PGA Tour player Matt Jones plays golf for a living, but his enthusiasm for the game is unmistakable. From growing up in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia to his first win on the PGA Tour in 2014 and beyond, Jones has enjoyed a variety of golf courses.
Of course, playing on the PGA Tour has taken him all over the United States, his adopted homeland (he played golf at Arizona State University and lives in the Scottsdale area).
He has some definite thoughts on the game and his favorite golf courses. We sat down with Jones, who recently signed a sponsorship deal with Omni Resort, and asked him those very questions.
Golf Advisor: I'm guessing you grew up dreaming of following in Greg Norman's footsteps, right?
Matt Jones: I met him when I was six. He's had a great influence on a lot of young Australians, especially Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, and myself. We'd wake up every morning watching him play the British Open. Or at the Masters, you'd sit there, grab your pillow and hold on for dear life watching him on the back nine. He never got it done (at the Masters) but we all still idolized him and loved him as kids.
Golf Advisor: Okay, then, let's go back to your hometown of Sydney. Even the private clubs there offer overseas visitors limited playing opportunities. What are the must-plays?
Matt Jones: You definitely have to play New South Wales Golf Club. It's very scenic, right on the coast. I'm a member at a golf course called The Australian, which is the oldest golf course in Australia, and I think you can get on now for the right price. So New South Wales, The Australian and Royal Sidney would be the three in Sydney I would recommend.
Golf Advisor: On the PGA Tour you play a variety of golf courses that are open to the public. What are some of your favorites?
Matt Jones: Torrey Pines, the South Course (near San Diego and home of the Farmers Insurance Open). It's just a brutal test of golf and I like that type of golf, where it's going to test you in every aspect -- driving, chipping, and putting. Some of the golf courses we play aren't complete tests. One area is more tested than another, but that one (Torrey Pines South), you have to be on in all aspects of your game.
And Pebble Beach -- that's my favorite area in the world to play golf. Even though it's a pro-am, I'll play that tournament every year as long as I can. I'd retire there if I could. I love it there.
Golf Advisor: You got your first win at the Shell Houston Open. What are your thoughts on the Houston and San Antonio PGA Tour stops. Your mentor, the Shark, designed the one in San Antonio, and it's turned out to be one of the most difficult courses on tour.
Matt Jones: We're spoiled because of the condition of many of these golf courses, and the Golf Club of Houston is one that's exceptionally conditioned. It (the Tournament Course) fits my eye because I like to hit a draw and you have to hit a lot of draws out there. There's a couple of holes where you have to hit a fade, but more often than not, it's a draw. There's a lot of variety too -- par 5s that you can reach in two, short drivable par 4s, short par 3s and long par 3s.
San Antonio is totally different than Houston. And those were the best greens I've ever putted on since joining the PGA Tour. The whole condition of the golf course was absolutely phenomenal (in 2015). The greens are a little too severe in my opinion, but other than the greens, if they flattened them out a little more than they already did, it would be a phenomenal golf course.
Golf Advisor: Let's go east. How about the Greenbrier Resort in North Carolina?
Matt Jones: I was lucky enough to finish second at The Greenbrier (in 2013). I had never played well there before. Overall, though, if you wanted to take your family, you can do everything there. You can gamble, you can drive race cars, there's shooting ... It's a great family spot, great resort.
Golf Advisor: You said you love tough golf courses. There's a few in Florida that can certainly qualify. You haven't played the Doral Blue Monster, but what do you think of the rest of the PGA Tour courses in Florida, including ones at The Players Championship, Honda Classic and Valspar?
Matt Jones: "Tough" is a good word, the way we play (the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass). Very challenging and very stressful on those last few holes. In 2014, I was in the second-to-last group on Sunday (but shot 74 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 17th). There's no let-up on those holes. You've got to play well.
Jack's course? (laughter). For a professional golfer, PGA National's Champion Course is phenomenally hard. For an amateur golfer, I would not want to play it. Not those last few holes; it wouldn't be enjoyable.
Innisbrook (Copperhead) is a great golf course and a course where I think I should perform well at, yet I've never played well there. It's a ball-strikers golf course, which is the type of golf I like. You have to be on all aspects your game, hit the ball right-to-left, left-to-right. And you see with the players they have winning that golf tournament that you have to be a really good player.
Golf Advisor:The last major of the year returns to the Straits Course at Whistling Straits. You played it in 2010, but weren't too fond of it. What didn't you like about it?
Matt Jones: It's not my type of golf course because I like a golf course that's tree lined, and you can see the holes. There are blind shots and I can't see what's out ahead of me, and I struggle with those types of golf courses.
Golf Advisor: Okay, let's go back to Australia. What's the best course Down Under?
Matt Jones: You'll probably be surprised, but it would be Kingston Heath Golf Club (perennial Australian Open site just south of Melbourne) over Royal Melbourne because at Royal Melbourne you can't play the Composite Course. The par 3s are only 130 yards, 160 yards, but they are so tough, which is how I think golf should be. These 240-yard holes we play nowadays are so stupid. It's just a chipping contest.