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Is a PGA Golf Management program for you?

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Editor’s note: Henry Stetina is the Program Coordinator for the PGA Golf Management Program at New Mexico State University.

You’re a senior in high school, and if you’re anything like I was, you’re scared, nervous and uncertain of what to do next. Assuming that you love golf, I am going to guess that you’ve probably dreamed of playing golf in college and ultimately playing on the PGA Tour. As good as that sounds, unfortunately for most of us, it is just that: a dream.

I believe in following your dreams, but the chances of actually making the PGA Tour are very slim from a statistical standpoint.

So now what? What are you going to do with your life and/or college education? Well, there is still hope for being around the game that you love, while simultaneously making a comfortable living. Becoming a PGA Golf Professional who manages the operations of a golf facility, coordinates tournaments, merchandises and gives golf lessons is a viable option for anyone with a passion for golf.

The Program

The PGA Golf Management University Program is a 4.5-year program, offering students the opportunity to earn PGA membership while earning a bachelor’s degree in a field relevant to the golf industry. Students complete Levels 1, 2, and 3 of the PGA’s PGM Education, 16 months of internship under direct supervision of a PGA professional, and the PGA’s Playing Ability Test, thus earning membership into the PGA of America upon graduation and eligible employment.

Hebron Seminar

Pictured above: PGA Hall of Fame instructor, Michael Hebron, hosts teaching seminars for PGA Golf Management students.

Not only do students complete the necessary coursework for the PGA, but they also have access to seminars taught by some of the industry’s leading experts in teaching, club repair, rules of golf, club management, and other specialties within the golf industry.

The program provides students with hands-on experience teaching golfers of all levels, through group and private lessons, as well as learning how to fit and repair golf clubs, including re-gripping and re-shafting. Many of the university programs have teaching facilities that are equipped with the industry’s leading launch monitors, video equipment, and motion analysis software, which teaches students how to utilize technology for teaching and club fitting.

While a large part of the curriculum is based on developing golf instructors, students also have the opportunity to better their own games through player development programs taught by expert golf instructors and tournament programs that allow students the opportunity to test their game in competition.

PGAMschool

Winners of the PGM “Ryder Cup” Trophy

The Mentor

One of the most useful resources for the students is the faculty and staff who run the PGA Golf Management Programs. The directors are educated and respected within the golf industry, and their relationships and expertise help turn students into professionals.

[quote_box_center]“The opportunity to help mold these young students into professionals and find out what they want as a career has been gratifying and challenging,” says Pat Gavin, PGA member and Director of the PGA Golf Management Program at New Mexico State University. “Most students come to NMSU knowing they love golf, but my job is to help them decide that they want the golf industry as a career.”[/quote_box_center]

Gavin-with-Students

NMSU PGA Golf Management Program Director, Pat Gavin, playing golf and mentoring his students.

The Student

Soup Kitchen

As an incoming freshman, you can expect to complete the Qualifying Level and begin Level 1 of the PGA’s PGM Education. This includes, but is not limited to: Intro to the PGA Golf Management Program, Constitution of the PGA of America, Rules of Golf, Business Planning, and Customer Relations. At the completion of freshman year, students embark on a three-month internship at a green-grass facility under the supervision of a PGA member.

Note: 99.9 percent of internships are paid internships, and many include free housing. Students are never expected to work without pay.

Gavin Classroom

Above is a typical classroom setting for the PGA Golf Management Program.

Most PGA Golf Management Programs use a schedule where students attend school in the fall and spring, and then begin an internship during the summer.

Many students get the opportunity to teach junior golf clinics as well as group and individual lessons for adults while on internship. Students also get the opportunity to meet leaders in the golf industry and influential people in the business world.

The Alumni

Kelbel Cup 2013

One of the greatest benefits of the PGA Golf Management Programs is its fraternal-like atmosphere, and the networking opportunities that are associated with it. After graduation, many students will pursue a career in the golf industry.

[quote_box_center]“I receive emails on a daily basis regarding job openings, and I immediately forward them to our database of over 700 alumni and 150 current students,” Gavin says. “We pride ourselves on 100 percent job placement on internships as well as permanent positions upon graduation.”[/quote_box_center]

Questions to Ask

Q: What degree will I earn, and does this degree carry any weight outside of golf?

Some universities offer degrees in Business, while others are in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Managment (HRTM), or even in Parks and Recreation.

Let’s say that you complete the PGA Golf Management Program, and five years into your career you realize that the golf industry isn’t for you. At that point, the degree becomes really important. Changing careers and getting a new job may be dependant on the degree that you earned in college. Also, there are some universities that don’t even write “PGA Golf Management” or “golf” anywhere on the diploma. This is to protect the graduates in the event that he/she wishes to make a career change and leave the golf industry.

Q: Can I become a golf professional without entering this program?

Bill Cioffoletti

PGA Master Professional, Bill Cioffoletti, speaks to PGA Golf Management students prior to the 2014 PGA Jones Cup

If PGA membership is what you seek but you don’t like the idea of a 4.5-year university program, there is another option. You could enroll in the PGA apprentice program, go through the same curriculum as the university program and earn PGA membership. This a great option for individuals who already have a college degree. A disadvanage of the aprentice program is that it does not come with the networking opportunities of the PGA Golf Management Program, and it requires going to the PGA Education Center in Florida to attend various seminars.

The Decision

For all you high school students, ask yourself a simple question: “What job will allow me to look forward to going to work every single day?”

If it’s golf, then maybe you should consider a career in the golf industry. It will keep you connected to the game that you love and allow you to share your passion for golf with others.

For more information regarding the PGA Golf Management Program, click here.

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Henry is a PGA member and TPI certified golf instructor. Employed by New Mexico State University, Henry spends the majority of his time teaching the PGA Golf Management curriculum. He specializes in teaching golf instruction and player development. Henry also coaches a handful of amateur, elite junior, and professional golfers. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: June 2014

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Tom Wishon

    May 7, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Anyone seriously considering a career in the golf industry via the PGA has to be VERY careful today to diligently investigate their chances for being able to land a good paying position with good job security and opportunity for advancement. There are so many things going on today in the golf business that all add up to the fact that it has become very difficult to make a good living as a PGA professional.

    The drop in participation in the game means fewer golfers are playing fewer rounds in total and there is nothing on the immediate horizon to indicate this is going to change anytime soon. More courses are closing each year than are opening. More and more course owners are choosing not to hire a PGA professional to run their operation. More and more course owners are also taking more things away from the position of head pro. The days of the pro owning the shop, getting 100% of his lesson money, getting a cut off the cart revenue, etc are dwindling. And at present there are more PGA members than there are positions for the pros at golf facilities.

    No question those who do complete a PGM degree program have a better chance because of the higher level “pedigree” this gives them. But unless you have very good contacts at very successful golf facilities to get your foot in the door, it’s not really the best time for a person to try to jump in new to become a PGA member with a good head professional position.

    Sorry to be Johnny Raincloud on this because there is no question the PGM programs are so good in terms of training people to be the best club professional they can be. It’s just not a great time for goof paying jobs in this field.

  2. Tara

    May 6, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    @mike…
    if you do the research, the % of college graduates employed within 6 months after graduation hovers around 60% and that employment may not necessarily be in their field of study. The rate for graduates of PGA Golf Management programs seeking employment is nearly 100% and their compensation equals if not exceeds the average wage for a graduate just out of college. Nearly all of the management level jobs for golf faciltiies are not going to be found on Google but a PGA Member-only search engine portal.
    In the state of Florida, golf provides $6 billion of direct revenue to the economy, that is 2nd only to Mickey and the amusement arena.
    If you calculate the number of facilities at 15,000 and our membership at 22k, that’s approximately 1.5 PGA pros / facility and many sites employ beyond that number.
    There is no doubt that STEM education is valuable and provides good compensation post grad. However, you should look at the incoming test scores on the math component of standardized tests, it is not promising. Millennials are not necessarily all going to gravitate nor qualify for those types of jobs.
    I suggest you spend a day in the shoes of a PGA professional of a busy daily fee or upscale private club and you will find that we are not lazy by any stretch.

    • mike

      May 6, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Don’t make stuff up for the sake of argument. I don’t consider working at golf shops, golf ranges, etc as jobs that require or necessitate a 4-5 year college degree. 100% employment is a blatant lie. There are 15,000 golf courses but the vast majority are small operations where they need nor can afford a PGA pro on staff. Even if you have low incoming math scores, working hard for a year or two can easily get you into a STEM related field. If STEM is not up your alley then there are plenty of other choices you can make contrary to what many think in the US. Guess what the PGA of America CEO was before??? LAWYER…

  3. Jordan

    May 5, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    As a graduate of Arizona State’s PGM program, I can tell you that there is nothing ‘irresponsible and lazy’ about the program as described above. Earning a bachelor degree while affiliating yourself with the PGA of America is a great accomplishment. Students in this program sacrifice a significant amount of time at their internships while most college students take their summers off. As an employer, why wouldn’t you look to graduates of the PGM to fill managerial positions at some of the top golf facilities? In addition to the connections you make within your PGM program, think about the connections within the membership at the golf clubs you will be employed at, you will be rubbing elbows with some of the most successful business men/women in the world. If you love the game of golf and want to begin a career following your passion for the game, the PGM program is certainly a great option to consider.

    • mike

      May 5, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      Go search on any job site and tell me how many hits you get with keywords golf or pga. If you happen to get a hit, can you tell me the salary range? Spending 4-5 years of your life and $100K – $200k in tuition for a degree that probably won’t get you a job. Even in the remote chance you do get a job, the salary will be so low you will still be paying off that college loan well into your thirties. If you want to rub elbows with successful business men/women, why don’t you just become one yourself…

      • Xander Walsh, PGA

        May 5, 2015 at 8:54 pm

        Don’t need to do a Google search. Salary range starting out if you work year round is in the 22-33K range. Not great, but read on. Ferris State PGM gets plenty of places looking for alumni from the program and that gets posted for our alumni. The PGA has job postings just for people affiliated with the PGA. Neither will be found on this Google you speak of. I spent 4.5 years of my life in school and on internships. Cost was about $70K and I owe about $40K back. I am, however, a Class A PGA member right out of school and going through the PGM programs is the fastest way to obtain PGA membership. I can’t speak for the other schools, but graduating as a Ferris PGM student it’s not a matter of IF you get a job, it’s where.

        • mike

          May 5, 2015 at 9:38 pm

          I never mentioned Google search. PGA job postings can be viewed by anyone who registers on the site and the pickings are slim at best. There’s a place for PGA Professionals in this world but definitely not as a 4 year college degree program. There are about 15,000 golf courses in the us. Do you really think that number can support the number of graduates? Also, how many of those courses are desirable places to work at? There are probably less than a 1000 that are top tier facilities and how many Ferris PGM graduates work at those places? You probably want to add golf ranges and golf stores but I don’t believe you go to a 4 year college to work at those places.

          • Xander Walsh, PGA

            May 6, 2015 at 9:45 am

            There are plenty of jobs in the industry besides golf courses and plenty of good jobs at places that are not top tier courses. If becoming a PGA Professional is what you want to do and you don’t have a college degree, PGM is the best way to go. I do know a pro who did not get a college degree and went through the apprentice program to earn his PGA card. He’s a head pro at a top tier facility, but it took him a long time to get to that point.

  4. Mark Reischer

    May 5, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Glad to see lots of PGA professionals posting and commenting!
    A friend of mine who has been a member for over 20 years made an interesting point about the “other” golf training programs which made sense to me:
    “The PGA of America and PGA Class-A’s should not support or give credit towards those other programs. They aren’t accredited by the PGA and directly compete with jobs that a PGA member could have had. I don’t understand why any Class-A professional would become a teacher at those schools because you are part of an organization and we have to look out for each other. Those programs don’t support the PGA of America, they directly compete against us. Any Head Professional or Class-A in a position of management (or that hires people) should not be hiring anybody who did not come from a PGM school/went through or going through the PGA program.”

    Again, made sense to me. Thoughts?

  5. mike

    May 5, 2015 at 2:55 am

    If you are senior in high school and love golf? It’s not too late so start studying hard in anything related to STEM, then work hard and save your money. As long as you are disciplined, you should be able to start enjoying the fruits of your labor (like playing golf for fun at very nice courses) as early as when you turn 30. Spending (actually wasting) 4 – 5 years in college to become a PGA professional? Not a good idea. Actually, it’s irresponsible and lazy. I know it sounds great that you do “golf” stuff in college but really think about your future. Do you want a job that will get you “at most” about 30k – 50k a year + some free golf? Leaders in golf are exclusively former lawyers. Leaders in the golf industry are mostly businessmen, financiers, entrepreneurs, and engineers.

    • Andy Nelson PGA

      May 5, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Graduating with a Bachelors in Business Administration I do not think for a second that I “wasted my time” as you sincerely quoted in your response. There are actually people in this world that choose to follow their dreams and work hard at it to make a decent living. Plus there are countless PGA Professionals pulling in six figures a year. Also there is no guarantees in the job market these days, and your debate with studying STEM, I have an older sister that studied engineering at Boston University, Purdue, and Notre Dame and she still cannot find employment.
      Please think twice before offending the people that truly embrace and love this game enough to devote the better part of their lives to grow the game.

      • mike

        May 5, 2015 at 8:07 pm

        You have an older sister that went to 3 different colleges? Did she graduate any of them? 90% of those who graduates with an engineering degree get jobs immediately out of school and the rest get a job at a later time. Just go to monster.com and search “PGA” or “GOLF” and take note of how few jobs there are. Now go to monster.com and search “ENGINEERING” or “PROGRAMING” and take note of numerous results you will get. Average starting salary for a junior programmer (with absolutely no experience) is $75K – $90k and the average salary for a senior programmer is about $250k. Another important point is that there are plenty of these jobs available. Compare that to PGM and Business Administration type jobs… First of all, there aren’t many jobs available. Even if there are available jobs, you need experience and/or connections. Six figures? You may know a few that make six figures but that’s not the norm (and you know it!). Guess how much those PGA Pro’s at Dick’s were getting paid before they got laid off?

      • mike

        May 5, 2015 at 8:49 pm

        Your older sister went to 3 different colleges? Did she graduate any of them? 90% of engineering graduates get a job immediately after college and the rest eventually find a job at a later time. You may know of a few PGA Pros that pull in six figures but that’s definitely not the norm (and you know it). Average starting salary for a junior programmer (with absolutely no experience) is $90k. Average salary for a senior programmer is $250k+++. Go to any job site and you will see thousands upon thousands of job openings that are STEM related. Unlike many PGM relate jobs where you need to “know” someone or have some connections, STEM type jobs are purely based on your skills.

      • Andy

        May 6, 2015 at 10:36 pm

        Three different schools, one for her bachelors, the next school masters, finally the third PHD
        Just wanted to clarify.
        I also agree with you that you definitely do not need to attend a PGM school to work in the business, however the road to being able to support yourself in this field can be a lot tougher if you don’t.
        I appreciate your input and I can say that a career in the golf business isn’t for everyone but it can be a real blast for the select few that have the right determination and passion for this great game we all love.

    • Austin

      Feb 23, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      Mike,
      You should actually do some research on the PGM program and what career paths you can have after you graduate. Guess what, they aren’t all career paths to be an assistant pro at a muni or dicks. There is golf club design/repair, merchandising retail, tournament operations, broadcasting, journalism, the list goes on. Just like anything else, hard work and dedication will lead you places. Do you also know how many students are studying to become engineers and programmers right now? probably about a few thousand times more than those studying to become apart of the PGA. If you want a job as a pga teaching pro, thats exactly what you’ll without a worry. If you want to go into the business or journalism side, being a member of the PGA of America adds tons of credibility. Not everyone wants to slave their lives away for 20 years to try and make 250k a year so they can retire at age 50 and THEN start playing golf. A simpler mindset of trying to actually get something out of your career other than a dollar sign is more common than you seem to think

  6. George Jones

    May 1, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    This was a refreshing article. I’ve often overlooked the gentlemen working behind the counters at local pro shops and golf courses on their affiliation to the pga or what they mean when they say staff taylormade player etc. I wouldn’t mind actually reading what that means.

  7. Andy Nelson PGA

    May 1, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Great article! I attended a PGM school, Methodist University, and it was the best 4 years of my life! It was like going to college with 300 golf buddies. The education and connections I got are truly priceless and have set me apart in this great business.

    • Kyle Brannan

      May 1, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      Andy was my suite mate on my first internship in Minnesota!

      • Tom Otto

        May 2, 2015 at 2:05 am

        Hey Kyle! I’m at the PGM Program at coastal carolina and I read that you did your internship in MN! I’m from there and going back this summer to intern at TPC Twin Cities. If you don’t mind me asking, where do you go for your internship in MN?

        • Andy Nelson PGA

          May 2, 2015 at 11:36 am

          We worked at Madden’s Resort in Brainerd Minnesota

          I am originally from Duluth but a Floridian now 🙂

          • Tom Otto

            May 2, 2015 at 10:22 pm

            That’s awesome! I go up there sometimes in the summer. Great set of golf course out there.

      • Andy Nelson PGA

        May 2, 2015 at 9:50 am

        Hey Brother! Hope all is well!

      • Jenny

        May 3, 2015 at 9:18 am

        Hey guys, remember that time you turned me into Swiss cheese?

  8. Brandon

    May 1, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    But does the industry give you enough to succeed? Are there enough good jobs to where you can make a decent living?

    These are the questions I would be interested in learning the answers to

    • Xander Walsh, PGA

      May 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      The industry gives you nothing. You earn it. Yes, you can make a living in the golf industry. It will probably take time and hard work though.

  9. LorenRobertsFan

    May 1, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    *if

  10. LorenRobertsFan

    May 1, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I’m in the program at Mississippi State. I couldn’t recommend it enough of you are interested in being prepared for a career as a PGA Professional. The internships, faculties, and seminars give you everything you need to succeed

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19th Hole

The biggest golf resort you never knew (but should)

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As a Korean-Canadian and an avid golfer for over 35 years, I am fortunate to have played on many beautiful golf courses in the West and the Far East. I still have a boatload of courses like Pebble Beach and St. Andrews on my bucket list, but I came to learn that Asia had plenty of such places to visit as well.

I have recently had the good fortune of playing the iconic Blackstone Golf Club at Mission Hills Resort in China, which is consistently ranked as one of the best courses in Asia. Blackstone is particularly famous for hosting the Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy exhibition ‘The Match at Mission Hills’ in 2013. The event brought international attention to the sprawling luxury resort and boosted the level of interest in the game in the region.

Before delving into my amazing experience at Blackstone Golf Club, here is a little bit of information about the best golf resort you may never heard of.

Tiger and Rory faced off at the very course I was at in 2013. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it by telling you who won.

The Best Golf Resort in The World?

Mission Hills Golf and Resort is located in the southern part of China on Hainan Island, which is about the size of Maine. Often referred to as the Hawaii of China, its tropical location gives the island year-round sunshine with temperatures between 75~90°F in the winter and 60~75°F in the summer. Along with dozens of other notable golf resorts and courses on the Island, the resort is a popular destination for golfers from Asia, Europe, and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Mission Hills first opened its doors in early 2010 with the aim of becoming the best resort in the world. I’m not sure if they achieved their goal, but before you smirk at their ambitiousness, Mission Hills is currently listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s largest golf resort with a total of 10 world-class golf courses. That is an astounding 180 championship-class golf holes in one resort! The courses are designed by the talented Schmidt-Curley Design team who are behind some of the best courses in Asia and around the world.

The Blackstone Golf Club is considered the “crown jewel” course at Mission Hills Resort and gets its name from the plethora of black lava rock that is found all over the course as part of its beautiful charm. But don’t be fooled by its rugged beauty, as the monster-long Blackstone has hosted several World Cup of Golf championships (guess who teamed up for the US to win in 2011?) and the annual World Ladies Championships. It also hosts the annual World Celebrity Pro-Am attended by an amazing A-list of screen stars, pro golfers, and elite athletes from around the world.

So yeah, the course is quite good.

On top of that, the resort holds another world’s best distinction, with a total of 168 different hot springs and pools within the resort. Unfortunately, I was too immersed in playing golf to take advantage of a good hot soak, but it will be on the top of my list to do with my whole family next time.

Now, let’s take a close look at what the Blackstone course was all about, and keep in mind that the course descriptions and opinions are all my own from experience and perspective.

The early morning view outside the hotel room overlooking the course and resort is breathtaking

Greens

The green condition was quite superb, albeit a bit slow from Western standards. According to the caddie, the green speed was measured at about 2.9 meters, which translates to about 9.5 on the stimp meter. A speed of 7 is considered to be slow, and the average PGA Tour event is said to be about 12, so for us average folk the greens were rolling well.

The green size is quite large with nearly 5700 square feet average in size with less-than-subtle undulations and big rolling plateaus. The pins were placed slightly towards the front left of the green this day, and the approach shots were challenging for us amateurs to stuff close. The ball rolled straight and true to where it was aimed, and I only had myself to blame for missed short putts.

I don’t know if its an Asian thing, but we seem to have many courses with big greens and sometimes ridiculously big undulations and plateaus on them. We even have bunkers in the middle of the green, sometimes!

Fairways

Unlike many of the Korean courses I’m used to, the fairways are lush and readily yielded nice dollar-sized divots from well-struck iron shots into the greens. The course itself is huge and it was reflected in the long wide fairways stretching from tee to green.

Most of the fairways seemed to be free of readily noticeable trouble areas, meaning that what you see was what you got. However, upon close inspection, there were many subtle undulations which caused the stance to be slightly uneven at address. It wasn’t like St. Andrews level of fairway undulations, but it was there.

Also, the big prominent fairways bunkers often came into play and caused me to consciously aim away from them, which left longer approach shots into the green. We were somehow feeling confident this day and were playing from the blue tees. And for a guy who averages 240-yard drives on my best days, those small detours inevitably added 1-2 clubs more to the next shot.

Fairways were rolling nicely but were still a bit damp due to the sporadic short rain bursts.

Most fairways were quite wide, though it didn’t keep our balls from escaping into the jungle.

Rough

Truth to tell, the rough wasn’t all that intimidating, as it was only modestly long, and the wide fairways pushed the rough back considerably. As it wasn’t tournament season and the course was set up to mostly cater to vacationers, it made sense not to make the rough too punishing.

Beyond the rough was mostly deep jungle-like vegetation, which made it next to impossible to hit the ball out of, let alone find it in the first place.  Thanks to our amateur ball-striking abilities, however, we easily overpowered the hapless wide fairways to appease the jungle gods with our many golf balls.

The rough is almost non-existent from tee to green, except for a little bit around the bunkers and extreme sides of the fairways. The course is very long, so I guess they want golfers to relax and not get high blood pressure?

Fairway and 1st-cut rough

Bunkers

Blackstone had no shortage of fairway and greenside bunkers to daunt the average golfer. The many fairway bunkers were often quite large, and despite the mostly wide fairways, some were placed just at the right (?) places to catch drives that strayed left or right off the tee. Standing on the tees, the presence of so many bunkers was aesthetically pleasing yet intimidating at the same time.

The bunkers were meticulously raked and pristine, with the sand looking visually heavy but being very soft. Maintaining the bunkers to this level of readiness cannot be easy, as there are 10 courses at this resort! Even if there were just two bunkers per hole, that’s still 360 sand traps to rake and prep each day! Add to this the fairways and greens, not to mention the decorative foliage, the level of course maintenance at this level is quite mind-boggling.

I also don’t recall seeing any flat bunkers, as most seemed to have a healthy amount of incline at the front to make it harder to move the ball forward a long way. The greenside bunkers were also deeper and usually presented an upslope lie, and the shots had to have some climb to escape from them. If you have trouble hitting the ball straight, be sure to sharpen your bunker play when you visit Blackstone.

With the frightening number of bunkers at Blackstone, I only managed to get into two of them. I even managed to get up and down on one of them.

Bunkers and blackstones aplenty.

Despite being only the second time in a bunker, this one on the 18th cost me a devastating double bogey.

Tee To Green

Blackstone’s monstrous 7808 yards should satisfy most golfers’ urge to go all out on their shots. From the blues, it was still a challenging 6722 yards, and I don’t mind saying it felt longer than that all day.

Most of the pins can be seen from the tee box, and despite some slightly rolling fairways, Blackstone is a mostly-level parkland course without any significant drop or rise in elevation. Sprawling over a huge area of land, the holes do not double back in parallel but stretch forward through dense foliage, making for a scenic ride in the golf cart. One thing I also appreciated was the leisurely pace of play. The group ahead and behind were not visible for nearly the entire round, despite our less-than-quick pace of play.

From tee to green in its entirety, the course was in amazing shape and condition. The unexpected tropical golf experience was nothing short of amazing, and if I had to make a comparison to some of the other memorable tracks I’ve visited, the Hoakalei Country Club and Turtle Bay Resort (Palmer design) in Hawaii come to mind, along with Korea’s own Haesley Nine Bridge Club, which consistently ranks as one of the best courses in Asia.

The pictures below don’t do justice to the course, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea.

The sky was particularly blue and the course beautiful; so much so that my foursome didn’t seem to mind carding doubles and triples over and over again. What a joy.

For us short-hitters, we had to aim for the middle of the many bunkers and hope for the best.

If I had a dollar for every time one of us wished we owned a penthouse in one of the many condos dotting the resort…

Many holes are carved right through a lush jungle with a huge modern condo looming in the background.

Cluster bunkers are to be avoided at all costs.

The view from the 1st hole tee at Blackstone.

Looking like a pro in front of the picture board at the 18th tee… then promptly topping a drive 100 yards out. At least I looked good on camera.

Caddies & Carts

Unlike most courses in the West, golf clubs in Asia require each golfer to play with a mandatory caddie and golf cart. Also, if you each decide to have an additional caddie to help hold the umbrella, it can make for a sizeable group of 12 (greens keepers would be tossing in their beds in the west)! So how do the caddies move if you’re driving a power cart, you ask? They simply hop onboard the back of the buggy.

On this day, we ‘only’ had four caddies to attend our play, and they were fantastic. Despite my initial concerns, the language barrier was not an issue as they were conversant in all the needed terminology in English and Korean. This was a pleasant surprise, as I was able to ask more about the course to help my play, and there was always Google Translate.

The caddie fee was 500 yuan each, which is about $70 US. They were highly professional and quick on their feet, and I could tell that the resort had gone to good lengths in training the caddies (said to be 2000 in number!) to make the golfing experience enjoyable for their international guests.

Each foursome of caddies had a ‘master caddie’ that led the other three and acted to translate longer dialogues as needed. They had a good knowledge of the course and general breaks on greens. But don’t expect them to be like the actual caddies like for the pros. They are mostly for offering simple advice on reading greens, cleaning and handing over your clubs, and helping you to find your balls.

Not gonna lie… having a personal caddie wait on your every shot was nerve-wracking at first.

Resort & Facilities

Mission Hills Haikou has a 500-room hotel with several fine-dining restaurants and high-end boutiques within the main wing and the adjoining annex. They also have a shopping mall within the hotel featuring global brands like Taylormade, Adidas, and Skechers, along with a slew of high-end golf brands to luxury watches and whiskies.

The view from my room on the 9th floor was something to write home about, along with the impeccable services. Truth to tell, I had previously heard several horror stories of less-than-friendly services which led me to refrain from visiting China prior. That must’ve been a different country, as Mission Hills pulled out all the stops to impress and awe its visitors, and it certainly worked on me. We were treated like kings on and off the course, and the hotel personnel was on hand to assist us everywhere we went.

The entire resort complex was like a huge labyrinth of spas, pools, shops, and golf courses. They nearly had everything, including an incredible hotel buffet and several ethnic cuisines, a nightclub and karaoke, and an entire museum-like wing dedicated to the many celebrities and pro golfers that have played here. I could have stayed for hours simply looking at their vast collection of golf memorabilia. My golf buddy called it a golf heaven on earth, and I couldn’t agree more.

Again, the pics won’t be able to fully capture the experience, but they’ll give you an idea of the enormous size and quality of the place.

Spic and span to receive guests after a long hiatus during COVID-19, I bet.

I stayed in a nice-sized suite on the 9th floor with a good view overlooking the resort and course.

The tub is actually quite big and probably could fit three of me in it comfy.

The hotel service had complimentary ramen and beers, along with the local fruit.

Early morning view out the window showed the course shrouded in ground fog.

I wasn’t planning to do any swimming when I initially packed for the trip. Next time.

The pool behind the main hotel had sandy beaches!

A huge maze of trails and covered walkways branching off to a vast number of pools, hot springs, and saunas.

The morning buffet was one of the best I had in a while, with a full line up of both Asian and Western foods.

A sign at the entrance of the buffet showed the daily condition of the 10 golf courses.

Hotel Shops & Amenities

The shops inside the lobby were all high-end as well as ones I didn’t think to expect like the NBA-themed shop, Hennessy whiskey and Tabasco hot sauce shops!

Then there were dozens more shops in a whole other building next to the hotel, lined with the palm prints of celebrities and stars. The sheer size and scale of Mission Hills was outrageous.

Trip Overview

Hainan is a tropical Island in the South China Sea and can get quite hot and humid during the summer monsoon season. By plane, it took 4.5 hours from Korea to Hainan.

Interestingly, Hainan Island is designated as a tourist zone by the Chinese government and does not require a visa prior to arrival. It is issued when you arrive at the airport and go through customs.

During the end of 2023 when the trip took place, COVID-19 restrictions were largely over and there were the simplest of checks (1-2 minutes) using a machine to detect any virus before entering and exiting the airport.

The resort itself was only about a 15-minute bus ride from the airport. For those who travel often to Asia, they’ll know that courses and resorts can be up to two hours from the airport.

A brief warm-up on the range and armed with complimentary golf balls, we were off to the first tee.

True to its name, the course had stone walls and fences made from the igneous black lava rock.

Except for the absence of the sound of waves, the ambiance reminded me of courses in Hawaii.

Loved the open skies and the awesome panoramic views!

Be sure to pack some strong sunscreen and sports drinks or salt candy. The tropical climate can get quite hot and humid at midday.

Blackstone plays to par 73 and 6722 yards from the blue. I was happy with the score especially when the caddies told me it was the best they’ve seen in a while, LOL!!!

It looked like they were planning to build even more courses and condos. These folks sure like to think big.

Wall-to-wall memorabilia on display from past majors, champions, and legends of the game. So this is where all those signed Masters flags were!

The three-day stay went by all too fast… (T^T)

As part of the package, we were also shown to the largest duty-free shop in Asia. These guys have a thing for being the biggest, grandest, and most opulent; and it was awesome.

It seemed as if every brand of luxury was represented here, and it would’ve taken hours to see it all. If your partner is into this kind of stuff, leave them at home in case they get in the way of your golf.

A final meal at a popular restaurant before heading to the airport. Can you guess the menu? Yup, Chinese, but like nothing you see in the West. It was all delicious to boot.

Met a new friend while waiting for the limousine bus to take us the rest of the way. Even these guys were BIG.

After a rather simple and quick immigration and boarding process, we were safely on our way home to Korea. I have to give credit to the authorities for making the immigration/airport customs process simple and quick. Sometimes everything can be great, only to be ruined by a last-minute glitch or hold-up at the airport, and there were none.

A short nap and back in Seoul. I can’t wait to go back again soon with the whole family to jump in the hot springs. Now if I can only find a way to go visit Pebble Beach and St. Andrews similarly, I’m set. Wish me luck.

 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: 2024 WM Phoenix Open First Round Leader picks

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The Waste Management Phoenix Open begins on Thursday in what is sure to be one of the most exciting events of the year. The PGA Tour is back to playing one course per event, which I find to be much more conducive to first round leader betting.

In the past five editions of the tournament, there have been nine first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the nine, five have come from the morning wave, and four have come from the afternoon wave. It appears there is no real advantage to either starting time historically but that can always be influenced by weather.

As of Tuesday, the wind looks as if it may be a factor during round one. The early starters should see winds 8 MPH with gusts up to 18 MPH. The afternoon starters will have the slightly more difficult draw. Winds will be around 16 MPH with gusts up to 22 MPH. For this reason, I’d slightly favor AM starters but wouldn’t rule out the PM wave completely.

Waste Management Phoenix Open First-Round-Leader Selections

Keith Mitchell +9000 (Bet365)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:22 p.m. Local Time

TPC Scottsdale is the type of course where Keith Mitchell’s skill set could propel him up the leaderboard. He will be able to let it fly off the tee and is always capable of getting a hot putter. Mitchell has had some success in the event, finishing 10th in 2022 while shooting four rounds in the 60’s. He also finished 16th in 2020.

K.H. Lee +10000 (FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:55 p.m. Local Time

K.H. Lee famously has played great golf at TPC courses, and TPC Scottsdale is no different. The South Korean came agonizingly close to victory at the event back in 2021, finishing one shot behind Brooks Koepka.

Lee missed the cut at The Farmers but had back-to-back top-30 finishes in his previous two starts at some easier courses in Waialae CC and PGA West. K.H. shot three rounds of 66 at the course when he contended so he’s no stranger to a low round at TPC Scottsdale.

Sam Ryder +12500 (Bet365)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:00 p.m. Local Time

Sam Ryder has been a boom-or-bust player, which is exactly what we’re looking for in a first-round leader bet. The 34-year-old recently had a hot stretch with the irons and is always a go-low candidate on easier courses.

Last year, Ryder finished 20th at the event, and he finished 23rd in 2022, but had a 2nd round 64, which would likely be good enough for FRL if he were able to repeat.

Victor Perez +15000 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 9:10 a.m. Local Time

Victor Perez hasn’t played much in 2024, so this is more of a gut play than anything else. He missed the cut in his only start at the Farmers Insurance Open but was able to still gain strokes with his irons despite the disappointing finish.

Perez was playing great in the fall and finished 8th at the DPWT Championship. A week on the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines should have been enough to get his feet wet and feel comfortable this week in Phoenix on a course where his strong iron play could help him shoot a low round.

Adrien Dumont De Chessart+20000 (Bet365)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:50 p.m. Local Time

This is yet another gut play with Dumont De Chessart. The 23-year-old from Belgium has enormous upside and one of the more talented young players in the world but has struggled to start his PGA Tour career.

De Chessart opened his Farmers Insurance Open with a first-round 68, which was a solid score on a tough track. The laid-back atmosphere of TPC Scottsdale and the scoreable layout could be enough for the rookie to find the form that made him a threat to win multiple Korn Ferry Tour events at the end of last season.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 WM Phoenix Open betting preview: Star names to shine in the desert

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After a windy week at Pebble Beach, golf fans will be treated to an outstanding field at one of the best tournaments for viewing of the season. The raucous crowd at the famous 16th hole followed by a memorable finishing stretch of holes has turned into a Super Bowl Sunday staple leading up to the big game.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is no longer a “signature event”, as it was last year, but it has still attracted a very solid group of players. The field will feature plenty of stars including Matt Fitzpatrick, Rickie Fowler, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Jordan Spieth, Cameron Young, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Sahith Theegala and Adam Scott. 

TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 that measures 7,261 yards and features Bermudagrass greens (although they are much more of a blend rather than pure Bermudagrass).

Past Winners at the Waste Management Phoenix Open

  • 2023: Scottie Scheffler (-19)
  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler (-22)
  • 2021: Brooks Koepka (-19)
  • 2020: Webb Simpson (-17)
  • 2019: Rickie Fowler (-17)
  • 2018: Gary Woodland (-18)
  • 2017: Hideki Matsuyama (-17)
  • 2016: Hideki Matsuyama (-14)
  • 2015: Brooks Koepka (-15)

Let’s take a look at several metrics for TPC Scottsdale to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds:

Going forward, I’ll be using the brand-new Bet The Number data engine to develop my custom model. All statistics listed come directly from the PGA Tour. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATT for $5 off the Monthly and $50 off the Annual Subscription. 

Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will once again be very important this week.

Last year, Scottie Scheffler gained 9.1 strokes on approach on his way to victory. In 2021, Brooks Koepka was second in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, trailing only Jordan Spieth, who finished fourth. In 2020, Webb Simpson ranked first in the field in the category en route to a playoff victory over Tony Finau.

The greens are relatively flat, and pins should be accessible.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in Past 24 Rounds (per round):

  1. Xander Schauffele (+1.1)
  2. Mark Hubbard (+.91)
  3. Taylor Montgomery (+.90)
  4. Scottie Scheffler (+.89)
  5. Beau Hossler (+.86)

SG: Off the Tee

TPC Scottsdale is not an overly long golf course. Distance off the tee is not absolutely essential, but it is a definite asset. A good combination of distance and accuracy should be the recipe this week, with distance still being a bit more important.

SG: OTT in Past 24 Rounds (per round):

  1. Kevin Yu (+1.0)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+.95) 
  3. Keith Mitchell (+.91)
  4. Byeong Hun An (+.86)
  5. Jhonnatan Vegas (+.81)

Strokes Gained: Putting

Greens tend to get really firm and fast in the Arizona desert. Statistically, players will have to putt well to contend. 

Strokes Gained: Putting in last 24 rounds:

  1. Min Woo Lee (+1.3)
  2. Sam Ryder (+1.3)
  3. Chad Ramey (+1.2)
  4. Taylor Montgomery (+1.1)
  5. Matt Kuchar (+1.0)

Greens in Regulation Percentage

Statistics from previous years at TPC Scottsdale say Greens in Regulation: Gained at the course is much more indicative of the winner at this tournament than TOUR average.

With many bunkers and firm dry areas around the greens, missing the putting surface can be consequential.

Total Greens in Regulation Gained: Gained in Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+82.8%) 
  2. Andrew Putnam (+82.6%) 
  3. Corey Conners (+80.7%)
  4. Lucas Glover (+80.3%)
  5. Erik Van Rooyen (+80.2%)

Bogey Avoidance

With the winner in the high teens under par on average, making a lot of bogeys will make it incredibly difficult to contend. 

Bogey Avoidance: Past 24 Rounds

  1. Ryan Moore (+7.1)
  2. Andrew Putnam (+7.9)
  3. Scottie Scheffler (+8.3)
  4. Alex Noren (+8.3)
  5. Viktor Hovland (+8.4)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (28%), SG: OTT (25%), SG: Putting (17%), GIR %(18%) and Bogey Avoidance (12%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+550)
  2. Xander Schauffele (+1100)
  3. Corey Conners (+7000)
  4. Sam Ryder (+18000)
  5. Adam Svensson (+13000)
  6. Erik Van Rooyen (+11000)
  7. Viktor Hovland (+1100)
  8. Chesson Hadley (+10000)
  9. Taylor Montgomery (+8000)
  10. Max Homa (+1600)

2024 Waste Management Phoenix Open Picks

Justin Thomas +1400 (DraftKings)

Justin Thomas has been on fire to kick off his 2024 season. He finished 3rd at the American Express and put another great week together at Pebble Beach, finishing in a tie for 6th. Now he will be heading to a course that he absolutely loves in search of his first victory since the 2022 PGA Championship.

Thomas has played some great golf at TPC Scottsdale. He finished 4th at the course last year and 8th in 2022, gaining 7.1 strokes on approach, which was second in the field behind only Bubba Watson. Additionally, Thomas has third place finishes in both 2019 and 2020 as well as a 13th place finish in 2021.  

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is an event I’ve always thought Justin Thomas was destined to win. As we’ve seen at both the Ryder Cup and the President’s Cup, “JT” is a player who thrives off of energy from the crowd, and he’ll certainly get his fair share of that this week in Scottsdale.

Jordan Spieth +2200 (DraftKings)

Spieth hit the ball pretty well at Pebble Beach but just couldn’t get many putts to fall. The former Masters champion has played well at TPC Scottsdale throughout his career, and this should be another event where he has a chance to contend, especially with the field a bit weaker this week.

Last year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Spieth finished in 6th place and gained 11.5 strokes from tee to green including an incredible 8.4 of those strokes on approach, which was second only to the winner Scottie Scheffler. He also has past finishes of 4th in 2021 and 9th in 2017.

Spieth has had a strong start to his season, finishing 3rd at The Sentry prior to a mediocre week at Pebble Beach. Spieth in contention would be a great scene on Super Bowl Sunday.

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