Golf Buzz

May 16, 2014 - 2:18pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Harbor Shores
PGA of America
The par-4 seventh hole at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich., provides a spectacular view of Lake Michigan.

Major championship golf courses are special. They’re even more special when the general public can get a tee time. You can do just that at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich., which will host the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid for the second time in three years, May 22-25.

GETTING THERE: If you’re visiting Harbor Shores from out of town, here’s your best bet to get there – either fly into South Bend, Ind., and rent a car for a 35-mile drive into Benton Harbor, or choose a Chicago airport and then plan on a 90-mile trek around Lake Michigan. With so few direct flights into South Bend, Chicago is a decent option to avoid a lengthy layover in another city.

ABOUT THE COURSE: Designed by 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, Harbor Shores opened in the summer of 2010. From the black tees, the course plays to a par of 71 and measures 6,852 yards.

RELATED: A hole-by-hole tour of Harbor Shores | '14 Senior PGA Champ. coverage

Harbor Shores isn’t only special because of its terrain, but also its story and tie to the Benton Harbor community – and the fact that the course itself weaves through parts of the community.

The Harbor Shores project has been a leading force in the revitalization of the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph communities with the help of KitchenAid, part of Whirlpool Corporation, which calls Benton Harbor home.

"With Harbor Shores, we set out really to change a community," Nicklaus said before the course hosted the 2012 Senior PGA Championship. "This wasn't just about a golf course. This was a non-profit project. That's the important part of it. When we started, we had a factory where the first tee is. We had to remove toxic waste and buildings. But in the end, the whole course looks beautiful and we hope is enjoyable to play."

I recently had the chance to tee it up at Harbor Shores, playing from the grey tees – one set up from the back tees at a not-so-overwhelming 6,246 yards. It was my first round of the season and also early on in the season for golf in Michigan.

The day that I played was brisk and overcast with plenty of wind. I was thoroughly impressed by the condition of the course after what locals said was a long, brutal winter (what winters in Michigan aren’t?).

Overall, the course is known for its treacherous greens. There isn’t a green on the course more treacherous than the one on No. 10. There are four tiers on this massive 10,500 square-foot green and it’s the first time I can ever remember standing on one tier of a green and not being able to see the tier above it. It’s that dramatic. More on this later.

MEMORABLE HOLES: After a straightforward opening par-4, we moved on to the 144-yard, par-3 second. You can’t be short here, as large bunkers weave their way from the front of the tee box all the way up to the green. It’s one of the shorter and easier holes on the course – the No. 17 handicap – but that’s only if you can block the bunkers out of your mind and commit to your club.

Of particular note, was the 396-yard, par-4 seventh hole, known as, “Arum Arrow.” This gorgeous hole starts on an island tee box. You can bail out to the left side of the fairway – though that sets up a blind approach – or you can challenge the bunkers and water hazard right out in front of you. Once safely in the fairway, you’re faced with a second shot to an elevated green surrounded by dune grass. And when you get to the green, you’re looking at the pay off – breathtaking views of vast Lake Michigan.

Speaking of “Dune Grass” that happens to be the name of the eighth hole at Harbor Shores, a 364-yard par 4. While a great drive will leave a short approach, there’s still plenty to distract you, as five bunkers on its three front sides protect the green.

No. 8 was one of my favorites at Harbor Shores because it gives the feeling that even though you’re playing golf in the middle of a city, it at times has the feel of a links-style course you’d expect to find in a seaside town in Scotland.

The 10th hole at Harbor Shores – a 539-yard par 5 from the back tees – might be its most famous because of a shot that was hit there by the Nicklaus, the course designer, when it opened in 2010.

The beautiful par-3 11th hole, known as “Maple,” is a nice escape from that brutal 10th green. Unlike the features on No. 8, No. 11 -- the shortest hole on the course, playing just 144 yards from the back tees (it was 122 from where our group played it) -- has a parkland, tree-lined experience with a pond that fronts the middle and right portion of the green. Don’t get suckered into hitting a tee shot at the flag if it’s on the right side like everyone in our group did. It can quickly turn the shortest hole at Harbor Shores into a beast.

If you like risk-reward on a par 5, you’ll love the 549-yard 15th hole at Harbor Shores. There are plenty of options off the tee and, if you take an aggressive line, you certainly have the chance of reaching this green in two… it’s something you’re going to have to give hard thought to, however. The Paw Paw River runs up the entire right side of the hole and then crosses just in front of the green. If you’re not laying up, you’re better off long than short.

Lastly, there’s the demanding par-4 18th, a strong, closing 420-yarder where no lead is safe. It plays into the prevailing wind off Lake Michigan and the Paw Paw River runs along the right side and wetlands are off to the left. After a solid drive, you’ll have a medium-to-short iron in yours hands for an approach to a large green and one last experience with those ridiculously undulating greens.

CLAIM TO FAME: Aside from England's Roger Chapman winning the 2012 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, there was this...

On the 10th, Nicklaus, playing alongside Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson at the course’s opening in August 2010, was catching grief from his playing partners about the severity of the green’s undulations. Miller, faced with a 102-foot putt, thought about using a wedge instead of a putter.

Nicklaus wasn’t having that.

“There’s no chance putting it,” Miller argued.

“Want me to show you how to putt it?” asked Nicklaus.

From there, Nicklaus dropped a golf ball on the green, took a quick look at the line and proceeded to hole the putt that had more twists, turns and elevation changes than a roller coaster ride.

Nicklaus threw his arms in the air and walked away when the putt dropped as if to say, “See, it wasn’t that hard.”

But, it was that hard.

 

 

WHERE TO STAY: If you’re planning a visit to Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor is the closest place to stay and the course itself has a hotel – the Harbor Shores Inn – expected to open this spring. Five more minutes away and you can find a great spot in St. Joseph Township right along Lake Michigan.

And if you really don’t mind driving – about 40 minutes or so – New Buffalo is also a great option and makes for a fantastic family getaway with beach activities on Lake Michigan when you’re not playing golf.

As for other things to do – if you’re a college football fan, take the 35-minute drive to South Bend for a tour of Notre Dame. It’ll be worth your time.

KEY COURSE DETAILS:

Address: Harbor Shores, 201 Graham Ave, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Phone: (269) 927-4653

You can also find them at www.harborshoreslife.com, on Facebook and on Twitter, @HarborShores.

Daily rates for Harbor Shores -- May 30 to September 28 -- are $100 for non-residents, Monday-Friday; $125 for non-residents, Saturday and Sunday. The rate includes a cart, which you will certainly need at Harbor Shores, as there's a bit of distance between many of the holes. There's also a twilight rate. After 3 p.m. all week long, you can play the course for $75 with a cart. You can get a tee time by calling (269) 927-4653, or you can book online at http://www.harborshoresgolf.com/public-tee-times.html.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 

May 16, 2014 - 11:42am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Bubba Watson, Kevin Durant
Getty Images
Following a Game 6 win over the LA Clippers in the NBA's Western Conference semifinals on Thursday night, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant handed his game-worn shoes to Masters champ Bubba Watson who was sitting court-side.

Since winning the Masters for the second time in his career in April, Bubba Watson has been everywhere.

He recently showed up at a Golfsmith unnanounced to challenge staff and customers to a driving and putting contest. He visited his elementary school and high school, donating $15,000 and $35,000 to each, respectively.

He's also been seen visiting his sponsors PING and Oakley, and buying the entire staff at the respective headquarters lunch.

The man has been doing a lot of giving.

RELATED: The NBA on TNT | NBA Playoffs coverage | Charles Barkley's ugly golf swing 

But on Thursday night, Watson was on the receiving end of a special gift at the Staples Center in Los Angeles following the Western Conference NBA semifinal game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

 

Moments after winning the Game 6 showdown 104-98 to advance to the Western Conference Finals, Thunder star and NBA MVP Kevin Durant slipped off his game-worn shoes and ran them over to Watson.

Durant had 39 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in the game.

The two shared a hug and Watson wished Durant well the rest of the way. Durant and the Thunder face the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 on Monday, which you can watch at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.

Watson is a huge fan of the NBA and has been seen at practices and games the last couple of years. In fact, his wife, Angie, is a former WNBA player.

Being Bubba Watson looks like a whole lot of fun these days.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

Tiger Woods at El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas
Tiger Woods via Twitter
Tiger Woods' El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas is nearing completion, as Woods showed in a photo.

When Tiger Woods gave us his most recent status report on his recovery from back surgery about a week ago, he also gave us a little update on some of his golf course design projects that showed he's remained quite busy during his enforced absence from the PGA Tour.

His design project in Mexico – El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas – "continues to progress well," he wrote in a blog post on his website. And on Thursday, he tweeted out a photo of himself standing on the seventh hole of the course near the tip of Baja California.

"The front nine has been grassed, as well as a few holes on the back nine," he added. "I'm looking forward to finalizing the shaping on the last few holes when I get back onsite next month. I'm thrilled with how it's turning out, and I'll share some photos with you from my next visit."

When it's finished, El Cardonal will join the existing Dunes Course at Diamante Cabo San Lucas – and Tiger has his work cut out for him. Designed by Davis Love III, the Dunes Course is ranked No. 52 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the World list.     

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But where Love's creation is "reminiscent of a classic Scottish links course," according to the Diamante website, Tiger's course "will remind golfers of the old-style California courses that Tiger grew up playing." 

Golfers "will have several options to navigate each hole, and proper strategic decision making will be rewarded," the site says. "The existing arroyos [canyons] that traverse the site and well-placed fairway bunkers will provide ample risk-reward opportunities off the tees."

"I set up the golf strategy to make golfers think and make choices," Woods says on the site. "Regardless of your handicap, there are going to be different ways to play every hole. Angles of approach are going to be very important and will dictate the type of shots you should consider. I love this kind of golf."

The course is set to open this fall, according to the site. 

 

Pablo Larrazabal
Getty Images
Pablo Larrazabal had to jump into a lake at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club to escape the wrath of a swarm of hornets.

European Tour player Pablo Larrazabal of Spain turns 31 years old today, and we want to extend our birthday congratulations – and our wishes that his celebration is a little less exciting than his experience a couple weeks ago.

Larrazabal, you might remember, is the guy who was attacked by a swarm of hornets during the Maybank Malaysian Open and had to jump into a lake to get away from them. He was stung 20 times before he made his water evacuation.

Amazingly, he got out of the lake, dried off, and still birdied the hole.

"They were three times the size of bees," Larrazabal told EuropeanTour.com after his ordeal. "They were huge and like 30 or 40 of them started to attack me big time. I didn't know what to do. My caddie told me to run so I start running like a crazy guy, but the hornets were still there, so the other players told me to jump in the lake... It was the scariest moment of my career, for sure. I've never been so scared."

Man. If there's not an award for "hole of the year," there ought to be. 

T.J. Auclair recounted this crazy tale in detail in a Golf Buzz post right after it happened, and you really ought to check it out – it even includes the video of the hornets chasing Larrazabal to the lake.

Larrazabal went on to tie for eighth in Malaysia, then tied for 36th the week after that in China. At No. 20 on the European Tour money list and No. 63 in the world ranking, he's back home this week for the Spanish Open, where he opened with a much-less-eventful 72 today. 

So Happy Birthday to you, Pablo. You deserve a great one – and here's hoping that your celebration tonight is indoors.

 

May 15, 2014 - 11:03am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Charles Barkley
YouTube
Charles Barkley's golf swing is, well, unique.

Charles Barkley is a Hall of Fame NBA player and winner of a Sports Emmy Award for "Outstanding Studio Analyst" for his work on TNT.

But, as we've seen through the years, poor Chuck isn't much of a golfer.

RELATED: The NBA on TNT | NBA Playoffs coverage | Charles Barkley's official website

On Wednesday, Barkley joined Champions Tour star Fred Couples and new Auburn men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl for a pro-am ahead of the over-50-circuit's first major, the Regions Tradition in Alabama.

Lucky for all of us, someone was there to make a compilation video of some of Barkley's swings.

Barkley was the subject of renowned golf coach Hank Haney's, "Haney Project" on the Golf Channel a few years ago, but as you can see in the video, the retired star power forward hasn't been able to adapt on the course.

Though his swing certainly won't make you envious, you've got to appreciate Barkley's love of the game. In an interview on Golf Channel's Morning Drive, he told Holly Sonders he plays just about everyday.

He also noted to Sonders, "The fans aren't here to watch me play. They're here to laugh at my swing."

Hey -- at least he knows. Chuck has always called it like he sees it.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

Poinsettia Fire as seen from La Costa
Dave Cordero of TaylorMade via Twitter
The Poinsettia Fire as seen from the Omni La Costa Resort on Wednesday afternoon.
Carlsbad, Calif., is well known as an American golf mecca – the home of big-time golf equipment companies like Callaway and TaylorMade, and top-notch resorts like La Costa and Aviara.
 
On Wednesday, though, the city and its environs began dealing with a major wildfire that began shortly before noon PT. One of about a half dozen separate fires burning in the greater San Diego area, this fire – which is being called the Poinsettia Fire – was exacerbated by a perfect storm of record drought, extreme heat, low humidity and heavy winds, and had burned about 400 acres by nightfall. 
 
Approximately 15,000 homes and business have been evacuated – among them the TaylorMade complex, which also includes Ashworth and adidas Golf, along with the headquarters for such companies as Callaway, Odyssey, Cobra Puma Golf and the West Coast offices of Titleist, along with several smaller golf companies that together total several thousand employees.
 
Employees from several of those companies took to social media to pass along some unsettling photos of the fires but, thankfully, there had been no news reports of damage to any of the companies' buildings as of late Wednesday. 
 
The Omni La Costa Resort – which for years hosted the PGA Tour's Match Play Championship, as well as several other big events – reported via social media that the flames got close to its property before changing direction. The resort remained open, offering discounted rates to people displaced by the fires. 
 
Nearby, however, the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort – which hosted the LPGA Tour's Kia Classic in March and is one of the more scenic golf resorts in America – was closed and its staff and guests evacuated. There were reports of considerable destruction in the Aviara neighborhood, but no reports of damage to the resort itself as of late Wednesday.
 
Here are some Twitter posts showing the fires. Nicole Roberts works for SKLZ, while Chad Coleman works for Callaway: