Golf Course Review: The Oconee at Reynolds Lake Oconee (GA)

One of the top golf destinations in the southeastern United States, Reynolds Lake Oconee is home to 117 golf holes. 18 of the best of those are on its Oconee course, designed by Rees Jones and originally unveiled in 2002.

Jones inherited some of the best terrain on the entire property to work with for the back nine of the Oconee course, meandering through inlets and setting up gorgeous tee shots over water on the par three 15th and closing par four 18th.

The 18th is one of the strongest finishing holes I’ve ever played, driving over Lake Oconee from 466 yards from the tips and still 426 from the third tees in.

What it lacks in lake frontage, the front nine makes up for with elevation. The fifth through ninth holes all have elevated tee shots, highlighted by a beautiful pair of par threes (5 and 8).

In addition to thousands of visitors, the Oconee course has played host to the annual Linger Longer Invitational college championship, the 2007 PGA Cup and the annual Chik-fil-A Bowl Challenge. Along with Great Waters, the Oconee helps put the premier in Reynolds Lake Oconee’s premier golfing destination.

The course begins with a long par five, measuring 538 yards from the first tees in. A small pond comes in to play about 450 yards down the fairway, and the green resides off a short dogleg left alongside the water.

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Hole 1: Par 5 (559/538/513/417)

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Hole 1: Par 5 (559/538/513/417)

Hole two at The Oconee is a mid-range par four with an interesting green complex. Heavily protected on all other sides, the pin while we were there was right in the front-right – the only area not bunkered.

You’ll see on the second hole that the Oconee course puts a premium on accurate driving. It’s heavily wooded but very fair – none of us had significant issues keeping our tee shots in play.

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Hole 2: Par 4 (397/377/367/315)

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My Top 50 Golf Courses in America

When my brother and his wife bought me a golf ball cabinet about ten years ago, I started collecting logo balls from all the different courses I played. I hadn’t started my foray in to golf writing at the time so its contents grew slowly but steadily, consisting primarily of muni tracks around Waukesha County.

I started WiscoGolfAddict in 2011, and during that year played 59 different courses including three of my first private clubs. With 2012 came my first out-of-state golf trips: Myrtle Beach with my cousins Frank and Jeff, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a group of friends. It was also the year I played my first Tour courses, including Erin Hills, Blackwolf Run’s River course, Chambers Bay, University Ridge and Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread. I played 126 rounds in 2012 at a total of 52 different courses.

While I’d consider 2012 to be the year that opened my eyes to world-class golf, I’d also consider it to be the year that opened my eyes to the way golf can drain my bank account. An audit of my post-season golf charges that year was just shy of $10,000.

My first media event invites started coming in 2013, first for a pre-event media day at the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, and soon after a weekend trip to Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minnesota. Exciting things with my golf writing were starting to snowball, and they have only continued to this day.

Through my writing I have experienced amazing public and private golf courses around the country, built out a wonderful network of industry experts and friends, and am continuously learning about all the things that make golf great – especially from the design and architectural side.

The experts (Doak, Fazio, Coore, Crenshaw, Jones, Staples, Trent Jones, Jr, …) may score 80-95 on a scale of 100 for their course design knowledge. I can’t claim to know more than 10-20, which is probably still generous, but the path to learning is filled with playing new styles of courses and constantly picking up on the both subtle and not-so-subtle nuances that architects institute in their designs. It’s an adventure I hope to enjoy for years to come.

While Golf Digest, GolfWeek and Golf.com release their best courses in the US lists on an annual or semi-annual basis, I have just one: This running list of the 50 tracks I consider to be the best in the country… out of the hundreds that I’ve played.

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1. Pacific Dunes (Bandon, OR)

Architect: Tom Doak (2001)
Yardages: Black-6633, Green-6142, Gold-5775
Slope/Rating: Black-142/73.0, Green-133/70.7, Gold-129/68.6

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The Top 50 Golf Courses in America (click here for the list)

Golf Equipment Review: Seamus Feel Player Golf Shoes

One of the many things I love about my wife, Kelly, is that she likes to spoil me with awesome presents.

Kelly knows my favorite golf brand is Seamus, and although she’s not a golfer she knows it resonates with me. Similarly to Ashworth’s Golf/Man campaign (R.I.P. Ashworth), Seamus celebrates the game’s rich heritage and traditions with classic style that features super-high-quality materials, fabrics and craftsmanship.

Early last year, Seamus announced a new venture: Feel Player shoes. They were accepting pre-orders for up to 200 pairs, and luckily Kelly saw the email blast and knew I’d love them.

I can’t say it was easy waiting for these to arrive! Not only did images of the prototype look great, but I was excited in general about getting something as exclusive as “200 pairs pre-ordered.” I’m also a huge advocate of walking golf, so the thought of having a shoe that feels like a moccasin intrigued me.

Feel Player boxed

A great example of Seamus Golf’s always masterful packaging/marketing

 

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The Seamus Feel Player golf shoe (photo credit: Seamus Golf)

 

Minimalist in style, the Feel Players debuted at $195/pair with the option of adding a “Supporter kit” for an extra $100. The supporter kit included a shoe bag, shoe horn, special ball mark, coaster, a tartan pouch for the little items, an extra pair of reflective laces, a hand-signed note of thanks from the shoe’s designer, Michael Friton, and Seamus owner, Akbar Chisti, and a cleaning kit from one of their local Portland, Oregon companies.

The 200 pairs took three weeks to sell out, and most were purchased during the first week.

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America’s Best On-Site Non-Course Golf Facilities

One of the trends I’ve loved witnessing over the past few years has been the addition of non-course golf facilities at top-ranked resorts. These value-added venues give players fun options when they’re off the tee sheet to settle bets, enjoy the land, be social and bond especially during trips to remote golf destinations.

One of the first of these I ever had the pleasure of checking out is still my favorite: The Gil Hanse and Geoff Shackelford designed H-O-R-S-E Course at The Prairie Club in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

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One of an infinite number of potential tee boxes on the Horse Course at The Prairie Club

 

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“Routing” for the Horse Course – there are no actual teeing locations, and the next green can always be anywhere

 

Like in a game of basketball H-O-R-S-E, the player in charge calls a teeing location and green. From there, the competition usually goes one of two ways: Closest to the pin or fewest strokes to hole out.

Even with no official tee boxes or routing, the Horse Course at The Prairie Club was ranked the #10 Most Fun Course in America by Golf Digest in 2015.

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The 2018 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando: My 10 Favorite Things

Known as the “Major of Golf Business,” this past week’s PGA Merchandise Show consisted of four activity-filled days at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, headlined by the industry’s newest and best products, trends and technology.

Nearly 40,000 industry professionals attended this year’s show with representation from 87 countries and all 50 states. Over 1,000 golf companies presented within the hall’s million square feet of demonstration, exhibition and meeting space, allowing 7,500-plus PGA Professionals and buyers to plan their 2018 shop and operational strategies.

The scale of the PGA Merchandise Show is staggering… Imagine your local golf expo – for example, the Greater Milwaukee Golf Show – then multiply it by A TON.

Exhibitors line the aisles as far as the eye can see, and throughout an entire day’s attendance I saw just two of the outer walls.

I’m sure I left plenty of gems undiscovered, but of all the great things I did see at the 65th annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, here are my top ten favorites:

1. Golf simulators

Simulators have come a long way in the past couple years! The simulator industry was well-represented by suppliers this year, including:

  • aboutGolf
  • Ernest Sports
  • Foresight Sports
  • Full Swing Simulators
  • GolfZon
  • High Definition Golf
  • HomeCourse Golf
  • Kevic
  • Greenjoy
  • Sports Coach Simulator Ltd
  • TrackMan
  • TruGolf

My friend, Kyle, was tasked by the North Hills Golf Committee to look in to potential simulators for our club, so we did our best to stop by quite a few of the booths above.

My favorite is [I’m assuming] the most expensive option: GolfZon’s Vision system. The Vision system has a bent screen, overhead sensors, self-collecting and -teeing technologies (and you can set the height of the tee for each player, etc.), a moving swing plate and multiple surface types: Teed-up, fairway, rough and sand.

The moving swing plate / self-leveling platform is a little odd to get used to as it adjusts your stance to go along with the playing surface on-screen. We got there pretty early in the day, and I was among the day’s early leaders for the closest-to-the-pin contest: 28 feet was good for third place… For about 10 minutes.

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Lining up my 8-iron approach shot from 152 yards out at Pebble

 

The biggest trend in simulators this year is the addition of other sports-related games, including soccer and hockey (eg: Shoot-out mode), football (eg: Quarterback challenge), dodgeball and others.

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