Attack of the Drones: Ballyneal in 3D

10/26/2015 0 comments
I was out at Ballyneal two weeks ago as part of a fundraising event for One Divot, raising support with the help of golf course architect Tom Doak for Goat Hill Park in Oceanside, California and former Ballyneal caddie Ben Cox. While we were out there, some guys were flying some drones unmanned aerial vehicles around the course collecting data. These weren't the kind of drones that you'd get at Best Buy and later get lost in the ocean. This was some serious equipment...

It looks like the data has been processed and you can zoom around the Ballyneal site in 3D below. Very cool!

Virtual to Reality? Dream Golf Update

9/06/2015 0 comments
I've been spending the last few months of my free time working to bring my concept for a second course at Ballyneal to virtual reality. Last year, I met with some guys starting a multi-platform golf game called Perfect Golf and they gave me early access to its course designer called Course Forge. After a lot of trial and error, I was able to mold a 3D landscape of the land surrounding Ballyneal into something resembling the look and feel of the Chop Hills. It's been great to visualize and tweak my dream course in 3D. Even better, recently I've gotten to course to a point where it's playable within the game.

Just this past week, the beta version of my course, Chop Hills Golf Club, is available on Perfect Golf for user testing. It's probably 98% complete, with just some tweaks to the look and feel of the native grasses and bunker refinement. The shapes of the holes and green contours are all good to go.

If you have any interest in playing this virtual Doak 10 (ok, maybe Doak 9), then you'll need to set up an account on Steam and purchase the early access version of Perfect Golf for $20. Then I can provide you instructions on how to get the Chop Hills course added to your course list. They also have real courses like Sebonack, TPC Sawgrass, Medinah and others with the game.

I hope to see you on the first tee...

(ignore the tee markers)

Earlier version of the routing. #2 was changed to a par 5, orientation of #16 fairway changed as well

1st Hole - 412 Yd, Par 4
1st Approach

2nd Hole, 560 Yd Par 5

2nd Hole, Lay-up Approach

3rd Hole, 366 Yd Par 4

4th Hole, 213 Yd Par 3
5th Hole, 518 Yd Par 4

5th Approach

6th Hole, 550 Yd Par 5
7th Hole, 145 Yd Par 3 (Alt Tee)
7th Hole, Main Tee

8th Hole, 452 Yd Par 4

8th Green

9th Hole, 439 Yd Par 4
10th Hole, 577 Yd Par 5
10th Hole, 2nd Shot

11th Hole, 185 Yd Par 3

12th Hole, 317 Yd Par 4
12th Hole Approach
13th Hole, 419 Yd Par 4
14th Hole, 443 Yd Par 4
15th Hole, 218 Yd Par 3
16th Hole, 436 Yd Par 4

17th Hole, 581 Yd Par 5
18th Hole, 523 Yd Par 4

Keepin' It 155

8/03/2015 2 comments
I was in Wilmington, Delaware this past week for work, just minding my own business in the morning, when my phone started buzzing from text messages.

"You just got a 'game ball' from Matty G on MorningDrive. Nice work!"

 That made an otherwise pretty nondescript work day pretty unique. Later that afternoon, the video was posted. Out of the blue, Matt Ginella decided to highlight the work that we've been doing since 2011 to raise money for charity and impact lives through nothing more than a love for the game and a desire to walk an insane amount of holes in a day.

 Watching the video, my first reaction was, "how do I get one of those giant foam golf balls?". My next reaction was the reality sinking in on how far we've come since 2011, when this idea started through the Ben Cox marathon. Four year laters, over 250 golfers have walked 100 or more holes in a day, and the amount raised is approaching $2 million. It's been a tremendous blessing to me and my family to be a part of it and see the steady growth.

 Three weeks ago, I participated in my seventh Hundred Hole Hike, again at Ballyneal. I ended up pushing my hike back a week so I can help out and caddy for my fellow Ballyneal hikers a week earlier (read: I was out of shape and felt caddying 100 holes would be good training). It turned out to be a good decision as I walked 108 that first week (caddied 90, then played a late afternoon 18 with hiker Brandon Urban, urging him to push past 126 holes and go for 144).

 Last year's hike was a personal grind as I was dealing with ankle issues, work stress and poor play. I finished 144 holes before rain came in and ended my day. But my family was there to greet me on hole 144, and I was overcome with emotion on that 18th fairway.

 There were no tears of joy, pain or otherwise this year. If I had to summarize my hike in one word, it would be: fun. I had a blast playing and walking 100+ holes on a cool, overcast day at one of my favorite courses in the world. Once again, I was able to get to my target number of 155 holes, with relative ease and some daylight to spare.

 Time really does fly when you are having fun. This is especially useful when you are walking 45 miles over a 15 1/2 stretch. I started a few minutes before first light, hitting a tee shot at 4:48 AM with a yellow ball that was topped down the fairway. The last putt was dropped at 8:45 PM. There were 717 shots (some bad, but mostly good), 88,000 steps and even more pleasant memories in between.

 Having two caddies throughout was a huge plus, not just for finding wayward shots and carrying my eight clubs, but just for sanity's sake. Tyler and Chris powered through for the first half of the hike. Adam and ONeal took me home from Round 5 to the end.

 [And I have to mention my caddy for one shot, Ballyneal celebrity caddie and friend Charlie Mulligan. He came out during my sixth round and took some pictures for his blog:  He came at just the right time too, as I was hitting the ball pretty well (before falling apart on the back nine). I nearly aced the third hole with Charlie snapping away atop the dune behind the hole. On the 7th hole, I had a 20-foot birdie putt and asked Charlie to come down and give me a read. Wouldn't you know it, he got the double break just right and I rammed it in. Thanks Charlie! Check out Charlie's recap of the round here:]

 Once again, my family was with me for the journey. By the late afternoon, the Colton Five and the two caddies were literally the only people on the property. This was a golf dream come true.

After playing 153 holes by myself while blitzing through a handful of groups (some twice in their same round), I made the turn and ran into this foursome of golf misfits that just wouldn't let me play through!

If you can't pass em, join em. I played the last two holes as a fivesome, going from four minutes a hole to twenty-four minutes a hole. But it was all good. Besides, somebody has to hold up the 1-5-5 at the end:

All in all, it was a great and memorable day. And thanks in part to 12 birdies and a special bonus for reaching 155 holes, I was able to raise over $11,000 for my two caddie-driven charities, the Evans Scholarship Foundation and the Solich Caddie & Leadership academy.

 There is still time to give. You can pledge for me or any of the 80+ hikers through the "pledge thru me" on their golfer profile page. 100% of the donations go directly to the charities involved.

 And of course, I'd love to have you involved in the fun next year. Please consider joining the army of hikers in 2016. You can email me at for more information. As my 8-year old loves to say, let's "take it to a-no-ther LEV-EL!"

Hundred Hole Hike by the Numbers
155 holes (8 rounds + 11 holes)
Start time: 4:48 AM
End time: 8:15 PM
Total time beginning to end: 15:27 (5 min, 59 sec per hole)
Total time golfing: 13:34 (5 min, 2 sec per hole)
Fastest round: 1:24 (x2)
Slowest Round: 1:43
Avg Round: 1:34
Scores: 78-87-83-93-84-83-78-84-47
Scoring Avg: 83.5 (41.1 front, 42.4 back)
Eagles: 0 frown emoticon
Birdies: 12
Par: 60
Bogey: 52
Double: 27
Triple: 4
Balls Lost: 5
Three-putts: ~188 smile emoticon
Best Ball score: 64
Worst Ball score: 106
Hardest Holes:
17 (par 4): 5.63 (5-7-4-5-6-6-6-6)
12 (par 4): 5.25 (5-6-5-7-5-4-4-6)
10 (par 4): 5.22 (5-6-6-5-5-5-5-5-5)
2 (par 4): 5.11 (5-6-6-4-4-5-5-6-5)
Easiest Holes:
11 (par 3): 2.78 (3-3-3-2-3-3-2-3-3)
16 (par 5): 5.00 (5-5-6-6-5-5-4-4)
6 (par 4): 4.11 (3-4-5-4-5-4-4-4-4)
4 (par 5): 5.25 (5-7-7-5-4-4-5-5-5)
Steps: 89,566
Miles: 44
Money raised: >$11,000

Inside the Numbers: Golf Digest's 2015-16 America's Greatest 100 Courses

1/06/2015 0 comments

Today, Golf Digest published its updated Top 200 greatest courses in the U.S. list. You can find the Top 100 list here and the second 100 here. The ratings methodology and detailed category numbers for the top 100 can be found here.

Similar to in the past, I like to dive into these category numbers and try to understand what makes these courses tick. If you believe the category scores represent what their meant to represent, then the scores should provide some indication what areas a given course is great in relative to others. For instance, while the Aesthetics category is 12.5% of the total score in the Golf Digest formula, it comprises 13.39% of Cypress Point's total score, the highest relative score for that category. Cypress Point's "DNA" for greatness is driven by the Aesthetics, Memorability, Design Variety and Ambience category and relatively less by Shot Values, Resistance to Scoring and Conditioning. Bethpage Black, on the other hand, has the highest relative score in Shot Values and Resistance to Scoring and the lowest relative score in Ambience.

For reference, here are the highest and lowest scoring courses for each category, not based on the absolute number (you can get that from the Golf Digest site), but based on the category score relative to the course's total score:

Shot Values: Highest - Bethpage Black; Lowest - The Quarry at La Quinta
Resistance to Scoring: Highest - Bethpage Black; Lowest - Cypress Point
Design Variety: Highest - Somerset Hills; Lowest - Baltusrol (Lower)
Memorability: Highest - Pebble Beach; Lowest - Aronomink
Aesthetics: Highest - Cypress Point; Lowest - Oakmont
Conditioning: Highest - The Quarry at La Quinta; Lowest - Pebble Beach
Ambiance: Highest - The Country Club; Lowest - Bethpage Black

I also like to juxtapose the various categories with each other and see which courses are relatively strong in one versus another. Many of the categories are highly correlated with each other (Memorability and Design Variety scores for the top 100 are .9397 correlated for instance). Below I just focus on the pairs that are least correlated, as it is bound to cause to most jarring differences between the two sets of courses. Resistance to Scoring and Conditioning are the two categories that are least correlated with other categories. They are also the least correlated with the overall score for the top 100 courses (perhaps they shouldn't be weighted as high as the others). In any case, most of lowest correlated pairs involved one of these categories.

The Golf Digest U.S. list does tend to create the most buzz and probably the most controversy of all the major publications. It is the only one that asks its panelists to follow a strict set of criteria to differentiate between good and great. When looking at the category pairs below, you may tend to think more courses on one side are over/underrated relative to the courses on the other side. That likely just means your personal, inherent weight for that category is more or less than the fixed weights that Golf Digest uses.

Design Variety vs. Conditioning (Correlation: .4433)
Fishers Island [10] 1 The Quarry at La Quinta [77]
Pebble Beach [7] 2 Diamond Creek Golf Club [94]
TPC Sawgrass (Players) [47] 3 Double Eagle [76]
Pacific Dunes [18] 4 Baltusrol (Lower) [41]
Cypress Point [3] 5 The Alotian Club [27]
Pete Dye Golf Club [53] 6 Aronimink [90]
Bethpage Black [43] 7 Eagle Point [89]
Maidstone Club [98] 8 Canyata [60]
Somerset Hills [73] 9 Baltusrol (Upper) [58]
Pine Valley [2] 10 Butler National [46]
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