Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ryder Cup History

I'm very much looking forward to this year's Ryder Cup. I plan to be up and watch every moment of it.  There simply isn't a comparison in all of golf.  For those not sure what the Ryder Cup is all about, you can read a brief history HERE.

If you've never watched the tournament, please take an hour or two. It truly is unique.

Ballyneal trip canceled

Due to my impending move to New Orleans, I have had to cancel my Oct 6-8 trip to Ballyneal.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

84 (World) Ganton Golf Club

July 22, 2014

After playing at Royal Lytham & St Annes, I made the drive up to Yorkshire for my round the next day at Ganton Golf Club. I had never been to this part of England so was eager to see what it had to hold.

The entrance sign at the end of the driveway.

Golf was first played at Ganton GC in the summer of 1891 on a course laid out by Tom Chisholm of St. Andrews who had assistance from Robert Bird, the Club's first professional and head greenkeeper. In 1896, Harry Vardon signed on as the professional at the club and it was during his stay that he won the first three of his six Open Championships. It was also Ganton GC that he brought back the U.S. Championship Trophy in 1900. In conjunction with Ted Ray, also a Ganton Professional (1903 – 1912), James Braid, and J.H. Taylor, Vardon contributed to a major redesign of the course in 1905. Many other architects including Harry Colt (1907, 1911 & 1931), Dr Alister McKenzie (1912 & 1920), Tom Simpson (1934) and C.K. Cotton (1948 & 1952) have added to the continuing improvements over the last century and change.

It was Vardon's matches against J.H. Taylor in 1896 and Willie Park Jr. in 1899 that first brought Ganton G.C. to the notice of the golfing world. Since Vardon, Ganton G.C. has been the venue for matches and championships including the 1949 Ryder Cup, 2000 Curtis Cup and 2003 Walker Cup. Ganton G.C. has hosted a succession of major amateur and professional tournaments for men and women.

Ganton is a golf experience that harkens back to the foundations of the game. Aside from 150-yard markers, there are no yardage markers. Playing by feel, trying to judge the wind and distance by eye or from the distance measured by a bunker or a tree, is what you will experience at this course.

Like many other courses in northern England, Ganton G.C. has deep, penal, and large bunkers very similar to what I experienced at Woodhall Spa. The bunkers so deep that you need a ladder to climb in and out of them.

I didn't find the front nine particularly exciting, or even that difficult. I did, however, find the back nine, especially the final three or four holes, very fun and challenging to play. What I did find that I particularly enjoyed was the very old school feel of the clubhouse, locker room, staff, and course.

The clubhouse at Ganton G.C.
The clubhouse is not fancy or ostentatious. It is simple, but functional, and was a pleasure to visit after some of the over-the-top clubhouses I have experienced in my quest to play the top 100. They also have housing on the grounds for the staff of the club and course.
The housing for the club's staff.

After checking in at the pro shop, the head pro escorted me to the locker room and advised when I was ready, to let him know, and he would give me the tour. The locker room is relatively the same as one would have experienced it in 1930. The same lockers, same wood benches, and same everything  (likely in the same places) instills a true sense of golfing history. They also have photos of every club pro dating back to the first pro, Harry Vardon.

The gentlemen's locker room at Ganton G.C.
Photos of all the club pros look down upon you as you ready for a round at Ganton G.C.
There are three tees for men to play at Ganton G.C. They are the blue, white and yellow from back to front. I chose to play from the blue tees as it was a perfect golf day with no wind to speak of. The blue tees came in at 6,998 yards and I was feeling good and up for the challenge.

A look down the fairway from the 1st tee box.
The first hole is a par 4 that plays to 369 yards. The tee shot is over some heather and scrub brush to a partially obscured landing area. Luckily the fairway is very wide, so even a shot that is not in the middle should land in short grass and set up for a very nice approach shot to the green.
A look down the 1st fairway from just past the scrub brush.
The 150 yard markers are the only yardage markers you will find for each hole.
 On the approach shot, care to be taken to stay as close to the center of the green as possible. Two very deep bunkers guard each side of the green, just waiting to swallow up any ball you hit near either of them.

A look into the 1st green from 100 yards out.
A look at the left-side bunker.
A look at the right side bunker. 

A look down the fairway from the 2nd tee box.
The second hole is a long, 445 yard par 4. The best shot is to take it down the left side of the wide fairway as there a deep bunker along the right. The green is relatively flat on this hole, allowing for a very good chance at making par or better.
A look into the 2nd green from 160 yards out. 
A look into the right side fairway bunker. 
A look onto the 2nd green from 30 yards out.
A look at the left, green-side bunker

Hole three is a 349 yard par 4. The tee shot is through a narrow gap of trees to a very wide fairway. Like number two, the green here is fairly flat. However, this one is guarded by numerous bunkers.

A look into the 3rd green from 120 yards out. 
A look onto the 3rd green from 30 yards out. 

A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.
The fourth hole is a par 4 that plays to 407 yards. The blind tee shot is to a fairly narrow landing area that runs downhill and to the right towards the green. Once you clear the hill, the green comes into view and is guarded by a right-side bunker. There is a left side fairway bunker that should not come into play except on an errant shot.
A look into the 4th green from 150 yards out.

A look onto the green from the 5th tee box.
The fifth hole is the first par 3 on the course and plays to 158 yards. There are bunkers that guard the front and back of the green but they are almost impossible to see from the tee box. Also, the green only provides a very narrow landing area, making this a very difficult hole, especially if the winds are blowing.
A look onto the 5th green from just off the right side.

A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.
The sixth hole is a par 5 that plays to 467 yards. A lake runs a good distance down the left side and trees line the right side, so a straight tee shot is a must on this hole. There are also several bunkers that line the left side of the fairway so care should be taken to avoid those on a second shot.

A look into the 6th green from 120 yards out. 

A look down the fairway from the 7th tee box.
The seventh hole is a par 4 that plays to 432 yards. It is a dogleg right that has three bunkers placed on the edge of the turn at approximately 180-200 yards from the tee. Luckily there is plenty of room to play the tee shot to the left so the bunkers should not really come into play unless you hit long enough to possibly cut the corner of the dogleg.

A look at the three bunkers located at the turn in the dogleg. 
The large green slopes left to right and  a ball hit at the wrong angle could find its way into the left green-side bunker. A bump and run shot will be the easiest to get your ball to come to rest as close to the flag as possible.
A look into the 7th green from 120 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 8th tee box.
The par 4 eighth hole plays to 411 yards.  Like several earlier holes, it has a very wide fairway, allowing for whatvever shot you are most comfortable with. I prefer a fade so aimed at the left edge of the fairway and watched the ball drop on the left side of the fairway and roll to center. The relatively flat green has a very large and deep bunker located on the right side so stay center or left on the shot to the green.
A look into the 8th green from 100 yards out.

The ninth hole is a 501 yard par 5 that is also a relatively straight hole from tee to green. There are a few bunkers around the two-tiered green but not much else noteworthy with this hole.

A look into the 9th green from 200 yards out.
A look into the 9th green from 25 yards out.

 The back nine starts off with a 168 yard par 3. The undulating green has numerous bunkers around it so a well placed tee shot is a must.

A look into the green from the 10th tee box.

A look down the fairway from the 11th tee box.
The 11th hole is a par 4 that plays to 424 yards. It has a slight dogleg right that leads to the green. There is a very large bunker that cuts across the middle of the fairway. If the conditions are right, as they were on this day, a long drive can run itself 30 yards after landing and right into the deep cross bunker.

A look into the 11th green from 130 yards out.
A look down the deep cross bunker at number 11. 

A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.
Hole 12 is a 399 yard par 4 that has a severe dogleg right. The corner is very short at around 160 yards and so the dogleg is easy to cut. However, the landing area is very narrow, bringing the possibility of a three wood or hybrid into play off the tee. The green has several mounds that run through it and bunkers guarding the left and right sides, making this one of the more difficult holes on the course.
A look into the 12th green from 120 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 13th tee box.
The long par 5 plays to 563 yards from the blue tees. There is scrub brush and heather that cut across the fairway but shouldn't come into play as they are only 120 yards or so from the tee box. After crossing the scrub brush, the large fairway is relatively straight with few hazards until you reach the green. The green has a large bunker on the front right that can come into play if the pin position is on that side.
A look into the 13th green from 100 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 14th tee box. The iconic church steeple can be seen in the background.
The 14th hole is a short par 4 that plays to 280 yards, making it reachable with the drive if you are a longer hitter. For the average hitter, the play is to aim the tee shot at the iconic steeple. This will place a 220 yard drive on the right side of the fairway with a decent look into the green.

A look into the 14th green from 150 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 15th tee box.
The 15th hole is a long par 4 that plays to 493 yards.  There is a large bunker on the left and scrub brush on the right of the landing area. The fairway is kind of an S-shape turning left initially then back to the right towards the green. This shot is all about the shot making and what you can do with the tee shot and approach.
A look into the 15th green from 75 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 16th tee box.
The par 4, 446 yard 16th hole is where the course really becomes interesting.  A large hill cuts across the center of the fairway, obscuring most of the landing area. After clearing the hill, the fairway becomes more narrow as it approaches the green. There is a very large bunker and waste area to the left and a smaller bunker on the right front edge of the green, to help increase the difficulty of the hole.
A look into the 16th green from 150 yards out.
A look into the g=16th green from 30 yards out.

A look into the green from the 17th tee box.
The 17th hole is a par 3 that plays to 251 yards.  The tee box is located across the street from the rest of the hole. Caution has to be taken to ensure no vehicles are approaching the club before hitting the ball. There are multiple bunkers located around the two-tiered green to catch any errant shots.

A look into the 17th green from 50 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.
The 18th hole is a par 4 that plays to 435 yards.  The blind tee shot plays to a generously wide fairway. However, it is a quasi-dogleg left that turns towards the green across the road. There is a large stake on top of the hill and the best drive is just to the right of the stake. The approach shot is hit back across the road you crossed on the previous hole. The green is quite large, and has several bunkers surrounding it, but is mostly flat, allowing for a good mark to finish the round.

A look at the 18th fairway after topping the hill. 
A look into the 18th green from 110 yards out.
Unfortunately, I had a bit of a drive to London after the round so was unable to stay for lunch or the kind offer from the club pro to play a second round in the afternoon. Overall, I think Ganton's ranking is just about right. It has a few interesting holes, and a wealth of golfing history. I think the history alone makes Ganton worthy of the top 100 courses in the world. If you find yourself in the region, make sure to put aside a few hours to experience the course, and just as importantly, the clubhouse and golfing artifacts to be found within. It is well worth the experience and the money spent to play the course.