The Sea the Golf and Punta Cana

By George WhiteOctober 30, 2003, 5:00 pm
If only there were seals squawking and the cool, foggy mists of morning, this could be the 18th hole of Pebble Beach.
Instead, its the 18th hole of Punta Cana. This is the Punta Cana Resort and Club in the Caribbean, on the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic. Together with the 17th, which also curls in tandem with the ocean at Punta Cana, they are eerily similar to the great finishing hole at Pebble.
This is the essence of Punta Cana. The course is testing, yet user-friendly; difficult from the back tees (it stretches more than 7,100 yards), but eminently playable from the middle and front tees; demanding at times, yet always with a touch of intrigue. It is the latest golfing gem in the Caribbean, a course that has been in existence for only two years at this gorgeous resort.
By the time it is done, this will be nothing short of a golfers paradise. There already is one very strong course, designed by P.B. Dye. P.B.s father, Pete Dye, designed the Teeth of the Dog course just up the coast in the Dominican. And another course, even more Pebble-like, will shortly go up.
The rhythm of the course is what makes it outstanding, said the director of golf, Olivier Brizon. You start with a little par 4, then you have a stronger par 4, then you have a par 3 with water, then you have a par-4 against the wind, a par-3 against the beach the course just gets progressively more testing, but with little lulls to keep it exciting. That rhythm of play is what makes it so interesting.
Brizon himself is a very interesting study. He worked with architect Trent Jones for three years. He has worked with instructor John Jacobs. He has built 20 courses, at a rate of two course per year, and has lived and been in golf administration all over the Western Hemisphere ' Venezuela, Canada, Switzerland, France, Guadalupe, now in the Dominican Republic.
Ive always been in the golf business, he says.
While holes 17 and 18 play alongside the shore, with two other seaside holes giving breath-taking views of the Caribbean, Brizons favorite hole is, surprisingly, a par 3.
The 14th, he says ' that is a great hole.
Fourteen plays to 160 yards from the middle tees, stretching all the way out to 239 yards from the tips, but only 105 from the foremost tees. There are also tee boxes at 135 yards and 200 yards.
The hole plays from an elevated tee, looking down perhaps 20 feet to the green. The right side is guarded by a series on bunkers that extend almost the length of the hole. The green angles away from the player, showing just a portion of its surface, left side farther away than the right side.
The wind blows constantly from left to right, said Brizon. The entrance is very narrow, its really a typical Scottish-style hole. The hole has considerable elevation and movement ' its just a great hole.
Number 17 plays 413 yards for the long-knockers, 374 for most players, but only 321 from the forward tees. But its not the length that adds to the test ' its the narrow fairway. Its the tee shot which is so reminiscent of the drive at 18 at Pebble. The tee sits back at an angle to the fairway, meaning you have to flirt with the sea on your first shot. And down the right side, covering the entirety of the hole, a waste bunker sprawls.
You must start your drive over the ocean to have a chance of hitting the fairway, says Brizon. But the second shot, you are afforded a magnificent view with the green on top of the beach. There again, you have to play again over the water to bring the ball back to the green. Psychologically, its something.
And the par-5 finishing hole is a match-play hole, he says. A birdie possibility for the better player, it is a very makeable par for the average player. A second-shot try for the green will have to negotiate a very narrow entrance. And you have to play the second shot with a fade over the water, says Brizon. But you can play it safe ' a driver and a 5-iron in front of a series of bunkers which cross the fairway, then a wedge to the green.
The course is a delight to play because it is only as difficult as you make it. Each hole has five distinct tees, affording the opportunity to play as much golf as one chooses.
Everyone can play this course, says Brizon. Its fair for everybody. You can play it from the black (back) tees for tournaments, with the pins placed properly, and it is very difficult. But from the middle tees with the pin placements fairly easy, its just a delight to play. And I would say that from 14 through 17, those holes are fantastic.
The fairways are exceedingly generous on this resort course, but the test is all on the approach shots. Hitting the green isnt the problem ' the greens are vast expanses of carpet. But each one, often 175 feet from side-to-side or lengthways, is segmented into several distinct plateaus. Hit on the wrong side of a slope and you are practically assured of a three-putt. Hit onto the proper plateau and you are given a relatively smooth 20-footer.
Theres even a boat lodged up firmly in a long waist bunker. Set on hole No. 9, the old vessel is halfway down the fairway, perched at a perilous angle with days of past glory on the briny deep long behind it.
The course project, incidentally, was a huge undertaking. The land on which it sits was originally coral, solid rock. Builders had to carry two million cubic centimeters of gravel to the site, using it to create contours in the course. Then the sand was spread and the course grassed in.
The grass was Seashore Paspalum, which can be irrigated with salt water from the sea ' most grasses would be killed by such treatment ' or recycled water. The Paspalum is a conservationists dream, requiring only half the pesticide and fertilizer of grasses in the U.S.
The Paspalum grass grows vertically, said Brizon, meaning that the ball sits straight up on it. It doesnt grow horizontally, like Bermuda, for example.
And, because the grass grows straight up, you dont have nearly as much break on the greens. There are plenty of ridges and plateaus, but much of the subtle breaks (of Bermuda, rye or Bent grass) is taken out.
The resort itself comes complete with an airport. Punta Cana airstrip was built almost 20 years ago and now carriers such as American Airlines, U.S. Air, and Air France have regularly scheduled service, as well as numerous charters from Europe. New Yorks JFK, Miami, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Paris are the present gateways, with more to come in the future.
Here, 420 guest accommodations share the three miles of white sandy beach ' the longest in the Caribbean. Just recently, the Grupo Punta Cana developers have begun offering homesites for those interested in a Caribbean home.
Rates at the golf course are quite reasonable, $69 for resort guests, $93 for others during much of the year. During high season from Nov. 1 to April 30, they are still just $88 and $121. Nine-hole rates are also available, as well as several golf packages.
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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)