July 1 2001 by John Steinbreder
Sir Richard George has to travel a long distance from his home in the United Kingdom to play his favorite golf hole. He must go all the way to Southern California and the desert town of Rancho Mirage. That’s where the Mission Hills Country Club is located, and it’s No. 18 on the Dinah Shore tournament course that the English cereal executive likes so much.
“It’s the signature hole on a very good golf course,” explains George, 57, who carries an eight handicap. “The island green is more than an acre in size and has lots of undulations, which make it very hard to putt. And there are many possibilities for pin placements. Then, you have water in front, starting about 60 yards from the fringe, and water running down the entire left side of the hole, which is a slight dogleg left. It’s long, too, and if you’re playing from the back tees, you have to hit three first-class shots to get on the green. It’s a great hole, one that can be both very difficult and lots of fun.”
“Another thing that makes it special for me is the fact that my team won the Dinah Shore tournament pro-am the first time I played in it at Mission Hills, and the 18th was where everything was decided,” adds George, who studied flour milling and grain science at Kansas State University before heading back to England to work for Weetabix. “The year was 1974, and my team was 17 under coming to that hole. One of my partners, the actor Bob Stack [who played Elliot Ness in the television series "The Untouchables"], was on in three and all he had to do for us to win was get down in two. He made a very tough eight-footer for par to seal the win.”
George has been a member of Mission Hills for some time, and he regularly plays in the pro-am tournament held the same week in March as the LPGA event now known as the Nabisco Championship.
“I’ve never done anything spectacular there myself,” says the controlling shareholder of Weetabix, which is based about 100 miles north of London and sponsors one of the LPGA’s other majors, the Women’s British Open. “But I have seen a lot of good golf there, and I enjoy the challenge it presents every time I play it. I also saw [LPGA star] Laura Davies play for the first time ever on that hole and watched her hit her second shot onto the green. We met later on and became friends, and Weetabix sponsored her for a while, so I will always remember 18 for that. And my children used to fish for bass in the lake that surrounds the green when they were younger.”
Throw in that pro-am win, and it’s no wonder Sir Richard likes it so much.
Sir Richard George
CEO, Weetabix Ltd.
Mission Hills Country Club
Location: Rancho Mirage, CA
Hole: 18th (Dinah Shore tournament course), par-five, 646 yards from the back tees, 618 yards from the blue markers, 496 yards from the whites, and 485 yards from the ladies’ tees.
Hole Description: No. 18 is a slight dogleg left with an island green, with a tee box positioned back in a corner. Length is what makes this hole so tough, and if the wind is blowing in a golfer’s face, he or she may hit a great drive and a three-wood and still have 200 yards to the hole.
Course Architect: Desmond Muirhead
Club Description: Mission Hills is a private country club that boasts three courses and more than 1,100 members. Owned and operated by the Club Corporation of America, it is the long-time home of the Nabisco Championship, one of the majors on the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association tour. That event, which was once called the Colgate Dinah Shore and then the Nabisco Dinah Shore until the late entertainer’s name was dropped altogether, is played on the Desmond Muirhead track. The par-72 layout measures 7,221 yards from the back tees, 6,906 yards from the blues, 6,286 yards from the white markers, and 5,684 from the ladies’ tees.
John Steinbreder is a senior writer for Golf Week magazine and the author of six books, including Golf Courses of the U.S. Open and Golf Rules and Etiquette for Dummies.