Tag Archives: Heartland Golf Club

Florida Aqua-range Plunks in Top Five

E-mails that open with “I was extremely pleased to learn” are always welcome here at Catch Basin. So is correspondence from any of our Top 50 course designers, living or dead.* Both attributes attach to this nice note from Bill Amick, designer of 20th-ranked Ridgewood Golf Club and renovator of Donald Ross’s 45th-ranked Hillcrest Course at Kansas City’s Heartland Golf Club.

*Before you submit an error alert, please revisit my “Golf Ghost” series of interviews in SI Golf+, which included lively chats with Donald Ross and Alister MacKenzie

Hillcrest CC No. 5

The fifth at Heartland reflects the collaborative efforts of Donald Ross and Bill Amick.

Amick begins, “I was extremely pleased to learn that Casserly Par 3 Golf Course has finally broken into your Top 50. It has been neglected far too long in this regard.”

But I’m still disappointed to see that two highly-regarded aqua-ranges — the one at the Mike Beebe-designed Grand Reserve Golf Club in Bunnell, Fla., and mine at Meadow Oaks Golf and Country Club in Hudson, Fla. — are not on your Best Aqua-ranges list. [See right sidebar] The Grand’s range is filled with greywater, I think. (I can never remember if it’s greywater or graywater, although both seem to come out of a sewer pipe.) The Meadow’s is a plain old Florida sinkhole filled with stagnant water.

Treating Amick’s concerns with the proper sense of urgency, I immediately called Gary Van Sickle, our aqua-range ratings manager. Van Sickle listened to the Florida-based architect’s critique before issuing a decisive “Whatever.” So, as of this afternoon, Grand Reserve is No. 4 in the Aqua-range ranking, passing Imperial Lakewoods GC of Palmetto, Fla. Meanwhile, the aqua-range at Meadow Oaks remains unranked despite Amick’s puffing it up as “a plain old Florida sinkhole filled with stagnant water.” That’s because I never allow friendship, reputation or inadequate monetary considerations to influence our rankings.

Amick had more to say in his e-mail, including his role in celebrating the upcoming opening of the so-called “Best Course in the World” in Scotland. I’ll address that, as well as Amick’s plans for a “dwarf course” in Ghana, in my next post.

Royal Portrush Golf Club

Tenth-ranked Royal Portrush is a gold-medal track. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: The Irish are holding their Irish Open on one of my personal favorites, the 10th-ranked Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club. I played there last July on the finest afternoon County Antrim has ever seen, so my perceptions may be rose-colored. But I think not. While there, I got to see Darren Clarke’s Open Championship medal in a clubhouse display case previously devoted to 1947 Open champion Fred Daly. “For me this is the best golf course in the world,” Clarke had said earlier in the week. “I am very privileged to give Royal Portrush the gold medal.”

Others must rate Royal Portrush almost as highly. With roughly 27,000 spectators per day, Clarke’s home course is the first European Tour venue to completely sell out for every round.

 

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Heartland and Harding Making Moves

A reader from Muskegon, Mich., asks if we change a course’s ranking based upon minor alterations to the design. “Like, say, if they were to chop down the Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National, would that give them a higher or a lower score? Or what if at a certain course in Grand Rapids they fixed a certain tee so that it didn’t point way right when you need to hit it left to stay out of the trees? Would that make a difference?”

Heartland Rebuilding Ross Green

Heartland GC, the only Donald Ross design in Missouri, is restoring the Ross green on its ninth hole. (John Garrity)

I see two points that need correcting in Muskie’s e-mail. The first is the perennial misunderstanding of “higher or lower score” as it pertains to the Top 50 rankings. The Cal Sci algorithm is concentrically weighted around “a perfect 10,” which means that high and low scores are to be avoided, not pursued. Put another way, if Smash star Katharine McPhee scores a 10 on the Carnegie Mellon Feminine Pulchritude Scale (FPS), she’s got no way to go but down. Or up. She can’t do better.

Secondly, it would make no difference if they re-oriented that tee so it pointed straight down the fairway. Muskie would still slice his drive into the trees.

But to the larger point, yes, we take minor alterations of a design into account when we issue our adjusted ratings.* For instance, the 45th-ranked Heartland Golf Club of Kansas City, Mo. (aka Hillcrest Country Club) is restoring Donald Ross’s original ninth green, correcting a 21st-century design blunder. When the green is completed in the fall, Heartland could leap into the Top 40.

* A new Top 50 is posted daily at 2:15 a.m. CDT. We publish hard-copy Mandarin and Portuguese versions on a weekly basis, but only in Africa and the Middle East.

“That’s all well and good,” writes a junior golfer from Sun City, Ariz., “but you can’t possibly know what’s happening at courses around the world. I’ve heard that Pete Dye, just to name one architect, keeps ‘tweaking’ his designs ad infinitum, jumping on a sand pro at the drop of a hat. So your ratings must necessarily be flawed.”

Practice facility, Harding Park

TPC Harding Park’s new short-game practice area will be the perfect place to test the theories in Tour Tempo 2: The Short Game and Beyond. (John Garrity)

Wrong! The Top 50’s vast network of course raters keeps an eye on all the work being done at ranked courses. Last week, for example, workers in San Francisco applied the finishing touches to a new short-game practice area at TPC Harding Park, site of the 2009 Presidents Cup. Positioned between the parking lot and the practice range, the new practice area overlooks beautiful Lake Merced. But it wasn’t overlooked by us! Harding Park jumps three positions to No. 78.*

* If the new grass survives the typically-brutal San Francisco summer, HP will climb even higher.

As for Pete Dye and his constant course-doctoring, give us some credit. We shadow his every movement with unpaid interns.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but The Memorial Tournament is being played on the immaculate fairways and greens of the 51st-ranked Muirfield Village Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus and the late, great land-form artist, Desmond Muirhead. (Nicklaus is famous for winning 18 major championships. Muirhead is famous for designing golf holes in the shapes of states, stringed instruments and farm animals.)

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Parascenzo Weighs in on Duke

Fans of the Top 50’s current focus on tour coverage have singled out the contributions of our chief Asian correspondent, Duke Ishikawa. “This Duke guy must be psychic,” gushes a reader from Glendive, Mont. “He singles out a rookie I never heard of, Sang-Moon Bae, and Bae reaches the quarter-finals at the Accenture Match Play. He then focuses his all-knowing gaze on another rookie, John Huh, and Huh wins the Mayakoba Golf Classic. So here’s my question. Is ‘Duke’ his real name?”

Before I answer Glendive’s question, I have to correct him. Duke tipped us off to Bae, but credit for the Huh coverage goes to me and my print-media partner, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus, for which I pounded the Huh beat. And we weren’t psychic. We just couldn’t resist the opportunity to put “HUH?” in a headline.

But getting back to Duke Ishikawa, I was going to query him about his nickname when it struck me that he might demand a million yen for his answer. So I forwarded Glendive’s question to our chief Allegheny correspondent and former Golf Writers Association of America president, Marino Parascenzo, who volunteered an answer in less time than it takes to set a Bear Trap.

“The story of Duke Ishikawa goes back to the 1970s,” Marino replied in one of his elegant e-mails.

Duke was getting to be a pretty regular visitor to U.S. tournaments back then, and one day he was chatting with Joe Concannon of the Boston Globe. (Did you know the late Joe?) Duke told Joe he wished he had an American name because people had so much trouble with his given name, Hiroshi. He said ‘Ishikawa’ was tough enough. An American first name would make things easier.

So Joe asked him, “Well, can you think of an American name you would like?”

And Hiroshi said, “Harold.”

And Joe said, “Hell no. That really sucks.”

Hiroshi couldn’t think of another American name he wanted, so Concannon said, “Okay, who’s your favorite American?”

And Hiroshi said, “John Wayne.”

And Joe said, “Okay, John’s no good. So now you’re ‘Duke.’”

And Duke it was.

Concannon told me the story, and Duke confirmed it. He liked Joe a lot.

“I don’t think either of them considered ‘Joe” for a name,” Marino added in his freely volunteered, no-payment-expected e-mail. “It just doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘Duke.’”

Hillcrest CC 2nd hole

The second hole at the former Hillcrest Country Club is a welcome sight for victims of the notoriously difficult par-3 first. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but a press release informs us that 45th-ranked Hillcrest Country Club of Kansas City, Mo., a classic Donald Ross design, is being re-branded as The Heartland Golf Club. Operating under new management, the former PGA Tour venue will re-open on March 30 with new membership options. “We’re excited to start the process of re-creating the former Hillcrest site into a multi-purpose facility,” says Heartland general manager Kurt Everett. “Our first step is to get the golf course back into play, and we’re busy now with turf and green improvements and an updated pro shop.”

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