Wednesday, September 08, 2010

With four small kids (ages 8,6, 21 months and seven months) and a workaholic wife, who is an assistant U.S. Attorney, I play a lot less golf than I did in my PK (pre-kids) and PM (pre-married) days. Last week, however, I snuck away from the family for a solo jaunt to California, where I took lessons and played a few times. Here’s a report on the places that I visited. Monterey Peninsula: I didn’t have time to play here, but I did have a nice talk with Laird Small, the Pebble Beach Academy’s director of instruction. I also drooled over the incomparably lush condition of the holes at Spyglass Hill that I saw from the snack bar. I also visited the newly rebuilt Peter Hay par-3 course. This little gem (par 27; $30 adults, children under 12 play free) adjacent to Pebble Beach was trashed during the U.S. Open when it was used as a staging area. But the course was totally rebuilt and is scheduled to reopen on September 15. The hilly layout looked gorgeous and lush when I drove by it. Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club: I came here to take lessons from Ben Doyle, the legendary instructor and Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher  who’s taught at the course for decades. The layout is a quaint and perfectly manicured track that winds through a perpetually sunny swath of Carmel Valley, just miles from Pebble Beach. Robert Muir Graves designed the 6,500-yard, par-71 layout that includes 10 lakes and stunning views of the Carmel River and surrounding mountains. Old Greenwood: Two high-school friends and I played this Jack Nicklaus designed course in Truckee, which is in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe. The course has a private membership, but it is also open to the public. At about 6,000 feet above sea level, your ball flies far at Old Greenwood, and that’s good because the par-72 course is 7,518 yards from the tips. Our group didn’t have visions of Nicklausian grandeur, however, so we played from the middle tees (6,457 yards) and were thrilled. The fairways are generous; there are gorgeous mountain views, including the Northstar-Tahoe ski slopes; there are several doglegs; and the greens, in typical Nicklaus fashion, are mostly elevated, curvaceous and protected by cavernous bunkers. Oh, did I mention that I shot a two-under 34 on the front nine? Don’t ask about the back. McInnis Park Golf Club: One of my high-school buddies lives in San Rafael, a suburb north of San Francisco, and we had a couple of hours to squeeze in golf one afternoon so this was the perfect place. It’s a nine-hole, par-31 executive style layout that’s flat as a pancake except for the eighth hole, a steeply uphill 100-yarder where I flushed a 56-degree wedge but missed a 12-footer for birdie. The track offers sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and the Marin Park wildlife area. In addition to golf, there is a huge double-decker (two hitting levels) driving range, an 18-hole putt-putt course and a batting cage. Braemar Country Club: My aunt and uncle from Los Angeles are members at this wild little club that is as up-and-down as any place I’ve seen. The club has two courses, and we played the Guldahl course. Hall of Fame PGA Tour player Ralph Guldahl was the director of golf from 1959-87 and there’s a life-size bronze statue of him outside of the pro shop. The track measures just 5,981 yards, but it presents a stout challenge because the holes are so narrow, there are so many uneven lies and doglegs, and virtually every shot requires laser precision.

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