A round with golf course architect Tom Doak

By Jason DeeganMarch 30, 2012, 7:46 pm

I found Tom Doak right where I envisioned he’d be: sitting at a drafting table in his cozy Traverse City office combing over site plans of a golf course.

When I stopped in last fall, he was home in northern Michigan for a brief moment in between visits from some far-flung golf destinations. Even in this economy that is bleeding other architects dry, Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design firm remains busy. Last fall, Doak said he was the only golf architect he knew building two courses in America. Doak, who has designed 27 courses around the world (two have closed), is set to open a course at Streamsong Resort in central Florida later this year and is working to finish a second course at Dismal River in Nebraska this spring. He also has projects in various stages in Spain, France, Scotland and China. That’s a tribute to his past successes at Bandon Dunes (home to Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald), Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand and Barndougle Dunes in Australia.

Blue Course at Streamsong Resort

Opening in late 2012, the Blue Course at Streamsong Resort (Photo by Larry Lambrecht) 

Doak and I have an afternoon tee time at his home course, the famed Crystal Downs Country Club in Frankfort overlooking Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan. To say Crystal Downs is special to Doak would be an understatement. It is essentially why the native of the East Coast and Cornell University grad settled in Northern Michigan and ultimately helped launch his design career. A random phone call to Fred Muller, Crystal Downs’ head pro, led to Doak’s first design, the now-defunct High Pointe Golf Club in nearby Williamsburg in 1989.

Doak appreciates every curve of Crystal Downs, a 6,529-yard par-70 classic designed in 1929 by Alister MacKenzie and Perry Maxwell. It’s a place he tries to mimic at times while building other courses. The first and 10th tee and the clubhouse sit on a hillside perch overlooking a demanding rolling layout that sprawls out below. 

“It’s really not like any other golf course that I can think of,” he says. “That’s more important to me than most people.  A lot of people don’t care that one Pete Dye course in Florida is like one in California because they are only going to play one of them. To me, who travels around, it’s important.”

We start the day with solid drives from the white tees of the 449-yard par-4 first, but neither of us is prepared for the unrelenting challenges on the greens. There are times when putts roll off precariously canted putting surfaces. That’s the beauty and bane of playing Crystal Downs. Thankfully, neither of us is keeping score. We’re more focused on mixing golf swings with golf talk.  

Driving up the second fairway, Doak analyzes the hole, a 425-yard par-4. “This is the kind of hole that clients don’t want you to build anymore,” he says. “It’s a little plainer. It is not the sexiest hole on the golf course. So many people now want every hole to be the sexiest on the golf course. This is a really good hole. ... It doesn’t try to wow you at all. It’s also the kind of hole when you are on a great course and you go back the second or third time, you notice the holes you thought were the plainest holes the first time, they are really good, too. That’s when you know you are on a really great golf course.”

Doak offers advice on the 345-yard fifth. There’s not much room in the fairway with a blind approach to the green tucked behind a hillside. Doak has seen every blind shot imaginable, having lived in Scotland for a year in college, touring and playing more than 170 courses of the British Isles. His thoughts on blind shots might surprise you.  

“I think blind shots are fun to play occasionally,” he says. “But very few people have tolerance for it in the United States anymore, and there is a safety problem. If you have a blind tee shot and you don’t know if the next group is out of the way or not, it is hard to do that in the modern world. You see it all the time on old golf courses and nobody thinks twice about it. Clients don’t want you to do that. But on a hole like this, if you put your drive in a certain place, it’s a blind second shot. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. We don’t have to go very far to find out if somebody is on the green.”

Pacific Dunes

Tom Doak's most acclaimed design is Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Oregon (Photo by Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf). 

The 351-yard sixth introduces another short par-4 with plenty of character. “I love the short par 4s out here,” Doak says. “Short par 4s in general are my favorite kind of hole. The best courses in the world have three or four short great ones. Most other golf courses are great to have one or two good ones. They are really important to the balance of a course to give members a chance to make par or birdie.”

Doak learned a lot of things from Pete Dye, a mentor he worked under for three years early in his career but being kind to the members wasn’t one of them. He later points out the punch-bowl green on the 330-yard seventh. “It’s like the seventh hole at Ballyneal (a Doak course in Colorado). Everybody loves it,” he says.

On the back nine I bring up the one hole in Doak’s resume: How much will he regret never designing a course good enough to host a major event? Most recently, he was a finalist to design the golf course for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, which was eventually awarded to Gil Hanse.

“People have asked me that for years,” he says. “It wouldn’t much mean that much to me as it does to other architects. To date all of my clients have wanted me to build something fun to play, not to host a big tournament. Any client, if that was their focus, it would be interesting to do a project like that. If that never happens, it would not be that big a deal to me.”

It’s safe to say Doak’s legacy as a golf course architect is firmly intact with or without the bid, just like the reputation of his beloved Crystal Downs. Both have already proven they’re among the best in the world.

Doak on Royal Melbourne and golf in Australia. 

Top photo of Tom Doak taken at Old MacDonald, courtesy of Brian Walters/Resort and Golf Marketing. 

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

Images and footage from Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson's round Friday at Trump National in Jupiter, Fla., alongside President Donald Trump:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.