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Zac Blair announces plans for The Buck Club

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If you follow nearly anyone in the golfing community on social media, you have probably at least heard of The Buck Club. For those not in the know, The Buck Club represents PGA Tour player Zac Blair’s mission to craft what he sees as the gold standard for what a golf course should be. He unveiled his plan over the weekend during a kickoff event called “The Ringer” at Sweetens Cove Golf Course in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

Blair has identified and is in the process of securing a 347-acre site in Morgan, Utah, (about an hour north of Salt Lake City) for the course. He has also selected King Collins Golf (crafters of the aforementioned Sweetens Cove) to co-design the golf course with him and oversee its construction. The team of Blair and King Collins Golf have recently completed a design layout that adds up to a 7,400-yard par 71 from the championship tees. In the words of Blair and Collins

“The architecture will be rooted in the fundamental lessons of The Old Course at St Andrews and the great courses of the classic era of architecture in the United States. Strategic decision making, variety, alternate playing routes, and a bold, quirky flair will be the hallmarks of the playing experience. The legacy of Zac’s favorite course, National Golf Links of America, the brainchild of C.B. MacDonald, weighs heavily on the concept of The Buck Club. Using the teachings of history’s greatest architects and C.B. MacDonald as inspiration, every hole at The Buck Club will provoke thought and force players to make decisions on each shot. Alternate routes of attack will be available for golfers of all skill levels, thereby providing ‘pleasurable excitement’ and ‘the greatest pleasure to the greatest number’ in the words of Alister Mackenzie.”

Preliminary Scorecard for The Buck Club

Apart from the golf itself, the club’s atmosphere is equally important to Blair and Collins. The intent is to provide a laid back vibe with an emphasis on camaraderie among people who share a love of the game and the shared experiences it provides. To encourage that, the course will include features such as one complex that encompasses the 18th green, practice green, and first tee as well as multiple bonus holes (Numbers 6.5, 9B, 18B, and 19 are included in the current routing).

Routing of The Buck Club by Zac Blair and King Collins Golf

If the experience at The Buck Club is anything like what transpired at The Ringer, golf enthusiasts should be in for a real treat. Some highlights include a 50-man free-for-all down the first fairway during the three-man derby, multiple alternate holes such as No. 4 tee to No. 6 green and No. 8 tee to No. 9 green, and a stripe show of a closest to the pin challenge. 100 percent of the attendees were encouraging to each other and engaged in every nuance of the experience. It was a refreshing change from the innocuous rounds of golf found at many courses across America today.

Artist’s rendition of the 8th hole named “Mega Redan.” Credit: Josh Bills (@jrbgolfs on Instagram)

The timeline for The Buck Club’s completion depends heavily on securing funding for the project, but it’s conceivable they could start moving dirt in 2019 if the fundraising process continues gaining momentum.

Stay in the know as the process unfolds by following The Buck Club on Twitter and Instagram.

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Peter Schmitt is an avid golfer trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. He believes that first and foremost, golf should be an enjoyable experience. Always. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. "What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive." -Arnold Palmer

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. John Krug

    Oct 28, 2018 at 12:21 am

    How long is the golf season in Utah?

    • kevin

      Nov 2, 2018 at 11:19 am

      you can play year round in parts of UT. do you even know where utah is on a map? its south of canada, which has some fantastic courses.

  2. Johnny Penso

    Oct 27, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Can you say 7 hour rounds of golf? ???? ???? ???? ????

  3. George

    Oct 27, 2018 at 2:15 am

    I’m tired of private courses being built. If you really want to make a spectacular golf course it can only be good if it is open to the public. Golf in Scotland is way better than the US because of this. You can play anywhere

  4. Chris Epson

    Oct 26, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    Zac is from Utah, and we are fortunate to have so many city and county owned courses, kept in terrific shape, and affordable at $50 (with a cart) or less. 9 hole rounds are not just allowed, but encouraged. We have some fun part 3 courses, as well as a few high end country clubs in Salt Lake and Park City. Point is…Zac gets it. His family has been involved in public golf there for many years, so I give him the benefit of the doubt in this venture. And Morgan, Utah in a beautiful venue. Don’t tell anyone, but affordable great quality golf is Utah’s best kept secret

  5. Zebediah (OG of the OT)

    Oct 26, 2018 at 10:56 am

    It’s never getting built. Zac has been busy designing swag and doesn’t have land or money, and is clueless on the development process.

    Nice guy with some interesting (but hardly novel) points of view, but he isn’t putting in the hard yards.

    • JR

      Oct 26, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      What is the point of being so negative here? Why even comment?

      • Jamie

        Oct 26, 2018 at 1:45 pm

        So brutal honesty is outlawed now, Snowflake?

      • Zebediah (OG of the OT)

        Oct 26, 2018 at 2:06 pm

        Only positivity allowed?

        So you don’t dispute what I wrote, you just don’t like it?

        Zachary was on twitter yesterday asking for someone to help him navigate land development in Utah. He doesn’t have the land. He doesn’t have the cash. He sells hats and tees, and he expects to break ground in May?

        Why should I be positive that this will happen?

        • JasonHolmes

          Oct 26, 2018 at 11:31 pm

          Well if people keep buying $25 bags of TBC tees – he’ll have the money raised in no time.

    • Blake

      Oct 26, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      “Zac has been busy designing swag and doesn’t have land or money”

      He sold the swag to get the money and the land. But your wrong bc apparently he has the land now.

      • Zebediah (OG of the OT)

        Oct 26, 2018 at 5:50 pm

        “He is in the process of securing the land” – translation, he doesn’t own the land and hasn’t “secured” it, which is something less than owning it.

        You think he soft enough hats and belts to by the land? His GoFundMe was seeking $5,000,000.00. He “secured” $155.00. I’m guessing he didn’t make up the shortfall at the Ringer. He is approaching this project like a teenager. “Check out my dope pop up store” followed by “anyone know anyone who has developed land in Utah”.

        Explain to me how you know he has the land when this article explicitly states he doesn’t.

        I hope he pulls it off, but he has done absolutely nothing to make me think he will.

  6. Peter Schmitt

    Oct 26, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Lots of people commenting on price, membership structure, etc. Folks, all I know to say there is that nobody knows yet. It’s not that it’s a closely guarded secret. No one knows. As such, I’m going to resist diving into circular discussions over hypotheticals because it’s not going to help any of us. Hope that’s received in the spirit it’s intended.

    • JasonHolmes

      Oct 26, 2018 at 11:34 pm

      As a business owner, what you are describing actually frustrates me more than anything. He seems to just be sort of winging it. Make some cool hats and hole layout maps first – figure out the business part later. How did he not start with a solid business plan and then approach investors with a copy of that plan in his hand? Instead he’s doing what you are describing – he’s winging it.

  7. scott

    Oct 26, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Never heard of this until now. I love the architecture styles discussed. However, if this is going to be a private course, the success or failure will never truly be known until it goes out of business. What I get from reading this article is that if this is a private course 1) Zak clearly doesn’t get it and 2) without a ton of funding, the course won’t resemble the current layout.

  8. SV

    Oct 26, 2018 at 9:17 am

    I agree it will probably be a high-end, private club with limited access. What I would like to know is why in an article like this it is always the the longest tees yardages that are shown? Why not show what normal people will play, even if they will have no chance to actually do it? Your answer Mr. Schmitt?

    • Peter Schmitt

      Oct 26, 2018 at 9:39 am

      Let’s not forget that Zac is almost doing this backwards from the standard convention. There’s a lot of details that just plain aren’t sorted out yet. All of that will come in time but you have to start somewhere. How often does the general public get to watch a project unfold like this? Let’s all enjoy the ride.

      • JasonHolmes

        Oct 26, 2018 at 9:55 am

        “How often does the general public get to watch a project unfold like this? Let’s all enjoy the ride.”

        Is the general public really going to care if it turns out they are watching a PGA Tour pro build a high end private hangout for him and his crew? I doubt it. All the talk and press he’s getting about how “different” this project is going to be – thats all going to fall completely flat if it turns out this is just another high dollar private joint none of us will ever get a chance to play. Golf has enough of those kind of places already.

  9. CrashTestDummy

    Oct 25, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    It looks like a great design and concept. Hopefully, it makes money and is successful, but it is at a time where many golf courses are closing which makes any new golf course risky.

  10. Caroline

    Oct 25, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Such a great article about something 90% of golfers in California know nothing about…all we have is public courses closing all the time because water is to expensive and courses cannot not make a nickle…so sell the land and build warehouses for Amazon and others or like by me build more houses…..cost 30 million or more to build a public course, cost 3 or 4 million to buy one that will make nothing after paying for maintenance..let course run down force city to allow zoning change and close course build houses….same thing is happening in Las Vegas they close a course let the area turn to weeds, home owners that bought near a golf course fight to keep land a golf course but end up giving in to owners of land to build rather then look out over the desert weed patch…

    • Jeannie Bragg

      Oct 25, 2018 at 6:46 pm

      Trust me the same thing happens in the Grand Strand area of SC

    • Peter Schmitt

      Oct 26, 2018 at 9:13 am

      Fair comment and I think I would address it and CrashTestDummy’s above you by saying that a big reason a lot of courses are struggling is that, in my humble opinion, they’re all really kind of the same. Throwing together another rubber stamped golf course design and dressing it up with pretty water features is what gets you another course that struggles. They all just kind of taste like chicken after a while.

      Sweetens Cove is the antithesis of that and I would imagine The Buck Club will be something like SC on steroids. I have pretty high hopes personally. Admittedly, it may or may not be for everybody (it’s not even built yet so who knows), but I would imagine those looking to go deeper down the golf rabbit hole will be head over heels…

  11. T. Harris

    Oct 25, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    So glad to see King Collins on this project. Rob Collins is an incredibly inspired and talented designer…the final result will no doubt be spectacular!

  12. JasonHolmes

    Oct 25, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    ZB still wont answer the question as to whether or not the public will even be allowed to play at his course. Is he raising money on the backs of people buying $100 shirts – all so he can build some exclusive hideaway?

    Or is this going to be a course people can actually play?

    Because it seems disingenuous as hell if he’s going to keep pumping out hats and shirts to his followers on Twitter – only to turn around and make a completely private club.

    Any time anyone asks him, he says something like he’s trying to “figure it out”. What does that even mean? If he can’t even answer that simple question, to me that says it all. Why cant someone in the press actually push him on this? Otherwise you are doing exactly what he wants – providing more free marketing.

    • Doug

      Oct 25, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      On a recent podcast he said there would be rate levels for local, national, and international memberships. He also thought that it would be pretty open for guests to get to with a member with the thought that people will like it so much they might just become a member.

      Typically national memberships are much more affordable than local clubs because they know you can’t use them much. But then you have to pay for travel.

      I, and I suspect you, would much prefer a mixed option that would include a higher priced daily rate – eg Bandon Dunes – but how many people would buy even a “cheap” national membership at $3k if you could play 18 for $275?

      • Rick

        Oct 26, 2018 at 12:56 am

        Nice, very sad there are plenty of high level courses for people that can pay $275 or more…as golf is becoming more and more a game of kings (rich) as they want it to be. What is sad is there are so few courses under $40 dollars that the average Joe and jill can play..Biggest joke in the Country is the First Tee…thousands of kids learning to play with free clubs, range balls and even rounds of golf…then they turn 16-18 and are ask to pay a $40 green fee or $10 for a bucket of range balls and 99.9% of them are through with golf….

        • Peter Schmitt

          Oct 26, 2018 at 10:48 am

          I agree good golf that’s affordable is hard to find, but I will submit that there are options if you’re willing to look hard enough and have an open mind in the process. There’s a Pete Dye muni here in KY that costs me $12 to walk 18 on the weekends as a veteran. Sweetens Cove has an all day walking rate on the weekend for $60 to play as much golf as you can stomach in one day. I’m not saying TBC will be in that ballpark (or that it won’t for that matter). Just that good, affordable golf isn’t dead yet…though I’ll admit it isn’t going to be served up on a silver platter.

    • Peter Schmitt

      Oct 26, 2018 at 9:35 am

      I think the reason he hasn’t explicitly stated a response to that is because he honestly hasn’t decided yet. Simple as that. Could go in a bunch of different directions and last I heard he was still batting ideas back and forth. FWIW, I trust him. We don’t go way back or anything. I just met him last weekend and have talked to him for probably less than an hour total, but I came away thinking (1) he “gets it” and (2) I genuinely think this could be special. YMMV of course. Just one man’s opinion…

    • Blake

      Oct 26, 2018 at 5:15 pm

      He literally said there would be a way for the public to play this

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The future’s restoration: Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh

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The Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh is known for its Seth Raynor golf course. With Raynor’s guiding hand, the layout crafted onto this meadow in the eponymous section of the Burgh stands unique among the region’s golf courses. While nearby Oakmont can lay claim to being the only Henry Fownes golf course design, Fox Chapel can stake its own claim as Raynor’s best. That is heady company, given the likes of Camargo in Cincinnati, Blue Mound in Wisconsin, and Fishers Island in the waters between New York and Connecticut.

Over the course of the year 2020, Tom Marzolf of Fazio Design lived and worked these fairways, helping course superintendent Jason Hurwitz and a build team rediscover and recreate what Raynor laid down. By rediscover, the assemblage confirmed original putting surface sizes, fairway corridors, and bunker placements. Some of the latter had been lost, and many of the former had shrunk just a bit. By recreate, the bevy dreamed how Raynor and Banks would have placed bunkers and tees in an era of increased technological influence. What they turned out to the membership in the spring of 2021, was a restored and renewed Fox Chapel, one that brags of Raynor’s brilliance and sets the stage for the next 50 years.

Seth Raynor built the course in the early 1920s. Unlike other courses, we had evidence of what it looked like immediately after it was built, including great photos from 1925 when it opened, as well as aerial photos from the ‘30s and more. We could see changes that happened over time.

“[A.W.] Tillinghast was on property in the ‘30s, as part of the work he did for the PGA of America during The Depression, and evidently there was an attempt to remove some of Raynor’s design. You can see in aerials taken in 1938 Raynor features being eliminated and “Winged Foot-type” fingers going into Raynor’s hard-edged bunkers. Other geometric forms were rounded out, even mowing lines changed. For example, on the par-4, dogleg-right 13th hole, Tilly sharpened the dogleg and moved the green to the right, eliminating a classic Raynor double-plateau surface. The 16th hole was a “Bottle”; then the Bottle design was gone and Winged Foot-type bunkers were added.”

“Were some of the bolder features too hard to play? We don’t know, but we felt our job was to make members aware of the changes.” – Tom Marzolf, Fazio Design

Seth Raynor was the right-hand man of Charles Blair Macdonald, the blustery father of American golf. Raynor was contracted to build a nine-hole course at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, and it was there that he met one of the school’s employees, Charles Banks. Banks had served as both English instructor and development officer at the prep school and became enthralled with Raynor’s approach to design. After the school’s course opened in 1924, Banks abandoned his career at Hotchkiss and joined forces with Raynor. Banks would earn the nickname “Steam Shovel,” for purportedly losing a steam shovel in a bog at the Whippoorwill course in New York. When Raynor passed in 1926, two years after their meeting, Banks finished a number of Raynor’s courses.

For those not in the know, Macdonald and Raynor were purveyors of the “template” school of golf course architecture. During travels to Scotland and England, Macdonald had identified holes that he considered to be the finest examples of strategic golf course architecture. They bore names like Redan, Road, Biarritz, Punch Bowl, Hog’s Back, Eden, Maiden, and others. Many of these holes are found, in one form or fashion, at Fox Chapel. In fact, it is something of a scavenger hunt among template fans to determine which course or club has the finest, the most unique, the most authentic mimeo of the original. Macdonald’s magnum opus, the National Golf Links of America, sits in the Hamptons of Long Island, and is a treasure trove of templates.

In addition to the aforementioned, it should be noted that Raynor was a civil engineer, a man remarkably inclined toward geometry. As Mr. Marzolf notes, the following is a fine assessment of what the restoration committee set out to achieve

“Geometry, bisecting lines of play, straight mowing lines, bands of the fairway that go right up to a geometrically shaped bunker and then turn. The use of template holes, like his mentor C.B. Macdonald, repeating the size of bunkers. We’re trying to make this the strictest adhering to Raynor principles possible. It is not an interpretation, it’s truly putting Raynor back on the ground.”

Over the intervening decades, the Fox Chapel Club hosted a number of elite events but fell a bit of a victim to the architectural flavors of the different times. Trees grew up and green surfaces shrunk. Deep rough became a method of protecting par, rather than the firm and fast conditions championed by Raynor and other, golden-age architects. In 2014, the club retained the Fazio design firm to develop a master plan for the golf course. Tom Marzolf was charged with leading a return to Raynor principles. Over the next seven years, the club and the Fazio firm moved in the direction of restoring as much of Seth Raynor’s design to the grounds but kept an eye on the future.

Many bunkers were simply no longer in play, thanks to the gains of technology over the years. Some bunkers were moved farther down the fairway, keeping the Raynor essence but allowing the holes to challenge the top players of today and tomorrow. Greens were restored to their original sizes, and lost features were recaptured. The greatest (but not the last) reclamation took place on the 16th hole. In 2005, when this writer visited the club for a high school tournament, the antipenultimate hole was known as Raynor’s Prize Dogleg, although there was little leg to the dog. Marzolf and the club determined that this was Raynor’s Bottle hole, and worked diligently to restore that trace to the hole.

With new equipment, we needed to modernize the course, to address the effects of new clubs and balls. We had to have a course that fits the yardage that the best players hit the ball. So, we took Raynor’s concepts and moved them.

“For example, originally bunkers were 185 to 225 yards off the tee: In many cases, we eliminated those bunkers and added new ones in the 285- to 325-yard range from the back tees and on the same side of the fairway. Deleting old bunkers also meant smoothing the grades where they used to be, eliminating any evidence, and reworking all the fairway lines. Building new bunkers meant locating and staking them out, projecting them into the fairways, and making them the focal points that control club selection off the tee.” – Tom Marzolf

One might have expected that 2019-2020 would have been lost to the pandemic, but that was not the case. Mr. Marzolf moved to Pittsburgh to supervise the final steps in the restoration of Raynor’s western Pennsylvania gem. Under the guidance of superintendent Jason Hurwitz, the reclamation was complete. In June of 2021, the Fox Chapel Golf Club revealed its wonderful golf course to the public.

What about our “but not the last” notation, two paragraphs above? It turns out that the 13th hole, which extends to the southernmost point of the property, was once the site of a remarkable, double plateau green. It remains the sole feature to not be returned to the fabled layout. It’s on the minds of more than one member and fan, and it would be a spectacular addition to an already challenging hole. We can dream, can’t we?

FOOTNOTE: It is suggested by membership that Banks did work with Raynor at Fox Chapel. Two bunkers in particular bear his style: the bunker that guards the front right portion of the 15th green and another on the eighth hole. The relationship of the bunker floors to the green heights intimate the work of a man who would impart his own technique to the digging of sand pits. It’s impossible to move from speculation to fact, so we’ll leave it at that. Banks would continue Raynor’s work after his passing, but would ultimately succumb to ill health himself, dying at age 49 in 1931.

—————————

For more on Seth Raynor, read this piece by Raynor Society executive director Anthony Pioppi.

For more on Charles Henry Banks, read this excellent piece by Anthony Pioppi.

Photos courtesy of this writer.

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Tokyo Olympics men’s golf DraftKings picks

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60 golfers will be making the trip to Tokyo this week for the men’s Olympic golf competition. Kasumigaseki Country Club sits 35 miles outside of Tokyo and plays as a par 71, tipping out to 7,447 yards on the scorecard.

The Charles Allison design features bent-grass greens and zoysia fairways, and it received a total facelift from famed architect Tom Fazio in 2016. From all of the course flyovers and information we have at our disposal, Kasumigaseki features similar elements to other Fazio designs/redesigns such as Firestone Country Club, Quail Hollow, and Shadow Creek.

On-ground reports have mentioned that the course is playing on the softer side, which conjures memories of how Augusta National played for the November Masters.

Premier ball-strikers, specifically those with expertise with their long irons and wedges, and those comfortable navigating large and undulating greens seem to be the safest bets.

You can check out my betting tips and selections here. Let’s dig into the DraftKings slate!

2021 Tokyo Olympics men’s golf DraftKings picks

$10,000 range 

Xander Schauffele, $10,700 (Projected ownership: 13.3%)

Xander Schauffele is often the highest-owned golfer on the DraftKings slate, but it appears that fantasy managers feel more comfortable paying up for Collin Morikawa or Justin Thomas this week. I’ll side with Schauffele, the number one bent-grass putter in this field, who has won and finished runner-up the WGC-HSBC Championship in China, finished runner-up at Shadow Creek, and has an unbelievable track record at Augusta National and East Lake, one of the only courses on Tour that features zoysia fairways.

$9,000 range 

Shane Lowry, $9,600 (Projected ownership: 10.6%)

I’ve already shared my love for Lowry in my betting tips article, yet the idea that he is coming in at only 10.6 perccent projected ownership makes him an intriguing DraftKings option as well. Sandwiched in between Viktor Hovland and Paul Casey, fantasy managers are passing on the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone winner at Firestone, and I can’t quite understand why. Lowry is currently playing some of the best golf of his career. The Irish representative has gained over 1.3 strokes on approach in every measured start since March.

$8,000 range 

Cameron Smith, $8,900 (Projected ownership: 14.7%)

Cameron Smith is a player who just missed the cut for my betting card, yet I will gladly take the plunge in DraftKings. The Australian finished 11th at Shadow Creek, fourth at Sherwood, and runner-up at the November Masters. While Smith is by no means low-owned, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im, and Corey Conners all project to garner more ownership than the recent Zurich Classic winner. I’ll side with Smith, a top-five bunker player and birdie maker in this field.

$7,000 range 

Sebastian Munoz, $7,700 (Projected ownership: 14.9%)

I’ll take the plunge with Sebastian Munoz this week, who has recorded an eighth-place finish on zoysia fairways at East Lake, a ninth-place finish at Shadow Creek, and a 14th-place finish at the November Masters. The former Sanderson Farms Championship winner has been awesome on bent-grass greens, with recent finishes of third at Colonial and fourth at TPC Deere Run.

$6,000 range 

Sepp Straka, $6,400 (Projected ownership: 14.9%)

This is where things get tricky. I almost wrote up Henrik Norlander, but 21 percent projected ownership is a tough pill to swallow. I will gladly pivot to Sepp Straka, who is by no means flying under the radar, but is essentially the same player as Norlander at $400 dollars cheaper and less ownership. The University of Georgia product is coming off a start where he gained 4.2 strokes on approach at the 3M Open. That’s good enough for me at this price point, as this is a barren range.

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Tokyo Olympics men’s golf betting tips and selections

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59 golfers will be making the trek to Tokyo this week for the men’s Olympic golf competition. This will be the fourth golf event in the history of the Olympics. It was played in Paris in 1900, St. Louis in 1904, and then after a 112-year hiatus, Olympic golf returned in 2016, as Justin Rose took home the gold medal in Rio. The Olympics will be a four-day stroke play event with no cut, similar to many World Golf Championships and shorter field events that make up the Asian swing of the PGA Tour.

While there is no hard data from professional competition on the host course, Kasumigaseki Country Club, we can responsibly draw comparisons to other courses that host professional tournaments. Kasumigaseki is a Charles Allison design with bent-grass greens and zoysia fairways. Famed architect Tom Fazio gave the course a total facelift in 2016, and from all of the course flyovers and information we have at our disposal, it features similar elements to other Fazio designs/re-designs such as Firestone Country Club, Quail Hollow, and Shadow Creek.

Playing as a par 71 and tipping out to 7,447 yards on the scorecard, length off the tee will certainly help here. Along with distance, I am primarily looking for players with experience navigating large and undulating greens, as well as elite long iron snipers and those who are capable of going low in benign scoring conditions.

Let’s dig into my outright selections!

Olympics men’s golf betting picks

Viktor Hovland (12-1, FanDuel Sportsbook)

The Norwegian sensation rated out as the number one player in my model this week due to his elite long iron play, length off the tee, expertise with his wedges, and ability to make birdies in bunches. Over his last 36 rounds, Hovland ranks inside the top-10 in strokes gained approach, strokes gained off the tee, proximity from 200 yards plus, proximity from 125-150 yards, and birdies or better gained.

With a 12th-place finish at Shadow Creek in the fall, and a third-place finish at Quail Hollow this spring, the two-time PGA Tour winner should be right at home on another tree-lined Tom Fazio course featuring large and undulating bent-grass greens.

Patrick Reed (16-1, DraftKings Sportsbook)

While concerns about Patrick Reed’s recent travel schedule are certainly valid, I’ve found reason to believe that the Olympics has his upmost attention. Reed is only in the field this week as a result of Bryson DeChambeau’s withdrawal due to a positive COVID-19 test, and despite learning this while in the midst of competing in the 3M Open, Reed jumped at the opportunity to represent his country.

The man deemed “Captain America” for his Ryder Cup heroics, has also experienced some incredible success on bent-grass greens, and tops this entire field in three-putt avoidance. While Augusta National is far from a perfect comp to Kasumigaseki, Reed always plays well at the Masters, and he is coming off a 14th-place finish at Sherwood in October and a sixth-place finish at Quail Hollow in April. I expect the nine-time PGA Tour winner to certainly be a factor come Sunday afternoon in Tokyo.

Shane Lowry (22-1, DraftKings Sportsbook)

After an understandable hangover from his life-changing 2019 Open Championship win at Royal Portrush, Shane Lowry is back to playing some incredible golf this season. The Irishman has made the cut in every major this year, and recorded top-15 finishes at The Players, PGA Championship, Memorial, and most recently, The Open Championship in his title defense. One through-line we can draw from Lowry’s historical results is that he always plays his best golf on the biggest stage.

Lowry is a bankable selection in stronger-field events because of his elite approach play. The five-time worldwide winner has gained over 1.3 strokes on approach in every measured start since March. With a win already under his belt at the Fazio re-designed Firestone, I expect Lowry to add a gold medal to his already impressive resume.

Abraham Ancer (25-1, DraftKings SportsBook)

Ancer is a player who I rarely bet as he has still yet to record his first PGA Tour victory. With that being said, this feels like a logical breakthrough spot for the University of Oklahoma product.

Ancer has already finished runner-up at Quail Hollow this year, and I love the idea of a soft Augusta as a comp course for Kasumigaseki, where Ancer contended as well. More recently, Ancer has also recorded top-10 finishes at the Valspar, Travelers, and PGA Championship. His ball striking remains elite, and he is one of the better putters in the field as well, ranking sixth in strokes gained putting and third in three-putt avoidance over his last 36 rounds. Bent-grass has also historically been his best surface. I firmly believe that Ancer will be in the mix this weekend in Tokyo.

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