Tag Archives: Plantation Course

The Deep Six Will Leave You Gasping

Underwater golf path

Golfers on the way to Davey Jones’ Locker after a round with Aqualad. (Photo credit: Waterstudio)

All our course raters, both paid and unpaid, report to Top 50 V.P. and Director of Course Rating, Gary Van Sickle. He massages the raw data and forwards it to the basement computer room here at Catch Basin. A few of our raters, however, are so specialized in their knowledge that Gary encourages them to bypass the Cal Sci guys and submit their rankings directly to me. That explains the email and bulky attachment that arrived yesterday:

To: Gary Van Sickle. From: The Coraldesk of Aquaman, Lord of Atlantis. Date: Benday, Germcember 9, 2012

Aquaman was quivered when he failed to get a response from you earlier. So he surmised that his half-man/half-walrus manservant emailed the following piece to the wrong address. So, here it is again for your puny human enjoyment:

Atlantis, Under the Sea—It is obvious from John Garrity’s absurdly biased course rankings that he wouldn’t know a mashie from a porcupine or a dog-leg left from a unitard (that’s the offspring from a unicorn and a minotaur—duh). It has become increasingly difficult to read Garrity’s rankings, which are embarrassingly biased toward courses played by you annoying air-breathers, while you continue to ignore the world’s greatest underwater courses here on our fabulous Continent of Atlantis.

Oh, that’s right. You can’t breathe water like I can. That Kevin Costner guy tried once in a really bad movie. If only he’d spent more time underwater in that film, he might have had a winner. Still, I know a lot of people wish he’d take a dirt nap and stop being so insufferable based on so little.

But I digress. Since Garrity isn’t going to go anywhere near Atlantis for golf because of his picayune whining—“But I’d drown!”—I have decided to help his sorry website (which is drier than those things you airbreathers call cracked wheat bread) by providing you with a list of the Six Best Courses in Atlantis. (We call ‘em The Deep Six.) Just for the suspense factor, I’ll start at No. 6 and count down. I believe one of your air-breathing gods does something similar—David Letterman.

No. 6, Nautilus Golf Club. This is a stellar and demanding 1,424-fathom layout that winds back and forth through scenic kelp fields. Which means you can stop and have a snack at your leisure. Thus, no beverage & snack sub service is provided by the club. The signature hole, obviously, is the 96-fathom par-3 13th hole, which drops practically straight down into a dormant volcanic dome. My son, Aqualad, once aced it with a 7-iron, having shrewdly played the typical left-to-right underseas current just right. It hit the pin, hung on the lip and dropped just before a deadly manta ray stung Aqualad’s caddie, killing him instantly. I’ll never forget the look of satisfaction on Aqualad’s face. It was his first hole in one!

No. 5, The Links at Mariana Trench. I’m sure that I, Aquaman, Lord of Atlantis, don’t have to tell you what a tough track this is. It’s 6.8 miles down, kind of near a dirt clod you air-breathers call Guam. Because of the depth, well, the ball just doesn’t carry well. You will wear out your fairway woods here. It’s longer than a thing that’s the opposite of short. (Ha-ha—another of our favorite Atlantan sayings. One more: Ha.) The finishing hole, one nasty par 5, plays through the Challenger Deep, a slot between two mountains at the Trench’s southern end. It makes Pebble Beach’s 18th hole look like a piece of snot from a blue whale. It really does.

No. 4, Atlantis Country Club. Well, I don’t think I need to even mention the obvious attributes of the most famous course in Atlantis. I’m sure you all remember the time King Neptune made an obsquidian on the 14th, the hardest par-7 on the planet. (What? You don’t know that an obsquidian is a hole played in 5 under par? Why do I waste my time with you air-breathing clodhoppers?) Neptune holed an eel-wood for a deuce en route to winning the Oceanic Masters in ’97, duh. Most famous shot ever, double duh.

No. 3, The Neptunia Club. This is the favorite course of my daughter, Aquabitch. Sure, it’s on the short side and is only a par 68, but there’s no debating the beauty of the coral reef formations that you land-clods haven’t yet destroyed.  Also, it’s well-lit by phosphorescent plankton. What, you’ve never heard of that? Well, I’m not telling you where this place is. Plus, there’s always a sense of excitement as it plays through a popular white shark breeding ground. No biggie, since my telepathic powers enable me to control all of the finny minions. Which is why I never have to pay for a caddie. It’s good to be Lord of Atlantis.

No. 2, Oceania Golf Links. The Big O is a brute. Small greens, lots of foliage, and lots of current. As we say down here, If there’s nae current, there’s nae gawlf. Most of the back nine plays into the prevailing current, so it’s a real bitch, no relation to my daughter. No course in Atlantis has tougher greens to read or faster greens to putt on, either. You may as well try to putt on a squirming dolphin. I have, and trust me, it’s just not as much fun as you thought it would be. Par is a good score at The Big O. The 17th is the signature hole. It’s a double seahorse-leg par 5 with trouble everywhere, including the Wreck of the Mary Deare left of the green (but not really in play unless you really yank one) and assorted and dreaded coral traps. Man, you go in those and you’re just taking a drop unless you’ve got a death wish—which, if you’re an air-breather, I, Aquaman, Lord of Atlantis, encourage.

No. 1, The Jules Verne Club. No surprise here. It’s the most exclusive club in Atlantis and the toughest course to get on. You’ve gotta know somebody who knows somebody who eats whale bait. The course is iconic, having hosted the Atlantis Open in the tournament’s early years. Most people already know every hole from watching those old telecasts, so it’s a thrill beyond sonic pings if they’re afforded a rare chance to play. You can shoot 30 on the back nine, which is spectacular, or you can shoot 51. It’s the most exciting layout in Atlantis, although part of it is due to those discarded underwater mines from WWII. The 18th is arguably the greatest hole here. From an elevated tee, you cross a bottomless trench that probably goes directly to the earth’s core. (We think. We don’t know since nobody has ever made it back, but it was probably an old shortcut through the planet left by alien spaceships). You don’t clear that with your drive, you’re re-teeing, lemme tell you. From there, your second shot is a long carry over a cavern (where Magellan’s bones are stored—but that’s another story!) and an adjacent trench that features submarine wreckage from The Thresher. There’s no good place to miss this elevated green, which is surrounded by poisonous sponge fields (bet you didn’t know about that, either, you clod-breathers!), a jelly-fish bunker (hah!) and a false front that hides the entrance to the cave that holds the button we can push to create a tsunami anywhere in the world we want. I don’t want to brag, but I birdied the 18th last time I played there, taking 250 golden pazoosas off Aqualad, who still has no short game even though I tell him to practice. I won two presses and a Hawaiian carryover. I would’ve bought Aqualad an adult beverage after the round, but he forgot to bring a splacket to wear over his mer-tail, as club rules state, so we weren’t allowed in the men’s grill-cave.

Well, there you have it. As you can plainly see, John Garrity’s Top 50 is irrelevant when compared to The Deep Six. We play real golf here in Atlantis, Garrity, not patty-cake air-breathing glop-along. Your so-called Top 50 list? It’s just a silly fantasy. May the kelp be with you.

All the best—

Aquaman, Lord of Atlantis.

Despite his prickly and provocative outbursts, Aquaman has proven to be one of our most reliable raters. (He’s cheap, too. He works for sand dollars and the occasional package of Mrs. Paul’s Crunchy Fish Sticks.) He was way off-base, though, in thinking that we didn’t receive his original email. We were simply waiting for our underwater photogs to return to port with their catch of course photos.

Unfortunately, we’re still waiting. Look for a photo gallery in the near future.

Top 50 on TV: Speaking of underwater, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is underway on the 34th-ranked Plantation Course (home of the Garrity Bunker) at Maui’s Kapalua Resort. Forty-mile-an-hour winds and heavy rain washed out Friday’s first round, but today’s forecast of 40-mph winds and heavy rain should be perfect for 36-holes of catchup golf. (The top-7 guys in the World Ranking passed on Kapalua. They must be kicking themselves right now.)

1 Comment

Filed under golf, Uncategorized

Scottish Golf Trip off to Frigid Start

It snows in Scotland? Nobody told me! Flying into Glasgow yesterday, I looked down on a rumpled, white blanket that could have been the Rockies. And when I collected my suitcase and four-club quiver at baggage claim, I noticed that there were no hulking golf-travel bags on the carrousel. Not many bags at all, for that matter. (Or travelers!) One young couple had skis. They were either just back from Switzerland or arriving from the Canary Islands and headed for the ski lifts at Carnoustie.

“Call Prestwick,” I told Gustov, my traveling secretary. “Cancel today’s round.”

I guess I should have talked to my old friend, Joe Passov, before signing up for my “Highlands and Islands Low-Season Golf Package.”  “Travelin’ Joe,” as he is known to the readers of GOLF Magazine and Golf.com, is the world’s foremost authority on golf travel, having played, by his own count, 1,423 courses — only half of which are within twenty miles of his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. A true globetrotter, Joe knows Scotland and Ireland like the back of his hand. He would have warned me about the ice and slush surrounding the Glasgow Marriott.

Speaking of Joe, he penned a Golf.com column last week called “Travelin’ Joe’s Wish List: 10 Courses I Need to Play.” Number 1 on his list was Pete Dye’s “Teeth of the Dog” course at Casa de Campo — which I have not played, either — and Number 10 was Friar’s Head, a Crenshaw-Coore design in Baiting Hollow, N.Y., which I only mention because I love the sound of “Baiting Hollow.”

The surprising thing about Joe’s list? It includes two courses that I have played: Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., currently No. 14 in the Top 50, and Prairie Dunes Golf Club in Hutchinson, Ks., No. 6. Here’s Joe on Seminole:

Perhaps the finest routing Donald Ross ever did, this ultra-exclusive Palm Beach-area enclave also features one of the greatest clubhouses in golf. Hogan used to practice here every day for a month leading up to the Masters. I’d just like to do it once.

Ha, ha, Joe! I have done it … once!

Here’s his take on Prairie Dunes:

All that’s missing is an ocean at this linksy-looking layout in landlocked Kansas, which played host to the 2002 U.S. Women’s Open (Juli Inkster) and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open (Allen Doyle). I question if the wind and rough make it unplayable for 10-handicaps.

Having covered both those tournaments for Sports Illustrated (and currently playing to a 10 handicap), I can assure Joe that my favorite mid-continental course is more than kind to second-tier golfers, thanks to fast, flawless greens that practically funnel the ball into the hole. But he’s right about the absent ocean. And it’ll take another thousand years of climate change to fix that.

Anyway, since I can’t play golf this afternoon, I think I’ll sit down with a notepad and a bottle of Diet Irn-Bru and try to compile my own Top-10 list of courses that have eluded my grasp. I’ll post that list from the next stop on my winter golf itinerary: top-ranked Askernish.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Jonathan Byrd bagged his second consecutive PGA Tour win at last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, held on Maui’s Plantation Course at Kapalua, No. 34. The AP report of his win makes no mention of snow.

 

1 Comment

Filed under golf

Kapalua: Don’t Call It a “Sand Trap”

I explained last time that it will take a few days to get the Top 50 operation up and running again.   The ping-pong table in my basement is covered with cartons of office supplies: highlighter pens, fan-fold paper, post-it notes, flashlights and candles, staple guns and legal pads. My granddaughter Megan has installed graphite bearings in the file cabinets, and the furnace man is expected any minute to service the water panels. Unfortunately, a major winter storm has crippled our efforts. With a foot-and-a-half of snow in our driveway and 30-mph winds causing drifts, Team Top 50 can barely summon enough energy to shuffle to the kitchen for a hot chocolate.

It takes little effort, however, to press the buttons on my remote. Two clicks and I’m watching Golf Channel’s first-round coverage of the SBS Championship at the Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui. I have covered this tournament a number of times, and fans of my old Mats Only column may remember the many laudatory paragraphs I’ve bestowed upon the resort’s splendid practice facility and golf academy. The Plantation Course itself, if you’ll check the sidebar, is currently ranked 33rd.*

*Full disclosure: I served as an unpaid consultant to the design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw during the construction of the Plantation Course, but my contribution was limited to the so-called “Garrity Bunker.” I have played the Plantation Course several times as a guest of management, but only on designated “media days” and only after offering to pay with Sports Illustrated expense-account money.

The sprawling Plantation Course, which tumbles down from the West Maui Mountains to the sea, is more fun than a roller-coaster, but the serious student of golf architecture will focus her attention on the thirteenth hole, a devilish par-4 that runs uphill along the edge of an old lava flow. The thirteenth fairway is where you’ll encounter the infamous “Garrity Bunker,” a sand hazard at cliff’s edge on the left. You haven’t played the Plantation Course until you’ve tried to reach the green from this hell-hole with a 40-mph trade wind in your face and lava grit stinging your ankles.

It is a myth, however, that the bunker got it’s name because my drives always landed in it.*

*You might be thinking of “Ike’s tree” on the 17th hole at Augusta National, so named because some golf-mad president wanted it cut down to afford him a clearer path off the tee.

Here’s the real story. I was playing the nearly completed Plantation Course in February, 1991, with Kapalua’s golf director, Gary Planos. “When we got to the thirteenth, an uphill par-4 of 407 yards” — I’m quoting now from an old Mats Only column —   “Gary didn’t tell me that it was the most difficult hole on the course ….”

… And I hasten to add that the trade winds were not blowing with their customary hurricane force. I drilled my drive up the left side of the fairway, long and straight, and watched the ball disappear over the crest, well to the right of some sinister treetops. “That should be perfect,” Gary said, “unless …”

I found out what he meant by “unless” when we drove up the hill and down to where my ball should have been. There was no ball. I had driven it off a cliff into either the treetops or that thigh-deep grass that Jesper Parnevik was stomping around in all last week. “That’s not right,” Gary said, staring over the edge. “I’ll have to tell Ben about this.” Ben, of course, was Plantation’s co-designer, Ben Crenshaw.

No problem. I dropped a ball, hit it somewhere, and got on with my life.

Almost a decade later, I returned to Kapalua for the 2000 Mercedes Championship to see if Tiger Woods could extend one of his PGA Tour winning streaks to five. (He could.) That’s when tournament media coordinator Linn Nishikawa said, “Oh, you’re the gentleman they built the bunker for!” Intrigued, I found Gary Planos, who cheerfully confirmed that my long drive had literally changed the landscape at Kapalua. “The day we played was a Tuesday,” Gary told me.

“I remember that because I flew the next day to Oahu to talk to Ben, who was playing in the pro-am of the Hawaiian Open at Waialae. I caught up with him on the eighth fairway, and since he was just waiting for the green to clear, I called him over and told him about your drive. He said, ‘You’re kidding me!'”*

*Crenshaw was astonished that the prevailing wind would allow a long hitter to reach the cliff. I’m sure he wasn’t questioning the quality of my game.

“Anyway,” Gary continued, “Ben agreed that we needed to put in a catch bunker, because from the tee you can’t see that your ball disappears. That’s why we now grow three-inch rough there. We’ve even expanded the bunker to ensure that balls that go left don’t all disappear.”

So that’s the story. The rest of the week, Gary kept introducing me as the idiot-savant behind the 13th-hole catch bunker. And ever since, when some reckless pro yanks his drive into my namesake pit, I hit the “mute” button, turn to my wife, and launch a 5-minute soliloquy explaining my role in the pro’s predicament.

There are worse ways to spend a snow day.


2 Comments

Filed under golf