Many “FORE’S” and seven double-bogeys ago . . .

Last week I took a drive out to the Links to see what Gettysburg’s finest had to offer . . . and I sure am happy that’s how I chose to spend my Sunday. links-at-gettysburg1While driving up to the clubhouse, you will pass through a new housing community, and by the huge water tower emblazoned with the Links’ logo.  It’s important to note that these houses are rarely in your sight-line while on the course (so it’s great for those golfers out there who don’t really enjoy playing in peoples’ backyards), but those that are visible are well worth the view.

Upon reaching the Bag Drop, we were immediately greeted by two attendants and the carts were prepped and ready.  After a quick stop in the clubhouse (which we were able to enjoy more at the turn and after the round), we hooked up with the Starter who provided an excellent overview of the course.  You can tell that he took great pride in working and playing the course, and his enthusiasm put a smile on all our faces; we knew heading over to the Driving Range that we were in for a treat.

At the range, they were letting the grass tees get some much needed TLC, so we were restricted to mats only.  It’s not often that you praise a course for their Driving Range, but they did a great job building these facilities.  The mats had a lot of “give” to them and there is a restroom and soda machine nearby.  Plus, the #1 Tee is right around the corner, so there is never a need to tee off with the next group looking over your shoulder.

Right away, we knew that we were in for a challenging round.  Although it’s not the most difficult hole on the course, the Par-4, #1 epitomizes the overall layout at the Links at Gettysburg — well-placed hazards and out-of-bounds areas around the fairway, usually some type of ravine or stream that you need to carry to get to the green, and well-placed bunkers making you think strategically about your approach shot.  Of course, getting to the green and playing on the green are completely different stories, and on this course you can expect lots of direction changes and slopes to make you truly analyze your putt . . . or should I say, your putts.

Overall, this is one of the most scenic courses that I have ever played, and every hole had something unique to offer.  That being said, there are a couple holes that are burned into my memory just for the pure aesthetics of the layout and design.

The Par-3, #3 is magnificent. From the tee, your eyes focus on the Red Rock cliff behind the green.  I remember trying to focus on my shot so I would not hit it short into the creek or long into the bunker,

Hole #3, Par 3
Hole #3, Par 3

but all I could think to myself was “now this is what a Par 3 is supposed to look like.”   Fortunately, the down-sloped green is a fairly large target, but the well-conceived pin placement forced most putts up-and-over a large ridge.  What an awesome hole.

For those golfers who pride themselves in driving for distance, then the Par 5, #7 will have a special place in your heart.  From the tips you are 600 yards to the hole, but you are also provided an incredible view of the course and countryside.

Hole #7, Par 5
Hole #7, Par 5

The fairway is wide enough to help avoid the water on the left and right side, but gets skinnier as you approach the green, bringing into play the hills to the left and the bunkers to the right.  Of course, you are presented with another tough green, and being pin-high presents you with a very fast downhill putt.  This is definitely a Par 5 which requires precision on all 5 strokes to make Par.

I really can’t say enough about the Links at Gettysburg and how much I enjoyed the course.  The design is challenging yet enjoyable, and if nothing else, the scenery makes it worth the time on the course.  It’s an easy hour-plus drive from many regional areas (York-PA, Baltimore-MD, Leesburg-VA, etc.), so I highly recommend making plans to play — you won’t regret it.

Bullish on Bulle Rock

The first thing you notice about Bulle Rock is the driveway. After entering the club grounds, there is a scenic drive to the clubhouse, which sits at the back end of the property. The golf course, named after the first thoroughbred brought to America, is spread out on both sides of the road, which gives you a wide open preview of both nines.

After pulling into the bag drop area, you will be greeted by a team of Bulle Rock representatives. The operation is very smooth: you check in, they take your clubs to your cart and direct you to the clubhouse. We had plenty of time before we teed off, so my foursome decided to check out the restaurant. I was really craving a Chesapeake eggs benedict. Perhaps the only disappointing part of the day (aside from my lost ball on 13 and almost hitting a man in a bright orange shirt on 11) was that the restaurant had no breakfast menu. However, it turned out to not be important because the food was delicious, the staff was friendly, and the view was spectacular. The restaurant’s balcony overlooks the 18th green, and you can see much of the course in the periphery. The burgers and crab cakes come highly recommended.

After breakfast lunch we made a brief stop in the locker room, which is available to every golfer, and then continued on to the pro shop. With a wide selection of golf apparel and equipment, the pro shop has everything you could want, or might have forgotten.

Bulle Rock has three practice facilities: a driving range, a short-game area, and a putting green. The driving range is very large, and the balls at each station are stacked in a pyramid, so you feel, at the very least, that you are practicing like a pro. Off to the side, a golf pro was giving a lesson using a video camera and computer screen to analyze his pupil’s swing. The short-game area is near the clubhouse, and is complete with a few practice bunkers. The putting green is next to the first tee, so you can practice while you wait to tee off.

The golf course has a fantastic layout. The fairways and greens are in terrific shape, and the rough, though not very tall, is extremely thick. The course plays very fair – there are few blind shots, you are rewarded for keeping the ball in the fairway, and there are no gimmicks. If I have any criticism of the course conditions, it would be that the bunkers were less than perfect, but that borders on nit-picking. The edges blended with the rough, but the sand was in decent condition, and ending up in the trap was not too harsh of a penalty compared to other Pete Dye courses with deep traps that are lined with railroad ties. Each cart is equipped with a GPS system to show how far you are from the green, and a clock to help keep pace of play. We had to keep the carts on the path, but if you happen to be on the opposite side of the hole from your cart, the fairways were well-marked with sprinkler heads as well.

Overall, the course was great, but there are a few holes that really stood out in my mind:

Hole #9, Par 4
Hole #9, Par 4

The par-4 ninth hole is one of my favorites. There is a split fairway, so off the tee (at least for some people) you have a choice to make: aim for the fairway on the left and have a longer approach shot, or aim over the water to the right which is anywhere from a 179-yard to 325-yard carry. Although it’s tempting to go to the right, I’m not sure how much of an advantage it really gives you on your second shot.

The twelfth hole is a short par-3, but with water along the right side, the view from the tee box can be intimidating – especially if the pin is back right like it was on Saturday.

The course has four great par-5’s, but my favorite was the fifteenth hole. The first part of the fairway is to the right side of a creek, which you must cross on your second shot. For daring souls, the green is reachable in two, but there is a tree, a few bunkers, and the creek protecting the putting surface. If you play the hole how it is meant to be played – aiming for the fairway left of the creek – there is a hill that acts as a backboard for the fairway, making the hole very receptive for second shots.

Hole #18, Par 4
Hole #18, Par 4

Finally, the par-4 eighteenth hole is a great finishing hole. With water along the left side coming into play off the tee, and on the approach shot to the green, an errant tee shot or iron could cause a disappointing end to your round.

Overall, Bulle Rock was a fantastic experience, and well worth the price of admission. The pace of play was reasonable considering the cart paths only rule. The staff was very helpful, especially the cart girl who was around every three-four holes with a wide variety of beverages. And, most importantly, the course was enjoyable. I highly recommend Bulle Rock, and can’t wait to play there again.

Angel Cabrera Wins the 2009 Masters

Angel Cabrera became the first South American born golfer to win a green jacket today surviving a final round that had a little bit of everything in it.  This was Cabrera’s 2nd win on the PGA tour.  His other win came in 2007 when he won the U.S. Open.

Cabrera started off the day at 11 under and tied for the lead. With 2 holes left, he trailed his playing partner, Kenny Perry, by 2 strokes.  Perry went on to bogey the 17th and 18th, sending the match into a 3 way sudden death playoff.  Chad Campbell, shot a final round 69 to put himself into the playoff.  Cabrara and Perry went on to par the 18th hole {1st playoff hole} while Campbell had a bogey.  Cabrera had a par on the 10th {2nd playoff hole} and Perry had a bogey giving the championship to Cabrera.

Earlier in the day, Tiger and Phil, who started the day at 4 under, had their eyes on the green jacket.  At the turn, Tiger had picked up 3 strokes and was at 7 under, while Phil tied a course record for the front 9 and was at 10 under.  Tiger finished the tournament at 8 under, putting him into a 3 way tie for 6th place.  Phil finished the tournament at 9 under, putting him is sole possession of 5th place.

The 2009 Masters lived up to all its expectations and once again reminded everyone why, The Masters is “the best” golf tournament ever.