Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bandon July 2012

It had been six long years since I had last stepped on the sandy turf of Bandon Dunes Resort, back in 2006.  Bernie had been pestering me almost nonstop for a return trip to "the Motherland," as he calls it.  His near constant badgering finally paid off when my brother, Jefe, and I decided to take our annual golf trip to Bandon in July of 2012.  This would be my third time on the property.

Bernie alone with his thoughts along the cliffs of "The Motherland"

The usual third member of our group, JC, could not make the trip.  He was too busy playing the likes of Oakmont, Merion, Ballyneal, organizing his national Hundred Hole Hike and raising literally hundreds of thousands of dollars through his foundation, One Diviot, to slum it with Jefe, Bernie and I.  Suddenly, I feel very inadequate, although, I do have more hair.  I guess that makes us even.

The general plan was for Jefe and I to fly out to Portland, then drive down to Bandon the next day for 4 days of golf.  After that, Jefe would drive back to Portland to his family and work duties.  Sap.  Me, being relatively untethered, (translation = alone at age 40) would drive south to Monterey, for another 4 days and more golf.

The lineup of seriously high quality golf courses where seriously low quality golf shots would be played, broke down in this order....

Pacific Dunes
Bandon Preserve
Bandon Trails
Old Macdonald
Pebble Beach
Monterey Peninsula-Dunes
Monterey Peninsula-Shore

Friday July 13

The drive down to Bandon from Portland was relatively uneventful, other than Jefe needing to stop every 10 miles for the bathroom.  (note to self:  Jefe's Christmas gift, a year's supply of Flomax, may be unnecessary while a year's supply of Depends, may be more appropriate)

As anyone who has made the trip from Portland to Bandon knows, the drive is scenic.  The land is gently rolling and the road twists and turns through towering forests of mountain pine.  The drive takes you through quaint coastal towns and along ever blue rivers.

Along the route to Bandon

For normal people, this drive would be pleasant and scenic, dare I say, enjoyable.  For golfers, it is a torture test of patience as one maddening obstacle after another must be negotiated over a 4.5 hour span in order to reach the holy land, Bandon.  And yet, as with any great pilgrimage, the journey is worth the effort, because, for golfers, Bandon is such a special place.

Pacific Dunes 3rd Hole

During the car ride down Jefe drank a bottle of "Smart Water," labeled as such.  I suspect it was actually "Dumb Water," since Jefe suggested we play the back tees for our first round at Pacific Dunes.  At a mere 6,633 yards, the back tees at Pacific are pleasant; a puppy's cool nose on your hand or a cup of coco on a cold winter's day.  In a snapping 3 club wind, they are a sledgehammer to the head.

Pacific Dunes 4th Hole

Off we went into the howling wind. The first three holes at Pacific Dunes, two short par 4's and a par 5, play toward the sea and into the prevailing wind. On the 3rd hole for my approach I hit a solid 7 iron from 110 yards and came up short. I made three straight bogeys to open the round, and while that is highly normal for me, I felt that was a great start, given the wind

Pacific Dunes 11th Hole

From there, the slaughter began. I blew my drive over the cliff and into oblivion on the 4th hole. Doubles began piling up. Oddly enough, I was hitting the ball solidly. Solidly and Jimbo are normally two words not paired together. It's like pairing Congress and effective, Tiger Woods and cuddly, Cubs and World Series

Jefe at Pacific's iconic 13th hole

I was oblivious to Jefe's round and his difficulties because I was just trying to survive the conditions.  By the end of the round I had shot 49-41 for 90 with 5 double bogeys a handful of pars and no birdies. Actually, I was somewhat pleased with how I hit it.  Jefe, on the other hand, had carded a golfer's most dreaded score, "X," which essentially translates to, "Why did I bother?"

But at Bandon, there's always another round around the corner to soothe your battered psyche.  We walked over to Bandon's newest addition, The Preserve.  The course, which has to be the best par 3 course in the world, was designed by Coore and Crenshaw.  It has 13 holes, ranging from 40 yards to 150 yards. 

The Preserve 2nd Hole

It was early evening when we teed off. The course is somewhat sheltered from the winds, since it doesn't sit directly on the cliffs. And by the early evening hour, when we played, the wind had died down considerably

The Preserve 9th Hole

I was still hitting it solidly and Jefe soon picked up the pace.  The greens at Pacific Dunes earlier in the day were fast, lightening fast if you were downwind.  At The Preserve, it was like putting on the shag carpet I had in my childhood bedroom in the 70's (which I have done).  The starter told us they were stimping at 9.  Jefe and I thought they were more like 6.  Soon Jefe was lasering quality shots at flags and I reverted to Normal Jimbo and started clunking it around, although I did make par on 9 of the 13 holes.  Jefe got sorted out after his debacle at Pacific, shooting +2.  Once the greens grow in and they get them up to speed, allowing players to use slopes to funnel the ball to the hole, the course will be a ton of fun to play.  At $100 a pop, I probably wouldn't play it again, but, The Preserve is worth at least one look.

For our time in Bandon we had decided to stay at The Inn, the newest accommodations at Bandon, sandwiched between the 18th green at Bandon Dunes, The Preserve and Bandon Trails.  As we were unpacking and settling into our room, for some reason, I pulled one of the greatest tool moves of all time.

Jimbo's Infinite Kingdom of Space

Jimbo: "Jefe, I'm going to stash my stuff here on this desk and you can stash you're stuff on that table."
Jefe: "Uh, ok."
Jimbo: "That way we won't get our stuff mixed up."
Jefe: "Uh, sure

Welcome to Shantytown Jefe, U.S.A.

The careful observer will note I premtively staked out the prime real estate and maximum space for myself, while relegating Jefe to a one cubic foot table.  I have no real explanation for this.  I just blurted it out.  Perhaps I was subconsciously trying to get a subconscious advantage on Jefe, gamesmanship and all.  More interestingly, while he pointed out my idiocy, Jefe really didn't protest much at all.  I take this as marital residue, since after being married for many years, a husband's vocabulary basically boils down to the phrase, "Ok, honey, whatever you want." 

If that's the case, thank youuuuuuu, Natalie.

Saturday July 14

After a fitful night of sleep, (guilty conscience?) the next morning brought Bandon Trails, another Coore and Crenshaw design.  I had seen Trails back in 2006 when it first opened, having played it twice.  I remember liking the first 13 holes or so and disliking the closing stretch, because they were brutally hard.

Bandon Trails 1st Hole

We had the 7:30 tee time and the back tees, measuring at 6,765 yards, seemed manageable due to a lack of wind.  I pulled my first tee shot into the bunker and hit a great hybrid 4 iron to a blind green and made par.  Odd, because that was a quality golf shot.  At the downhill par 3 2nd I badly pulled a hybrid 3 iron (do I have any other clubs than hybrids?) but it bounced off a mound and onto the green, 25 feet from the hole.  A second straight par.  Somewhat abnormal.

Bandon Trails 5th Hole

I sensed the sun may finally shine on this dog.  I had been playing poorly all summer and it had been over a year since I had broken 80.  Since my entire self image rides on the current state of my golf game, I was feeling pretty badly about myself.  This was a chance for redemption and to cast myself as a valuable member of society, once more.  My feeling is anyone who can't snap 80 every now and then should be locked up and the key, thrown away.  What good are they?  I have issues.

I cruised through the front nine with 8 pars and one bad double bogey, to shoot a stellar 38.  On the outside, it appeared my life was all lollipops, rainbows and puppy dogs, being only 2 over par after 9.  However, I was knocking the ball all over the yard, narrowly avoiding disaster multiple times and somehow still making par.  On the inside, I knew I was a ticking time bomb.

Bandon Trails 14th Hole

I opened with pars at 10 and 11, made bogey at 12 but rallied with solid pars at 13 and 14.  I was + 3 after 14.  For normal people, all this great play would generate confidence.  If you've read any part of this post, you've likely deduced I'm not normal.  I mean, I opened the post by talking about my head cover, Bernie, like he's a real person, which, he is.  Instead, the great play only served to ratchet up the internal pressure that is always simmering when I play golf.

As mentioned earlier, the final 4 holes at Bandon Trails are brutal.  They are an ogre sitting under a bridge ready to take your ice cream cone.  They play into the prevailing wind (now one to two clubs), uphill and are long.  Jimbo The Ticking Timb Bomb went off at 15 where I made a careless double.  I followed that up with a three putt bogey at 16, a bogey at 17 and tossed in a triple bogey at 18 for good measure to shoot 38-44 = 82.  Count me as still a non-contributing member of society, an anchor to the human race.

Jefe shot 41-43 = 84, hitting some solid shots, including a hole out from the bunker at 9 for birdie.  The other members of our group were stunned by this fantastic shot.  I, on the other hand, had seen all of Jefe's antics before.  In truth, I sort of expected it.  JC knows what I'm talking about.  I could tell Jefe was on the verge of lighting up Bandon like it was his own personal pinball machine.

I liked Trails more than I did the first time I saw it.  The first 13 holes, playing through dunes and forest, are spectacular.  The 14th is the most controversial hole on the course.  I actually liked it, having made all pars on it for my career.   Yes, the final 4 holes are uncompromising, but they're not tricked up in any way.  They just require the golfer to execute quality shot after quality shot.

Old Macdonald 7th Hole

The afternoon round was at Old Macdonald, a Doak design and nod to noted golf course architect, C.B. Macdonald.  The scope of the place is enormous.  You could put 3 courses where Doak laid out one.  The quality of the turf is unbelievably good; perfect for links golf.  With a 2 or 3 club wind, Jefe and I played Old Mac at 6,320 yards.  I started out well enough making par, bogey and par on the first three holes.  However, my herky-jerky-in-need-of-major-lube swing finally broke down completely, and I ended up shooting 44-46 = 90.

Jefe, on the other hand, had arrived.  He was bombing the driver on the wide open course, lasering irons and proclaiming his love for Old Mac after every par and holed putt.  Jefe birdied the final two holes to shoot a sparkling 39-39=78, cementing his status as an upstanding member of society.  The entire round was high quality vintage Jefe, and likely a measure of revenge for me banishing him to Shantytown Jefe, U.S.A.  Deservedly so.

That evening we played an emergency 9 at Bandon Dunes, in the setting sun.  At some point during the nine, I realized I had played an alarming number of holes without a single birdie. 

Bandon Dunes 4th Hole

This fact immediately began to prey upon my brain.  In my demented world, if breaking 80 makes you a valuable member of society, then carding birdies makes life worth living.  The food after a round of birdieless golf doesn't taste as good, the drink not as refreshing.  The sun seems dim and you certainly don't sleep well.  I looked over at Jefe, who had multiple birdies (4 at this point) for the trip and had just shot 78.  He was casually strolling the fairways, basking in the sun and yucking it up, not a care in the world.

By the end of the emergency nine, I had played 76 holes without a birdie!  I could envision myself playing 100 holes (sort of my own twisted Hundred Hole Hike) with no birdies.  The pressure would only build from here.  I knew I would not sleep well.

Super Slo-Mo Fan

That last sentiment became an understatement.  After dozing lightly, I woke up at midnight bathed in a pool of my own sweat, again.  The last time I was at Bandon the same thing had happened to me, due to a roommate who had turned on the room's fireplace, in July, and then fallen asleep.  Gamesmanship?  Perhaps.  This time the room was boiling because the temps outside were unseasonable warm.  I opened the room's one window with no measurable effect.  Luckily, our $255 a night room came equipped with a ceiling fan.  Unfortunately, neither Jefe nor I, with four college degrees between us, could figure out how to turn it on.  We tried every switch, button and blasted lever in the place, all to no avail.

Finally, I called the front desk and spoke with Carrie.  She told me the switch was behind the closet in our room.  I flipped the hidden switch.  Have you ever watched a PGA telecast, where they break down a player's swing using the super slo-mo camera?  Well, the fan in our room moved essentially at the same speed.  Again, no measurable effect.

However, by this time, Jefe had craftily located the wall mounted A.C. knob and cranked it up as high as it would go.  Notice I employed the word, "up."  Who turns a knob up to cool a room?  The vent started pumping out air and we settled back into bed, figuring it would be only minutes until the room cooled.

Almost immediately, it became apparent something was horribly amiss.  I was laying closest to the vent and was roasting.  Sweat was beading up on my considerable forehead like never before.  The room was like a Turkish sweat bath.  I got up and put my hand on the vent.  It was pumping out hot air.  I looked at the knob Jefe had cranked up.  It was jacked to an inhumane 85* F.  Gamesmanship?  Very likely.

I turned off the heater and called Carrie, again.

The only reason I'm still alive

It turned out the rooms were not equipped with A.C.  However, Carrie said she could sent up a remote to turn the super slo-mo fan up, as well as a floor fan.  I said we'll take both.

A half hour later, with no remotes or fans in sight, I called Carrie a third time.  It was now 12:30 AM.  Carrie said the floor fan was being put together, because it was still in the box.  I said forget it, don't send the guy up, we'll make do and went back to bed.  Five minutes later the guy showed up with the floor fan, but no remote.

The fan worked wonders and cooled the room quickly.  I inquired about the remote.  He said the remote was too powerful, meaning, if you turned up your fan with the remote, it would turn up all the fans in other rooms in that wing of the building.  I looked at him blankly.  At almost 1:00 AM, likely dehydrated at this point and having gone 76 holes without a birdie, almost none of that made sense.  He left and Jefe and I both went back to bed, getting maybe 4 hours of sleep.

Sunday July 15

The agenda for Sunday was Pacific Dunes in the morning followed by Bandon Dunes in the afternoon.  The morning was overcast, cool and misty.  I wore pants and a long sleeve jacket.  The other two guys in our group showed up wearing full monsoon battle gear.  The caddies had on ski caps and winter gloves.  Jefe showed up wearing shorts and a micro-thin rain jacket.  Hearty.

Pacific Dunes 11th hole in the wind and rain

Standing on the 1st tee, I knew this was hole # 77 of Jimbo's Anti-Birdie Tour.  I also knew the longer the birdieless streak festered the more incapable I would become in handling it mentally and emotionally.  If you haven't noticed, mental/emotional toughness are, perhaps, an issue for me.  I blame 25+ years of golf whittling me down to the shell of a man you see today.

This birdieless madness had to end, and end it I would.

From the forward tees, measuring 6,142 yards, I got my drive in the fairway and stuck a 9 iron to 6 feet on # 1.  The putt worked right to left, a bit uphill and I drained it, dead center.  My all consuming birdie obsession was suddenly, over, only to be replaced by other recurring obsessions, too numerous to list here.

The wind was blowing.  It was cold, and raining.  By the 5th hole I couldn't feel my hands.  Everything was wet, including my grips.  I shot 47-42 = 89, with an 11 on the third hole.  By moving up exactly 491 yards I had managed to trim one stroke off my previous score at Pacific.  I did, however, birdie, so my pain was mildly soothed.  Despite not being able to choose clothing properly, Jefe showed he could still play golf, which is all that really matters in life, anyway. He posted a respectable 84, going 43-41, in the worst conditions we faced on the trip.

Bandon Dunes 6th Hole

The afternoon gave way to sunny skies, which afforded wonderful views of the coast and ocean at Bandon Dunes.  Playing the course at 6,221 yards, Jefe continued his solid play, adding two more birdies to his total and carding an 82.  Once the lid was off, I also carded two more birdies, but continued to shoot woeful scores, posting 45-43 = 88. 

However, I was thankful for the clear skies and wonderful views.  In all my previous trips I had played Bandon Dunes in overcast conditions.  Sunday's PM round was perfect, with mild wind.  Some people slam Bandon Dunes.  I'm not sure why.  I really enjoy the course.  It's wide and fair and will allow you to score if you hit it well.  The ocean holes are super scenic and I feel the entire course is fun to play.

Jefe at Bandon Dunes' par 3 15th

Post round Jefe tried to perk me up, pointing out I had shot a pretty good round at Trails the previous day, only faltering on the most difficult part of the course in the toughest conditions of the round.

Jefe:  "Jimbo, your Trails round was really solid, (for you)."

Jefe didn't say the part in parentheses, but that's what my neuroses filled brain heard.  His comments were totally normal, an attempt to instill some confidence.  Unfortunately, by that point, I was too far gone to realize this and his words were lost on me.

Monday July 16

Suddenly, three days of our trip were gone with only one remaining, which included a double dip of Old Macdonald in the morning followed up by a third round at Pacific Dunes in the afternoon.

Old Macdonald 1st Hole

Apparently, Jefe loves Old Macdonald like a fat woman loves Spanx.  He picked up right where he left off, opening with five straight pars and shooting 36 on the front.  There were a few struggles down the stretch and he three putted the last two greens to shoot 80. 

Meanwhile, I played marginally better opening with par, double, birdie and managed a good score of 38 on the front.  Since the birdie issue had long been settled, my feeble mind turned to breaking 80, as it seemingly always does.  Unfortunately, I got on the bogey train for the next 4 holes, but then derailed it by making another birdie at the par 4 14th hole.  I had a chance, until Jimbo's Chop Shop opened for business on 17.  I flew my tee ball into a hazard, which led to an untimely triple (is there ever a good time for one of those?) and then I doubled 18.  I went 38-47 = 85, 5 strokes better than my previous round on Old Mac, but still bitterly disappointing.

Pacific Dunes 4th Hole

Pacific Dunes is a world class golf course.  It is my second favorite course that I have ever played.  The views are unbelievable, with the golf being better than that..  Doak simply created a masterpiece on the cliffs that run above the Pacific, a course which likely will be the signature design for his career.  Jefe went 46-37 = 83 and I made bogey the 18th hole to shoot another 90, ending my pipe dream of breaking 80 on Bandon's sacred, sandy ground. 

Whether playing in high winds or rain and fog, it is always a total joy to play Pacific Dunes.  When playing the round with your brother, it can't get much better than that.

Pacific Dunes 10th Hole

Statistical Breakdown for Bandon Portion of Trip


El Jeferino:

Pacific Dunes:  102 (51-51), 84 (43-41), 83 (46-37)
Old Macdonald:  78 (39-39), 80 (36-44)
Bandon Trails: 84 (41-43)
Bandon Dunes: 82 (40-42)
Bandon Preserve: 41 (+2)

Score Average:  84.71
Birdie Total: 8


Pacific Dunes:  90 (49-41), 89 (47-42), 90 (42-46)
Old Macdonald: 90 (44-46), 85 (38-47)
Bandon Trails: 82 (38-44)
Bandon Dunes: 88 (45-43)
Bandon Preserve: 47 (+8)

Score Average:  87.71
Birdie Total: 5

Bandon Preserve

Upcoming:  Monterey Portion of Trip

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cog Hill Course No. 4 - Par 4 4th

Today GPW brings you three pictures of Cog Hill's par 4 4th hole.

Like the SAT, Cog Hill is long, difficult and boring. The 4th hole, measuring 462 yards from the back tee, is a perfect example of that. The tee is slightly elevated giving the player a good view of the hole. Fairway bunkers left and right, plus trees, narrow the hole as you go.

The second shot plays somewhat uphill, to an elevated green. You get that a lot at Cog Hill. This fairway bunker needs to be avoided like the Plague and women missing a front tooth (GPW learned this factoid from personal experience).

Because the majority of the greens are elevated and fronted by bunkers, there are limited options when playing to the putting surface. In an effort to appease the USGA and land a future U.S. Open, Cog Hill sold its soul to the devil. What used to be Chicago's best public golf course is now simply a brute and not very much fun to play.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Waterville Par 3 12th

Today GPW brings you the par 3 12th hole at Waterville.

Waterville is located just a mile or so outside of town. The club's sign is simple. Note the American flag flying just below the Irish flag. Waterville is very much an American links, which isn't a compliment.

The late Payne Stewart would practice at Waterville the week prior to playing in The Open Championship. A statue near the putting green and first tee commemorate his memory. The entire set-up is somewhat creepy.

The 12th is known as the Mass hole, and is one of Waterville's best holes. It measures an even 200 yards from the back tees. The tee box is surrounded by dunes and must carry a wasteland of gorse, bunkers and deep fescue grass. An enormous depression, not seen in the picture, perhaps 30 feet below the surface of the green, must be avoided on the tee shot. The exposed nature of the green make wind a factor at the 12th.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Doonbeg Par 3 9th

Today GPW brings you three pictures of the par 3 9th hole at Doonbeg.

The 9th measures just 175 yards from the back tee. The hole rests along the beach, found to the players left. Three pot bunkers lie in wait just right of the green. The 9th is difficult becasue the front portion of the green is extremely narrow. The back portion of the green opens up somewhat, and is ringed by modest dunes. The 9th is at the edge of the property. The white building behind the hole is someone else's land. To GPW's untrained eye, it looked to be a working sheep farm.

From behind the green, you can see just how narrow the front portion of the green is. A front flag location is difficult to get at, especially in wind. The further you go into the green, the wider it gets. The beach is definately in play at the 9th.

The final picture, taken from the right of the green, gives you an idea of just how close to the beach the 9th really is.