Set along the banks of the James River, Kingsmill Resort’s 17th hole of the River Course may just well be the signature hole of the facility. Measuring 177 yards from the back tees, you have to hit a precise iron shot to a green 51 yards in depth and narrows as you go farther back. Depending upon the hole location, your club of choice may vary by at least 4 clubs. The green is protected on the right by the James River and two deep bunkers. If you bail out left, you face a steep embankment and a downhill lie for your next shot. Also of note when you play this hole…look to the right and you will see the old docks of Burwell’s Landing. This was the site of the main port of entry into Williamsburg during the 18th century. Up to the left of the green was Burwell’s Ordinary…a social gathering place for those using the port and I’m sure a place where a good pint could have been had. Today, you will have to wait until you get to the clubhouse to enjoy that pint.
One of my favorite all-time holes has to be the 11th hole at the Old Course at Ballybunion. Many claim it is one of the best par 4’s you will ever play and I quite well agree. Measuring 473 yards from the cliff-top back tee and the Atlantic Ocean bordering the entire right side of the hole, your tee shot must typically be started down the right side with the prevailing wind coming off the ocean. I recall one time playing here, the wind blowing so hard, I started by tee shot where the beach met the tide to allow my ball to find the left side of the fairway. The fairway twists its way between dunes and then down to a small valley where two dunes guard the entrance to the raised green. No bunkers are needed to defend this green…the approach it difficult enough. A slightly pushed approach finds the dunes and/or beach to the right and a pull to the left will probably never be found among the thick fescue and matted dunes. This hole looks like it was there since the land was created…a mark of a true great golf design and hole.
Someone asked me one time if golf professionals and the golf industry have an annual convention. Well, the closest thing that comes to a convention for the golf industry happens this week as the annual PGA Merchandise Show takes place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
This is the annual trade show where equipment manufacturers debut their newest innovations in club design and apparel makers debut their spring and fall lines that you will see in your local pro shop. Companies will bring in the PGA/LPGA Tour professionals to help them market and sell their product to the retailers who sell it to the consumers. You also have the latest teaching aids being peddled, along with anything else imaginable dealing with running a golf course/club. Golf professionals and those with responsibility for buying at clubs all descend upon Orlando for this annual trade show. You also have educational seminars throughout the week for every area of the golf business…whether it be teaching, marketing, merchandising or golf operations.
The show encompasses the largest portion of the Orange County Convention Center. Even if you spend the full three days of the show there, you still will probably not see everything. Just like any other convention, you spend half of your time actually learning what the companies are selling and the other half catching up with all your fellow golf professionals on the floor of the center.
When you go, you are already pretty much aware of what the large equipment manufacturers are going to offer for new innovations. The most fun of the PGA Show is perhaps finding that little known product, typically a teaching aid, that is being debuted…kind of like finding the diamond in the rough. Every year there seems to be one product that no one knows about when they walk in and when you leave, most people are talking about it.
As the week progresses and when I return, I will try to post some of the items I find interesting and hopefully, the one ‘hot’ product to come out of the Show.
One the north side of the Peninsula lies a hidden gem in links golf courses that I been fortunate to play several times. Dooks Golf Club is often overshadowed by its neighbor to the southwest, Waterville. However, after playing Dooks, you will find a wonderful layout that can stand up to any other course in Ireland.
The first thing you will notice about Dooks is their club logo. Perhaps one of the most unique club logos you will find, it features the Natterjack Toad. The Natterjack is native to this area in Ireland and gives Dooks its own brand identity that the moment you see it, you know the exact course it is associated with.
While only 6586 yards from the back tees, Dooks offers a great mix of holes to test your skills. After playing the first hole with the mountains to the southwest in the background, the second hole is a short par 4 that is no pushover. Two bunkers sit to the right of the fairway about 250 yards off the tee. Should you choose to hit driver in an effort to get close to the green, you will then be faced with a pitch shot to a raised, undulating green, with a fall-off short and left and a huge ridge to the right…similar to one you would find at Pinehurst #2. It may be only 318 yards, but birdie is definitely not a given on this hole.
The par 3’s at Dooks are very good also…and the fourth hole is a perfect example. Measuring 174 yards from an elevated tee and Cromane Bay on the left, you hit to a green nestled perfectly amongst sand dunes. On a blustery day with the wind off the left, you will have to start your shot over the dunes to have any shot in hitting the green. One great aspect about the design of Dooks is that all of the green complexes look like they fit naturally in the landscape.
The 7th hole is perhaps my favorite on the course. At 470 yards, it is without a doubt the most difficult hole on the course. Your tee shot must thread the needle of two large dunes guarding each side of the fairway. Your long-iron approach shot is to a green set at an angle to the fairway, making it a challenging target to hit.
The par 5 10th hole is the second of back-to-back par 5’s. Running the right along the Bay, two precise shots are required to put yourself in position for your approach to the elevated undulating green. Look to your left as you play and you will probably see the next line of weather approaching from the coast. As they say, ‘if you don’t like the Irish weather, wait five minutes and it will change.’
Right after the par 5 comes a unique hole. The par 3 11th actually requires you to hit uphill over OB to get to the green. The target is guarded by a pesky bunker in front. Just another one of the fun par 3’s at Dooks.
The 15th is another example of one of the quality holes at Dooks. Two bunkers guard the corner on this 90-degree dogleg right 357 yard hole. You can choose to hit a long iron/hybrid left of the bunkers and have a short iron approach. You could also choose the aggressive route and hit driver over the corner to get close to the green. Beware though, rough/brush and gorse line both side of the fairway on the approach to the green.
The 426 yard finishing hole is also a challenge. After your tee shot, your approach must thread dunes guarding the entrance to the green complex. When I have played here, I have had mid-irons on approach and sometimes because of the wind, I have hit as much as 3 wood. Once again, you find a green that is perfectly set amongst the mounds and dunes. The hole is a perfect finish to this enjoyable layout.
Once you have finished your round, there is no better place to visit than the Dooks clubhouse and restaurant. While you are having a pint, the members are extremely welcoming and love to talk to visitors about their rounds and impressions of their club. Once you have played the course, you will understand why the members are so proud of their club and layout. Dooks is must play if you plan a golf trip to the SW of Ireland.