First Peek: Silo Ridge Field Club

Appeared in 2016 Fall issue of LINKS Magazine

East is east and west is west, but the two do meet—in the Hudson Valley, about 90 miles north of midtown Manhattan. Silo Ridge Field Club is the first project in the Northeast from Discovery Land Company, developer of amenity-rich golf communities, primarily in the West, that set the standard for luxurious, family-friendly living.

A key element of the Discovery formula is Tom Fazio, whose near-total redesign of the existing golf course at Silo Ridge is his 11th project for the developer. As with the others, Fazio has built in more than enough challenge to keep good golfers engaged without turning away new and young players. Also common to all Discovery courses is outstanding maintenance and capped off by gorgeous views, here of nearby mountains and surrounding farms.

Nestled in a valley along the ridge that gives the property its name—there are silos on site, as well—the course boasts wide fairways that rise, drop, bend, and skirt creeks, lakes, and ponds. Big, natural-looking bunkers, scattered throughout, will mostly menace approaches to large greens that feature much more movement than one sees.

Discovery properties are also famous for on-course “comfort stations” chock-full of every snack, nosh, and beverage imaginable. From soft-serve ice cream (with dozens of mix-ins) to local cheeses, smoked trout to tequila (DLC’s owner is partner in a tequila company with, among others, George Clooney), if you want it, they’ll have it.

The 800-acre community eventually will have 245 residences, and a number of Big Apple notables have already staked their claims. They’ll want to stay much longer than a New York minute at Silo Ridge.

Classic Course: Siwanoy Country Club

Appeared in 2016 Fall issue of LINKS Magazine

Most serious golfers know that Prestwick hosted the first Open Championship, Newport the first U.S. Open, and Augusta National the first (and all subsequent) Masters. But they probably can’t tell you where the first PGA Championship took place 100 years ago this October. The answer: Siwanoy Country Club, a rolling Donald Ross design less than 20 miles north of midtown Manhattan. 

After a three-year restoration by Mike DeVries that included tree removal, green expansion, and reshaping/relocating bunkers, the course is close to how it was when Jim Barnes beat Jock Hutchison 1-up in 1916 after Hutchison missed a five-foot putt on the final hole. Given the fast, sloping greens—Siwanoy’s main defense—that’s easily done.

“You can’t get above the hole on the greens,” says head pro Grant Turner. “It’s a real thinking man’s course: It doesn’t look hard, but it is.” 

Take the 452-yard 2nd, a gentle left-to-right dogleg with a fairway that slopes hard in the same direction and leaves an uphill approach to a two-tiered green. A prominent rock outcropping by the green is typical of the course’s topography, as are the brooks and fescue that add to the course’s character.

Shorter holes provide some respite in the middle of the round before the testing final third, which starts with a long, uphill par three featuring a huge ridge in the middle of the green. The home stretch continues with three difficult par fours—on the 477-yard 15th players drive over a valley to a crowned fairway—and the par-five finish, where a creek complicates the layup and everything from eagle to “other” is possible. 

Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club

Appeared in Summer 2016 LINKS Magazine

Barassie’s story begins in the 1870s with the men of Kilmarnock, Scotland, who grew tired of making the 10-mile journey to Troon (which didn’t become Royal Troon until 1978) for their golf. Looking to play closer to home, they founded a new nine-hole course on a local farm, but the farmer-cum-greenskeeper refused to cut the grass and covered the turf with manure. In 1894, the men built a new 18-hole course designed by Theodore Moon at Barassie, a seaside town two miles up the coast from Troon. It’s been their home ever since.

Today, Barassie serves as an Open Championship final qualifying venue and boasts some of the smoothest, fastest greens in Ayrshire. At first glance, the course seems like an inland design, featuring many trees but few views of the sea. However, its links nature quickly becomes evident: conditions are firm and fast, and the ocean, while out of sight, supplies strong breezes. 

Nine of Moon’s original holes—some expanded over the years—were seamlessly joined to a new nine in 1997, creating a Championship course of just under 7,000 yards from the tips. (The other original holes now comprise a third nine.) It’s a difficult course, requiring a high degree of local knowledge: Many of the holes are doglegs calling for well-placed tee shots around blind corners. The round finishes on one such dogleg, which although short at 370 yards manages to sting golfers with its three-tiered green.

Although other Ayrshire courses receive more attention, few can match the challenge of Barassie.

First Peek: Tara Iti

Appeared in Summer 2016 LINKS

It’s become routine for a certain amount of hype and fanfare to accompany the debut of a new Renaissance Golf design. Since last fall, though, the first golfers have begun drifting back from Tara Iti, Tom Doak’s course on New Zealand’s North Island, many with strange, almost cultic looks on their faces. “You don’t understand,” they say. “You just gotta see it to believe it…”

Indeed you do. The executive summary: Tara Iti is a world-class true seaside links… in a gorgeous, semi-tropical setting. It’s also an exclusive private club, giving superintendent C.J. Kreuscher (imported from Bandon Dunes) the light traffic and resources to fine-tune the fescue sward and its surrounding sweeps of open sand and native plants to something close to heaven. And while the pretty pictures we see today are one thing, imagine the property in its previous state—covered in a pine forest so dense that Doak sometimes needed a flashlight to walk it. Tara Iti was routed not by sight, but through visualization. 

Of course, it always comes down to the quality of the holes, and Tara Iti delivers high-spirited adventure from start to finish. The early leader in notoriety is the 7th—a very short par four with a foxy tabletop green. Beyond that, take your pick. The 3rd, with its wildly entertaining punchbowl green? The 17th, a nasty little par three that’s backdropped perfectly—to the point of distraction—by a group of islets known as the “Hen and Chicks”? There are no wrong answers. 

Tara Iti is one of the great courses of the world, and even within that august group, only a few place as high a premium on playability and pure enjoyment. You just gotta see it. 

Classic Course: Cherry Valley Club

Appeared in 2016 Summer LINKS Magazine

Any American golf course that has reached the age of 100 has witnessed—and likely felt—the evolution of course design. Cherry Valley Club in Garden City, N.Y., is a prime example. When the club was founded in 1916, its 6,200-yard playground was a heathland design, an inland links by Devereux Emmet laid out on terrain so flat and barren it also accommodated two nearby airfields. 

During its early years, the course saw some tweaks from Walter J. Travis, but its essential character—broad fairways dotted with bunkers of all shapes and sizes leading to small, rolling greens—remained the same. Then came the 1950s—the era of bigness—and Robert Trent Jones came in and did his thing, rerouting the course, expanding the greens, and adding his trademark landing-strip tees. 

All the while, hundreds of trees had been allowed to grow, and by a generation later, those trees had begun to encroach on both the play and the condition of the course. By this time also, improvements in equipment were forcing courses everywhere to stiffen their challenge. Enter New Jersey architect Stephen Kay, whose two major renovations, 20 years apart, have touched every aspect of the course, stretching the back tees to more than 6,800 yards, widening fairways, cutting back trees, reshaping and repositioning bunkers to catch today’s longer drives, and giving full play to the long lush fescue rough that adds to both the beauty and difficulty of today’s Cherry Valley. 

The result is a course that very good golfers find more challenging (tougher to break 75) while average golfers find fairer and easier to break 100 or 90—a course fully evolved and ready for another 100 years.

Great Course: Arcadia Bluffs

Appeared in May 2016 HOTLINKS

Arcadia Bluffs in northern Michigan may not be as well known as great resort courses such as Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits, and Bandon Dunes, but it’s every bit as scenic, challenging, and memorable. And course designer Rick Smith may be better known as an instructor, yet he and Warren Henderson created a very special layout.

Of course, they had a spectacular piece of property. Set on 265 sloping acres alongside Lake Michigan, the links-like design begins high on the property before dropping 225 feet down to the bluff, which still sits almost 200 feet above the lake. With no trees on site, just about every hole offers stop-and-gape lake views, while the fescue-covered dunes and revetted bunkers will make you think Irish links, complete with a few blind tee shots. The routing ebbs and flows between short and long, downhill and uphill holes.

The first visit to bluff’s edge comes at the green of the very long, downhill 5th, where the approach must carry a massive bunker complex. The bluff returns at the canyon-like par-five 11th, which begins a thrilling three-hole stretch along the lake. The tee shot on the 240-yard 13th is the course’s most demanding test, a forced carry over a deep ravine. 

The steeply uphill 18th is a slight letdown as a closer, but an Adirondack chair behind the green is one of the best 19th holes in golf. 

LINKS Living: Quivira

Appeared in March 2016 HOTLINKS

Ernest Coppell was instrumental in turning Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of Baja California, into a world-class tourist destination. When he built a private golf community one mile from town, he incorporated the same combination of beauty, luxury amenities, and service that marks his resorts. 

Setting the tone is the ocean-hugging Quivira Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course lauded as one of the world’s finest when it opened in 2014. Equally impressive are the residences inside the secluded, gated retreat, which are selling faster than projected: Copala is a community of condominiums and homes from $350,000 to $1 million; in Coronado, looking over the ocean and golf course, the single-story, 4,500-square-foot homes are $1.5–2 million; and plans were recently unveiled for top-of-the-line beachfront homes from $5–9 million. Residents have full access to the amenities at the two resorts on property, including a spa, restaurants, beach club, water sports, and miles of trails. 

“We don’t just build nice homes,” says Jose Luis Mogollon, Project Director. “We try to deliver a memorable experience when you live here, bringing our residents the same warmth and service we are known for at our hotels. Wherever you go in Quivira, you will feel that you belong here.”

First Peek: Bluejack National

Appeared in Winter 2016 LINKS

As one phase of Tiger Woods’s career continues to wane, his foray into golf course design continues to grow. He has nearly completed his first U.S. design, Bluejack National, located one hour north of Houston, Texas.

As an architect, Woods believes in providing golfers with a range of strategic options (see his Diamante El Cardonal course in Mexico). At Bluejack, he’s stated that playability and strategy were the priorities. So there is no rough (think Augusta) and the greenfronts have been left open to maximize shotmaking options. Surprising for this otherwise mostly flat part of east Texas, the land also features more than 150 feet of natural elevation change, which Woods’s design team cleverly used, laying out holes as naturally as possible across the gentle hills.

Currently, only the first nine holes are done. “We’ll open up the back nine, the practice grounds, and potentially ‘The Playgrounds,’ a 10-hole short course, in January or February. All 18 holes will be ready in early April,” says Casey Paulson, Bluejack National president.

The club, which will have 386 private homes, is cultivating a relaxed atmosphere. “We’re not interested in a culture of rules. We want people to really have fun when they’re here, whether with their family, their friends, or their clients… Bluejack is designed for camaraderie, fellowship, and creating memories,” says Paulson.

Top 10: Mexico

Appeared in Winter 2016 LINKS

1. Diamante (Dunes), Cabo San Lucas, Arguably the best golf course designed by Davis Love, it plays through massive oceanside dunes, the tauter more upland front side setting the table for a big back nine beside the sea.  

2. Cabo Del Sol, Cabo San Lucas, The first of the marquee layouts in Cabo, this Jack Nicklaus design linking desert and sea remains near the top. Jack immodestly calls his 16th through 18th “the three finest finishing holes in golf” and
it’s hard to argue otherwise.

3. Quivira, Cabo San Lucas, Nicklaus’s latest is a stunner, set on a jaw-dropping stretch of coastline. The signature hole is the drivable par-four 5th, which drops more than 100 feet to a cliff-hanging green beside the sea.

4. Querencia, Cabo San Lucas, Centerpiece of an 1,800-acre private enclave, it’s set on rugged terrain between the mountains and the Sea of Cortez. Tom Fazio made full use of a series of rocky ravines and arroyos to create a course that is as relentlessly challenging as it is visually arresting.

5. Four Seasons Punta Mita GC (Pacifico), Punta Mita, Eight holes of this Nicklaus course border the Pacific Ocean and Banderas Bay including an optional par three, “The Tail of the Whale,” which plays 199 yards to the largest natural island green in the world.

6. Mayakoba (El Camaleon), Playa del Carmen, This Greg Norman design, like the chameleon for which it’s named, is an ever-changing assignment, weaving through mangroves, sand dunes, lagoons, and the occasional cenote (subterranean cave), all set beside the Caribbean Sea.

7. Club de Golf Mexico, Mexico City, Site of the 1967 World Cup won by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, this is a tight, tree-lined parkland layout, nearly 100 miles from the nearest sea.

8. Vista Vallarta (Nicklaus), Puerto Vallarta, Set high in the foothills of the Sierra Madres, this Nicklaus course plays through a mountain-jungle landscape en route to some of Jack’s most wildly contoured greens. But even after a three-putt, the views of Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay are stunning.

9. El Dorado GC, Cabo San Lucas, Six holes of this Nicklaus course  play along the Sea of Cortez. The other 12 climb through desert canyons where the sea is not in play but almost always in view. This is quintessential Cabo golf.

10. Four Seasons Punta Mita GC (Bahia), Punta Mita, The second Nicklaus course at Punta Mita, its steeply sloped fairways and heavily undulating greens make Bahia a slightly sterner test than Pacifico. Five holes play beside thewater, most memorably 17, a short par four that winds around a cove to a seaside green.  

Mexico 10 Diamante

Top 5 TPC Courses You Can Play

The PGA Tour established the TPC Network of Clubs to host tour events with the same high standards for which the tour is known. But you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the tour to tee it up at one since about half of the 36 courses are open to the public. The best part about playing them, besides the design, maintenance, and service excellence each course provides, is the chance to familiarize yourself with a course so you’ll be able to relive your round again and again on TV when the venue hosts a tour event. It’s also a kick to walk the same fairways the pros do and recall some of the more memorable shots from over the years.

1. TPC Sawgrass (Players Stadium)
The first TPC course is still the best and has only grown more popular over the years, both with the players and the public. Who doesn’t want to try their hand at the best finish in golf, starting with the par-five 16th, the island-green 17th and the water-guarded 18th? The rest of the course, including the short, par-four 4th and the double-dogleg, par-five 9th, is pretty special, too.


2. PGA West (TPC Stadium)
After almost 30 years, it sure is a treat to see this ultimate target course back in the lineup for the Career Builder Challenge. Just one question: what took so long? Pete Dye set out to build the hardest course possible, and while modern equipment and golfers have softened its edges a little, it still remains a very formidable test with cavernous bunkers and lots of water in play.


3. TPC Snoqualmie Ridge
As a private club and host of the Champions Tour Boeing Classic, this stunning Jack Nicklaus design just east of Seattle is always in championship condition, but the public can get to play it through a special arrangement with Salish Lodge & Spa, a luxury boutique hotel that overlooks Snoqualmie Falls. Shot options abound on the scenic design, never more so than the 448-yard par four, which falls 80 feet from tee to green and is actually drivable for long hitters willing to try and carry a wooded canyon.


4. TPC Harding Park
Opened in 1925, this storied layout, which was completely renovated in 2003, has hosted numerous big events, including last year’s WGC-Cadillac World Match Play won by Rory McIlroy. The same architect, Willie Watson, who designed Olympic’s Lake Course on the other side of Lake Merced, also built Harding Park, which features gently rolling fairways lined by ball-batting Cypress and pine trees. The final five holes run high above the shores of the lake and are capped off with a memorable Cape-style par-four.


5. TPC Scottsdale (Stadium)
Desert golf at its finest with the emerald fairways contrasting strikingly with the surrounding rugged terrain, the host of the Waste Management Phoenix Open is loaded with risk-reward options thanks to its tempting par fives and drivable par fours. It’s always in great shape, but it’s better than ever after Tom Weiskopf gave his baby a complete restoration in 2014.