Rather than make a year-end list of the things I enjoyed about 2018 I thought I’d go a different "route." I created my "Best Of" Course for 2018 staying true to the hole number. Taking into account several factors: design, the company, the outcome, and overall experience. Here is what I came up with for 2018:
No. 1 Mauna Lani South Course
2018 began on the golf course with my two sons and my father-in-law. Mauna Launi South Course opens up with a gentle par 5. Despite the winter rust all four of us to found the fairway off the tee. No better way to start a year!
No. 2 Poppy Hills
Poppy Hills will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first “real course” my sons ever played. This March we were able to revisit and my dad came along with us. My dad isn’t much of a golfer but on the second hole, a short par 3, he set down his ball and played alongside his grandsons. Being able to play with both my dad and my boys is something I will never forget.
No. 3 Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is a special place. I have been lucky enough to visit numerous times over the years. This round marked the first time I played the course with my sons. From the moment we booked our tee time until we approached the 3rd tee box this shot over the ocean was on our minds.
No. 4 Peter Hay
Measuring at less than 80 yards, the 4th hole always comes to mind when I think of Peter Hay. I have seen my sons hit tee shots with everything from a putter to a 7 iron on this hole. It’s accessible to kids but challenging enough for adults, everything a short course should be.
No. 5 Erin Hills
A great round at a demanding course. I don’t recall any of the swings we took on the 5th hole but this photograph is why I bring a camera with me when I play. The image of our caddie, Matt Castles, walking up the infinity fairway will always stay with me.
No. 6 Seven Lakes CC
A post dinner golf outing turned into all four of my kids romping down the fairway. Golf shots were hit and giggles were abundant. It was a perfect summer night in the desert. Shoes were optional, having fun was not.
No. 7 Mammoth Dunes
No hole exemplifies the width of Mammoth Dunes more than the 7th. I slapped my tee shot well out to the right and asked my caddie if it went OB. He laughed and said I was in the fairway. When I reached my ball it was sitting in the fairway just as he had predicted and I was in position to go for the green in two. I ripped a shot toward the green and managed to sink the putt. Eagle! Thank you David McKlay Kidd!
No. 8 Industry Hills
I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of fellow golf enthusiasts through social media. This particular round was a perfect example. I was invited to play in the Malbon Invitational and my partner was none other than Erik Anders Lang of Adventures in Golf fame. I only knew Erik through Instagram. The same could be said for our host, Mr. Malbon himself. Meeting people in person that I’ve only interacted with on social media can be a bit awkward. Lucky for me Erik and I had fun, made a few birdies, crashed a cart, and on the 8th hole I happened to catch a video of his silky swing. It was a great day in LA!
No. 9 Creek Course
People often ask me what it’s like to play golf in Alaska. This hole on this particular day answered that question. As my father-in-law prepared to hit his drive I had to call him off because a black bear was sauntering down the fairway toward us. Eventually the bear plopped down and waited for us to tee off. We both hit our tee shots and waved at the bear as we rolled past to our second shots. I normally prefer to walk but on this day I was happy to have a cart.
No. 10 Sand Valley
This round was cut short because of lightning in the area but that is exactly why it was memorable. With the weather rolling in we were held up at the turn. As they were getting ready to blow the horn my friend Mike asked if I could do the honors. After some gentle persuading from Mike they succumbed and I was allowed to blow the horn.
Note: I was a terrible horn blower. I got Horn nerves, as Johnny Miller might say.
No. 11 Pacific Grove
The back 9 at Pacific Grove is the stuff of legend, often referred to as the “Poor Man’s Pebble.” My sons and I wanted to decide if the hype was real. After two benign holes the gloriousness of this course is put on full display from the 11th tee box. Our minds were made up, this is in fact a special place that I would happily play every day.
No. 12 Gatlinburg
Every course has a signature hole and Gatlinburg Golf Club is no different. Like everything else in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge this hole is over the top. With an elevation change of over 150 feet this par 3 is unforgettable. Club selection is impossible and the cart ride from tee to green is over a quarter mile.
No. 13 Mauna Lani
Similar to the 3rd at Mauna Kea this signature holes brings the Pacific Ocean into play. We all managed to find dry land...eventually. Oh how I long for those ocean breezes this time of year. This round took place on January 1, looking back it’s amazing to see how much my son has changed since then. Being a dad is heartbreakingly wonderful.
No. 14 The Sandbox
Courses like the Sandbox afford those that play them a change of pace, redefining what it means to play a round of golf. That afternoon we played as a sevensome. On the 14th hole, after one player ejected for cooler temps and even cooler beverages, we decided to all tee off at the same time. I will say this, synchronized golf is harder than it looks. I had to double pump!
No. 15 Mammoth Dunes
The 15th hole marked the end of the Sandy Mammoth Cup, a team event I organized with 8 of my friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. We played 5 rounds over 3 days. My Sunday singles match ended on the 15th hole as LJ closed me out 4&3. The match itself was never close but the event was one I will remember for a long long time, plumb bobs and all.
16 Anchorage Golf Course
I don’t play very much competitive golf but this year I played in the Alaska State Am. The tee shot on 16 was my best of the tournament. On Saturday the pin was tucked back left (this picture was taken a few days before the tournament) and while it was only a short iron it did required a precise carry and a quick check up. I managed to execute the shot and make the putt for birdie. It was the shot of the tournament for me, one that made me want to come back for more.
No. 17 The Sandbox
Another hole from the best par 3 course I played in 2018. We were playing a 2-man scramble match that came down to the final hole. Taking a page out of the Adult Swim Golf Classic playbook, my opponent used the Adam Scott’s green reading technique to line up his putt and managed to sink the winning shot. If I’m going to lose, this is how I want it to happen.
No. 18 Erin Hills
This was the last hole of my Wisconsin sojourn. We spent the majority of our time at Sand Valley but my golf brother, Justin, and I put a bow on the trip with a round at Erin Hills. I’m not sure what course JT and Brooks Koepka were playing back in 2017. Even with perfect conditions was rather difficult. By 18 we were tired but had smiles on our faces. The 18th is always bittersweet and this round was no exception. It marked the end of a great round and a fantastic trip.
Extra Holes Anchorage Golf Course
Staying up past your bedtime is always a treat and in Alaska it can involve getting in a round of golf. On June 22 the boys and I ventured out for an emergency 9. We teed off a little before 9:00pm and finished up around 11:00. The boys hadn’t had enough and wanted to stick around after the round and ended up rolling putts until 11:30. Summer Solstice at its best!
2018 was another exceptional year on the course and somehow 2019 is already panning out to be even better. I look forward to sharing my experiences. Until then, Enjoy Golf.