after she swam in the ocean and the only hole where the ocean is not visible; Rollins Run, the short par-4 16th where my caddy tore off a fragrant bit of nutmeg and presented it to me; The Ruins, the par-4 17th which is yet more old archeological treasure; and finally Sugar Mill, the par-5 18th with a finish again across a chasm to a well-bunkered green.
There is basically a route for all golfers, regardless of abilities. The little witch might well have turned honorable if these courses had been here in the early 1800s. Von Hagge has designed two masterpieces that are once-in-a-lifetime pleasures.
Getty Images

Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

Getty Images

Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

Getty Images

Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.