All photos by Matt Kartozian (Durka Durka Photo).
Just when you think you are getting good at golf, you will find yourself in what amounts to a racecar crashing at 110 mph, flipping end over end while on fire.
I had spent some time trying to improve my game earlier this summer and I was getting results. In March, my handicap was a 20 and by July I had gotten down below a 15. My worst score since mid March had been a 100, with most in the low 90s and a sprinkling of mid to high 80s. All of that came to an abrupt halt on July 25.
If you are going to crash and burn, do it somewhere spectacular. I could not have picked a better course for my demise than Edgewood Tahoe, located in Nevada close to the California state line. Edgewood has a rich history and some very unique features. The course was built on what was a stop on the Pony Express and Wells Fargo stage coach lines in the 1890s. Edgewood is also the only golf course in the Lake Tahoe area with holes on the water. The 16th green sits next to the beach and the 17th and 18th play right along the beach on your way back to the clubhouse.
To me, one of the most unique things about Edgewood is the parking lot. How can something as boring as a parking lot be cool you ask? It’s all about location. Situated right on the beach, it has to be one of the most expensive parking lots per square foot in the world. The parking lot will soon go the way of the saber-toothed cat, however, as Edgewood is in the midst of a massive renovation and rebuild of their property. The parking lot will be replaced with an event lawn, and a new 154-room luxury hotel will open in the Summer of 2017 just steps away from the clubhouse.
Edgewood opened in 1968 and was designed by George Fazio. There are four sets of tees that range from 5,310 yards with a 69.6/127 rating and slope to 7,552 yards and 75.1/142 from the tips. The last 25 years, Edgewood has hosted the American Century Championship, a celebrity tournament featuring stars like Justin Timberlake, Steph Curry, Charles Barkley, Jim Harbaugh, Jerry Rice and Alfonso Ribeiro to name a few.
I was set to play the course the day after the tournament wrapped up. Former MLB pitcher Mark Mulder won the tournament for the second year in row. Most of the signage and grandstands were still up when I played the next day, and the remains of the tournament gave the course a different atmosphere. With a little imagination I could picture the stands full, and that I was in the tournament — hopefully with Charles Barkley so I’d look like a decent golfer.
I played with Nicholas Vandermade from Edgewood’s marketing department. We elected to play the blue/white combo tees which were 6,610 yards with a 71.2/137 rating and slope. My coach had recently worked with me on a small swing change to help eliminate my balls acting like a boomerang off the tee. I had played a few rounds since the change, but I was not 100 percent dialed in yet. This was abundantly obvious on the first tee as my ball shot left and into a pond (I finished the hole with a snowman). This was not an inspiring turn of events to start my round. I repeated my left shot into the lake again on No. 2, but I managed to come away with a double.
No. 3 is the toughest hole on the course and my favorite. It’s a par-5 hole of 532 yards (from the whites) and doglegs right at its midpoint. The tee shot is straight forward; there are bunkers on the left and right, but the landing area is wide and generous. The second shot is where it gets complicated. Water on the left and bunkers on the right require an accurate shot. Ideally, the third shot lands on the elevated green that is ringed with large trees that make me think of it as a natural grandstand. It was one of my favorite views on the course. I have played Edgewood twice and have pared it both times, so I would be lying if I said my score had nothing to do with liking the hole.
Being in the mountains, it’s no surprise that there are large, old trees everywhere at Edgewood. What is a bit surprising is that sometimes they’re in the middle of the fairway. Nos. 8 and 16 feature monstrous pine trees close to your tee shot landing zone. Since my ball never goes quite where I aim it off tee, I aimed directly at the trees on both holes and took them out of play.
No. 9 has been redesigned in recent years and now has a great lakeside green. No. 11 is a great hole to go for it. At 328 yards, you can choose to hit left to a large safe landing area or hit slightly right over a lake to cut the distance down. No. 12 is a 167-yard uphill par-3 with another great pine tree stadium surrounding the green.
No. 14 is one of the most scenic holes on the course. You hit into the 406-yard par-4 from an elevated tee box in the trees with views of the clubhouse and a large lake. As you work your way to your ball off the tee, you are greeted with a nice view of Lake Tahoe and the mountains behind the California side of the lake.
The final two holes are the jewels of Edgewood. No. 17 is a 140-yard par-3 that parallels the sandy beach, and you putt out with a great view of Lake Tahoe. During the American Century Championship it is also the home of many shenanigans. The beach and water edge is lined with fans and boats, and many of the players interact with the fans there. Justin Timberlake and Alfonso Ribeiro have danced, NFL linebacker A.J. Hawk tackled a fan (at the fan’s request) and Jerry Rice has thrown passes — to recap a few great moments from the hole.
No. 18 is a par-5 of 501 yards that starts inland, though you can still see Lake Tahoe through the trees. On your approach to the green there are bunkers, trees and a water hazard that can come into play. Once on the green, only a cart path separates you from the beach and Lake Tahoe.
If you are looking for a great golf getaway, look to Edgewood Tahoe. It’s a fantastic course and with typical summer temperatures in the 70s, making it a great place to beat the heat.
If there is a moral to this story, it’s that you can still have a good time and enjoy a course while having a bad round. When you are playing well remember these words from Han Solo: “Great kid, don’t get cocky!”
Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real
We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.
The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.
Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.
Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.
Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.
I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.
Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.
Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!
Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy
Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.
Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.
The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.
The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.
Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.
I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.
The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.
Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.
Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf
We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.
The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.
The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.
Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.
After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.
Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.
After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!
As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.
To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.
Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.
The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.
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