Monday, March 11, 2013

Popping the Cork at Bunham and Berrow

It felt like a celebration of golf while I walked the links at Burnham on the Sea, of England's West coast.  I believe those who are fans of the course will be able to re-live my first timers excitement and I hope those who have not seen this great links will be able to go there someday!

I had a day off and the sun decided to shine, it was a glorious Winter day in England.  I swallowed a quick breakfast and began a two hour drive from Poole on the South coast.  I arrived in plenty of time to smack some practice balls, enjoy this sign, 
A good omen for practice before any round on the links!

slap some putts, and have a brew (coffee, although I have seen many a pint consumed in English clubhouses before noon on any day of the week!).  Is it time to tee off yet?!  I get paired with three young lads who tell me they are posting scores today and I propose we played a match as well.  Stabelford it is, how delightfully English and confusing for me!

1st Tee
Notice the large dunes on the horizon.

My broad impressions for the day included:
Blustery and Sunny, "out and in" routing, marching into the wind back nine, a difficult test.  I obviously want to play the opposite wind, it will be like unwrapping the gift of great links golf all over again.
Notice my playing partners climbing the massive dunes on the right of the photo.

The opening holes are a tough and captivating start to get the juices flowing.  The golf leads you through large and irregular dunes, leaving uncertainty about what shot will be required around the corner.  The following holes 4-8 scale down a bit, but not in strategy, while skirting around the wild dunes in the heart of the golf course.  The middle part of the round  9,10,11 exhibit a brilliant use of subtle and “flatter” terrain as a link back to the commotion within…
Blind Tee Shot #10
Flat but not without golfing interest.

Holes 12-18 continue to build the crescendo as you move back through the dunes.  Getting to the 18th green is a relief, with a chance to make a flat putt.

#18 The Home Green

Burnham and Berrow reminded me in many ways of North Berwick in Edinburgh.  Both have a funky start in irregular terrain and exhibit a brilliant use of the subtle ground to link up with the more dramatic holes later in the round.  Both golf courses also use this dramatic terrain late in the round to build to a terrific climax.

#16 Green
A wonderful spot to end a golf hole.
B&B has many unique green sites and approaches to the par 4’s and 5’s.  Two punch bowls (3&15), a couple of “turtle backs”, a few shoulders on the side of dunes and others on dune tops.   The 16th green is possibly the best greens I have ever seen.  It’s a miniature and twisted version of the crazy green at Sitwell Park or any other such inspiration.  Its in a league of its own.
#16 Green Surface

A pint of bitter helped me soak in the experience of the day.  I’m glad I played with the locals as well or I surely would have scored even worse.

I can't wait to go back already!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Self Qualification in Golf Architecture

Cal Club
Broadstone Golf Club

In the last year I have accumulated an extraordinary amount of frequent flier miles in pursuit of even more experience around the world of golf.

From the start of 2012 I have been to exactly 60 golf courses on 3 continents, in 8 different countries.  I'd also like to highlight my work experience on exciting and ambitious projects in Uruguay, England, Nebraska, and New York.  This work has allowed me to study and test out the essentials of the worlds best golf courses, in many different cultures.  It is the beginning of my 5th year as a golf design professional and I am prepared to take on the responsibilities of a golf architect in addition to my playing and construction expertise.

Technically I can't be a golf architect without clients.  In 2013 it is my goal to retain at least one client and help them express the best qualities of their golf course in a matrix of design, construction, and maintenance.


Jeff Stein