Autumn in New England beckons golfers

By Mike CullitySeptember 1, 2009, 8:00 pm

New Hampshires Mount Washington Resort

BRETTON WOODS, N.H. – When the leaves start to turn, there’s nothing like a round in the New England mountains to stir the senses. Picture bright sun, cool breezes and crisply-struck drives rising against a vivid backdrop of foliage-dappled peaks.
Just a few hours north of Boston, two mountain retreats bring the vision to life: New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Resort and Maine’s Sunday River.
Near the base of its namesake peak, the highest in the Northeast, the Mount Washington Resort boasts a stately old hotel that dates to 1902 and 27 holes of golf, including the recently restored Mount Washington Course, a Donald Ross design that opened in 1915.
In its early years, the course hosted golfing luminaries from Bobby Jones to Babe Ruth. As part of a $15 million resort renovation, ownership hired New Hampshire-based architect Brian Silva to restore it starting in June 2007. Using copies of Ross’ original plans, Silva sought to reveal the prolific architect’s intent. Reopened in August 2008, the course boasts many of Ross’ strategic design elements.

While offering golfers sweeping views of the Presidential Range, the most imposing summits in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the restored layout evokes the links of Ross’ native Scotland, with fairway bunkers prominent throughout. Built perpendicular to the line of play on most holes, the hazards demand strategy and precision off the tee. With steep faces bordered by fescue that’s thicker than Frankenstein’s eyebrows, the bunkers usually exact at least a one-stroke toll.
Stretching to nearly 7,000 yards, the par-72 course doesn’t play especially long from the 6,378-yard blue tees. But blind shots and visual deception add to its challenge, and its greens, which Silva imbued with Ross’ trademark crowns and contours, repel imprecise approaches.
Open to the public, the Mount Washington course typically charges $125 per round during peak season, but because a harsh winter significantly damaged the turf on its greens, the resort has offered a discounted rate of $75 (cart included) throughout 2009. Although the greens still have some bumpy patches, their condition subtracts little from a rich golf experience.
About 60 miles east of Mount Washington, Sunday River is known for skiing. But since 2006, the resort has offered golf in the shadows of the picturesque Mahoosuc Range, one of the most rugged stretches of the Appalachian Trail. Keeping with the resort’s character, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Sunday River Golf Club has a few fairways that resemble slalom runs and a log clubhouse that would make a fine ski lodge.
With a 75.2 rating and 146 slope from the tips, Sunday River is as tough as a black-diamond trail. The par-72 layout is kinder from the blues (6,558 yards), but autumn winds and greens that make Usain Bolt look slow can wreak havoc.
Sunday River has several memorable holes, none more so than the last, a dogleg-left par-4 that plays 414 yards from the blues. Off the tee, a golfer aims for Old Speck, the Mahoosuc Range’s highest peak. Flanked by waste bunkers left and out-of-bounds right, the fairway tumbles gently downhill to a green with an unbeatable backdrop: clubhouse in the foreground, mountains behind.
Golfers can play Sunday River for $95 (cart included) from Sunday through Thursday, and it costs $120 on Friday and Saturday. The resort offers golf packages that include stays at its two hotels, while the nearby town of Bethel has several inns and B&B’s.
If you’re planning a fall trip to the New England mountains, be advised that golf season in these parts typically winds down in mid-October. Which means, as a skier might say, there’s still time for one last run.
Mike Cullity is a freelance golf writer based in Manchester, N.H. Email him your thoughts.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

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

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

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.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

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.