Punch Shots: What's the best splurge on golf in northern California?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 8, 2012, 10:57 pm

The Frys.com Open of the PGA Tour will shine the spotlight on Northern California this week, visiting CordeValle Golf Resort, an elegant Rosewood Resort property with a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design nestled among the hills of San Martin. So we asked Jason Deegan and Mike Bailey what their favorite places to splurge on golf are in NoCal.

Jason Deegan: Pebble Beach Golf Links 

If a meteor hurtled toward earth like one of those really bad movies, allowing only days of life left for all of us, I’d probably head straight for Pebble Beach Golf Links. If I’m going to go, I’m going to go down swinging at a place many of us consider paradise. Staying and playing at Pebble Beach is the ultimate golf splurge.

People complain about how expensive a golf vacation can be at the Monterey Peninsula’s signature resort, but I look at it from a different point of view. The cost of the experience makes Pebble Beach a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It’s something to be cherished. Not everybody gets to do it. Not everybody can afford it or not everybody loves golf enough to justify the cost. That exclusive feel makes Pebble Beach special. You won’t find Joe Muni there, just serious fans of the game.

There’s a lot to love about Pebble Beach. A perfect day might start with a morning round, followed by lunch at The Tap Room, the historic tavern in the Lodge. I’ve never seen inside the Spa at Pebble Beach, but I’m imagining a glorious massage that afternoon with the grand finale a night out for dinner in charming Carmel-by-the-Sea.

As for the other courses at the resort, call me a rebel, but I actually prefer the Links at Spanish Bay to Spyglass Hill. The first five holes at Spyglass are awe-inspiring, but I’d rather stay by the shore at Spanish Bay and take my chances with the target golf of Robert Trent Jones Jr. than head inland at Spyglass and get my ego handed to me by RTJ Sr. Spyglass ranks among the toughest courses in the world. I don’t want my precious few hours left on earth trying to break 100. I’d rather be staring out at the Pacific Ocean, daydreaming that heaven looks this good.

Mike Bailey: Carmel Valley Ranch

I've always said that there are three courses that should be on every avid golfer's bucket list, and Pebble Beach would be one of the three (the other two are the Old Course at St. Andrews and Augusta National). But in northern California, there is resort life other than Pebble Beach, and it's pretty good. One that shouldn't be overlooked is Carmel Valley Ranch. The Pete Dye design-golf course there won't make you forget Pebble, but it's not too shabby.

But what really makes Carmel Valley Ranch special is the overall experience. It's nothing like Pebble Beach. CMV is secluded, tranquil and incredibly therapeutic. It's been defined as summer camp for adults, but it's so much more.

The 500-acre resort is covered with lavender, which attracts deer as well as bees, which means the resort harvests its own honey and lavender, the latter of which is used in the spa and other applications.

The spa is world class as is the food, which takes the farm to table concept to the highest levels. There is also great hiking, bocce ball, swimming, a terrific tennis program (with hard courts and clay), two outstanding workout facilities, basketball courts and fire pits for conversation and S’mores at night. And the accommodations – all suites – feature fireplaces, huge tubs and great views of the hillsides, which are covered with vineyards.

And when the weather is dreary at Pebble Beach, chances are it's sunny and warm at Carmel Valley Ranch, which is set in the sunny foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains of Carmel Valley.

As for the golf course, the recently renovated layout might not be what you call championship at 6,100 yards, but it’s anything but easy or boring. It’s in great shape, and there are great views everywhere, especially on the back nine, which features several elevated tees. Dye integrated water hazards, unusual angles and doglegs to create a collection of holes that both challenging and memorable – just like the resort.

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”

Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)

Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.