Golf Course Review: Kiawah Island, Ocean Course

Kiawah Island, Ocean Course Rankings:

Golf Digest: #3 US public, #1 South Carolina, #20 US top 100, #44 world
GolfWeek: #1 South Carolina, #8 resort, #15 US modern #1 South Carolina, #6 US public, #50 world, #25 US top 100

Designer: Pete Dye (1991)

The Ocean course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort has always been a bucket list course for me. As most golf enthusiasts have, I’ve seen it on TV during Ryder Cup reruns, and of course during the more recent 2012 PGA Championship. I have also seen it perennially ranked as one of the top five public courses in the entire country.

I had heard all the stories about how brutally difficult the course is, how the winds will howl off the ocean at 40-plus miles per hour, and of course more than anything how spectacularly beautiful it is.

For me, the course lived up to its billing and more. The amenities at the Ocean course clubhouse were fantastic, especially the Ryder Cup Grille (maybe the best golf course bar and grille I’ve ever been to), the expansive clubhouse and well-appointed locker rooms, and the practice range.

Golfers from around the world visit Kiawah Island for this experience, of course, but what they visit it for most is to walk the same fairways that so many of the game’s legends have also walked… And to gauge their games against what they have seen played professionally.

The Ocean course is a walking-only track, although many players take carts along the perimeter of the holes. My new wife (we were in Kiawah Island celebrating our honeymoon), Kelly, joined me for the round and we took a cart and also had a forecaddie, Andy, who did a terrific job as would be expected for a professional looper who has caddied not only at Kiawah Island but also at Bandon Dunes, Streamsong and a number of other world-class golf resorts.

I was paired up with Jerry and Paul, who were celebrating Paul’s retirement with a well-deserved golf vacation. We had a lot of fun with these two. In fact, we were very fortunate during both of our rounds on Kiawah Island for getting great playing partners.

Jerry and Paul played from the Dye tees, which measure 6,475 yards and have a slope/rating of 134/72.0. The tips, noted as the Tournament tees on the scorecard, play from a staggering 7,356 yards with a slope/rating of 144/77.3, and is commonly considered to be one of the most challenging rounds of golf on the planet (a 77.3 course rating is astronomical).

It is not always the length that is so challenging about the Ocean course, although I’d imagine playing from almost 1,000 yards longer would add a considerable amount of stress to the tee shots.


Like the Straits course at Whistling Straits, the Ocean course is intimidating off the tee but actually has quite wide and forgiving fairways. Choosing a line to hit at is a big decision on many holes, and the ever-present wind and long fescue that abounds means precision off the tee is at a premium.

I had my driver going pretty well at the Ocean course, as well as my putter. In fact, if it wasn’t for the second and third holes I would have put together a pretty good round.

The conditions were everything you’d expect from a course that charges over $350 per round: There was rarely a blade of grass out of place, and the greens ran beautifully with almost no visible imperfections. The fairways ran out nicely, too, which makes for a fun round when your driver is going straight-ish.

The greens are probably the hardest aspect of the Ocean course. Most are steeply elevated with dramatic run-offs to collection areas and deep green-side sand traps.

Unlike the 950-plus “bunkers” at Whistling Straits, all sand areas at the Ocean course are played as wasteland. This means that players are allowed to ground their clubs in them, and even take practice swings.

Among its multitude of awards, probably best shown here, the Ocean course at Kiawah Island is maybe best known for the amazing rounds of professional golf that have been played there.

Most recently, Rory McIlroy destroyed the field in the 2012 PGA Championship with a cumulative score of -13 including a final round 66, two 67’s and a +3 second round. To gain perspective, second place was England’s David Lynn eight strokes back at -5 and just 20 players in the field of 156 finished the tournament under par.

The most famous professional tournament in the Ocean course’s history, though, was when the US outlasted Europe in the 1991 Ryder Cup by a score of 14-1/2 to 13-1/2 on a missed putt from six feet on 18 by Bernhard Langer. The exuberance of the crowd and players, alike, and the howling conditions left an indelible mark on the golf world as what has historically been dubbed “The War by the Shore.”

The Ocean course starts out with a beautiful, short par four with a generous fairway. The approach carries a long fairway bunker that runs the right side of the second half of the hole, and the niceties of one of the course’s most subtle greens offers a generous handshake to start the round.

The second and third holes have risk/reward options off the tee: The further a player can drive the ball [with accuracy] toward the left side of laterally running fairways, the less distance will be left to the green.

I hit a nice drive on two to the fairway, then made up my mind to lay up with what I thought was a safe 5-iron over the creek that dissects the layup area. My shot carried a bit farther than expected and wound up behind a tree stump and was completely unplayable, leading to a triple-bogey and the first half of some terribly played golf holes.

The third is a very cool short par four! The fairway again runs right to left over a marshland, and the line to hit at is just right of the oak trees on the other side of the fairway. The further left the aim, the longer and more accurate the tee shot needs to be.

Although it sets up similarly to the second off the tee, this is a really short par four and the ultimate premium is placed on players’ approach shots.

By the way, this is the hole that Rory McIlroy’s tee shot got stuck in a tree on during the 2012 PGA Championship. This is likely not the first time you’ve seen this image…


Rory McIlroy retrieving his tee ball from a tree on the third hole during the 2012 PGA Championship

A lone mound lies about 50 yards from the green on three, which is one of the smallest and most penalizing targets I’ve ever seen. This green is tiny from front to back, and with a right-side hole location was a sucker pin if I’d ever seen one.

The right play would have been left of the pin, but being 62 yards out and in the middle of the fairway I was feeling confident and hoping to get back one of the strokes I lost on two.

Tripling two was disappointing, but what happened on three was nuts: My perfectly drawn tee shot left me in position A. Even though Andy warned me that going at the pin would be tricky, I hit what I thought was a beautiful 60-degree wedge and nearly hit the flag. It then bounced off the green.

From no-man’s land, I was determined to hit a wedge on to the green… Four times. I also tried putting it up the steep slope once. I finally found the putting surface and two-putted, resulting in a crowd-pleasing five-over (what’s that even called!?) nine. Ouch!

The fourth is a long par four, playing just over 400 yards from the Dye tees and 453 from the tips. The hole is divided in two fairway areas with marshland separating them, and regardless of how well the tee shot is hit, will undoubtedly require a long and accurate approach shot in.

I did not amaze anyone on this hole, taking a double-bogey, but at least that was better than the eight-over I’d scored on the previous two holes (+10 on three holes, though? Wow, this is not your average golf course!).

The fifth is a tough par three over water with a long horizontal green that gets longer as it slants from the front-right to back-left.

This hole plays 207 from the tips, and is all carry with no room to miss long. The 10,000-plus square foot green allows plenty of room to bail out right, so club selection versus the wind is key while hitting the wrong side of the green complex will lead to a ridiculously long and challenging two-putt for par.

With a back-left pin and the wind blowing hard from that side, I was between clubs and decided to try hitting a drawn five-iron toward the middle of the green [in hopes it would hook left, which is never a given!]. It actually did, landed a couple feet from the hole and rolled to about five. It was a straight-forward birdie putt that I made. Phew, back on track.

Six is a tough driving hole, playing over a massive waste bunker and in to the wind during our round. A draw is the preferred tee shot, as anything hit long and right will find wasteland while anything hit short and left will find a deeper one.

The green on six is level to the fairway, and a bunker on the left side of the green is the only hazard to avoid on the approach.

The seventh is a short and score-able par five. With the wind still in our faces, the left-middle section of the fairway was our target as biting off too much of the elbow in the fairway was inviting disaster.

The fairway doglegs left to right at about 230-250 yards from the Dye tees, with deep fescue protecting the corner. The short grass then runs straight about 260 yards to a slightly elevated green with sand enveloping the right side.

I hit the ball hard off the tee, but it had some cut and we spent a few minutes trying to find it in the fescue. I hit a provisional and then heard Andy yelling to me to grab a club as my original tee shot was in the middle of the fairway well past the elbow.

I immediately went from hustling for a bogey to salvaging bird – this was becoming an interesting round!

A mid-length par three, the eighth demands accuracy. Sand abounds short, right and long of the target zone, and a mounded green means anything slightly off will kick off the hill and find sand.

There are a lot of contours on this green, so the most important shot here is the second to ensure par.


Hole 8: Par 3 (197/170/166/151/105)


An interesting scorecard following 8 holes on the Ocean Course

Nine is a crazy par four. At 464 yards from the tips and 406 from the Dye tees, the fairway runs right to left with sand owning the entire left side of the hole (this is “Cart path” for the Ocean course). The traps on the left elbow of the fairway need to be avoided, while the right side of the fairway funnels slightly toward the middle.

Distance off the tee is the key ingredient to nine, as the approach is bound to be long but at least a 5-iron in is easier than 3-wood!

Massive pot bunkers are found both left and right of the green complex, although the elevated putting surface has nothing guarding the front (mercifully).

Check out the awful leave Jerry had following his tee shot (picture with the ball on top of the slope):

The back nine starts out with a mid-range par four that runs left to right. The fairway falls slightly downhill with wasteland on the left, and a deep bunker looms in the back-right of the green.

The eleventh has one of the most visually intimidating sand traps on the entire Ocean course toward the right side of the fairway driving zone. Stay away from it, obviously, and set up the second shot well right in the shoulder that leaves 100-125 yards out from this highly elevated green.

Brutal pot bunkers guard the front of this par five’s putting complex, which is bean-shaped from front-left to back-right. There is nothing easy about this hole and course.

In to the wind, especially, the par four twelfth is a ridiculously challenging golf hole! While the fairway is one of the widest on the course, there is nowhere to miss on the approach shot.

Water runs the entire right side of the approach area, and tight sandy lies make up the left. The green is small-to-average sized, but all the water and sand make the approach shot quite stressful.

The thirteenth plays somewhat similarly to the twelfth in that water runs the entire right side of the hole. Where it differs is that the fairway is nowhere near as easy to hit off the tee…

Traps on the front-left and left portions of the green, and a putting surface that runs along the water make the approach shot incredibly important here.

I love the contouring Dye executed with the fairway bunkers on this hole – check out one of them below:

As you can tell by the flag on the following photos, the wind was howling off the Atlantic by the time we got to 14. Playing to 161 yards from the Dye tees (194 from the tips), this par three is similar to the eighth in that anything even slightly off will not hold the green and leave players scrambling for an up-and-down.

Also adding challenge to the 14th is the gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean beyond the green…

Fifteen is the first hole truly adjacent to the Atlantic on the Ocean course. The wind was roaring off the ocean, and with the sun starting to set the views back to the tee boxes were stunning.


The tee shot, at least partially because of the right-to-left wind influence, was all systems go. The green, on the other hand, presented more of a challenge. Sand runways occupy the left side of the approach area, and the putting surface runs from front-right to back-left, slightly uphill and atop the waste area.

The final par five on the Ocean course, the sixteenth is a long 579 yards from the tips and 540 from the Dye tees we were playing. A pond has to be carried from the back tees, but should not come in to play.

A deep sand reservoir runs the right side of the hole’s layout starting at about 300 yards, and along with the wasteland on the left side of the final third of the hole makes for a narrow setup shot.

If in doubt, keep the approach shot right to avoid the green-side bunker short-left. I felt bad for Paul with the sand shot he had to deal with (shown below)… That one was next to impossible.

The seventeenth is a pretty famous golf hole. Teeing up away from the ocean, it is all carry over the pond and makes for a tight target area. With the hole cut on the left side, it is tempting to take on the green-side traps on that side, but probably the safest play is adding a club and aiming for the middle of the green.

We had a ton of wind at our back, making 170-ish yards more like 130. I hit 9-iron and barely carried the pond on the right side, leaving a 50-plus foot putt with the sun going down.

This is a gorgeous golf hole, and one that works well with the Ocean course’s world-class tournament pedigree: Feast or famine plays well with fans when championships are on the line!

The eighteenth is a challenging finishing hole at the Ocean course. The tee shot is visually intimidating with the Atlantic Ocean to the right and wastelands in play both on the left and right sides of the driving area.

The left side of the clubhouse can be targeted off the tee. Find the fairway and heed caution on the second shot to set up a chance for par. Short-left of the green complex is deep, deep wasteland with intermittent patches of fescue that if found will likely add a stroke or two to your score, so caution is the name of the game.

Playing 439 yards from the tips and 396 from the Dye tees, the eighteenth is a great, great golf hole to end your round on this fabulous Pete Dye course.

After the eighteenth, make sure to find your way to the Ryder Cup Grille out back of the pro shop. The RCG has fantastic food and drink specials, not to mention some of the most captivating views found anywhere.


The Ocean Course clubhouse at night following our round at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Our view of the flags from adirondack chairs on the patio at the Ocean course:


Flags outside the Ryder Cup Grille at the Ocean Course

Specialty cocktails at the Ryder Cup Grille:


Specialty cocktails menu from the Ryder Cup Grille at the Ocean Course


My wife, Kelly, and me enjoying cocktails in adirondack chairs on the back patio of the Ocean Course clubhouse

My excitement to play the Ocean course at Kiawah Island was really high in the weeks leading up to our honeymoon, and that always worries me that the experience may not live up to my expectations.

It’s wonderful when a course with these high expectations pans out, and the Ocean course at Kiawah Island did. Between the pristine conditions, world-class service and some of Pete Dye’s most ingenious hole layouts, every hole on the Ocean course was fun, challenging and scenic.

“What would you compare the Ocean course to?” my friends asked when we got home to Wisconsin from our honeymoon.

It should come as no surprise that the nearest comparison for me is the Straits course at Whistling Straits. Both courses feature intimidating tee shots, wide fairways, a satisfying combination of large and small greens and a terrific variety of hole layouts.

Unlike the Straits course, there are no “Throw-away holes” at the Ocean course. The fifth at Whistling Straits is the one hole I’m referring to there. In my opinion, it does not fit the rest of the [otherwise spectacular] course and inserts an opportunity for a colossally high score that can ruin players’ rounds on a long par five where hitting driver off the tee can create a plethora of issues including lost balls. In contrast, there are zero of these contradictory holes on Dye’s Kiawah Island course, and I for one like that.

That said, both the Straits and Ocean courses are undoubtedly world-class and deserve each of their lofty state, national and world rankings.

Both courses are also stalwarts for fantastic golf destinations. The Straits course headlines the two Whistling Straits tracks (also including The Irish), the Meadow Valleys and River course at Blackwolf Run, Pine Hills Country Club (private) and The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, while Kiawah Island has terrific complementary courses including Fazio’s Osprey Point (soon to be reviewed) and River course (private), Gary Player’s Cougar Point, Jack Nicklaus’s Turtle Point, Clyde Johnston’s Oak Point, and Tom Watson’s Cassique (private).

Kelly and I spent an afternoon at Osprey Point and loved it, and from driving past the others for five days in a row we can’t wait to get back for Honeymoon 2.0 to see and review the rest.

Kiawah Island was a wonderful golf destination, and an awesome spot for the first five days of our honeymoon. The food and golf were fantastic, and there was so much to do including all the pools and beaches, an incredible spa, great shopping and seemingly endless options for dining and drinks.


My wife, Kelly, and me enjoying our time at the Ocean course at Kiawah Island during our honeymoon

Kelly and I were fortunate throughout our wedding and honeymoon: It was supposed to rain all day for our outdoor wedding on September 24 at North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin – it never did and was perfectly comfortable; it was supposed to rain the entire time we were on our honeymoon in South Carolina – it rained for a couple of hours after we landed and we then had 80’s and nothing but sun until we left.

Within 36 hours of getting home to Wisconsin, both Kiawah Island and Charleston had been evacuated because of Hurricane Matthew. We never saw any of that weather system and hope everyone there is safe and unaffected.

We’re less than a month in to our marriage, but if we can keep getting this fortunate we sure won’t complain.

Pete Dye’s signature course at Kiawah Island is phenomenal. If you have the opportunity and finances to play it, play it. Splurge for a caddie or forecaddie, too, and make sure to ask for Andy. As far as true golf experiences go, there are few tracks I have played that can compete against the Ocean course at Kiawah Island.

Course Wrap-Up:

Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Yardage: Tournament-7356, Ocean-6779, Dye-6475, Kiawah-6202, Carolina-5327
Slope/Rating: Tournament-144/77.3, Ocean-138/73.6, Dye-134/72, Kiawah-132/70.9, Carolina-124/72.7
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $374 + caddie and gratuity

Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Ocean Course Website

Hole 8: Par 3 (174/129/89)

Golf Course Review: Silver Spring Country Club, Island Course

I cannot believe it has taken me more than five years to post about the Island course at Silver Spring Country Club! There are few courses I have played more throughout the years than the Island, and none that I have played more events at.

My friend, Nick, holds an annual 2-man scramble on the Island course, and for this year’s event my friend, Jeff, and I teamed up to play for the championship. We did well, taking second place but finishing a few shots back of the perennial winners.

The Island is a fun course with a few quirks. The signature island hole is really pretty and nicely done, for example, but the tees are always set up in the 90-110 yard range, which can be a pretty awkward distance (the island is probably a bit too small and undulating to set up between the 174- and 129-yard distances shown on the scorecard).

I enjoy that hole, though, and I enjoy playing the Island course, in general.

Aptly considered “The public’s country club,” Silver Spring gets a lot of play. I used to play it on a weekly basis after work, in fact, before I joined North Hills Country Club. I like the course, but the 5:00 and after time frame on weekdays is dominated by leagues and I remember being bogged down by three-hour death marches to get in nine holes before the sun went down.

The Island course starts out with a highly elevated tee shot on a downhill par four with water left and a fairway that bends slightly toward the right. The green is elevated, and the tree area right of the fairway is sloped heavily from right to left, which tends to be a popular spot for errant tee balls.

The second hole is a solid test of golf. The green is a small target, and the hole has good length at 389/377 sharply uphill. This is a really tough green to hit, elevated I would think thirty feet or more above the rest of the fairway.

The third hole is a short dogleg left par four. Hit whatever club will get you over the left-side fairway trap, whether that’s driver or less. The approach from there should be pretty stress-free, with less than 100 yards in to a small green fronted on the right side by a sand trap.

The fourth hole on the Island course is a mid-to-long-range par three, fronted by sand and with fall-offs left, long and right of the putting surface. This green is sloped hard from back to front, so finding a way to have an uphill putt is huge.


Hole 4: Par 3 (201/168/160)

The fifth is a long par five, over 550 yards with a dogleg left off the tee. I have always found this to be a tough driving hole – it’s very easy to go too far left and be faced with an awful recovery shot, or right and be lost in the woods.

With a decent drive, the second shot is bombs away to a wide open fairway in order to set up a shorter and more manageable approach.

With a wide open fairway and nothing to worry about off the tee, the sixth is a 406/395-yard par four with a tough green. Sand traps are on the left and right sides of this massive green complex, and the massive slopes make two-putting a major challenge.

The back tees on seven are highly elevated and can make for a semi-stressful tee shot, given out-of-bounds right and a tree line left. The fairway runs from right to left, and the second shot on this 600-yard beast is best framed by a bunker on the right side of the fairway that will set up around a 100-yard approach.

I apologize that I missed the front end of this hole – it hit me after our tee shots on the eighth hole and so I snapped this one of the backside of the seventh hole’s green:


Hole 7: Par 5 (617/587/415)

The eighth is the signature island hole at Silver Spring Country Club. As I mentioned earlier, the distances on eight tend to be awkward, and the island green is very small from front-to-back and falls off on all sides to the water.

As an interesting aside, I’ve heard that the bass fishing in this pond is phenomenal.

The ninth is a tough finishing hole for the front nine. The tee shot carries a river and jets straight uphill. The green is mostly blind from the fairway, and has to be approached with a highly lofted shot.

Like the eighth green, the putting surface on nine is really short and very easy to fly over. Anything past the pin will require great touch to get anywhere near the hole.


Hole 9: Par 4 (340/306/292)

The tenth is a really fun par three. The tee boxes are so highly elevated that even seeing the entire green can be a challenge from the back tees and leads to a two- or three-club difference.

Chances are wherever a well-hit tee shot lands is where it will stay – I have had my ball bury completely on this green before, in fact, and having it run out on the green is unlikely considering the long fall it will face dropping out of the sky.


Hole 10: Par 3 (206/192/167)

To me, the par four eleventh is the hardest hole on the Island course. A river and trees line the left side of the fairway, and the river then cuts through the fairway at around 230-240 yards. I have hit driver over this river a number of times, but hitting less than driver here is obviously the smart play.

While hitting less than driver is the smart way to go, it leaves a long and uphill approach shot to a well risen green.


Hole 11: Par 4 (404/349/337)

The twelfth plays a lot like the third hole, with a fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway making for a great target off the tee to a dogleg left par four.

Do not overcook the tee drive on this hole, as a pond creeps up almost to the treeline past the left side of the fairway.


Hole 12: Par 4 (351/323/316)

The thirteenth is another brutally long par five, and features all kinds of awkward distances. Along the outskirts of the course’s property line, the right side of this hole is out of bounds while a grove of trees frames the left side of the driving zone.

The second shot plays toward a massive pond that is mostly blind from the fairway. Check it out before hitting your setup shot, though, as carrying it might mean a 250-300-yard shot!

Laying up to the pond will leave about 150 yards in over water to a small green that is sloped hard from left to right.


Hole 13: Par 5 (578/521/380)

I apparently left my camera on the thirteenth hole tee box, so I unfortunately did not get any pictures of the par four fourteenth (long, challenging par three) or the teeing area on fifteen (long, extremely challenging dogleg left par four).

Fortunately, my friends in the group behind us found my camera and snapped this photo of Jeff and me on the fifteenth fairway. You’re welcome for not showing the other pictures they took with it.


Jeff and me driving on the 15th hole after leaving my camera on the tee box on 13 – sorry I didn’t get anything of the 14th!

The long approach on the dogleg left par four fifteenth hole on the Island course – here a good drive left us 205 yards in:


The long approach on hole 15: Par 4 (468/435/301)

The sixteenth is a tricky par four hole. The fairway bends hard from left to right, which makes you think a high fade over the corner will leave a great approach shot. Hitting that shot tends to go too far over the fairway, though, and results in an uphill shot through a ton of trees.

Unless looking to cut off a ton of the fairway bend, hitting hybrid or long iron up the fairway to the bend is probably the smart move here.


Hole 16: Par 4 (389/381/374)

Seventeen is one of the hardest driving holes on the course. The tee shot looks a lot like the one on five, but is much more demanding as anything left of center will find the river that surrounds the driving zone of the eleventh hole.

I think all four of us hit the water on seventeen during our round. The fun doesn’t end there, though, as water then fronts this postage stamp green and makes laying up on the second shot a must.

The eighteenth is kind of a strange hole, and tremendously challenging for a finishing hole. The tee shot here is straight uphill through trees to a dogleg right fairway that is not long enough to keep drives in the short grass.

A high and really long fade would be a great play here, while anything else will lead to a 200-plus yard approach shot to one of the most canted greens on the course that runs fast from back to front.

In the Waukesha County area, only Ironwood Golf Course hosts more charity and corporate events than Silver Spring Country Club, and it’s probably a really close competition.

I always enjoy the Island course at Silver Spring as long as I have a full foursome and plenty of time to spend on the course. 

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Menomonee Falls, WI
Yardage: Black-6912, Silver-6481, Gold-5567
Slope/Rating: Black-128/73.1, Silver-126/71.8, Gold-119/67.7
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: $47.50 (including cart)

Silver Spring Country Club Website


I’ve been away for a while, and for good reason: On September 24, I got married to the love of my life, Kelly. We were incredibly fortunate in that it was supposed to rain for our wedding ceremony at North Hills Country Club – it didn’t – and then every day on the weather report it showed rain during our honeymoon in South Carolina – we had nothing but 80’s and sun.


My wife, Kelly, and me at the Belmond Hotel in Charleston, SC on our honeymoon

We got home on Monday night, and by Wednesday I heard that both Kiawah Island and Charleston were both being evacuated because of Hurricane Matthew.

This article is a precursor to let you know some of what’s to come:

  • Recap of my bachelor party to the Upper Peninsual of Michigan, including my buddy’s hole-in-one at Greywalls… With a pink ball
  • A quick recap of our incredible wedding at North Hills Country Club
  • Course review of Kiawah Island, Osprey Point (loved it!)
  • Course review of Kiawah Island, Ocean Course (phenomenal!)
  • General perceptions of Kiawah Island and Charleston, SC as a honeymoon destination
  • Course review of the Pines Course at Lake Arrowhead
  • Course review of Silver Spring CC
  • My awesome new Seamus “Fescue” Sunday bag
  • My [positive] opinions of the new Snell “My Tour Ball” golf ball

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a few things, but there’s a lot of articles to come.

Kelly and I got home from our honeymoon this week and it seemed like it was instantly Fall – the colors on the trees are already changed and we’re the house in our subdivision who has leaves in the yard and driveway – I’ve got work to do this weekend!

I’m obviously hoping it’ll be a while before Winter rears its ugly head, but in the meantime we’ve hopefully still got some good golf to be had.




Golf Course Review: Sand Valley Golf Course

This year’s Illinois vs. Wisconsin Writer’s Cup was a long-anticipated match-up for many reasons: To start, Illinois has had our number for a few years, but most importantly it was to be held at the world’s most exciting new golf resort project, Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome, Wisconsin.

I put up a preview of the front nine at Sand Valley after last year’s Media Day event here, and was unbelievably excited to see how things have grown in and especially to check out the back nine and lodging.

The back nine was everything I’d hoped it would be: More fantastic par threes and one great golf hole after another. Strategically placed sand traps, tricky greens and conditions that far exceeded what can be expected of a course that was seeded this Spring blew away everyone at the event.

Sand Valley has been blessed with one of the best two growing seasons in recent history. Weather in the Midwest has been mild, the winters [relatively] short and all the ingredients to be well ahead of its time just sort of fell in to place.

The initial plans for the course, in fact, were to have 13-15 holes open for preview play by the end of 2016, and already all 18 are and will undoubtedly become even more spectacular for its public unveiling in June, 2017.

The David McLay Kidd course is coming along nicely, too, with a number of holes already seeded and growing in beautifully. I unfortunately did not have time to tour it during this trip, so I can’t wait for my first thorough look at it next season.

I reviewed the front nine at Sand Valley in my original article from last year’s media day, linked here, so I will just include updated photos this time around with minimal commentary.

New photos from the front nine of the Sand Valley Golf Course at Sand Valley Golf Resort:


Panoramic view from “The Volcano” above the first, tenth and eighteenth holes at Sand Valley Golf Course

The par 4 first hole, bending right to left and downhill from “The Volcano”:

The par 4 second hole, bending left to right and uphill:

The par 3 third hole, a long par three best played running on from the right side:

The par 5 fourth hole, played steeply uphill:

The par 3 fifth hole, played downhill to a crowned green:

The par 4 sixth hole, with its “Speed slot” down the right side:

Continue reading


2016 Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writers Cup at Sand Valley Golf Resort

Following a tour of the front nine at last year’s Sand Valley media day, a reference to the Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writers Cup was made to which Mike Keiser, Jr. immediately replied: “Can we host next year’s event here!?”

The Writers Cup alternates between Wisconsin and Illinois courses each year, with last year’s event played at the challenging Chicago Highlands Club.

Needless to say, everyone in attendance was thrilled with the offer, but the ultimate decision had to be made by Chuck Garbedian of “Garbedian on Golf.”

Team Illinois has had the best of Team Wisconsin for a few years straight, including a rout at the Chicago Highlands Club last year. This year, though, the red team was back on our own soil at the world’s most highly touted upcoming golf destination, and there was no way we were going to lose. Not there on what we were told was the first event to be played on all 18 holes of the Coore/Crenshaw masterpiece.

Sand Valley and KemperSports were fantastic hosts, and both teams made the pilgrimage to Rome, Wisconsin on Monday for practice rounds prior to the tournament teeing off at 7:45 Tuesday morning.

The contrast between where the Coore/Crenshaw course is now versus where it was last August is almost unbelievable, but with two of the greatest growing seasons ever it is almost unnecessary to say that Sand Valley’s progress is well ahead of schedule. At no time did they intend to open all 18 holes for preview play this season, but alas on September 1 it is happening.

My first ah-ha moment during my first trip to Sand Valley last year was arriving at the top of “The Volcano” and seeing the first hole below, seeded and beginning to grow in. It is fully developed at this point, as are the magnificent tenth and 18th holes. The start of a driving range is also coming in left of the first fairway, and most of the course’s holes are visible from this highest vantage point on the property. The vista here outside of “Craig’s Porch” is comparably as spectacular as the view from the porch at Pacific Dunes (at Mike Keiser’s original golf resort, Bandon Dunes, on the southwest coast of Oregon).


Sunset from the Pacific Grille at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, OR


Sunset from “Craig’s Porch” atop “The Volcano” at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome, WI

Glen Turk of Midwest Golfing Magazine and I met up on Monday to play the front nine before a dinner at Craig’s Porch (named after Craig Haltom of Oliphant, who originally discovered the land) that consisted of buffalo burgers, Johnsonville brats and sides.

After a couple of beers, Team Wisconsin met in the 4-bedroom cottage Coach Garbedian was staying in to get our team’s strategy together. Playing this year for Team Wisconsin included:

  • Gary D’Amato (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  • Mike Duplaise (freelance writer and author)
  • Chuck Garbedian (captain, ESPN Garbedian on Golf)
  • Neal Kotlarek (GolfChicago – Wisconsin native)
  • Gabe Neitzel (ESPN 540)
  • Jay Royal (Midwest Golfing Magazine)
  • Jeff Royal (Midwest Golfing Magazine)
  • Rob Schultz (Wisconsin State Journal)
  • Paul Seifert (that’s me)
  • Matt Tevsh (Midwest Golfing Magazine)
  • Glen Turk (Midwest Golfing Magazine)
  • Brian Weis (GolfWisconsin,

Accommodations in the Lake Leopold Cottages were everything I hoped for and was told to expect during last year’s Media Day with Mike Keiser, Jr. and Bill Coore: “A comfortable bed, nice shower and a big bar of soap” … And fantastic views.


The Lake Leopold Cottages at Sand Valley Golf Resort


The Lake Leopold Cottages with Lake Leopold in the background


Room 112 at the Lake Leopold Cottages at Sand Valley Golf Resort

The rooms are very well appointed, and I am told by this time next year the color of the cottages should blend in perfectly with the color of the sand that surrounds it.

The morning match-ups got started at 7:45 and my first round match was with my partner for the first two rounds, Rob Schultz. Rob and I had a first round best ball match against Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune and Steve Schapiro of WGN-TV.


Turk and Weis tee off on one to start the first round of the 2016 Writers Cup at Sand Valley

Continue reading