Thursday, November 20, 2014

2015 Travel Schedule

My travel schedule for 2015 is still tentative at this point as I am still waiting for my travel schedule for work. The below listed schedule is what I have confirmed or set aside dates for the courses listed. This list will be changed and updated as I add courses when they become available or when I receive confirmation of tee times and invitations.

If you are going to be in or around any of the below courses and would like a playing partner, please feel free to contact me. I would love to have some company, that also shares the same passion for golf as I do, join me on some of these fantastic courses.

All rankings listed below are based off of world and U.S. rankings found at and Golf Magazine. Golf Digest magazine had its own separate world rankings that have been included in parenthesis. Those separate 2014 world rankings can be found HERE.

Months and Dates yet to be determined (Invitations received)

January 2015 (Alabama & Mississippi)

January 14 - NR Robert Trent Jones Trail - Ross Bridge Course 
January 16 - NR Robert Trent Jones Trail - Oxmoor Valley (Ridge Course)
January 16 - NR Robert Trent Jones Trail - Oxmoor Valley (Valley Course)
January 29 - NR The Bridges Golf Club

February 2015 (Los Angeles)

February 12 - NR Pelican Hill Golf Club (North Course)
February 13 - #93 (Public) Pelican Hill Golf Club (South Course)
February 17 - #29 (Public) Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles

March 2015 (Nevada & San Francisco)

March 12 - NR Coyote Springs GC
March 13 - NR Conestoga GC 
March 13 - NR Falcon Ridge GC
March 14 - NR Canyons at Oasis GC
March 15 - #66 (Public) Wolf Creek GC
March 20 - #57 (World) / #30 (U.S.) Olympic Club (Lake Course) 
March 21 - NR Half Moon Bay Golf Links (Ocean Course)
March 22 - #53 (U.S.) / #15 (Public) Pasatiempo GC

April 2015 (Florida)

April 7 - #58 (World) / #31 (U.S.) / #7 (Public) TPC Sawgrass (The Players' Stadium)
April 8 - NR Dye's Valley Course
April 9 - #59 (U.S.) / #16 (Public) Streamsong (Blue Course)
April 9 - #52 (U.S.) / #12 (Public) Streamsong (Red Course)

June 2015 (Ohio, Michigan & Colorado)

June 2 - #63 (Public) Longaberger Golf Club
June 7 - Attending final round of The Memorial Tournament
June 8 - NR Maple Creek GC
June 9 - NR St. Ives Golf Club
June 9 - #82 (Public) Tullymore Golf Club
June 10 - #37 (Pubic) Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club
June 11 - #72 (U.S.) / #21 (Public) Forest Dunes Golf Club
June 12 - #87 (Public) Bay Harbor Golf Club (Links/Quarry)
June 13 - #81 (Public) Marquette Golf Club (Greywalls Course)
June 14 - #75 (World) / #40 (U.S.) Ballyneal Golf Club 
June 15 - #75 (World) / #40 (U.S.) Ballyneal Golf Club - 2 Rounds

July 2015 (England, Washington, and Indiana)

July 13 - #92 (World) - Swinley Forest GC
July 13 - #80 (World) - Walton Heath GC (Old Course)
July 14 - #69 (World) - Royal Liverpool GC
July 22 - NR Gamble Sands
July 25 - NR Coffin GC
July 25 - NR Purgatory GC
July 26 - #70 (Public) French Lick Resort - Pete Dye Course - 2 Rounds
July 27 - NR French Lick Resort - Donald Ross Course

August 2015 (TBD)


September 2015 (TBD)


October 2015 (TBD)


November 2015 (TBD)


December 2015 (TBD)


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Letters From The Links Facebook Page

I know I am behind by about seven blogs. However, if you want to see photos of courses after I play once I finish a round, I usually post several.  You can find them on the Letters From The Links Facebook page.

Photos of Pinehurst # 4 and #9 are now up on that Facebook page. They will eventually be up here, but I still have two blogs from England and five from New York to write.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The night before....

Not sure if I'm going to be able to sleep much tonight. My excitement and anticipation keeps growing. I'm so psyched to be traveling to the home of American golf, Pinehurst resort, tomorrow!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

39 (World) Sunningdale Golf Club (Old Course)

July 23, 2014

Of all the courses I had added to my schedule to play, Sunningdale was my most anticipated round of golf during my two week visit in England. The weather was perfect and the old or new course, both of which I played on the same day, did not disappoint. I am a big Bobby Jones fan and the old course is one of the highlights of Jones' career.

It was on Sunningdale's Old Course during a 1926 Open Championship qualifier that Jones shot what has been described as a perfect round. The standard scratch score on the Old Course at the time was 75. He shot a total round 66, with a 33 on the front and a 33 on the back. He had 33 full shots and 33 putts. The highest number written on his scorecard was a four. Keep in mind, he was using hickory shafted clubs and a golf ball that wouldn't be recognized today. On ten holes he hit his shot to the green with a two iron or a wood. The scorecard for the Old Course also lists Bobby Jones' round, as well as what he shot on each hole, allowing for you to compare your round to his, or how well you played a particular hole against what Jones did. It is an extra, added and neat experience while playing the Old Course that helps reinforce just how special the experience is.

Entrance sign by the front gate.
The entrance to Sunningdale GC.
Sunningdale Golf Club is located just down the road from Wentworth Estate in Ascot, Surrey, adjacent to land owned by the Crown Estate (The Queen). It was designed by Willie Park Jr. in 1901 and was worked on over several years by H.S. Colt who served as the secretary at Sunningdale. Besides the air of history that Bobby Jones lent to the club, the clubhouse, locker room, pro shop and property make for an awesome and complete golf experience.

Heathland courses, such as Sunningdale, were developed primarily because of the underlying land's resemblance to seaside links courses. They take advantage of sandy soil, the absence of mud in the winter and good drainage. Most of the area around London has a clay base and thus is not ideally suited for golf. Sunningdale, in the Surray heathland, is one of the exceptions.

The course is surrounded by deep woods and is very peaceful. Compared to the courses around the world I have played thus far, Sunningdale's scenic beauty stacks up against any of them. Of particular note, it achieves a high ranking in the world without having hosted any Open Championships. The combination of the natural terrain, sand, birch trees, heather, gorse, pines and water come together beautifully to create a unique environment. Sunningdale is the quintessential English golf club in many respects. Aside from the dignifed English clubhouse, there are walking paths around the course where people stroll about with their dogs or stroll hand-in-hand with their significant other. As I mentioned to quite a few family and friends, if there was only one course in England I could play with my son, it would be Sunningdale Old. It is just that special.

The clubhouse and iconic tree at Sunningdale GC.

The Sunningdale GC clubhouse. 
The iconic oak tree of Sunningdale GC.
The proshop and golf pro office at Sunningdale GC.
A look at the clubhouse and the club's flag.

A close up of the Sunningdale GC flag.
The starter hut at Hole #1 on the Old Course.
Sunningdale's Old Course appears numerous times throughout The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes and receives quite a few accolades. Among them are:
  • Hole 5 is listed as one of the top 100 holes in the world.
  • Hole 15 is listed as one of the best 20 par 3s in the United Kingdom.
  • Hole 5 is listed as one of the best 40 par 4s in the United Kingdom.

There are three tees for men to play at Sunningdale Old. They are the white, yellow, and red from back to front. I chose to play from the white tees as it was a perfect golf day with no wind to speak of. The white tees came in at 6,316 yards and my body was feeling good and up for the challenge.

A look down the fairway from the 1st tee box.
The opening hole is a par 5 that plays to 492 yards. It was altered recently to encourage the drive to be played to the left of the fairway. The “bumps” in the middle were an iron age burial site.

A look at the "bumps" on the right side of the fairway,
As you can see from the photo below, you want to keep your drive left as the mounds that occupy the center and right side of the fairway can present a challenging second shot.
A look into the 1st green from 125 yards out.
A large and deep bunker guards the left side of the green. Care should be taken to stay right on the approach shot into the green.

A look down the fairway from the 2nd tee box.
The 2nd hole is a par 4 that plays to 456 yards. The tee has been pushed back over the years, and the low handicapper will need to draw the drive as the fairway turns to the left and downhill once you clear the hill.  Once on top of the hill, you will find the green is cleverly hidden behind a small mound and sand traps. If you look carefully at the photo below, you can just see the flag peeking out over the left sand trap. Your shot should aim over the middle of the left most sand trap for the best approach into the green.

A look down the fairway from the top of the rise.
You likely want your approach shot to be stopped short of the green and allow it to run on a green that slopes from front to back. If you hit it too far, you will be taking a walk in the woods behind the green.
A look into the 2nd green from 8- yards out,

One of the three flags found on Sunningdale's Old Course.

A look down the fairway from the 3rd tee box.
Even though this is the one of the shortest of the par 4s on the Old Course, playing to only 292 yards, it was one of the most difficult holes for me. Recent bunker changes have greatly improved what had become an over easy drive and pitch. The fairway also has a slight left to right downhill slope, and a fade shot as I tend to hit can very easily end up in the right-side fairway bunkers or the woods. The ease of the approach is affected by the placement of the drive. You also have to be cautious of the bunkers that guard both sides of the green ready to swallow up any errant shots.

A look onto the green from just behind the left, green-side bunker.

Another of the three flags used at Sunningdale Old.

A look into the green from the 4th tee box.
The par 3 fourth hole is a tricky uphill shot to a green surrounded by very deep bunkers some 157 yards away. The green is awkwardly sloping, making it somewhat difficult to hold the green, and tends to force balls to run down into the deep bunkers.

A look onto the green from just beyond the left green-side bunker.

A look down the fairway from the 5th tee box.
The 400 yard par 4 fifth hole is played from an elevated tee box to a fairly generous landing area on the right. A drive to the left is advisable to avoid the bunkers and a pond. The pond is more of a hazard for the poorly hit second shot than the drive except for the longest of hitters.

The green is a relatively flat area so the opportunity to putt for birdie is good unless you find the bunkers surrounding the green.

A look into the 5th green from 120 yards out.
A look at the 5th green from the 6th tee box.

A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.
The 386 yard par 4 is a test of hitting the ball straight. The drive is over heather, followed by a challenging second uphill over more heather with bunkers short and right, to a green which slopes severely from the back.

Once you clear the heather and the hill, it doesn't get any easier. There are mounds and traps and bunkers that make for an interesting shot just about anywhere you find your ball. Par is definitely a good score on this hole.

A look into the 6th green from 30 yards out,

A look up the fairway from the 7th tee box.
The 393 yard par 4 seventh hole is one of my favorites of the Old Course. Initially, the hole doesn't appear very scenic. The drive is a blind shot over a large bunker now disused. Once you top the hill, the hole is one of the more beautiful on the course. As I was the first out on the course and didn't have anyone behind me for an hour, I stood at the top of the hill for a few minutes just taking it all in.

A look down the fairway from the top of the hill.
The major change by Colt to the original Park course, the seventh hole is an altered dog-leg left over a now disused bunker to a green now deep in woods, up to its present site much higher and on the right.
A look into the 7th green from 150 yards out.

A look into the green from the 8th tee box.
The par 3 eighth hole plays to 168 yards and is possibly the most severe of the short holes built across the side of a right sloping hill to a similarly sloping green, surrounded by bunkers, some quite severe.
One of the old, large English houses that you can glimpses of while playing a round.

A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.
The 9th hole is a par 4 and plays to 267 yards. This is probably the easiest of the short par four holes and is likely the best chance to birdie a hole on the entire course.  It is a fairly straightforward hole, driving over the heather and onto a generous landing area. There are some deep bunkers surrounding the green so care should be taken to avoid those.

A look onto the 9th green from 65 yards out.

A look onto the 9th green from 50 yards out.

A look onto the 9th green from the back.

The third flag used on the Old Course.

A look down the fairway from the 10th tee box.
The par 4 10th hole is one of the most attractive views on the course. Standing on the tee at the top of the hill, the fairway is set out before you, with the Half-Way House just beyond the green.  With a fairly wide fairway left, before turning right and back left uphill, this is one of the few holes you can rip a drive as far as possible.  Bunkers are strategically located where an average and above average ball striker would tend to hit a drive.

A look onto the 10th green from 40 yards out.

A look onto the 10th green from just off the right side.

The halfway house has quite a good selection of snacks, sandwiches, and drinks.  It also has a ton of history on display.

Covers of various magazines documenting the different tournaments hosted on the course.

A look down the fairway from the 11th tee box.
The 11th tee box sits directly next to the half-way house. At 252 yards, it is a very short par 4. It is also widely regarded as one of the classic short par fours. The drive is over a severe bunker, with several more bunkers on the right, and with plenty of heather around, it must be properly hit to give a chance for birdie.

A look down the 11th fairway from the top of the bunker.
A look into the 11th green from 80 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.
The 416 yard par 4 eleventh hole is the number one stroke index hole on the course. An errant drive down either side and not the middle is likely going to be penalized. A difficult second shot to a higher green protected by a mound on the right and a heather and gorse bank on the left makes this hole a challenge for almost every golfer.

A look into the 12th green from 150 yards out.

A look onto the 12th green from 75 yards out,

The 13th hole is a par 3 that plays to 173 yards. This downhill par 3 is protected by a wide bunker at its front and grassy gullies around the back and sides. A fold in the green often complicates the putting.
A look onto the green from the 13th tee box.

A look down the fairway from the 14th tee box.
At 477 yards, this par 5 14th hole is the longest hole on the course. There are an echelon of cross bunkers after hitting the drive between a bunker on the right and rough on the left with barely 20 yards between. There is a hidden bunker to the green’s right to also watch out for.

A closer look at the cross bunkers.
A series of large bunkers guard the left side of the relatively flat 14th green.
More cross bunkers help to guard the area immediately in front of the 14th green.

A look into the green from the 15th tee box.
The 15th hole is a long, flat par 3 that plays to 222 yards and will likely require a driver or 3 wood to reach for most golfers.  A variety of tees on the left and right provide a variety of approaches for the handicap golfer. The green is bunkered on the left and short right, and a heather bank guards the right.
A look into the 15th hole from 50 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 16th tee box.
This 16th hole is a par 4 that plays to 423 yards, The hole plays longer than its distance would indicate due the uphill second shot. Many regard this hole as a par 5 due to the cross bunker short of the well bunkered green. The drive between bunkers must be straight to give a chance at par.

A look into the 16th green from 120 yards out.
A look onto the 16th green from the left side at approx. 70 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 17th tee box.
The 417 yard, par 4, 17th hole starts with a downhill drive between a copse of trees on the left and a hidden bunker on the right. If the drive is struck true, you will be left with a second shot over a cross-bunker to a right sloping green.

A look towards the 17th green from the turn of the fairway.
A look into the 17th green from 50 yards out.

A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.
The drive at the 411 yard, par 4, 18th hole falls away to the bunker on the right, which can be a “par killer." The second shot is over a cross-bunker to a green partly protected by bunkers provided by the Luftwaffe in 1940, which remained when it was found that they improved the hole.

A look into the 18th green from 45 yards out.

As mentioned at the start of this blog, Sunningdale Old was the most anticipated course by me of any course I was scheduled to play in England. It met and exceeded every expectation I have. After the round, I had a quick bite to eat and then teed off on the New Course in the afternoon. I hope to return one day and enjoy another round with my son as it is truly an awesome experience and one I recommend to anyone who finds themselves with an extra day while in or around the London area.