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    Tom Fazio is one of our favorite designers, but it seems some of his otherwise sleek layouts are marred by too much fairway detritus.  We played the fine Porters Neck in Wilmington, NC last month.  At 100 yards from some greens, we were disappointed to find wooden stanchions that held two containers of grass seed and sand (see photo below).  They marred an otherwise nice landscape.  To make matters worse, these center-of-fairway posts included an exit sign to direct carts to leave the fairway.  At the phenomenal Cliffs at Keowee Vineyard course in southwestern South Carolina, yardage poles were plunked down at mid-fairway 150 and 100 yards from the green (we played there a year ago).   Director of Golf Dick Grout told us he had spoken with Fazio about the posts but the designer had indicated if they speeded up play, he had no problem with them interrupting his canvas.
    We do.  We suppose there is some rationale for resort and daily fee courses to speed play with these guideposts (although we prefer ours at the edges of the fairways).  But they have no business at private clubs.  Private club members know their courses; getting proper distances should be easy and quick.  How tough is it to find one of those sprinkler heads with accurate distances to front, back and middle of the green, especially when you have played the hole many times?  Second, every golf cart we've used in the last few years has two containers of sand and seed mixture (with fill-up stations around the course).  In the southeast, except during periods of extreme rainfall, carts are permitted on fairways, which means you take a divot, you walk five yards to your cart, you grab the seed container, you sprinkle the divot and drive to your next shot.  How hard is that?
    As for the exit signs 100 yards from the green, anyone stupid enough to drive their carts within a few yards of the green won't be deterred by a sign.  If private club owners are worried about that, they might as well replace the word "Exit" with the words "The End of the World is Near."

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Like a dart thrown at the Mona Lisa, it should be against the law to plant wooden posts in the middle of fairways.

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Saturday, 17 February 2007 18:00

What a lot: Paying for serenity

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Photo by L. Gavrich
    Some of us are old enough (or skeptical enough) to have figured out that what seems too good to be true usually is.  Yesterday I received an email listing for a beautiful piece of property on Daufuskie Island, in the wonderful Haig Point community.  Daufuskie Island is in Georgia but closest to Hilton Head Island, SC, and is reached only by ferry (unless you own a helicopter).  With a view of an island green at the excellent Rees Jones Haig Point golf course, the property is listed at just $199,000 and includes full equity membership in the 27-hole club (a $65,000 value). You won’t find any lot on such a high-quality golf course in the southeast for a lower price.
    But the low lot price is tempered by the cost of construction in a community where all materials and labor must be shipped in.  Count on two to three times the costs of constructing on the mainland, which means 3,000 square feet for over $1 million.  And property owner and club dues combined are on the high end, over $10,000 annually. 
    Still, if you can afford it and want to leave your car and the hectic life behind, Haig Point is definitely worth a look.  The living is easy and the excellent golf at Haig Point is supplemented by two outstanding courses at the Daufuskie Island Resort.
    If you’d like an introduction to a real estate firm that knows the island, its real estate and golf courses, let us know by clicking here.
    We came across an interesting three-year old study that proposes that Jack Nicklaus golf courses are the most valuable of all.  We doubt that has changed over time, based on our own observations of house prices in the golf communities we've visited.  Homes in communities that sport a Nicklaus-designed course are almost always priced higher than comparable communities bearing other architects' names.   And if you believe, as we do, that homes in communities with a well-perceived golf course appreciate faster -- all other things being equal -- then factoring in the designer's name with other considerations is important.
    The study, by the UK-based Golf Research Group, focused on the value of Gary Player’s name but ranked other major architects in terms of their net present value (NPV) in 2003. Nicklaus, who has designed well over 100 courses in the U.S. and almost 300 worldwide, easily outdistanced Player, who finished just ahead of two Toms, Fazio and Weiskopf.
    The rest of the 14 listed architects included, in order, Jay Moorish, Pete Dye, Greg Norman, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Rees Jones, Jim Fazio, P.B. Dye, Arnold Palmer, Robert Cupp and Arthur Hills (one of our favorites).
    You can read the full report by clicking here.
    "When we get the figures for the spring, I expect to see a discernible improvement in both sales and prices."  -- David Lereah, chief hypemaster (er, economist) for the National Association of Realtors, responding to his organization's report yesterday that home prices had dropped in nearly half the metro districts it surveys.

    If there was a way to short the real estate market every time Lereah says "the end (of the bottom) is near," we'd be rich.  His supporters at the NAR can take heart, however.  Someday, the market will reach its bottom, and the hypemaster will be right.

   
Thursday, 15 February 2007 18:00

CEO plays poorly on, off course

    Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally took a beating yesterday in the Detroit Free Press and elsewhere for having putted while Ford burns.  Five days before Ford announced a mind-boggling loss of $12.7 billion for last year, Mulally was playing golf at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.  Two weeks after the announced loss, he played in the pro-am at Pebble Beach.
    As you might imagine, Ford workers, their friends and neighbors are miffed, to say the least.  But Mulally is not without his supporters, according to the Free Press.  Tour player Len Mattiace, Mulally's partner for three rounds at Pebble Beach, probably won't endear himself to the thousands of Ford workers afraid for their jobs.  Of Mulally's time at the tournament, Free Press columnist Carlos Monarrez wrote, Mattiace said:  "I can tell you there's no downside to him being there.  There is a lot of networking. All the CEOs of major companies are there. And I know when he's off the golf course, he's spending a lot of time with all these other CEOs, and I think it's smart of him and it's great for the company for him to be there."
    On the course was a different matter.  Said Mattiace of Mulally's play:  "...he certainly didn't play like knockout golf, you know?"  Must have had something on his mind.
Thursday, 15 February 2007 18:00

Cheaper than the Motel 6, with golf thrown in

    When we attended the Live South trade show in Connecticut last weekend, we met two pleasant young agents representing Pine Ridge Plantation, a brand new community in Edgefield, SC.  They were brimming with enthusiasm without being cloying.  We had visited Edgefield briefly 18 months ago on our way to look at communities in the Aiken, SC, area.  It is an historic town with a quirky distinction:  It is the home of the National Wild Turkey Foundation (the bird, not the bourbon).
    But Edgefield is a good 45 minutes from the nearest airport (Columbia) and not exactly a destination.  To encourage visitors to Pine Ridge, the developers are offering an impressively priced discovery package that includes 3 days and 2 nights of accommodations and a round of golf for two for just $69.  Non-golfers can opt for a dinner certificate in lieu of golf.  Of course, you will have to sit still for a presentation of real estate opportunities, but that comes with the territory.  Model homes (three bedrooms) begin at $227,000.
    Pine Ridge's new web site is up and running but not exactly full of info yet.  Click on the golf tab at the site and up pops a generic photo of a golf hole, followed by another page with two paragraphs right out of the golf cliche textbook.  ("You'll feel rejuvenated by the soothing views of the tranquil ponds...").  We feel rejuvenated as well by the thought of $35 a night for a room, golf included.
    If you visit, please let us know.
    Former minor league baseball player Bill Richardson may be the best golfer in the running for President in 2008, according to the few handicaps for Presidential wannabes that we could find published at GHIN, the Golf Handicap and Information Network.  At the Alto Lakes Country Club in New Mexico, someone named Bill Richardson maintains a 14.1 index , just 7/10 of a stroke better than U.S. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT); we know the Senator does indeed play out of the respected Black Hall Golf Club in CT.  At 18.3, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani trails by four strokes.
    Giuliani lists two home courses, Trump National in Westchester, NY, and the 45-year old Noyac Club in Sag Harbor, Long Island.  We haven't visited either course, but if the way the popular former prosecutor signs his handicap card at the two courses, Trump National is a stuffy place.  There he is Rudolph W. Giuliani.  At Noyac he is just plain Rudy, no middle initial either.
    By no means does this mean the three gentlemen are the only golfers in the Presidential race, but we searched for all the others by their home states and, in the case of sitting U.S. legislators, by the District of Columbia.  No luck.  But we may have looked in all the wrong places.  We'll mail a copy of Zagat's 2006/07 Guide to American Golf Courses to the first five readers who can add to our list of candidates with verifiable handicaps (and, please, resist the temptation to submit Bill as Hillary's handicap!).  Just click on the 'Comments" section below and name the candidate, the handicap and the source of your information.

 Golf Course Review

     Our post yesterday regarding the narrow par 3 at Sewanee Golf Club reminded us of another rather bizarre hole we played last year in Tennessee.  Red Tail Mountain, a fledgling golf community in the mountains about a half-hour north of Boone, NC, and the same distance from I-81, includes a fun course with significant elevation changes and nicely contoured fairways.  The developers of the community had done a nice job of sprucing up the public-access Dan Maples-designed course in preparation for selling their first home sites late last year.
    The front nine is a pleasant routing, with a fair amount of water and contoured greens to keep things interesting.  But nothing prepares you for the roller coaster ride and mind-boggling approach shot on the par 5 12th hole.  From the highest elevation on the course, which is to say about 100 feet above the fairway, the tee box sits in a chute of trees.  A well struck tee ball is framed by the mountains beyond; that is the last you see of your ball off the tee, because the front of the tee box obscures the fairway below.  I hit my best drive of the day straight through the chute and looked forward to maybe having a go at the green, since the hole was just under 500 yards.
    But Moby Dick was buried in the middle of the fairway, and my "perfectly" centered drive must have bounced off the hump.  It had rolled into the rough on the right edge of the fairway.  But given the elevation, it was way out there, about 300 yards, leaving a short distance to the green.  But where was the green?  I drove up 160 yards to find that the fairway ended abruptly and took a more than 90-degree turn to the right.  Since the tallest trees in Tennessee lined the right side of the fairway, I had no option but to place my approach shot to the elbow of the fairway, which I did successfully.
   Then the fun really began.  I had stopped my ball just short of a fairway bunker at the elbow, mere yards from the end of the fairway.  Facing me for an approach shot was a most unusual tableau, as you will see in the photos below.  A sheer rock cliff formed the entire area behind the green, and guarding the front right side was a significant rock outcropping.  I was lucky I had hit the ball far enough because the pin was on the right side, behind the outcropping, and a shot to the middle of the fairway or shorter would have meant an approach over the granite.  I went for the heart of the green, took my two putts and par, and walked off the green feeling lucky indeed.
    After the round, I asked Red Mountain Assistant Golf Pro Josh McWhorter if those who play the course regularly use the cliff face as a safe way to play the ball onto the green.
   “I’ve taken a bunch of balls out there and played them off the wall,” he said.  “They never bounce straight back.”
    If you find yourself anywhere near Mountain City, TN, stop at Red Mountain even if you have time to play only one hole.  You won't forget it.  Greens fees run between just $29 and $44.  The golf course can be reached at 423-727-7931.  If you would like real estate information about Red Mountain, contact Sales Executive Stephen Trent at 877-488-4646, or strent@redtailmountain.com.

Red Mountain #12 - 1
A placement shot short of the elbow at the par 5 12th at Red Mountain leaves little or no chance of getting near the pin behind the outcropping that guards the front of the right side of the green...


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...but even a ball in the trap at the end of the fairway leaves a more reasonable approach.

Have you played an unusual hole recently?  Or do you have a favorite course you want to brag about?  Please share it with other readers of GolfCommunityReviews.com by posting a comment at the end of this article.

    Despite a reduction in the number of rounds played in Myrtle Beach, SC, last year, the southeast U.S. led the nation in play compared with 2005, according to the National Golf Foundation"s "Regional Rounds Report."  Rounds in the southeast, not including Florida, increased a total of 4.5%.  Rounds in the Central and South Florida area, which is combined for the report, increased 3.4%.  No other region increased by more than 3%; the southwestern region suffered the greatest drop in rounds at -1.1%, with Arizona alone losing 3.5%.
    South Carolina was the strongest southern state in terms of play, increasing rounds by 6.7%, despite the golf supermarket of Myrtle Beach dropping 3.1% in number of rounds played.  The Myrtle Beach area continues to suffer golf course closures after years of overbuilding.  Georgia, at 4.5%, followed South Carolina in gains in play.
    The report can be found at www.ngf.org in the "free reports" area.
Monday, 12 February 2007 23:00

Most narrow green in America?

   Yesterday, we reported on our round at the quirky Sewanee Golf Club, a nine holer in the town of the same name in Tennessee.  The par 3 4th hole might have the slimmest green in America.  We were fortunate the pin was up front.  University of the South at Sewanee golf coach Carter Cardwell told us that when the pin is back and you miss the green, "Count on a four at the best."  We can't argue.

#4 at Sewanee

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