142. Last Six Months or so…
They say time flies when things are going well…in that case, parts of the last six months took forever but other parts whizzed by. Last time you heard from me was December 24, 2019. My last round of golf was at Forest Creek (North) on December 9, and I only played 11 holes, finishing off by sinking a six-footer for par on 18.
Two days later I was scheduled for a heart catherization at Duke Hospital during which both my cardiologist, Dr. J Kevin Harrison, MD and I expected that I would require replacement for two stents I had received about five years earlier. This procedure was viewed as relatively low risk and was made necessary by some angina symptoms I had experienced over the prior couple of weeks (and explains why I only played 11 holes on 12/9). During that catherization my cardiologist discovered conditions that were much worse than expected…and appropriately stopped the procedure so that we could discuss alternatives. Pat was there with me during these discussions and they were fairly frank and clear. My Left Anterior Descending (“LAD”) (aka “The Widow Maker”) artery was 80% blocked with highly calcified blockage. So my choices were (1) highly risky attempt to stent the LAD (and other arteries), or (2) very difficult Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (“CABG”) surgery. While it was clear that I did not need to have the surgery in the next few days, waiting more than a couple of months was certainly not advisable.
Fortunately, the heart surgeon Dr. Harrison recommended (Dr. Carmelo Milano, MD) had some free time that afternoon and was able to review my prior tests and sit down with us. Dr. Milano was very forthcoming and said he could successfully perform the surgery but the recovery would be long and arduous due to my prior open chest surgery and 25 radiation treatments in 1998. After numerous consultations with family, friends, and medical advisors, the decision became obvious and bypass surgery was scheduled for the morning of January 21 at Duke.
The surgery itself took over six hours and both Dr. Harrison and Dr Milano advised that it went very well…with solid by passes constructed around my LAD, Right Coronary Artery, and Ramus Arteries. Pat was there and seemed very much more at ease with the surgery successfully completed. The two words that stuck in my head were “long” and “arduous”, both of which had been used by Dr. Milano 2-3 weeks earlier to describe my likely recovery process.
The biggest post-surgery surprise was that instead of losing weight, I had gained about 10 pounds. One look at my legs showed why…fluid retention, which would be a major battle once my blood pressure rose enough (and the risk of dehydration was past) for me to take diuretic medicines. They released me from the Intensive Care Unit the morning of January 23, and I was released from Duke Hospital on January 30. Interestingly, once the diuretics started working around February 8 my weight simply peeled off. In 79 days (2/8-4/28) I literally lost 41 pounds…and in the almost 10 weeks since then my weight has stayed within a 6-pound range. That said I would not recommend bypass surgery as a weight reduction technique!
Suffice it to say that Dr. Milano’s forecast of a long and arduous recovery process proved to be correct…and of course about six weeks into it, the COVID pandemic crisis hit the USA hard. Interestingly, in two ways the timing of my surgery was fairly fortunate. First, six weeks later and surgery and recovery in any major hospital would have been more difficult due to COVID. Secondly, in terms of missing golf and my crazy golf trips, having the most intense parts of my recovery overlapping with the most intense parts of COVID was not all bad… I certainly was not going to be traveling around the USA or world in March-May 2020 even if I had been perfectly healthy.
By the end of ApriI, I was walking approximately 1.5 miles per day (fairly flat land…ant hills seemed like and still seem like mountains to me) and on April 30 Dr. Harrison gave me permission to start hitting golf balls. Three to four weeks earlier I had thought this would not come until June at the earliest…and possibly as late as July or August. Anyhow, I wasted little time and on May 1 hit wedges at CCNC’s practice range for about 45 minutes. By May 6 I had hit all the clubs in my bag and ventured out to play two holes (#1 and #18 on CCNC’s Cardinal course…for the record had a double bogey on #1 and a par on 18) and on May 12 playing with a cart managed to play 18 holes. While I hit a few good shots, my game, especially my short game was fairly ugly, and my distance was zippo…probably lost 2-3 club lengths. But I was as happy as the veritable pig in XXXX!!
As you might know, having spare time on my hands can be dangerous. In early April I started planning my remaining bucket list conquests, including thinking about new courses under construction and restorations/renovations currently planned and underway (to stay on top of currently completed bucket lists). At that point I wasn’t fully confident would be playing much golf going forward but daydreaming helps one get through a pandemic and a major recovery.
I quickly realized there was no place to view a list of new course/renovation/restoration projects, and decided to try to build such a list. My initial stab yielded a list of 9 projects which I knew had to be a very small percentage of the actual number. So after asking for input from about 10 friends the number 9 grew to just over 250 today.
If you are interested, go to https://fescue.github.io/ which reflects lots of work by a good friend from LA, Tom Brown and me.
Drive from Pinehurst to Milton, MA for Summer
By the second half of May, Pinehurst was starting to get warm and Pat and I were ready to head up to Massachusetts for the summer. We both left Pinehurst on May 19. She flew to Boston and I drove with the car stuffed to the gills for the next five months. As usual I planned to play a bunch of bucket list courses along the way. However, the COVID virus threw several wrenches into that plan. First, in some states golf courses had just opened and in other states guest play was not allowed at private clubs. Most importantly, with folks having been cooped up at home since mid-March, the opportunity to get out and play golf (in a relatively “safe” environment in terms of social distancing) combined with reduced “capacity” due to “one in a cart” rules and state imposed 15 minute spacing between tee times created some of the highest demand levels clubs have seen in 10 years. As a result, almost all had imposed rules banning either unaccompanied guest play or at even any guest play…their first tees were too crowded. Calling to see if I could play yielded the most rejections I have had since I tried to get a date for our high school senior prom!
Eventually I had a full dance card and was set for the trip. One every pleasant result of the COVID virus was a huge reduction in traffic in I-95 (and everyplace else). Even getting around Washington DC and New York City proved to be like early on a Sunday morning. After some 585 miles of driving I pulled into my hotel in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County around 7pm, pretty damn tired. This was not a night I wanted to be up late and fortunately got right to sleep and slept fairly well that night. Pat had an uneventful flight to Boston and was all set at home…I would be there in two days.
Scarsdale Golf Club, May 20, 2020: My old club, Quaker Ridge GC is located on the eastern side of the Village of Scarsdale, but this morning I was scheduled to play Scarsdale GC which lies just west of Scarsdale in Hartsdale, NY. The club was founded in 1898 and started with a nine-hole course designed by Willie Dunn, Jr. Dunn had finished 2nd at the initial US Open conducted at Newport CC in 1895. He also designed Apawamis, the initial course at Shinnecock Hills, and six holes at Maidstone. In 1900 nine more holes designed by Carl Fox, Scarsdale’s pro, expanded the course to 18 holes. In 1924 A. W. Tillinghast was hired to redesign the course and that design is still in place.
I first played Scarsdale GC in 1976 as the guest of Alan Blitz. Alan was IBM’s sales rep covering Citibank and I had known him since my first days in Citi’s Operating Group in 1971. But to be honest, while I recalled the clubhouse setting and first hole (which back then had a row of weeping willow trees along the pond to the left of the first fairway), I did not recall much of the course. About 2-3 years ago, Tyler Gosselin left his First Assistant professional position at Brookline to go to Scarsdale where he is head professional. Tyler and I have stayed in touch since this move…having lived and played lots of golf in the New York area, I hope I have been helpful to Tyler and his wife Jess when they first navigated the often strange ways of NY.
My game this morning was fairly horrendous, and the numerous raised greens and tees on Scarsdale’s very hilly terrain was tough on my recuperating body even with the use of a cart. Outside of three straight pars on holes 6-8, there is not much to write home about my golf game this morning, so I shall leave it at that. But it is good to be back playing.
Scarsdale seemed like a very strong, cohesive club with a good golf course. Its acreage is limited and as a result from back tees it is only 6350 yards…not that I even sniffed those tee boxes (I played from 5335 yards). I had the strong sense that Tyler is doing very well here and is genuinely respected, appreciated and liked by the membership and his staff…and he seems quite happy which is great to see.
Obviously because of COVID the clubhouse was closed up and except for golf and tennis the club was essentially closed…SOP everywhere. After the round I thanked Tyler and headed northeast into Connecticut.
Country Club of Waterbury, May 20, 2020: During my drive south in October 2019 I had tried to play Waterbury but it looked too busy given my schedule. Frankly I do not recall who told me about it, but based on my round here this day…I owe that person a huge “thank you”.
CC of Waterbury had its start on the nine-hole West End Golf Links in the 1890’s. By the end of the century, the Waterbury Golf Association was in place and within ten years became The Country Club of Waterbury officially in 1907. Planning commenced for a new course on a 200-acre plot of land and Donald Ross was retained in 1927 to design and build the course., which opened September 15, 1928.
I arrived still fairly tired after my morning round and had to decide whether to proceed with my scheduled play. Boy am I glad I decided “YES.” While Waterbury is not a USA Top 100, it is a wonderful course…a true hidden gem. This is a beautifully simple and clean Ross creation. It plays very firm and fast and makes you think on every hole. My favorite holes were 2, 6-8, 11, 13 and 16…but there is not a bad or ordinary one on the course. No question my game was energized by seeing this track! I had a 43-42 = 85 even finishing bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey, double on 14-18 (might have been a little tired).
Built on wonderful rolling land (flat lies are rare finds here), and with beautifully sloping green surfaces, poorly thought out shots pay real penalties here…but safe avenues are available on all holes. Tough but fair. But the best part was the conditioning; without being manicured and over the top, it was as close to perfect as I have seen. If you are in CT…get there!
Wampanoag Country Club, May 21, 2020: In researching information for Project Fescue, I traded emailed with a number of golf architects about the courses they were involved with and their friends/associates were involved with. One of these courses was Wampanoag, where Tyler Rae, Kyle Franz, and Brad Klein are working to restore this 1924 Donald Ross creation. Rae is a young architect who has worked at Atlantic GC (NY), Beverly CC (IL), Skokie CC (IL), Cedar Rapids CC (IA), Monroe CC (NY), Mountain Lake Club (FL), and Northland CC (MN)…with four of these efforts being with Ron Prichard. Kyle Franz has worked on some very high profile and successful courses including Pacific Dunes in Bandon, OR and Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania Australia (both working for Tom Doak), Pinehurst #2 with Coore-Crenshaw, and the Rio Olympic Course with Gil Hanse. But his best work may have been his restoration of Mid Pines in Southern Pines, NC. Brad Klein formerly headed GolfWeek’s Top 100 Panel.
I played with a member of the Club’s Restoration Committee and it was most interesting to see the “before” of a major project. No question the course has good bones and a talented team of architects and consultants and it shall be interesting to see how the project turns out.
It was great to get back to our Milton home and see Pat after three days (and some 990 miles) on the road. Also good to know that I am starting or recapture a modicum of my energy. This will take a while and that’s OK with moi.
Nine Hole Courses: My first week full week back I got in one 18-hole round at Brookline. The course was in wonderful condition, but the rough was brutal and was thankfully scheduled to be reduced somewhat.
The following two weeks I took a mini tour of some 9-hole courses mainly in the New England area. New England has a superb collection of 9-holers and I scheduled six that I had never played. Two others that I did not play this time are really very special: (1) Whitinsville GC near Wooster MA (which many keen observers consider to be the USA’s finest 9-holer), and (2) Acoaxet GC near Westport MA (where I qualified for the MA Senior Amateur in 2010)…but this trip was to see some previously unplayed gems.
Edgartown Golf Club, June 9: In 2013 I played 9 holes at Secession Golf Club (SC) with Mark Hess, the General Manager of Martha Vineyard’s Edgartown GC (and Hess has held that position for a mere thirty years). Mark is a first-class gentleman and invited me to come down to the Vineyard and play Edgartown (for you folks who are not familiar with New England, Martha’s Vineyard is an island south of Cape Code and is accessible only by ferry or airplane). I am about 6 years late, but very pleased I made the trip.
It could be my imagination, but I have always felt that 9-hole courses too often act like the “neglected ugly step sister” of our game. In today’s world, many players do not regularly have the time for a full 18, and 9 holes ends up being a great alternative…not a second class round. And neither 9 or 18 at Edgartown can be classified as second class. Edgartown is superb nine holer…and is proud to be a nine holer. And this difference in attitude is palpable.
One distinguishing factor with Edgartown is the variety offered by changing tees, lengths, angles and greens between the “front” and “back” nines. For example, holes #1 and #7 use different greens than holes #10 and #16. I cannot recall playing a 9-holer with as much change between the ”front” and “back” nines. The new fairway/green at the 7th hole was designed by Jaeger Kovich (who cut his teeth as a shaper for Tom Doak and Gil Hanse) and represent an outstanding addition. This course is fun to play and challenges one’s game and ability to think clearly, even if only 5654 yards (par 71). It was designed in 1926 by its founder, Cornelius S. Lee.
The club itself is as low key as club’s come and has a great “feel” to it. Talk about just golf…this place is JUST golf! It represents the ultimate in “anti-Discovery Land”. Like the brilliant and wonderful Royal Worlington and Newmarket in England, this is a very very special place even if served in a half-sized bite. Nine holers of the world unite…you can be great!
Milton-Hoosic Clvb, Jvne 11, 2020*: Far more convenient to our Massachusetts home (about 4 miles away) lies “The Hoo”, founded in 1891 and one of the first 100 golf courses and clubs in the USA. The course was originally designed by Willie Park, Jr. (ensuring healthy bones) and in recent years has made a concerted (and I think successful) effort to improve a layout that has been overgrown by 100+ years of tree growth. I had the opportunity to play the course with its Head Pro, Todd Cook and its President, Mike N. This is a club and course on a comeback trail…still in the midst of excellent changes but with a bit more work to go (which is their explicit plan).
From the tips it plays 6020 yards (par 70) and after a relatively slow start become very interesting starting with the 4thhole, an excellent par 4 to an uphill green guarded well by a highly protective (i.e. tough) right front bunker cut into the hill. Recently, a large swarth of trees between the 6th and 8th fairways has been eliminated, opening up these holes in terms of vistas and fresh air. The work here is not completed but marks a wonderful change.
This is a club that is feeling its oats and becoming proud of its status as a nine holer…great to see and I look forward to following its progress over the next couple of years.
*And if you get there and look carefully at the scorecard, you will know there are no typos here.
Hooper Golf Course, June 12, 2020: Early departure this day for 110-mile drive northwest to Walpole, NH which lies just east of the NH/VT state line (Connecticut River) about 25 miles north of the MA state line. Hooper Golf Course was designed by Wayne Stiles and John Van Kleek (think the outstanding Taconic Golf Club in MA) and opened in 1928. The course is virtually untouched since its original design save for some tree removal (and given that trees grow approximately 3% annually, substantially regular tree trimming is necessary to keep courses “unchanged” …you should let that statement sink in!!).
During the 2008 financial crisis, the financial structure that allowed the course to operate for eighty years almost resulted in the closing of the course, but a small group of enthusiasts (mostly from Walpole) worked diligently to restructure the arrangements and that process was successfully culminated ten years later in 2018 with this small group now owning the course. Now their problem is to generate enough usage in get the cash receipts to support the necessary maintenance of a golf course.
On the plus side is an excellent design, starting from the first tee which offers a wonderful view of Vermont to the distant west (see picture below the distant horizon near the center left).
The land rolls like an ocean in a storm and flat lies are a rare find. A number of folks with fare better eyes than I have shouted praises of Hooper in recent years…including Tom Doak and Ran Morrissett and I agree with their views in terms of Hooper’s potential. However, in order for the course to realize its true potential it needs funds to restore some of its features. I am not talking about manicured fairways…but I am talking about rebuilding its bunkers and improving the fairways (the greens were in very good condition this day). They need the traffic to generate the cash necessary to fund these improvements…and they need these improvements to generate the traffic…a classic chicken & egg problem. I hope they get it solved!! If you are in NH or VT…go play it and help the cause. It is a very good fun nine holer, with the potential to be a great one. Here is the par 3 6th hole of 194 yards…remember to NOT be above the pin on this green!
Cohasse Country Club, June 15, 2020: The plan for this week was to play four nine holers and two 18 hole courses while wandering through MA, NY, CT, and RI. This week involved a big circlular drive proceeding counter clockwise from Boston, to central MA, to north of Albany, NY, to NW CT, to SW RI. Between last week’s ventures to Edgartown, The Hoo, and Hooper, and this week’s trip great circle route I would drive 930 miles.
I left Milton this morning around 7:15 and arrived at Cohasse by 8:30…only to discover that I had left my wallet at home. Called Pat and she found it and would Federal Express it to me for arrival Tuesday afternoon…and I had enough cash to get by until then. But I certainly had to make sure I was not stopped by police in the next 30 hours…that might not be fun!
Cohasse is a relatively early (1918) Donald Ross design which started with six holes located in Southbridge, MA (just south of Sturbridge). The course was built for the workers at American Optical Corp by the company’s owner…perhaps inspired by (or in competition with) Whitinsville 20 miles to the east (also built for the employees of a large factory). Few expenses were spared at Cohasse as the course was expanded to 9 holes in 1930 with the help of Olmstead Brothers (think NY’s Central Park etc. etc.) designing the landscaping.
The golf course starts with a tough tough (but fair) first (410 yards for #1 and 427 for #10) with an elevated tee and elevated green and a fairly flat fairway in between. A major part of the difficulty comes from the angle of the green and the opening to the green as the right side of the green is protected in front by a large hill and bunker. Hole #3 is a tough 190-yard (210 for 12th hole) par 3 to an elevated green sloping sharply from back left to front right. The one real poor hole is #5 which is an uphill dogleg left with a blind shot to the green. Overall the course was in fine condition and in total played 6026 yards for 18 holes.
Saratoga Golf & Polo Club, June 15, 2020: Had about a two hour drive from Cohasse to Saratoga…this is to be a long day.
This nine-holer goes back to 1896 and was designed by R. C. B. Anderson, whose name I had never before come across, but he built a superb one here. Kyle Goalby, son of former masters Champion Bob Goalby, is working with historian (and club member) David Normoyle to help restore Saratoga.
The course today plays to 6082 yards (par 70). It is truly fast and firm (even if measured on GB&I standards) and in close to perfect condition. Due to the presence of several major ridges running through the property, there are interesting slopes on almost every fairway and green, which are very well employed. And there are numerous berms employed as hazards throughout the course…which brought back memories of the St Martins 9 holer at Philadelphia Cricket.
This is a very small, exclusive, and Waspy club. It is undergoing a major renovation of its facilities and I am sure is hopping like crazy during the Saratoga Race Course season (late July to Labor Day). I hit the ball well but the slopes on the greens fooled me totally. If I come back to this area will try to play it again for sure…along with Glen Falls, a great Ross 18-holer a few miles north of Saratoga (see post #120).
Wolferts Roost Country Club, July 15, 2020: When planning this trip and knowing I would be driving through the Albany NY area I added Wolferts Roost CC to my itinerary as it had hosted the 1963 US Girl’s Junior Championship. The club was founded in 1915 and my educated guess is its membership in filled with senior NYS politicians and lobbyists. So be it…I was just trying to play golf.
I arrived around 2:45 and went off the first tee right away. After 2-3 holes I knew I would like the course. It is only 6255 yards (par 70) and also was designed by R. C. B. Anderson (never heard of him them play two of his courses in a row) on a relatively small piece of land…but a superb piece of land. The fairways have considerable slope and flat lies do not exist. My only architectural criticisms are a little too overtreed and a little too green (ever hear that before?). But I played very well, especially on the back nine (2 over 37 after bogeying 17 and 18). Maybe some of the old game is coming back; don’t bet on that!
After the round drove about an hour south to just west of the Hotchkiss School in CT (my bed & breakfast was in NYS) and went out for a nice pizza dinner. Was tired and getting to bed felt great.
Hotchkiss School Golf Course, July 16, 2020: Historic land! Most golfers know how CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor met and started working together (after CBM decided to go ahead with National Golf Links he was looking for a person to oversee the construction/engineering aspects of the project and someone suggested he meet with Seth Raynor, a local civil engineer and surveyor). So commenced perhaps the greatest “partnership” in the history of golf architecture even though Raynor had never played or followed the game of golf. But far fewer understood how Raynor met his “Seth Raynor” in the form of Charles Banks. The following write up from “The A Position” does it much better than I ever could, so here goes:
“It appears Banks and Raynor met when Raynor was hired to renovate the existing nine-hole course at the Hotchkiss School. Raynor would also be simultaneously working on one of his finest designs if not the finest design, the Course at Yale, 65 miles to the south. Banks, who was employed by Hotchkiss as a fundraiser when Raynor first visited the campus, was a graduate of Hotchkiss (1902) and Yale (1906).
Around the same time, Raynor also laid out a nine-hole course for the called the Watertown Golf Club and located on the campus of the Taft School, another prestigious prep school located in Northwest Connecticut. It was built without Raynor or his staff playing a role in the construction. It no longer exists.
When work began on the Hotchkiss course, for which Raynor took only expense money for possibly the only time in his career, Banks was one of a small group that acted as intermediaries between the school and architect. Starting in 1923, Raynor visited the site a number of times. It is then that the two would have forged a friendship and when the love of course design first blossomed within Banks.
Even though work on the Hotchkiss course extended through two of the school’s summer breaks, Banks would have most likely continued on his duties as the school’s fundraiser year-round, yet somehow, he apparently devoted much time to the course project, an endeavor that would lead to his exit from his beloved Hotchkiss.”
So that is why I refer to this course as “historic land”. I was really looking forward to seeing it. But…as you might have already guessed, for the most part it was a disappointment. Unfortunately, Hotchkiss School has not maintained the course properly. It is cared for by the regular school ground maintenance staff and they were never trained in the special needs of golf courses. Green square footage haa shrunk by at least one-third (as evidenced by aerial photos from the 1930’s), bunkers have also shrunk or been completely filled in, and new school buildings have absorbed some of the course’s land requiring holes to be altered and shortened….and the features of Raynor’s famous “template holes” are difficult to recognize today.
Best hole is #1 (was not #1 originally) a long tough uphill par 4 sloping slightly right. Best green is #4…I liked it so much that after hitting this par 4 green in regulation I four-putted for a double-bogey 6. Only “excuse” is that pin was on a small tough shelf at back right. Worst hole is par five #9 (was not #9 originally) and most of hole was moved from the east side of a large stand of trees to the west side of that stand.
My net take away is that this is still an important course because of its history, but it should teach us a lesson. Schools do (and should) have a different major function than maintaining a superb golf course. When they need $$ and land, their priorities are elsewhere. Important courses like these should be transferred to the ownership and care of groups vested in their greatness. End of speech…except for the fact that I started to finally hit the ball better and had a 4 over 39…with bogies on #8 and #9 and the four putt on #4.
After the round I drove southeast to the SW corner of Rhode Island…a drive that took about 2:25.
Weekapaug Golf Club, June 16, 2020: This would be the last nine holer on this trip and this corner of RI has become a small “hot-spot” for golf. With Weekapaug, Shelter Harbor Golf Club (post #5), and The Misquamicut Club (post #109) within a stone’s throw of one another (not to mention the convenience of a water taxi to Fishers Island). Originally designed by Phil Wogan and built by Sam Urso (who son Don remains green superintendant today) in 1967, it became a private club in 1997.
Sitting less than 0.5 miles from the Atlantic, the setting of the course is outstanding, and it seems to be very exposed to the wind. The course is going through a renovation including rebuilding its bunkers. Given that holes 1-7 are oriented along a N-S axis and 8 and 9 run E-W, the routing is not ideal., but any anticipated changes to the routing have already been completed
At this stage it is hard to tell what the club is shooting for…while firm and fast turf would seem appropriate…the course was fairly green this day. The real question is what will the maintenance practices be when the renovation is completed. In summary, I would say too early to tell with this one, outside of superb setting but average routing, it remains an unanswered question.
Shelter Harbor Golf Club, June 17, 2020: I had played Shelter Harbor once before in 2013 (Post #105) and it was very good to return. This Hurdzan/Frye design is now 16 years old and has matured well. I love the wide-open fairways and placement of bunkers in the middle of the fairways (which created a multitude of options to be considered). My front nine was weak but I had a strong back nine despite a double bogey on 18 (44 – 38 = 82). Please go to Post #105 for details.
After this round I drove home for a couple of days of rest. While I never ventured further than 206 miles from home last week or this week, including my trip on June 19, I drove some 930 miles driving to these courses these two weeks!
The Kittansett Club, June 19, 2020: KIttansett sits off Buzzard’s Bay, just west of the start of Cape Cod, was founded in 1922 and designed by the masterful William Flynn and constructed by Fred Hood. I had played it four times with an initial round there in 2008 and last round in 2012 (no prior post as all of these prior rounds happened before this Blog started). I had tried to arrange play each of the last 4-5 years to no avail and then asked a friend, Steve G. who is also a Brookline member if he could host me.
While Kittansett has only appeared on a Golf Magazine World 100 once (as #91 in the 1987 listing) it has been a real regular in USA ratings appearing in 57 of 73 total USA Top 100’s.
For several years I had heard from other panelists and friends (as well as my bride) how much Kittansett has improved…and that was totally obvious as soon as I arrived. The turf was much healthier and thousands of trees that previously had blocked outstanding vistas and restricted fresh air movement and sunlight had been removed. It was a delight to see and experience. Through the round starting with the first hole I noticed architectural improvements and Steve mentioned that Gil Hanse had been quietly working to improve the layout and return it to its prior glory. While its total length was now almost 7000 yards (I had remembered it as being about 6600-6700 yards but cannot be sure as my scorecard collection is in Pinehurst), from forward tees is still remains a well-designed, fun track (I cannot count how many other great classic courses have unnecessarily, and sadly, lost their “fun” appeal in the quest for increased overall length).
Before my trip down that morning I had not reviewed the history of Kittansett’s ratings but early on Steve mentioned the frustration he and others had with a recent drop in its position despite the improvements almost all visitors noticed and commented about. My immediate response was to point out the huge surge of renovations and restorations of other great classic courses as well as the completion of numerous great new tracks since 1995. While that response was not inaccurate, it only told part of the story.
At the conclusion of the round I thanked Steve again for hosting me…and mentioned that I wanted to give more thought to his observation of Kittansett’s relative drop in the ratings.
Pat had made the drive down here with me and spend the morning visiting her long-time wonderful friend Barbara M, who lives about 2 miles from the club. I met them for lunch at Barbara’s beautiful home and then Pat and I drove back home to Milton (about 50 miles). As soon as we arrived home I looked at Kittansett’s history on my ratings spreadsheet and the recent drop was obvious…as was the real underlying culprit. As long as other panelists at Golf Magazine (as well as Golf Digest, Golf Week and http://www.top100golfcourses.com/) experience the same difficultly as I had in gaining access, the data bases will continue to reflect reviews based on an over-treed course of 8 or so years ago. I promptly emailed Steve and he responded saying he totally understood and would so advise the “powers that be”.
After over six months with no posts, this has been a long winded one…but there was a lot of ground to cover. My game is slowly coming back and time will tell how much of it does return. But that is OK…it is wonderful to be back playing and enjoying this wonderful game (which is a very special “release” during the current pandemic).
At this point my course count stands at 1219. The trips described in this post did nothing for my bucket lists…but they did start to get me back in the game. And the 9 hole course tour opened my eyes big time to the virtues of a quick nine.
To date in 2020, I have played 15 different courses and 8 of which were first time played for me (7 of which are 9-holers).