Archive for July, 2009

Course review: Basset Down GC, Swindon

This is a review I did for golfmagic.com. Basset Down is a course in Swindon. Details and pictures can be found on their website: http://www.bassetdowngolfcourse.com

Design and condition

Basset Down is a relatively new, 9 hole parkland style layout, which despite its youth is still an attractive and challenging course for all golfers.

Featuring six par 4s, two par 3s and one par five, of which includes one of the UK’s longest par 5s at 593 yards, Basset Down has a pleasing mixture of holes.

The signature hole comes early in the round, a short par four with a large water hazard guarding the front of the green, offering longer drivers a great risk/reward opportunity.

Around the greens is where the course lets itself down. The bunkers are extremely shallow, to the point that many shots into the bunkers will run out. Hardly a challenge. Furthermore, the greens are not renowned as being amongst the best in Wiltshire. They can get very hard and bouncy in summer, and it is difficult to hold approach shots on them. Contrarily, winter conditions can make the greens very boggy and soft, which at least solves the problems faced in summer! In either instance, the greens often run slow, but are acceptable.

Generally speaking, the course is well maintained and in good condition. It makes good use of its surroundings, using a small copse to form a short par 3, whereby players must fire a short iron over the trees to a blind green.

There is also scope for development into an eighteen hole course in the future, which is something that members anticipate will go ahead at some point.

Playability

As mentioned, the course can be solid and bouncy in summer but, conversely, it can be terribly boggy in winter. Having said that, the course generally plays well. The holes all have a different challenge; length, blind shots, avoiding water hazards, small greens etc. It allows an enjoyable round of golf, which will challenge all abilities.

Fairways are set up with higher handicap golfers in mind, with generous wide landing zones which are all mostly flat. Greens are also equally generous, with most possessing run off areas as their main defence.

Facilities and Welcome

The owners of the course all appear to be extremely helpful and friendly. When we have had to wait for tee times, they have offered us complimentary range baskets so we can warm up.

The practice facilities are basic. The putting green bares little resemblance to the greens on the course and even manages to play slower than them! There is a chipping green, complete with the deepest bunker you will encounter on the complex (still not steep). The driving range is, however, better. There is an option in summer to hit off of either mats or turf, and the hitting area is grassed. Playing slightly uphill, balls are hard to follow past 200 yards, and there is also no automatic ‘power tee’ facility I’ve become used to at my home course.

Lessons can be taken with two knowledgeable and friendly professionals, which are well respected in the area.

There is a café, which produces refreshments and meals, and there are often offers on in conjunction with your round, all at reasonable prices.

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The Open in review

For many watching at the 138th Open Championship, there was only one man they wanted to win, Tom Watson.

The fairytale ending did not present itself, with American, Stewart Cink stealing the claret jug from the 59 year old’s grasp.

As history was seemingly about to be made, with Watson requiring a par at the last to win, BBC commentator, Ken Brown said ‘fairytales do happen.’ Unfortunately for Watson, the fairytale ending was not for him.

Cink captured his first major victory in style, with a birdie at the last to set the clubhouse lead at two under par. Fellow competitors, Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood, the British hope, failed to end their major droughts. Fisher’s hopes ended early with a quadruple bogey, whereas Westwood, who was at one point leading, had a bogey at the last to miss the playoff by one.

“The 2009 Open, perhaps unfairly to Cink, will be remembered as Watson’s Open.”

The playoff itself, a one sided affair, left many fans disappointed. There was no dream story, no history made, no happy Tom Watson. Instead, it was left to Cink to ease to victory in the playoff. With everyone against him, he held his nerve to claim a much deserved victory.

It was clear that the spectators, fans and even the commentators were left feeling a little flattened by Tom’s failure. After coming so close to a sixth Open Championship, the ageing legend seemed jaded and mentally affected by the tribulations of the 72nd hole. A sad end to a brilliant four days of golf.

The 2009 Open, perhaps unfairly to Cink, will be remembered as Watson’s Open. He surpassed the success of Greg Norman’s challenge in 2008 and fell just short of glory, where Norman faded early in his final round.

The British hope, after Fisher’s nightmare hole, was led by Chris Wood and Westwood, with both falling just one stroke short. Westwood, perhaps the better player over the four days, failed to have the one special round that Cink himself had, such as a 66 or better.

And the less said about Tiger the better. He did not look an inch like the great player we’ve come to know and hacked the ball around the course in an errant and wild manner.

Without the best players, and defending champion to challenge, it was left to a first time winner to take the plaudits and when Watson fans reflect today, they should bow to the worthy winner, Stewart Cink. Don’t forget, Tom has five Open victories, time to let someone else have a go eh, Tom?

Open day 2: A day of contrast

After the exhibition style shotmaking we witnessed yesterday, the players are finding the Ailsa Course a little trickier today.

Overnight leader, Miguel Angel Jimenez, has dropped down the leaderboard, currently two under par overall. By contrast, little-known Japanese player, Kenichi Kuboya is going strongly, leading on seven under par. The 37 year old finished with a flourish on the last few holes late last night to finish on five under. Whilst fellow countryman, Ryo Ishikawa grabbed the media attention, Kuboya is quickly becoming the dark horse to take the claret jug.

10 to watch: update

Leader is Miguel Angel Jimenez at -6

Villegas – (-4)

Ishikawa – (-2)

Kjeldson – (-2)

Westwood – (-2)

Dougherty – (PAR)

Echenique –  (+2)

Mahan – (+2)

Watney – (+2)

Gay – (+3)

Jacquelin – (+5)

An exciting day, lets see how our ten cope tomorrow…

Exclusive – Interview with David Howell

As a golfer from Swindon, David Howell has always been a player I’ve followed and supported. So I was very appreciative when David responded to some questions I’d emailed him. Enjoy and many thanks to David for taking the time out of his Open preparations!

ONCE number nine in the world rankings, a two time Ryder Cup participant and multiple winner on the PGA Tour, David Howell has had a promising career so far. However, blighted by injuries, he has taken a dip in form, and missed the cut at Loch Lomond last week.

“I’ve had poor health, a loss of form and have not been good mentally off the course.”

The Swindon – born golfer, now 34, has suffered a series of frustrating injuries, which have hindered his progress over the last couple of seasons. Having enjoyed Ryder Cup highs in 2004 and 2006, Howell missed out on the tournament in Valhalla last year. David said: “I’d love to make the team at Celtic Manor but I am struggling right now with the way I’m playing.” Howell also has the added incentive of a close to home venue in Celtic Manor, situated in Newport Wales. He said: “Obviously it’s the venue nearest to Swindon so I’d love to be there.”

Working with his fitness coaches and physio team, David managed to survive last season relatively injury free. A change of coach, from Clive Tucker to Jamie Gough failed to boost his dip in form however, and he has since returned to Tucker, his long-standing coach. He said: “I’ve had poor health, a loss of form and have not been good mentally off the course.”

David, always keen to help amateurs improve, has a regular column in Golf Monthly and fans can ask questions on his website. His top tip for amateurs is: “Listen for the ball to go in the hole – not see it go in the hole!” He also makes cameo appearances in the commentary box, with many fans singing his praises for his efforts. He is still connected to his roots, saying of his home course: “Broome was very important in my development and I had great support from all concerned there. Barry Sandry, the pro did great stuff with juniors which helped me such a lot.”

Off the course, Howell has recently married his partner, Emily, in a bizarre set of events. He can rest easy in the knowledge that if the golf fails, he has a future as a wedding planner. On his blog, David said that despite only having a registry office booked, he managed to organise a party, photographer, flowers, witnesses, clothing and music (from a ‘random guy who is a musician and had a gig cancelled) in just two hours.

With his attention now firmly on golf, Howell heads to the Open at Turnberry to try and replicate his tied seventh position he achieved last year. He has had a practice round with Steve Surry, fellow Wiltshire qualifier and tees off on Thursday at 9:31 alongside Stewart Cink and Thongchai Jaidee.

-David’s blog can be found at www.davidhowellgolf.com

 

Ten to watch at Turnberry

The 138th Open Championship gets underway at Turnberry tomorrow, with Tiger Woods participating again after missing last year’s tournament. He goes into the week as hot favourite, although dozens of players could cause an upset. Let’s take a look at ten players who may be good bets to contend come Sunday.

Lee Westwood

Let’s get the obvious bet out of the way first. Many of the professionals this week have put a premium on driving the ball well and hitting the fairway. This is Lee Westwood personified. Although Lee does not have a great Open record, playing with Tiger on the first to days will empower him. Where others falter when teeing it up with Tiger, Lee will undoubtedly feed off him and the large galleries sure to be following.

Camilo Villegas

The main problem with Camilo is the amount of bogies he makes. The Colombian racks up multiple birdies, and if he could iron out a few of the mistakes, he could well compete. His drive, incredible competitive spirit and perfectionist attitude, along with the ability to strike the ball well and adapt to inclement conditions will put him in contention, if the mistakes are limited.

Hunter Mahan

A strong ball striker, Hunter has really captured the attention of golf fans, after an impressive Ryder Cup display at Valhalla, he has begun to get himself into contention more often in the major championships. He is in good form too, finishing tied sixth and tenth in the US Open and Masters respectively. One the leaders may be keeping an eye on down the closing stretches, that is if Hunter is not leading himself.

Soren Kjeldsen

The Danish born player has enjoyed good form this season, and seems to have been in contention in the majority of European Tour events so far. A possible qualifier for the next Ryder Cup, Kjeldsen comes into the Open in great form. He has not performed brilliantly in the majors to date, but has won once on the Tour this season and his form this year may give him his best finish yet.

Brian Gay

He’s been around for a while, but Gay is in scintillating form so far. Winning twice on the PGA Tour, standing eighth on the FED EX Cup standings and fourth for driving accuracy, Gay could well be a contender. What he lacks in length he makes up for in accuracy, a key to unlocking Turnberry and perhaps winning his first major.

Ryo Ishikawa

The young Japanese golfer is playing the first two days with Westwood and Woods. Could this help or hinder him? It may be too early to expect a win from Ryo, however he his certainly talented enough to post a threat. It will certainly be an interesting group to watch regardless.

Nick Dougherty

Dougherty said himself that before his recent win, the press were on his back a bit, and suddenly they are now questioning him on his Open chances. Dougherty, another young and promising talent has yet to really introduce himself on the major scene, but could Turnberry be the time? Many players are in good form, Nick is one of them.

Nick Watney

Bookies have him at pretty long odds, around the 100-1 mark, although our beloved Ken Brown has tipped him to win on his newly formed Twitter page. Another player bringing good form into the Open, Watney will surely be a contender for many Opens in the future. Perhaps worth a cheeky outside each way bet.

Raphael Jacquelin

Makes the list courtesy of a stunning back nine charge at Loch Lomond last week which propelled him to second place. The Frenchman could well be a dark horse for the Open and an unlikely European winner.

Rafa Echenique

A true outside bet, he has enjoyed a couple of good finishes, in between many poor ones. Shot an albatross recently and came close to winning on the European Tour last month. A long shot, but one who could at least make the cut.

Open draw 2009

Tiger Woods paired with Japanese teenager, Ryo Ishikawa and Brit, Lee Westwood. Steve Surrey goes off last on day one, predictably with relatively unknown players.

Catch all the pairings at http://www.opengolf.com/ChampionshipGolf/TheOpenChampionship/TeeTimes.aspx?ptype=tt&day=1