Newport Beach Country Club is one of my favorite courses on tour, too bad I have to fly to get there and it’s close to the Los Angeles area. Flying these days is no fun and the congestion in southern California creates claustrophobia, luckily I get to spend about eight hours a day on a quaint little course nestled in the foothills overlooking the Pacific Ocean. NBCC was built in 1953 and the most drastic changes are the buildings that have grown up around the course. You still have views of the ocean and snow capped mountains, and once you’re behind the clubhouse the frantic California lifestyle can’t reach you.
The CA Championship has only been coming to Doral since 2007; my first trip here was 1988. Back then the Blue Monster was probably one of the toughest courses on tour, now it ranks eighth easiest among the par 72 tracks on tour. If the wind doesn’t blow the top players in the world eat this course alive.
In the late 90’s the Doral Resort and Spa owners brought in Ray Floyd to toughen up the layout and put some teeth in the Blue Monster. He followed their orders, added some bunkers, tee boxes, and created some doglegs to challenge the tour players. After some sniveling and whining the course was softened again and Raymond took some unnecessary criticism for ruining the Blue Monster. He was only following orders and the pampered PGA Tour players couldn’t handle the challenge.
Over the years a few unknown golfers have left their mark on the Champions Tour. Some have come from overseas; Stewart Ginn and Simon Hobday won a couple of Senior majors while they were in the states. Quite a few PGA club pros did some damage and created some excitement after they qualified for the tour. Jim Albus, Lairy Laroetti, and Tom Wargo all won their share of tournaments and appealed to the underdog rooters. Recently Lonnie Nielson has picked up the slack for the aging club pros.