It’s hard to believe Erin Hills is just 15 years old. It’s got all the looks and feels of a historic property that’s been played and refined for centuries. Certainly, no course in America has changed and accomplished more in as short a time as Erin Hills, going under the knife regularly to improve the guest and tournament experience in ways both noticeable and strategically long-term.

Constant change, and an unrivaled attention to detail, has always been in its DNA. Even when initially routed by the design team of Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten, literally hundreds of golf holes were proposed.

Erin Hills, from high above (photo credit: Jeff Schaefer)

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Every detail had to be considered: The prevailing and ever-present winds, sunrises and sunsets, that the property’s most dramatic land forms were utilized most effectively, and that the architecture paid homage to the great Scottish and Irish courses where the game began while staying irrevocably original and unique to the glacial kettle moraine that breathes it life.

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Across 640 acres, careful attention is paid on a daily basis to sweat every detail. Millions of dollars have been spent over the years to grow and care for the fescue that sways in the breezes, for example, keeping weeds from growing in and pulling rocks and even pebbles by hand. The land may not have been tailor made for fescue, but damn if it wasn’t placed here for golf.

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The story of Erin Hills’ origins is well-documented, perhaps best by Gary D’Amato in his 2017 6-part series entitled “The Making of Erin Hills.”

D’Amato’s expose is rife with intrigue, starting with local business magnate Bob Lang. Lang was obsessed with developing the country’s next great tournament course, and specifically with bringing the US Open to Southeast Wisconsin. He knew he had the right property, and [mostly] the right team, and he put everything he had in to making his dream a reality.

The course was designed by then perceived underdogs Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten, and opened to rave reviews. There were some quirks, though, and it was partly those quirks that led to continual investments meant to satisfy one demand after another by the USGA. These games, along with his initial investment, eventually cost Lang over $26 million.

His well had run dry, and new ownership would be needed to keep Lang’s dream alive. It was clear it would require someone whose financial security couldn’t be tied to such a passion project, and Erin Hills and the world of golf were fortunate to find that rare buyer in billionaire Andrew Ziegler.

Ziegler, Founding Partner and Lead Director of Artisan Partners, helped deliver Lang’s vision of a US Open at Erin Hills in 2017. And, I bet if you’re reading this, you’re probably like me and dream of seeing another.

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The Drumlin

One of Erin Hills’ most recent developments has been the opening of their Drumlin putting course, which debuted in August 2019. With 63,000 square feet of green surface set upon a ridge adjacent to the first tee, the Drumlin provides a wonderful way to add a little more golf to your day – whether before or after your round, or even when the sun goes down… The course is lit up at night.

An overhead view of the Drumlin putting course – the property’s newest amenity

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My brief thoughts and reflections on the US Open

Will Erin Hills get another shot at our country’s greatest golf tournament? I think they will. I also think they learned a lot from their first go-round. Everyone expected the wind to blow hard like it normally does, but it didn’t. Instead, they got a ton of rain early, softening the course, and then some of the hottest and most serene weather the property has seen.

The result was a bloodbath as Erin Hills was left defenseless against an onslaught by the world’s best golfers. While experts expected a winning score around par, 27 players finished in red numbers including Brooks Koepka whose winning score was an incomprehensible -16.

The course was beautiful and its aesthetics translated well to TV, though, and the drama was intriguing as viewers witnessed players doing things we never before thought were possible.

Justin Thomas, for example, carded a 63 on Sunday after hitting a 299-yard 3-wood – all carry to an elevated green, landing softly and basically checking up – to eight feet on 18 to set up EAGLE on the 667-yard par five finishing hole.

I remember asking at one of the US Open media days how they planned on making 18 exciting if players needed to make up a stroke down the stretch. I was told there wouldn’t be making up strokes on 18; everyone would need to find a way to par it or lose ground. It still blows my mind that that didn’t end up being the case. I can see there being one-putt birdies on 18, but not eagle opportunities.

All said, I think Erin Hills got a raw deal in 2017 – the same way Chambers Bay did in 2015 – and I hope new USGA leadership brings a future US Open(s) back to them both. Paving of the way for Erin Hills has already begun via two future USGA events (the 2022 US Mid-Amateur Championship and 2025 US Women’s Open), and I hope those lead to a return of “The Big One” in the late 2020’s or early ’30s.

The Erin Hills clubhouse and pro shop

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Our day

I can’t imagine there have been many better Summer days for golf at Erin Hills. It was June 22 and we had highs in the low 70’s with very little wind in the morning, and plenty of sunshine (don’t worry, the breezes picked up as the day wore on).

The one thing I didn’t take in to account when we set up the round was that it was the day after the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year. In order to take photos at sunrise, I needed to leave the house by 4:30 am. I was obviously happy to for this opportunity, and was on-site with my drone in the air by 5:06.

The mist coming off the ponds, haze over the fairways and golden hue emanating from the fescue was magical, and I enjoyed all the stages of the day’s golden hour as I made my way from the parking lot to the 12th green complex.

The sun began cresting after my initial shoot from behind that incredible hole layout, and as I started shooting the par three 13th I started realizing how special this morning was.

Haze emanating from the ponds on the par three 13th at sunrise

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Among all the supplies I brought with me, I only brought one pair of socks. That became an obvious oversight as traipsing from one hole to the next had me wading through knee-high fescue soaked in dew.

With wet feet I ventured on, searching for the right angles. I’m sure I didn’t find them all, but I made the most of the morning and came away with some images I’m happy with.

I also took quite a bit of video footage – click on the image below for a 30-second clip from the morning (plays from YouTube):

Click for 30-second video compilation from my morning photo shoot (YouTube)

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Following my early morning photo shoot, I met up with my all-time favorite caddie and friend on social media, Julius Germany. Julius was the first caddie I ever played with at Erin Hills, back in July of 2012. We’ve kept in touch over the years via Facebook and Instagram, and he’s honestly the caddie I’ve compared all others to.

I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of great loopers over the years, but none can match Julius’s skill and professionalism, general presence and great demeanor. I was really excited to spend the day with him, and he didn’t disappoint.

Neither did the other caddie in our group, Chloe. A college student, Chloe had a wonderful attitude that complemented Julius’s well. She made some great reads and the two led the three of us to a lot of good shots and drained putts.

The world’s best caddie, Julius, and me post-round (6/22/2021)

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Our threesome included my favorite golf partner and “drone co-pilot,” Jeff (we have the same drone and he’s a huge help especially when we’re taking photos in-round), me and Erin Hills PGA Ambassador and Wisconsin Golf Hall of Famer Rich Tock.

Inducted in 2019, Rich has had a storied career that’s included playing in 22 PGA of America National Club Pro Championships, 8 Senior Professional Championships, won the Wisconsin State Senior Open in 2005, played on 26 Nelthorpe Cup teams and competed in the US Senior Open in 2002 (link to wisconsin.golf article, by Gary D’Amato).

Rich is at his best one-on-one, as I first learned on July 29, 2012 when I first visited Erin Hills and had the pleasure of spending hours on the pub’s patio talking golf, the property and its background and stories that had led it to where it was at that time (link to my 2012 course review).

As PGA Ambassador, Rich is the face of Erin Hills. His presence is ever-felt as he makes his way around the property on an almost daily basis, spending time with staff and guests, constantly tending to the small details that make this site so spectacular (including picking up any and every cigarette butt, broken tee or wrapper left on the ground), and of course helping promote the destination through its various media channels including his “Playing Lessons,” which can be found on Erin Hills’ YouTube channel (link to Rich Tock’s Playing Lessons).

Rich is a skilled player who consistently hits the ball down the middle with good length and has an incredible short game. He plays quickly and doesn’t take things too seriously. He can also talk to every story about Erin Hills – all the changes and adaptations, the legendary shots and players who have walked its fairways and of course strategy and playability. His fun and collegial manner make him one of my all-time favorite playing partners, and I hope for the opportunity to enjoy a round with him again in the future.

We joked with Jeff’s caddie, Chloe, that she had the easiest job in the world: He hit almost every fairway and I don’t think ever found the fescue en route to an easy 80.

Julius, who caddied for Rich and me, faced a bit more devious task of having to help locate several of my sliced tee balls when fighting the wind. Both caddies were amazing, as was all the company, and our day at Erin Hills was as good and memorable a golf experience as any I can remember.

Jeff, Rich and me following a great 18 holes at Erin Hills (6/22/2021)

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The course

The golf course at Erin Hills is remarkable. It’s beautiful, architecturally interesting and challenging all while providing an enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels.

It starts with a couple scorable holes in one and two, leading off with a par five that allows players to bite off as much as they want from the tee while negotiating one of the course’s few inland ponds. We were a collective -2 following the second hole, and a day of good scores felt attainable.

A view of the fairway on the first hole at Erin Hills, bending right-to-left from the tee boxes

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The second hole is one of my favorites at Erin Hills. A short par four with one of the most forgiving fairways, long hitters have a ton of room for error off the tee. The second shot is tricky, though, with the course’s smallest tabletop green that repels anything hit off-center.

The fairway on two was expanded prior to the US Open, as shown in the image below. The shaded area beyond the hill was previously fescue, coercing players toward smarter shots. The USGA wanted to urge long players like Bubba Watson to try driving the green here, and so the short grass was expanded.

As you can imagine, with long bombs toward this green complex comes risk. Short wedges are anything but simple from tight lies, making a full shot from just inside 100 yards oftentimes the smarter strategy.

A look back on the second hole at Erin Hills at sunrise
An aerial view of the tiny second green

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The third and fourth holes play in to the prevailing wind, and from significantly elevated tee boxes. I have always had a hard time driving the ball on this set of par fours, and I did on this day, as well.

The green on three was relocated prior to the 2017 US Open, as the original complex was a natural site with too extreme of a slope. The new green, while it shortens the hole by 18 yards, shifted the approach about 20 yards to the right and helps make the putting surface more receptive to long iron shots while opening up more hole locations.

An offset view of the third hole at Erin Hills, playing in to the wind

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The fourth has one of my favorite looking approach areas on the entire course, littered with craggy bunkers up the spine of its fairway.

The approach area short of the fourth green (photo taken in September 2013)

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The sixth is the first par three on the course, and one of the trickiest. A long one-shotter, only the front section of the green is shown, leaving some 40 or so yards past its lateral spine. I absolutely flushed a seven-iron with the wind, and everyone thought it was perfect.

Thinking I was on hole-in-one watch, I walked up the hill only to find about 50 feet to go to a back hole next to a steep slope. My high hopes turned to bogie pretty quickly.

A view from the back of the par three 6th green

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The eighth is an exceptional par four. The tee shot is blind, playing slightly to the right or directly above the high mound that serves as an aiming point.

This is a terrific example of the beautiful, natural land movement at Erin Hills. Aside and beyond the mound, this fairway moves like waves and with tons of changes in elevation, and the green is perched well above the rest of the playing surface.

A view from above the tee box on eight, with the fairway bending left around the mound and uphill to its perched green site
The dramatically elevated green site on eight at sunrise

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One of the most famous holes on the entire property, the par three ninth was previously the course’s bye hole – a 19th hole that served to settle bets.

When the USGA requested that its originally included “Dell hole,” which was a long and gimmicky, blind par three with a rock that was moved on a daily basis to provide an aiming point, was removed, the ninth was moved in to its permanent position. I for one can’t imagine Erin Hills without it.

The all-world par three 9th at Erin Hills from its elevated tee boxes
An elevated view from behind the ninth green looking uphill toward the tees

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The back nine starts with what I consider to be the most challenging hole on the entire course. The tenth is a long test of a par four that plays straight in to the prevailing wind, and finishes uphill to a long left-to-right green protected in front by deep sand traps.

I hit what might have been the best 3-wood of my life on this day. Following a tee shot to the middle of the fairway, I had 242 yards left in to a sustained 20 mph wind. “I didn’t travel out to Erin Hills to lay up,” I said, and Rich told me to aim small, miss small. I caught it just right, hitting a towering shot right at the pin. It landed just left of the flag and rolled to about 15 feet.

If there was ever a birdie putt I really wanted to make, it was this one. Julius gave me a great read, but I pulled it just a little, leading to a tap-in par.

The challenging par four 10th, playing over a crevasse and directly in to the prevailing winds

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Following a knee-knocker like ten, the eleventh is a friendly handshake. Short by Erin Hills standards, it measures just 315 from the green tees we were playing and has a wide open fairway with a lot of movement from right-to-left. Hybrid was the play of the day here, and we all walked away with par.

The short par four 11th from beyond the green

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As 50 golf enthusiasts their favorite hole at Erin Hills and I would venture a bet that a good portion of them will tell you the twelfth.

With elevated tees heading back in to the wind, the twelfth has some of the most out-of-this-world land movement of any golf hole I’ve played in my life, finishing downhill and to the right to the course’s only lowered green complex. There is something really special about this hole, and to me the sunrise brought out a lot of that!

The meandering fairway of the 12th at Erin Hills, with the sunrise at my back
The twelfth green and its approaching fairway basking in the early morning sunlight

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The thirteenth is a mid-range par three that measures 170 yards from the green tees and has one of the smaller, hardest to hit greens on the back nine. A large bunker works its way in to the left side of the putting surface, and short, long and right all lead to collection areas well below the green’s surface.

The par three 13th at Erin Hills

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The fourteenth is one of the most fun holes at Erin Hills. A 507-yard par five, the green is so wide, so elevated and canted from left-to-right that it makes for a playful approach that’s really hard to resist.

I’ll never forget the first time I played here, and Julius told me to grab my wedge and try this shot. From short-right of the green I literally hit the back-left of the putting surface, watched it roll upward almost off and bend around right and downhill probably 50 yards from where it started, funneling toward a front-right pin. Creativity and options like that are just so much fun, and how could you ask for more than a caddie who makes sure you don’t miss that type of opportunity?

An aerial view of the par five 14th at Erin Hills, finishing over fescue with one of the most fun greens I’ve played

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Short par fours are all the rage these days, and Erin Hills has an exemplary one in its fifteenth. I watched a lot of groups on this hole at the 2017 US Open, and almost all the players took dead aim at green-under-regulation, but very few hit it.

At just 346 yards from the green tees, the elevated green brings in all kinds of trouble: Deep fescue long, deeper greenside bunkers short and steep run-offs all around.

The short par four 15th from the tees (photo taken in June 2015)

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Other than the ninth, the sixteenth has probably the most intimidating par three tee shot at Erin Hills. Sand traps are littered everywhere around this skinny green complex.

Tee shot on the par three 16th, with sand everywhere (photo taken September 2013)

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Tipping out at 663 yards (it can stretch over 700 for tournament play), the eighteenth at Erin Hills is one of the longest in golf. The hole is framed beautifully by The Village, and from afar by nearby Holy Hill.

To anyone other than Justin Thomas, this is a true three-shot par five and one of the most wonderfully climactic finishing holes found anywhere.

Looking down the fairway of the long par five 18th
Fairway and fescue leading to the green on the tremendous finishing hole at Erin Hills
How Justin Thomas managed to hit a 299-yard 3-wood to land softly and stop 8 feet from the hole here is beyond me

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Conclusion

Erin Hills provides the most complete first-class golf experience in the state of Wisconsin.

Folks like Rich Tock, Julius Germany, Head Golf Professional Jim Lombardo, Director of Course Management Zach Reineking, Competitions and Marketing Director John Morrissett and Marketing Manager Steve Pease work tirelessly to make that statement true, and to me it’s evident in every touchpoint.

From the time you drop your bag off at the caddie barn to the moment you walk away from your last Fescue Rescue, all the details are curated and managed to perfection.

It’s a pricy round, sure, but it’s also an indulgence that can revive your golfing spirit. To me, there is no finer golf experience in the entire state of Wisconsin than at this legend in the making.

The Drumlin putting course and Erin Hills Village, early morning

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Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Erin, WI
Yardages: Black-7731, Blue-7147, Green-6742, White-6206
Slope/Rating: Black-145/77.9, Blue-139/75.0, Green-135/73.2, White-129/70.3
Par: 72

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Erin Hills Golf Course Website

Last month I had the opportunity to revisit a course I haven’t played in a really long time: Tuckaway Country Club.

Following my first round there in 2013, I remember liking the course but not being wowed. It was a long time ago, though, and a lot has changed since then.

A view from above Tuckaway from South 68th Street in Franklin

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Tuckaway’s done an incredible job over the past five to ten years of creating a niche in the south Milwaukee suburb of Franklin that’s otherwise barren of private club golf. They’ve not only modernized their facilities but also their golf experience, especially since reopening in August, 2019 following a $3 million renovation by Jeffrey Brauer (link to article from ASGCA).

Brauer’s work added length (now over 7,200 yards tipped out) and teeing options, replaced aging irrigation systems, drainage and bunkers, added continuous cart paths, practice ranges, expanded their practice green and cut back the overgrowth of tree lines.

Tuckaway CC logo sculpture outside the club’s back patio, adjacent to the first tee

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The result is a much neater course with clean lines and enhanced options for playability.

One section of the course that stood out to me as nicely renovated is the southeast corner, near the 12th green and 13th tee. The new bridge from the green to tee, as well as the thinning of woods from the pond area was beautifully done.

Tee shot on the dogleg left, par four 13th at Tuckaway Country Club in Franklin, Wisconsin

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I think Tuckaway presents an awesome member and guest experience. The food is absolutely top-notch; the bar area was bustling on a Wednesday afternoon in May, and later that evening for ladies’ night, yet our round was quick and with good flow at right around four hours.

If there is any private club in the Milwaukee area tailormade for tournament play, it’s Tuckaway.

They’re no strangers to hosting professional events, too, having held the Greater Milwaukee Open annually between 1973-1993.

Their website calls it a PGA Tour caliber course, and I agree. Especially following renovations, TCC can present a massive challenge for elite players with its distance (rare for the Milwaukee area), large elevated greens and dramatic hazards.

The finishing holes, especially, are as challenging as they come. The ninth, for example, is a long par four tipping out at 442 yards. The tee shot is simple enough: Keep it near a wide open fairway or ideally close to the right side for a good look. The approach, though, is likely to be really long and uphill. Everyone in our group hit good tee shots here and no one was closer than 175 out, which played more like 200. Nobody got on in regulation.

Aerial photo of the tough 9th green and back toward the tee

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The end of the back nine isn’t much easier, finishing with a 220-yard downhill par three and another incredibly challenging, 490-yard par four. Even after my best drive of the day, I was still hitting 5-iron in from over 180 yards with 20-25 feet of uphill elevation. I managed to hit my approach shot pin-high, but still failed to qualify my prox bet after three-putting for bogey on a big left-to-right sweeper. Par on eighteen at Tuckaway is an impressive score.

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The front and back nines at Tuckaway are both set up amiably with highly elevated tee shots to wide, treelined fairways, making for early scoring opportunities. From the very first green complex, players get a good sense of the size and undulations of the putting surfaces. Tuckaway’s greens were designed for maximum pinnability, allowing the course to change significantly from day to day.

Elevated tee shot on the par four opening hole at Tuckaway CC

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One of my favorite par threes at Tuckaway is the over-water fifth, which has one of the most heavily contoured greens on the entire course. A middle-right pin location here is as slippery as they come, but it works as the tee shot puts a short iron in players’ hands.

The par 3 5th at Tuckaway, over water to a great green complex

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I was really impressed with my return visit to Tuckaway. I thought the conditions were phenomenal (as it was the first time I played it 8-9 years ago), loved the playability and aesthetics of the course following its renovation and was really impressed by the club’s overall ambience.

Tuckaway is the kind of place members must love to hang out around, and it comes as no surprise to me they’re thriving. Their spacious back patio is luxurious and features wide-angled views of the course, the men’s locker room (adjacent to the bar) has a pool table and cards setup (which I hear hosts some big-money games), the pool and tennis/pickleball courts are amenities I wish my home club offered, and their championship golf course should give South Milwaukee area golf enthusiasts everything they can ask for – and they’re eating it up.

Tuckaway is one of the Milwaukee area’s elite private golf clubs.

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Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Franklin, WI
Yardages: V-7218, IV-6699, III-6398
Slope/Rating: V-137/74.7, IV-131/72.2, III-127-70.3
Par: 72

Tuckaway Country Club Website

Vessel makes golf’s best bags. Period. Since getting my first last year (the Player 2.0 stand bag, reviewed here), I’m comfortable stating that as a fact.

I’m so enamored at this point with the brand and product experience, though, that I’m venturing out to try other products in their line to fit my other golf needs. The first of these other products I’m currently bringing in to the fold is the Lux XV Cart Bag.

Released this past December, the Lux XV sold out in all colorways quickly via pre-sale. It’s available again online now, though, which makes this the perfect time to talk about it and the amazing golf brand known as Vessel.

As high-end, luxury-performance bags in the $350-and-up price range, consumers are right to expect a lot from their investment in a Vessel bag, and – in my humble opinion – they over-deliver.

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Why Vessel?

Vessel makes the nicest golf bags I’ve ever used or seen, and the only competition close are the brands who private label with them.

Their focus on sleek, functional and minimalistic style is unrivaled in an industry that is otherwise dominated by bright and flashy, bold and athletic. Vessel’s focus is on performance and classic looks – they take pride in having their bags perform as flawlessly as they look.

Vessel’s Tour-grade synthetic leather has a wonderful feel and has proven to be quite durable. I was nervous when I first got my Player 2.0 bag last year, for example, about having a white-colored bag. After a full season of golf, there has been no fading or discoloration; it looks as great as the day it arrived.

I’ll have even less to worry about with my new Lux XV cart bag. The matte gray color is so cool, especially with black and dark metal accents and white lettering.

I’ve had issues with the zippers breaking down on all my previous golf bags. Knowing this tends to be an area of concern, Vessel utilizes metal connectors in conjunction with their genuine leather pulls and gussets to withstand rust and corrosion.

That’s consistent throughout their product line: All touchpoints are crafted with high-quality construction and materials. Those pain points you’ve seen with other brands’ bags? Vessel’s found a way to engineer something a little extra that others don’t.

Plus, the Lux XV is a beautiful looking golf bag and has all the aesthetics you’d expect for $385.

My Vessel Lux XV cart bag on the riding cart at Wanaki Golf Course

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What makes Vessel bags truly special, though, is their design and functionality, which I’ll get in to next.

That, and they live a wonderful mission in society. For every golf bag purchased, Vessel donates a school backpack to a child in need. My Lux XV marks 90,013 total bags donated to those less fortunate.

Vessel packs these bags full of school supplies, food and living essentials for kids across the US and internationally.

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Setup and Performance

The Lux XV is feature rich, to say the least, and was designed to provide an optimal player experience while using a golf cart or trolley. It’s that second part I had in mind when getting my Lux XV cart bag: For use with my Bat-Caddy X4R electric caddy / trolley.

Rocking the Lux XV cart bag with my Bat-Caddy X4R at Hawthorn Hills in Saukville for my first round of 2021

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Storage

Cart bags are recommended with trolleys to help provide weight and stability, but they serve the added purpose of allowing players to carry more. For a guy like me, that’s huge. I can fit my drone in either of the oversized side pockets and a coat or hoodie in the other (or several), hundreds of tees and dozens of balls, my Bushnell Wingman Bluetooth speaker, rangefinder, a 32-ounce Yeti and large bottle of Gatorade, my wallet, wedding ring and all my valuables (locked up), plenty of extra gloves and accessories and still have enough room to throw 8 beers in the cooler pockets (if I wanted to).

The only real limit to how much stuff you can carry with the Lux XV cart bag is A) How heavy of a bag you can lift in to and out of your car, and B) If using it with an electric caddy, its weight capacity (~ 77 pounds for my X4R, but keep in mind a heavier bag will adversely affect battery life).

For club storage, the Lux XV comes standard with a 15-way divider top that keeps all clubs separated, including an oversized putter well that works with grips of all sizes (eg: SuperStroke and other fat setups). This is my first time owning a bag with individual dividers, and it took some time to figure out my organizational strategy.

My preferred bag setup, keeping hybrids, woods and driver toward the back to make everything accessible

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Here is where my one complaint about the Lux XV comes in: When used on my trolley or with the rain cover, some wells can be tough to access irons or wedges from. In both cases, it would be more convenient to have a 3- to 5-way divider configuration, but I’m figuring out ways around it… Talk about first-world problems, I know 🙂

I haven’t figured out a way around the rain cover issue yet, but have found that by putting my driver, fairway woods and 3-hybrid toward the back (against the base of the caddy), it makes all my clubs more accessible and my irons and wedges more visible.

My original hesitancy with a 15-way divider system had to do with grips. Other bags I’ve seen set up that way had a top divider that kept club faces spaced out but then entwined the grips underneath. Especially with Arccos sensors that cost $15 apiece to replace attached to each grip, it was a valid concern.

The Lux XV features full-length dividers, though, to keep clubs isolated entirely, avoid sub-surface entanglement and keep my sensors attached and working properly.

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The little things

Being a second-time Vessel owner, I write this review with so much more knowledge and experience of the brand than when I reviewed the Player 2.0. I was crushing on its great looks and specs at the time. It was a strong emotional connection, sure, but it was surface-level and we were still in the honeymoon stage.

Those emotions have only grown over time, and it’s consistently surprised me along the way. One day we got poured on at Brown Deer, for example, and I discovered the same-material rain cover and its simple but ingenious two-way zipper that allowed me to peruse club selection quickly without having to reattach the rain cover each time to keep my clubs dry. So smart!

After ~ 35 rounds of golf together, here are some of my favorite features on Vessel Bags:

  1. Magnetic rangefinder pockets – I show these off to everyone who asks about my bag
  2. The luxurious straps on my stand bag, always in a comfortable position because of the self-adjusting Equilibrium strap system
  3. Sturdy, high-quality gunmetal alloy YKK zippers and pulls – zippers have always been a pain point on other bags
  4. 2-way zipping, matching rain cover
  5. Velour-lined, microfiber pockets
  6. Expandable, magnetic water bottle holders
  7. Durable side handles on the cart bag for lifting

I’ll admit I also enjoy the way others check it out on the bag rack. Vessel bags are gorgeous, and people notice. At the practice green by Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley, for example, I had four separate caddies or other players compliment me on my bag or ask to feel it. It’s like bringing the prettiest girl to the ball.

The feature of Vessel Bags that gets me every time is the magnetic pocket, and the Lux XV has two. It’s a pull pocket with a strong magnet that lets you quickly access things like your rangefinder, tees and other accessories without constantly zipping and unzipping. It’s a very satisfying “snap” that I’ve come to love.

The Lux XV has another magnetic, snapping feature, too: The upper pocket pod that pulls away to allow the cart strap to secure underneath. Again, it’s smart design that’s elemental after the fact, but it’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere. Having the strap routed behind this pocket eliminates the wear and tear a cart strap can otherwise inflict on the leather (especially in conjunction with the neoprene strap sleeve, which is an accessory they’re currently including free of charge).

My Vessel Lux XV cart bag, from the front – its most essential pockets are stacked centrally

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The Lux XV was designed to keep everything in front of you, providing ample storage in a center column with mirrored storage options on each side.

From top-to-bottom, this includes the first magnetic easy-access pocket, a deep zippered accessories pocket, the second magnetic rangefinder pocket and a large ball storage compartment.

Each side then has a large zippered garment compartment that runs the length of the bag (each with a locking interior valuables pocket and combination lock), a microfiber-lined personals pocket, pen sleeve, cooler compartment that holds four 12-ounce cans per side, and an insulated, magnetic, self-expanding and drainable water bottle carrier that carries my 32-ounce Yeti snugly.

The Vessel Lux XV cart bag on my Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy – side-view, including the full-length garment compartment, cooler pocket, pen holder, water bottle sleeve and valuables pocket (mirrored on each side)

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My conclusion

Now that mid-April has arrived and the golf season is finally rounding in to view here in the Midwest, I can’t be more excited to get to know my new Vessel playing companion better.

If you’re in the market for a new golf bag this season, and looking for something top-of-line, trust me when I say Vessel is worth the extra money. Whether it’s a cart bag like the Lux XV, one of their Pro Staff bags (used by Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker, Patrick Reed and dozens of others on the PGA Tour and LPGA), or a more traditional carry bag like the updated Player 3, Lite Lux or VLX stand bags, the difference in craftsmanship, aesthetics and features/performance with Vessel is far superior to anything else on the market.

It’s pricier, but it’s worth it, and so are you.

Vessel’s got a customer for life in me, and I’m confident if you make one of their bags your next golf investment they’ll make a customer for life out of you, too.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Vessel Bags
Product: Lux XV Cart Bag
Price as shown: $385 + $35 personalization

Vessel Bags Lux XV Cart Bag Product Page

What was the golf course like that you grew up playing on?

Mine was a Waukesha County municipal course with a few quirks and a lot of character. It had some holes I could do without, and a lot more I always looked forward to.

It always had good greens. Most are slightly elevated, but nothing too crazy. The design team of Arthur Hills and Billy Sixty, Jr. (and later Bob Lohmann) did a really nice job of designing them with optimal pinnability, and the maintenance crew always kept their surfaces rolling quickly, though they could get a little beaten up from so much play from beginners — like I was. And it seemed like they aerated more than most, with huge punches that made putting feel like a game of Plinko.

I never quite figured out the right clubs to hit on its doglegs. They mostly took driver out of my hands from the white tees, and I was always second guessing irons selections. 30 years later, I still second guess my irons all the time.

An aerial view of “Dogleg Corner,” as we called it, including the par four 13th and 14th, par five 15th, and the par four 4th and 5th holes at Wanaki

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My friends David, Dan and I played it a lot. Our parents would drop us off at Wanaki Golf Course in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and we’d walk the course, learn the game and enjoy the time outside. We were around 10 when Dave and I started playing junior leagues there. He was a much better player than I was, but we were buddies and always had fun golfing together. I still have a hard time taking golf too seriously.

I’d love to get out there with those guys again someday. Dan and I typically play a couple times a year, usually in the Madison area (or last year we had a nice 45-hole day at Medinah) where he and his family live. I haven’t seen Dave in decades, though we keep in touch a little on Facebook. Like Dan, I think he’s a college professor now and lives in Indiana.

It had been a lot of years, probably ~ 20 since the last time I played 18 holes at Wanaki, and yesterday’s round waxed nostalgic for me in all the right ways.

A view from above the practice green, looking east over the 17th fairway and towards Menomonee Falls

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It was a day of opportunity. My friend, Jeff, and I were planning on playing North Hills Country Club at 10:30, but as a social-plus member now I’m only able to play it a handful of times a year and get hit with $122.50 walking (I prefer to walk there with my electric caddy, but still get charged for the cart).

Even with the Weather app calling for 100% chance of rain the entire morning and afternoon, I wanted to get out and give golf a go. I didn’t want to burn one of my rounds at the club, though, and really didn’t want to spend $100-plus on an early-April round I didn’t even know if I’d want to finish if the weather was as terrible as it was supposed to be. $45 with cart at Wanaki sounded much better, and their pro shop said to come on out as the tee sheet continued to clear.

We were planning on playing a quick nine. Public courses can be a bit of a death march on Saturday mornings, and I was happy to get even a few hours away from the madness of our 2- and 3-year-old at home.

Nine turned in to 18, though, as we played hole after hole – all bringing back good memories – quickly and without wait. A group on two let us play through off the tee; we didn’t run in to anyone else until 16. It was awesome.

An overhead view (from left-to-right) of 18, 17, 1, 7, 2, 6 and 3 at Wanaki

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The signage has been updated, the nines have been switched, their rickety old gas carts have been significantly upgraded for new ones (I remember having to constantly pull the choke to get their carts to run), the bridges have been renewed and their maintenance crew has certainly been busy with tree removal.

Otherwise, it was the same course I remember playing as a kid.

The opportunity to play Wanaki again almost didn’t happen for me. In fact, we almost lost it following the 2019 season when Waukesha County decided to discontinue operations.

Wanaki was losing between $41,000 to $243,000 per year since 2001 (link to report), and needed significant capital investment. It’s always had good bones, though, including a beautifully wooded track of land with rivers and ponds, one of the strongest men’s clubs in the state, high annual rounds and played home course to multiple school teams. Losing Wanaki would have made a significant impact on the Milwaukee area golf community.

#SaveWanaki rallied local golf enthusiasts, and eventually stirred up a legitimate bid from a new ownership group to stave off redevelopment. Together with Scott Schaefer of the Milwaukee Brat House, the good folks at Storms Golf were able to acquire Wanaki with the agreement that it continues to operate as a golf course.

This is a dream ownership group for the property, combining longstanding golf-related operations experience and expertise with terrific food and beverage savvy. Scott’s culinary niche couples well with golf where brats, hot dogs and other quick bites play perfectly. The hot dog and pretzel bun yesterday was awesome, by the way.

Wanaki is a solid test of golf, playing host fairly regularly to State Am and Open qualifiers. Its par threes, especially, are really tough – three of them measuring over 200 yards from the back tees. And the greens were in great shape – much better than we expected this early in the season.

The 220-yard par three finishing hole at Wanaki

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A grand re-opening party is scheduled at Wanaki for April 18, 2021, which will include a free pig roast, live music and [rubber] duck races down the Fox River. If you haven’t had a chance to play it yet lately [like I hadn’t], get over there and check it out.

I for one know my next visit to Wanaki won’t take nearly as long to happen as the last one did, and I’m really excited to see what other changes new ownership has in store for this course that holds so many good memories for me.

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A few more overhead drone shots from my early-Spring round yesterday at Wanaki Golf Course:

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Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Menomonee Falls, WI
Slope/Rating: Blue-127/71.4, White-123/69.6, Gold-117/67.0
Yardage: Blue-6560, White-6206, Gold-5629
Par: 71

Wanaki Golf Course Website

When setting up rounds for my Spring golf trip to Scottsdale, there were a handful of public courses I wanted to play most: Quintero, Troon North, Coore/Crenshaw’s Talking Stick and the Coore/Crenshaw Saguaro and Scott Miller Cholla courses at We-Ko-Pa.

Quintero was number one for me. I’ve looked at hundreds of pictures of the course and its natural surrounds, and while plenty of the pictures were stunning there were just so many that looked the same. In a setting that naturally magnificent, I was sure I’d be able to capture some breathtaking and original shots.

Quintero over-delivered as one of the most beautiful and demanding golf courses I can ever remember playing. In fact, it’s probably one of the most picturesque settings I’ve ever photographed, in general.

Long vistas of the Hieroglyphic Mountains, huge cacti and a wild and expansive desert landscape framed every picture.

The overcast Arizona sky that accompanied our unseasonably cold and rugged weather conditions made it even better. While most snow-birds would complain about pants weather (low-to-mid-40’s) while escaping the Midwest cold, I knew we were in for a treat and think the pictures bare proof.

It’s tough to beat cloud cover and natural contrast like this when taking drone photography!

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History

Quintero was originally planned to be a private club with two courses: The Rees Jones designed Founders Course (currently Quintero Golf Club) that debuted in 2000, and a planned but never built Greg Norman designed Charter Course.

The story I was told during my Uber ride from the airport is that the outskirts-of-Peoria location was simply too far from Phoenix/Scottsdale, while also being too far from Flagstaff in the other direction to draw en masse for the nearly 300 home sites and 700 available golfing memberships.

I believe the driver that it was simply Quintero’s remoteness that didn’t allow it to thrive as a private club development. It certainly was not the golf, which immediately garnered top 100 praise from the likes of Golf Digest, GolfWeek and Golf Magazine.

And it is certainly not the dramatic natural setting that Quintero inhabits.

Still, even being an hour from Phoenix/Scottsdale, the golf is great enough to fill tee sheets at $300-plus per round during peak season.

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The architect

Rees Jones has a reputation at times of over-designing golf courses. In his defense, that’s what’s been asked of him by the USGA to toughen up tournament venues as “The Open Doctor” (think Dubsdread, East Lake, Bethpage Black, Pinehurst No. 2, Medinah No. 3 and the South course at Torrey Pines – all are beautiful and a great test for the pros, but perhaps over-the-top difficult for the everyday player).

I know Rees’s work at non-US Open venues to be challenging yet thoughtful, and it’s in that vein that I view Quintero. I think he did a wonderful job of designing Quintero especially with regards to three key elements: Interesting hole layouts, beautifully set up tee shots (the only location on a golf hole where all players share the same view), and challenging but fun green surrounds.

I had a chance to speak with Rees and pick his brain a little on this at a media event a few years ago at Medinah, shortly after he’d finished work on Course 2. This guy has unbelievable knowledge of golf course architecture, turf management and designing for the challenge and enjoyment of all skill levels – Quintero’s a great example of that. The Oconee course at Reynolds Lake Oconee is another prime example that comes to mind – an incredibly interesting and aesthetically beautiful course that’s fun while providing a stern test of golf.

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Let’s get this started

Following an early morning flight from Milwaukee to Phoenix International, my friend and 2019 North Hills Country Club Club Champion, Will, and I arrived with plenty of time to spare the day of our round at Quintero. We took full advantage, visiting several of the course’s most photogenic spots including the all-world par three 6th.

With no tee boxes in site (they’re all way above the green), well-spaced greenside bunkering, a nicely kept fairway approach area and massive green complex, I thought at first that it must be a short-game practice area. It’s a good thing Will had been here before.

We took the opportunity to head uphill where I was able to run dry my first couple drone batteries of the trip capturing some unique angles of a world-class golf hole.

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Desert golf

When I told friends I was going to Scottsdale to play my first ever desert golf, everyone told me to bring extra balls. It’s target golf at its best, they said, and that was certainly the case at Quintero.

I thought I had my swing dialed in on Trackman prior to the trip. I was regularly hitting 10+ fairways/round and shooting in the low-to-mid-70’s. Even though that was from unrealistically perfect turf lies, in to a screen with no wind, putting or need to look for errant shots, I was fully expecting to play well and compete with Will and our friend and 2018 North Hills Club Champion, Charlie.

The fairways are not small at Quintero. In fact, a lot of them are 60+ yards wide, but anything missing the fairway is basically gone. Knowing that, and having the vast scale of desert landscape lingering all about creates intimidation. When you add in the strong winds we had for our round, let’s just say I was glad I listened and brought extra golf balls… Though I wish I’d’ve brought more than ProV1’s and TP5’s. I donated 11 ProV1-X’s to the rattlesnakes during my first round of the season.

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The golf course

Quintero’s practice facility, about a 5- to 10-minute cart ride from the clubhouse, features a double-sided driving range that stretches over 300 yards and can be teed from both ends. Things were looking good there – I was hitting the ball long and straight – all systems were go.

Quintero’s practice facility, from near the 1st tee

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The practice green near the first tee ran very similarly to the greens on the course. It was really quick, and very smooth. I had no idea what to expect of putting surfaces in the desert, and I was really impressed by Quintero’s well-kempt bent grass greens.

The very first tee shot of the day was elevated and in to a left-to-right, hurting wind – in fact, we didn’t have a single hole all day with wind at our back.

I lost my first two Titleists of the day on one – one right, the next left. So much for a welcoming handshake!

The opening hole at Quintero Golf Club, from above
1st hole tee shot at Quintero, ground-level

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Tipping out over 570 yards and with a long carry over wasteland, the right-to-left running fairway on the par five second left a lot of room to miss laterally and was actually one of the most comfortable drives of the day for me, and one of my only hit fairways.

While there is a fairway straight ahead, it’s actually for the first half of the fifth hole and is not a split fairway, although if no one’s there it’s probably playable (albeit an even longer carry).

Tee shot on the par five 2nd hole at Quintero

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The third hole is a terrific example of the visual intimidation I referenced earlier. The fairway here is probably 75-100 yards wide at most spots, but beyond those borders is all lost balls – water left, desert right.

I thankfully had no idea there was wasteland in between the end of the fairway and the approach area, or there’s no way I would have gotten near this green in two.

This is one of the only areas of the course where water comes in to play.

Aerial view of the approach shot on three

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The par four 5th introduces players to one of the factors that makes Quintero truly special: Its incredible elevation changes.

Playing directly uphill, the tee shot gives the impression you’re aiming directly in to the base of the mountain.

Looking back over the par four 5th from beyond the green

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With views for days of the Sonoran Desert, the mid-to-long-range par three 6th features about 110 feet of drop in elevation and is one of the most picturesque golf holes I’ve ever seen.

The target is plenty large, and long from front to back, helping make up for all the questions swirling around in players’ heads about the plays-like distance. From ~ 180 yards, Will and I both hit 7-irons and had the distance just about right.

The magnificent par three 6th at Quintero, from the tees
An aerial view from the side of the par three 6th at QGC
The par three 6th at Quintero, from past the green looking toward all the tees
An overhead, flattened view of the par three 6th at Quintero

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The eighth is an unbelievable par five, teeing off first to a wide fairway with plenty of room to miss left. The second shot then plays over wasteland, and significantly uphill between two peaks. I can’t imagine many could hit this green in two, making it a solid three-shot par five.

Driving area on 8, leading over a wash and uphill green-ward
A view from the left side of the first fairway on eight

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Like on six (and later on 16), the par three 9th features an unbelievably dramatic tee-to-green drop in elevation – about 60 feet, according to a past article on GolfArizona (link).

I hit a ridiculously good shot on this hole, landing the ball less than five feet from the pin. It fell from so high, though, and to such a small portion of the green that it one-hopped off the back. I didn’t care – it felt pure, and like one of my first real golf shots of the day, so I was happy.

Tee shot from the first tees in on the par three 9th at Quintero
The downhill, tremendously challenging par three 9th at Quintero (the tees shown are the 3rd, 4th, etc. tees from the back)
The view from beyond the pin on 9, with my ball mark just to the left of the pin
To show scale: The 9th can be seen in the top half of this picture: Its tee boxes are built in to the mountainside (top-right of the photo), its bailout area is short of the pond and the green is left of the water

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The only par three at Quintero that’s not significantly downhill, the 13th doesn’t make things any easier on players. The tee shot here is long – around 180 yards from the first tees in, and needs to carry water to hit the green surface (Jones provided a bailout area short-right).

The par three 13th is the course’s only level one-shotter but doesn’t pull back on the difficulty factor

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With the sun beginning to lower on our round and day one of my Arizona golf trip, the Peoria skies kept getting more and more beautiful at Quintero, and the great golf holes, ever-present winds and lost balls kept on coming.

The par four 15th is another stunner, and features one of the course’s narrower initial fairways and a tough to hit, elevated green. We both came up short on our approach shots, and both hit good sand shots from the deep front-right greenside bunkers.

A demanding tee shot on the short par four 15th at Quintero

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The last of Quintero’s set of all-world par threes, the 16th plays at least 50 feet downhill (I’d think much more, but can’t find any numbers to support that online) to one of the most challenging of the course’s par three greens to hit.

While Jones’ beautiful greenside bunkering on the right side screams “Stay away,” it’s the left side that’s fraught with treachery as unplayable desert wasteland encroaches all the way to the left side of the green complex.

We both hit the traps about pin-high, and while Will was able to save par I was not.

The downhill tee shot on 16 at Quintero

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The 16th provided a terrific backdrop for an obligatory drone selfie:

Will (right) and me on the elevated 16th tee box at Quintero Golf Club, 3/11/2021

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This was a tough round to put in the books, especially since my swing started coming around a little towards the end. The eighteenth played directly in to the lowering sun, another restricted fairway with long shadows creeping inward.

Tee shot on the long par four 18th at Quintero – a demanding finish to a challenging but wonderful round of golf

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Final thoughts

With around 200 total golf courses in the greater Phoenix / Scottsdale area, I’d be shocked if Quintero was not ranked one of the top overall. Indeed, Golf Digest ranks it number one among public courses in the state, and GolfWeek has it number two behind Coore/Crenshaw’s Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa.

While we weren’t able to get on Saguaro during my trip, we were able to play the Cholla course at We-Ko-Pa. It was also spectacular, and with great changes in elevation and a wild, rugged yet refined aesthetic. I personally liked Quintero better, though, and in fact would put it immediately in to my list of the top 25 golf courses I’ve played.

While it is an incredibly challenging course, called out by its 148 slope and 75.3 rating from the tips, I think Rees Jones really hit it out of the park at Quintero. And it’s more than just the par threes, which on their own make it an unforgettable golf experience. It’s the way he incorporated the surrounding natural scenes, always framing key areas within the confines of mountain peaks, using elevation sparingly while meandering through the Sonoran Desert and building up to wow moments early and often.

Quintero Golf Club is bucket list worthy, and a true must-play for golf enthusiasts visiting the Greater Scottsdale area.

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Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Peoria, AZ
Slope/Rating: Black-148/75.3, Gold-143/73.1, Silver-137/70.7, Copper-127/68.4
Yardage: Black-7249, Gold-6875, Silver-6437, Copper-5807
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: Up to $385 (including cart)

Quintero Golf Club Website

For three years I’ve been trying to play Nakoma Golf Club in Madison, and every year something’s come up with the kids that’s kept me from keeping the tee time.

2020 was finally the year as my buddies Jeff and Mario and I headed up a couple months back to Nakoma to play with Jeff’s dad, Gary, at his home course on a flawless Fall day.

Nakoma’s practice green, with the state capitol on the horizon

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Designed by Tom Bendelow and debuted in 1925, Nakoma is a classic parkland course with outstanding greens and a fun, sporty layout.

As I’ve come to expect of Bendelow designed courses, Nakoma is an enjoyable walk with convenient routing and short treks from green to tee. It’s a perfect everyday golf course. In fact, I’d put it in the running with spots like Kenosha, Washington County and North Hills as one of the better everyday courses I’ve played.

These are courses you could play day in and day out – walking or riding – and never get tired of them. No annoying holes to “put up with,” a good challenge without being difficult for the point of being difficult, impeccably kept conditions and overall really good, well-designed golf holes.

Tipping out at just under 6,500 yards, Nakoma feels longer as it plays to a par of just 70 (34 on the front, 36 on the back). While the front nine has three par threes (2, 4, 7) and one five (6), the back has a more conventional two of each.

I enjoy an unconventional scorecard. I love a 5-3-5 to end the round at Nakoma, a 5-3-5-3-5-3 mid-round at Lawsonia, back-to-back par fives at Pine Hills (even though the second in the set should probably be a long four) and The Oaks, or back-to-back par threes on 10 and 11 at Pacific Dunes when it means the holes making up those stretches are right for the course. And, in all these cases, they are.

Par doesn’t need to fit a template of 36/36 with two threes and two fives on each nine. Swaying from the standard keeps things interesting, not to mention provides players with good opportunities to score.

Nakoma’s finishing stretch, which ends with the long par five 16th, mid-length par three 17th and short five 18th, is a terrific example of that opportunity to score – it’s a fun, challenging set of holes that left me wishing there were more.

Pace of play for our round at Nakoma was ideal as we finished in under four hours with nobody pressing us and no waiting on tee boxes. The walk wasn’t overly taxing on the legs, it was a perfectly comfortable round of golf, and a ton of fun.

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Nakoma has really good variety to its hole layouts, starting with a soft dogleg left through a chute of trees on one.

It’s immediately evident Nakoma’s membership has invested a lot in their course over recent years, which bears out in conversation with the membership.

As an example, look at the tree lines near the clubhouse. This picture could easily be from Milwaukee CC or Medinah – their tree lines are made up of healthy, mature specimens that provide structure, aesthetics and direction, but don’t lead to lost balls and time spent searching for errant tee shots. Furthermore, the neat clusters allow the turf to thrive and provides a visual appeal that puts their team’s attention to detail front and center.

The other key place where attention to detail is incredibly evident? Nakoma’s greens. They. Are. Perfect.

From the very first hole on, each putt rolled perfectly. Nakoma has some of the best conditioned green complexes I’ve played on.

The dogleg left par 4 opening hole at Nakoma Golf Club

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Our round at Nakoma was the first with my Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy, and there couldn’t have been a better course to demo it on. Finishing 18, I barely felt like we started. I would have happily played another 18, and even more happily another 18 after that.

It wasn’t a flawless ride, though. Jeff put the over/under on how many times I dumped it at five. The first time was on the par three 4th, a fun one-shotter with a great risen green complex and a large bunker front-right.

The par 4 3rd at Nakoma

I wanted to put the drone up for a good aerial shot of this hole. So I put up the bird, drove the caddy off the elevated tee boxes and thought I had it stopped in the middle of the fairway. I put my attention, then, on the drone and took a couple shots before hearing my entire bag hit a tree branch just right of the green. It hadn’t occurred to me that I never hit the “Stop” button.

A closer look at the elevated green and massive right-side trap on 4 at NGC

That was embarrassing! It was my first on-course crash with my new electric golf caddy, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.

Yard sale on 4

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A dogleg right par four, the fifth is a fun risk/reward hole that begs players to hit driver over the inside tree line. A spattering of fairway bunkers protects long off the tee, while anything coming up short will keep players from having a good look on their approach.

The dogleg right par four 5th at Nakoma GC

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A long par five that stretches to almost 600 yards, the tee shot on six is somewhat blind beyond the crest of the hill, and to a fairly narrow fairway running downhill.

The green on six was a lot tougher than it originally looked, especially with the hole cut just past the left-side false front.

Areial view of the long, 592-yard par five 6th at Nakoma (center)

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A really nice golf shirt can be a great holiday present, especially when it’s a shirt that’s made to last.

That’s what I want in golf attire. I want tops that aren’t going to be out-of-fashion in two years. Tiger Woods mock necks? No way. Wild and wacky patterns? I’ve learned that lesson. Too bright colors? They stick out like a sore thumb. Color block? I’ve got 20 combinations in my basement closet that I haven’t been able to rock for several seasons.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like the way those shirts look, or even how they look on me, but I know that fashion’s not my world and I’m not interested anymore in spending good money on what’s cool this season.

I’m more about style. I want a well thought-out shirt constructed with top-of-the-line materials that I can buy today and find almost unchanged on the same rack or website ten years down the road. I don’t want it to scream 2014, or even 2020.

Holderness & Bourne blends classic style with modern, tailored fits and great-feeling performance fabrics to appease the golf enthusiast like me: A guy who wants to look great wearing clothes that fit well and don’t get in the way of my swing.

The Perkins shirt, by Holderness & Bourne, is a great performance golf polo

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In just five years, Alex Holderness and John Bourne have taken their anti-fashion brand and created something really special: A premium clothing line that’s highly sought after and doesn’t require constant reinvention.

From a business standpoint, it makes too much sense. Playing the fashion game means retiring clothes every season that’s gone out of style, selling it to the highest bidder to liquidate what’s left on sites like Rock Bottom Golf, Golfetail, Discount Golf and TGW.

This practice erodes both profit margins and brand value. Meanwhile, selling timeless styles that never go out of fashion means updating only when the opportunity arises, continually improving what works without scrapping what’s left.

It also means golf enthusiasts like me can put together a nice wardrobe over time, and even allows for a more versatile product that can be worn outside of golf.

Our family photo shoot this year, for example, featured my favorite piece from H&B: The navy blue Robbins pullover.

Charlie (3), me, Kelly and Quinn (1) – sporting my navy blue Robbins pullover, from Holderness & Bourne

The Robbins pullover, which sells for $125, utilizes a blend of cotton, polyester and elastane that promotes shape retention while providing a really nice, tailored fit. The fabric is comfortable, and after having worn it a dozen times looks as nice and new as the day I got it. Whether for golf or everyday wear, I cannot recommend this top enough.

The Robbins pullover, in navy (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

Holderness & Bourne does outerwear really well, but their bread and butter is golf polos.

Their polos feature a comfortably modern, tailored fit with structured cutaway collars, sewn-in stays and 2- or 3-button set-in plackets.

Their fabrics are top of the line for the industry, including DryLuxe Performance Pique, DryLuxe Performance Interlock, Supima Cotton and Peruvian Pima Cotton, and all their polos are adorned with trocas shell buttons, which have a classy look and sturdy feel.

All these premium materials don’t translate to cheap shirts, but they are well worth the $90-98.

My favorite style so far is The Maxwell short-sleeve, which I’ve gotten in both grey & white (shown below), and cobalt & white.

The Maxwell shirt, in grey and white (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

The sewn-in collar stays make for a well-designed and consistent appearance from the neck up, because nothing screams lazy more than a droopy collar!

The Maxwell shirt, in cobalt and white (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

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Looking for other gift ideas to add to your cart while on the H&B website? Check out their Fischer belts, dopp kits and shoe bags.

I haven’t owned a Fischer belt yet, but I really like the look and style: A premium, Italian stretch fabric with genuine leather and nickel-plated solid brass buckles. I’d go with the amparo and white ribbon design, personally.

The Fischer belt, in amparo & white ribbon (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

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Fashion vs. style. A timeless look vs. dressing up like Tiger, DJ or Rory on a given week. To me, the sophisticated, classic looks, superior performance and dynamite materials will win out every time.

That’s what I love about Holderness & Bourne, and that’s why I recommend their polos and outerwear as another top-notch holiday gift idea for the golf enthusiast in your life.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Holderness & Bourne
Product: Golf polos and outerwear
Price range: $90-125

Holderness & Bourne website

It’s the golfer’s uniform: A collared shirt, hat and shorts or pants, along with a white, black or navy blue stand bag.

It gets worse for professionals, who have even less to choose from since they can’t wear shorts.

Maybe that’s why we golfers love to accessorize the way we do. It’s fun showcasing something that’s a little different in an environment that otherwise keeps us looking pretty similar… Especially when it’s with customized accessories that showcase our personality while providing much needed functionality.

To me, one of the coolest ways to accessorize golf gear is with custom club head covers.

It’s crazy to think Seamus basically started the head cover industry in earnest about ten years ago. Prior to that, the only options were the head covers that came with your clubs, which were fine, a couple generic options at Golf Galaxy or your dad’s old calf-length socks. Not as great.

When it comes to club head covers, there are two companies that stand above the rest: Seamus and Fore Ewe. Both sell super high-quality, durable woolen products, both are based out of Portland, Oregon, and both provide endless ways to customize.

Driver, fairway wood and hybrid cover samples (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)

Where the two companies differ the most revolves entirely around personal preference: Seamus’s head covers are sewn and more sleek in appearance, and Fore Ewe’s are knit and more “floppy” in appearance.

Club head covers are very personal, and they’re not cheap (nor usually returnable), so you’ll want to make sure you get this one right. A few ideas for ensuring that:

  • Keep it simple – colors and patterns you know they’ll love that work with their current bag setup (link: Fore Ewe standard collections, link: Seamus Golf all head covers)
  • Make it obvious – maybe a club head cover from their alma mater (link: Seamus Collegiate collection)? Or favorite NBA team (link: Seamus NBA collection)?
  • A gift card – expect ~ $75 per cover for drivers, and $55-65 for fairway woods and hybrids
  • Ask them to make their own selection(s)! It takes out the surprise, but gets them exactly what they want while working through the lead time en route to the Holidays

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Seamus Golf

Established in 2011 by Akbar and Megan Chisti and named for their Irish Terrier, Seamus O’Reily, Seamus Golf specializes in unique, one-off golf accessories that started with club head covers and has since expanded to on-course tools (divot repair, bag tags, flasks, alignment sticks, towels, scorecard holders, yardage books and so on), bags and pouches, extremely limited-run Sunday bags and equipment, major golf memorabilia (eg: US Open collectibles), clothing and cool hand-forged collectibles.

The newest of those hand-forged collectibles is the putting cup, for example:

One of Seamus Golf’s new hand-forged putting cups (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)
Seamus Co-Founder Akbar Chisti working the Seamus anvil at the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills

While their stable of accessories has expanded significantly over the past 9 years, their bread and butter has always been exquisitely designed and manufactured woolen club head covers.

Seamus Golf has collections that will match every golfer’s personality and interests, whether through classic design like with their tartan wools or through more direct associations like with their new collegiate and NBA collections.

The new Wisconsin Badgers driver head cover (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)

Looking for a good starting point? Below is a link to Seamus’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide:

Seamus Golf’s Holiday Gift Guide (click for link)

Beyond their amazing golf products, Seamus is a company worth supporting. When the COVID-19 pandemic originally started, for example, they shut down their normal operations for months to instead sew masks to donate to frontline workers. Akbar, Megan and their staff are wonderful people who always go above and beyond, whether that’s for customers or society, in general.

Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Seamus Golf
Product: Club head covers
Price range: $55-75 apiece

Seamus Golf Website

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Fore Ewe, by MacKenzie Golf Bags

Also exceptionally high in quality construction and customizability, Fore Ewe offers a very different head cover product than Seamus in that theirs’ are knit.

Knit head covers have a very old-school look and feel: They’re softer and flowy, with smooth yarn and pom poms.

Erin Hills hybrid head covers, by Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)

Knit head covers are typically skein dyed, which involves loose lengths of yarn being immersed in receptacles full of pigment. This is the most costly method of dyeing yarn, but leads to a superior product with color that’s fade-resistant.

As is the case with their hand-made MacKenzie Golf Bags, everything is handmade with incredible attention to detail.


An example of a MacKenzie Golf Bag, made for Mammoth Dunes (photo courtesy MacKenzie Golf Bags)

Included in that detail is a whole lot of potential customization. For “standard” options, the order placer only needs to make a couple of decisions, like what type of top feature to use (fat tassel, tassel, large pom), the club it’s for (driver, fairway wood, hybrid, putter), and standard vs. long length. Chances are it’ll always be standard-length, and if they don’t already have custom head covers then you’ll want to go with the driver option. It’ll be $10 more than the others, but it’s the most popular option by far.

For custom orders, there is a whole lot more personalization available, including:

  • Club type (driver, fairway wood, hybrid)
  • Head color (40 color options)
  • Head design (solid, small checks, larger checks, vertical stripes, horizontal stripe, diagonal dot and what color(s)?)
  • Head cap (yes or no)
  • Neck stripes (none, thick, thin and what color(s)?)
  • Top treatment (none, tassel, fat tassel, mini tassel, large pom, small pom, loop and what color(s)?)
  • Neck length (almost always standard)
  • Top stitch text (eg: Initials)

Double-waxed and spun, Fore Ewe’s wool is exceptionally durable and smooth. Elastic promotes a snug fit.

Numerous light blue options from Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)
Numerous standard knit options from Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)

Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Fore Ewe, by MacKenzie Golf Bags
Product: Club head covers
Price range: $55-80 apiece

Fore Ewe Website

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Whether you go with sewn Seamus head covers or knit covers from Fore Ewe, the important thing is that they protect your club heads.

Both companies’ products will do that beautifully, protecting club faces from dings and scratches during your round or in storage, and worse from snaps while in transit or when that immature buddy of yours’ unstraps your bag on a cart path.

Which style best fits the golfer in your life?

Generally speaking, golf enthusiasts tend to be collectors. Myself included, we’re lovers of anything and everything that brings back memories of the best times on our favorite courses.

Options abound when those favorite courses are Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or Augusta National, but what about when it’s somewhere less known and more personal?

Options are few and far between, then, and are typically limited to the clothing and gear for sale in their pro shop.

So, rather than spending $95 on a golf polo with a logo on the sleeve, this year go the extra mile for something that’ll blow them away.

Course Maps Founder Severiano Saiz (“Sev,” as named after Seve Ballesteros whose family lineage traces back to the same village of Pedrena, Spain) launched Course Maps this past March, realized quickly he had a winner and left his real world job in August to work full-time on the golf start-up.

“Golf course layouts present a neat intersection of a couple of things I’ve always loved:,” said Sev, “golf/golf architecture, maps and graphic design. It’s all come together very naturally for me and I really enjoy putting together each map.”

Sev’s maps feature beautiful architectural hole layouts with the course’s scorecard and key information in white ink set against a solid-colored background of green, grey, navy blue or slate. Key features of each hole are called out in contrast and include fairways and greens, teeing areas and bunkers; ideal lines of play are shown as dotted lines.

Course Map of Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC (green with white frame) – their best seller

The printing process utilizes giclee ink on high-quality, museum-grade paper. The standard for art prints, giclee features a 12-color combination that results in vivid colors, especially when compared to the standard 4-color inkjet printer. The chemical makeup of giclee keeps prints from fading over time due to sun exposure and age, ensuring Course Maps should look beautiful for generations to come.

While framing is not required, it is available through Course Maps in black or white. Their frames are 3/4″ thick Alder semi-hardwood and include hanging hardware. Adding the frame (which ships complete) to an 18×24, for example, adds $49 to the cost.

Course Map of Chambers Bay in University Place, WA (navy blue with black frame)

I went with a green background and black frame for my Course Map of the Links course at Lawsonia. The hunter green works beautifully with the rest of the golf art in my basement and bar area, and as Sev described it: The green over black “screams ‘classic golf clubhouse.'” I couldn’t agree more.

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Customer Service

When it arrived, I was so enamored with the aesthetics of my first Course Map that I didn’t realize the scorecard had mislabeled the par five 11th hole as a par four.

A coworker of mine noticed it in my Instagram post, though, and mentioned it as a comment. Within a week, Course Maps had sent me a new one with an updated scorecard.

I would have noticed the error at some point – it’s part of my favorite stretch of holes on the Links course where the 9th thru 15th holes go par 5, 3, 5, 3, 5, 3. It’s a really unique stretch of holes with lots of good birdie opportunities. I never even mentioned it to Course Maps, though, and so for them to see it and remedy the issue so quickly was really impressive. I like to support companies who understand the importance of customer service and doing the right thing, and I feel great about backing Course Maps.

My Course Map of the Links course at Lawsonia

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Custom orders

Fortunately for golf enthusiasts in Wisconsin, Course Maps has several in-state options already available without requiring a custom order. These standard options include the Links course at Lawsonia, Erin Hills and Sand Valley.

If you or the person you’re shopping for has a love affair with one of those or another already on their site, you’re in luck!

But, for the everyday golfer who hasn’t traveled to Cruden Bay, Pinehurst or the Ocean course at Kiawah Island, and hasn’t found their way [yet] on to Oakmont, Inverness or Pine Valley, then custom prints from Course Maps will allow golf enthusiasts to enjoy and relive the cadence of holes from their favorite property – whatever property that is.

“The majority of golf art, memorabilia, etc. is built around the famous courses that everyone knows — Augusta, Pebble, St. Andrews and so on. But the reality is most people will never get to play those courses.

The courses that people love and have created the most memories at are the local muni courses, the small country clubs, or the hidden gems that are off the beaten path. There’s not really much in the way of giftable items related to those courses and I think that’s what we really cater to with Course Maps.

We’ve seen a huge demand for our custom orders and I think it’s such an awesome thing. Our maps are really something that encapsulates all of the memories that have been created on that course. I’ll always remember watching my dad open that first map and it makes me really happy that I’m able to share that feeling with others through Course Maps.”

— Sev Saiz, Founder of Course Maps

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Course Maps with all 4 background colors shown

Custom ordering creates the opportunity for a truly unique gift, especially for private club players who love and have tremendous pride in their home course.

As you’d guess, it is more expensive to buy a custom Course Map than it is one of the ones that’s already available. The reason for this, of course, is that it requires the upfront artistic work to make it printable.

As a one-off product, Course Maps will sell custom prints for $120 (12×16) to $150 (24×36). As an order of five or more, though, the per unit cost comes all the way down to $45 (12×16) to $60 (24×36), without framing.

Especially at a private golf club, it’s really easy to find four friends to go in on a custom order. I sent an email to 19 friends from North Hills Country Club, for example, and in three days 12 have responded they’re in.

For golf courses and pro shops, orders of 25+ can be tremendously lucrative, bringing the price for 12×16’s all the way down to $36 apiece, or $48 apiece for 24×36 prints.

Like with standard, non-custom prints, framing is available on custom product and will add $55 (one-off price) to 12×16’s, $70 to 18×24’s or $140 to 24×36 prints. Those costs can be reduced by volume ordering, as well.

If this is an avenue you’re interested in pursuing for a Christmas / Holiday gift for a golf enthusiast in your life, make sure you get going on the order soon. Course Maps has a 2-3 week lead time (followed by time in transit), so we’ve got a 1-2 week time frame to place an order and expect delivery before December 25.

If you’re concerned whether he or she will like it, don’t be. Trust me, they’ll love it.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Course Maps
Product: Golf course architectural prints
Price (as shown): $94

Course Maps Website

My wife says presents should be gifts people would feel guilty buying for themselves – gifts that make them feel appreciated, and better yet spoiled.

The first item in my 2020 Holiday Gift Guide, the Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy, fits that description to a T as a thoughtful and indulgent gift for a number of worthy golf enthusiasts:

  • The first to adopt new technology / the “gadget guy”
  • Older players wanting to extend their ability to walk the course
  • The player who has everything
  • The purist – it’s the closest thing you can get to having a human caddy on the course without one
  • Those concerned with social distancing right now

Prior to getting the X4R, I had seen two electric caddies in my life… In thousands of rounds of golf. One was a guy’s I played with at Chambers Bay back in 2012, and the other was one of my playing partners at Kenosha Country Club earlier this season.

It was his first round with it, and he had it imported from China as all manufacturers in the States were stocked out when golf enthusiasts bought up everything that could help them walk the course with less effort while COVID-19 wouldn’t allow the use of riding carts.

All that to say they have not caught on yet here in the Midwest.

I was enamored with the remote control one I saw at Kenosha, though, and had to experience it.

In just four rounds, the Bat-Caddy X4R has become my all-time favorite piece of golf equipment.

Bat-Caddy X4R waiting on the 7th tee at North Hills CC

A round of golf with an electric caddy is as care-free as it gets. Outside of errant shots and missed putts, there’s no pushing, pulling or lifting. It’s stress-free play where the only thing to carry is a remote control.

Walking the course, in general, changes the rhythm of the game, and not having to shoulder your clubs especially creates an easygoing experience so you can focus on the game in front of you.

Imagine just walking with your hands free (minus a small remote or your drink of choice, which it can also carry), no weight on your back and shoulders, a little extra bounce in your step…

It’s that great.

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Why the Bat-Caddy X4R?

Bat-Caddy leads the US market for electric golf caddies with over 60% market share. Chances are you’ve never seen their product here in the Midwest, though, and that’s because they’ve been busy growing their business on the East and West Coasts.

In the marketplace of brands, Bat-Caddy has the best product selection and fits in a space I typically like: Feature-rich at a value price point.

Bat-Caddy’s product line allows golf enthusiasts to get in to advanced technology without breaking the bank. While most brands’ fully electric, remote control option with a lithium ion battery will cost upwards of $2,000, for example, the X4R with lithium ion upgrade hits around $1,500-$1,600 but is available through the Holidays for around $1,100 (current promotional price).

Consumers get a lot for that $1,100, including a long-lasting lithium ion battery (up to 36 holes per charge), lightweight aluminum alloy construction (with stainless steel components) and many standard options that are paid upgrades for their competitors.

A scorecard holder, drink holder, umbrella holder, freestyle mode with timed distance advance and cruise control functions, power and battery charge indicator, USB port, rear anti-tippers, bilateral adjustable-height handlebars, automatic shutoff mode, and ultra-quiet dual direct drive motors all come standard on the X4R.

A leisurely walk in the park with the Bat-Caddy X4R on the 6th fairway at North Hills CC

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Performance and operations

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge fan of electric golf caddies and the X4R, specifically, but that’s not to say the experience has been 100% perfect.

There is a learning curve when it comes to operating an electric golf caddy, and some courses are more challenging to use them on than others.

I practiced a bit in my driveway after I got the X4R set up. Feeling pretty good about my ability to control it, I took her out on the 6th hole at North Hills Country Club to take a few photos, capture drone video and give it a trial run in a course setting.

I learned quickly that hills should be traversed straight up and down after I toppled it the first time I tried driving it down an elevated tee box.

While the X4R can handle 30-degree inclines/declines with relative ease, the tripod configuration (which is the industry standard) can get off-balance quickly when the left or right side is lower than the other.

The 30 degrees works up and down very well, though, especially with the standard rear anti-tipper that anchors the caddy going uphill on more extreme terrain.

My first round with the X4R was at Nakoma Country Club in Madison, and looking back was probably the easiest possible course to use it on. It’s a mature course with smooth terrain – plenty of ups and downs but without the “wild” areas and sandy expanses. The tee boxes, especially, are accessible from all angles.

The Bat-Caddy X4R ready for its first round at Nakoma CC in Madison, WI

To say it was a perfect golfing experience couldn’t have been more true. The caddy was a breeze to operate, I broke 80 with a great group of friends and when we finished 18 it was hard to believe we weren’t ending the front 9. It was the easiest, most enjoyable walk.

My electric golf caddy ready to go from the 1st tee at Nakoma

Conversely, my second round with the Bat-Caddy was during our annual Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup at the newly renovated Club at Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc. The course’s new routing features some very wild/fescue-covered areas, and the cart paths are far from smooth. The edges of the cart paths are extremely canted, which if run up against can push over the Bat-Caddy pretty easily. In addition to that, the tee boxes are oftentimes separated by expanses of fescue and long grasses that can’t be rolled over using a cart.

I tipped the cart twice at Nakoma getting used to operating it, and at least a handful of times during our 27 holes at La Belle.

I’ve only tipped it once since then, though, in two rounds at North Hills. I was maneuvering it alongside the 16th green, saw my ball was in the trap behind me and to the right, quickly stopped it and hit reverse, then watched as it plummeted in to the bunker. A lady in the group on the nearby first green thought it was hilarious and laughed really loud, and I’ll admit I was a little embarrassed (not easy to do).

My point is that the more you use it, the more efficient you’ll get at operating the electric caddy and understanding the strategy behind where to and not to drive it, how much speed to add and when, how to get it on a straight line and which angles you should and shouldn’t take.

The X4R is best operated with its remote control. Hitting the up or down directional buttons once will add a slight amount of speed in that direction, while hitting it several times will speed it up significantly up to ~ 5.5 miles per hour.

The caddy can then be shut down by either hitting the middle “Stop” button or by hitting the arrow opposite its current direction to take off some of the speed it was previously given.

The X4R does not always stop completely. There have been several times when I thought it was stopped but it continued to roll, very slowly. In other words, and this seems obvious when it’s written down, there’s not a parking brake that keeps it 100% in place on steep hills after it’s been shut down.

My last time out I had it stopped on the hill that leads to the elevated green on 18 at North Hills, for example, and it never stopped rolling backward down the hill. It wasn’t a big deal in this case because it came to rest on level ground and I hit a really nice chip shot to one foot on a back pin while it was still rolling, but it obviously could have been bad if there was water or a cliff where it was rolling to (and if I didn’t have my eye on it).

The other thing to be cognizant of is that once the cart is set in motion, it’s set in motion [until the 45-second automatic shutoff kicks in]. There are several situations when this is important to keep in mind:

  1. If you’re multi-tasking
    In my first round with the X4R, I sent it heading slowly off the tee box on the par three 4th at Nakoma. I then put my drone up to get some aerial shots. It completely escaped my mind that the cart wasn’t totally turned off, which I realized when I heard a crash and subsequently saw my clubs in a yard sale right of the green.
  2. If it’s out of the 90- to 120-yard range
    If it gets out of the range of the remote control, you will not be able to stop or turn it. Hopefully the automatic shutoff will kick in first, or that the only thing in its way will be a tree branch or shallow sand trap, and not a river!

Don’t even mess with either of those situations. If there’s a question about it getting out of range, shut it down. If you want to post something to your Instagram, stop the cart. Trust me, there’s no point messing with potential disaster.

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Electric golf caddies can keep you playing, and walking the course, longer

“That could get me walking the course again!”

Those were the exact words of two different North Hills members [on separate occasions] who approached me after seeing the X4R on the course. Another dozen have asked me about it with interest as a cool toy.

Both sides are true… It’s a really cool toy, but more importantly using the X4R means expending energy only on swinging the club and walking the terrain – no pushing, no pulling and no lifting. Getting up hills can be a breeze again without the added weight of a golf bag, or having to push or pull a standard cart.

If you’re the guy who has to pay to ride his own cart while his buddies walk, maybe an electric caddy is for you. And if you want the exercise that comes with walking the course, but don’t want to carry your own clubs or pay for a pro jock to lug them, you’d for sure love it.

And if you love the caddy experience but are concerned about social distancing during this crazy time of COVID-19, there is no better way to find that than with a remote-controlled trolley like the Bat-Caddy X4R.

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Making a financial case for an electric golf caddy

With the average cost of using a golf cart between $20-24 per round, the high price tag of an electric trolley starts making sense. In fact, you can theoretically recover $100-$120 of the product’s cost every five rounds played.

Dollars rarely make sense when it comes to golf, though! In the same way you can’t expect to be happy with your price per round at an exclusive private country club, realize that the “investment” in a golf caddy is primarily one that will enhance your enjoyment of the game of golf (and not as a long-term cost saver).

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Setup

The Bat-Caddy X4R comes in a single large box with a number of parts, and it’s very easy to install. The frame is pre-assembled, so just the wheels, anti-tipper, battery and accessories need to be put together manually.

The install is simple and well-documented. The wheels snap in to place, the battery (after charging) straps down with Velcro, and installation of most accessories was easy to figure out even for a guy who hates following instructions to put things together.

The one accessory that was a little confusing for me was the phone / GPS device holder. With the accessory holder, drink holder, scorecard holder and umbrella holder all installed, it’s hard to find a place for the phone to go.

I got a little creative and used the three rubber strips that were included to attach it to the screw of the umbrella holder, which looks great but is I’m sure not its intended spot.

After four rounds with the caddy, though, I’ve had no performance issues and it holds my phone up just fine.

While it’s recommended using a cart bag (which does not have tripod legs and has a more stable base) with an electric golf caddy, I’ve been using it with my Vessel Player 2.0 stand bag and have had no issues with weight/stability nor the legs which I keep strapped together. I also remove the straps to streamline the setup.

My current electric golf caddy and bag setup

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Selecting the right electric golf caddy / trolley

It took a while for me to figure out all the specifications that are involved with electric golf caddies, so I thought I’d include some of my research on features in case it’s helpful for others, like yourself.

The following are some of the key components you’ll want to consider when researching electric golf caddies. The features of the X4R I’m reviewing are in green.

Control style: Manual vs. remote

A manual control style means you’ll be controlling the steering of the caddy from its handlebar(s). A button, lever or other power source will move the cart move forward, taking just the pushing or pulling off the user’s hands. A remote style, which is wireless, is much more advantageous as it allows you to get the cart away from your body and control its operations using a small remote control.

Battery type: sealed lead acid (SLA) vs. lithium ion (Li-ion)

This part’s big, so pay attention.

Sealed lead acid batteries are less expensive, but they’re heavy. They also get 25% to 50% of the life expectancy of its standard lithium ion counterpart, which for the Bat-Caddy X4R is the 14v-20Ah.

The heaviness factor can be a positive when it comes to electric caddies because the weight adds stability. It can also be a negative since it makes it tougher to pull out of the car trunk. For a relatively young and healthy guy like myself, that’s not a major nuisance, but it could be a deal breaker for others.

The 14v-20Ah lithium ion battery upgrade adds $200 to the cost of the sealed lead acid version. Bat-Caddy also sells a 12v-25Ah LiFePO battery, though, that will last two to four times as long as the standard lithium ion one but adds another $100 to the overall cost.

Here’s a handy chart showing battery options from Bat-Caddy’s website:

Bat-Caddy Battery Info & Comparison

Climbing capabilities: 20 to 30-degree hill climbing

Most caddies will climb hills up to 20- or 30-degree angles. The X4R climbs or goes down up to 30 degrees, which is supported by its rear anti-tippers that help keep it upright.

Battery operating range: 18 to 54 holes

The X4R with the 14v-20Ah standard lithium ion battery’s product page gives a range of up to 36 holes per charge, or 36-54 holes with the upgraded 12v-25Ah battery. This can be adversely affected, of course, by the weight of the golf bag it’s carrying, excessively steep hills/uneven terrain, and right-left-right “Army” golf.

Bat-Caddy recommends charging its lithium ion batteries between every use. There is no loss of battery life doing it this way, and it ensures you always have enough juice regardless of where you’re at in your round.

Carrying capacity: 50 to 77 pounds

The X4R’s durable aluminum alloy and stainless steel construction gives it a higher weight capacity than most electric golf caddies. While you probably will not need it to carry 77 pounds of gear, it will keep the cart from bottoming out around the wheels if you’re carrying more weight than usual.

Accessories – all of these are available on the Bat-Caddy X4R, but its standard accessories are shown in green. I’ve ranked the importance of each to me in parentheses:

  • Scorecard holder (#1)
  • Golf cart drink holder (#2)
  • Golf umbrella holder (#4) – do not use an electric golf caddy in the rain!
  • Golf trolley carry bag
  • Golf bag rain cover (#5)
  • Golf trolley seat – sounds nice to have!
  • GPS or cell phone holder (#3)
  • Sand and seed dispenser
  • Remote control clip hanger (#6)

A few other things you might want to consider when buying an electric golf caddy / trolley include (ones that come standard for the X4R are in green):

  • Tracking adjustments – if it does not drive perfectly straight, can you straighten it out manually?
  • Handle design – left- or right-handed? Is the handle height adjustable for taller people? The X4R has dual handles and is adjustable-height
  • Warranty and service – Bat-Caddy has 1-year parts & labor, and 2 years on lithium ion batteries
  • Dimensions and foldability – size when folded? The X4R is ~ 31iL x 20iW x 10iH
  • Free-wheeling mode – if the battery dies, can you use it as a standard push cart or will you be stuck on the course?
  • Wheels – the wider the wheels and the wider the wheel base, the more stable the cart will be (the X4R has a standard width wheel base)
  • Tire tread – tire tread helps keep the cart operating consistently on morning dew and loose turf
  • Advanced technology:
    • Descent control – keeps the speed consistent when going downhill
    • Automatic shut-off – prevents runaway carts (the X4R shuts off after 45 seconds if no commands have been given)
    • Battery charge indicator – know how much juice you’ve got left in the batteries
    • Programmable speed settings
    • Electronic (GPS) navigation – set the cart’s direction and allow it to automatically continue on a straight line
    • Robotic follow-me mode – on robot caddies; I’ve heard very mixed reviews of this operation style, including that it’ll run in to you a lot when you stop
    • Gyroscope – a full 360-degree directional range vs. forward/backward and left/right

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Summary

Having rarely seen and barely known electric golf caddies existed, I had no idea what I was missing. Now that I’ve got one, I can’t imagine golf without it and wholeheartedly recommend the Bat-Caddy X4R for any golfer, whether it’s the player in your life who’s got everything or maybe even yourself.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Bat-Caddy
Product: X4R Electric Golf Caddy
Price as shown: $1,594 MSRP (current promotional price through the Holidays: $1,099)
Optional accessories shown: Phone/GPS device holder

Bat-Caddy X4R Line Product Page

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