Saturday, July 4, 2020

142. Last Six Months or so…

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!!

 

Project Fescue

 

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).



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

141. Finish Up 2019...and New World 100

141. Finish Up 2019...and New World 100

Pinehurst #1, November 30, 2019:  I would assume that most readers of this blog are familiar with a number of industrial magnates from the late 19th century and early 20th century...people such as John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Richard Mellon, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.  To that list you need two add James Walker Tufts, referred to as a "soda fountain magnate" by Wikipedia!!  

Each year Tufts took a train south from Boston to Florida in the fall and returned north in the spring.  The train made a lot of stops, including one in Southern Pines, NC.  In 1895, Tufts decided to inspect the area around Southern Pines, located in an area now knows as the Sandhills.  Tufts purchased (for about $1.25/acre...not inflation adjusted) about 5000 acres of scrubland east of Southern Pines.  Pinehurst Resort, which predates the Village of Pinehurst, dates back to this purchase.  The Village of Pinehurst was not incorporated until 1980.

Tufts would have known of Donald Ross from Ross' position as head professional at Oakley Country Club in Watertown, MA.  Ross immigrated to the USA from Dornoch, Scotland in 1899 and was hired by Oakley immediately.  As a side note, some 63 years later I played Oakley CC for the first time as a member of MIT's Freshman Golf Team.

During the first years of Pinehurst Resort, Tufts noticed an increasing number of guests shagging golf balls in the open fields, and had Dr. Leroy Culver design 9 holes in 1898, with an additional nine added by John Dunn Tucker shortly thereafter.   Tufts hires Ross as head professional and in 1901 he renovated what is now Pinehurst #1.  Ross' more famous Pinehurst #2 opened for play in 1907 and  he was the initial architect of Pinehurst #3 (1910) and Pinehurst #4 (1919).

I first played #1, #3, and #4 in 1974 (#1 was the 73rd course I ever played) and #2 and #5 in 1971.  I had not played #1, #3 or #5 again until my round on #1 this month.  I played #1 this day with Greg O., a fellow GGCC member from Chicago and Pinehurst after hearing some good things about #1 from other players (frankly, I could not remember anything about #1, #3, or #5).

Both Greg and I were very pleasantly surprised.  Yes, from the tips it stretches a mere 6089 yards.  But these early Ross greens make the course.  Ross did a brilliant job of building these greens with sweeping slopes, but camouflaging these slopes at least from the eyes of this player.  The first hole, playing 391 yards is a dogleg left with bunkers the outside of the turn and therefore screams "play down the left side".  But too far left and trees block your approach shot...and a very false front and back third of green sloping towards the back combine to produce a very difficult 2nd shot.  I have driven behind this green on Morganton Road regularly since 1998 without appreciating its subtlety.

The course has terrific greens and is fun to play.  It could use some updating to create better definition   and restore the bunkers which look "tired".  I would think rejuvenating this course would add another jewel to the Pinehurst Resort's crown and prove to be a most worthwhile investment.  Perhaps the second course touched by Ross this historical venue is due for a freshening.

Pinehurst #1 has never been included on a USA Top 100 but from 1902-06 hosted the North and South Open (won by Alec Ross..Donald's brother...in 1902 and 1904 and by Donald Ross in 1903, '05, and '06).  In retrospect, the North and South Open is considered by many to have been a "major" during its existence from 1902-1951.

Forest Creek Golf Club-North, December 9, 2019:  I was a golfing member of Forest Creek from 2000-2010 and eventually fully withdrew my membership four years later.  The North course opened in 2005 (the South Course dates back to the Club's opening in 1996).  I had last played the North in December 2017 and South in December 2016.  Both courses were designed by Tom Fazio and Fazio recently completed an extensive renovation of North.

I played with FC member Bob K. and two other members from Ft. Worth, TX.  As I was undergoing a medical procedure two days later, I limited my play to 11 holes and putted/chipped on the other 7 holes.  Mostly I was there to see the changes to North.

The most important change IMO was the conversion of the greens from Bentgrass to Champion Bermuda.  As the course had just reopened 2-3 months before my round, it was too early to properly evaluate the greens but I was surprised how little "grain" was present on these greens.  Time will tell if that is due to their young age or efforts by the Forest Creek staff and Fazio.

The architectural changes to North were pretty much as described to me by others.  First, the greens are slightly expanded, and with less in the way of "tiers" and more sweeping/gradual slopes.  My sense is that they will take longer to really understand as they are filled with subtle breaks and result in more double-breaking putts.  Second, most of the "love grass" that accented many of North's bunkers is now gone, and that IMHO is a negative aspect of the changes.  The fairways seemed wider and with the larger greens offer more angles and options for play, and that certainly is a positive IMO.  Finally, the elimination of some trees (even the one on the left 160 yards short of the 3rd green) I view as a positive as is the expansion and flattening of some of the bunkering.  At this stage I think the changes are certainly a net plus, with the size of the plus a function of how the greens play after they have grown in for another year or so.  One footnote...these comparisons are with the North Course of the 2005-2007 time frame (when I think the original course was at its best),  as opposed to the period from 2008-2017.

As this was likely to be my last round of 2019 (we are in Massachusetts right now for the Holidays and the weather is not exactly conducive to golf), I should note that I ended the round by parring the 18th hole.  No score was kept during this round or at #1.

Summary of the Year 2019:  Was a good year.  I ended with 161.4 18-hole equivalent rounds (note...if I play 27 holes day 1 and 9 holes day 2...that totals 2.0 "18-hole equivalent rounds").  I played on a total of 119 different courses, of which 28 I had played before 2019, and 91 were "new" to me.  This brought me to 1209 courses played to date.  Comparable numbers for recent years are as follows:

Year            18-hole equiv rds           total courses played         new courses played
2019                 161.4                                   119                                    91
2018                 158.4                                   125                                    99
2017                 222.0                                   157                                  115
2016                 209.7                                   127                                    92
2015                 202.1                                   140                                  110
2014                 159.9                                   104                                    74

Highlights of course were completing the World Top 100 EVER (11 sources) for the third time at Huntercombe GC in England on June 11 and the USA Top 100 EVER (6 sources) for the first time at Treetops--Smith Signature in Michigan on June 17 (sometimes referred to as standing atop Mt. Everest and K-2 simultaneously).  You will recall that immediately after, I announced my retirement from chasing World and USA Top 100's.

Since that time one more USA Top 100 list has been published leaving unblemished my record on the USA Top 100 List.  Two additional World Top 100 lists have been published and while the Golf Magazine list did not affect my status, the recently published Top100golfcourses.com list included two courses that I have not played (Lanhai International--Yangtze Dunes in China, and Santapazienza in Brazil), thereby knocking me off Mount Everest 180 days after my third ascent.  At this point I have no plans to visit either but my travel plans for 2020 are undecided at this point.  To my knowledge, no other golfer has ever conquered either "mountain".

One other bucket list completed in 2019 was the "Five Cups EVER" (Walker, Ryder, Curtis, Solheim, Presidents listed in chronological order of their first Match), with my playing Denver Country Club (CO), host venue for the 1982 Curtis Cup Match on August 22.  These five Cups will have been held at 108 different courses throughout 2020 and as of August 22, 2019, I have played all 108.  I know of no other person who has completed all 108.  I had the chance to meet Joey Hines last month.  Joey is the Head Pro at Cape Fear Country Club (Post #140), and earlier this year he completed the Men's Major Venues EVER bucket list.  I added Ridgemoor (IL) to that list to recognize Hogan's 5th US open in the 1942 Hale America Championship.  If you count Ridgemoor, Joey beat me to it...if not I was first.  Call it a tie.  Joey is attempting to finish the Ryder Cup EVER list and I am cheering him on!

Goals for 2020...have a few more bucket lists to keep me off the streets.  Crossed the "75" barrier this year and hoping to keep this going.   "Reasonable" goals are:

GOAL                                                                           To Go          Cum To Go*

Reclimb World 100 EVER                                                 2                        2
Golf Week USA 100 Classic & 100 Modern EVER               10                      12
Golf Digest USA 101-200 EVER                                         8                      18
Senior Majors EVER                                                         2                      20
Current Women's Majors EVER                                         5                      25
US Senior Amateur EVER**                                               4                      29
PGA Tour "Biggies"***                                                       3                      32

Long term stretch goals would include:
US Junior Amateur EVER**                                             23                    154
US Women's Am, Mid-Am, Sr Am, Jr Am, 4 ball               92                    242
Golf Digest 1966/67 200 Toughest                                  80                    308

Note that completing the above through the next to last line (242 to go) would mean having played every venue to host one one the USGA's current 14 championships.  Probably not doable but that might be something to focus on...

* net of duplicates (courses on more than one bucket list)
** have completed US Amateur, US Mid Amateur, Amateur Championship EVER
*** World Golf Championships and Fed Express Playoff Championships EVER (have completed Tour Championships Venues EVER)



Tuesday, November 26, 2019

140. Golf in Carolinas...and Texas...and back to NC/SC...ending at another Hidden Gem

140.  Golf in NC/SC...and Texas...and back to NC/SC...ending at another Hidden Gem

Hope Valley Golf Club, October 24, 2019:  After a few days of doctors appointments, sorting out things around the house, etc., I decided to check out one of the courses in Durham I had never played.  I had a 1:00pm appointment on Thursday 10/24 with my cardiologist at Duke (routine follow up from my aortic valve replacement 6 months prior), and was able to get a tee time at Hope Valley GC, only about 5 miles from the doctor's office.

It was about 45℉ when I left home around 6:15am but when I teed off at 8:15am it was up to 55 and would rise another 15-20℉ by mid afternoon.  Hope Valley was founded in 1926 and its course was designed by Donald Ross and since has undergone renovations by Perry Maxwell, Dan Maples, John LaFay, Brian Silva, and most recently Kris Spence (who renovated CCNC's Dogwood course in 2016).  Byron Nelson won the fourth of his incredible 11 straight PGA Tour victories here in April 1945.  

The land Hope Valley sits on is fairly hilly, and by my count fully 12 of its holes have an uphill approach to the green (3 down hill and 3 flat).  For Donald Ross, the greens appear fairly flat and subdued, but they sure do not putt that way.  I three putted two of the first three holes until I became accustomed to them.  There are also in perfect condition and very very quick...even on uphill putts.  I liked the back nine much more than the front (and my play reflected that shooting a 46 - 38 = 84).  The last 3-4 holes remind me of Mid Pines GC in Southern Pines and that is a strong compliment.  Visually the bunkering could use some updating both in placement and design.  At 6720 yards from the tips the course is long enough for most players and certainly for me.  Overall routing is good but almost all the fairways are lined with homes and the course crosses several roads.

Hope Valley first appeared on the Golf Week USA Top 101-200 Modern list in 2016 at #101, and then reappeared this year (note that I could not locate the 2017 and 2018 lists) at #172...those two listings translated to #201 and #372 respectively on my Merged GW Top 400 which combines Modern and Classic courses.  

Spring Valley Country Club, October 30, 2019:  Over the following six days I had the chance to play both of CCNC's tracks and first suffered through an 89 (Equitable Stroke Control!!) on Dogwood but then followed that with a 78 on Cardinal, so no way of knowing how my game stood.

On 10/30 I left early for a trip to surprise an Australian friend..."Aussie John."  Pat and I met John and Kay (his now wife and then SO) in 2012 in Melbourne, Australia, where John plays at the brilliant Kingston Heath (Post #34).  They visited us in Boston the summer of 2012 and we have seen them in Australia and the USA a few times since.  In May 2014, I was concluding a round-the-world trip to finish my first Golf Magazine World Top 100 and Aussie John surprised me by welcoming me at Dublin airport on my way to my 100th course, The European Club (no...he did not fly from Melbourne to Dublin for that...he was in England as he and Kay were exchanging vows a few days later near Manchester...but I was still blown away by his doing that).  John was scheduled to play Augusta National GC on this day to complete his first (actually I think his first 4 or 5 GM lists).  He was scheduled to play Palmetto GC in Aiken, SC the next day and then drive north to Pinehurst to stay with us (and play more golf) before heading back "down under."

While ANGC's rules kept me from being able to surprise him there, I planned to drive to Aiken on 10/30 and surprise him at the dinner we had set up for him with Jill and Charlie B., friends from Boston who live in Charleston and also belong to Palmetto.  Soo, I figured "why not leave early and play some course in SC on the way?".  

I left home around 5:15am (this is getting to be a habit) and arrived at Spring Valley GC in Columbia, SC (the state's capital) just before 8:00am.  Spring Valley opened in 1961 with an 18 hole course designed by George Cobb and then was renovated by John LaFoy (who also did some renovation work at Hope Valley) in 1999.  From the tips today it is 6,791 yards.  In both 1966 and 1967 it was included in Golf Digest's USA 200 Toughest...but for sure that "toughness" is not obvious today.  It was fairly wet and soft from recent rains and I played fairly quickly (2 hours 3 minutes) as I was trying to play 36 holes in Columbia before the forecast rains arrived.  Given the softness, I chose to play from 5559 yards instead of 6049 and I scored pretty well (39 - 38 = 77).  Course is very flat on the front nine but had some better land on the back.  The morning round was designed to knock another off my GD 200 Toughest bucket list and my guess is that many of the 81 that I have left (as of 11/23/44) will be of this ilk.  As I have written before, those two lists are the earliest "Top" or "Toughest" lists ever, and certainly do not represent a collection of great or tough tracks.  But, of course, a list is a list begging to be conquered.

Columbia Country Club, October 30, 2019:  After a drive of 10 miles I was at Columbia Country Club, which encompasses 27 holes.  Columbia opened in 1962 with 18 holes designed by Ellis Maples (who designed CCNC's Dogwood course and Grandfather G&CC).  Like Spring Valley, Columbia was included on both the 1966 and 1967 GD 200 Toughest lists...and like Spring Valley is not deserving of such notice.  But it is certainly superior to Spring Valley.

Sometime after 1967 a third nine was finished.  The original course encompasses the Ridgewood and Tall Pines nines...and the third nine is known as Lakeside.  The Ridgewood/Tall Pines course totals 7150 yards today, and I played it from 5679 yards.  Like Columbia it was a little soft and wet but I was able to finish in 2:06.  Had a 41 - 41 = 82 and was pleased to have finished before the rain.

After the round I headed straight to Aiken...no word yet from Aussie John on the status of his round.  As I arrived in the town of Aiken I received a call from John...round happened, he was done and relieved and was looking forward to getting over to Aiken and meeting Jill and Charlie B.  It sounded like the surprise was still working.  I congratulated him and told him we were looking forward to seeing him in Pinehurst the next afternoon.

About 90 minutes later, he walked into the dining room (35 minutes late I must add) at the Willcox Hotel in Aiken and was quite surprised to see me and no Jill or Charlie at the table.  We had a great dinner and then headed back to our respective hotels with plans to play Palmetto early the next morning.  Was special to "return the surprise."

Palmetto Golf Club, October 31, 2019:  I first heard about Palmetto about 10-15 years ago from Steve Hinshaw, a very special member of CCNC who belonged to Palmetto as well and passed away about 5-7 years ago.  I played it for the first time on March 15, 2011 (no previous posts...as these were pre-blog days) and simply loved it.  It was a few months after I had become a Golf Digest Panelist and it was the 5th course I ever evaluated.

Palmetto was founded in 1892 and its golf course initially was comprised of four holes designed by founder Thomas Hitchcock.   These holes were located where the practice range and holes 16-18 now sit.  Shortly thereafter, Herbert Leeds, who designed Myopia Hunt Club (Post #56) north of Boston, designed and built five more holes giving the club a full nine.  Three years later Leeds and James Mackrell, Palmetto's first golf professional, added nine more holes to complete today's 18.  The Club believes that Donald Ross installed an irrigation system in 1928 and in 1932; Alister MacKensie (who was building Augusta National Golf Club some 25 miles to the west) converted Palmetto's sand greens to grass and made additional alterations including lengthening the course.  From the late 1980's through 1995 Rees Jones made some bunker renovations and from 2003 to 2005 Tom Doak oversaw a series of bunker renovations to bring back MacKensie's design characteristics.  Presently, Gil Hanse is the club's architect of record.  Today the course plays 6713 yards with a par of 71.  And the clubhouse was designed by Sanford White, who also designed the clubhouse at Shinnecock Hills. Leeds (Myopia Hunt), MacKensie (ANGC, Cypress Point, and Royal Melbourne), and White for the clubhouse...amazing combination.

When I played it for the first time, I was well into the building of my "Top 100 Spreadsheet" and was astounded to note that it had never been included in a World or USA Top 100.  I remember thinking that this had to be the quintessential "hidden gem", a designation that I firmly believe still applies today.

The bunkering and greens here are nothing short of fabulous.  Best holes are probably #3, #4, #5, #7, and #13...at least according to guys named Rudovsky, Jones and Hogan.  I had a 44 - 41 = 85 (bogeying each of those four favorites).  Did not matter...coming back here is so very special no matter what one shoots.

After the round, John and I started our drive to Pinehurst (about 3 hours 30 minutes).  We had two cars as John would need a car to take him to Charlotte Saturday night for his flights home.  John had GPS so while he would follow me most of the way home, it was not necessary for us to stay together on the road.  After getting from the club to I-20 (about 10 miles) we headed east on I-20 for about 80 miles, and then would have to take smaller roads for the last 100 miles.  About the time I exited I-20 I called John's cell and was transferred to his voice mail...and this happened again 2-3x...and then calls would not connect.  Now I started to get worried.  I pulled over and waited 5 minutes but did not see his car pass by.  I thought about heading back to I-20 but that didn't seem to make sense since he could have gone past the exit and have been re-routed by GPS.  Soo,  I called 911 and was connected to South Carolina's Highway Patrol.  They reported no accidents in the area and would alert their patrols in case he stopped one to ask directions.  I checked in with Pat but she had not heard from John either.  Then I continued on my (not very merry) way wondering what had happened, but knowing that there was not much else I could do.

As I came within a couple of miles of our house, I called John again and all of as sudden got through.  He was sitting in our driveway (Pat was out).  Turns out his cell phone had frozen but retained the GPS map showing the way from I-20 to our house.  When he got to the house he rebooted the phone and everything came back on.  Made for a long afternoon but all was well that ended well.

Dormie Club, November 1, 2019:  John had never played Dormie and wanted to see it and I wanted to see if it continued to improve.  We played with Steve S. of CCNC and St. George's in Toronto.  I had last played Dormie in February of this year and was very presently surprised by the improvement in its condition.  Just looked for my last Post regarding Dormie and it looks like I did not post that round...so the last Post covering Dormie is from 2016 (Post #60).  Deep apologies to my loyal readers!...(all 12 of you!!)

In any case Dormie had opened about 10 years ago as Coore-Crenshaw's only original course in the NC Sandhills.  It never got traction (for a variety of reasons) and 3-4 years ago it was starting to really show the effects of deferred maintenance necessitated by poor cash flow.  About two years ago a group that owned 4 courses at that time (and with deep pockets) purchased Dormie and named its collection of courses after it.  More importantly, they have put their $$ where their mouth is and really cleaned up the place, including rebuilding all the bunkers this past summer.  Lots more to be done, but clubhouse construction is scheduled to start soon and the outlook is looking real good!!  Happy to see it.

To get to the 7th tee at Dormie you must walk around the 14th tee.  To keep folks from playing #14 in error that tee has a wonderful sign pictured below:

Sign on 14th tee at Dormie!

I played fairly well shooting a 42 - 40 = 82 with double bogey 7's on par 5 holes #6 and #10.  Played even par for holes 12-17 and three over on holes 7-18 (including the double on #10)...no complaints.

Dormie was listed as #185 in USA on GD's 2015 list and made my GW merged top 200 from 2012-14, but then started falling followed by a slight uptick in 2019...reflecting the recent improvements.  I would expect continued upticks in the near future (note that ratings generally "lag" actual playing conditions).

Old Town Club, November 2, 2019:  It was up early on Saturday as we had a drive of 1:45 to Winston Salem, NC to play Old Town Club, which sits right next to Wake Forest University.  I first played OTC in 2006 which was in a US Senior Amateur qualifier (I didn't come close).  In 2013 a good friend told me he had played OTC and that the Coore-Crenshaw restoration of this Perry Maxwell masterpiece had literally transformed the course...and how correct he was.

Including the round on 11/1/19, I have now played OTC eight times and love going back there.  It is fun, challenging, relatively easy to walk, and something beautiful to behold.  I have two previous posts regarding rounds there...Posts #65 and #104.  Dunlop W. is the greens chairman who pushed through the restoration.  Dunlop is highly regarded throughout the golf world.  Prior to his efforts at OTC, he directed a highly successful restoration of Donald Ross' Roaring Gap Club (Post #21) which is about 70 minutes west of OTC.

John and I played with OTC's Director of Golf, Charles Frost, a very impressive player and person.  I had a poor front and good back nine 45 - 40 = 85.  The course was in excellent shape even after some heavy rains that kept the fairways and greens a bit slower than normal.

If you are interested in a wonderful description of OTC, go to http://golfclubatlas.com/courses-by-country/usa/old-town-club/  for Ran Morrissett's beautifully written description of OTC and its history.  Aside the fact that I am tired and getting lazy at this point, Ran's far superior command of the English language and an admittedly finer eye for architectural features make his write up far superior to anything I could produce.

I would, however, like to add one historical point to what Ran wrote.  OTC was one of the very few great courses built during The Depression.  Most major industries and companies were literally on their knees and few private clubs had the resources to build new courses during this period.  Winston Salem and the Reynolds family (of Reynolds Tobacco) had such resources as consumers continued to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products even during these extraordinarily difficult times.  Fascinating to this former economics major.

After the round, we had lunch with Charles and Dunlop and talked about OTC and the state of the game.   Finally, and a bit tired, I said goodbye to Aussie John and climbed back into my car for the 1:45 drive home.  Five rounds in four days...plus about 640 miles of driving was taking its toll and it was good to get back home to see Pat and get some rest.

Cape Fear Country Club, November 6, 2019:  You may have seen some media reports this past June regarding a golf pro from North Carolina who completed playing all the venues that have hosted any of the four Men's Majors.  That pro is Joey Hines, head pro at Cape Fear CC located in Wilmington, NC (about 135 miles east of Pinehurst).  You may also recall that on June 12, 2018 I completed the same list when I played Birmingham Country Club (MI) (Post #111).

I contacted Joey to congratulate him and compare notes and stories.  In one fundamental way, Joey's achievement exceeds mine, as I have had the advantage of being retired for the last 11 years, which tends to give one a little more free time.  Joey has a full time job at Cape Fear and his time constraints far exceed mine.

We had a fun discussion including talking about some of the NLE (no longer exist) clubs and courses.  One would think that the list of courses that have hosted a Major are pretty well defined.  Not quite, for example:

--Prestwick GC in Scotland has hosted 24 Open Championships...15 on its original 12 hole course and 9 on its 18 hole course.  The 12 hole course is an NLE and the 18 hole course was built on the same plot of land.  Is this one venue or two?

--Baltusrol GC (NJ) has hosted 9 Majors (7 US Opens and 2 PGA's)...one (1903 US Open) on its original 18 hole course, one (1915 US Open) on a revised version of that original course, one (1936 US Open) on its present Upper Course, and six (4 US opens and 2 PGA's) on its present Lower Course (in the early 1920's the original course was plowed under and 36 holes built by A. W. Tillinghast utilizing all of the land that encompassed the original and revised course).  Is this two venues or four?

--The Country Club (MA) has hosted three US Opens and will host a fourth in 2022.  One Open (1913) was held on its Main course, two (1963 and 1988) on a Composite course incorporating some holes from TCC's Primrose Nine. and the 2022 Open will utilize a Composite course with one different hole than the '63/'88 version.  Is this one, two or three venues?

--In 1942, and until WW II concluded, the USGA did not conduct any US Championships; however, in 1942 a Hale America Open (held to raise $$ to support the Navy Relief Fund and USO) was held at Ridgemoor CC (IL) and run just like a US Open (btw...Ben Hogan won it).  Does this count as a Major (US Open) venue?

--Shinnecock Hills GC hosted the 2nd US Open in 1896 on the "Dunn" course and then four additional US Opens from 1986-2018 on the "Flynn" course.  The Flynn course incorporates only 5 holes from the Dunn course.  Does this count as one or two venues?

There are at least another 10-12 questions of the above nature where answers are far from obvious.  Joey counted 118 venues and I count 130...but I could also count as many as 132.  One point that I need to make clear...I did not play Ridgemoor CC (IL) (site of the 1942 Hale America Open) until July 23, 2019, and Joey had it on his list of 118.  So if you include that one, he did it first.  I think Joey and I would agree there was a tie!!

In any case, Joey invited me out to play Cape Fear when we returned to NC.  I left Pinehurst at 5:30am and arrive at Cape Fear just before 8am.  Joey was already at work and we talked for about 20 minutes before I teed off.  Cape Fear was founded in 1896 as a gathering of some men to enjoy the new game of golf in a public park.  The club moved a couple of times and retained Donald Ross to build its present course in 1926.  The building of a new clubhouse in 2005 necessitated replacing the old par 3 10th hole with a new par 3 14th hole (the old holes 11-14 became holes 10-13 in the process) which was overseen (along with other renovations) by Kris Spence (who renovated CCNC's Dogwood course 3 years ago).  Last year Andrew Green started a renovation project that was just completed and restored many Ross architectural features to the course.  Green has become a very hot commodity in the golf architecture space of late.  His restoration of Inverness (OH) has been received with tremendous praise and he is working now on restorations at Congressional CC (MD), Oak Hill CC (NY) (Post #82), Scioto CC (OH), and CC of York (PA) (Post #139).  Talk about a full plate!

The course features wide fairways, very well placed fairway bunkers, cross bunkers, and greenside bunkers...all featuring well implemented "cut lines" (the fairway runs to the front edge of the bunker allowing misdirected shots to run into the bunkers...as they were designed...at all too many courses, bunkers are fronted by high rough, which keeps the ball from running into the hazard).  Tree removal had opened up the course to wide vistas thereby allowing the grass to receive necessary sunlight and constant air flow.  Turf conditions were excellent.  Hard to judge without have seen the "before" but the "after" looks very special.

My favorite holes were # 4, 5, 9, 11, 13, and 16.  Think this one will move up in the ratings over the next 5 years.  Not a USA Top 100 but should be in Best in State and possibly 101-200 grouping.

Played well...finally put two good nines together for a 39 - 39 = 78.  Avoided double bogeys and 6's and that always helps.  Fun meeting Joey who has been at Cape Fear for 30 years!

One final note: Cape Fear brought my courses played total to 1199.

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OK...Texas.  You will recall I have a group of primary bucket lists (and some behind those) that I am working on, and the major areas that needed work are Texas and Oregon/Washington.  The latter is not the place to visit this time of year (lots of rain and cold rain) but Texas is usually good this time of year and a review of Pat's calendar and mine showed an opening for November 11-13.  With a concentration of courses to play in the Houston area, I figured this should work especially since Houston's weather is normally good in November (average high of 70 and low of 54...only 6 days of rain).

So I received permission and booked flights departing Sunday night 11/10 and returning Wednesday night 11/13...and was able to set up games at six courses I needed to play (the 7th, River Oaks was rebuilding six holes damaged during flooding and would not be finished until late March earliest).   With only one of the six courses outside metropolitan Houston, 2 courses per day looked pretty doable, even with shorter daylight hours in November.

Then ten days before the trip I looked at the weather forecast which called for very cold temps and heavy rain all three days...but I figured that would probably change and my tickets were already booked.  Over the next 6-7 days the forecast became slightly more positive (really slightly less negative) with rain Monday afternoon and very cold Tuesday and Wednesday.  I left Pinehurst Sunday afternoon 11/10 saying to myself that I will be lucky to get in three rounds and might only get in one.

Memorial Park Golf Course, November 11, 2019:  Memorial Park started in 1912 as a 9 hole course with sand greens in Houston's Memorial Park.  In 1935, architect John Bredemus expanded the course to 18 holes and it reopened (with grass greens) in July 1936.  Bredemus had previous designed the likes of Colonial CC in Fort Worth and Garden Glen CC (also in Fort Worth).  If the latter rings a bell it is where two young men by the names of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson caddied and first played the game.

Over the past few years money was raised and Tom Doak oversaw a major renovation of Memorial Park that was "completed" (quotation marks to be explained shortly) about a week before I played it.  The PGA Tour's Houston Open will be conducted at Memorial Park in November 2020.  Please note that I had never played the "old" version so cannot accurately comment on the changes (of course that rarely keeps me from commenting).

I played with Leigh E. (a friend and GW panelist from Houston), Greg T. (a fellow MIT alum from Houston), and Dan K., a friend of Greg's.  David W. (a friend and GD panelist from Houston) walked along with us, but did not play as we ended up as a 5-some due to miscommunication on the part of Greg and moi.  We were the first group off at 7:30am..and the weather for the day looked somewhat better...62-70 most of the day and no rain until 3pm.

The land here is very flat...all 18 holes.  It was obvious to me that lots of large trees were cut down (as many of the stumps were still being removed) and the guys with me confirmed that it had been overgrown with trees and the changes in terms of openness are awesome.  Doak countered the flatness of the land with terrific use of creeks running thought the property, contours around greens, wide fairways with lots of interesting options created by hazard placement and angles, and by shaping contours into the fairways.  From an architectural standpoint, this place is a lesson in creating superb bones from a "boneless body".  The greens are for the most part large, varied, and filled with devilish slopes, and false fronts, sides, and backs.  For now they are very slow to give the grass a chance to build strength and grow, but I sensed they will be excellent in a year.  The course really gets going on the dogleg left 6th hole, a 443 yard par 4 that makes perfect use of a creek/ditch by placing the green just to its right and sloping the green from left to right.  Hitting into the ditch will frequently leave the player with a sharply downhill pitch to a green running away from them.  Aside from 6 (which is my favorite hole) I really liked 7, 9, 11-13, and 15.  The only hole I did thought was pedestrian was #8.  The course plays 7292 yards from the tips and probably can be extended for the Tour players.

I started off with 7 straight pars and had a one over 37 on the front...but gave it back with a lackluster 43 of the back for an 80.  We had to play "cart paths only" (fully understandable with a brand new course) which usually slows play but our foursome finished 18 in 3:30...well done guys!

OK...now the bad news.  In order to host the Houston Open in November 2020, the course had to open at least a year earlier.  The sodded rough had not "kneaded" and for sure will be severely damaged by play over the next few months.  But Houston's hot climate should allow replacement grass to take hold quickly starting in April or so.  This will cost $$ but I expect the course will be in fine shape next November.

Oh...and this was course #1200 for me.

Club at Carlton Woods--Nicklaus Course, November 11, 2019:  David W. and I left Memorial Park in his car as soon as our round there concluded and we had a chance to say thanks and goodbye.  The drive north to Carlton Woods was about 40 miles and we arrived around 11:55am.  In 1998 developers of The Woodlands announced plans for The Club at Carlton Woods with two courses.  Jack Nicklaus designed the club's first course which opened for play in June 2001 and its clubhouse was completed in March 2003.

As a group was teeing off #1, we went to the third tee and played #3-9 before running into another group at 10...and  responded by heading to #11 and playing #11-18 followed by holes #10, 2 and 1.  Net net, we played the whole course (David had played here numerous times) and the really good news was no rain yet.  The Nicklaus is a good course, in excellent condition and very well laid out.  However, the contrast after playing Doak's Memorial Park was stark.  Frankly, the Nicklaus felt "manufactured" compared to Doak's which felt much more natural.  To be fair we played it fairly quickly but I doubt my reaction would have been materially different if we had taken 3+ hours playing it.  It plays to 7407 yards (par 72) and a strong course rating of 76.8.

The Nicklaus Course has never made a USA Top 100; its highest rating was #175 on the Golf Digest USA list in 2013.

No score on this 18...we were in too much of a hurry.  During the round we decided that if the rain held off, we would try to get in at least 9 on the Fazio after the 18 on Nicklaus.  It started raining as we were playing the last two holes on Nicklaus, but not very hard....so we dashed off to Fazio (about 3 miles away).

Club at Carlton Woods--Fazio Course, November 11, 2019: The Fazio Course opened in April 2006 and its separate clubhouse opened in 2007.  On this day it was hosting a charity event with a shotgun start that commenced at 10am.  We arrived at the pro shop at 3:20.  The morning event had just concluded and participants were flowing into the clubhouse.  The event in the morning featured Champions Tour player Jeff Maggart (who is a member at Carlton Woods).  This was the morning after he had holed a wedge on the 72nd hole to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday afternoon in Phoenix.  Word is he was about the first person to arrive for this morning's event...good for him!

The assistant pro was unaware that the head pro had said we could go out, but David knows everyone in Houston golf and we were all set to play.  Then I glanced out a pro shop window and saw three members of the staff struggling to hold down a mini-tent that almost was blown away by a squall...it was also pouring rain!  David and I displayed a rare modicum of wisdom; we waited out the squall for a while and our brilliant decision paid off.  After 10 minutes the rain stopped and the wind backed down to about 10-15mph.  We dashed off to #10 (figuring that Wednesday afternoon the front nine was more likely to be empty than the back nine).  Played the back nine in about 1:15.  It rained a little but not too bad...and we had no problem finishing the back nine.  I liked the Fazio more than the Nicklaus.  Fazio's course is more open, on slightly better land, had better hole variety and is in better condition.  The greens on Fazio were close to perfect.

The Fazio course also has never made a USA Top 100 and its highest rating was also in Golf Digest on 2013 at #152.

We returned to the clubhouse to say thanks.  My car was back at Memorial so first David and I went for a delicious seafood dinner, then he dropped me off at my car and I drove back north to my hotel.  But first I had to deal with one issue.  I was scheduled to play 36 on Tuesday, first at Lochinvar Golf Club at 8:15 and then to meet my hosts at Houston CC for lunch around 12:15.  However, the forecast was for temps of about 37-39℉ at 8am with winds of 17-20mph.  The afternoon would be more manageable.  My Lochinvar host had texted me to say he could not play in those conditions...certainly more than understandable.  After trading some texts he arranged for me to play unaccompanied in the morning...I would call the pro shop first thing to see how long the inevitable frost delay would last.  But that would be tomorrow's problem.  By getting in 45 holes today we had relieved time pressures for Wednesday so all of a sudden the chances of getting in 5 or even all 6 rounds were no longer remote...it might be possible.

When I arrived at my hotel it was about 9:30 and I was exhausted.  The winds were howling...no other word for it...higher than last month at NGLA and I would guess 30mph steady.  Golf could be tough tomorrow but I had plenty of clothes to deal with it.

Lochinvar Golf Club, November 12, 2019:  I talked to Head Pro Rodney Houston (can't make up that name) around 8am and he said I should be able to go out by 9am or so...if I wanted to.  I laughed and told him I would be there.  The club was less than 10 minutes from my hotel, and the "good news" was that the winds had subsided to about 15-20mph.

Lochinvar opened in 1980 and was the 4th course designed by Jack Nicklaus.  The club lies just west of Bush Intercontinental airport..and with today's wind out of the northwest, the take offs were continuous.  It is an all male club with a fabulous clubhouse and an immaculate course.  However, the land on which it was built is very very flat.  It was cold but semi-bearable when I arrived and Rodney said the frost delay would end at 9am...which was good timing for me.

The best holes on the course IMO are the par 5 4th and the par 4 12th...and my latter choice has nothing to do with my holing out for a birdie with a gap wedge on a 72 yard shot into the wind.  Knowing you would want to see a photo...here we go:

Lochinvar #12...note the creek and stone wall guarding the green and the difficult left pin position!!
By the way, based on another blog description of Lochinvar, if you have played it before you may know this hole as #3.  At some point in the past the nines were reversed from their initial rotation.

Aside from this hole out, my game was just OK...had a 43 - 42 = 85.  The club has never been included on a USA Top 100 (probably in part because  it is very difficult to obtain access to it).  It hosted the 1989 US Senior Amateur won by R. S. Williams.

By my 14th hole it had warmed up enough for me to remove one of my five layers of clothing.  When I finished I was happy to get in to the clubhouse and in front of the roaring fire.  Apparently I was there only person to play at least that morning.  Talked with Rodney for a few minutes...first class guy.   He knows a former head pro at Brookline (Don Callahan) fairly well from Don's work with Butch Harmon (but Don was "before my time").

Then it was time to run as I had a 35 minute drive to Houston Country Club and wanted to get there by noon.  Maybe I will get in all 6 courses...now it was looking more likely than not.

Houston Country Club, November 12, 2019: Founded in 1908, Houston CC was located southeast of Houston's downtown until 1956 when it moved to its present location (about 7 miles west of downtown) to a new course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.  In 1988 Coore-Crenshaw completed a restoration which maintained most of RTJ Sr.'s architectural features.  Right now, HCC is in the midst of a massive renovation of its clubhouse (with some additional work scheduled for the golf course).  The budget for this renovation is a cool $85 million (no typo there) based on various news reports.

I have friend at Brookline who is originally from Houston and is a member of HCC and he set me up to play it on this trip.  I wanted to play it for two main reasons.  First it was included on GD's 1966 and 1967 lists of USA's 200 Toughest.  Second, it was the site of a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match featuring Sam Snead against Ben Hogan, with commentary by Gene Sarazen and Herb Warren Wind.  The match was conducted in May 1964 and broadcast the following year; it would be the last time Hogan and Snead competed against each other.  Hogan won with a 69 over Snead 's 72 but the real story was the brilliance of Hogan's play from tee to green.  He hit every fairway and every green in regulation (and never had a birdie putt longer than 25') but on the greens he was affected by the "yips" that affected his putting late in his glorious career.  Many Hogan devotees consider this to have been the greatest display from tee to green in the history of the game.  The full broadcast (2 hours) is available on Amazon for $130!!

I was playing with two long term members, Loren S. and Bob P. (friends of the Brookline member mentioned above).  I had met Loren a few years ago at Brookline and Bob is also a golf course affection-ado...with focus primarily in GB&I.  After a good lunch and a few minutes hitting some balls on the range, we went off the 10th tee.  Some other guest by the name of Phil Mickelson was at HCC that day and he was assigned the first tee!!  Imagine!

The weather in the afternoon was far more reasonable...very light wind and temps in the high 40's.  Much more comfortable than this morning!

The first thing that struck me at HCC was how similar it is to Denver CC (Post #135).  Specifically:

             1.  both clubs are the primary "old money waspy" clubs in major cities
             2.  both clubs are located close to downtown
             3.  the layout of the practice range at both is very similar
             4.  the architecture of the clubhouse at both is very similar.

The influence of R. Trent Jones is very obvious...and I think this is one of Jones' better designs.  From a golf architecture standpoint, it reminded me of Wilmington Country Club-South (DE) with large, deep fairway and greenside bunkers with high fronts, large greens with sweeping slopes, and runway tees.  But the most "different thing" about HCC is the wonderful ground movement related mainly to the adjacent bayou...especially when compared with other courses in Houston (as a side note, I should also point out that both courses at Carlton Woods have reasonable land movement but not as much as HCC).  The bayou is another example of a "double edged sword".  While it contributes to this site's very good land contours, erosion caused by the bayou is responsible for some very costly renovations at HCC through the years and ongoing.  My favorite holes were #6 (nothing to do with my birdie there) and #8 (absolutely nothing to do with my double bogey there)...and the green on the 7th hole is nothing short of perfect for a short, drivable par 4.  The course is tighter than I generally like but overall I liked it a lot....and no question this is a wonderful club.  I had a 41 - 41 = 82.

After the round we had a brief drink and I headed back north...amazed that I had thus far played 4.5 rounds and the outlook for Wednesday was cold but pretty good.  I had talked with David regarding Wednesday and he suggested I get rid of my rental car this evening and he would pick me up first thing and drop me off at Houston's Hobby airport in the evening.  We had to drive about 125 miles to Lufkin early Wednesday to play Crown Colony CC...and then return to Carlton Woods to play the front nine of its Fazio Course.  My flight out of Hobby departed at 8:20pm so it looked like plenty of time available tomorrow.

Crown Colony Country Club, November 13, 2019:  Located in Lufkin, TX (about 125 miles north of Houston), Crown Colony CC opened in 1979.  Arthur Temple, who founded a predecessor company to Temple-Inland, Inc. wanted a first rate golf course near its headquarters in Lufkin to entertain customers.  The course was designed by Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin and was usually named the #1 course in Texas by the Dallas Morning News in the late 1990's.  My Texas golfing friends generally confirm this assessment.

In 2012 Temple-Inland, Inc. was acquired by International Paper and before then people started to notice a deterioration in the course's condition.  It was included on GW's Top 100 Modern Course list from 2003-08 and then totally disappeared...see the following table showing its ratings during that period on the Modern list and my GW "Merged" list:

                      Modern    Merged          
           2003          85          170
           2004          67          134
           2005          72          155
           2006          87          171
           2007          75          153
           2008          93          181                        
                                         
It would not be any great surprise to find that Temple was underwriting a portion of the club's expenses and decided to reduce or terminate that support with an anticipated sale in the works.

David picked me up around 6:45am and we arrived at the course around 8:50.  There was a frost delay until 10am (it had been as low as 27℉ overnight but was about 40℉ when we teed off...but no wind made a huge difference).

The course no question has excellent bones.  The land is superb, and it is a challenging design.  Greens are mostly small (for example the par 3 7th green is only 12 yards deep) and have plenty of slope.  It seemed clear that at one time this was a vibrant club, but today signs of deferred maintenance are obvious.

We played in about 2:20 and I had a lackluster 44 - 43 = 87.  Then we drove back to Carlton Woods Fazio...where there was a light rainfall...and played the front nine...thereby completing the six course/six round/three day tour!!!  Best thing was a good hot shower at the club, then David dropped me at Hobby airport with lots of time before my flight.  The flight to RDU was in a little early and I arrived home at 1:00am.

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Texas Golf:  Texas is the largest state among the USA's contiguous 48 states and has the highest population of all the states except California.  It also has had more than its share of brilliant golfers.

So please explain to me how there have been 373 course to ever be on a USA Top 100 list...and only 11 in Texas...and only two Classic Courses (opened prior to 1960) namely Colonial and Champions-Cypress Creek...and only one Classic on any list in the 21st Century (Colonial).

And while you are at it...explain why there have not been any Texas Classic courses on any World 100 listing since 2005...and the only two Modern courses (1960 or later) this century have been Austin Golf Club and Wolf Point which only appeared on golfclubatlas.com in the 147 Custodians list last year.

Amazing!!

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This past week I had a couple of free days and the weather looked decent.  As I sorted through my golf to-do list, two easy day trips became obvious...both pretty doable even with November's limited daylight hours.

Alamance Country Club, November 20, 2019:  One of Donald Ross' last designs, Alamance CC opened in 1946 (Ross passed away in 1948).  Located in Burlington, NC, about 20 miles east of Greensboro and a 1:35 drive from our house in Pinehurst, I was able to arrange a tee time at 9am and left our house at 6:30 to play it safe.  Upon entering the club ground, it was very evident that this is a very well maintained club (with a wide variety of amenities for families) and golf course.

Alamance was on the 1966 and 1967 GD 200 Toughest lists.  I played poorly on the front and well on the back (44 - 40 = 84)

I found it to be a very fun course...that had some good challenging holes.  It is a club that one could play every day...and in many ways a great example of what most clubs should be...a place to its members to enjoy golf and other sports.  Remember...the top 200 courses in the USA comprise some 1.25% of USA tracks...but that does not mean that thousands of other courses cannot be wonderful places for people to enjoy the ages.

Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center-Champions, November 20, 2019:  Bryan Park is about 15 miles north of Greensboro and is a public facility with 36 holes (Champions and Players).  In 2010 the Champions course hosted the US Amateur Public Links Championship.  The course sits alongside  Lake Townsend and the Lake is in play on holes 3, 4, and 10-15...and water also is in play on holes 1,  6, and 7.  The course opened in 1990 and was designed by Rees Jones.  In summary a big contrast with Alamance and not one I would want to play every day.

The wind started whipping off the lake making it seem much colder than the actual temperature.  I had a similar round... 44 - 39 = 83 and was glad to have this one under my belt.  Tough but certainly not fun.

Good news was the round went quickly as the course was fairly empty and I was able to get back home before 4pm.

Orangeburg Country Club, November 21, 2019:  Orangeburg CC is located about 40 miles south of Columbia, SC.  The club was founded in 1921 and soon after purchased 142 acres and constructed a golf course ands swimming/dock facilities along the Edisto River which bordered the property.  About 40 years later the club accepted an offer to swap its land for a 200 acre parcel of land owned by Mr. A. D. Griffith.  Architect Ellis Maples of Pinehurst was chosen to design the new course.  On the parcel Griffiths acquired in the swap, he built a large number of private homes.  In 2009, architect Richard Mandell, also of Pinehurst, redesigned the course to enhance its original Maples design characteristics.

Today it stretches to 7032 yards and if out was anything like that length in the 1960's that probably explains how it was included on GD's 1966 and '67 100 Toughest lists.  The front nine is very very flat and there is very little definition to this nine.  For the back nine the golf comes back across a road to the other side of the clubhouse and this nine has much better routing, topography, definition and angles.  Overall the course will never be included in a USA top 100 list again but its new clubhouse (constructed about 10 years ago) is a fine facility.  Playing Orangeburg brought my Golf Week 100+100 EVER unplayed list down to 81 (249 different courseS appeared on one or both of these lists...of which 10 NLE, and I have played 158).  Not sure this Bucket list will ever be completed as for the most part these are not great courses....but as I travel I will continue to try to whittle it down.

Florence Country Club, November 21, 2019:  .  The drive from Orangeburg to Florence was about 90 miles and 1:40.  I arriveD at Florence at 12:10pm and was able to get out right away.  I was playing Florence for two reasons.  First, it had host both a US Junior Amateur Championship (1963) and a US Girls' Junior Championship (1955).  Second, a friend and member of CCNC (Gordon "Buddy" Baker) grew up in Florence and won the US Junior Amateur in 1958.  Buddy still has plenty of game and I thought it would be interesting to see where he learned to play.

Florence CC was founded in 1925 and today plays to a mere 6430 yards from its tips...but don't let that fool you.  Merion played to 6498 yards in 1979.  In many ways Florence is similar to Merion.  Aside from the length (ignoring for the moment that Merion was lengthened to about 7000 yards over past 40 years), both courses are built are very small acreage (Merion on 125 acres, Florence on about 105 acres based on my measurements...warning, I am not a professional surveyor), both have relatively small greens with devilish breaks and slopes.  Before you go nuts...I am not saying Florence is equal to or even close to equal to Merion..but I will say it is an outstanding test and has some interesting similarities.  Like Merion, it really makes you think about what shot to play.   And one must analyze each hole backwards, deciding tee shot length and direction based on where one want to come into the green from.  Best hole IMO is the par 5 #14 (511 yards from the tips and the longest hole on the course). Other superb holes are #2, 3, 6, 7, and 11-13.  But it is the bunkering and greens that really make this course.  The greens are very small...I would guess about 3400-3500 sq. ft. on average..with lots of tiers and slopes...but plenty of pin positions on each hole.

Interestingly, the club is not sure who the original designer was.  It looked to me like a Donald Ross design, but apparently their board minutes etc. etc. do not give a hint.

I had to play pretty quickly to get home at a reasonable hour...but hope to play it again before we head north in May...hopefully with Buddy, and look at it more and ask more questions.  I would also want to play it when it was firm and fast...with recent rains it was hardly either of those when I played it.

Two basic conclusions from this round:

                  1.  I now know where Buddy got his game!, and
                  2.  This one is a hidden gem for sure!!

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Bucket List Status

My lifetime course count is now 1209 courses and 21,295 holes.

I need to get this Post out...and am working to get my Bucket List status together in a more understandable format...so you will have to wait for that (no tears, please).

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New Golf Magazine Top 100 List Published

As many of you probably already know, Golf Magazine published its latest World 100 listing late last week (go to:  https://www.golf.com/top-100/courses/).  This is GM’s 21st biannual World list going back to 1979.  The first three lists (1979, 1981, and 1983) covered World Top 50’s and the 1985 list through the 2017 list covered World Top 100’s.  

This most recent list (which I was not sure whether to call 2019 or 2020) covers a Top 150, with the first 100 listed in numerical order and #101-150 listed alphabetically as a group (go to: https://www.golf.com/top-one-hundred/courses/2019/11/22/top-100-courses-ranking-next-best-50/).  

Some may consider this expansion to 150 to be an example of “list inflation”.  I do not.  The wave of:

(1) outstanding new courses constructed over the last 25 years, and 

(2) the renovation/restoration movement which has rejuvenated dozens upon dozens (if not hundreds) of outstanding courses built before World War II

has, in my always humble opinion, resulted in the a highly significant growth in the number of outstanding courses throughout the world.  Put simply…THE BAR HAS BEEN RAISED.

I would expect top100golfcourses.com to publish its 2019 (2020?) World and USA lists some time in the next two months and plan to update my spreadsheet when these lists are released.  If you are not on the distribution list for updates to my spreadsheet and wish to be placed on that distribution list,  please advise.

Finally…best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.