Monday, October 15, 2018

118. Back to the United Kingdom (Part III)

118.  Back to the United Kingdom (Part III)

Surrey is about 30 miles southwest of London is home to many of the UK’s great inland courses.  The ground in this region is rich with sand and heather grows naturally in this environment.  These areas are often referred to as “heathland”.  

In the Surrey area, there are four clubs with a strong pair of courses:  Berkshire GC (Blue and Red Courses), Sunningdale GC (New and Old), Walton Heath GC (New and Old), and Wentworth GC (East, West…and a third, Edinburgh).  On this trip I played the “second course” (for lack of a better term) at Sunningdale, Walton Heath, and Wentworth. 

Walton Heath GC—New Course, August 30, 2018:  Walton Heath was founded in 1903 and its first golf course (“Old”), designed by Herbert Fowler opened in 1904.  Three years later, Fowler oversaw the construction of an addition nine-hole course, that was expanded to a full 18 (“New”) in 1913. Privately owned until 1971, the Club has been member owned since then.  The Club has a long history of hosting Championships and other important events, including the 1981 Ryder Cup, the 2011 Senior Open, and the British Women’s Amateur (four times).  The Ryder Cup and Senior Open were conducted on a “Composite Course” consisting of 16 holes from Old (dropping Old #1 and 3) and two from New (adding New # 12 & 13). I learned of this Composite in the last year and knew this meant I hadto play the New, in order to count Walton Heath as played of my bucket lists.

Unlike most clubs with 36 holes, the two courses here are intertwined, rather than occupying different sections of the property.  Both play to par of 72; the Old stretches to some 7400 yards and the New to 7200.  According to my calculations, by dropping holes # 1and 3 from the Old and adding holes #12 & 13 from New, the Composite course now plays to a somewhat hefty 7867 yards!!  Who knows?

The heather protects the sides of the fairways on both and the bunkering is exceptional on both.  The course plays very fast and firm…and it is not unusual to find a well hit drive scampering into the heather or worse yet, gorse. The greens are very perplexing and many are set on land with slight slopes that are difficult to discern when on the green.

The New has never been included on a World 100, but the Old has appeared on 33 of the 48 lists on my spreadsheet...usually hovering around #70-95…with a high rating of #35 (MacWood Spoof list) and a high of  #76 in Golf Magazine.  I have played Old only once…in 1981.  On this day, I had a 43 – 40 = 83, unusual in that the back nine is almost 400 yards longer than the front (wonder if that means I would have shot my age from the back tees on the Composite?).

In summary, there are few places to better enjoy the charm and beauty of heathland golf than Walton Heath.

Woburn Golf Club—Marquess Course, August 30, 2018:  The drive from Walton Heath to Woburn was 72 miles, and took about 1:30.  I was here because The Marquess Course hosted the 2016 Women’s British Open Championship, and will do so again in 2019.  Woburn has two other courses, The Duke’s and The Dutchess.  Setting up this round was quite difficult as this week The Duke’s Course was hosting The European Senior Masters.  However, they club was able to fit me in on the Marquess (which is physically very separate from the Duke’s) and I teed off at 5:00pm.  The course was totally empty in front of me (one twosome let me through on #7) and I played it in about 2:10.  Not fast enough for me…this is a parkland course through thick forests with relatively narrow corridors and no real creativity in its design. I fired a 44 – 41 = 85 and then headed north.  This one is not great golf...but I was looking forward to tomorrow.  

First, though, I had a drive of 105 miles (2:15). It was late when I arrived at the hotel…around 9:45pm…and I was playing at 9:30 the next morning.

Hunstanton Golf Club, August 31, 2018:  In early 2016 Pat and I made a return trip to New Zealand.  While near Queenstown on the South Island, we met an interesting Englishman named Bill Gelson.  Bill is an avid golfer and we of course started to compare notes.  He suggested that I needed to visit Hunstanton GC located very close to Royal West Norfolk (“Brancaster”).   I played Brancaster three months later, but my crammed solid itinerary did not allow me to play Hunstanton.  So today I would fulfill my promise to Bill, and I was glad I did so.

It played firm and fast with just enough wind to make the round interesting.  I played poorly on the front but OK on the back (46 – 41 = 87).  IMO the best holes are #6, 7, 10, 13, 14 and 16.  Trust me, there are some bunkers on this track that you want to avoid (e.g. left fairway bunker on #13).  And the blind 219 yard par 3 14this great fun…reminded me of #5 (Himalaya) at Prestwick GC in Scotland.  In terms of pure golf design, par 3 #16 probably the best of the bunch…189 yard par 3 to deep but narrow 2 tiered green surrounded by six bunkers. 

Hunstanton #7--167 yards of terror


Never on a World 100, but quite a bit of fun and quite good.  When you go to Brancaster, visit Hunstanton!

Royal Worlington & Newmarket GC, August 31, 2018:  Conscientious readers of this blog (Post #50) will recall that in 2016, I played Royal Worlington for the first time.  I very much wanted to get a second look at this course, which I considered then (and still do) the finest par 3 course anywhere on this Earth.

I arrived after a drive of 51 miles (1:15) from Hunstanton.   A luncheon following an outing of Cambridge University alumni was in full swing in the dining room and I was able to go out on an empty course.  Just as good as I remembered…go read Post #50, or better yet, get over there and play it. 

The drive back south to Surrey was 108 miles or 2:00.  You might again be questioning my geographic skills.  Problem was that Wentworth-East, which I had to play (bucket list of course) had been undergoing maintenance all week and was closed until Saturday September 1. I had been introduced to a member…but we had to wait until Saturday to play it.  So back to Surrey I traveled!

Wentworth Golf Club-East, September 1, 2018:  In the 1970’s-1980’s, golf in Surrey for visitors meant playing Sunningdale, Wentworth, and Walton Health.  Brilliant courses such as St. George’s Hill, Swinley Forest, and Woking were “hidden gems”…unknown to all but a few Americans with close golfing connections in London.  The reason was simple…with much less international travel, no internet, and a much smaller media footprint, courses remained “unknown” unless they hosted a major event.  The same was true in Scotland, where fabulous tracks such as Cruden Bay, Gullane #1, North Berwick, Royal Aberdeen, and Royal Dornoch were also “hidden gems”…certainly in the 1970’s. 

Wentworth Golf Club was founded in 1922.  W. G. Tarrant, a developer of luxury homes founded the club as part of his strategy of building luxury homes around a golf course. The Depression brought bankruptcy to Tarrant’s company and ownership of the club passed to Sir Lindsay Parkinson & Co.  Eventually, in 2014, the club was purchased for about $180 million by Beijing based Reignwood Group, controlled by billionaireChanchai Ruayrungruan.

Wentworth’s East Course was completed in 1924 followed by the West in 1926.  Both East and West were designed by Harry Colt.  Some 54 years later a third course, Edinburgh, designed by John Jacobs was completed.  The West Course hosted the Ryder Cup in 1953 and the HSBC Match Play Championship from 1964-2007.  The East hosted the forerunner to the Ryder Cup in 1926 as well as the inaugural Curtis Cup in 1932.  Again, this is why I had to play East.

Current yardages for the three courses are:

            West                7284 yards      par 72
            East                 6201 yards      par 68
            Edinburgh        7004 yards      par 72

Wentworth has been hit by two major controversies over the past 12 years.  

First, in 2006 Ernie Els (who owns a home there) completed a renovation of West designed to toughen it up.  The result was a tightening and loss of more Colt features.  Many tour players and almost all golf affectionatoes screamed bloody murder about desecrating a Harry Colt masterpiece.  Changes to the 18thhole made it so risky to go for the green in two, that many tour players laid up and then hit a sand wedge into the green…just the opposite of what was intended by Els. 

Supposedly, after the purchase of Wentworth by Reignwood, the West was re-renovated, again by Els.  I have yet to see any reports regarding this re-renovation…but this whole chapter makes clear that it is dangerous to mess with historical greatness. There are current architects who understand the concepts of the Golden Age designers, but I have never heard anyone include Ernie Els in that group!

The second controversy arose after Reignwood’s purchase.  In 2015, Reignwood advised members that they had to purchase $140,000 debentures to retain their memberships, and that annual dues would double.   The screams could be heard as far away as Hawaii! Many long time members threatened to resign…and the lawyers among the dissidents found clauses in the homeowners association agreement which could present real problems for the club:

1.     the potential ability to keep the club from displaying banners and other ads during the annual BMW Championship; and
2.     the potential ability to prevent the closure of roads within the club during the BMW Championship.

When these red flags were raised, Reignwood apparently went to the negotiating table and I gather things have settled down.  

In any case, East is a very good course.  Do not let the 6201 yardage fool you; as a par 68 that is equivalent to almost 7000 yards for a par 72.  Best holes are probably the long par 4 11th and long par 3 7th.  The course was in perfect condition, and the clubhouse is something to behold (but a bit over the top for my tastes).  I had a 41 – 38 = 79 (one putting the last 4 holes).

East has never been on a World 100.  West has appeared on 22 of the 48 lists on my spreadsheet, but has been on a disappearing act for the last 10-12 years (since the Els renovation)…being dropped from Top 100 list where it was once a regular.

After the round, I faced my first of two long drives…255 miles (4:15) to northern Wales.  Arrived at my hotel around 8pm…one more day to go!

Conwy Golf Club, September 2, 2018:  Chances are you have seen Conwy Golf Club a number of times…but did not know it.  I played it for the first time on this day…but later learned that I had seen it numerous times before.

Victorian artist Douglas Adams (1853-1920) completed three paintings. Copies of which now hang in golf clubhouses, locker rooms, etc. all around the world.  The paintings are entitled “The Drive”, “Putting Green”, and “Difficult Bunker”, with “The Drive” being the most popular.  Turns out all three paintings were created at Conwy…which is perfectly obvious when looking at the surroundings at Conwy.  Please go to the following link for more information:


Conwy will host the next (2020) Curtis Cup.  The 2018 Curtis Cup was conducted at Quaker Ridge GC (NY), where I was a member from 1975-2000.  Golf was first played where Conwy is located (the Marfa marshes) in 1869.  The club was formally established in 1890; it initially consisted of 12 holes and was expanded to 18 by 1895.  The following 90 years brought four periods when the existence of the club was threatened:

            --1914-18 during WW I---the course was used for troop training;
            --1933 due to a clubhouse fire;
            --1939-45 during WW II—prefabricated harbors for D-Day prepared on site;
            --1980’s with construction of A55 Expressway.

The club survived these periods of challenge and tragedy and ended up flourishing.

I arrived at 8:30 and we played at 9:33. Played with current Secretary (previously was head pro) Matt Parsley as well as the current Captain and Vice Captain.  Unfortunately I was a bit tired and close to being golfed-out…and my game reflected it.  I did not keep score as the numbers were too big!  

This is a very good golf course in a wonderful setting with some of the best climate in the UK.  The golf course is bordered on the north, east, and west by water. The land is fairly flat and reminded me a little of Hunstanton Golf Club.  It plays to 6936 yards (par 72) from the tips, is in excellent condition (firm/fast), is well bunkered and has an excellent set of greens.  Dealing with winds is very tricky due to the foothills south of the course, and gorse lining holes 14-18.  Best hole IMO is #7...a 451 yard par 4 with a wonderful natural green setting (see pic).


Conwy #7...tough par 4 with outstanding natural green setting


This one is well worth playing.  It has never been included on a World 100 (and I do not think it is worthy of that recognition) but is fun and excellent.  I believe the club needs to continue to remove the gorse on holes 14-18…as these holes are of a totally different character than the rest of the course and too “tight” for a links course IMO.  I would also widen the other fairways (keeping most bunkers in their current position) to offer more options and angles off the tee.

I think this will be an excellent venue for the Curtis Cup in two years.

*******************

After the round and thanking my hosts, I headed north…to Edinburgh.  I booked my flight reservations before sorting out playing details, and simply booked my return trip from my point of arrival on August 23.  This last drive was 300 miles (4:45) and I made it without hitting any traffic jams.

Flight home was wonderfully uneventful and it was great to get home and see me bride.

All in all excellent trip.  Played 16 courses (two of which were nine holers), including 8 new ones.  Brought me to 1084 courses in my lifetime (am at 1092 as of October 15, 2018).  The trip had its disappointments, but also some wonderful surprises and returns to favorites which reinforced previously help opinions.  All in all, no question in my mind that the UK (especially its links courses) offers the finest golf in the world.  Also must agree with our friend Ran Morrissett that England has the highest concentration of great golf of any country in the world.  Scotland to my mind has the highest concentration of the very very best courses…but England has more depth IMO.

Spending four days with Brendan was a privilege and very special.  He is a first first class person.


Too much driving again (1254 miles on my own and probably 275 mile with Brendan in Scotland)…but I always want to squeeze in as much as possible when I am away.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

117. Back to the United Kingdom (Part II)

117.  Back to the United Kingdom (Part II)

Royal St. George’s Golf Club (Sandwich or RSG), August 27, 2018:  Founded in 1887, Sandwich’s 18-hole course was completed in 1887.  The land site was selected by the club’s founder, a Scotsman named Dr. Laidlaw Purves, who also was its original designer.

In 1892 it hosted The Amateur Championship, and then two years later its first Open Championship…in fact the first Open Championship conducted outside of Scotland.  From 1894 thru 1949, RSG was a fixture on The Open “rota”, hosting the event nine times during that time span.  A drought of 32 years followed, and starting in 1981 Sandwich was back in the “rota”.  By 2020, Sandwich will have hosted another six Opens in that 40 year period.  So between 1892 and 2020, Sandwich will have hosted:
            --15 Open Championships,
            --14 Amateur Championships,
            --2 Walker Cups,
            --1 Curtis Cup, and
            --3 Women’s Amateur Championships.

I attended two Open Championships at Sandwich…1981 and 1985…the former from inside the ropes with a photographer’s pass (a green armband in those days, and mine was #1)…but that is another story. On the Monday following Bill Roger’s victory in July 1981, I was the first player to go off the first tee, and prior to 8/27/18, that was my only time playing RSG.  

Sandwich has appeared on every one of the 48 World 100 listings I track on my spreadsheet…only seven courses have been included on all 48 listings, and I am proud to have played all seven two or more times.  RSG’s highest rating ever was #5 in the MacWood Spoof list, and its highest ever rating on GM was #26 in 1993.  Highest on top100golfcourses.com was #19 in 2014.

Many observers would state that Sandwich was one of the “quirkiest” of the great courses…and that word also implies “most fun”.  Good and bad bounces prevail on these grounds as well as quite a number of blind shots.  I would make two points: (1) a shot is on only “blind” the first time a golf plays it, and (2) golf should be a simulation of life and life is full of good and bad bounces…one of the tests of life is how one deals with these bounces…and that test should apply in golf if it is to be a proper simulation.  Generally, courses that host the world’s great championships present fewer blind shots (and some present none) and fewer good/bad bounces…like many things in life, it becomes a question of how many…too few or too many never seems quite right…but different golfers have different definitions of what that means.  But enough of these esoteric discussions for now.

I was introduced to a former Captain of RSG (Graham F.) by a good friend, Bob M. (GM panelist, member of Century Conquerors Club, and former member of RSG).  Graham suggested we meet for lunch and then play.  Lunch was with his family on the patio outside the clubhouse on a lovely day.  Graham had sustained an injury (not serious but quite bothersome) and could not go back out to play, so he had set me up to play with another member, Adrian T. (as well as Piper, his Black Lab Retriever).  Was a real fun round.  I had a 43 -43 = 86 from 6630 yards.  

Course is simply delightful…mix of impossible holes and holes a real good player can challenge.  However, the fairways had taken quite a beating in the summer heat, and much work will need to be done in the 22 months prior to the 2020 Open Championship…but I am confident it will be fine.  The greens were perfect.

Had a very good dinner at Prince’s Lounge…needed some sleep with 36 on the schedule for each of the next three days.

Prince’s Golf Club-Shore & Dunes Nines, August 28, 2018:  This morning I was playing the other two nines on Prince’s, which I believe have been the nines used when Prince’s hosts Open Championship qualifiers.  These 18 holes compromise a good course but with similar issues to those I mentioned regarding Himalayas.  The space was very limited here making for even tighter fairways…too tight for a links track…but here extra space may simply not exist. But I did play well, shooting a 39 – 39 = 78.  And truth of the matter is I hardly remembered the course from 1981.

After the round I checked out of my hotel and drove around the area.  Incredibly, three of the 14 courses that have hosted an Open Championship are located within about 1 mile of each other.  Prince’s lies next to Sandwich Bay running on a small strip of land in a N-S direction. RSG’s eastern edge lies about 150-200 yards west of Sandwich Bay and south of Princes.  Royal Cinque Ports GC (which I would play that afternoon) lies on a plot of land only about 200-350 yards wide along Sandwich Bay, south of RSG.  At one point along a very very very narrow road (the “widest” road in this part of England is very very narrow), there is a directional sign pointing toward two towns with two of the world’s finest courses…see below:
 
World's Best Road Sign?

Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club (“Deal” or “RCP”), August 28, 2018:  RCP was founded in 1892 and initially consisted of 9 holes for golf…essentially holes #1-5 and #15-18 of the current course.  In 1896 an additional nine holes were added to the original 9 with some modifications.  After World War I (actually before my time), James Braid made additional modifications. Between the two World Wars, a 9-hole “Ladies” short course was constructed just east of the first fairway. However, due to considerable damage inflicted on the property during WW II, the course was brought back essentially as designed by Braid and reopened in 1946 without the Ladies short course.  

Deal has hosted two Open Championships, in 1909 (won by J H Taylor) and 1920 (won by George Duncan).  It was scheduled to host the 1915 Open but this event was cancelled due to the outbreak of WW I.  The Open was also scheduled to be played here in 1938 and 1949, but on both occasions an abnormally high tide and strong easterly winds caused serious flooding, and in both of these years The Open was transferred to Royal St. George’s.  RCP hosted the Amateur Championship in 1923, 1982, and 2013; it hosted the Women’s Amateur Championship in 1902 and 1988.

During the week of the 1981 Open Championship conducted at Sandwich, I played Deal for the first time…and this was my second time playing it.

Today, the course plays 7245 yards, par 71 (but for championships, would probably play as a par 70 with the 510 yard par 5 4thplaying as a par 4).  It is nothing less than an outstanding golf course…and may well be the most underrated championship (or potential championship) venue in the world.  While the property is flat (has no discernable large overall slopes), it may best the piece of “rumpled” land in the world, and is filled with small mounds and dunes.  For you none golfers…rumpled is an insult when applied to clothes, but a compliment when applied to land.  So flat lies are rare indeed, but interestingly, there are parts of a few fairways that are flat and offer a good line into the green…but generally there is a bunker immediately adjacent to these flat areas…so if you go for them, be careful!  Many of the fairways are filled with ridges/waves running at an angle across the fairway…forcing the golf to think carefully about their “driving lines”…as the carry over a ridge might be 15-20 yards further on the left side of a fairway than on the right side (and the difference in “roll out” might be 30-60 yards!).

The first hole and holes 12-18 run southbound, holes 2-7 and 9 run northbound (for the most part alongside the sea wall separating the course from Sandwich Bay), and holes 8, 10, and 11 run EàW or WàE.  With a prevailing wind out of the southwest, this makes the long 3738 yard back nine a real brute…so scoring opportunities are on the front and hang on for dear life on the back!  Recently, three new tees have been built on top of the sea wall on the east side of the northbound holes…making these holes (7, 9, and 11 as I recall) even better!

Finally the greens…they are simply amazing, interesting, tough to figure out, and so much fun.  Greens #3 and 16 are IMO the best.

Before the round, I had lunch with Deal’s new and young Secretary, James Leah…very personable and bright man and part of a new wave of young, interesting Secretaries that I noticed around the UK for the first time.  Played the round with one of Deal’s Assistant Professionals, George Carroll…also a wonderful young man who was a great “guide” around this fabulous track.

Amazingly, RCP had never been included on most of the World Top 100 course lists…only being on 3 of the 48 on my spreadsheet. Those three are:

            --Golf Architects Survey published in Golf Course Architecture(July 2013 edition)—listed at #64;
            --The MacWood 1939 Spoof list published on GolfClubAtlas.com--#50; and 
            --GoldClubAtlas.com’s “147 Custodians” list published in August 2018--#53.

Not simply amazing…more like shocking!!  None of these three lists involved an “independent panel”…shame on us panelists. Me thinks Deal is absolutely a Top 75 (at least) in the World…should have returned here on an earlier trip!  And shame on moi for not taking any pics.

After the round, it was a 118 mile, 2:10 drive to Surrey.  Easy drive except for the very very narrow and highly confusing streets of Deal…but made it to my hotel around 8:30pm, and went out for a very nice dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant.  I was staying at the Highclere Hotel…a very small but nice and reasonably priced hotel in Sunninghill, Ascot…very convenient to most of the great tracks in Surrey.  Rooms are small and parking a little tight, but worked great for me!  Looking forward to tomorrow morning at Sunningdale-New!!

Sunningdale Golf Club—New Course, August 29, 2018:  There are great clubs in the world, and great golf courses. Some of the great courses are resort, public access, or part of good, but not great, clubs.  And some of the great clubs have very good courses (even world class), but their courses fall short of “great”.  Unless you are prepared to pull out my fingernails one by one, you will not get me to list the great clubs without great courses, or the great courses at not great clubs.  But I will say that Sunningdale Golf Club is one of the world’s great clubs and its Old Course is one of the world’s great courses.  

I have had the privilege of visiting Sunningdale about 5 or 6 times previously.  My first time was in September 1977 and I played the New Course (this was my only previous round on New).  My first round on Old was in September 1980 and I have played it about 3-4 times since.  

As my memories of the Old were fairly vivid, and those of the New very blurred, I decided to play New on this visit.  Before discussing New, please allow me to say a few words regards Old and Sunningdale as a Club.  

The Old is IMO one of the most charming, beautiful, and fun courses in the world.  Opened in 1901, its original design was by Willie Park, Jr.  The great Harry Colt redesigned Old before building the New in 1923 (Colt served as Secretary and Captain of Sunningdale GC before forming his architectural firm).  The variety of holes on the Old Course is outstanding, including three drivable par 4’s (267-322 yards) and three epic par 4’s (466-489 yards).  The greens and bunkering are superb, and it is built on magnificent land.  It has appeared on 46 of the 48 World 100 lists reflected on my spreadsheet, and usually around #30-40.  

Sunningdale Golf Club is generally considered to be the finest golf club in the London area.  The courses and clubhouse are almost always in immaculate condition, and the service nothing short of superb.  

The New Course was designed by Harry Colt, and opened in 1923; from that point forward the original Course was called the “Old”.   While the Old has more bunkers than the New, The New is longer and generally tighter. Fairways on both are protected by thick areas covered with low lying heather…and while lies in the heather can sometimes be forgiving, that is rare and they often are highly unpredictable. Unpredictable lies do not make for good golf scores!  Given the course was designed by Harry Colt, it is no surprise that the greens are outstanding and bunkers magnificent.  The bunkers here are both very natural in appearance and very well defined…a perplexing combination.  Cape holes and false fronts abound.  I thought the best holes were #5 (pic), 6 , 9, and 10, which are all brilliant.  One other striking facet of both Sunningdale tracks is the huge amount of land that comprises the club.
 
Sunningdale New #5---183 yards---do NOT miss this green!

However, as I finished the round, something was bothering me.  I knew the course lacked the charm of the Old…but until I looked more carefully at the scorecard, I could not identify what was bothering me…then it hit me. There are 10 par fours…and the following are Championship tee yardages (in ascending order):  378, 395, 396, 399, 409, 431, 446, 457, 461, and 465 yards. No par 4’s of less than 378, so no drivable par 4’s, and none above 465, so no monster par 4’s.  Yes, I appreciate that these yardages do not account for prevailing winds and up/down terrain…but I felt this was an important shortfall. I had a 42 – 43 = 85…tough course to play for the first time in 41 years.

The New course has been a “regular” on some World 100 lists, appearing on 27 of my 48 lists, even being included in the World’s Top 15 in the first edition of Rolex’s Top 1000 list.  But it has only made 3 of 20 Golf Magazine lists (including the most recent two) and never higher than #80 on GM.

Will see when I vote next year, but not sure if New will be in my World 100…it will be a close call…one impacting factor is I need to make room for the likes of Royal Cinque Ports!

A secondary question in my mind is "which single facility in the world has the finest 36 holes?”  Potential candidates include Baltusrol, Bandon Dunes, Barnbougle, Cabot, Royal Melbourne, Streamsong, Sunningdale, and Winged Foot.  At this point I would vote for Royal Melbourne…with a big footnote citing that while I have played Winged Foot-East since the recent Gil Hanse renovation, I have not yet seen WF-West since its renovation. In terms of contiguous courses, I firmly believe National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock Hills are an unbeatable pair.

The Grove, August 29, 2018:  Today there are four World Golf Championships, including the WGC-Mexico Championship.  This event was originally the WGC-American Express Championship (1999-2006) and in 2006 was held at The Grove, located about 28 miles north of Sunningdale GC.  As you may recall, Tiger won that event during his run of seven straight PGA Tour wins in 2006-07.  

The Grove opened in 2003 and was designed by Kyle Phillips (think Kingsbarns).  It is an upscale daily fee course and also hosted the 2016 British Masters.  It is a very good golf course in excellent condition with superb service.  Call me a golf snob if you will, but this is not what one should come to the UK for in terms of golf.  I was here in an effort to come closer to finishing the WCG EVER Venue bucket list (I now have 7 left).  

Play was extremely slow on the front nine, but I zipped ahead of the group in front when they stopped for food after 9, and then several groups allowed me to play through on the back.  If my recollection is correct, the front took some 2:30, and the back about 1:15!  I had a 41 – 43 = 84  (back nine started with two double bogeys)…and since you asked, lost another golf ball, on the 4thhole…77 holes (but only about 55 hours) since my prior one…getting wild with my swing I guess!

After the round it was good to get back to the Highclere Hotel.  Dinner was at a very good Chinese restaurant and an early night of sleep was most welcome. Thursday was scheduled for 36, Friday 27, and then Saturday and Sunday 18 each…but some long drives the last few days of this journey.