Kennsington Golf Club Review – Canfield, Ohio

Price Paid – $14.99 via ezlinks.com

Full Price – $45 according to the course website.

Back in the Buckeye State, I was sucked in by another $10 off coupon from the folks at EZ Links. I had first heard about Kennsington GC on an episode of Tee It Up Ohio with Jimmy Hanlin. It looked nice enough on TV so I thought I’d check it out.

As a golfer who grew up playing a lot of public golf dog tracks, there are little things that I appreciate about nice golf courses. Bent grass fairways and tees are one of those things. I can remember the first time I played on them as a kid at Westbrook Country Club in Mansfield, Ohio. The fact that there were fairways in the world that were nicer than the greens I was used to playing on nearly blew my teenage brain. There is a small part of me that still feels guilty taking a divot on bent fairways.

As an adult, I had a similar wow moment the first time I rode in a car with GPS. A gadget exists that not only shows me where I am but means I no longer have to ask for directions? This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! Keep in mind this was before the days of the interwebs and all its “benefits.”

As you can probably imagine (if you’re over the age of 35 and I haven’t totally lost you), Kennsington ticks both of these boxes. I’m not sure if I should be excited or depressed that you can play courses like this for $15 but this is the economics of golf at this point.

The Par 3 6th Hole at Kennsington Golf Club

Kennsington seems to have a mixed reception around the local area. Some told me that the conditions were subpar and that they wouldn’t pay more than $25 for it. I was actually impressed at the conditions at the course. The greens were in excellent shape and the fairways were quite lush. Any problems or issues with the greens appeared to be due to golfers not repairing ball marks. There were a couple holes that appeared to have drainage issues but it’s also been an extremely wet summer and I think a lot of courses have been affected.

If one really wanted to pick apart Kennsington, you could probably start with the design of several holes. #2 is a short par 4 as an example. It’s straightaway but you’ll likely hit a hybrid off the tee. What’s odd about the hole are the two large trees in the fairway that affect the second shot. It’s not like you can play to avoid them so it’s somewhat of a crapshoot if you have a clear second shot. #5 is a par 5 that will remind many of a hole from Special Tee Golf due to the severe dogleg and topography of the hole. #8 is a par 3 with a boulder in the middle of the fairway. I’m not sure I see the point of this kind of feature. For the better golfer it’s not in play, for the less-accomplished player they’re trying to dodge a large rock on a par 3. In either case golfers are scratching their heads or cursing it.

Minor gripes aside, I really enjoyed Kennsington. Apart from a handful of (in my opinion) tricked-up holes, it’s a legitimately tough, challenging golf course. It can play as long as 7000 yards or 5800 if you choose. Regardless of the yardage the wind will be a significant factor. There are some long par 4’s that play into the teeth of the wind and there are some holes where you’ll feel the wind in one direction standing in the fairway but then see the flag blowing the opposite. The day I played I teed it up with two guys, one of whom was a teaching pro, and both of them drove an hour plus to the course. I think it says something about the facility that these guys regularly make that drive to play it.

Par 4 Ninth Hole at Kennsington Golf Club

Final Grades:

Value – A

Service – B

Course Design – B+

Cart Girl Talent – Incomplete

Overall Grade – B+

Old Corkscrew Golf Club Review – Estero, Florida

Price Paid – $24.99 via GolfNow.com

Full Price (in season) – $179

The 2nd Hole at Old Corkscrew Golf Club
#2 is a relatively tame par 3 until you see the green

Before I had a chance to play Old Corkscrew I heard a lot of different things about the golf course. Some of the guys at my club told me it was “tricked up” and that the greens were somewhere between ridiculous and impossible. Others that I spoke with loved the course and described it as one of the best public tracks in SW Florida.  Naturally I had to check this place out.

The par 3 12th hole at Old Corkscrew Golf Club
Note the abundance of water on #12

As an obsessive golfer, former Columbus resident, and a lifelong Ohio State fan, I have a particular fondness for Jack Nicklaus. While most are aware of his 18 professional majors, his resume as a course designer is equally impressive. The day I played Old Corkscrew, a Nicklaus design in Estero, Florida, however, Jack was not my favorite. 😉

A view from one of the many bunkers at Old Corkscrew
Expect to see a lot of these views when you play Old Corkscrew

If I could describe Old Corkscrew with one word it would be “tough.” This course is a bear (no pun intended). The course plays to a 144 Slope Rating; from the white tees! With all that you’re probably wondering a couple things:

  1. What makes Old Corkscrew so difficult?
  2. Did you actually like the golf course?
A view from the fairway at Old Corkscrew
At least once I had a chance to play from the fairway

My experience with Jack’s courses is that they follow one general philosophy; give the player room to blast if off the tee (i.e. wide fairways) but challenge them on their approach and once they’re on the green (i.e. trouble and severe slopes). Old Corkscrew follows this approach almost universally. There is a ton of room off the tee. As a matter of fact, several of the fairways bleed into one another. The first hole for example you can hit it 100 yards off line to the left and it just means you’re playing your second shot from the 8th fairway with a clear shot to the green. Of course not all the holes are this easy but it’s fair to say the tee shots aren’t what makes it so tough. Most all of the holes you can give it a good rip and nowhere did I feel like I was playing “target golf.”

A HDR image of Old Corkscrew Golf Club
Another view of #12, this one with #11 fairway in the background

 Where the fun really starts is on the approaches. The golf course it seems, has trouble everywhere around the greens. There is water. There is sand. And once you do make it to the green you’ll see slopes unlike 90% of courses you’ll ever play. There are enough slopes and tiers that you have to be thoughtful in your approach or three and four putting become concerns. In describing Augusta National, I’ve heard it said that it’s possible hit every green in regulation yet still shoot 90. I think the same could be said of Old Corkscrew. And of course you generally don’t hear Augusta National described as “tricked up.”

Old Corkscrew hole #17, a par 3 over water
Another watery par 3, this one the 17th

So did I like Old Corkscrew? I liked it as much as one can like a course that kicks your behind for 4+ hours. As I described earlier, it’s just tough. It’s definitely not target golf, I don’t consider it unfair, it’s just a course where you have to be on your game.  If you read my earlier write-up of Raptor Bay, you’ll recall I characterized it as “playable”, particularly for the golfer who can only get out a few times a year. Old Corkscrew is the precise opposite of that. There isn’t a breather on the entire course. I thought it was a fun course to play, and I’d play it again, but I can’t imagine it being my daily play club. It’s just that difficult.

Final Grades:

Value – A – Everything about the golf facilities are of Tour quality.

Course Conditions – A – Absolutely beautiful

Service – A

Course Design – A+ – The plus is for the location and lack of housing around the course.

Cart Girl Talent – Incomplete – The day I played it was twilight and bad weather to boot so there were no cart girls out. I did see a cart by the clubhouse so there is service at least.

Overall Grade – A – Check your ego at the door and be ready for a test.

To see a larger image or to see the rest of the photography from this golf course click here. Feel free to use any of the images as your desktop wallpaper.

 

Raptor Bay – Bonita Springs, Florida

Price Paid – $45
Perks Included – Free range balls, $7 gift card for future use.
Full Price – $115 In Season

The Practice Range at Raptor Bay Golf Club in Bonita Springs, Florida
The Practice Range at Raptor Bay

I’m spending a week in Bonita Springs, FL and I thought it made sense to check out some of what the area has to offer in the form of cheap golf. I completely understand however, not everyone thinks Florida in the summertime is a good idea. I beg to differ. The high temperature today in northeastern Ohio, where I spend most of my summers, is 86 degrees. The high for Bonita Springs is 90. Plus in Bonita (depending on location) you have a nice breeze off the Gulf of Mexico. Some might say I’m crazy but if you like heavily discounted green fees and zero crowds, by all means head to SW Florida for some great golf.

Raptor Bay, designed by Raymond Floyd, is located right next to the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa. While I have not stayed at this hotel (obviously it falls far out of the “on the cheap” lifestyle), it looks spectacular. Thankfully Raptor Bay falls in the same category. Everything from the range to the course conditions are amazing. The ranger asked me as I was making the turn, “Is it wet out there?”. Some courses the employees are downright defensive about the course conditions, in the case of Raptor Bay they are almost apologetic. I told the ranger that other than a handful of well-marked areas the course was immaculate.

Below is the first green; nothing like being first off the tee in the morning.

The Par 5 First Hole at Raptor Bay Golf Club

How does the course play? Is it tough? Raptor Bay is an interesting golf course. I would call it very “playable”. By this I mean there aren’t a ton of hazards and the hazards that do come into play don’t involve a lot of forced carries. You might think this means the course is easy; far from it. It’s the kind of course where it’s relatively simple to play bogey golf (assuming you don’t spray it like a drunken John Daly) but you’ll have to work to score. Most of difficulty lies in the subtleties; the slope of the greens, a bunker to punish a bad miss, etc. If you are the type who generally keeps in in the fairway because you lack the big time power game I think you’d like, and score well, at Raptor Bay. If you hit it a mile but have no idea where it’s going then you’ll suffer. For the aforementioned reasons it’s a course I’d expect women and seniors to enjoy.

The hole below, #4 on the Osprey course, is one of the few forced carries on the golf course. It’s 185 yard par 3 over water but the carry is only about 150 from the blue tees.

Raptor Bay Golf Club

Lastly, one thing I don’t particularly enjoy about most Florida golf courses is the fact that many of them seem to be surrounded by housing developments and the courses lack any kind of natural feel. Another nice thing about Raptor Bay is that it’s quite the opposite of this. As a matter of fact, it was the first resort course in the world to receive the Audubon International Gold Signature Sanctuary Certification. I’m not sure exactly what this means but I can tell you you’re 100% certain to see more wildlife than million dollar homes on Raptor Bay.

Great Blue Heron at Raptor Bay Golf Club
The Gallery at Raptor Bay

Value – B

Course Conditions – A – As good of conditions as you’ll find in SW Florida

Service – B+ – It’s a little rough around the edges although that might just be due to staffing levels in the off-season.

Course Design B- – Not a real tough course. It’s quality resort golf that won’t punish the twice-a-year player.

Cart Girl Talent – Incomplete – I’m not sure they have them although the layout is such that you’ll pass the starter station/snack bar multiple times during your round for refills.

Overall Grade – B+ – Solid, if not spectacular facility. It’s as natural a setting as you’ll find for golf in this part of the state.

You can see the rest of my pictures of the course here.