Which golf course architect is most worth traveling for

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2011, 7:15 pm

In this edition of Travel Punch Shots, TravelGolf.com senior writers Mike Bailey and Brandon Tucker debate which living golf course architect is most worth traveling for.

By MIKE BAILEY

When I was given this topic, I tried to think of a golf course architect whose courses have never disappointed, that I've never found overrated. Only one living architect's name came to mind: Tom Doak.

Anybody who has played Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Ore., can relate. The thing about Pacific Dunes is that it would have been easy and expected for Doak and his design group, Renaissance Golf, to never live that down. Perennially ranked among the top two or three public golf courses in America, what could he do to top it? And for that matter, was that even possible?

With Cape Kidnappers along the coastal cliffs of northeast New Zealand, Doak sure as hell tried. His dramatic creation not only rivals Pacific Dunes, it solidified Doak as one of this era's most revered minimalist golf course architects.

The defining element of Doak's skill is his knack for knowing when and where to leave the land alone and where to place the elements. In fact, I'm not sure anyone has a better eye for it than Doak. And he also has a real appreciation for classic architecture, as evidenced by his restoration of the wonderful Pasatiempo Golf Club on the northern California coastline.

I've only played a fraction of Doak's golf courses, but every one of them left me wanting more – like the Rawls Course at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, for example. Working with a completely flat piece of land, Doak crafted a rolling, links-like course that might have you thinking you're in Scotland, instead of the Texas Panhandle. With cart paths hidden and tees and greens close together, it's one of the few courses I've ever played where I would choose to walk every time, no matter the conditions.

The Rawls Course might a little under the radar. Most of his other creations are not. Courses such as the Black Forest at Wilderness Valley in Michigan, The Sheep Ranch in Bandon, Ore., and the new CommonGround Golf Course in Denver, are just a few examples of his works that have won critical acclaim. And from what I am told, the exclusive Ballyneal Golf Club in Colorado might even be better than Pacific Dunes. I haven't played it, but if I ever get the invitation, I won't pass it up.

By BRANDON TUCKER

I went back and forth between Tom Fazio and Pete Dye on this one. I ended up going with Fazio.

Dye has made a career of becoming the go-to-guy for difficult, PGA Tour and major championship-worthy golf. But when I'm on a golf trip, I'm not looking to put my vulnerable swing through the wood chipper. I want to stand a chance. After all, I've probably only got the cash to play this destination course once.

That's what makes Tom Fazio designs a golf traveler's best friend. He delivers the best blend of scenery, playability (who doesn't love his often bowled fairways?) and challenge. His earth sculpting is always bold and artistic, from mighty bunkers to swelled greens, fairways hugging canyons or worse. It means you'll take major satisfaction when you actually slay one of his holes.

His sites always tend to be the best in town, too. When golf course developers get hold of a fantastic piece of land, they often entrust Fazio with making that site pop. Very rarely do you hear of a Fazio design that's down on its luck or in bad shape. Developers love Fazio, whether it's for resort or private clubs, because his designs retain their value over time more than most.

His signature holes are always remarkable, and anyone who likes golf course photography will agree Fazio's holes are always a postcard in waiting.

Unlike some player-turned-architect guys like Gary Player, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus, all of whom went through several design styles or lead associates, Fazio's arc is more consistent. Play one of his courses from the 1980s and then one of his from the 2000s, and they don't seem that much different.

Some of my favorite public-access Fazio courses in the golf travel world are Pinehurst No. 4, Fallen Oak in Mississippi, Ventana Canyon's Mountain Course in Tucson and the Treetops Resort Premier Course in northern Michigan.

And of course, there's the track he worked on with his uncle George, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Not only is it as pretty an inland course as there is in the world, practically every single hole is a dogleg right. What more proof is needed that the Fazios know resort golfers?!

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes