Category Archives: Rankings

Paa-Ko Ridge

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia, NM

paako ridge
Me and Bert, who came all the way from Alaska to beat me

The Stats

Tee Time: May 1, 2017, 9:50, 64 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Kenneth Dye, 2000

Playing Partners: Bert Verrall

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (74.1 rating/142 slope/7,218 yards)

Course Handicap: 11 (8.6 index)

Stats:  96 (49-47); 30 putts; 7/14 fairways; 4/18 greens; 7 penalty strokes

The Course

Just a half-hour from the Breaking Badlands of Albuquerque sit the scenic Sandia Mountains, covered in ponderosas, spruce and just a thin layer of snow. And in those mountains sits one of the nicest golf courses in all the southwest, the Golf Magazine #34 -ublic and Golf Digest #46-ranked Paa-Ko Ridge. And I finally got to get a round in with a fan of the blog. Bert came down from Alaska to pick up a car which he then drove from New Mexico way back up to Anchorage, some 4,200 miles up north. Crazy.

Paako ridge sandia nm drone
Paa-Ko Ridge from the air

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Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek Golf Club in Mesquite, NV

Me and CJ

The Stats

Tee Time: October 23, 2016, 1:00, 82 F, sunny

Designer: Dennis Rider, 2000

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan

Tees: Champions, Par 72 (70.9 rating/138 slope/6,309 yards)

Course Handicap: 11 (8.6 index)

Stats: 87 (41-46); 40 putts; 8/14 fairways; 10/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes

The Course

wolf creek golf course mesquite nevada hole 8
The serene setting at #8

Many generations of video games ago (so like, 15 years) Tiger Woods’ EA golf games added in fantasy courses. My research is spotty, but it started in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 when they began adding fantasy courses, fictional settings that had these crazy holes in a mesmerizing setting. They were named Penguin Falls, The Predator, Emerald Dragon and Wallaby Creek, among others.  Then, with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, they added a new fantasy course: Wolf Creek. Except this is a real place. It may seem like something only a video game designer could conjure up, but thankfully it was Dennis Rider who brought this fantasy landscape to life just an hour up the road from Sin City.

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The Best Golf in Phoenix

The Top 25 Golf Courses in Phoenix

arizona snowman
Winter in Arizona

The new Golf Magazine course rankings are out, so I’ve gotta update my map.  Included are state-by-state rankings, from AK to WY, including AZ. I’ve been here in the stifling heat of Scottsdale for almost five years now and have played rounds at around 30 courses in the Phoenix area, so why not provide all you snowbirds and Spring Training visitors with a quick and easy guide on where to play. I’ve only played one private course here for one of those Golf Channel tournaments. The rest, such as Whisper Rock and Estancia, are above my paygrade and celebrity status. So unless you’re coming into town with some well-connected friends, stick to this list.

Best Course: Troon North – Monument, Scottsdale ($59-$295)

troon north monument 16
The view from the long par-3 16th at Troon North Monument

Ten years ago, I went on a road trip to every baseball stadium in the Major Leagues. I lived in the Bay Area then, so we started by going south to Los Angeles and all around the country before getting through Denver and back home. And after visiting all those stadiums, I found out that the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is still the nicest ballpark on the planet. That’s a lot like Troon North’s Monument course is. It’s the first course I ever played in Arizona, and all these rounds later, it’s still the best. Beautiful scenery, fun holes and world-class service make it tough to top.

Runners up: We-Ko-Pa – Saguaro, Fort McDowell; Wickenburg Ranch, Wickenburg

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Quarry at Giants Ridge

The Quarry at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, MN

giants ridge quarry graig
Me and Greg in front of the big abandoned mine lake

The Stats

Tee Time: July 18, 2016, 10:00, 72 F, sunny

Designer: Jeffrey Brauer, 2003

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (72.9 rating/132 slope/6,696 yards)

Course Handicap: 7 (6.3 index)

Stats: 88 (44-44); 37 putts; 8/14 fairways; 8/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the Home Run Derby in San Diego. The one where Giancarlo Stanton hit 61 home runs, topping out at 497 feet. Every time he hit a ball, I could only say “wow”. Each home run just left you speechless, it wasn’t so much a “wow” as a gasp at the crack of the bat. Well, that’s pretty much how my round went at the Quarry at Giants Ridge. Every tee, I was seeing something amazing and awesome. I found myself repeatedly spending an extra moment taking in the surroundings, taking the long route to my next shot, telling Greg how unbelievable this course is. Of course, before we got to start we were given not a primer on the golf course, but a history lesson of the mining and refining past of upper Minnesota. I’m usually fascinated by all this history, especially about the sheer amount of iron and ore they pulled out of these mines (hundreds of millions of tons) in total, a majority of it going toward the country’s World War II effort. But I was also eager to get out and check this course out, so the mining talk kind of washed over me like when Bart tried to listen to the history lesson at the box factory.

giants ridge quarry hole 17
The crystal clear water at 17 is just one of the charming features of this par 3

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Oakmont Country Club

Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, PA

oakmont country club
Mr. Space, me and my dad

The Stats

Tee TimeOctober 13, 2015, 9:00, 64 F, mostly cloudy, breezy

DesignerHenry C. Fownes, 1903

Playing Partners: Richard Space, my dad

Tees: Blue, Par 71 (73.3 rating/136 slope/6,436 yards)

Course Handicap: 7 (5.7 index)

Stats: 87 (43-44); 35 putts; 8/13 fairways; 3/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes

The Course

I got to make a quick trip to the beautiful city of Pittsburgh for a fall round of golf at Oakmont Country Club, the #6 golf course in the country according to Golf Digest’s most recent rankings. It always seems to hover around this spot on the ultimate golf leaderboard, dancing above or below fellow Pennsylvania course Merion, which I had the good luck to be able to play earlier in the summer. So maybe I can weigh in on which should be ranked higher, and then after that I’ll figure out if Augusta is worthy of its #1 ranking… Continue reading Oakmont Country Club

Fallen Oak Golf Club

Fallen Oak Golf Club in Saucier, MS

fallen oak us
Jordan, me and Greg

The Stats

Tee Time: September 4, 2015, 8:24, 95 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Tom Fazio, 2006

Playing Partners: Jordan Ritenour and Greg Ryan

Tees: Third, Par 72 (71.7 rating/138 slope/6,549 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.0 index)

Stats: 88 (45-43); 36 putts; 6/14 fairways; 8/18 greens; 5 penalty strokes

The Course

A stay at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi is required for access to Fallen Oak Golf Club. That is not a bad thing. An MGM casino, the Beau Rivage is the most luxurious casino resort on the gulf coast. The flair and flash of the Las Vegas strip combined with the southern hospitality of the South. It’s literally right on the coast. Exiting the I-10 takes you to the off ramp over the water. With the brand new MGM Park, home of the AA Biloxi Shuckers baseball team, right across the street, a game and some gambling is a great way to spend your night before getting out to your round the next day. The actual course is about twenty miles north in Saucier, through a private gate and down a road into the Mississippi woodlands. This is where you get to you enjoy a little slice of heaven for a few hours. Continue reading Fallen Oak Golf Club

We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course in Fort McDowell, AZ

wekopa saguaro
Sean, me, Ryan and Mike

The Stats

Tee Time: August 7, 2015, 7:58, 101 F, partly cloudy

Designer: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, 2006

Playing Partners: Ryan Cohan, Sean Cohan, Mike Harvey

Tees: Purple, Par 71 (70.2 rating/132 slope/6,603 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 83 (41-42); 36 putts; 9/14 fairways; 9/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke

The Course

Four years in the desert and I finally made the trip out to We-Ko-Pa Golf Club with summer rates begging me to play. The pair of courses, Saguaro and Cholla, come heralded as two of the finest places to play golf in the entire Southwest. It’s always a battle between the two here and the two at Troon North for the top spot in many rankings. The best part about being a resident is I can play all four and judge for myself. We started with the Saguaro, and I’ll be sure to loop back for the Cholla shortly. The Saguaro course is younger by a few years, having been commissioned after the Cholla course proved successful. Saguaro was designed by the elite duo of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who have a “lay of the land” philosophy to designing the courses that has led to some world-class golf around the world. Just take a look at this resume! On top of the fantastic golf, We-Ko-Pa features some stunning desert scenery. I’d love to take my clubs and camera out for a twilight round and catch a radiant Arizona sunset over this layout. Even a morning with some rain produced some stunning photos. So stunning you might just look at the pictures and ignore all my three-putts. Continue reading We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

Merion Golf Club (East)

Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA

merion golf club east
Me, my dad, Larry and Robin

The Stats

Tee Time: July 28, 2015, 9:36, 90 F, sunny

Designer: Hugh Wilson, 1911

Playing Partners: Robin Baggett, Larry McNabb, my dad

Tees: Middle, Par 70 (71.3 rating/144 slope/6,126 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.2 index)

Stats: 79 (44-35); 34 putts; 6/14 fairways; 9/18 greens

The Course

I had the extremely good fortune of getting to play Merion Golf Club’s East Course in Ardmore, Pennsylvania to get to 23 states completed. Known for its unmatched collection of great golf holes, several memorable US Opens and those wicker-basket flagsticks, I looked forward to this on my calendar for three months. Christmas came early. A couple of things about the club first. This is the first club I have been to with this much history. Built in 1896, the heritage and tradition run deep. Caddies are mandatory, there aren’t any yardage markers. No golf carts. No hats indoors. The course is always kept in championship condition. Slick greens, long rough and narrow fairways. Pace of play isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a requirement. Members who don’t complete rounds in under 4 hours get reprimanded and repeat offenders are temporarily benched. They honor the rules here. Not even a breakfast ball. I have a few friends who would struggle with that one. And really, if you’re going to knock it around at a place as esteemed and historic as this, the letter of the law is the only way to go. The club works hard to keep Merion the same as it played when it first opened, and it’s awesome to think you’re experiencing the course just as Bobby Jones did. Fortunately, they don’t go completely old-school and make you play with wooden woods and feather-stuffed balls. Continue reading Merion Golf Club (East)

Sandpiper Golf Course

Sandpiper Golf Course in Santa Barbara, CA

sandpiper golf course hole 12
Sandpiper, the land of dramatic panoramas

The Stats

Tee Time: June 28, 2015, 8:20, 75F, sunny

Designer: William Bell (1972)

Playing Partners: assorted (tournament)

Tees: Gold, Par 72 (72.8 rating/131 slope/6,646 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.7 index)

Stats: 91 (48-43); 34 putts; 6/13 fairways; 3/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

Best I recall, there are two spots on the California coast for golf that everyone agrees are the best. Obviously the trio at Pebble Beach and then the south course at Torrey Pines in San Diego. In between, in Santa Barbara, is a coastal course that is worthy of the same praise the others get. Sandpiper Golf Course, just north of Santa Barbara on the 101, features six holes that take you right up to the cliffs or beach of the Pacific Ocean, and another with an approach that fills the viewfinder with pristine blue ocean. Well, once they clean up the oilContinue reading Sandpiper Golf Course

The Harvester Golf Club

The Harvester in Rhodes, IA

the harvester golf club rhodes iowa
Me and Greg

The Stats

Tee Time: July 6 2014, 12:00, 86F, breezy

Designer: Keith Foster (2000)

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: Blue, Par 72 (73.1 rating/132 slope/6,840 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.9 index)

Stats: 91 (42-49); 40 putts; 8/14 fairways; 7/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

 

The Course

“Is this heaven?

It’s Iowa.

I could’ve sworn this was heaven.”

I wonder how many sports related posts by sports related blogs talking about something sports-related in Iowa start with that Field of Dreams quote. Well, in the interest of being original, I’ll try something else.

Baseball, Ray…

Oops, wrong sport.

That’s my corn out there. You guys are guests in my corn.

There, that fits.

harvester golf club rhodes iowa hole 17
The 17th green at the edge of Lake Harvester

The Harvester is the unanimous choice across every list published for the best course in Iowa. You’d think, well, it’s Iowa, how many golf courses can they really have? Being named the #1 golf course in Iowa seems like it would be like being the MLB All-Star from the 2014 Padres. You’re only there because someone had to be. I was a little excited to come, because my only other visit to the Hawkeye State was a fun afternoon at the Field of Dreams a few years ago. Just stepping out of the car I was instantly amazed at how awesome The Harvester is. It’s not just the best course in Iowa, it immediately took a spot in my top 5 golf courses period. Under the overcast skies of a muggy day, the lush green hills seemed to extend infinitely into the distance. A condo complex and a few houses dotted the landscape, dominated by the massive plantation clubhouse overlooking the entire course. But aside from that and some barbed wire fencing, this place is pure nature. Continue reading The Harvester Golf Club