Emerald trails: Navigating Tom Fazio's stellar Camp Creek Golf Club in Panama City Beach

By Travel ArticlesFebruary 6, 2013, 5:00 am

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- From the tee at Camp Creek Golf Club, all you see is blue, green and the brown hues of native grasses and wetlands. No homes, no cart paths -- a rarity in public or even private golf, for that matter.

Camp Creek is all golf, it doesn't cater to real estate, and it really doesn't cater to all types of golfers. To appreciate Tom Fazio's work -- which includes 86 bunkers, a number of waste areas, numerous water hazards and large, difficult greens -- you have to have a little skill and some experience. There's nothing ordinary about Camp Creek, especially the scenery.

One good hole after another

Opened in 2001, Camp Creek has been on both sides of the private ledger. It's always served the nearby resort -- WaterColor Inn -- but it spent a few years fully private. That feel is still there. For the most part, it's rarely crowded, conditioning is superb, and the course features one beautiful hole after another.

But as scenic as Camp Creek Golf Club is, it's anything but easy. At its longest -- 7,159 yards -- it has a course rating of 76.0, which is four strokes over par. Breaking 80 for good players is quite an accomplishment, and the course has represented one of the toughest qualifying sites for the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.

The thing is that even one tee up, the rating is still 73.5, and it doesn't get a whole lot easier from the three sets of tees in front of that. The reason is the greens are difficult, no matter where you tee it up, and you can't miss fairways or greens, no matter what tees you play.

'Once you get to the green, that's the hardest part,' said Jaxon Hardy, Camp Creek Golf Club's director of golf. 'Because Fazio tricks it up, it makes it tough to read the greens. You think it's going left, and it goes right.'

Finding fairways critical at Camp Creek

Hardy stressed, however, that it all begins off the tee. Although many of the fairways are generous, you have to find them, for the most part, to have a chance.

And playing the right set of tees is critical. Only the best players should tackle this course from the tips because it does play long, and long approach shots into these greens are not manageable. Even at 6,689 yards, the course plays long for most, especially the par 3s, which average close to 200 yards.

Fortunately, Fazio gives golfers sort of a warm-up hole with the first, a gentle dogleg-right par 4 that's only 371 yards from the back tee. The second is fairly short as well, but the course gets drastically more difficult after that.

'Once you turn back into the wind on no. 4 (445-yard par 4), you've got some tough golf ahead of you,' Hardy said.

Indeed. The par 5s, though they're not drastically long, all have large water features and difficult greens. The ninth, the no. 1-handicap hole, is 444 yards and wraps around the lake. The 18th, the no. 2-handicap hole, is very similar.

A case could be made for many holes being the course's signature hole, but the par-3 14th, the shortest on the course, is one of the most picturesque. With a peninsula-type green, it combines all the elements of the course's design.

Camp Creek Golf Club: The verdict

If you make a trip to the Emerald Coast of Florida, Camp Creek Golf Club has to be on the play list. It truly is one of the best golf courses in Florida -- public or private -- with a great variety of holes painted against a gorgeous natural canvas.

Players should plan on making a day of it at the club. Managed by Troon Golf, the facility has excellent practice facilities in top condition, you'll want to get in plenty of practice before -- and perhaps even after -- the round. Lessons are available from the professional staff.

The clubhouse is also inviting and offers a variety of food and beverage choices, as well as plenty of apparel choices in the golf shop.

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”