All posts by Drew Phelps

Top Golf Courses in the United States

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I picked up a golf club for the first time when I was just 10 years old. I can still remember that day at the driving range with my Dad. While I learned how to play the game, my Dad would teach me to respect the greats of the game from Arnold Palmer to Jack Nicklaus. I remember sitting down on many Sunday afternoons to watch major championships with my Dad and just being in awe. The players were super human in my eyes and the courses were nothing short of holy cathedrals.

What golfer has not dreamed of stepping up to the 12th tee box at Augusta National and looking out on the stunning azaleas that protect the green. Feeling your knees shake and your palms sweat as you attempt to stick your ball on the green from 155 yards out. Then as you take a stroll over the famous “Hogan Bridge,” you take a moment to pray that you can walk away from the hole with at least a par. This is just one of the many golf experiences that players aspire to achieve.

I thought I’d share with you the golf courses from around the United States that I dream to play one day. Here is just my Top 5:

#5: BETHPAGE STATE PARK (BLACK) – Farmingdale, New York. Designed by Joseph H. Burbeck & A.W. Tillinghast in 1936. 7,366 yards, Par 71.

BETHPAGE STATE PARK

“The Black” as it is known to the locals was once a scruffy state park haunt which was ranked by Golf Digest as number 100 in the country. It was considered a very unpolished diamond in a very dismal rough. Rees Jones, the son of famed Robert Trent Jones, gave it a must needed face lift and turned the course into a must-play cult classic as well as the site of two recent U.S. Opens and a Barclays event on the PGA Tour. Jones’ renovations revived the course but made sure to not lose the original mystic by re-establishing deep pits and large expanses of sand. In an interesting twice, Jones did not touch the original greens, which are some of the roundest and flattest in championship golf. This makes them perfect for today’s swift green speeds. This course has a rough edge about it which perfectly encapsulates the attitude of Long Island, New York.

#4: CONGRESSIONAL C.C. (BLUE) – Bethesda, Maryland. Designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1962. 7,278 yards, Par 72.

CongressionalCC

This selection I’ll admit is a homer pick. I live less than 30 minutes from this course and it has been a dream of mine to one day play. Congressional is Rees Jones redo of a course that was substantially his father’s work. Rees didn’t “remodel” it to make it more of a challenge for the professionals but for membership play. He gave the course definition. When you stand on the tee, you can see the entire hole, all the hazards and hopefully all the ways to just make it through unpunished. The greens are gentle enough for an everyday member to play but can be still mowed down to 14 on a Stimpmeter for tournaments. The original design had a par-3 18th hole but Rees reversed its direction and made it into a long, very difficult par-3 10th. Looking down the barrel of number 18 is quite an intimidating experience. You deal with water all along the left-side with an ominous clubhouse which can only be described as “castle like” looking down upon the 18th green. This course was humbled at the 2011 U.S. Open when Rory McIlory destroyed the field at Congressional and finishing at 16-under par and an eight shot victory over Jason Day. Be rest assured that the next time the U.S. Open returns to Congressional, it won’t be so easy.

#3: WHISTLING STRAITS (STRAITS) – Haven, Wisconsin. Designed by Pete Dye in 1998. 7,790, Par 72.

WhistlingStraits

I fell in love with the lay out of this course during the 2010 PGA Championship which we all remember the infamous Dustin Johnson “foot print” incident which cost him his first major victory. This is a relatively new course compared to the others but one of the most visually stunning courses, you’ll ever see. Pete Dye transformed a dead flat army air base overlooking Lake Michigan into an imitation Ballybunion. An assistant pro was seen addressing his ball, which rested in a visible footprint in one of the 967 (at last count) bunkers on the course. There are no rakes at Whistling Straits, in keeping with the notion that this is a transplanted Irish links. No, the pro didn’t ground his club. Instead, he stooped over, picked up the ball and placed it on a patch of level sand saying “that’s what we do here.” This whole course screams Pete Dye architecture because it forces the player to invent shots, or maybe even a local rule. Which makes us wonder how it will play at this year’s PGA Championship and the 2020 Ryder Cup.

#2: PEBBLE BEACH G. LINKS – Pebble Beach, California. Designed by Jack Neville & Douglas Grant in 1919. 6,828 yards, Par 72.

PebbleBeach

You can’t discuss the Top 5 golf courses in the Unites States without listing Pebble Beach. It’s like a rule. This course has got to be the greatest meeting of land and sea in American golf, but the most extensive one as well. Nine holes perched immediately above the crashing Pacific surf and the fourth through 10th plus the 17th and 18th. Pebble’s sixth through eighth are golf’s real Amen Corner, with a few Hail Marys thrown in over the ocean cove on eight from atop a 75-foot-high bluff. The best part of Pebble is that it is a public course and anyone willing to plunk down nearly 400 dollars can get a tee time. It is easily one of the most popular major championship venues of all time. It will host another U.S. Amateur in 2018, and the very next year it will host its sixth U.S Open.

#1: AUGUSTA NATIONAL G.C. – August, Georgia. Designed by Alister Mackenzie & Bobby Jones in 1933. 7,435 yards, Par 72.

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What can I say about Augusta that hasn’t been said a million times? Every golfer young and old dreams of a day when they will get an extremely rare opportunity to play on those hallowed grounds. You have to win a lottery just for the right to buy a ticket to the Masters, so you can imagine how hard it is to get in 18. No golf course has tinkered with its layout as often or as effectively over the decades as has Augusta National Golf Club, mainly to keep it competitive for the annual Masters Tournament. All that tinkering has resulted in an amalgamation of design ideas, with a routing by Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, some Perry Maxwell greens, some Trent Jones water hazards, some Jack Nicklaus mounds and swales and, most recently, extensive re-bunkering by Tom Fazio.

Verizon Center Event Guide – Capitals Game Day

Rock The Red (Wide)

So you’re attending a Washington Capitals game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., terrific! Be ready to “Rock The Red” with more than 18,000 screaming fans.

It is truly amazing what has happened to Chinatown since the Verizon Center was built back in 1997. It has become one of the trendest hot spots in the city from the fantastic restaurants to wide variety of bars and night clubs.

Whether you plan to drive into the city or take the metro, (which drops you off right at the arena) be sure to get down to Chinatown a couple hours before puck drop to pregame.

I recommend you head over to “Rocket Bar” which is located less than one block from an entrance to the Verizon Center. Lots of Capitals fans get their pregame libations at this “hole in the wall” bar. It features a great happy hour with plenty of pool tables, dart boards, and other bar type arcade games. If a dive bar is not your scene, you can settle in at Cylde’s which features another fantastic happy hour which also includes their famous Raw Oyster Bar.

Once you’ve had your fill before the game, make your way into the stadium for an in your face hockey experience you’ll never forget. During the National Anthem, please don’t be alarmed when the whole crowd yells in unison “RED!” Capital fans love their red. Once the puck drops, listen for the sound of a vuvuzela in the distance. Yes, the same vuvuzela you remember hearing throughout the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. “Horn Guy,” as he is known at the Verizon Center, blows his horn throughout key moments of the game to the tune of “LETS – GO – CAPS” as a way to fire up the fans. I also would be remiss if I forgot to mention “Goat.” “Goat” is an extremely passionate Caps fan who gets featured on the jumbotron during the game to stand up and lead the crowd in a chant of “LETS – GO – CAPS.”

The last thing and probably most important thing to remember when going to a Washington Capitals game is to “Unleash the Fury.” If you aren’t familar with the comedy “Road Trip,” there is a scene where Tom Green is trying to feed his roommate’s pet snake but he just won’t eat. To help get the snake to eat, Green says softly, “Unleash the Fury” and slowly it gets to the point where he screams it out loud at the snake. The Capitals started showing that scene to fire up the crowd late in the 3rd period of games and it became a phenomenon. Tom Green heard about all the love in Washington D.C. that he volunteered to shoot a special version of the scene for the fans that is just played at the games.

After a great night of hockey action, you can’t let your night end just yet. There are tons of great post game hot spots. Directly across the street is “Redline” which is known as a Gastrolounge. When you are seated, there are two beer taps installed into the table with two different types of beers on tap. The waiter will bring you pint glasses to fill to your hearts’ content. When you are ready to settle up, the waiter gets a digital read out of how much you poured and charges you by the ounce. If you are looking for a more chill atmosphere, head down a couple blocks to Penn Quarter Sports Tavern. They always have postgame drink specials for you to enjoy.

So, make sure you “Rock the Red” while chanting “LETS GO CAPS” when attending a Washington Capitals game at the Verizon Center but always remember to “UNLEASH THE FURY!”

Nice Guys Don’t Have to Finish Last

In almost every Hollywood movie, it’s the nice guy who always finishes last.  The nice guy is always there to lend an ear when his best female friend, who he’s secretly in love with, is having problems with her boyfriend. She says, “Why can’t he be more like you?”  But, the nice guy can’t compete with the bad boy who turns his life around to become the perfect man.  I’m here to tell you though that the movie screen is not the only place where the nice guy can fall short.

Matt Kuchar is known as one of the nicest players on the PGA Tour, as well as one of the most consistent.  He introduced himself to the golf world at the 1998 Masters as a fresh-faced young phenomenon who took home the low amateur award and finished in the Top 30 overall.  Kuchar turned pro in 2000 and won his first pro tournament in 2002 at the Honda Classic.  He fell on hard times in 2005 when he lost his tour card and had to earn his way back on the Nationwide Tour.  Kuchar fought and got his game to a point where he is the currently ranked as the 5th best player in the world according to the world golf rankings.  Since 2010, Kuchar has five wins, 45 Top-10 finishes, and has earned over 20 million dollars on tour.  There is no doubt that Kuchar is one of the top players on the PGA Tour today but like a lot of good golfers playing today, the major championship victory has eluded him to this point.

Photo by Jay Laprete/AP
Photo by Jay Laprete/AP

The fact that there are so many big name players on the tour today that also do not have a major championship under their belt should make Matt Kuchar feel like he is in good company.  Jason Day hasn’t been consistent for all four days.  Sergio Garcia has said it himself that he doesn’t have the mental game.  Lee Westwood’s short game has failed him more times than I can count.  Brandt Snedeker cannot close on a Sunday when it counts the most.  Dustin Johnson has problems managing the courses, case and point the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits – we all know what happened there.  I could go on listing the guys who have come up short and why they haven’t been able to close, but the point is, these guys are still all considered the top players in the world despite no major championship titles between them.

The seemingly always smiling Kuchar has had his toughness questioned at times, but big wins at the Players in 2012 and the WGC-Match Play earlier this year have shown he’s made strides as a competitor.  He also has a T3 at the 2012 Masters, T6 at the 2010 US Open, T9 at the 2012 Open Championship and T10 at the 2010 PGA Championship.  The 2014 Masters, Kuchar was in great position coming into play on Sunday, down just one stroke to the leaders Jordan Spieth and eventual winner Bubba Watson.  It looked like it was going to be his day when he birdied two of the first three holes, but a double bogey on the Par 3 4th hole killed all his momentum and finished shooting a final round 74 which was good enough for a share of 5th place.

I can’t say Matt Kuchar will be the next marquee player without a major title to finally get over the hump and win one.  But, he can play the game of golf at an extremely high level and maybe one day soon this nice guy can finally finish first at a major.