Monday, February 25, 2008

Stone Canyon in Tucson AZ

I just played a wonderful golf course down in Tucson (actually Oro Valley) called STONE CANYON CLUB. My friend Mike Assum introduced me to Dan Gleason, who is a career writer (unlike me, a one book wonder). It is just down the road from THE GALLERY AT DOVE MOUNTAIN where on this Sunday, Tiger Woods was beating Stewart Cink in the final round of the Accenture Match Play. I have not been to Dove Mountain, but from what I understand these courses couldn’t be much different.

As I was playing the top 100, one of my favorite design teams was Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. I was so sad to see them break up. But Jay Morrish designed this one by himself and it is terrific. Jay Morrish said himself, “This is by far the best desert golf course site I have ever seen.” And I think I may agree. And I have played some pretty wonderful desert golf courses.

It is in a community snuggled up against the nearby Tortolita Mountains. It has wild elevation changes, strips of emerald fairways winding through boulders, cacti and cascading waterfalls. Stone Canyon has an intriguing collection of par threes. One across an abyss framed by one of the courses waterfalls and three others that start out on majestic tee boxes and give you mostly down hill looks at magnificent green complexes.

The par-fives also have captivating character. Up hill, down hill and relatively level. Number 15 for example, plays almost like a triple dogleg with out cropping and bunkers defining the meandering fairway. Number 10 on the other hand is closer to a double dogleg with a very generous driving area and then it tightens down (chokes down may be a better term) from there, forcing you to hit your next two shots around a large lake. (and they better be precise)

The course finishes with a very long par- 4, but on the tee box, we stood so high above the fairway that our tee shots produced hang time that would make an NFL punter proud.

My new friend Dan Gleason, reminded me several times before we teed off that he had not picked up a golf club in over 5 weeks, but that did not stop him for shooting a lights-out 35 on the front 9. Not quite that good on the back, but hey that is nothing to sneeze at. I had 6 pars on the day, which is good for me but I also had 4 holes where I drove it into the desert, which quickly made my score much higher than I had intended. All in all it was a wonderful day. This is a very expensive housing development and the homes we saw were magnificent. Take a look for yourself at
Oh I almost forgot to mention, Jay Morrish has a very challenging way of presenting short, challenging par 4’s. Like number 17 a devilish 275-yard par 4. Don’t confuse this with the 280-yard par three that Oakmont threw at the U.S. Open this year. I doubt there are many pros who could bring one in high enough and soft enough to hold this green, so it’s really drivable in distance only. Seems like it ought to be easy, but it’s a beauty cloaked in danger. I did manage to get a par here however.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My visit to Oak Hill in Rochester NY

Feb 1, 2008
Several people have found some errors in my book and I would like to correct them now as best I can.
I was sad to see that the story of my playing at Oak Hill didn’t get into the book.
I don't know how it missed the book, but since the story of my hosts, Joe and Mary Flately was so extraordinary, I want to tell their story here.
I sent a book to my friend Steve Boulay in Salt Lake City, who was raised in Rochester New York and after he read the book he pointed out to me that the story of Oak Hill was missing.

When I was on my quest, Steve had called his dad, a doctor in Rochester whose partner is a member at Oak Hill. I called Steve’s dad, who had set me up to play with Dr. Joe Flately So I called Dr. Flately and we set a date. I called him back a week before our date and he asked, “What flight are you arriving on?” I told him and he immediately said, “We will pick you up at the airport” In my entire quest, this was a first. I had asked him to recommend a hotel in the area and he informed me “you aren’t staying at a hotel, you are staying with us at our home.” I was very grateful, but this was really a first. Here he was opening his home to a complete stranger. He picked me up at the airport, took me to his home, we had lunch and then he took me on a tour of Rochester. We were back for dinner at his home and his wife, Mary, who was on the Arbor committee of Oak Hill, gave me a complete explanation of the tree program at Oak Hill. She explained the various species of trees, how they plant replacement trees as they age etc. I learned a lot about how a good tree program really runs. And here at Oak Hill trees are king.
Dr. John R. Williams, a medical doctor who had a passion for trees, surveyed the new Donald Ross design when it was being built, and decided it would be enhanced by trees - thousands upon thousands of oaks, maples, evergreens and elms, but, mostly oaks. He said he lost count at 75,000, the number of seedlings he planted, and as you walk the grounds of Oak Hill today, you can't help but gaze skyward at the majestic trees that dominate the landscape. It is amazing that all of this began as little acorns - collected from all over the world - in the small backyard garden of Dr. Williams' home.

The next day we went and played the course. A great course, what Dr. Flately called a blue collar working mans golf course. Not the most aesthetic place, not on the ocean like Pebble Beach or Cypress Point, but a challenging course that is well laid out. And believe me those trees not only add majesty and beauty but also add enormous challenge. The 18th hole has plaques on many of the trees, honoring the many champions who have walked this hallowed ground.

Sam Snead won here as did Ben Hogan who still holds the course record of 64 which he shot in the first round in 1942. How hard is Oak Hill? In the five stroke play championships contested at Oak Hill, only 10 players have been under par. Now that is hard.
Oak Hill's rich and storied tradition of hosting championship golf will become unrivaled when the 2008 Senior PGA Championship is hosted there. Oak Hill will be the only club to have hosted all six of the men's championships.

The Flatelys win my GREATEST HOST AND HOSTESS AWARD for this journey.