Angeles National: Scenic desert links golf in LA
SUNLAND, Calif. – When Angeles National Golf Club opened in 2005, the Sunland course became the first Jack Nicklaus design in Los Angeles County. Less than 30 miles from Los Angeles, it didn't take long for the layout, located at the base of Angeles National Forest, to become immensely popular and praised for its beauty and conditions, even garnering Greenskeeper.org's Best Playing Conditions in Los Angeles County honors.
In addition to becoming a high-end hangout for some of Hollywood's golfing elite – actors Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle are two celebrities known to frequent the course – Angeles National G.C. has become a hotbed for awards and honors since its debut. Ranked by Travel+Leisure Golf magazine as one of the Top 30 Best New Courses Worldwide and one of the Top Ten Best New Public/Resort Courses in the United States, the course saw ink in the 2008-09 edition of Golf Digest's 'Best Places to Play' as well as in the 2007-08 Zagat Survey of America's Top Golf Courses.
To add to its noteworthy conditions, Angeles National Golf Club reached a pinnacle in 2009 when its clubhouse was finally completed. At 30,000 square feet, the Spanish mission-style structure replaced the temporary golf shop and grill, while introducing a new full-service golf shop and Agave Restaurant and Bar.
'It's an exciting time at Angeles National,' said Head Professional Ben Krug, a PGA Professional. 'We have our new clubhouse, pristine golf course and all grass driving range, and strive to treat players like members out here.'
Angeles National Golf Club: The golf
Angeles National Golf Club is known for its challenging, yet immaculately maintained, conditions. Four sets of tees stretch from 4,920 yards to 7,087 yards, and it's from those back tees that Angeles National hosts several USGA, PGA Tour and regional qualifiers each year. The facility is a three-time U.S. Open Local Qualifying site (2005-07) as well as a five-time host of the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open pre-qualifying (2006-10). Come 2011, the local Tour stop will again host a qualifier at Angeles National Golf Club.
The golf course is wide and rolling, a desert-style layout where water comes into play on four holes thanks to two lakes. In a rarity of Los Angeles golf, there are no homes or structures flanking the course, and there are surprisingly few bunkers in play – just over 50 in all. Don't get too comfortable with the lack of hazards, though. Environmentally protected areas provide for an abundance of out-of-bounds shots, so bring extra balls and be prepared to find a few extras when searching for your own.
'The course is a spectacular one,' said Bill Nelson, an Irvine resident who's played Angeles National several times since it opened. 'I always lose my fair share of balls out here, but it's a real shot-makers course. If you can keep it in the fairway, the course is a satisfying test.'
The scorecard and tee boxes are deceiving when approaching the holes. The second hole, for instance, called Cottonwood (aptly named for the cottonwood trees growing alongside the fairway), is the longest on the golf course at 585 yards, but if a player can carry a bunker on the right and cut the slight dogleg, he's in prime position for a second approach. The 11th hole on the other hand, called Pitch, looks like a drivable par-4 on paper, yet many golfers can't avoid the temptation of breaking out a driver and are thereby punished for both errant shots and shots too far right that lead to a tricky pitch shot to a sloping green.
Speaking of greens, Angeles National Golf Club's are fast and dynamic. On the 212-yard par-3 third, players are hitting to a Redan-style landing area that feeds the ball from right to left. The seventh hole could be the biggest doozie of them all: Called the Roller Coaster, this par 3 is guarded by a lone deep bunker, but the severely undulating green could feed a ball right into it. Knowledge of the course's greens can come in handy for controlling strokes.
Angeles National Golf Club: The verdict
While Angeles National Golf Club is a healthy test of golf equating to a 74.7/143 course and slope rating from the back tees, it provides a unique desert-like experience only a short trip from the big city's hustle and bustle. As the area's one and only Nicklaus design, guests to the course are in for superior playing conditions and a championship test of golf shared with PGA Tour and U.S. Open qualifiers.
Practice facility and golf instruction at Angeles National
Angeles National Golf Club offers private lessons and clinics for all levels of golfers, with instructors incorporating video and computer analysis into their sessions. Additionally, the course has a professional practice facility that features a driving range with natural turf hitting stations, short-game area, two putting greens and a private practice instructional area.
– by Katie Denbo
This story originally published on TravelGolf.com.
Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.
Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.
While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.
“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”
Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.
“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”
Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close
CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.
McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.
“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”
The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.
“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”
He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.
“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”
Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence
CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.
Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.
Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.
It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.
“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”
Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.
“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection
CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.
Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.
Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.
“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”
Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.
“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”
Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.
“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”