It was with great anticipation today that we headed to Morgan Creek to play a course designed by one of my favorite golf architects, Mr. Kyle Philips. While who designs a golf course is often of little or no importance to most golfers, I strive to search and play courses globally with a great design pedigree.
Dr. Alistair McKenzie, both Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr., Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Cabell Robinson, Stanley Thompson, Les Furber and of course the brilliant James Braid are some of my other favorites around the world.
Kyle Philips’ Kingsbarns Golf Links located 6 miles north of St. Andrews is my personal favorite and I rate it as the finest single 18 holes of golf in the world.
Now I wasn’t expecting a day like the many I played at Kingsbarns in 2008, so I set a reasonable expectation and wasn’t disappointed. There was a perfect combination of factors that made our day at Morgan Creek very special. We were greeted and made to feel very welcome by Golf Professional Pete Mason, the weather was perfect, the layout was dynamic and contained many of the signature Kyle Philips design features I love.
The small plateaus of turf his shapers create on the sides of the fairways, gentle meandering and rolling stretches of turf grass and yes those great Philips green side bunkers, all brought back those days back in the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland.
You couldn’t get two more diametrically opposed locations than Roseville, Northern California and Kingsbarns, a small little village on the east coast of Scotland where every hole has a view of the North Sea. Nonetheless there were aspects that brought my mind back to 10 years ago, when on a 70 degree August summers day I managed a very solid 38 – 37 = 75 which was 3 over par. Although 8 shots higher than my personal best, it was one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf I think I have ever enjoyed and ranks way up there to this very day.
The Par 5 10th hole at Morgan Creek was a throwback to many approach views at Kingsbarns and is one of the best holes on the entire course followed by the Par 4 11th right after it. We both agreed that the course starts off gently but really comes to life when you cross the walking path and begin to play the back nine.
The 12th an uphill Par 3 surrendered a par to me and a great recovery bogey for Myra, but nothing in comparison to what Mr. Luciano Ramirez accomplished, a rare ace with his wife Patricia proudly looking on. We heard about it when the Marshal told us the good news while we were on the course. Later we shared some pleasantries with the happy couple in the great sports bar at Morgan Creek after they had finished their round. Luciano seemed more excited about boasting to his sister-in-law’s golfing husband about the hole in one than the fact he actually made a hole in one. It was a very enjoyable few minutes we were able to share with these two very friendly and kind people.
It was a further testament on how a day of golf can be enhanced more by the good folks you meet than the great shots you hit or as is often the case didn’t hit. It wasn’t our best scores of the trip 44-43 = 87 for me and back to back 58’s for Myra’s 116 which wasn’t indicative of the many good shots we both hit. Morgan Creek might be more conducive to a player with a good carry game and great course management and Myra felt it might not be the most rewarding layout for a novice golfer like herself. With that in mind I think back to how she played the 17th making an awesome bogey 5, but admittedly she hit her 3 best shots, a really good chip and rolled in a tricky 4 footer.
I bore down myself to par the last 2 holes which as they say, always brings you back. Knowing how Myra is constantly improving, on our next visit to this beautiful part of the world probably a year from now she will have sharpened her skills even more. What you fail to know is she is very hard on herself and in only her 3rd full season as a golfer and the reigning “Most Improved Lady Golfer” at Memorial Golf Course in our home area on Vancouver Island, she gets better every round and gains more skills daily.
Relaxing and enjoying a cold O’douls after the round we shared some comments with General Manager Cole Gibson about the layout, the competitive nature of the golf business in this area saturated with golf courses and what the heck’s happening to Tiger.
We met good people all day, Cassondra who poured our beer with a smile, young Max who kindly snapped a photo of the two of us before cleaning our cart, Pete sore shoulder and all and the strapping GM Cole.
They have a good practice area, a very clean stylish clubhouse and allow carts to go to the parking lot. This course really deserves more people playing on a sunny Friday than we saw. More people means more revenue which means that extra greens keeper and that extra pallet of seed or fertilizer. It means a course designed by a world renowned designer can be world class which is what it deserves to be. Play Morgan Creek golfers, and play it often.