2015 Golf Season in Review

For the first couple of years I wrote my blog, I did a write-up at the end of each year to put the season in to words, and to commend the courses I felt were the best that year in multiple categories.

As my site has continued to grow, this has become less academic, especially since I joined a private club a few years back and am obviously playing a much smaller sample of different courses each season.

It doesn’t hurt to write a little review, though, especially for my own pleasure to look back at in the future at what was the golf season of 2015.

The winter of 2015 extended a little longer than normal, with most golf courses opening in early April. This was a couple weeks earlier than in 2014, but months behind some years. I am already praying that 2016 will see course openings back in the February timeline again… Fingers crossed.

With last night’s first snow of the Winter, I figure this is as good a time as any to wrap things up… Not that I won’t be out there if/when the weather warms up and the grounds are healthy enough to play!

Most of my rounds this year were played at my home course of North Hills Country Club, which under the tutelage of Randy DuPont was in exceptional shape again all year round. My season was a roller coaster of sorts, starting out with an index of 12.1 and getting down to 9.0, shooting consistently for a while in the low 80’s.

Then I became a bad nine, right around September first, shooting 87-89 and losing money in my Saturday games. In games where the total monetary payout ranges from $3-5, I actually lost $45 one day. Ouch.

That is enough about my game, though – what about the courses from 2015?

2015: Best Public Golf Course Played

1. Pacific Dunes (OR)

Rated the number two public course by Golf Digest, number two modern course by GolfWeek, and number one public course in the country by Golf.com, Pacific Dunes is coastal golf at its very best. Designed by Tom Doak and opened in 2001, Pacific Dunes blends perfectly rugged Bandon landscape with ingenious hole layouts and execution.

Pacific Dunes hole 4

Pacific Dunes hole 4

Pacific Dunes Website

2. Streamsong, Red Course (FL)

Just a few years old, the Red course at Streamsong has already amassed an incredible number of accolades, including the number 18 public course in the United States.

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Golf Course Review: Kiva Dunes (AL)

Kiva Dunes Course Rankings:

GolfWeek: #4 Alabama public
Golf.com: #2 Alabama public

Designer: Jerry Pate (1995)

The former number one rated golf course in the state of Alabama, Kiva Dunes was unquestionably the course I was most looking forward to playing during our buddies’ golf trip to the Gulf Shores of Alabama. I am a ratings and rankings junkie, and any time a number one course is on my radar, I will admit I get pretty excited. If I had to guess, I’m guessing their website has probably gotten at least 500 extra hits from me, alone.

I love golf courses that have a “Big” feel to them (ie: Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue courses, World Woods Pine Barrens, Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread, Wild Rock, Erin Hills, Whistling Straits Straits and Irish courses, SentryWorldChambers Bay, The Prairie Club Dunes and Pines courses, True BlueThe Harvester, the Classic course at Madden’s Resort, Dismal River Red and White courses, Sweetgrass, Greywalls, etc.), and Kiva Dunes has a huge feel to it. The fairways are mostly wide and forgiving, with nice big greens, massive sand blow-outs and waste bunkers (or, as we called them, “Kiva Dunes”), and plenty of yardage – over 7,000 yards from the tournament tees.

Located on the western peninsula of the Gulf Shores, the resort at Kiva Dunes has beach-side accommodations, but the course itself does not have ocean views. There is certainly plenty of water that comes in to play, though, with a multitude of inland ponds and streams. Water comes in to play on 13 of the 18 holes – some more than others, like on the second, third, ninth, twelfth, seventeenth and eighteenth – and on a course as wide open as it is and with such proximity to the ocean, the prevailing winds can make the 7,000-plus yards seem like so many more.

The story of Kiva Dunes is a great one, and goes like this: Developer Jim “Scrappy” Edgemon was waiting for a fellow classmate at the University of Alabama on their University course in Tuscaloosa to clear the green. Taking his time on putting drills, he waved Jim to play up from the 160-yard par three’s tee box. He put the pin back in the hole, and Jim’s shot bounced once and while it was rolling toward the hole Jerry Pate pulled the pin and watched it roll in. Jim’s hole-in-one began a lifelong friendship with the eventual US Amateur (1974) and US Open (1976) champion, and led him to choose Pate for the course design on this gorgeous piece of land.

Pate is a legendary course designer in the south, and he applied his passion and vision skillfully at Kiva Dunes, leading to perhaps his career’s greatest work on the Gulf Shores peninsula.

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Pre-round range time at Kiva Dunes in Gulf Shores, AL

The golf course at Kiva Dunes starts with a fairly straight-forward par four of 415 yards from the gold tees, and 379 from the blues that we were playing.

A typical [for Kiva Dunes] white sand waste bunker lines the left side of the fairway and can actually help keep wayward tee shots from going in to the woods on that side, while a tree line to the right makes for a fairly narrow driving zone.

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Kiva Dunes Hole 1: Par 4 (415/379/321/260)

As a pre-warning, while the tree line on the right side opens up a little, it falls off to a pond at around 250 yards from the blue tees. I was pretty sure my tee shot was in good shape, for example, until I got to that area and found the pond and this little watch-guard gator basking in the warm Alabama sun.

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Alligator basking in the Gulf Shores sun off the first hole at Kiva Dunes

This should be your view on a more centrally located drive on the first hole:

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Kiva Dunes Hole 1: Par 4 (415/379/321/260)

The first par five on the course, the second hole at Kiva Dunes is a big par five. Water borders the playing surface on the right side, and from the tournament tees actually has to be hit over.

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Kiva Dunes Hole 2: Par 5 (541/521/484/416)

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