By Roland Merullo
Dixville Notch, N.H. ' A lot of golf courses lay claim to the name Donald Ross, but in few of these places do you feel Ross presence as strongly as at New Hampshires Panorama Golf Course, part of an elegant Dixville Notch resort called the Balsams. This palpable sense of Ross genius is probably due to three factors: He personally supervised the work here, something true of only a small percentage of the courses that bear his name; his original 18 has not been tweaked for the modern world with changes to make the greens and bunkers more tolerable for resort guests; no houses have been built in sight of these fairways.
With its square, grassy-faced bunkers, devilish putting surfaces, optical tricks, and offset tee markers, Panorama stands as a memorial to its creator at every turn, offering generous landing areas that give way to difficult approach shots, that lead to short-game challenges of such marvelous intricacy that make Panorama one of the most difficult in New Hampshire.
The 387-yard 12th hole is a perfect example of Ross gift. It is a downhill tee shot to a bowl of a landing area with water right and woods left. You then face a sharply uphill approach over a crescent bunker placed so that the half-visible flag seems much closer than it actually is. The right side of the green is preferable here, but watch out for a bunker and a steep drop-off. Most players will hit their approach shots left to be safe, but that means putting toward a slope so deceptively severe that a three-putt from 15 feet is a 70'30 proposition. Hole by hole, the observant player here will get lessons in classic golf design.
The Balsams itself, 10 minutes down the road, has the single disadvantage of being far from civilization'a pretty three-hour drive from the nearest big airport in Manchester. That negative is more than offset by the striking scenery of cliffsides and forested hills, a placid pond just out the front door, and a stately, 140-year-old, 200-room full-service hotel with heated outdoor pool, an executive golf course, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, horseback riding, a small spa, billiard room, a movie theater, tennis courts, a full kids program, moose-viewing safaris and clothing shops.
Breakfast and lunch buffets feature long tables brimming with every imaginable hot and cold dish, from made-to-order omelets to fresh seafood, from Angus beef to vegetarian delights. The six-entree-per-night gourmet dinner menu includes offerings like lobster, prime rib, line-caught swordfish, fresh trout, all preceded by a daily selection of soups, salads and appetizers and followed by 20 choices of dessert.
For those wanting to experience a different side of the culinary experience, the Balsams offers cooking classes, culminating in a four-course luncheon, as well as an apprentice training program for aspiring chefs.
The resort has a classy country feel'port on the veranda and jackets at dinner, alongside cool mountain air and nice little touches like framed inspirational quotes set up in the hallways once walked by Teddy Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra. You can even visit the Ballot Room. Since 1960 the room has been the site of the first returns in presidential elections because the entire voting populace of Dixville Notch (26 in 2004) shows up at midnight to cast their ballots.
But its the golf that really makes the trip worthwhile. Even those who prefer to play on modern courses fashioned by the blade of a bulldozer will be impressed by the variety of golf shots, awed by the 40-mile mountain views and spectacular September foliage. After a round on a windy day at Panorama, you come away with a rare exhilaration, feeling like you have just held a private conversation with one of the games greatest designers.
Location: Dixville Notch, N.H.
Accommodations: 203 rooms and suites
Golf: Panorama Golf Course, par 72, 6,804 yards; Coashukee, par 32, 1,917 yards
Amenities/activities: Spa, tennis, hiking, fishing, nature programs, theater, mountain biking, game room, kids Camp Wind Whistle, watersports on Lake Gloriette
All Courses & Travel
Resort Profile The Balsams Grand Resort - COPIED
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.