The 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow: My Preview

It seems like just yesterday I was watching Jason Day annihilate the field while marshaling at the 2015 PGA Championship at Wisconsin’s own Whistling Straits.

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Marshaling the 14th hole at Whistling Straits for the 2015 PGA Championship

A lot has happened over the past two years, though! Since that great tournament my wife and I have bought a new house, I started a new role at work, got married and we now have our first child, our son Charlie.

Time sure flies, and in the blink of an eye both the PGA Tour and Wisconsin golf season have sped along at breakneck speed. It’s August, and we’re suddenly one week from the fourth and last major of the Tour’s championship schedule: The PGA Championship.

While Jason Day’s record-setting performance at Whistling Straits is not likely to repeat this year at Quail Hollow, expert odds-makers are still showing him love with 19/1 odds to win.

Fresh off a remarkable finish at The Open, Jordan Spieth opens as the PGA Championship favorite at 8/1, just ahead of Rory McIlroy at 9/1. Spieth enters this week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational with a slight edge over Dustin Johnson for first place on the Tour’s money list with almost $6.8-million in earnings.

It’s hard to argue with Spieth as the favorite, and honestly I think he’s really good for the game when he wins.

Spieth, McIlroy, Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Day, the US Open champ Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm round out the favorites.

My picks for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow:

  • Favorite# 1: Jordan Spieth
  • Favorite# 2: Justin Thomas
  • Long-shot# 1: Jason Dufner
  • Long-shot# 2: Patrick Cantlay

For the most part, I like the younger guys in this tourney and don’t see McIlroy or Day running away with it. More than anything, like with any major championship, I’m hoping for a great finish.

The entire field for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow

 

* Quail Hollow header image credit to http://www.quailhollowclub.com

Introducing the Next WiscoGolfAddict, Charlie!

The past week and a half has been very busy for my wife, Kelly and me – on Friday, July 7 at 1:05 in the afternoon we welcomed our first child, Charlie James.

Charlie was born 7 lbs 5 oz and 20 inches tall, and we couldn’t be happier to announce that he and Kelly are both healthy and so far he’s a wonderful baby boy.

A couple pictures of our little guy:

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Just-born picture – welcome to the world, Charlie!

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First family picture of Charlie, Kelly and me in the recovery room

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7/7/2017: The birth of our first child and the next WiscoGolfAddict, Charlie!

Charlie watching golf

Charlie watching Mark Mulder win the American Century Championship with Dad

Golf Course Review: Hidden Glen at Bentdale Farms

Hidden Glen is one of those courses that is really hard to play the first time. I came in to this round confident and playing really well (for me): My previous five rounds were 78, 81, 82, 85 and 83, and for the first time in my life I’m under a 9 handicap at 8.3. I’ve been thrilled and feeling almost unstoppable on the course. I’ve been hitting fairways and greens, and putting out of my mind.

All that came to a screeching halt at Hidden Glen Golf Club in Cedarburg.

I should add that I really enjoyed the course, and the conditions were nothing short of perfect. These lightning fast, multi-tiered greens beat me down, though – save for a one-putt birdie on ten, I never figured them out and three-putts were nothing if not regular.

Hidden Glen is a course where local knowledge is king, and there’s a lot out there to be had. While my golf game struggled mightily, I really enjoyed the course and think my next time on it will probably see me shaving ten strokes off the 95 I shot this time… Or more. Hopefully I’ll find out soon!

To the course…

The first hole requires a shot toward the right side of the fairway. A narrow, kidney bean shaped green resides on the long side of a pond that keeps the track’s opener from being your typical introductory handshake.

The second hole introduces the player to a few of the design elements they can expect throughout their round: Wide, forgiving fairways, concealed target lines and elevated, multi-tiered greens.

Anything right of the trap way on the left border of the second hole is fine off the tee – this par four comes down to what you do on the two-tiered green that rises from left to right.

The third at Hidden Glen is a classic Dye family risk/reward par four: Longer hitters are baited in to chopping off as much of the massive pond as they can to get closer to the green, while the smart player hits the high percentage shot down the left side fairway to leave a 150-yard approach shot.

From the combo tees we were playing, the green was a little over 300 yards of carry away, and the target areas for bigger drivers of the ball required carries between 225 and 280 yards.

With water left, long and right on the approach shot, being able to get the drive closer off the tee would certainly come in handy…

The fourth is a very nice island par three. Thin from side-to-side, the green is deep enough to allow for an extra club on the tee shot, which is important on a wide-open course where a 10 mph wind is considered a light breeze.

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Hole 4: Par 3 (133/125/118/118/86)

A tough par five, the fifth tees up over water with a fairway that runs from right to left and again rewards the long [and accurate] driver with both a shorter distance in to the green as well as a chance to get there in two. Shorter hitters will likely need to lay back and play long shots down the fairway.

The sixth, while short in distance, is quite possibly the hardest par three on the course. The green here is long from front-to-back, opening up a great variety of possibilities for lengths, but is really, really narrow from right-to-left.

The left side of the green (with the front pin we had) is crowned and falls off to a collection zone that reminded me of other collection areas from my past:

So… Don’t go left on the sixth at Hidden Glen. Trust me.

The seventh is a long par four, playing around 480 yards from the combo tees. It’s a bit of a risk/reward hole (similar to a road hole), with small hills hiding the landing zone for players trying to bite off distance – sand traps protect much of that area, as well, adding difficulty to the approach shot if not carried.

The green on seven is receptive to long shots, running uphill from front to back.

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Hole 7: Par 4 (490/460/443/420/372)

As mentioned earlier, Hidden Glen is a tremendously challenging golf course for the first-time player. While the first bunch of holes introduce beginners to well constructed, tumultuous green complexes, it’s on the eighth hole that PB Dye’s design starts peppering the course with a rather new-age defender of par that will really disorient newbies: Blind shots.

The tee shot is to a wide, easy-to-hit fairway. From there, things get a bit more complicated – we couldn’t see the green until about 20 yards out, in fact. Nick gave me a line near the two furthest right pine trees in the distance, which turned out to be pretty accurate.

Ten foot tall grass mounds shroud the green complex, which runs uphill right-to-left from a sharp dogleg in the fairway. The mounds also hide six small bunkers.

Uphill and long, the par four ninth plays over water from 443 yards from the second tees in. The green is long but narrow from right-to-left, and if the approach is errant will potentially leave another blind recovery shot over mounding.

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Hole 9: Par 4 (463/443/414/388/341)

Elevated tees frame the tenth hole fairway nicely, which bends 90 degrees from left to right past the wasteland. Huge hitters can wail away here, but the farther right the tee shot is the more likely it is to find the massive tree or hazard in the bend.

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Hole 10: Par 4 (363/340/322/297/271)

The eleventh really got me. I had a hard time figuring out the distance to the treeline, or the dogleg, and had no idea what would happen if I was a little left. From the tee, it looks like a sea of fescue. When driving past it in the cart, though, there is a lot of sandy wasteland and bunches of fescue that are nowhere near as penal as I’d expected.

I was never comfortable on the tee, and pushed driver hard right in to the woods.

The second shot is well uphill to a short, elevated two-tier green that is much higher on the right side than the left.

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Hole 11: Par 4 (404/389/373/353/326)

Twelve is a tough par three, teeing up from 185 yards from the combo tees (237 from the tips and 210 from the first set in). There are no trees around, and considering it’s on a higher point of the golf course the tee shot will be heavily influenced by wind.

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Hole 12: Par 3 (237/210/185/174/148)

The thirteenth has probably the widest fairway at Hidden Glen, and probably one of the widest I’ve ever seen. While there are no major concerns off the tee – swing for the fences! – there’s a lot going on green-side.

A pond creeps up to the front-left in the approach area, and the putting surface is canted severely from right-to-left, toward the water and a shallow, narrow sand trap that separates the green and pond.

I hit a great tee shot on this hole only to hit a marginal at best approach that left me on the top shelf (right side of the green). I was happy to make five.

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Hole 13: Par 4 (480/424/411/394/374)

While the entire left side of the driving zone looks like a lost ball waiting to happen, the tee shot on fourteen should actually be fairly straight-forward. There are sand traps beyond all the fescue, but not as much tall grass as it appears from the tees. The right side is wide open.

A great tee shot on fourteen will allow for a long approach to a green that is fairly level and open. While it’s accessible, it is also incredibly sloped and long from front to back (another multi-tiered green complex).

With a front-left pin location, we could see the flag from the tee box on fifteen. This would be the only time we’d see it until walking up to scout our approach shots. The fairway runs about 280 yards before dropping off a cliff that leads to a blind, lowered green.

Water on the left side borders this recessed green, so pick a tree in the distance to aim at before hitting a wedge in but make sure to err toward the right.

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Hole 15: Par 4 (353/327/315/300/263)

The tee shot on sixteen should split the two trees nearest the right side of the fairway in the distance. A large bunker protects the left side leading up to its right-to-left dogleg, and the green is slightly elevated and tough to hit due to its massive false front.

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Hole 16: Par 4 (396/374/354/311/260)

Playing over water, the seventeenth cuts the northwest corner of a pond to a small green protected on the left by a serpentine trap and on the right by two small pot bunkers.

As is the case with all par threes at Hidden Glen, wind will inevitably play a major factor in strategy on the seventeenth.

Playing over 500 yards from all three of the longest tee boxes, a tee shot over water and then playing way uphill to a crazy small and significantly contoured green with a huge false front makes the eighteenth at Hidden Glen one of the most challenging finishing holes I’ve seen in a while!

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Hole 18: Par 5 (559/532/509/478/422)

I hit a ridiculously good tee shot on eighteen, leaving myself 210-220 in uphill. I hadn’t hit a fairway wood all day, but figured this was a good opportunity as Nick had already closed me out in our match play and this would not be a relevant score as my number of shots was starting to add up exponentially.

I missed a little short and left, leaving myself a downhill, side-hill flop that I skulled almost to the practice green. A typical view of the recovery shot if short on eighteen – completely hidden is the false front and right-side collection area:

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One of the things I liked best about Hidden Glen is that the course truly requires players to hit all kinds of shots and clubs. There is terrific variety to the par threes and the conditions are absolutely immaculate – these were probably the fastest greens and fairways I’ve played this year.

The clubhouse is very nice, and the men’s locker room provides a first-class experience including its own bar. Their freshly fried potato chips were delicious and, as I’ve come to expect at private clubs in Wisconsin, they pour a good drink.

Because everybody asks me “What would you compare it to?” I spent some time thinking about it. I think Hidden Glen is for sure its own course, but at the same time if I had to compare it to one course it would be Hawk’s Landing in Verona, Wisconsin. The others that come to mind, to some degree, are Meadow Valleys at Blackwolf Run, Strawberry Creek and to some degree the Irish course at Whistling Straits. These are all regular tournament/championship courses, are rather wide and forgiving off the tees and are all meticulously kept.

Similarly to my own home club (North Hills Country Club), Hidden Glen is all about the golf experience. There are no pools or tennis courts, which I’ve come to realize are actually good selling points for avid golfers who’d prefer not to worry about additional costs and liability.

Just sixteen years in the making, Hidden Glen is one of the newest private golf clubs in the state, and I have to say they appear to be healthy and growing: Their membership is young and involved, and their course is beautiful, challenging and one that I’d love to get back to for a second glance with a little more local knowledge.

 

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Cedarburg, WI
Yardage: Tournament-7017, Championship-6621, Member-6255, Intermediate-5914, Forward-5278
Slope/Rating: Tournament-140/74.3, Championship-136/72.5, Member-132/70.9, Intermediate-130/69.3, Forward-127/70.8
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: Private (~ $100 guest fee)

Hidden Glen Golf Club Website

Golf Equipment Review: Snell My Tour Ball

During last year’s Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome, Wisconsin, I was introduced to a new golf ball that I’d heard of in passing: Snell Golf’s My Tour Ball.

The brainchild of Dean Snell, the MTB is a top of the line Tour ball at direct to consumer pricing. As the company says on their website:

“The team at Snell Golf has one solitary mission: To bring tour caliber equipment to the amateur golfer at an affordable price.”

Snell owns 40 patents in golf ball technology and is revered as one of the premier minds in the industry. During his seven years with Titleist and FootJoy Worldwide, he co-designed the original ProV1, Titleist Professional, Tour Prestige, HP2 Tour and HP2 Distance before moving on to Vice President of Research and Development for TaylorMade. While at TaylorMade, he designed the TP Red, TP Black and Penta (golf’s first five-layer ball), as well as the Noodle, Burner, RocketBallz and Project (a) lines.

All this to say Dean Snell knows golf balls better than probably anyone else in the world.

I cannot claim to know a half percent of what Dean does about golf balls, but I do know the results of playing the Snell My Tour Ball. I have shot all my best rounds over the past two years with them and the control, distance and feel have all been as good or better than anything else I’ve been playing. Their performance has been most commonly compared by those more in the know to the Titleist ProV1 (comparable specs) and the Callaway Chrome Soft.

ProV1’s list for $47.99/dozen, though, and Chrome Softs for $39.99/dozen. The My Tour Ball, on the other hand, ships free for $31.99/dozen.

Affordable top-of-the-line golf balls are not a new concept these days – Snell, Vice Golf and Kirkland have all made recent headlines – but Snell has made solid progress in the market and looks to continue growing.

I wholeheartedly recommend trying out the My Tour Ball. For additional information and to purchase your own (including their new limited edition run with American Flag logos), visit Snell Golf’s website here.

The 117th US Open at Erin Hills: Preview

When shovels first entered the ground that is now Erin Hills Golf Course in 2004, a long and tumultuous journey was initiated that was aimed at one goal: Hosting a US Open.

After thirteen years, multiple changes in routing and hole designs, new ownership and many, many demands met, one of Wisconsin’s newest and greatest golf destinations is finally fit for the prime time. The entire golf world is converging on small-town Erin, Wisconsin, and the course and America’s heartland are ready for their moment in the sun.

The journey that has gotten Erin Hills to this point has been well-documented, but never as well-written as it was recently by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Columnist Gary D’Amato in his recent 7-part series, “The Making of a US Open Course: Erin Hills,” linked here:

The Making of a US Open Course: Erin Hills, by Gary D’Amato (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Only two days remain until the opening round of the 117th US Open, and I am excited to spend tomorrow there watching practice rounds as well as Friday to witness round two.

I have been actively involved with Erin Hills throughout the years, including several media days and playing a number of other rounds to review and photograph the course (my number one course in the state of Wisconsin) and of course to enjoy challenging rounds with friends on what is certainly one of the country’s greatest golf courses.

A few links to articles I’ve written on Erin Hills include:

Recap of the 2015 US Open media day at Erin Hills

 

 

 

Still looking for tickets to this year’s US Open? There is still limited availability to be had on the US Open website. Gallery tickets (allowing basic access to the event) start at $60 for Wednesday’s practice rounds, and are going for $110 for Thursday and $125 for Sunday. Friday and Saturday are already sold out.

There are several other, slightly more expensive, ticket options available for Wednesday’s practice rounds, as well as for the final round on Sunday, but they have been selling out quickly and are sure to be gone soon.

This is the first time the US Open has ever been played in the great state of Wisconsin, and I couldn’t be more excited to be there to watch the action and cheer on state competitors Steve Stricker and Jordan Niebrugge.

Will Phil make it to Erin by his 2:20 tee time on Thursday? Will Stricker or Niebrugge represent Wisconsin well on the leader board? Will Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Jon Rahm or any other huge hitters be able to overpower the shear length of the nearly 8,000-yard course?

Weather will certainly be a factor, with rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for much of the coming week. It is my hope that the weather will not define Erin Hills’ chance to shine, although high winds in otherwise dry conditions would make for amazing theater – players looking to score will need to avoid the long, thick fescue at all costs.

My top three picks for the 117th US Open: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia

My underdogs: Steve Stricker, Peter Uihlein, Kevin Chappell

My top amateur prediction: Brad Dalke

Keep an eye on my Twitter (@wissportsaddict) and Instagram (WiscoGolfAddict) feeds for on-location photos from my time at the US Open, and let’s all pray for the rain and thunderstorms to stay away.