Course Review - Kingsmill

By Phil SokolMay 5, 2008, 4:00 pm

HISTORY: The Kingsmill property dates back to the early 1600s, where the first Englishman dropped anchor in the James River. Although they settled upstream in Jamestown, the Virginia Company of England granted 300 acres to Richard Kingsmill, a member of the organization. Col. Lewis Burwell III, a member of the Governor's Council, inherited the land from his grandfather and named it Kingsmill after the original owner. Burwell's Landing was an integral part of the American Revolution and can be seen from the 17th hole.
Fast forward to present time. The Kingsmill Resort and Spa is one of the Anheuser-Busch Companies in Williamsburg, part of the 2,900 protected acres along the James River. The Resort features 63 holes of golf, tennis, a full- service spa and marina, numerous restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools and of course, Busch Gardens Europe and Water Country USA. The signature venue at Kingsmill Resort is, without a doubt, the River Course designed by legendary architect Pete Dye.
One of the most innovative course designers, Dye has left his mark on many tracks around the world. In the United States alone, Whistling Straits, Pete Dye Golf Club (WV), The Golf Club (OH), The Honors Course (TN), TPC at Sawgrass (Stadium Course) and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, are all ranked in the top-20 of America's Best top-100 Modern Courses by Golfweek magazine. Let's not forget Blackwolf Run, Harbour Town Golf Links, Long Cove, Crooked Stick, Bulle Rock and Oak Tree, all of which have hosted professional and amateur events.
In 2004, Dye returned almost 30 years later to supervise a multi-million dollar facelift, as he recontoured the greens, reshaped fairways and rebuilt bunker complexes. The River Course at Kingsmill has held some lofty tournaments over the years.
After staging the event for years in California, Anheuser-Busch brought the tournament to Kingsmill Resort for the first time in 1981. John Mahaffey outdueled Andy North by two shots for the sixth of his 10 career PGA Tour wins.
Calvin Peete became the first player to win back-to-back at Kingsmill with his victories in 1982-83. Peete won the weather shortened event in 1982 by two shots over Bruce Lietzke and then captured the '83 event by one over Tim Norris.
Ronnie Black set a new tournament record score of 267 when he titled in 1984, as he edged Willie Wood by a stroke. Attempting to become a two-time champion at this event, Mahaffey lost in a playoff to Mark Wiebe in 1985.
Fuzzy Zoeller won the last of his 10 PGA Tour titles in 1986, as he defeated Jodie Mudd by two shots. Mark McCumber captured the first of his two Anheuser- Busch crowns with a one-shot win over Bobby Clampett in 1987. McCumber would later title in 1994. After making just three cuts in his previous 16 events, Tom Sieckmann shot four rounds in the 60s and then defeated Wiebe in a playoff for his only PGA Tour win. Mike Donald closed out the '80s with a playoff win over Tim Simpson and Hal Sutton in 1989. Donald closed with a 65 to reach the extra session, as he won for the first time in his career.
Lanny Wadkins set a new tournament record in 1990, as he shot four rounds in the 60s for a total of 266 and a five-shot win over Larry Mize. Mike Hulbert parred the first extra hole in 1991 to defeat Kenny Knox. Hulbert's total of 266 tied Wadkins' mark set the previous season. Hulbert's victory was the third and last of his career. During the tournament the course record of 62 was tied by Ian Baker-Finch, Knox and Brian Claar.
David Peoples won for the second time in his career in 1992, as he carded four sub-70 rounds to defeat Bill Britton and Ed Dougherty by one shot. Four strokes off the pace after three rounds, Jim Gallagher Jr. shot a sizzling 65 on the final day to defeat Chip Beck by two shots and win his second career title. Local favorite Curtis Strange equaled his best finish ever at this event, as he tied for third with four rounds in the 60s.
Bob Lohr opened the event with a course-record 61, but was unable to sustain his play, as he faded into a tie for seventh, as McCumber won by three shots over Glen Day. McCumber shot rounds of 65-66 over the weekend for the win.
Ted Tryba became a first-time winner, as he posted a one-shot win over Scott Simpson in 1995. Tryba shot four rounds in the 60s, including back-to-back 68s over the weekend. Scott Hoch led wire-to-wire in 1996, as he set a new tournament record of 265 en route to a four-shot win over Tom Purtzer.
David Duval captured back-to-back titles in 1997-98. Duval's first career title at the Michelob Championship opened the floodgates, as he won three times in '97 and then four more events in 1998 and in 1999. Three shots back in 1997, Duval fashioned a four-under 67 to reach a playoff with Grant Waite and Duffy Waldorf and then birdied the first extra hole for the win. Duval's 1998 victory was less dramatic, as he won by three shots over Phil Tataurangi with four rounds in the 60s.
Notah Begay III won the second of his four career titles, as he defeated Tom Byrum on the second hole of a playoff in 1999 with a par. Third-round leader Mike Weir closed with 70 and finished one back.
David Toms continued the playoff trend at Kingsmill, as he clipped Weir with a par on the first extra hole in 2000. Toms trailed by two shots heading into the final round, but carded a 66 to force the playoff with Weir, who shot 64 on Sunday. Toms joined the ranks of the back-to-back champions with his victory in 2001. He started with 64 and closed with 68 for a one-shot advantage over Kirk Triplett.
The PGA Tour's era at Kingsmill ended in 2002, as Charles Howell III became the sixth and final first-time winner of this event. Howell led the event in par-5 scoring (4.08) and was 11-under on the 12 par-5 holes. Howell's total of 270 edged Scott Hoch and Brandt Jobe by two shots. In 20 appearances at Kingsmill, Hoch made 19 cuts, tying him with Curtis Strange in that category. Hoch also posted eight top-10s and six top-5s. Strange was the only player to compete in all 22 tournaments since the event moved from California in 1981 and had recorded seven top-10s.
The LPGA Tour arrived on the scene in 2003 with the Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill. They say that the cream rises to the top and that is exactly what has happened in this event, as Grace Park, Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr and Karrie Webb have titled here the first four years.
In 2003, Grace Park rebounded from a double-bogey start on the first hole to shoot an even-par 71 and post a one-shot win over Webb, Lorena Ochoa and Kerr. Leading by one with two holes remaining, Park got up-and-down for par on 17 and then sank a 20-footer for par on the last to secure the win.
Four strokes back when the final round began, Pak carded a six-under 65 to come from behind and defeat Ochoa and Juli Inkster by two shots for her 22nd career title. With the victory in 2004, Pak qualified for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame, although she will not be enshrined until 2008. Making her first appearance at this event, amateur sensation Michelle Wie finished tied for 12th.
With chances to win in '03 and '04, Kerr finally broke through at Kingsmill with a five-shot win over Jill McGill in '05. Kerr, who tied for second in 2003 and tied for sixth in 2004 after holding the third round lead, opened with three consecutive 68s. Despite a fourth-round score of 72, Kerr was able to cruise to her fifth career title.
Webb dominated this event in 2006, as she posted a tournament-record score of 270 for a seven-shot advantage over Ochoa and Hee-Won Han. Webb shot four sub- par rounds for her wire-to-wire victory, her 32nd on the LPGA Tour. Defending champion Kerr finished tied for fourth. In four appearances at this event, Kerr has four top-six finishes, nine rounds out of 16 in the 60s, is a cumulative 29-under-par and has earned over $600,000.
REVIEW: What a perfect opening hole. Not too hard, not too easy, just the right kind of start to ease you into your round. Just 369 yards from the gold tees, the first features a two-tiered fairway with plenty of room to the left. Stay clear of the deep pot bunker in the right-center of the landing area, as to leave yourself with a short iron to a fairly large green. The putting surface is not too tricky, however a bunker short-left and one right must be avoided.
Although its considered the 17th handicap hole, the second is the longest par- three on the course, just under 200 yards in length. A mid to long iron is needed to reach the green that is protected on the right by two long, deep traps. A high fade toward the left should produce the best results in your effort to make par.
A wonderful par-five, the third is a tempting dogleg left that the big hitters can give it a go to get home in two. After a successful tee ball down the left side, the player is left with roughly 225 to the green. The difficulty here is that the green is elevated and a narrow target. Water looms left of the green, not to mention a long, trench-like bunker. The smart play is to lay up in the left fairway, thus leaving yourself with a little wedge to the putting surface. Nothing tricky on the green, so you should have a reasonable chance at birdie.
The hardest hole on the course, the fourth is a bear of a par-four, stretching 439 yards from the back tees. Doglegging to the left, the key is to play toward the right-center of the fairway, as the landing area falls hard to the left toward deep rough, sand and a creek that runs down the entire left side. A medium iron remains to a fairly long green, with a pair of very deep traps on the left side. Par is a wonderful score here.
One of the signature holes at the River Course, the fifth is a beautiful par- three of 173 yards. A meandering creek and a 50-yard trap cover the entire right side through the green. Spectator mounding supports the left side and behind the green, along with a very deep trap. A back-right flag could be the toughest pin placement on the hole, which makes club selection so important.
Playing from an elevated tee, the sixth plays uphill to a wide open fairway. The difficulty on this fairly short par-four is the second shot, which plays to an elevated and undulating green. Only 32 yards in depth, the putting surface has numerous levels, which could make two-putting quite a chore.
Another risk-reward par-five, the seventh necessitates a solid drive down the fairway to have any shot at getting home. Three fairway traps, two right and one left guard the go-zone. A drawing, fairway metal will be required to reach the green, which sits left of the fairway. Any shot missed left and short will sit well below the green in deep rough or worse, two tough traps. The right side of the green is no bargain either with two traps guarding the narrow putting surface. This hole can be had, but err with caution.
The eighth is a solid, dogleg right par-four from an elevated tee box. Three deep pot bunkers guard the right side of the landing area, while one trap and deep rough flank the left. Not only that, any shot missed left will trundle down toward water which sits well below the fairway. The second shot will play uphill to an elevated green with sand right and left and spectator mounding deep. The narrow putting surface slopes from back to front, so play below the hole for the best results.
The opening nine closes with the longest par-four on the course, 467 whopping yards. The hole bends slightly to the left and requires a massive blast off the tee to have any shot at getting an iron on the ball. Sand left and right guards the landing area, but the difficulty arises by the green. The elevated surface is protected by a series of well-defined traps right, one short and one left. Any shot offline to the right will be well below the green, making for a difficult up-and-down. The kidney-shaped green is one of the longest on the course at 44 paces, making two-putting a real chore.
The inward nine features four par-fours over 400 yards and three of the best finishing holes in golf. The 10th is a solid par-four that bends to the right with numerous traps guarding both sides of the fairway. The green is protected only on the right side by three bunkers. The putting surface is fairly flat, so birdies can be made.
Eleven is another of those 400-plus holes, this time bending to the left. The key is the tee shot. A wide fairway is there for the hitting, however any ball toward the left side will be gobbled up by a 55-yard long trap. A medium iron will remain to a putting surface that is protected by numerous traps, seven within 40 yards of the green. The short grass is long and narrow with the bailout area to the right. A tough hole to get it close.
Just under 400 yards, the 12th doglegs to the left, devoid of sand until the green. The defense on the hole is the tree-lined fairway. Three metal should be plenty to split the landing area, leaving just a short iron to a sloping green. The putting surface features only one trap, deep-left. The green is slightly raised and any ball right of the green will kick down toward the rough and trees. This is no time to lower your guard.
The first one-shotter on the back nine, the 13th is a great par three. Lucky if you err left, unlucky if you miss right. A mid iron must avoid the three bunkers that sit below the putting surface on the right side. The green is fairly wide with mounding behind the green, so play left and below the hole and two putt for par and move on. Who knows, you might just roll one in from 25 feet for a deuce.
A breather of sorts as you reach the 14th. One of the shorter par-fours, the hole is fairly straight off the tee with a pair of fairway bunkers down the left. The left side is the play off the tee however, as this will set up an easier approach to the green, as two bunkers protect the right side of the surface. Although the green is narrow, with a wedge in hand you should be able to get close.
The home stretch at the River Course is outstanding. Start off with the par- five 15th, reachable in two and certainly a birdie chance. The hole snakes from the tee in an S-shape and requires a 200-yard shot to clear a ravine to the fairway. A handful of bunkers protect the right landing area off the tee, so favor the left side, thus setting up the best look toward the green. At all costs, avoid the right side, as trees cover that side through the green, not to mention a deep ravine, short and right of the landing area. The green is very receptive and could be had with a good wedge play. Look for birdie, but accept par.
One of the finest holes in the Williamsburg-area, the 16th is a rugged par- four, stretching 458 yards. Usually into the wind off the James River, a big tee ball down the left side will set up the best approach to the green. The fairway is quite wide, however any shot down the right, might drift off into a long fairway trap. Your second shot, with a medium to long iron and with the river in the background, plays down to a large putting surface. Bunkers short, left and deep are well-defined and difficult to maneuver in. Mounding behind the hole makes this one of the most viewed spots on the course come tournament time.
The most recognizable signature hole at Kingsmill is the par-three 17th. Along the banks of the James, this hole features the longest green on the course, some 50 yards in length and one of the widest. But don't let that fool you, as with the wind coming in from the left, this could play as one of the most difficult greens to hit. One pot bunker and one 30-yard trap guard the right side of the putting surface, while mounding left and deep frame the hole wonderfully. Three putting is a common occurrence, making club selection quite key.
Slightly reminiscent of the TPC at Sawgrass' closing hole, the 18th is a sweeping dogleg left par-four. Water down the entire left side makes for an unnerving tee shot. A draw from the tee to a wide fairway should leave nothing more than a mid iron to another large green. The putting surface is protected left by two long trench-like traps and one deep trap, right-front. The green is two-tiered, with a back-left flag quite diabolical. An outstanding finishing hole.
FINAL WORD: Kingsmill Resort and Spa has so much to offer, that you'll never have to leave the property. From Busch Gardens and Water Country USA to the fabulous golf courses and amenities.
There is no doubt that the River Course is the crown jewel of the resort. Beautifully conditioned, well maintained, accommodating staff and one heckuva layout, make the River a great destination.
Although not long by today's standards at 6,800 yards from the back tees, the River Course has all you can handle for a par of 71. The course is also for all players, not just the single-digit player, as tees begin from 4,800 yards. It's not a killer, but a course that will give and take shots from your score.
With all of the different vacation packages available, from golf to spa treatments, tennis, the marina and even a 'Kid's Kamp,' you'd be foolish not to make a trip to Williamsburg. There is no question that Kingsmill and the River Course will once again be in my family's future vacation plans. Make it yours.
Phil Sokol writes for the Sports Network, and periodically contributes to Send your thoughts on this article to Phil Sokol at

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.