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Edgewood Tahoe: A below-average performance on an above-average course

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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.

A group putts out on the 18th green next to Lake Tahoe.

A group putts out on the 18th green next to Lake Tahoe.

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 Tahoe's parking lot is literally on the beach.

Edgewood Tahoe’s parking lot is literally on the beach.

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.

A massive, old-growth tree sits in the middle of the fairway landing zone on hole No. 8. A massive, old-growth tree sits in the middle of the fairway landing zone on hole No. 8.

A massive, old-growth tree sits in the middle of the fairway landing zone on hole No. 8.

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.

The par-3 17th at Edgewood has been host of many tournament shenanigans.

The par-3 17th at Edgewood has been host of many tournament shenanigans.

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.

The 18th green offers a great way to cap a day at Edgewood.

The 18th green offers a great way to cap a day at Edgewood.

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!”

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Matt Kartozian is an amateur golfer, professional photographer and journalist based in Phoenix, Arizona. He can often be found on the sidelines at NFL, NHL and MLB games, as well as racetracks around the world. Matt specializes in off-road racing and events like the Baja 1000. When not dodging racecars and linebackers, Matt likes to spend time on the golf course.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Guia

    Sep 17, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    “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.”

    Slightly over the top comparison.

    • ooffa

      Sep 18, 2016 at 8:35 am

      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. While in a hurricane, during an earthquake. In November after Trump has been elected. I do not think that is over the top at all. I think at best it is understated.

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Branson, Missouri Continues to Evolve as a Golf Destination

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If you think you know Branson, Mo., it’s time to think again. While the live music venues that put the bucolic Ozark Mountains town on the map continue to thrive, its reputation as a top notch golf destination has grown … and continues to evolve.

Heck, golfers who’ve visited just a few years ago will find the scene almost unrecognizable. Sure, the awe-inspiring Top of the Rock — designed by legendary Jack Nicklaus and holding the honor of being the first-ever par-3 course to be included in a professional PGA championship — is as striking as ever, but its sister course, Buffalo Ridge, has undergone a metamorphosis.

No. 15 at Buffalo Ridge

Designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio and originally opened in 1999, Buffalo Ridge has done the unthinkable – make its list of previous accolades pale in comparison to what now graces the land. In conjunction with owner and visionary conservationist Johnny Morris, Fazio has exposed massive limestone formations, enhanced approaches and added water features to make every hole more memorable than the last.

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio masterpieces not enough? Gary Player has stamped his signature in the Ozarks with the recently opened Mountain Top Course. This 13-hole, walking-only short course is unlike anything you’ve ever played.

Strap your bag to a trolley and let your imagination dictate your round. There are stakes in the ground with yardage markers nearby, but they’re merely suggestions. Play it long or play it short. Play it from different angles. The only mandate is to enjoy the course, nature and camaraderie.

No. 10 at Mountain Top

The Mountain Top greens are huge and as smooth as putting on a pool table. Nearly as quick, too. And the bunkers are as pristine as the white sands of an isolated Caribbean beach. Capping off your experience, the finishing hole plays back to the clubhouse and the green boasts multiple hole locations that enhance golfers’ chances at carding an ace. Hard to imagine a better way the end an already unforgettable round.

It shouldn’t take you much longer than two hours to get around Mountain Top Course. If it does, you were likely admiring the stunning panoramas. One notable addition to those views is Tiger Woods’ (TGR Design) first public access design — Payne’s Valley (named to honor Missouri golfing legend Payne Stewart) — which is full speed ahead on construction and scheduled to open in 2019. As a treat, the 19th hole was designed by Morris. Named “The Rock,” it’s a short par-3 that promises to be amazing.

Payne’s Valley will be both family-friendly and challenging. It has wide fairways and ample landing areas along with creative angles and approaches that shotmakers love and expect from a championship course.

If two years is too long to wait for new golf, then Morris and his Big Cedar Lodge have you covered with the yet-to-be-named ridge-top course by the industry’s hottest design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. With all the heavy lifting complete, the Ozarks is scheduled to be unveiled in 2018.

The Ozark Mountains form the backdrop on No. 5 at Buffalo Ridge.

Once opened, this par-71 (36-35) track will play “firm and fast” and offer multiple avenues into each green. Both Coore and Crenshaw bristle at the notion that there’s only one way to approach the playing surface. Bring it in high or run it along the ground. Considering the exposed nature of the course and propensity for high winds, the latter may be your best option.

There’s more. Tiger won’t be finished with Branson when he wraps up Payne’s Valley. He’s also designing a family-friendly par-3 course on the grounds of Big Cedar Lodge. There isn’t a date attached to this project, so stay tuned.

These new tracks join the likes of Thousand Hills, Branson Hills and Pointe Royale Golf Village to make Branson a powerful player on the golf destination scene. Combine that with world-class fishing and camping, as well as countless museums, restaurants and points of interest and this bustling Ozarks town is a must-visit spot in Middle America.

Learn more or plan your trip at explorebranson.com.

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Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club

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Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.

All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.

A view from the ninth fairway

Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.

Trees, or no trees?

The 18th tee

The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.

The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.

Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.

A good variety

Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16.  What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14.  These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set.  The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.

A view of the ninth fairway from across the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s tempt the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.

Green complexes are…complex

The green on the 18th hole

Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world.  They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.

The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a decent lie.

Ari’s last word

All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.

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Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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