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Len Ziehm On Golf

Raven’s Claw

(Published in wheretogolfnext.com)

Location: Pottstown, Pa.

Architect: Ed Shearon.

Opened: 2005.

Par: 71

Yards/Rating/Slope: Black tees 6,73961,9/131; Blue 6,386/69.6/128; White 5,995/67.7/124; Yellow 5,357/63.7/116; Red 4,824/67.0/111.

Saturday morning green fee: $69

Caddie Service: No.

Walker friendly: Yes.

Fairways: Bent

Greens: Bent

THE REVIEW

For starters: It’s the home course for the Symetra Tour’s Valley Forge Invitational and will also host both of the outings held during the International Network of Golf’s 30th annual Spring Conference in 2020. The course record is held by a woman. One of the Symetra players, Louise Ridderstrom of Sweden, shot an 8-under-par 63 in 2018.

Play because…: Shearon lives in the Pottstown area and operates a major landscaping business but he has also designed several other courses. This one was built on 177 acres with traditional-looking family homes mixed in with some of the golf holes.

Takeaway: The most surprising feature is the remains of an old house in the fairway off the No. 1 hole. Golf professional Jim Bromley said it dates into the 1700 or 1800s but doesn’t know why it’s there. The rest of the course is marked by a good use of big bolders to guide players around the layout. The greens are testy and undulating. The course name comes from the presence of several such birds in the trees on the site.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: No. 10 (634 yards from tips/619/519/486/451) It’s the last of par-5 on the course, and a challenging one for more than just its extraordinary length from the back tees. Second shots must carry a waste area and the green still won’t be easy to reach. The two-level fairway is higher on the right side than it is on the left the putting surface is most challenging. No. 7 is 111 yards shorter and designated as the No. 1 handicap hole, but No. 10 is a monster that won’t be forgotten.

Best Par-4: No. 9 (404 yards from tips/377/362/307/284). This very well designed hole starts a tough three-hole stretch called The Claw. The tee shot must be on the left side of the fairway and well-struck to offer a clear approach to the green. The approach is the most demanding shot on the course, as the opening is narrow and the green elevated. Come up short and you can wind up in a waste area.

Best Par-3: No. 14 (137 yards from tips/125/117/100/85). Yes, it’s the shortest hole on the course and, yes, it’s the easiest according to handicap but this shorty falls at a nice place in the rotation and looks much different than the other par-3s. Not only is it shorter but there’s water fronting the green. Not a hard hole, but a fun one..

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Food/beverage: NA. (We weren’t there when meals were served).

Pro shop: 8

Clubhouse: 9

Difficulty: 8

Pace of play: 10 (Had the course to ourselves throughout the round.

Overall: 8.2

Rater: Len Ziehm

INFORMATION

Phone: (610) 495-4710.

Website: www.ravensclawgolfclub.com

Facebook: @Ravens Claw Golf Club

Twitter: @RavensClawGolf1

Instagram: ranvensclawgolfclub

Georgia’s Jekyll Island is a golf destination that’s had two lives

JEKYLL ISLAND, Georgia – Jekyll Island has been a golf destination for over a century, but things have changed a lot since golf was first played there in 1898.

It thrived when the rich and famous hung out there. That ended in 1942. Now it’s a state park. Georgia is a state rich in golf resorts and is also boasts Augusta National, the home of the Masters, and East Lake, the home of the PGA’s Tour Championship. At least 20 PGA Tour pros live on Sea Island.

And yet, the state’s biggest public golf facility is Jekyll Island State Park. With 63 holes now, it’s a golf destination that has had two distinct lives.

From the late 1800s until 1942 in was a private playground for the wealthy. In 1948, after a period of decay during World War II, it was opened to the public.

History-wise, Jekyll Island stands tall from what went on there many decades ago. As a retreat for America’s wealthiest — people with last names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Pulitzer and Astor either lived or hung out their regularly – Jekyll Island was one of America’s first golf destination.

The Jekyll Island Golf Club was the 36th club to gain a charter with the U.S. Golf Association in 1886, though the members didn’t open a course until 1898. Scotsman Willie Dunn, runner-up in the first U.S. in 1899, designed an 18-holer and Horace Rawlins, the man who beat him in 1895 at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, was Jekyll’s first head professional beginning in 1899.

Rawlins won the inaugural U.S. Open with rounds of 91-82, two strokes better than Dunn. The tournament, only a one-day affair back then, was contested the day after the three-day U.S. Amateur.

Just how long Rawlings hung around is uncertain, but the second head pro was also a notable player and stayed much longer. Karl Keffer would win the Canadian Open in 1909 and 1914. In between those wins (in 1910) Keffer was hired as Jekyll’s second head pro. Only one Canadian golfer, Pat Fletcher in 1954, has won the tournament since Keffer last did it.

Keffler was Jekyll’s head pro until 1942 and during his time on the job the club got serious about golf. The members wanted a better course than the original one and a second course was started in 1910 with legendary Donald Ross the architect. It’s now on the grounds of the Oleander course — toughest of Jekyll’s three 18-holers — but Ross no longer has his name on it.

Some say Ross was fired during the construction process, which was hampered by drainage problems.

“My understanding,’’ said present director of golf Spencer Brookman CHECK, “was that he was hired to build the course and got it started, then he was either terminated or they couldn’t get the course dry enough.’’

That course wasn’t open long before the members lured Walter Travis to design another one. That was a big deal as Travis was the first three-time U.S. Amateur champion (1900, 1901 and 1903) and the first non-Brit to win the British Amateur in 1904. He was also a prolific writer and course architect, and Great Dunes was one of his last creations. It opened in 1928, a year after his death.

Fourteen years later the wealthy left, many feeling the Island was too vulnerable to enemy air attacks with World War II looming. There were no workers to keep the place afloat anyway, and in 1947 the state of Georgia took it over and named it Jekyll Island State Park. That ended the first phase of Jekyll Island’s life as a golf destination and started the second, which continues to this day.

When Jekyll Island State Park opened to the public for the first time on March 1, 1948, golf was not an option. Neither the Oceanside Course, now Great Dunes, or the Club Golf Course that Ross designed was playable. Both were overgrown, and it took years to get the sport re-established on the Island.

The State turned over what had been Ross’ design to architect Dick Wilson and he created what is now the Oleander course. It opened in 1964. Pine Lakes, the most family-friendly course on the Island, opened in 1968 after a combined design effort by Wilson and Joe Lee. Indian Mound, a Lee creation, was constructed in 1975.

Great Dunes was reduced to nine holes in 1955 when the Island was undergoing difficult financial times.

“That course has become more and more popular since we redid the greens and re-routed Nos. 1 and 9 toward the ocean,’’ said Brookman. That project was completed last September.

With all 63 holes up and running the Island became tourist destination again and some of the scenes in the golf-themed movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance,’’ were shot there.’’

“Oleander is more of a shot-makers course with more doglegs,’’ said Brookman. “It plays a lot longer than it looks. Pine Lakes is a little easier but still hard since it was redone in 2005 (by architect Clyde Johnston).’’

The courses are a center of amateur golf two weeks every year when – on consecutive weekends – they host a U.S. Kids Regional, which draws 320 youngsters, and the biggest of college tournaments. The Jekyll Island Intercollegiate, hosted by Atlanta’s Ogelthorpe University, brings together 64 men’s and women’s teams from the NCAA Division III ranks.

The three 18-hole courses are player-friendly and reasonably priced. The terrain is relatively flat, so walking is an option for those who want the exercise, and the power carts have a state-of-the-art GPS system. Lodging and dining options on the Island is more than ample.

Once the state purchased the Island there was definitely a push to rebuild,’’ said Brookman. “Now you can park your car, play 54 holes and never have to get back in your car. That sets us apart from other places.’’

The Links at Greystone

(Published in wheretogolfnext.com)

Location: Walworth, N.Y.

Architect: Craig Schreiner.

Opened: 1995

Par: 72.

Yards/Rating/Slope: Championship tees 7,215/74.3/130; Blue 6,594/71.6/127; White 6,033/69.8/125; Gold 5,277/65.7/109. Women: White 6,110/74.8/134; Gold 5,277/70.8/116.

Saturday morning green fee: $67 (includes cart. Carts are required before noon).

Caddie Service: No.

Walker friendly: Yes.

Fairways: Bent

Greens: Bent

THE REVIEW

For starters: The Odenbach family, which built three courses as a sidelight venture to its mining and quarry company, sold this course to settle a family estate in 2000 and then bought it back in 2016. The family has been dedicated to golf in the Rochester area since 1979 and family members are involved throughout the operation of Greystone.

Play because…This is one of designer Schreiner’s first creations. Based in Myrtle Beach, S.C., he worked with Hurdzan Design Group and collaborated on courses with veteran tour players Larry Mize and Nick Price. Schreiner designs are also located in Minnesota, Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Nebraska, Virginia and Oklahoma.

Takeaway: Originally called Greystone Golf Club, this layout isn’t a true links course. It has lots of trees on its 270 acres but it’s a quality layout. The Greystone name comes from the use of grey stones on two dramatic holes – the par-3 sixth and par-4 18th. The feature that really jumps out, though, is the double green serving Nos. 9 and 18. It provides a great view from the clubhouse.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: No. 16 (595 yards from tips/553/518/482). As the last par-5 in the rotation, the course’s longest hole is called “Heaven or Hell.’’ The path to the green is a narrow one compared to the rest of the course. There’s woods and water on the left and trees on the right.

Best Par-4: No. 7 (408 yards from tips/381/339/300). No. 18 — the designated signature hole – is a par-4. So is No. 4 – the No. 1 handicap hole. No. 5, though, is more memorable because of the approach required to the very elevated green. You need a drive in the fairway to set it up and you don’t want to be long on your second shot.

Best Par-3: No. 6 (178 yards from tips/139/115/91). Certainly not the toughest of the course’s short holes, it is the most memorable because of the brick wall fronting the green. A fun hole in a pleasant setting.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Food/beverage: 8

Pro shop: 9

Clubhouse: 9

Difficulty: 8

Pace of play: 7

Overall: 8.5

Rated: Len Ziehm

INFORMATION

Phone: (315) 524-0022.

Website: www.greystonelinks.com

Facebook: @The Links at Greystone

Twitter: #thelinksatgreystone

Instagram: NA.

Fort Myers Country Club

Location: Fort Myers, Florida.

Architect: Donald Ross, with renovation by Steve Smyers in 2014.

Opened: 1917

Par: 70 for men, 71 for women.

Yards/Rating/Slope: Black tees, 6,675 yards, 72.9, 131; Blue, 6,245, 70.5, 126; White 5,815, 68.9, 124; Golf, 5,460, 67.0, 117; Red, 4,905, 69.0, 114; Green, 4,360, 62.9, 101.

Saturday morning green fee: $50 (does not include cart, which rents for $25 per person).

Caddie Service: None.

Walker friendly: Not really, but walking is allowed and pull carts are available.

Fairways: Bermuda.

Greens: Bermuda.

THE REVIEW

For starters: One of only five courses in Florida that has celebrated a centennial, The Fort (as its known locally) is a heavily-played layout owned by the city of Fort Myers. It has a rich history with its past players including such long-ago stars as Walter Hagen, Jock Hutchison, Gene Sarazen, Horton Smith, Charlie Sifford, Babe Zaharias and Arnold Palmer.

Play because…: The course underwent its only major renovation in 2014 when Steve Smyers strived to re-capture the style of original designer Donald Ross. While Smyers was successful in that regard, the course underwent some notable changes. Par was changed from71 to 70 for men and 72 to 71 for women. Smyers put in six new water hazards and the course now has 52 bunkers.

Takeaway: Smyers’ renovation greatly improved the condition, as the drainage was extensively modernized and the turf quality upgraded. One notable problem: it has no practice range.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: No. 18 (Yards from tips 535/520/490/475/400/385). This sharp dogleg left is as very good but challenging finishing hole. Water run across and to the right of the fairway, which necessitates a decision to lay up or go for the green on your second shot.

Best Par-4: No. 2 (45 yards from tips/420/400/385/320/300). Being so early in the round this is an unusual place for the No. 1 handicap hole in any course rotation. A slight dogleg right, it gets your attention because of that.

Best Par-3: No. 10 (Yards from tips 220/190/180/140/130/100). The most difficult of the short holes, this one is uphill from tee to the elevated green and plays much longer than the listed yardage. Also factoring in is the tee box’s location. It’s below the outdoor lounge and is in full view for spectators.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Overall: 7.75.

Food/beverage: 8.

Pro shop: 7

Clubhouse: 9

Difficulty: 7

Pace of play: 7.

INFORMATION

Phone: (239) 321—7488.

Website: www.cityftmyers.com/golf.

Facebook: @Fort Myers Country Club

Twitter: @cityftmyers

Instagram: #fortmyerscountryclub.

Second U.S. Senior Women’s Open will do just fine at Pine Needles

The best senior women golfers, the ones who did so much to make the Ladies PGA Tour into what it is today, haven’t gotten the respect they deserve.

Their own tour barely recognized them, leaving it to Jane Blalock and The Legends Tour to provide a circuit for players after they turned 45. Thanks to major support from Steve Ferguson and Dave Harner at Indiana’s French Lick Resort, The Legends eventually got their own major championship and five years later, in 2017, it was transitioned into the Senior LPGA Championship, a 54-hole event played on Monday-through-Wednesday dates in October to entice The Golf Channel to provide coverage.

The U.S. Golf Association dragged its feet even more. The USGA – after much outside pressure – announced it would conduct a U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2015 but didn’t hold the first one until three years later.

Now it’s time for the second one. It’s coming May 16-19 at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., and 17 nation-wide qualifying rounds are underway. While players who have reached their 45th birthday are allowed into the Senior LPGA Championship, the USGA makes them wait until they’re 50 to play in its Senior Open.

The second U.S. Senior Women’s Open won’t be much like the first and you’ve got to wonder about the tournament’s place down the road. The second U.S. Senior Open was scheduled just 10 months after the first, which was played in mid-July at Chicago Golf Club — the nation’s first 18-hole course.

That’s a short turn-around for both players and staff, and the third playing will be 14 months after the second – July 6-12, 2020 at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Ct.. No dates have been announced for beyond 2020. In short, the tournament has no firm place on the USGA calendar, and hat could be a problem down the road.

The first U.S. Senior Women’s Open was played at an exclusive private club. The second will be on a resort course that has already hosted three U.S. Women’s Opens and will host a fourth in 2022. The first had competition with a major on PGA Tour Champions. Its Senior Players Championship was played in the Chicago area on exactly the same dates. The second U.S. Senior Women’s Open will be a warmup for the U.S. Amateur, which comes to nearby Pinehurst Resort in August.

Still, there should be no such wavering over the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. The first playing was a rousing success. – better than even the USGA could imagine.

“It doubled our expectations from the crowd standpoint,’’ said Katherine Thigpen, the event manager. “There was way more interest in women’s golf and these players.’’

One reason for the first tournament’s success was simply that it was the first. You can only be at the first playing a big event one time. That thinking was a factor in the warm reception the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur had in April. Women competing for the first time on fabled Augusta National – even if it was for just one day – was special. Everyone knew it would be – and it was.

The first U.S. Senior Women’s Open was a real feel-good story, too. After all the waiting, there were even a few tears shed when Nancy Lopez announced Joanne Carner as the tourney’s first player to tee off.

Big Mama boomed her drive down the first fairway of a club that has rarely opened its course to tournament play and spectator traffic. Carner, then 79, shot her age that day. Now 80, she’ll try to do it again at Pine Needles.

Spectators were permitted to walk along with the player in Chicago and everyone of them – not just the big names – had at least a few followers from hole to hole. When it was over there was exultation over Laura Davies’ 10-stroke victory and 16-under-par score on a par-73 course set up at 6,082 yards.

Now we go to Pine Needles – a good site for the tournament if not quite as eye-catching as Chicago Golf Club. The players will know Pine Needles a lot better than they knew Chicago Golf Club. Some tidbits worth noting:

Pine Needles will have an autograph area set aside to encourage interaction between players and fans. It’ll also have four players in the field, among them Davies, who played in the U.S. Women’s Opens there in 1991, 2001 and 2007. Not only that, but two of the greats of women’s golf – Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon – will be in the field after taking a pass on the inaugural in Chicago.

Hammock Creek

Location: Palm City, Florida.

Architect: Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II

Opened: 1995

Par: 72.

Yards/Rating/Slope: Tips (Black) tees 7,131 yards/ 74.6/143; Gold 6,770/73.2/140; Blue 6,360/70.9/135; White 5,922/68.7/124 (men), 74.1/133 (women); Red 5,045/64.3/114 (men), 68.6/118 (women).

Saturday morning green fee: $59 (but varies with the season).

Caddie Service: No.

Walker friendly: Yes.

Fairways: Bermuda.

Greens: Bermuda.

THE REVIEW

For starters: The is the first course co-designed by Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II in Florida. The head professional is also has a familiar name. Rod Curl Jr. is the son of Rod Curl, who played regularly on the PGA Tour from 1969-78. Rod the father’s only PGA Tour win was at the 1974 Colonial National Invitation when he beat Jack Nicklaus (the father) by one stroke.

Play because: It’s not just about those names. This course hosted several events on the Golden Bear Tour and has a convenient location with I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike both near by. The conditioning is consistently good, with lively fairways and smooth greens, and the design is adaptable for a wide range of players.

Takeaway: Hammock Creek may be the best golf buy in South Florida and it’s an outstanding value for Nicklaus-designed layout. While the greens fees change on an almost weekly basis, it’s always very competitive with other public courses, many of which aren’t nearly as good.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: No. 2 (504 yards from tips/489/475/460/362). This hole is a wake-up call after a timid opening hole. A long water hazard on the right greets you when you arrive at the tee and water is a factor the rest of the way in, on both the right and behind the green.

Best Par-4: No. 11 (454 yards from tips/433/379/355/302). A good test for the No. 1 handicap hole. Water is somewhat a factor off the tee, especially if your drives goes even slightly left. While the course offers largely generous fairways off the tee, this one is on the more narrow side.

Best Par-3: No. 14 (151 yards fom tips/141/133/118/105). Water blocks the green most of the way on Hammock Creek’s shortest par-3, but this creates more of a psychological factor — especially if you play the course with any regularity. It’s the last par-3 in the rotation, and not really difficult if you hit even an average tee shot. You especially need a good number here, though, as the last four holes are long and strong and can influence your score significantly

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Food/beverage: 8.

Pro shop: 8.

Clubhouse: 7.

Difficulty: 7.

Pace of play: 7.

Overall: 7.75.

INFORMATION

Phone: 772-220-2599.

Website: www.hammockcreekgolfclub.com

Facebook:@Hammock Creek Golf Club.

Twitter: @golfcreekgc

Instagram: @hammockcreekgc

Rater: Len Ziehm

Sultan’s Run

Location: Jasper, Indiana

Architect: Tim Liddy, a Pete Dye disciple.

Opened: 1992.

Par: 72

Yards/Rating/Slope: Black tees – 6,859, 73.5, 143; Gold – 6,429, 71.5, 138; Silver – 5,762, 68.8. 129; Green – 4,911, 69.1, 129.

Saturday morning green fee: $69. (The course is closed for the season but may re-open when weather permits. It’s scheduled to open for the 2019 season on March 1.

Caddie Service: No.

Walker friendly: No.

Fairways: zoysia.

Greens: bentgrass.

THE REVIEW

For starters…This is an extension of the French Lick Resort, which is 20 miles away. Sultan’s Run is owned by Jasper resident Steve Braun whose brother Mike has recently elected to a U.S. Senate seat. French Lick, which has hosted the Senior LPGA Championship the last two years, has three courses – the Pete Dye Course, the Donald Ross Course and Valley Links, a nine-hole course designed as a tribute to old-time architect Tom Bendelow – on its property and Sultan’s Run is another option.

Play because…: Sultan’s Run, designated as “affiliated’’ with French Lick, provides a fun layout for players looking for another place to play in the area, plus Jasper is a bigger community with more dining and retail options than French Lick has. The Pete Dye Course and Donald Ross Course are among the very best in Indiana. Sultan’s Run is more on the sporty side.

Takeaway: Alvin C. Ruxer, who donated the land for the course, was into show horses and one of his best was named Supreme Sultan. The golf course derived its name from that and each of the holes is named after one of Ruxer’s horses. Head professional Jeff Howerton has been on the job for seven seasons during which the course hosted the 2016 Indiana Senior Open and qualifiers for a Web.com Tour event at nearby Victoria National. The Indiana Golf Course of the Year in 2015, Sultan’s Run is a worthy, more economical partner course for the French Lick layouts.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

FUN METER OVERALL: 8.5.

Food/beverage 8.0

Pro shop: 8.0

Clubhouse 8.5

Difficulty: 9.0

Pace of Play: 8.5

THE COURSE

Best Par-5: No. 13 (574 yards from the back tees, 538, 481, 407. Located near the entry to the course, both the tee and green are elevated on this hole.

Best Par-4: No. 9 (412 yards from the tips, 393,280, 271). A very picturesque hole, you can’t see the green from the tee on this dogleg left that also features a big ravine.

Best Par-3: No. 12 (209 from the back tee, 191, 145, 128). A nice-looking short hole, there’s water behind the green that features a fountain.

INFORMATION

Phone: 812-482-1009

Website: www. SultansRun.com

Facebook: @Sultan’s Run Golf Club

Twitter: @SultansRunGC

Instagram: #sultansrun

SAGE RUN

Location: Bark River, Michigan.

Course architect: Paul Albanese.

Opened: July, 2018.

Par 72

From the tips: 7,375 yards. There are five sets of tees, beginning at 5,231 yards.

Rating: TBD. (STUART, Raters have been out but not provided info yet).

Slope: TBD.

Saturday morning green fee: Basic rate is $85 but there are a variety of options, based on groups and hotel guest status.

Caddie service: No.

Walker friendly: No.

Fairways: Low-Mow Bluegrass.

Greens: Bentgrass.

THE REVIEW

Starter: This is one of Michigan’s newest courses and it has a unique design courtesy of architect Paul Albanese, a resident of Plymouth, Mich. It complements Sweetgrass, another Albanese design, that is part of the Island Resort & Casino in Harris, Mich. Sage Run is eight miles from the Island Resort and its creation is part of an $8 million renovation of the resort.

Play because: In addition to being new to Michigan’s vast golf marketplace, Sage Run has an unusual look. Albanese made use of a huge drumlin — a big ridge that runs through the center of the 300-acre property and creates a variety of elevation changes. The holes run around, over and through the drumlin.

Takeaway: Sage Run is a most challenging layout, no matter what tees you play. It’s obviously lacking in maturity and there are plenty of loose rocks in the rough areas that can come into play. Lots of balls get lost in those areas. The clubhouse and pro shop are small but cozy in these early days of operation. Once the obvious cleanup measures are completed, however, Sage Run figures to be a nice option for golfers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Ratings (1 to 10 scale, 10 being highest)

Food/beverage: 6.5

Pro shop: 5.0.

Clubhouse: 4.5.

Course difficulty: 9.0

Pace of play: 6.5.

Overall score: 7.0

THE COURSE SCORECARD

Best Par 3: No. 5, 170 yards. The first short hole on the course can be very misleading. It plays severely uphill, meaning that two or three extra clubs might be needed to accommodate the listed yardage.

Best Par 4: No. 8, 298 yards. This one plays uphill, too, but it’s drivable. This is a good risk-reward hole thanks to its split fairway. A successful tee shot to the left side could lead to reaching the green. A drive to the right is safer, but then you have to contend with lots of bunkers fronting the green.

Best Par 5: No. 12, 585 yards. Another dual-fairway situation to a green that is slightly elevated. The lower fairway is wider and safer, but the approach is then over bunkers to a blind putting surface. The upper fairway is tougher to hit but could offer a less challenging approach to the green.

INFO

Website: islandresortandcasino.com.

Phone: 877-ISL-GREEN.

Facebook: @sage run golf course

Instagram: NA

Twitter: NA

Rated by: Len Ziehm

ST. LUCIE TRAIL

Location: Port St. Lucie, Florida

Architect: Jim Fazio

Opened: 1988

Par: 72.

Yards/Rating/Slope: 6,901/73.4/142 from the tips; Tournament 6.470/71.0/139; Standard 5,946/69.8/126; Combo 5,778/69.1/124; Middle 5,608/68.2/120; Forward 5,012/65.4/115

Saturday morning green fee: $49 is top fee in December (Rates will increase for winter of 2019).

Caddie Service: No

Walker friendly: No, but GolfBoards are available.

Fairways: Bermuda.

Greens: Bermuda.

THE REVIEW

For starters: This course, now in the throes of a massive reorganization, was the start of the PGA of America’s PGA Golf Club – the winter home of the PGA of America’s 29,000 members. Originally it was a private layout called PGA West Country Club, then was renamed PGA Country Club. It remained private as three resort courses were added to the PGA complex. In 2014 the PGA dropped the private designation and changed the name to St. Lucie Trail. The course was sold to CGI Investments, which also owns The Evergreen Club in Palm City (15 minutes away) in 2017.

Play because…: St. Lucie Trail is shorter, but tighter, than the three PGA Golf Club courses on the opposite side of Interstate 95. St. Lucie Trail was frequently used for tournaments while under PGA ownership and remains a challenging test since the ownership change.

Takeaway: The ownership change has affected this place, as different parties now operate the tennis courts, swimming pool and restaurant. The course, though, is one of the oldest and most challenging in the Port St. Lucie area. Whether it will regain its place as a frequent tournament venue is uncertain.

THE COURSE:

Best Par-5: (550 yards from tips/535/473/460/460/415). The longest hole on the course is a good one to finish on with the clubhouse in the background. While many finishers are risk/reward holes the one should be played conservatively with hazards right and left all the way to the putting surface.

Best Par-4 : No. 6, 418 yards from the tips/409/370/355/355/316. This one presents the most demanding tee shot on the course and it is the No. 1 handicap hole. Drives hit left will like wind up in a pond and the uphill T-boned-shaped green is tough to hit.

Best Par-3: (No. 17, 184 yards fom the tips/154/140//140/123/111): A very pretty hole, with water leading up to the green. Any tee shot left of the green will likely wind up in a hazard and the right side of the green is protected by some severe slopes. A most memorable hole given demanding look from the tee.

THE RATINGS (1 to 10 scale, 10 being the highest)

Food/beverage: 8.

Pro shop: 7.

Clubhouse: 9.

Difficulty: 9.

Pace of play: 7.

Overall: 8.2

INFORMATION

Phone: 772-340-1444.

Website: www.stlucietrail.com

Facebook: @ St Lucie Trail Golf Club

Twitter: NA

Instagram: #stlucietrailgolfclub

Rated by: Len Ziehm

Singh, Fowler, Koepka had a chance — but Mitchell ruled Honda Classic

Keith Mitchell beat some of golf’s most high-profile players to nab his first PGA Tour win.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – The stage was set for the biggest historically significant accomplishment of the 2019 PGA Tour season on Sunday. Vijay Singh, in the final pairing of the Honda Classic, was ideally positioned to become the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event and erase one of the longest-standing records in golf.

Coming off a third-round 65 on the Champions Course at PGA National Resort on Saturday, the 56-year old Singh started the final round of the $6.8 million championship just one stroke behind leader and playing partner Wyndham Clark. Clark, 32 years younger than Singh, was (and still is) winless on the PGA Tour.

There were other challengers, though, and a most unlikely one got the win. Keith Mitchell, despite opening the final round with two bogeys, nabbed his first on golf’s premier circuit thanks to a 15-foot left-to- right birdie putt on the final green.

That killed off the hopes of local stars Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, who had finished at 8-under-par 272. Mitchell, posted a final round 67, finished at 9-under 271, earned $1,224,000 and claimed spots in seven of golf’s biggest events including the upcoming Players Championship and Masters.

“My mind started wandering a bit at the end,’’ said Mitchell, “and then I hit a great putt.’’ That said it all for this staging of the first event on the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing.

As for Singh, he was in a tie for the lead twice on the back nine and was in contention until his tee shot at No. 17 – a par-3 that concludes the fearsome stretch of holes known as the Bear Trap – came up short, with the ball partly submerged in a water hazard. That led to a bogey, and Singh finished sixth after his final round 70.

“It was awesome to see Vijay play well this week and get himself in contention,’’ said Fowler. “I’d love to be healthy and swinging and being able to compete with guys that are half my age at that point. It’s impressive stuff.’’

Mitchell was impressed, too.

“It’s so amazing what he has done at that age,’’ said Mitchell. “He’s 30 years older than me and he’s hitting more balls on the range than I am. That guy is a true testament to fitness, to health. If I’m anywhere near a golf course when I’m 56 I’m going to be excited.’’

The last of Singh’s 34 PGA Tour wins was 11 years ago but he won his first major title on PGA Tour Champions last year at the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Exmoor Country Club in suburban Chicago.

The strong showing against the young stars also came after Singh and the PGA Tour recently reached a settlement on a lawsuit that had been a distraction for both since 2013. It had started with the PGA Tour suspending Singh for use of deer antler spray, a banned substance. But the settlement means that neither side will talk about it any more – and that’s a good thing.

Mitchell’s clutch putt on the last green wasn’t such a good thing for two hometown heroes. Fowler lives in nearby Jupiter and Koepka, the reigning two-time U.S. Open champion and defending PGA champion, grew up in West Palm Beach. They were waiting for a playoff with Mitchell – a player neither knew very well. Still, both were there to congratulate Mitchell before he reached the scorer’s table.

“I know he went to Georgia,’’ said Koepka. “He was there when I was at Florida State so I knew him a little bit in amateur and junior golf. He’s a good player, strikes it really well, a powerful golf swing. Good to see him win.’’

“I’ve always heard a lot of good things about him,’’ said Fowler. “I haven’t played with him or seen him play much but you can’t fake it around this golf course. You have to go out there and earn it.’’

Mitchell did.

“It was awesome, just to have a chance coming down the stretch against Rickie and Brooks,’’ said Mitchell. “I’m just glad I could prove myself against guys like that.’’