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A Quick Nine: Josh Lesnik, President of KemperLesnik and KemperSports

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There is an emerging set of relatively new courses that have made their way onto many golfers’ bucket list: Bandon Dunes, Streamsong, Chambers Bay and Cabot Links are among them. What do they have in common? They are all connected with KemperLesnik and KemperSports, two of the most influential organizations in golf. We spent some time with the President of KemperLesnik and KemperSports Josh Lesnik to get some insight into what has made the company successful so far and what their vision is for the future.

Michael Williams: Let’s talk a little bit about you before we get straight to the golf courses. Where did you grow up? I know you’re living in the Chicago area now. Did you grow up in the Chicago area?

Josh Lesnik: Yep. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, north of the city, and pretty much … I was actually born in Georgetown Hospital [in Washington, D.C.] but we didn’t live there very long. My folks moved here when I was under two years old.

MW: I was born in Georgetown Hospital!

JL: See, you know. I mean, we were separated at birth, as you remember.

MW: Now I remember. Okay. I thought I knew you from somewhere. So, you moved to the Chicago area with your folks…was golf a part of your life from the very beginning?

JL: KemperSports is a family business that my father and his partner, Jim Kemper Jr., started. My dad was about 40 years old when he started it, and I was about 13. He was a non-golfer when he started the company, but he realized, if he was going to get in the golf business, he better learn how to play. So, we both really learned at the same time, from a golf professional named Bob Spence who worked at Kemper Lakes at the time. We both learned on Vernon Hills Golf Course, which is a nine-hole golf course in Vernon Hills, Illinois that was our company’s first management contract, a nine-hole golf course, municipally built and owned by the village of Vernon Hills, and we actually still manage it today. It’s a neat place, and near and dear to our hearts.

MW: That’s kind of an amazing sort of arc there, that your father and his partner chose to start a golf management company, and he didn’t know how to play the game.

JL: Well, what happened was Kemper Insurance left from downtown Chicago, which many companies were doing at that time in the 70s. The campus was 350, 400 acres, and after they moved into the building, the real estate department came to Jim Kemper Jr. was the CEO and chairman of Kemper Insurance and said, “Hey, we got to do something with all this land, and there’s wetlands, and it’s kind of pretty.” So Mr. Kemper decided he wanted to build a golf course. My dad was a young vice president of public relations at the time, and Mr. Kemper selected him to oversee the project, even being a non-golfer. He said, “Hey, I want it done right, and I want you to make it famous.”

So, my dad kind of had to learn on the fly the golf business. They ended up building Kemper Lakes, and that opened in 1979. A few years after that, the board of directors said, “Hey, we really should be in the golf business,” so my dad and Mr. Kemper leased the golf course from the insurance company, and that’s how KemperSports started. And then Kemper Lakes hosted a PGA championship when it was only 10 years old. It was won by Payne Stewart.

After Kemper Lakes opened in ’79 and they started KemperSports, we got a call from the mayor of Vernon Hills. He said, “Hey, we’re thinking of building a golf course. Could you help us do that?” And that’s sort of how we got into building and opening and operating golf courses on other people’s behalf, and that’s really when the management company was born.

MW: It’s really just an amazing success story, to think that you started from one course that was built sort of out of a financial necessity and then turn that into arguably the most influential golf ownership and management company in this country, if not the world. Did you always know that you were going to be going in the business?

JL: Yeah, oh yeah. Once I could drive, I started working at Kemper Lakes. I think my first job was clubhouse maintenance, and then I got promoted to pick the driving range. But the most coveted jobs were the cart boy jobs, because my dad had sort of started that whole country club for a day thing, this high-end daily fee where you get treated really well and you don’t have to join a club or pay dues. So, the cart boys would run out and grab the golf clubs. Now it’s sort of commonplace, but in 1979 it wasn’t.

Eventually I got to do that, and it was a great way to sort of learn about customer service and hustle, and then I got to work in the pro shop for some great pros. Worked for Stan McKee a little bit, and of course, Emil Esposito, who was probably our most influential golf professional in our company. We have an award each year for the PGA pro of the year, and it’s named after Emil. He was a fun, fun guy to work for, and you certainly learned a lot working for him.

MW: Was he any relation to [Hall of Fame hockey players] Tony and Phil?

JL: Not that we know of, but he was a phenomenal athlete and phenomenal player, as were the hockey Espositos. But no, he was strictly a golf Esposito, and he played golf at Northern Illinois and won many Illinois State Opens, and was a fabulous player. He still teaches today at The Glen Club, which is a project that we opened here in Glenview, Illinois in 2001, and he still is out there on the range… I think he’s 83 years old and still out there on his feet all day, teaching the game and growing the game.

MW: Bless his heart, that’s what we need. What do you think is the mission and vision for Kemper properties? How do you want them to look and feel to your visitors?

JL: Well, obviously, we’re so fortunate to work with some of the best clients and real visionaries in golf. There’s Mike Keiser, who built Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, and Sand Valley. And Rich Mack and the Mosaic company that built Streamsong. We work for Pierce County, Washington and Chambers Bay. So, we’re fortunate to have clients that are true visionaries, and for us, we really like to help them just carry out their vision. We’ve talked about KemperSports and KemperLesnik. KemperLesnik is the PR agency, and that was my dad’s first love. He started that public relations agency at the same time as the golf company.

So, we were born out of this public relations agency. To us, it’s a service business on two fronts. One, it’s service to our clients, and we really are a behind the scenes company. When you go to Whiskey Creek Golf Course [just outside Washington, D.C.], we want you to have a great experience and we want you to leave and say, “Whiskey Creek, man, what a great place.” But the people should be just as good as the place.” Whether that’s going to Bandon Dunes or Sand Valley or Streamsong, we want people to remember the name of the place, and we want them to say, “Man, the people and the service were amazing and memorable.”

And that’s really how we were born, treating the customers with customer service. Our proprietary customer service program is called True Service, and that’s really in our DNA. I mean, it’s an emergency to us, to try and take care of people. We’re a bigger company now, managing over 120 golf courses. But we really try and make that the part of our company that really sticks out the most, the fact that that in the end, we’re here as a hospitality company, and that’s what we want people to remember.

MW: I love the phrase, “taking care of our customers is an emergency.” You mentioned that the Keiser family and the courses they have with Sand Valley, which opened recently [June 1, 2017], Streamsong, Cabot Links, etc. They’re all among the most coveted destinations in golf now, but it all traces back to Bandon Dunes, You were the first general manager at Bandon Dunes, and that has become sort of a watershed property. It has defined a type of golf resort that is being imitated, if not duplicated. Did you know from the beginning what you had there, or did it sort of dawn on you over time, that you had done something kind of different and special?

JL: My answer would be, “No.” We didn’t know what it would become. I’m not sure I would have accepted the job if I knew how big it was going to become. I hadn’t been a general manager before. Obviously, growing up in the business I had a ton of support from the company. But if we knew how big it was going to get… we ended up bringing in a really big time general manager who I hired, and helped us continue to grow that place. Mike’s vision was to say, “Look at all these American golfers going to play golf over in Scotland and Ireland. What are the characteristics of that that make hundreds of thousands of people go over there every year? Can we do something like that in America?”

I mean, there were a lot of people calling themselves a links course at the time, which really weren’t links courses. Mike Keiser’s vision was to find links land in America and see if he could replicate that experience, the firm turf and balls that kind of can get away from you on the ground, playing the ground game, and putting from 40 yards out. All the little quirkiness of links golf along with playing on the ocean and the varied weather that that can bring. So, we knew his vision, we saw the site we said, “Wow. Maybe he has a chance to do that here.” He’s so brilliant in working with the architects; a good example is the job that David Kidd did on the first course. David Kidd was an unknown, 28-year-old, struggling architect from Scotland trying to get a start. But really, bringing that Scottish flavor to America on the south coast of Oregon, on the ocean, it just caught on. I know people would say I’m biased, but no matter how much you and I talk about it and say how great it is, if somebody new goes there, it’s going to live up to their expectations. That’s what’s amazing about that place.

MW: You talked about Kemper Lakes and Chambers Bay. Do you know off the top of your head how many of your courses have hosted major championships?

JL: Kemper Lakes hosted the PGA championship. Chambers Bay hosted the 2015 U.S. Open that Jordan Spieth just eked out over Dustin Johnson. Chambers Bay also hosted the U.S. Amateur, I know that’s not included as a major in any official counts, but certainly Amateur … The translation of amateur is love of the game, so those are our clients, and that’s … The U.S. Amateur’s a major to us, and Bandon Dunes is going to host the U.S. Amateur in 2020. We’ve been fortunate to host other events and championships at our courses all across the country, which is great.

MW: You get a chance to play all the golf you want to. Is there a favorite course, either yours or any other course that you really just love to play?

JL: Well, I mean, again, I hate to go back to it…I guess, I really don’t, but Bandon Dunes, the first course there, the David Kidd course is really near and dear to my heart. My family moved out there and we opened up Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes. That place is just special, and special to me personally, special to our company. It’s great to work with the Keiser family. It happens to be the first course I broke 80 on, and so yeah, I’d have to say Bandon Dunes is certainly a special place.

MW: Is that the one you would choose if you were going to play your final round and if that’s the one, who’d be in your dream foursome?

JL: I was fortunate to have some very good mentors in life, and Mike Keiser’s one who I would never turn down a round with. As fast as he plays, we could probably get two rounds in in the time most people play one! And then I’d have to say my father-in-law. Unfortunately, he passed away, but he was a very special guy, and I loved to play golf with him. We played in a lot of events together, and then my dad, who’s given me every opportunity in the world in my career and personally and professionally. That’s my dream foursome, and fortunately, I get to still play a little bit with Mike and my dad, but that would be my group.

MW: You have done a lot with this company to build a product that is very special within the game, exceptional, and excellent properties. What about affordability, diversity and inclusion? Where are those on the radar for a company like yours and your courses?

JL: Well, obviously, affordability is important, but golf is an expensive sport. I mean, you can’t get away from it. If you’re going to have 14 clubs and a bag and golf balls, and to play on a course that takes up some amount of acreage that needs to be taken care of, it is an expensive sport. So, fortunately, there’s a lot of programs. Obviously, The First Tee is the most well known, but there are so many grassroots programs all across the country in growing the game. I think right now, for example, the PGA Junior League is one of the best, if not the best grow-the-game initiative out there today that the PGA of America started. It’s where you actually play on a team, and you play a scramble. You can have jerseys with numbers on them, and the kids can share clubs if they need to.

So, whether you’re a public golf course or a private club, you have a certain number, these PGA Junior League teams, you play in different age groups, you play a scramble with three other kids. So, you’re going to hit these bad shots, you’re going to top them, you’re going to miss it, you’re going to hit one in the water, but you have four shots at it and you have a team. So, it’s a little bit more like Little League. You’re rooting for your teammates. You hit a bad shot, it’s not as bad, because you got three more chances at it, and I think that’s one of the best grow the game initiatives going.

Obviously, The First Tee does a wonderful job growing the games in areas where the game is difficult to grow, because it is an expensive sport. So, trying to bring basically free lessons, free equipment to places where it’s very difficult to grow the game, I think that’s all part of it. And June is basically our month where we highlight all player development programs across all 120 golf courses. We have our PGA pros give free lessons to beginners or golfers that once played and are now coming back into the game.

So, we promote it through all our social channels, and we get it out in each market that we’re in, that this is the month to come out, no questions asked, you don’t need equipment. Come to our courses, we’ll get you the equipment, we’ll give you free lessons, it’s a 15-minute quick lesson to get you either back into the game or get you into the game, and we give thousands of lessons across the country. We even do it in our office for our own staff. So, I think that’s what we try and do, is just try and grow the game at each location in each market we operate.

I also think the president of the USGA, Diana Murphy, started a wonderful program called Plus One. The idea is that if you’re into the game and you love the game, and you want to give back, try and get one other person into the game with you, and if everyone was able to do that, you could obviously double the number of golfers. It’s a wonderful notion, and we all know how hard a game it is, it’s so hard for beginners, but we all know that it’s worthwhile too, that if you stick with it, it can be really rewarding.

MW: I think you said a lot of good things there.

JL: Yeah, and you know, Michael, another thing we’re trying to do is something that is a little bit overlooked as a grow the game initiative. If you look back on how some of the older tour players started playing, many of these players got into the game of golf through caddying, and we try to have caddies at as many of our properties as makes sense. There’s a wonderful scholarship that was started here in Chicago called the Evans scholarship, started by Chick Evans, and it’s where a financially needy caddie who has the caddie experience and also has the grades and the discipline in school can earn a full ride, four-year scholarship. It’s now in about 20 universities across the country.

The Evans scholarship, it has about, right now, almost 900 kids in school. We’re striving to get to 1,000 kids on a full ride to college, and we’re talking Northwestern University, the Big Ten schools, Notre Dame has it now. It’s growing on the East Coast as well, and we are trying in Chicago at a couple places. We manage a place called Harborside International, a 36-hole venue on the south side of Chicago that Dick Nugent built. It’s on a landfill, it’s really a neat, neat property on a big lake, Lake Calumet.

We are trying to get The First Tee kids to start caddying there. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily teach them how to swing a golf club, but it teaches them a little bit of work ethic, they make money, they spend three-and-a-half, four hours with people playing golf that one day could hire them if they are fortunate enough to go through college, and it’s a way to get kids into the game while also teaching them all the values of earning money, meeting people, showing up on time, respect for elders, all of these things. So, a lot of the values that The First Tee has, you also learn in caddying, but you happen to make money at the same time.

We’re finding that it’s a great program. The Western Golf Association started a caddie academy here in Chicago land that’s now up to 90 girls, trying to get more girls into caddying. They all stay in a dorm up here, it’s just a wonderful program. So, I’d say caddying is a little bit overlooked as a grow the game initiative, but it’s really important, and it’s important if you can do it in challenging areas.

MW: What’s coming in your portfolio for 2017?

JL: Sand Valley opened May 2nd and the owner of Old Waverly in West Point, Mississippi built a public golf course called Mossy Oak. A Gil Hanse design, also in West Point, Mississippi, that we opened this spring. A really neat property, so now there’s two courses down there you can stay overnight and you can play both golf courses. Obviously, this fall, we are extremely excited to be opening the Black course at Streamsong.

Rich Mack hired Gil Hanse to design and build the Black course, the third course, and it is a showstopper. Haven’t played it yet, but I’ve walked it several times with Gil, and I cannot wait for people to see that, because it’s going to be … I mean, it’s just going to be a really highly talked about golf course. It’s a big, bold golf course. So, we’re very excited about that. We opened a Greg Norman design golf course in Mexico for Vidanta Resorts in Puerto Vallarta, one of our few international projects. We’re very excited they’re opening, I believe it’s their sixth course, and really, a neat place to stay. They have great timeshares there, and a hotel that’s just out of this world, and they’re continuing to build a lot of neat stuff in Puerto Vallarta with Vidanta Resorts.

So, lot of exciting stuff. We’re also opening a reversible golf course in eastern Oregon called Silvies Valley Ranch that’s going to open late summer this year, designed by Dan Hixson, who’s an architect that’s done some things out in the Northwest. I know there are not a lot of golf courses opening anymore, but we’re opening six golf courses this year, so it’s a pretty exciting year for us.

MW: For my last question, I got to ask you something just a little bit whimsical. If you were king of golf for a day, what would you change or what would you add? Would you do anything different, or is it good like it is?

JL: Well… If you could go back in time a little bit, you’d say, look, we learned the game from Scotland, and it would be great if we sorta more emulated the way they play the game. So, what I’m getting at is probably more match play. Let’s not make an eight, a nine, or a ten and try and keep score, and shoot 109, or 99, or even 89, or maybe even 79. We’re not PGA tour players; those are the top half of 1 percent of players. Let’s play more match play, let’s enjoy it more, play alternate formats of golf, alternate shots, scrambles. It would solve the speed of play thing in a heartbeat, match play, because you pick up your balls, you’re out of a hole, and you go to the next tee.

In Scotland, you see them play their four ball matches, and they play in two-and-a-half hours, and if the match ends on the 14th hole, they come in, and they’ve played in two hours. Some days I’m enjoying golf so much I really never want it to end, so I know people are saying “speed of play, speed of play…” and it is true. It’s hard when you get stuck on a busy course, but we’d all play a little faster if we kind of emulated the game in Scotland more and played more match play and were less concerned about score.

It’s easier said than done. I mean, I’m guilty of it too, because what we watch on TV every weekend is stroke play, and we all kind of want to have a number, but when you’re in the pub in Scotland, they don’t come in and say, “What did you shoot?” They say, “Who won the match?” You talk about, oh, we won 4 & 3. So, it’s a whole different mindset. I don’t know that we’ll ever get there, but the closer we can get in the alternate formats, and like I said, getting kids into the game by playing scrambles and being a part of a team, I think we’re heading the right direction, and the PGA of America and the USGA has great leadership right now, so I think they’re simplifying the rules of golf. I think we’re heading in the right direction.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Michael

    Jul 17, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    How about you keep it to golf and take your other issues to Fox or CNN or MSNBC or Brietbart or Infowars?

  2. Tom1

    Jul 16, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    great imterview. This guy is solid, I’m not saying that because he’s my boss. I worked with Mr. Lesnik @ Bandon in the early days and at times it was chaotic but with his over site and direction quest never knew that there was uncertainty because “taking care of our customers is an emergency”

  3. Double Mocha Man

    Jul 15, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    The match play idea in the last section is a good one. Though if I won 4 and 3 I don’t know if I’d want to walk in and skip the last 3 holes.

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Jason Day’s performance coach, Jason Goldsmith, joins the 19th hole

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In this episode of the 19th Hole, Jason Goldsmith of FocusBand talks about how the breakthrough technology has helped PGA Tour stars Jason Day and Justin Rose to major wins. Also, host Michael Williams gives his take on Tiger Woods’ return to golf.

Click here to listen on iTunes!

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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 temp 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 descent 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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