Poppy's got a brand new bag: Pebble Beach neighbor Poppy Hills is back

By Mike BaileyMarch 21, 2014, 6:48 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Robert Trent Jones Jr. calls "93953" the greatest zip code in golf for good reason. After all, it includes Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay and Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Poppy Hills, a course he designed in 1986 that hasn't always measured up to its neighbors.

So when given a second chance by the owner of the course – the Northern California Golf Association – Jones and his team delivered. No, they couldn't compete with the ocean views of Pebble or Spyglass, but they could improve conditioning, the design of individual holes and bring the course up to date.

"It's where the greatest golf art has been created by masters of other times. We're in great company," said Jones, whose father RTJ Sr., designed Spylgass next door. "So we as artists had to pay up. We got the second chance to come back and refresh and renew the course. I think all these courses are great, and we're happy to be among them."

Ginella: Redesign brings Poppy Hills back to relevence in Pebble Beach

Indeed, with much anticipation, Poppy Hills reopened after a 13-month renovation with a VIP and media outing to great fanfare on Thursday (the course opens to the public on April 4). There was a ceremonial first tee shot that included Jones; Patrick Moran, an 11-handicap golfer who won a chance to represent the 150,000-strong Northern California Golf Association; Brian Morse, president of the NCGA, which is the largest regional golf association in the country; and Derrell Biddy, president of Poppy Holding Co., which oversees golf operations. There was even a hawk to ring the new era for a golf course NCGA officials weren't sure would be ready in a time a few months ago when water was scarce in the area. But thanks to those neighboring courses, which generously shared their water, Poppy Hills was ready on time and in prime condition.

Sure, the bentgrass greens were as firm as you would expect from a new course, and there might be some tweaks in the near future, but all-in-all, this course was pretty close to perfect.

The upgrades weren't limited to the golf course. There's also a renovated clubhouse, complete with a new food & drink menu, big screen TVs and the same deck that overlooks the ninth and 18th holes. Except this time, the views are more stunning.

Adding to the buzz was the announcement that the all-new Poppy will co-host the Champions Tour’s Nature Valley First Tee Open, teaming with Pebble Beach Golf Links, from Sept. 22-28. Poppy, which used to be part of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am rotation, replaces Del Monte Course for the Champions Tour event.

A big reason for the renovation was to find a way to improve drainage while conserving water. The introduction of native waste areas reduces irrigated turf by nearly 25 acres, while an ultra-modern irrigation system that precisely monitors and waters each square yard of the golf course, also adds to the efficiency. The entire golf course was also sand-capped, native areas were reintroduced to eliminate a large portion of irrigated turf, while fairway size, which totals 60 acres was actually increased. The more efficient watering is also designed to promote firm-and-fast play conditions and the new design lends inself to creative shot-making coming into the greens, meaning it's often better to land the ball short and play the bounces.

"It’s a renaissance more than a renovation," Jones said. "It’s really a brand new golf course. The new conceptions have reinvigorated the golf course. They will bring the course back to all its glory."

Par has dropped from 72 to 71, but yardage has increased from 6,863 to 7,002 from the new Jones Trail (back set of tees). The Jones Trail plays to a rating of 73.5 and a slope of 135, but now there is more flexibility in course setup, with five sets of tees instead of four. It can play as short as 5,215 yards.


The 18th hole at Poppy Hills

The original routing from the course's 1986 opening remained largely intact with the exception of the 11th hole, a new par 3. Behind the green is a large bunker, but in between the bunker and green is a mixture of high native grass that tends to swallow up balls that may have trickled off the back of the green. In summer, said superintendent Manny Sousa, that grass will tend to thin out, but for now, it's easy to lose a ball in it, whether it's just off the 11th green or surrounding some the course's fairway and greenside bunkers.

Speaking of bunkers, many of them were moved or enlarged to adapt to the modern game and equipment. The course also now has natural sandy waste areas on many of the holes. And there were other changes, too.


The 12th hole now comes with an ocean view.

The reachable par-5 ninth, for example, now has a creek that runs in front of the green, making it more difficult to reach in two. And the 12th now plays downhill, opening up a view of Monterey Bay not previously seen.

The NCGA has been headquartered at the course's clubhouse since 1986. Amateur members can play the course for a reduced rate, but even more impressive may be the junior golf initiatves by the association, which allow accompanied juniors to play for $5, which makes the course's new association with The First Tee Open fitting.

"The First Tee Open is a wonderful partner for the home course of the Northern California Golf Association," said Brad Shupe, GM of Poppy Hills Golf Course. "One of the prime initiatives of the NCGA Foundation is its Youth on Course program, which allows boys and girls to play courses for only $5. And we are proud that two of the last three pro-junior teams to win The First Tee Open were made up of Youth on Course players."


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'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told GolfChannel.com in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Web.com Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”