JC Golf: British Open Preview and Picks By Our Pros

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Storylines abound as the Tour makes its annual trek across the pond for the third major of the year, the British Open, which begins Thursday at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake.

Just like the course, we don’t allow slow play on the blog, so let’s get right to the tournament preview followed by predictions from our pros.

Tiger And His Healed Back Are Back – After missing the Masters and the U.S. Open while recovering from back surgery, Tiger Woods returns to major championship competition at the site of one of his most revered major wins.

Woods famously rode his iron play to victory at Hoylake in 2006. Hitting just one driver, Woods negotiated a veritable minefield of bunkers without going into a single one to claim the Claret Jug.

Having played just one tournament since his return (he missed the cut), Woods will have to find his form quickly to have a chance to notch his first major victory since the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.

Regardless of how he plays, him merely teeing it up to resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and the major victories record is sure to at least be worth a bump in the Open’s TV ratings.

With just the British and PGA Championship remaining, Woods is looking at another year of losing ground to history if he can’t get a win.

Can Phil Two-Peat? – A year ago, Mickelson book-ended a win at the Scottish Open with astellar Sunday charge to claim his first victory in the Open championship to get him to three-fourths of career Grand Slam.

Mickelson wasn’t even on the first page of the leaderboard when the day began, but he bolted past the field with a birdie binge to pull out a thrilling win, one of the best in recent major championship history.

Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes, including a legendary 3-wood into the par-5 17th to set up birdie. Mickelson’s caddie, Jim “Bones” McKay would later compare the shot to someone driving it through their garage door from nearly 300 yards out. Mickelson put it to 25 feet.

“Best round I’ve even him play,” McKay told Fox Sports.

A year later, Mickelson has just one top-10 finish and his year mostly consists of being the media darling in the run up to the U.S. Open, where Mickelson finished tied for 28th after battling his putter all week long.

Like everyone else, Mickelson spent the weekend chasing Martin Kaymer in futility as Kaymer dusted the field at Pinehurst, which brings us to …

What Can Kaymer Do For An Encore? – Kaymer’s methodical march to the title at Pinehurst after posting opening 65s was pure dominance.

Can Kaymer do it again? History, of course, says it’s unlikely. The last player to win repeat majors was Padraig Harrington in 2008 (the British and the PGA).

Then again, Kaymer only wins the biggies. His only three Tour wins are the PGA Championship and this year’s U.S. Open and the Players Championship.

Kaymer’s best British finish is T7 in 2010. He finish T32 last year.

By the way, according to Bleacher Report, the U.S. Open-British Open championship has been accomplished four times.

Favorite Son, Justin Rose – A year ago, it was Lee Westwood. This year, Justin Rose, coming off consecutive victories, including the Scottish Open, is the countryman of choice.

To do it, he’ll have to pull out a performance his championship resume doesn’t currently qualify him for. He’s missed five of the last six cuts, including the last two years.

But you never count out the hot guy, especially when he’s proven himself consistently to be among the best ball strikers in the world.

Is the Winning Strategy Tiger 2.0? – Can someone just do what Tiger did in 2006 and basically bag the driver?

Well, the course is reportedly only 54 yards longer than 2006 and actually has fewer bunkers, so it seems plausible.

Will Tiger try it again? Will anyone? Tune in very early tomm. a.m. and we’ll start to find out.

Happy British Open week.

Now the predictions from our pros …

 

Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn – Rory McIroy is overdue to win his third major.

Troy Ferguson, Head Professional, Twin Oaks – Miguel Angel Cabrera

 

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Oaks North –I like Justin Rose . Maybe the hottest player in the world. He is from Europe and knows the style of golf.

My second choice is Martin Kaymer – pure golf swing and great putter.

Scott Butler, Tournament Sales Director at Twin Oaks – Adam Scott by six or eight shots – or Tiger in a close one.

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn – It’s all about crisp irons and great putting in order to capture the Claret Jug.  Justin Rose is one of the best long iron players on the planet, while possessing an incredible short game

For such a talented player, though, he has had a poor track record at the Open since his breakthrough performance in 1998. I expect Justin to do what Phil Mickelson did last year; Go back to back, winning the Scottish Open and following it up by winning the Open Championship, bringing an end to the drought of Englishmen to win since Nick Faldo in 1992.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch – Rickie Fowler: Time for him to break through and win a big event. After his showing at the U.S Open, he could finally be ready.  Great ball striker with a lot of imagination around the greens.

Martin Kaymer – perfect ball flight for links course (as proven at the US open) and loves to putt around the greens.  At 20-1, he’s also a great value!

But, Erik adds, …

I would love to see Tiger win. It would be great for the sport.  With his deteriorating health over the last few years, we may not get to see much more of the brilliance that he has spoiled us with for over 16 years.

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JC Golf: Drive, Chip and Putt at Encinitas Ranch Q & A

 

 

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          A year ago, the PGA instituted its answer to the NFL’s long-standing “Punt, Pass and Kick” youth skills competition with “Drive, Chip & Putt.”

          The competition culminated in the finals being held at Augusta National the week of the Masters, which got the attention of youth golfers everywhere – and their parents.

          Seeing the finalists on television at the Masters, including 11-year-old Lucy Li, who played in last week’s LPGA U.S. Open, has already sparked a rise in this year’s turnout. To handle the anticipated increase, the Southern California PGA has expanded the number of Southern California local qualifiers from 10 to 14, including one for the first time at Encinitas Ranch on July 7th.

          Finalists in the four age divisions for boys and girls at Encinitas Ranch will advance to a sub-regional on Aug. 18th at La Costa Resort and Spa and then on to Torrey Pines on Sept. 13th to compete for the trip to Augusta.

          Matt Gilson, Player Development Manager at the Southern California PGA, took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about this year’s competition.

Q. Southern California had two winners at last year’s inaugural competition at Augusta. What was their experience like?

A. Everybody had a blast. They got to meet (past champion) Adam Scott and (current champion) Bubba Watson. Going to the Master is every golfer’s dream come true. And they got everything covered for them and one parent, including tickets to the practice round on Monday. The whole package was really good.”

Q. How much has seeing all that one TV stirred interest this time around?

Sign-ups were a little slow because we were competing with school, but they’re starting to pick up. We’re definitely seeing an increase in participation. And I’ve seen kids who’ve never picked up a club before now going to the range the week before. There’s definitely motivation there with kids realizing they could end up on TV.

Q. Besides the increased number of qualifiers, how has the competition changed in year two? And what are the age categories?

Last year, we maxed out our qualifiers at 120 participants and this year it’s 200. The age ranges are 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 with both boys and girls division. And those ages are determined by how old they would be on April 5th, 2015, which is the date of the national championship, so the youngest age to enter would be 6 if they would but 7 on or by April 5th, 2015.

Q. How does the competition work?

It’s a nine-shot competition that starts with putting. There’s a 6-foot putt, a 15 foot and a 30 foot. The hole is surrounded by scoring rings that provide points for how close they get. The max is 25 points for a holed putt.

They then have three chip shots, from about 12-15 yards, to a hole with scoring rings out to 10 feet and a make, again, is worth 25 points.

Then they have three swings on a 40-by-300-yard grid on a driving range. Beyond 300 yards is 25 points.

The highest total score wins and the top three in each age division advances from that age group’s qualifier to the next round. The top two in the sub-regional advance to Torrey Pines and the boy and girl winner in each division advances to the championship at Augusta.

Q. How do players or parents register, and how much does it cost?

Registration is free, and players sign up at www.drivechipandputt.com.

Q. What’s the atmosphere like at these events?

It’s competitive, but we still want kids to have fun. That’s the most important thing.

 

JC Golf: U.S. Open Preview & Picks By The Pros

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          As the year’s second major, the U.S. Open, arrives, storylines abound that, refreshingly, don’t involve Tiger Woods.

Unlike the Masters, Woods’ absence at Pinehurst has been barely a blip on the media radar this week. Instead, players who are actually playing in the tournament have been the storyline and, of course, the course itself.

According to my golf-centric Twitter feed, these are the lead stories going into the tournament.

  1. Can Phil Mickelson complete his career Grand Slam?

After his win at the British Open last year, Mickelson has now won them all, save for the Open, at which he’s finish second an incredible six times, including at Pinehurst 15 years ago. Despite his clout of having won five majors, a Mickelson victory seems a bit unlikely when you consider his atypically quiet year on Tour. And he’s tinkering with his putting grip (going to the claw), which is already drawing doubters. As one columnist wrote, “There goes Mickelson, out-thinking himself again.”

But a Mickelson victory would certain give the Tour season a shot in the arm. As would …

2. Will Jordan Spieth Finally Break Through?

The Next Big Thing in golf would erase the “Next” with a major championship. To do it, he’ll have to learn to close, something he’s been unable to do thus far this season. But after finishing second to Bubba Watson at the Masters, a breakthrough at the U.S. Open would announce an arrival that seems inevitable. But as Jack Nicklaus says of Tiger Woods’ major chase: You haven’t done it until you’ve done it.

3. A Classic Venue Restored

Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore oversaw a $2.5 million renovation of the No. 2 course to restore it to the original Donald Ross design and a more natural state. Among other things, that meant removing turf and restoring bunkers and waste areas. As a result, this Open isn’t expected to play like an Open in that it won’t have ankle-high rough. However, in the practice rounds the pros have reported that the greens have been tough to hit, thus the winner’s chance possible riding on a strong short game, which (back to No. 1) … hello, Lefty.

But the course setup has some forecasting controversy …

4.  Could We See A Rules Controversy Like the 2010 PGA?

The 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits is where a rules controversy erased Dustin Johnson’s best chance at a major victory. He grounded his club in what he believed to be a waste area instead of a bunker. He thus invoked a two-stroke penalty that cost him the championship.   

Similar course conditions at Pinehurst abound, meaning the rules official is certain to get a workout this week. Something to watch for, but here’s hoping we don’t have another major overshadowed by a rules controversy.

There’s also the chance for Bubba Watson to notch a second major and really put some sizzle into the Tour season. But none of our JC pros chose him. Their picks are listed below.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch

Rory McIlroy – I think he has momentum on his side and his game 9and mind) are now sharp enough to return to top form

Adam Scott – He has become one of the most consistent players on the planet (hence his No. 1 world ranking), he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game, so if the putter is working he should be a favorite

Long Shot…..Webb Simpson – Wait a second, a former champion as a long-shot?  After the 2012 championship, his game has fallen off, but he is getting hot at the right time and has the experience to prevail.

Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn –

Webb Simpson – Played well in the FedEx.

Troy Ferguson, Head Golf Professional, Twin Oaks –

Graham DeLaet. Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn

Jordan Spieth – Too young to be scared of the U.S. Open.

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Reidy Creek and Oaks North

Sergio Garcia – My wife’s favorite.

JC Golf Salutes Kerry Everett for his Double Eagle at Temecula Creek Inn

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                A routine round of golf for Kerry Everett in his Wednesday men’s league at Temecula Creek Inn in April turned into something rare and special when his second shot on a par-5 found the bottom of the cup for a double eagle.

                Everett’s rare feat occurred on the dogleg right 519-yard par-5 7th on the Oak nine. After a solid drive, Everett’s rescue from 220 yards found the hole, much to his surprise and his group. Shielded from a view of the green by trees, no one saw the ball go in, Everett said.

                “I knew I hit good and I knew it was pretty close to the flag, but none us saw it on the green,” he said. “When I got up there, I looked behind the green and in the bunker and didn’t find anything. Then I checked the hole, and there it was.”

                The shot was the highlight of round where Everett, a 4 handicap, shot 68.

                “It was a really good day,” he said.

                A double eagle, also known an albatross, is considered the rarest shot in golf because it takes toward good swings as opposed to just one for a hole-in-one. Golf Digest pegs the odds of a hole-in-one for an amateur at 12,500 to 1. It hasn’t established the odds for a double eagle with such mathematical certainly. Or at least a Google search on the topic was inconclusive.

                Whatever the math, Everett takes it to another level because this was his second double eagle. He scored one in Laughlin, Nev., 10 years ago, he says, when he wasn’t taking the game as seriously as he has the past seven.

                Shortly after scoring his second double eagle, Everett says the irony quickly occurred to him of what he’d accomplished without ever having a hole-in-one.

                “I’ve come close,” he says of getting an ace. “Hopefully in my lifetime I will, maybe even more than once.”

                Everett lives in Temecula and has been playing in his men’s league for a year. He regards Temecula Creek Inn as his home course and says he appreciates the challenge of the layout and the quality of the course conditions.

                “With all the trees they have, it’s not an easy course,” he says, “but it’s a very well-kept course. The greens are always nice, and a little quick, but they take great care of it year round. It’s always in good condition, which I like.”

The SLDR Mini Driver: A New Way to Play the Opening Holes at Twin Oaks

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Like all of you, I’ve had my trails playing the tight four-hole opening stretch at Twin Oaks.

I’ve probably played them 20 times or so now, achieving mixed results. Dozens of lost balls have gradually coaxed me into a less aggressive strategy that doesn’t make for as many birdies, but it makes for a lot fewer bogies. I’ve taken a bit of a survivalist mentality about the opening combination of two short par-4s, a long par-5 and a mid-length par-3.

I had a bit of a breakthrough on this stretch, however, two weeks ago thanks for a breakthrough in TaylorMade’s R & D department.

I was carrying TaylorMade’s new SLDR Mini Driver for the first time. The Mini Driver is a club between a driver and a 3-wood. It’s a driver with a 260cc and a Speed Slot, designed to provide the accuracy of a 3-wood off the tee while providing the distance of a driver, or just shy of.

TaylorMade gave me an advance chance to experience the Mini Driver, and I took to it immediately. My first shots on the range were dead straight, and I found I was able to hit it about 260-280 yards, sacrificing only 20-40 yards from my driver.

With this new weapon stashed in my bag, I approached the first tee at Twin Oaks. The opening dogleg doesn’t play to my draw, but I’ve learned to basically get by punching a 3-wood out left, just past the tree. Well, two weeks ago, I pulled the Mini, which is ideal for shorter par-4s, especially tight ones.

In short, I hit my best drive ever on this hole. I took it 280 yards right up the middle, leaving me about 50 yards. Due to a two-putt, birdie eluded me, but I felt like I was onto something.

Unfortunately, I pulled my tee ball OB with the Mini on the difficult par-5 2nd, but I executed the drive on No. 4 to just shy of the two fairway traps to set me up for another par. I got around the opening holes in 2-over, which may or may not be my best, but it felt different. This felt like success I could repeat, and hopefully drop a few putts the next time.

The Mini Driver comes in lofts of 12, 14 and 16 degrees. The lofts are supposed to remove sidespin from the ball to produce straight shots and thus more balls in the fairway.

At a media event for the Mini on Monday at La Costa Resort and Spa, TaylorMade’s Brian Bazzel, Senior Director of Product Creation for Metalwoods, explained the performance benefits of increased loft.

“If you take a player who hits a 10-degree driver and has lots of side spin, look at what happens when they hit a 16-degree driver,” he said. “They square up the face more often and decrease the sidespin by almost half. When you do that, you’re speed goes up, you efficiency goes up and suddenly you’re hitting it farther and hitting more fairways.”

Bazzel says shorter hitters in particular can benefit from increased loft.

“What’s most obvious from the research is the biggest benefit of high launch, low spin is for slow-swing players,” he said. “They already have low spin. We just need to get them to loft up and hit it higher and the yardage gains are there. They’re actually the ones leaving the most yardage on the table right now.”

Putting the Mini in of course means taking a club out. Bazzel says that decision will be different for each player depending largely on what loft their driver is and then gapping appropriately after.

But Bazzel says the evolution of club combinations in golf bags has already begun.

“Throughout every swing speed, you’re going to see a new club combination and bag makeup that utilizes the technology to achieve more distance. The average driver loft on Tour has gone up one degree to 10.5 degrees and several 12 degrees are in play. Their bag has completely changed, just in one year.  The longest iron in the bag now often will be a 5-iron. You’re going to see those changes being reflected in recreational players from what they see on Tour.”

Don’t be surprised if it shows up in a bag of one of your playing partners soon. The club went on sale in May and retails for $279.           The club is designed for enhanced performance off the tee, but can be played from the fairway as well. Bazzel says he’s still discovering the shots that can be hit with it.

As for me, my driver is out and the Mini is in. I’ve been experiencing a bit of the driver doldrums recently and the Mini has proven an excellent remedy.

For more information about the Mini, contact your JC pro and see if it’s a club that fits into your golf bag of the future.

JC Golf Spotlight Hole: No. 8 at Encinitas Ranch

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The short stretch of canyon holes on the front nine at Encinitas Ranch ends with the par-4 8th, which General Manager Erik Johnson deems possibly the toughest hole on the course because of its make-or-break tee shot.

Standing on the blue tee box, you’re faced with carrying a diagonal canyon that poses a double dilemma. One, is making the nearly 200-yard carry into the fairway on this 407-yard hole. The second is the risk-reward of setting up your second shot. But the more left you go, the more risk you incur of contributing to a canyon full of golf balls.

From a design standpoint, No. 8 is a masterpiece, Johnson says.

“It’s truly a brilliant design,” he says. “It’s by far the toughest drive on the course because it’s visually intimidating.”

And for those who know this tee shot well, you know the numbers for the canyon carry are variable and deceiving because of one formidable factor – wind.

“A 195-yard carry doesn’t sound like much,” Johnson says, “until you figure it plays into a prevailing wind. A safe shot is to play a 200-yard hybrid or long iron out right (which carries its own danger of OB), but that leaves you a very long second.

“In that regard, there really is no safe shot here. It simply rewards the best tee shot. A good drive can you leave you 8-iron, 9 or wedge. A lesser drive can leave you  200-plus.”

And that’s to an uphill green on this dogleg left, where the wind becomes a crosswind on your approach.

For aiming purposes, three fairway bunkers present convenient targets. For every bunker you move your aim left, however, the more aggressive your tee-shot ambitions become.

Playing with a threesome recently, my group came to this hole under unusually benign wind conditions. Per my usual, I aimed at the middle trap and comfortably found the fairway. Our straightest hitter took a more aggressive route and seemed to clear comfortably, though that later proved deceiving. Our third hit a push that just barely managed to find a patch of remote right fairway.

As is often the case on this hole, what looked to be our best drive on this hole wasn’t. Our friend who played the farthest left tee shot found his ball barely beyond the canyon in the rough instead of the fairway.

My ball sat on the short grass a comfortable 180 yards out. Factoring the uphill and a back pin, I clubbed up to a 5-iron, which I pushed right, about pin-high in the rough right of the sand traps.

The player with our longest second shot recovered nicely with a flushed 3-wood that resulted in a ball over the back of the green. Our canyon survivor’s second came up short left, a common result from that position.

In all, we netted two pars and a bogey, with the bogey being the least likely suspect based on our original perceived tee shots.

With a back pin on a long green, that outcome is no surprise to Johnson.

“If the pin is in back, I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but it’s really hard to get your approach back there,” he says. “You’re normally looking at a long putt if you’re going for birdie. Sometimes a better plan on the approach with that pin is just to play short of the green.

“Par is just like a birdie here.”

Johnson says the hole distributes its difficulty evenly from the blue tees and the whites, which play to 330 yards. The white tee spares players some of the crossing, but the fairway traps and canyon remain a factor.

“It’s a good tee shot no matter what set of tees you’re playing.”

And most likely the key to your success on the front nine if you’re in the hunt for a good score.

“On a course known for scoring, No. 8 and No. 17 (par 3 guarded by water) are where the teeth of the course really come out,” Johnson says.

“If you do well on No. 2 (long par 3) and No. 8, you’re most likely going to have a good score on the front nine.”

JC Golf would you love to hear you stories and strategies from playing No. 8. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section at jcgolf.com.

JC Golf: Five Reasons to Play Reidy Creek

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If you haven’t yet discovered Reidy Creek, an executive course at the base of the Escondido Mountains, you might be surprised at what you find.

It’s easy to say this isn’t what you’d expect from an executive course. It’s another thing to show you.

Take the third hole. It plays to 167 yards nearly dead uphill with two deep sand traps guarding the right side. There’s room short and left, but long is OB. The green is double-tiered, not counting the false front. It took a healthy 6-iron for me to find the back fringe.

It’s no stretch to envision this being a par-3 on the course you play regularly. And that’s what Reidy largely feels like – a real golf course at an reduced yardage (2,582). It’s more like a second-shot course, if you will, because the greens are what you’d expect to find at the end of a regulation par-4 or -5.

Take that level of play and put it without terrain that winds through the wilderness of a wooded area (trees, streams, wildlife, etc.) and you’ve got an uncommon executive golf experience. Note: If you aren’t hitting it reasonably straight, you will lose balls here.

I played Reidy for the third time last week, first in a while, and was glad to be reminded of its merits. I came away with at least five things I really like about this course.

Sophisticated greens – The normal association you get for greens at an executive course is small and mostly flat. Not here.

Every green at Reidy is undulating and some are quite large (there’s a double green on back nine) meaning they can host multiple pin positions and really change how the course can play.

Some pin positions can be quite tough. For instance, I hit a shot to 6 feet early in round that ended up being a 15-foot putt. My ball landed on the wrong side of a ridge.

And that’s part of what keeps this course challenging for advanced players. If you go pin-seeking every hole, I guarantee you’ll eventually have to hit a major recovery shot at some point. For me, it was a bunker shot from an awkward stance.

The other benefit of these types of greens is that if you aren’t good at reading greens, this is an ideal place to learn. And the green speeds are kept at a pace that doesn’t penalize you terribly for your misses.

To show you what kind of putts you can get, I was really wanting a birdie to get my card back to 1-over going into No. 18. That meant sinking a 12-footer on 17. The putt had 6 feet of break and I just missed, grazing the cup. Not a putt you normally find an executive course, but great practice for my next regulation round.

You will earn your score here, trust me.

Walkability/pace – My only reservation about walking here is simply a few long, but manageable, stretches between holes. But I saw people walking who told me they didn’t mind.

The Reidy staff told me about a third of players walk or take a pull cart. Either way, playing in under three hours is certainly doable and a refreshing break from the plodding pace you find on some bigger courses.

I zipped around in about 2:30, playing through about three groups in the early afternoon. It found my rhythm on the back and scored well.

You can play fast here, or take time to teach, which I’ll get into in a few more paragraphs.

Great condition – Save for some maintenance on the tee boxes this time, this course has been in peak shape each time I’ve played it. And the greens are tip top.

You don’t have to worry about spotty greens or finding a course that’s rough around the edges here. You get the same quality you’d expect at every other JC course.

 Great couple’s course – It’s common to see couples here, and for good reason. It’s a course that can easily accommodate differing handicaps.

From my own experience, I brought a former girlfriend here who was getting back into the game.  She found the whites tees comfortable and the course quite playable. On the back nine, after a few near-misses, she finally bagged her first birdie on No. 16 and did a victory dance around the flagstick.

That success came after a little coaching and a little practice, which the pace here allows for.

Meanwhile, I was getting some solid practice in on my irons and my short game.

The only possible drawback here is that you don’t get to hit driver, which I know some players like to do at least once or twice on an exec., but you don’t really miss it. The level of shot making required keeps it interesting enough.

No. 18 – Try to think of a finishing hole at an executive course you’ve played. Can you?

You’ll remember the 18th at Reidy Creek, partly because it gives you your first impression of the course.

When you pass the pro shop, the first thing you see is the pond surrounding the 18th green and the stone walking bridge leading to it. It’s an eye-catcher and evokes a little Amen Corner association the first time you see it.

Playing it is a challenge. It’s 164 yards to a deep green, which, again, is surrounded by water on the right and OB left. What’s more, factor in a slight crosswind.

When I played it, I pushed a little too hard for birdie and yanked my tee shot OB. There’s a rather safe play available to the front of the green, but then you’ve got a lot of putt on your hands.

I took double bogey and walked off in 3-over on the back. I’m coming back to par it. Hey, didn’t I say that last time?

To book a round at Reidy Creek, call 760.740.2450 or book it here at jcgolf.com.

 

      

 

 

 

 

JC Golf: Our Professionals Pick the Masters

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         The Masters, the week that speaks to every golfer’s soul, is here.

The world’s No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, not being in the field due to back surgery has left the tournament without a clear favorite.

While a Tiger-less Masters is a buzz kill for some, true golf fans will tune in regardless to see who slips on the coveted green jacket this year.

Some of the professionals at JC Golf sized up the field this week and dared to predict a winner. You’ll find their picks and rationale below, but feel free to add your favorite in the comments.

Enjoy the Masters, and we look forward to you resuming your regularly scheduled golf season with us after.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch

Pick: Harris English.

Why: “He’s my dark horse pick. He’s a Georgia boy. He’s been on a really good run over the last year and a half or so. He’s very confident. He changed every club in his bag going into this season and he hasn’t seen a fall off, which I think is amazing.

“He even changed his putter after he won two or three times with it. That just speaks to his confidence.”

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn

Pick: Angel Cabrera

Why: “After losing the playoff to Adam Scott in 2013, it has been forgotten how clutch Cabrera was down the stretch.  Angel is in the middle of the 18th fairway when Adam Scott rolls in a 15-footer for birdie to take a one-stroke lead.  And the Augusta crowd erupts with a Sunday roar!

“Imagine watching that scene unfold in front of you.

“Cabrera, in the middle of the 18th fairway, once tied, is now watching Scott celebrate the lead.  After the green clears, in a heavy downpour, Cabrera stays in the moment and sticks his approach shot to two feet, forcing the playoff.   This type of clutch performance wins major championships and should not be overlooked.  Angel Cabrera is my 2014 Masters pick.”

Troy Ferguson, Head Professional, Twin Oaks

Pick: Graham DeLaet

Why: “Go Canada!” (Troy is from Alberta; Graham is from near Saskatchewan.)

Eric Jeska, Director of Golf, Twin Oaks

Pick: Pat Perez

Why: “He’s a San Diego boy, and nobody else will pick him. Then I can celebrate by myself after he wins.”

Paul Miernicki, Director of Instruction, Twin Oaks

Pick: Matt Kuchar

Why: “He’s the hot guy right now. He should’ve won the last two tournaments. He was just two bad swings away. He’s still won a million dollars more than me the past two weeks. My money’s on him.”

Note: Paul’s second choice is Jason Day.

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Oaks North & Reidy Creek

Pick: Charl Schwartzel

Why: “He has been in the hunt before, he has good experience at Augusta (2011 champion), and he’s a great putter.”

Curtis Rowe, Director of Golf, Temecula Creek Inn

Pick: Sergio Garcia

Why: “I think he’s due to win a major, and he’s a great player, good enough to a major. And everybody hates Sergio. I’ll go against the haters.”

Note: Curtis’ American pick is Ryan Moore.

JC Golf: The Ranch Grill at Encinitas Ranch Is Now Open

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         The Encinitas Ranch Golf Course’s remodeled bar and grill, now known as the Ranch Grill, is officially open and will soon be serving a brand new menu.

The Ranch Grill is the third phase of an extensive $1 million renovation of Encinitas Ranch.

Encinitas Ranch General Manager Erik Johnson describes the Ranch Grill as a “coastal casual gastropub” that is meant to encourage post-round camaraderie and be conducive to sports-related social gatherings.

“I want it to be like when I was young and for golf to become more social again, like it was meant to be. When I was a young golf professional, players would hang out at the club for another two or three hours,” he says. “We want people to come in here and settle their bets, talk about their rounds and hang out to watch the game.

“It’s healthy for the game of golf to have people hanging out at the golf course.”

Encouraging that sort of activity started with a complete remodeling of the bar and grill space. Wood paneling now compliments new wood furniture that is grouped around eight television sets, including five large flat screens that will soon be connected to a brand new sound system.

Guests will immediately notice three large communal tables made of aged wood that can seat up to eight people comfortably.

Part of the $200,000 investment included doubling the beer taps to eight. Johnson says this was done in part to cater to the new menu, which will pair local craft brews and pub-type comfort food.

“It’s not fancy,” Johnson says of the new dining theme, “but it is upscale and fun.”

Eight-ounce burgers form the base of the new menu, which will also include sandwiches, salads, an array of appetizers and breakfast.

A “secret ingredient” to the new menu is Canadian culinary creation called poutine. Native to Quebec, poutine consists of French fries topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds.

“We’ve added beer and cheddar to make it an amazing gravy to have over any of our menu items,” Johnson says.

While golfers are, naturally, the immediate target for the new space, Johnson says he has ambitions of the Ranch Grill becoming a dining destination for members of the community for the sheer experience of enjoying a delicious meal in the setting of a beautiful golf course.

“I think it’s going to be a cool place to hang out whether you’re a golfer or not,” Johnson says.

Here’s a sampling of menu items you can look forward to soon:

Smoked Bacon & I.P.A Chili – Harvest vegetables, ground turkey, picked herbs and tomatoes roasted and stewed with a local I.P.A.

Waffle Fry ‘Poutine’ – Crisp waffle fries topped with cheese and our house garlic & cheddar I.P.A. poutine gravy.

TJ Dog – Bacon-wrapped all-beef hot dog, chipotle mayo, avocado slices, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce.

Cali Burger – Pepper jack cheese, avocado slices, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo.

The Poutine Burger – Topped with cheddar I.P.A. gravy fries.

JC Golf: Golfers Gone Wild Celebrates a Milestone

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         What do you get when you combine more than 200 golfers, 1,500 hot wings, 36 holes of tournament golf and throw in a few kegs of beer and a band?

You’ve got Golfers Gone Wild, the wildly popular spring tournament at Twin Oaks that will celebrate its fifth anniversary on April 11th.

The tournament is a JC Golf concept that originated at the Rancho Bernardo Inn but has found a home at Twin Oaks.

Tournament director Scott Butler says the tournament has developed such a following that he gets asked about the date months in advance.

“People look forward to it now,” Butler says. “It’s a lot of hard work for us, but it’s a really fun day for the golfers.”

The toughest trick for the staff is turning the golf carts after the 8 a.m. shotgun to get them out for the 2 p.m. shotgun, Butler says. What happens in between for the golfers is part of what makes the tournament unique.

In the course’s beer garden, a band is playing and food and beer are being served. Hooter’s girls dole out around 1,500 hot wings. Meanwhile local breweries – this year it’s Ballast Point and Mother Earth – provide beers for tasting and Hornito’s does the same for tequila.

Golfers seek to sample some of all of it via a “passport” they’re encouraged to complete.

Butler says the beer garden experience makes the day as much as what happens on the golf course.

“It’s just a fun tournament that is different than what most people associate with a golf tournament,” he says. “This is more about the atmosphere of the event than the actual golf.

“We want people to just have a good time.”

As for the golf, Butler says the unique set up of the course includes two holes on the par-3 17th. Called “Seeing Double,” the hole provides a closest-to-the-pin contest to either pin.

Of the more than 200 golfers that participate in the day, a few choose to play 36, Butler says.

“Only the brave actually play both,” he jokes. “Historically we get about four foursomes that will play both.”

For the price – $55 a player, $220 a foursome – Butler says the tournament is an incredible value for players.

“To be able to enjoy at all that for $55 is a really good deal. It’s crazy.”

A few spots remain for Golfers Gone Wild. You can sign up at http://www.jcgolf.com or by calling 760.591.4700.