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North Carolina Golf Still Impresses

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Pinehurst #4 (110) bw

Back and forth I have sprinted through North Carolina many a time in the last few years, only occasionally taking the time for a golf game – or several. With almost 600 golf courses I have to admit that it ranks highly among my favorite states to visit when golf is concerned.

Years back I was fortunate to play all eight golf courses at Pinehurst Resort in a single 5 day golf frenzy – it still stands as a highlight of my golfing life. I longed to return there in a better time – that stint was just days after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and it was a somber time for all. So, along with my buddy Jeff, we vowed to make a return to the venerable resort someday and in Mid-October this year we did just that.

To round out the trip (it will be the subject of a major travel feature that will appear next year in Flagstick Golf Magazine) we added in a few other destinations. The final itinerary found us playing nine courses in total with just one day that we would play twice – leaving lots of flexibility to check out other attractions, golf shops, and even a NASCAR race. For golf junkies it was a classic road trip.

I’ll say the weather was less than perfect although my true choice of words at the time would basically be unprintable. Early tee times resulted in near freezing temperatures by the time we teed off most days. Thankfully a warming trend on the last couple days left a much better impression although only be able to comfortably wear shorts for just nine holes was a bit of a letdown. I take solace in knowing that is unusual weather for them at this time of year.

To give you a framework for what we took on here is a list of the layouts we managed to play on the journey, in order: Pinehurst #1, Pinehurst #4, Pinehurst #8, Pinehurst #2, Little River, Anderson Creek, Lonnie Poole at NC State, UNC (University of North Carolina)- Finley, and The Preserve at Lake Jordan.

Lonnie Poole was the youngest of the courses (it opened just this past June) proved to be the weakest for us – mostly due to early condition and anomaly holes like a 550 yard, uphill PAR 4! But in time this near 7400-yard beast should improve as far as condition and playability as adjustments are made.

For the topper, well, how can you argue with Pinehurst among our selection? My second look at #8 left me even more impressed and this picturesque Tom Fazio layout pushed its way up on my favored Pinehurst list. #2 is still the grand pappy, the enigma you just try and figure out each time you play. Not the most aesthetically pleasing of the courses at the Pinehurst complex, nevertheless you can’t help but be drawn into its grasp. There are few better second shot courses on the planet. Bang it all you want off the tee but strategy for the last half of each hole is a priority unless you have a Houdini-like short game.

I am want for the space and time to lay out opinions of each and every course; that I will save for the Spring Feature but let’s just say there was nothing you could complain about as far as golf was concerned.

Spanning the Sandhills, Fayetteville, and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill regions like this proved once again why North Carolina is a leading golf state.

And the deals? Just too much. When John Meroski, CEO of the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he could put us on a course like the Davis Love III designed Anderson Creek with a room for less than a $100 a night I just couldn’t do much more than chuckle. At about $45 for a green fee this time of year with a cart the course would be equivalent to a $100 plus offering in many towns across North America.

So eight years after we made that last Pinehurst journey, by the time we arrived home we felt we had experienced the trip we had hoped for. In one 36 hour stretch we managed to play Pinehurst #8 then attend the NASCAR Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s near Charlotte, followed by an early morning tee time on Pinehurst #2.

I mean, really, if we hadn’t been impressed by those happenings alone it might just be time to give up the game.

So if you haven’t been to North Carolina for golf then I suggest it might be about time you made the trek. I can tell you from my own experiences that it will never leave you disappointed. And surely it will leave you with something to talk about for a long time to come – just as it continues to do for us.

To check some images from our trip you can view them here.

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2017 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members… the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. And whether that special person you’re buying for is into apparel, equipment, technology or cool accessories, our Holiday Gift Guide has you covered. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

When you’re done reading, be sure to pass the link along to drop a not-so-subtle hint of what you really want this holiday season.

Uther Tour Towel: $24.99

The first golf towel the golfer on your list will actually be excited about receiving. Uther has a wealth of cool designs, but we’re partial to the large 20 x 40-inch Flamingo Lake Tour Towel.

Buy it.

Sunfish The Declaration headcover (fairway wood): $59.99

We like the idea of making a statement with one of your wood or hybrid headcovers. There are fewer cooler statement designs than one of the greatest statements in world history: the Declaration of Independence.

Buy it. 

True Linkswear Originals: $149

If you haven’t heard, True linkswear has returned to its spikeless roots with a vengeance this year. Whether the golfer on your list prefers a more traditional style or something more sporty, the Originals will satisfy.

Buy it.

A dozen custom Titleist Pro V1s: $56.99

Titleist’s My ProV1 custom creation portal keeps getting cooler. We’re partial to the new holiday graphic options. Custom number + more than 200 logo/icon options + personalization of three lines per side = the best custom ball holiday gift.

Buy it.

Imperial Headwear Ugly Visor: $40

 

You’ve heard of the ugly Christmas sweater. Take that concept and apply it to a tour visor from Imperial Headwear. Enough said. Plus, Imperial is running a “Black Friday Buy More, Save More Sale” through Sunday.

Buy it.

Bushnell Pro X2: $499

A top-of-the-line rangefinder with bells and whistles aplenty for the demanding golfer on your list.

Buy it.

TecTecTec VPRO500: $149.99

If you don’t want to pony up 500 bucks, here’s an excellent rangefinder at a reasonable price. Measures up to 540 yards and is accurate within one yard. And 20 percent off through November 27!

Buy it.

Sugarloaf Social Club Pimento Pack: $125

The folks at Sugarloaf Social Club have done it again. Their latest offering: The Pimento Pack, featuring SSC’s signature pimento loafwich. Pack includes: Made in the USA dancing pimento putter cover. Olive five-panel cap w/ pimento logo embroidered on front panel. Made in the USA club towel.

Buy it.

The First Major by John Feinstein: $16.99

Feinstein’s latest. Like the dust jacket says: “a dramatic chronicle of the bitterly-fought 2016 Ryder Cup pitting a U.S. team out for revenge against the Europeans determined to keep the Cup out of American hands.” If you’re buying a book, make it this one.

Buy it.

Holderness & Bourne Robbins Long Sleeve Heathered Claret: $125

Holiday red? Sunday red? H&B’s Robbins Long Sleeve Heathered Claret layer feels like a sweatshirt but looks like a sweater. Wearable on course and off. The golfer on your list will appreciate the versatility of this garment in contrast to getting the proverbial “another sweater.”

Buy it.

Linksoul Professor Art Print: $65

A touch classic. A touch modern. A great golf print that’ll satisfy a range of tastes.

Buy it.

Golftec Silver Holiday Package: $295

We end with the gift of better golf (in the form of a Golftec gift package). Boasting a 95 percent success rate, GolfTec students improve their games. The company is offering a range of holiday options, but we like the Silver Package, which includes an evaluation, lesson, practice session, and custom fitting.

Buy it.

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Tour Mash: Rahm wins in Dubai, Cook sizzles to victory

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Two more points races reached their end this weekend. The LPGA season culminated in Florida with the Race to the CME Globe, while the European Tour concluded its Race to Dubai in, where else? Dubai! The PGA Tour played its final event until the new year, in Georgia, while the Ladies European Tour played its Sanya Open in China. Before American Thanksgiving revelry and remembrance set in, it’s time for one more tour mash.

LPGA Tour: A day of twos ends in a win for Ariya

Ariya Jutanugarn birdied her final two holes to win the CME Tour Championship. She was given the opportunity to win in regulation when Lexi Thompson pushed a 2-foot putt for par at the last. Although Thompson did not win the year’s final event, she captured 2 titles of her own: Vare Trophy for low scoring average and Race To CME Globe, the season’s points race.

How Ariya Jutanugarn tasted victory

The power game has arrived on the LPGA Tour, in case you missed it. Golfers such as Lexi, Ariya and Sung Hyun Park obliterate the orb, leaving little yardage to the green. When her game is firing, Ariya Jutanugarn is unstoppable. After bogey at the first hole on Sunday, the young golfer from Thailand etched six birdies into the final 17 holes, for a second-consecutive 67. Her birdie at the last came from 23 feet, an amazing putt to hole with victory on the line. Down it went, and up went the smile of a champion.

How the rest came up just shy of a win

With eerie similarity, Lexi Thompson’s card was the flip side of Ariya’s. Thompson made six birdies over her first 17 holes, but the hiccough at the last, her only bogey on the day, dropped her to 14-under par and opened the door for Jutanugarn. Thompson was on absolute fire on Sunday, hitting all 14 fairways and using the putter 28 times. Ariya, Kim Kaufman, Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen stood tied atop at 10-under, heading into round 4. Pettersen’s 72, Kaufman’s 71 and Wie’s 70 were simply not enough to keep pace with those coming from behind on Sunday. Ariya, however, was up to the challenge.

European Tour: Rahm wins in Dubai and Fleetwood breathes again

For a time, it seemed as though Justin Rose would win his third consecutive event in Europe and would squeeze past Fleetwood for the season points title. The former Englishman was in the midst of the greatest scoring run of his career, while the later Englishman seemed to have little petrol left in the tank. Then the back nine on Sunday happened, and everything changed.

How Jon Rahm won the DP World Tour

Shane Lowry made 10 birdies on Sunday, but he had one bogey. Rahm had half as many birdies and zero bogeys, and that last number made the difference. The young Basque played a stellar 132 over the closing 36 holes, eclipsed only by Lowry’s 131. Rahm fearlessly navigated his way around the Jumeirah Estates course, eeking out a one-shot win over Lowry and also hard-charging Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

How the others went home trophy-less

We all want to know about Rose. four birdies on the outward 9-holes staked him to a lead, and the greatest season comeback on a major tour was nearly written. With only three bogeys in his first 63 holes, Rose proceeded to bogey 12, 14 and 16, with only a birdie at the last to bring him to 17-under. He ended up two behind Rahm, and in second place in the Race to Dubai points race. It was a glorious campaign for Rose, and cements him as world player to watch in 2018. The Englishman tied for fourth with Sergio Garcia, Dean Burmeister and Dylan Fritelli, both of South Africa, on 17-under par.

PGA Tour: Cook collects First Tour win in Georgia

Fall is a time for young aspirants to make a mark on the PGA Tour. Austin Cook followed the script, birdieing 3-of-his-final-4 holes to stretch a single-shot lead into a four-stroke triumph. J.J. Spaun, a Web.Com tour graduate in 2017, was in the mix for the second consecutive week. He played well down the stretch, and earned a runner-up finish.

How Cook caught fire

Austin Cook played a veteran front-nine, with one bogey and one birdie. None of the chasers caught him, so the Arkansas alum continued to manage his game in the fairways-greens style. On the inward half, Cook took charge, with birdies at 15, 17 and 18, to move well in front of the runner-up. With the precision of a surgeon, Cook took apart the Sea Island course in impressive fashion. After his second-round 62, many expected him to have one weak round on the weekend, but 66-67 showed the his mettle.

How the others flamed out

Spaun really didn’t flame out, not like last week, when he caught the double-bogey train. A proven winner on other tours, Spaun should win in 2018. His game was solid, mixing in more birdies than bogeys, and his second-place finish was well-earned. Brian Gay might have been more comfortable than any other golfer this week, but he was just as erratic. Case in point: back nine. From holes 13 to 18, Gay made one birdie, two eagles, two pars and one double. Still, his numbers were low enough to secure solo third, one stroke behind Spaun and two in front of the fourth-place finishers.

Ladies European Tour: Boutier sizzles on back nine for win

Celine Boutier imagined a top-10 or top-5 when the third day dawned at Yalong Bay, in China. After bogeys on holes 4 and 5, she needed to gather herself in order to preserve her standing. From this day forward, “gather herself” in the dictionary will forever show a picture of Celine Boutier. Her six-birdie finish vaulted her past all challengers, to her first European Tour victory.

How Boutier bloomed

The recent Duke University graduate posted three rounds in the 60s, the only competitor to achieve that distinction at the Sanya Open. The Frenchwoman didn’t make a bogey until the 15th hole of her second round, but she was stuck in neutral from that hole through the 9th hole on Sunday, making only pars and bogeys. Something clicked at the turn, and Boutier regained the confidence that had produced 10 birdies during the tournament’s first half.

How the others gave chase

Solar Lee was in good standing on Sunday’s outward nine. She bounced back from an opening bogey with three birdies through the 9th, and held the top spot on the leader board at 7-under. Lee reached 9-under through 13, but made bogey at 14 to drop to 8-under. Then came the blossoming of Boutier, and Lee had to be satisfied with the runner-up spot. One spot behind Lee was Valdis Thora Jonsdottir, Iceland’s reigning professional golfer, at 7-under.

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Wednesday’s Photos from The 2017 RSM Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from The 2017 RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club — the Seaside course plays as a par 70 measuring 7,005 yards — in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

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Headlined by last week’s OHL Classic champion Patton Kizzire, and 2015 RSM Champion Kevin Kisner, this week’s field is filled with notable names including Ricky Barnes, Zac Blair, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Harris English, Tommy Gainey, Bill Haas, Beau Hossler, Zach Johnson, Smylie Kaufman, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Graeme McDowell, Ollie Schniederjans, Brandt Snedeker, Hudson Swafford, Bubba Watson and others.

In last year’s RSM Classic, Mackenzie Hughes won in a five-man playoff to secure his first PGA Tour victory. He’s back in the field this year to defend his title.

Check out out photos from Sea Island G.C. below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

 

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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