Tuesday, October 13, 2020

148. Three Days in New York (Nassau County and Westchester County)


             148.  Three Days in New York (Nassau County and Westchester County)

 

After three wonderful days in New Hampshire visiting Clark, Alex, and three grandkids (Sarah, Owen, and Elisa) we returned to Milton Sunday afternoon 10/4.  I headed to the New York area early on Tuesday morning, hitting the road at 3:35am (I think that qualifies for “early”) and made great time driving to NY.  I had five courses on my itinerary and would drive back home Thursday afternoon.  Second on my to do list was to collect some missing scorecards.  Having played 1249 courses, at this point I only had scorecards from 1109 as I was missing 140.  For sure at least 11 of these with never be found, either because I do not remember the name of the course (7), the course no longer exists (2), and because I have no intention of traveling to Venezuela to get the cards (2).  But I do hope to whittle down the missing list and this visit to NY was a good time to further the process.

 

North Shore Country Club, October 6, 2020:  I was scheduled for my first round at 8:30am, but my first stop was around 6:40am at Trump Ferry Point, which I had played in 2014.  They were preparing for an outing in support of NY’s Firefighters and securing a card was quick and easy.  Next stop was just across the Throgs Neck Bridge at Clearview Golf Course, a muni in northern Queens which I first played in 1959.  My third and last stop was at another muni, Forest Park which sits along the Queens and Brooklyn County line in a fairly sketchy neighborhood.  This was somewhat greater adventure but by 7:40am I had secured all three cards and was on my way to Nassau County, passing within about 0.3 miles from where I grew up.

 

I arrived for my first round at North Shore Country Club, which not surprisingly lies along the north shore of Long Island in Roslyn, NY, at 8:10am. While I had heard of North Shore, I was certainly not on my bucket lists or radar screen until a golf friend (and Golf Digest Panelist), Bob K., told me I had to play it.   Bob has a superb eye and feel for golf course architecture and I absolutely trust his opinion…hence my inclusion of North Shore on this itinerary.

 

I must say that the facilities at North Shore are not exactly pristine.  But I knew I was there for the golf course, not the clubhouse and maintenance facility. 

 

By 8:30 I was off the first tee and by the time I had played the third hole (this is a Seth Raynor design and the 3rd is the Road Hole) I knew I was falling in love, even after hitting my third into the Road Hole bunker.   The Road Hole here is one of the best I have played, even though the bunkering is about 60° off of most Road Holes.  The 6th is an outstanding Punchbowl, and the 7th has some outstanding risk/reward decisions (due to an almost 90° drop off on the green’s left side) for the player to deal with. The 9th is an exceptional Redan…even though somewhat different from most Redans…but a fabulous example of a “fortress” green (“Redan” translated to “fortress”). 

 

On the back nine, #11 is a hole that needs some work IMO…it is a 391-yard, downhill then sharply uphill, almost 90° dogleg right with a very tall tree at the inside of the dogleg.  That tall tree  limits the options on this hole and the contours/slope on the green are too extreme.  The 419 yards par 4 14th is an outstanding double plateau and its green in some ways reminded me of Brookline’s 7th green (even though 7 at Brookline is a par 3).  Well before I finished I had concluded that North Shore was deserving of the title “Hidden Gem”.  It is pure fun…a little short at 6603 yards (par 71) but who cares. 

 

The history of North Shore is very interesting.  Around 1913 some younger members of New York’s Harmonie Club (an eating and entertainment club with primarily German Jewish members) pushed the older members of Harmonie’s Board to pursue purchase of a golf course.  Sounds a little like the start of Winged Foot by members of the NY Athletic Club.  But in this case, Harmonie ended up purchasing the Glenwood Club on Long Island’s North Shore.  Glenwood had built a course designed by Devereaux Emmet, who had watched C. B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor construct the National.  Emmet went on to design (or revise the design of) the likes of Garden City (NY), Congressional (MD), Engineers (NY), St George’s (NY), and Rockaway Hunting Club (NY), but Glenwood was one of his first efforts and was not well received.  Within eight months of purchasing Glenwood, Harmonie had retained Seth Raynor to redesign the course.  Within 18 months the course was open for play.  

 

Some 90+ years later, Tom Doak was retained by North Shore CC to restore the course which had previously been purchased from the membership by real estate developer and golf enthusiast Don Zucker.  Here’s hoping that Zucker doesn’t have a change of heart…especially since he is about 88 years of age now.

 

Final details…I played well…shooting a 41 – 40 = 81.  North Shore has never been on a USA or World “Top” list and the most prominent event ever held there was the 1919 Metropolitan Open (generally considered to have been a “major” at that time).

 

After telling the staff there how much I enjoyed the course and thanking them, it was off to collect some more missing scorecards.  First stop was about 10 miles east at Huntington Country Club which I had played in 1978 (Starter said my host , John Bliven, had passed away but his son was a member), then Old Westbury G&CC (also played in 1978) (Starter asked why I wanted a scorecard and after I said I had just payed my 1250th course and was missing almost 140 cards he relented), and Lake Success Village Club (played in 1986…and this was the site of the  original Deepdale Golf Club…see Post #145).

 

From there I needed to high tail it to Westchester County and the town of Ardsley.

 

Ardsley Country Club, October 6, 2020:  Before Sleepy Hollow, Quaker Ridge, and Winged Foot, in the late 19th century a group of new golf clubs started springing up in Westchester County including St. Andrews, Apawamis, Century, and Ardsley Casino/The Ardsley Club (later renamed Ardsley Country Club).  Ardsley was founded in 1895 and started with a nine-hole course designed by Ardsley’s first pro, Willie Dunn.  This club was a big deal from day one.  Its membership role included the likes of J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, and the Rockefeller brothers.  Transportation facilities included a private train station and train for travel to Manhattan and dock space for member’s yachts along the Hudson River.

 

In 1897 Dunn expanded the course to 18 holes and in subsequent years an amazing group of golf course architects led efforts to renovate the course, including:

 

                                    1915…by Willie Tucker

                                    1920…by Donald Ross

                                    1930…by Alastair Mackenzie

                                    1966…by The Robert Trent Jones Organization

 

 

Willie Dunn’s original 18-hole course was utilized for the 1898 US Women’s Open.  

 

The Club’s website implied that the course today was occupying different land than the original 18-hole course (which was used for the 1898 Women’s Open), and I had therefore considered the 1898 course to be a “NLE”.  After conversations with Chris S., the club’s historian, I was able to review a “Google Earth” aerial shot with an overlay of the 1897-98 course (see below...Hundon River to left fo photo and white lines represent Willie Dunn 1897 course used for 1898 US Women's Open).  This made it clear that while today’s course used some of the same land as the 1897 course, none of today’s holes use a tee and green from any hole on the original 1897 course.  However, since some of the land is the same land as used in 1897, I decided I needed to play it.

 


                                                                            North
                                                                            South


While the site is spectacular in terms of vistas and views, the land has such a great slope that it is very difficult to build a great course here.  As I have written in previous Posts, site selection may be the most important aspect of course design….and this is a very tough site to deal with and would be a very difficult walk.  Over time more homes have been built on adjoining land parcels and the course can be fairly “tight” in places.  

 

The club had an outing earlier in the day that concluded around 2:30.   Ardsley’s Head Pro, Jim Bender (a very special guy and previous President of the PGA’s Met Section) arranged for me to tee off on #10 at 3:00pm.  I got in the full 18 but it included hopping around a bit, which was fine.  The course does an amazing job given the site.  But then again how many courses have been worked on by the likes of Dunn, Tucker, Ross, and Mackenzie?

 

Due to COVID, I did not see the inside of the clubhouse, but would guess that it is fairly impressive.

 

This had been a long day but I still needed to get back to my hotel room on Long Island (I was scheduled to play two LI courses Wednesday).  I arrived at the hotel around 7:30pm…some 16 hours, 36 holes, and 290 miles of driving from when I left home!!

 

The Creek Club, October 7, 2020:  Before heading to The Creek for my 8:12am tee time, I made a quick stop at Bethpage State Park.  As many of you know, Bethpage has 5 courses (Black, Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow) and I have played all but the Yellow.  My scorecard collection however, was missing cards from the Red, Blue, and Green.  A quick walk to the first tees of these three courses solved that problem and I was on my way north to The Creek.

 

The Creek was founded in 1922 after the purchase of Paul Cravath’s 600 acre estate on Long Island’s north shore, just north of the town of Locust Valley by a group of extraordinarily successful industrialists and financiers (including the likes of J. P. Morgan, George F. Baker, Jr., Vincent Astor,  C. B. Macdonald, Herbert Pratt, and Harry Payne Whitney).  Paul Cravath was a partner at one of the premier “White Shoe” law firms in New York (Cravath, Swaine & Moore) and lived in this estate from 1890-1914.  After fires in 1908 and 1914 he became disheartened and sold the property to the founders of The Creek and moved elsewhere.  C. B. Macdonald was asked to evaluate the property before the purchase and design a course, but Macdonald’s partner, Seth Raynor is generally credited with the design of The Creek.  

 

The property is simply exquisite, with a high bluff overlooking a sharp drop down to the Long Island Sound coastline with outstanding views of Greenwich and Stamford, CT across the Sound.  Raynor created a wonderful course making great use of the property’s fabulous attributes.

 

This was my second visit to The Creek, the first having been in 2012 (prior my starting this blog…so there is no “other Post” reference).  I was returning in part because Gil Hanse, who had completed an initial restoration in 2011, had completed addition work on The Creek about three years ago, and I had heard his more recent work was very much worth another visit.  That turned out to be a great understatement.  

 

I distinctly recall playing the first five holes in 2012 and saying to myself that these holes clearly were designed by Macdonald and/or Raynor, but that they were rather subdued examples of their work…and actually thought about going to my car and leaving as I left the fifth green.  But instead I walked over to the sixth tee, which sits on top of the above-mentioned bluff, and was basically stunned by the view of the rest of the course, and across the Sound to Connecticut.  The golf course really starts at the 6th tee!!  And #6 is one of the finest par 4’s I have played.  It now plays to 481 yards, downhill to a “punchbowl” green that slopes strongly from front left to back right.  Finding a flat lie between the tee and the green is a difficult task as is avoiding trees along the left side of the fairway and bunkers primarily on the right side.  But the hole is also fair and fun…with tons of width and just as much in the way of risk/reward options and angles.

 

Quite simply, the stretch of holes from #6 through #17 is as good a stretch as perhaps any set of 12 holes in the world.  In particular I would point to the following other great holes in this stretch:

 

o   #7 is a superb 566 yard par 5 heading toward the Sound (north), protected by eight bunkers but with a green open to run in shots in front, and with one bunker smack in the middle of the fairway about 40 yards short of the green (OK…decide…play short, over, left, or right of it…golfers hate options like that but that is part of the chess match between architect and player…cross bunkers create OPTIONS);

 

o   #8 is an excellent reverse Redan of 180 yards with a green sloping sharply from left back to right front; being in the left bunker is higher dangerous given the slope of the green away from you coming out;

 

o   #10 is a short (313 yards) Leven par 4 with a big green but trouble (water and beach) left off the tee; lots of choices off tee from going for it to laying back; tough to resist the siren call of “birdie” but be careful here;

 

o   #11 is a 195-yard Biarritz with an island green that is literally 87 yards deep and a relatively shallow “dip”;

 

o   #14 is 421-yard dogleg right par 4 with creek through fairway about 150 yards short of the raised green;

 

o   #17 is an excellent “Short” (132 yards) with an old burial plot on a large mound behind and above the green.

 

The course played beautifully fast and firm and the greens are “governed” by sharp slopes that are well camouflaged by the slopes of the surrounding land (one’s eyes tend to see the greens slope RELATIVE to the surrounding slopes, but gravity is a function of the absolute slope of the green!!).  Hanse did a beautiful job with the bunkering and certain “finishing touches (such as connecting the 6th, 16th and 18th fairways).  Work is continuing on a renovated practice range to the east of the 18th fairway that looks like it was proceeding with little thought as to cost…should be open in 2021 and should be outstanding

 

Yes, the course is not perfect but not many (or really any) are.  The uphill par 5 18th is much improved (better use of fairway bunkers) but not outstanding and the first five holes are still pale compared to the rest of the course.  But then again, nothing wrong with lulling the golfer to sleep before the brilliant shock that awaits on the 6th tee.  And the subtle false front on #1 is one of the best and most wicked I have seen.

 

Net net…great club and great course.  Wish I had played this round before my GOLF Magazine 2020 USA Top 100 ballot was due five weeks earlier.

 

After saying hello to and thanking HP Sean Farren, I was off first to pick up another scorecard, then to Cherry Valley Club 15 miles south in Garden City.  Scorecard stop: Glen Oaks, played in 1977 and host of The Northern Trust (one of the Federal Express Cup playoff events on the PGA Tour) in 2017.   

 

Cherry Valley Club, October 7, 2020: I arrived at Cherry Valley at 12:40 for a 1:00 game with HP Ed Kelly.  Cherry Valley is located about 0.5 mile from Garden City Golf Club.  Long story on how I was introduced to Ed Kelly.  Back in 2016 I attended the “Walker Cup Reunion” at Quaker Ridge and met Joe H., who was President of Garden City GC.  Turns out that Joe was raised in Queens Village, NY, close to where our family’s trouser manufacturing business was located…so we had a good time trading Queens and Queens Village stories.   

Earlier this year, confined by COVID regulations to New England, New York and New Jersey for travel, I tried to secure access to Cherry Valley (which had hosted the 1927 US Women’s Amateur as well as the 1981 Metropolitan Amateur) to no avail due to the increase in member play during COVID.  At that point, I called Joe H., who advised that he had lots of friends who belonged to Cherry Valley and that he also was friends with its pro, Ed Kelley, whose father was best friends with Joe’s father when Ed and Joe were growing up in QV…Bingo!!  

 

Ed and I were scheduled to play CVC on September 10, but that round was rained out (see Post #147).  This time the weather worked and Ed and I were able to play CVC.  Given we grew up 5 miles from each other (although Ed is 10 years younger) we had a lot of common ground to sort through during the round.  Ed went to college at St. John’s University, which was about 0.4 miles from the house where I grew up, and played lots of golf at Queens munis and Bethpage.  His professional career brought him first to Glen Oaks Club and then to CVC, and being part of the “Met Section” he knew all of Quaker’s head pros from the 25 years when I was a member.  Most important, Ed is a wonderful guy.

 

CVC was founded in 1916 and its course was designed by Devereaux Emmet (note comments above regarding North Shore’s predecessor club Glenwood).  It was 6200 yards in 1916 and now totals 6807 yards.  Shortly after its opening Walter Travis made some minor changes.  Then some 4 decades later Robert Trent Jones added much length and over time trees grew in size (trees grow about 3% per year---so do the math---they double in size every 24 years).  Finally Stephen Kay came in for two restorations some two decades apart to remove many of the trees, widen the fairways, and update the course for the distances players hit the ball these days.

 

Given that CVC sits less than 10 miles south of North Shore CC and about 12 miles south of The Creek Club, it is simply amazing how different the terrain and topography is at CVC.  As I have explained in previous Posts, during the last Ice Age, the glaciers stopped their southbound march half way across Long Island.  The northern half of LI was littered (for lack of a better word) with rocks and rock outcroppings dragged down from Canada and New England…and the southern half of LI was left untouched, and hence almost as flat as a pancake.  That does not mean that a great course cannot be designed on land such as CVC’s…remember that Garden City GC lies less than 0.5 miles away!!

 

CVC has very good “bones” and is a very good course.  It has never been on a USA or World “Top” list but that should not be taken as a negative.  Note that the courses that have ever been on a USA Top 400 total about 850 courses…just over 5% of the courses in the USA.

 

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon…and a great day.  Ed is a great guy was so much fun to swap golf stories with.  But before I headed north to Westchester, I had to head south to Hewlett Harbor (near JFK airport) to secure a scorecard from The Seawane Club.  Back in 1962, I played in a junior tournament at Seawane, and somehow misplaced my scorecard in the ensuing 58 years.  If my recollections of my play that day are correct, the blank new card is much better looking than the original!  I then headed north to Rye, NY to watch the Vice Presidential debate and prepare for 18 holes at Quaker Ridge the next morning.

 

Quaker Ridge Golf Club, October 8, 2020:  This is my 4th Quaker Ridge post (previous are Posts #1005, 59, and 128…covering visits on 6/8/14, 10/4/16, and 5/4/19).  Just to remind you, I was a member here from 1975 to 2000.

 

If my memory is correct, Quaker started thinning what had become a claustrophobic tree cover and making other changes to the course around 2005.  Recent improvements that I noticed were: 

 

(1) further extensions to certain greens…most notable on the back right of #1, the front of #8, and the back of #15;

(2) the course is definitely firmer and faster than ever before…and the greens are simply wild and so much fun…really make one think and use some imagination.…backstops on greens are now critically important; and 

(3) tons of construction work as the pro shop has been torn down and a new one being built, and the practice green is being redone. 

 

Although no one asked, my thoughts on next steps would be: 

 

(1) widen the fairways to bring the cut line to the outside of fairway and front corner greenside bunkers…thereby allowing the bunkers to be real “collection areas” as one sees in GB&I; 

(2) eliminate rough between some of the greens and greenside bunkers to extend the greens to the bunker edges…as seen at Royal Melbourne, particularly on the left side of #2, the right side of #3, the front left of #4, the right and left sides of #6, the right side of #7, all around #9, etc. etc.; 

(3) bring the few greenside water hazards more directly into play by bringing the front of the green on #5 all the way to the stone wall at the pond’s edge, and bringing the greens edge on the front and right side of #11 to the drop off to the stream; and 

(4) create a new back tee on #12 on the hill just left of the front left corner of the 11th green.

  

I played with fellow GGCC member Jeff L. and two friends of Jeff.  The day was simply beautiful but very windy (15-20mph) and a bit cool because of the wind.  I had a 44 – 41 = 85…pretty good IMO given the wind.  All in all a really fun day.

 

I left thinking that QR has ben making steady inroads toward becoming one of the truly great clubs and courses (certainly among parkland courses) in the USA and World.  Would have never predicted that in 2005.  Folks…a hearty congratulations…keep up the great work.

 


Drive home was better than I expected.  Arrived home by 5:30pm.  Total mileage for trip was 647 miles.  Lots of extra miles related to picking up those 11 scorecards!

 

Now stand at 1252 courses…including 43 new courses played in 2020, plus 11 replays for 54 different courses so far this year…way down from previous years but not too shabby given I didn’t touch a golf club until May 1 or so, and the impact of COVID on travel and course access.

 

One last piece of good news.  Last week the USGA announced the first staging of a US Championship in Alaska (the 2022 US Women’s Senior Amateur to be played at Anchorage Golf Course.  As I played Anchorage in August 2017 (Post #91) to complete playing all fifty states, no need for a special trip to AK.

 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

147. To New York with da Wifie; Local Play in MA & RI

 147.  To New York with da Wifie; Local Play in MA & RI

 

Given the problems with returning to Massachusetts by air, my choices of where to play to attack outstanding bucket lists were narrowing.  But I did have two courses in the NYC area I needed to play…and possibly a third.  Plus, Pat had mentioned that she would love to go to NY’s Metropolitan Museum to see its exhibit “The Met 150” celebrating the Met’s 150th Anniversary.  So we planned a two day/one night trip, leaving early Wednesday September 9 and returning late afternoon Thursday.  Pat would spend Wednesday afternoon with an old girlfriend, Nancy K. who lives in NYC (while I would play one course), we would then have drinks with a friend of mine who Pat had never met, Dennis K., then Pat and Nancy would meet for a gal’s dinner while Dennis and I had a guy’s dinner.  Then on Thursday she would go to the Met in the afternoon (when the exhibit opened) and I would play the 2nd course…then we would drive home together.  Figured I could get in two more tracks…and earn some real brownie points…pretty good deal.

 

We left Milton, MA around 7:30am on Wednesday and experienced almost no traffic until hitting the East Side Drive in Manhattan…and even there is was moving a good 30 mph.  Simply unheard of.  I dropped Pat off at the Palace Hotel in midtown and then headed northwest to northern NJ.

 

Preakness Hills Country Club, September 9, 2020:   I arrived at Preakness Hills around 12:30, met HP Michael Docktor, and was on the first tee by around 12:45.  

 

Preakness Hills was founded in 1926 and construction of its 18-hole course commenced at that time.  The course was about 6400 yards…fairly long for that time in history.  Today it measures 6750 yards (par 72).  It was designed by Willie Tucker, who had emigrated from Scotland in 1895.  Tucker also designed the original 18-hole St Martins course at Philadelphia Cricket (which hosted the 1907 and 1910 US Opens), plus Clearview and Douglaston municipals in Queens, NY.  I probably played Clearview about 20 times in my youth…it sits right next to the southern entrance to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, and Douglaston just once.  My brother Dave once saw Jackie Robinson playing Clearview in the 1950’s.  Douglaston was the original home of North Hills CC which moved east to Nassau Country in the early 60’s and NY City purchased North Hills CC’s original property (the last private golf club within the NYC limits I believe) which has remained a muni for the last 60 years or so.  

 

In the 1970’s and 1980’s Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva oversaw a major refurbishing of Preakness Hills which included extensive tree planting. Ron Forse led an effort to bring the course back to its original design elements in 2005-6, and Andrew Green (see post #146 regarding Oak Hill in Rochester) is developing a master plan.   My sense is that the greens have shrunk considerably over the past 95 years and should be expanded to recapture their original shape and dimensions…and some serious tree pruning would improve soft turf conditions.

 

In 1993 the club hosted the US Women’s Senior Amateur Championship, which was why I playing it.  I played fairly well (40 – 39 = 79), and after thanking Michael Docktor, headed back in to New York.

 

That evening Pat and I had drinks with Dennis K. (a golfing friend who she had not met), then Pat met her friend Nancy K. for dinner and Dennis and I had dinner together.  This was the first visit to NYC for either of us since the COVID pandemic started early this year and the City was of course strangely quiet and frankly somewhat lifeless.  No question that I loved living in Manhattan from 1970 to 1982 (and then in Westchester…primarily Purchase from 1985-1995), but I would have absolutely no desire to live there now.   But that is another topic…

 

I was scheduled to play Cherry Valley Country Club in Garden City NY (in Long Island’s Nassau County) on September 10 but the forecast was looking grim as we went to sleep.  While the forecast the next morning showed a break in the weather between 10am and 2pm, a call to Cherry Valley nixed any hope of playing it this day as the course had standing water from heavy rains, and with their club championship scheduled 2 days hence, they very appropriately advised that the course would not reopen on 9/10.  I could not remember the last time one of my traveling rounds was cancelled due to weather.  But eventually one’s luck runs out.

 

Pat went to the exhibit at the Met with her friend Nancy K. and really loved it.  I then picked her up and we were headed back to Massachusetts…slowly at first as we hit traffic on this Thursday afternoon, and arrived home by 7:30pm.

 

Stow Acres Country Club-North, September 15, 2020:  Within five days I had of course become restless.  But the travel rules under COVID made traveling very difficult.  My quest to play all courses and clubs that had ever hosted a USGA Championship has always been limited to the USGA’s 16 current championships and matches, and hence exclude the US Amateur Public Links, the US Women’s Amateur Public Links, and the  Men’s and Women’s State Team Championships.  As of 9/14/20, the Public Links host venues would have added 78 courses to the task, and the State Team Championships another seven.  Two of the 78 were located in MA within 50 miles of our house, so I figured why not.

 

The North Course at Stow Acres hosted the 1995 US Amateur Public Links and is located near Worchester, MA.  I booked a time on line and was off the first tee around 12:30…and soon understood the wisdom of my original decision to not try to play all the Publinx venues.  There are some great municipal and public courses in this country, but they tend to be few and far between and courses that hosted this USGA event in the past often fall prey to state and local budget reductions, or drops in demand.  I grew into the game in the 1950’s and 1960’s playing mostly munis and other public courses and through some combination of luck and hard work, have been fortunately enough to belong to some of the USA’s and world’s great clubs and play essentially all of the great courses of the world.  I do love the search for “hidden gems” that can be found almost anywhere…but most of these courses (including Stow Acres) do not fall into that classification.  It did get me to 1247 courses played in my lifetime…but hopefully I have learned a lesson…but I won’t put any money on that bet.

 

Wollaston Golf Club, September 24, 2020:  Since marrying Pat in 2008, we have spent our summers in Milton, MA, a suburb of Boston located about 8-9 miles south of downtown Boston.  In 1895, some residents of Quincy, MA (which lies immediately east of Milton) banded together to form a golf club (”Wollaston”) and built an 18 hole golf course in Quincy.   After some 80 years, Wollaston Golf Club sold its original course to Norfolk County (which has operated it as President’s Golf Course since then) and retained George and Tom Fazio to design and oversee construction of a new course in Milton which opened for play in 1976.  In 1992 the new Wollaston hosted the US Junior Amateur Championship which was won by a young man by the name of Tiger Woods (this was Tiger’s second of three consecutive Junior Championships which were immediately followed by three straight US Amateur Championships in 1994-96).   Wollaston lies about a mile from our house (as the crow flies), but until this day, I had never set foot on the property.

 

I was playing with Mike N., the president of nearby Milton-Hoosic (Post #142), Wollaston member Ed D., and Wollaston president Jim F.  (whose nephew works at Brookline).  The course winds its ways through the trees for the first nine holes and is more open for the incoming nine.  In recent years the club has started to prune back the trees lining most fairways and this has opened up some very fine vistas as well as promoting good air flow and healthy turf.  As you might guess I strongly encouraged more of this.  Best holes IMO are the par 4 5th  and 18th.  The former is 394 yards, doglegs sharply right and is very downhill from about 150 to 75 yards short of the green.  Good risk/reward hole as long hitters can take their chances trying to blow it over the trees on the right but risk ending up with a severe downhill lie.  The 18th is a slight dogleg right and uphill all the way making its 435 yards play more like 490 yards (especially into the wind we faced).  Overall the course plays 6889 yards (par 72), and is a good solid course…with the potential of being much better with further tree work, increased width, and more “options” and “angles” for players to think through and negotiate.

 

My game was poor on the front and OK on the back (46 – 42 = 88).

 

Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club, October 1, 2020:  Regular readers of this blog are all too aware of my quest to play every course that has ever hosted one of the 16 current USGA Championships/Matches…which are the following:

 

US Open                                                       US Women’s Open                

US Senior Open                                        US Senior Women’s Open

US Amateur                                                US Women’s Amateur

US Mid-Amateur                                      US Women’s Mid-Amateur

US Senior Amateur                                  US Senior Women’s Amateur

US Junior Amateur                                  US Girl’s Junior

US Amateur Four-Ball                            US Women’s Amateur Four-Ball

Walker Cup                                                 Curtis Cup

 

I think I have typed each of these correctly but who knows.  For sure dozens of folks at the USGA have spent hundreds of hours deciding the exact name of each and the order of the words in the name (but…why does “Senior” come before “Women’s”, but “Junior” comes after “Girl’s”???).  There are four championships that have been discontinued and venues which hosted these four are not on my bucket lists:

 

US Amateur Public Links                       US Women’s Amateur Public Links

Men’s State Team                                   Women’s State Team

 

Additionally, with the growth of Championship fields, some of the current events required a “co-host”, which was played along with the host venue for the two rounds of stroke play used to qualify for match play. 

 

USGA Championships that have required/will require co-host courses have been:

 

US Amateur 1980 and forward

US Mid-Amateur 1994 and forward

US Amateur Four Ball 2015 and forward (since inception)

US Junior Amateur 2021 forward

 

Sometimes the co-host course was part of the club or resort that hosted the Championship (for example, Pinehurst #2 and Pinehurst #4 for last year’s US Amateur), and other times the USGA selects a nearby course of high caliber.  When the US Amateur was played at Newport Country Club (RI) in 1996 and was won by Tiger Woods (his third straight which was followed by his turning professional the next week), Wanumetonomy served as the co-host course.  It sits just east of Narragansett Bay about 7 miles north of Newport CC.

 

I was originally scheduled to play it on September 30 with Peter H. (one of our “outlaws”…you can figure that one out) but heavy rain and 30mph winds nixed that thought.  When the next day looked clear and bright (albeit with 15-20mph winds) I made a go of it (Peter could not).  

 

Wanumtonomy is an interesting course.  The club was founded in 1922 and has been in its present location since.  The course was designed and built by Seth Raynor…which was confirmed when I played the 15th which has a great Double Plateau green.  While Raynor’s work has not been altered over the past 95 years by other architects, time does its thing and greens shrink, bunkers lose their shape, etc.  Ron Prichard has brought back parts of the course but more should be done.

 

After the round I went to the web to look at the full list of Raynor designs.  In total, he designed or substantially reconfigured 51 courses.  Of those, seven no longer exist, and of the remaining 44 I have played 13 multiple times and 16 once, leaving another 15 to play (note: this is as of 10/11/2020, after a trip to NY this past week to be covered in my next Post).

 

And Wanumetonomy was my 1249th course…so my next new one would mean hitting 1250.  I will keep you in deep suspense until the next Post is published!!

Monday, September 7, 2020

146. A Quick Trip to CT and Return to Upstate New York



Country Club of Darien, August 28, 2020:  As I work my way through my current bucket lists and come down to the last 25 % or so if a list or lists, sorting out travel plans becomes easier by merging my “not played” from my current lists and then sort them geographically by region.  For example, I try to play courses between Boston and Pinehurst in the fall or spring each year during my drive south or north.  In September 2019 I contacted the Head Pro (Cory Muller) at Country Club of Darien, which had been on Golf Digest’s “200 Toughest” lists in 1966 and 1967, to see if I could play it during my trip south in October.  The club had an event scheduled on the two days that worked for me.   So playing it in 2019 was not possible, but Cory told me to check in the spring or fall of 2020.  

 

Of course, by May 2020, the virus and resulting surge in golf participation had made most clubs very busy and many (including CC of Darien) had temporarily prohibited unaccompanied guest play…and this situation still exists at many clubs today.  Then in mid-August I decided to try another route.  Pat and I joined the International Seniors Amateur Golf Society several years ago…and I realized ISAGS’ roster might include a member of CC of Darien (as well as two clubs in Buffalo with similar policies this year…more later on these two clubs).  I was successful finding a member of CC of Darien but not successful with the Buffalo clubs.  I contacted Paul C. of CCD and he immediately suggested a couple of dates and we settled on 8/28, playing with Paul, another member (Chuck D.) and HP Cory Muller.

 

The drive was some 175 miles and the morning trip down to Darien was easy…no real traffic.  I met Paul, Cory and Chuck, and all three were great guys.  The course was active but not crowded.  

 

But first some architectural history.  Golf in Darien had centered around Wee Burn Club (founded in 1896 and moved to a new location in 1923 to course designed by Devereux Emmet…and famous in the 1980’s for 20+ year wait lists), and Woodway CC (founded 1916 with course designed by Willie Park Jr.).  Edgar S. Auchincloss had been living on a 200+ acre “gentleman’s farm” (note that his nephew was Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ step-father) and in 1956-57 decided to convert the farm to a golf course which soon thereafter was sold to a club which had attracted a strong membership base.  The course was designed by Alfred Tull who started in the golf course construction business and eventually became a full partner of Devereux Emmet.  Tull also designed the Yellow Course at Bethpage, Dupont CC (DE), Woodmont CC (North and South) (MD), and Belmont CC (MA) among many others.

 

In 2007 Dr. Michael Hurdzan (in partnership with Dana Fry through 2013) commenced a long-term renovation of CC of Darien that continues to this day (in fact, Dr. Hurdzan is a member).   He has designed (either alone or with Fry) Erin Hills (WI), Devil’s Paintbrush and Pulpit (near Toronto), Calusa Pines (FL), Hamilton Farm (NJ) (Post #121), Naples National (FL), and Shelter Harbor (RI) (Posts #5 & 142).  

 

The front nine is good but the land on the front (after the second hole) is very flat and most of its holes run parallel to each other (either NS or SN).  The course really gets going starting at the 10th and the back nine is excellent with some very good land movement and design variety.  My scores reflected my appreciation of the back as I shot 46 – 41 = 87.  IMO best holes are #7 (outstanding green complex), #10, and #12.  From the tips it plays 6822 yards (par 71).  

 

After a quick drink I was on my way back to Boston, hoping to miss any traffic backups on I-95 or the Merritt Parkway.  Not to be…it took me about 1:15 to go less than 20 miles as I got caught in the back woods of Darien and Norwalk and got stuck behind crew removing a tree damaged by the last hurricane (that came through almost three weeks earlier!).  Made it home by 8:45 or so.  Despite the drive home a real fun day.  Very good club and courses and great bunch of guys.

 

Atunyote Golf Club at Turning Stone Resort, September 1, 2020:  My bucket lists contained 4 courses in upstate New York that I had not played, plus Oak Hill CC’s East course had been renovated by Andrew Green and that was a “must see.”  Besides, with the various restrictions on entering certain states (particularly returning to Massachusetts), options for travel were fairly limited.  I planned my journey but the COVID golf surge meant I could not play one of the courses, Brookfield CC, in Clarence, NY (NE of Buffalo).  They allow accompanied guest play but no unaccompanied play…so, do any of you readers know any members of Brookfield??

 

As a substitute I added Atunyote, designed by Tom Fazio and Beau Welling and opened in 2004.  Atunyote is part of a Casino Resort and is located in Verona NY just south of the NYS Thruway about 25 miles east of Syracuse, NY (think Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Sam Penceal…one truly tragic story between two great stories).    I left our house around 4:30am, arrived about 8:40am, and teed off at 9:00am.

 

Atunyote hosted PGA Tour events from 2006-2010 and the PGA Professional Championship in 2006 and 2016.  It is built on a large gently rolling piece of property and stretches to 7315 yards (par 72).  Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not a huge admirer of Tom Fazio’s architectural efforts (with a few exceptions) and I shall simply say that Atunyote may be IMO, his most ordinary effort.  The holes are very repetitive and the word “boring” may best describe the course.  I had a 40 – 42 = 82, said my thanks, and headed west to Rochester.

 

CenterPointe Golf Club, September 1, 2020:  Back in 1966 a golf course known as Kanandaque G. C. (6905 yards par 72) was included in Golf Digest’s “200 Toughest Courses in USA” list, the first ever “Top XXX” list.  While Kanandaque was one of 49 courses dropped a year later when the 1967 list was published, it had its day (or year) of fame.  And this was why I was here this day.  It is now a semi-private course and its condition is probably slightly above average for USA munis.  The greens were actually in fairly good condition.  

 

Today it is known as CenterPointe and from the tips it plays to 6785 yards.  I had a tee time at 2pm and had to play before leagues started off holes #1 and #10 at 4pm.  I did play the full 18, but not in 1-18 order.  This was unambiguously a “check off the box” round…and I knew it would be before I arrived.  If one wants to play every course that has been in a USA Top 200, one must have these experiences.  But then again, this place is in much much better shape than the NYC munis I played from 1955-62 so who am I to complain.  Golf is like this for many many golfers and guess what, it ain’t so bad.  I had a 39 – 40 = 79.

 

I was a tired puppy after the round.  After emailing a copy of the 1966 and 1967 200 Toughest lists to the management of CenterPointe, I was off to Hamburg, NY, just south of Buffalo, a drive of about 1:40.  It had been a long day and a place to rest was most appreciated.  Only issue for Wednesday was a weather forecast featuring a day full of showers and thundershowers.

 

Brierwood Country Club, September 2, 2020:  Brierwood had originally been built and owned by Bethlehem Steel Corp., duplicating Bethlehem’s Saucon Valley Country Club north of Philadelphia.  A friend at Brookline who was raised near Buffalo recalls cutting the greens at The Bethlehem Club early on summer mornings as a teenager.  Bethlehem Steel purchased a 400-acre parcel of land, and the course, designed by Gordon and Gordon (Stanwich Club in CT, Berry Hills in WV—Post #143, Saucon Valley-Grace in PA) opened in 1959.  It is listed at 7100 yards in the 1966 200 Toughest list, which was very long in those days.

 

In the 1980’s Bethlehem Steel was forced to reduce costs and management perks and sold the club in 1987 to E. F. Burke Development Co.  It was purchased by Arnold Palmer Golf Management in 1997 and more recently by a Hong Kong based investment group.  

 

I had arranged for play through the GM who said I needed to play early, at 7:30am, which was great for me.  I zipped around the course in 1:59, shooting a 40 – 41 = 81.  The conditioning at Brierwood was quite poor…far worse than CenterPointe and I was pleased to get the round in before any rain arrived.  While the course has clearly seen much better days, its “bones” indicated that back in its day this was probably a brute of a golf course.  I was scheduled to play a course nearby (Wanakah Country Club) at 2pm and was hoping it might be possible to get off early.  As a postscript, one of the people I played with at Wanakah said he formerly was at Brierwood and it used to be a fine club, run into the ground by its current owners from Hong Kong.  Who knows?

 

Wanakah Country Club, September 2, 2020:  Wanakah sits almost right on Lake Erie and offers some wonderful views of downtown Buffalo to the northeast.  It was founded in 1899 and initially started with a small clubhouse and nine holes.  The course expanded to 18 by 1913 and by 1925 boasted an 18-hole course designed by Willie Watson (The Olympic Club, Brentwood CC, Hillcrest CC, Annandale GC, and San Diego CC, CA; Interlachen CC and Minikahda Club, MN; The Country Club, UT).  I was here because Wanakah hosted the 1950 US Girl’s Junior Championship.

 

From 2009-2018 Chris Wilczynski oversaw a complete renovation of the course including major efforts to improve drainage and reduce tree overgrowth.  The end result is a fine, fun golf course.  Best holes were #2, 4, 10, 13, and 14.  Course was in very very good condition.

 

The club was very busy so I could not play until about 1:15…but the nap I had in my car was much needed!  Rain did arrive as I teed off and lasted for about 5 holes but the lack of thunder etc. was much appreciated. It actually cleared up nicely for the back nine.  When I arrived at the 10th tee a threesome of members asked me to join them and they were very good guys.  I had a solid 42 – 39 = 81 after a poor start (4 over thru 3 holes).  

 

After thanking Head Pro Marc Rosa, I drove back to Rochester as I was scheduled to play the restored East Course at Oak Hill CC Thursday morning.

 

Oak Hill Country Club-East, September 3, 2020:  Oak Hill’s East Course had long been considered one of USA’s great championship courses.  It has hosted three US Opens (1956, 1968 and 1989 won by Cary Middlecoff, Lee Trevino, and Curtis Strange respectively), two US Am’s (1949 and 1998 won by Charlie Coe and Hank Kuehne), three PGA Championships (1980, 2003, and 2013 won by Jack Nicklaus, Shaun Micheel, and Jason Dufner), and the 1995 Ryder Cup won by Europe.  The club was founded in 1901 with 9 holes located in Rochester.  In 1921 The University of Rochester proposed a land swap which was accepted by the club…yielding it 355 acres in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester and cash to build two new courses.  Donald Ross then designed Oak Hill’s East and West courses.

 

Oak Hill member Dr. John R. Williams inspected the new courses (built on former farmland), saw a desolate landscape, and decided to do something about it.  He studied up on botany and concluded that oak trees were perfect for Rochester’s soil and climate…and proceeded to hand plant some 75,000 trees (mostly Oaks).  By 2015 these trees had grown to towering specimens but with much expanded width.  I played OHCC-East in 1981 and both tracks in June 2017 (Posts #82 and 83), and after the latter round observed the plaque honoring Dr. Williams’ trees and concluded that OHCC would never undertake a massive tree reduction.  I am now happy to report that conclusion was very wrong.

 

The trees were choking Ross’ superb design and three holes designed by George and Tom Fazio 30+ years earlier still looked out of place.  After viewing Andrew Green’s efforts at The Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, the leaders of OHCC placed some heavy bets on Green and agreed to massive and controversial tree reduction and pruning.  The results are simply outstanding, creating spectacular vistas and allowing the land to receive necessary sunlight and fresh air.  Green also redid every green and bunker to restore aspects of Ross’ design…and changed three holes substantially (#4, 6, and 15) and created an all new #5…all in order to conform with Ross’ intent.  IMO all of these holes are far superior to what I played in 2017…and the same may be said about the rest of the track as well.  

 

The course reopened for play a couple of months ago and plays firm and fast…and very difficult (7360 yards par 70…and you really want to avoid these new bunkers) but also fun.  I honestly believe Dr. Williams would be most pleased with the result.  

 

Over the past 30 years, OHCC’s standing in most “Top 100 lists” has slowly but precipitously declined.  For example, after consistently standing between #30 and #40 in GOLF Magazine’s World listing from 1983-2001, it steadily dropped to between #52 and #93 from 2007 to 2017, and fell off the Top 100 in 2019.  Its performance on Golf Week’s USA Top 100 Classic list mirrored this drop…but was actually worse.  In fact, the only listing that does not reflect this type of drop off was that of Golf Digest’s USA 100 Greatest (which many believe overemphasizes course difficulty).  Oak Hill’s standing on lists published by GOLF Magazine, Golf Week, and  top100golfcourses.com all showed similar declines during this period, with Golf Digest being the one outlier.  I fully expect OHCC to significantly advance in most listings over the next 2 years (as soon as it reaches the minimum number of reviews established by each publisher).   In terms of brilliant restorations/renovations, this one IMO in is close to being in the same class as LACC, Moraine, Old Town, Pinehurst #2, and Sleepy Hollow (see Posts #70, #80, #65/104/140, #104, and #128 respectively).  More time should give a definitive answer (for example, having just opened, OHCC needs some true grow-in time).  BTW…you can add Cal Club to this list…but there is no “Post” reference since I have not played it since starting the blog.

 

I played with three younger (relative to my age) members, having been introduced by Fergal O., and I absolutely look forward to hosting my host, Scott C. at Brookline either later this season or next year.  With his son enrolled at Boston College, there should be sufficient opportunities.  I had a respectable 41 – 43 = 84 that was marred by doubles on two par 3’s and painful bunker visits.  In summary all I can say, is that it is fabulous to see one of the great ones return to life!  Well done OHCC!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

145. A Week in New Jersey and Long Island , NY

While I was on my prior trip, the governor of MA announced new travel restrictions for entering MA that became effective August 1.  Essentially, to enter or re-enter MA from any state but NY, NJ, and the other 5 New England states (“exempt states”) one needs to either have a negative COVID test or self-quarantine for 14 days…and effective a week ago, RI lost its exempt status!  Travelers are required to submit a form upon entering MA, and I am concerned about flying, as MA may have a data sharing agreement with the airlines, which would make it easy for them to come after you if you avoid submitting the form.  So thoughts of trips to the mid-west etc. have quickly dissipated.

I had been invited for two golf rounds in the NY area during the week of August 10th, one at Mountain Ridge GC (NJ) on 8/11 and one at Deepdale on 8/14.  I planned on a Monday-Friday trip covering 8 courses, mostly in NJ to cover some courses on my various bucket lists.  

 

Knickerbocker Country Club, August 10, 2020:  I left our home around 8:30am (far more civilized than 5am…but trust me, I am not becoming civilized…it is almost impossible to find a private club that is open for play Monday morning) and arrived at Knickerbocker around 1pm.  Again, due to COVID, never hit any traffic (except for two construction sites on the Merritt Parkway in CT).  The club was almost deserted except for the swimming pool and given both the temperature and humidity were well over 90 (and would remain so most of the week) I wondered if I had the wrong sports equipment with me. 

 

Knickerbocker was founded in 1914 and has been at this location (in Tenafly, NJ about 5 miles north of the George Washington Bridge entrance) since then.  The course was originally designed by Donald Ross and subsequently renovated by Herbert Strong (think Canterbury in Cleveland and Guyan…Post #143…in WV).  More recently in 2007-8 Ron Forse restored some of Ross’ features.  It has never made a USA Top 100 but was included in GW’s Top 200 Classic list several times allowing for its inclusion in my Merged GW 400.  The highest position I show in the merged list was #287 in 2014 and it had dropped to #383 in the recently announced 2020 Merged GW list.

 

I thought the course was good but not great…its ratings today are probably appropriate.  It is flat for a good number of holes and had good land movement on others.  I was surprised at how docile these Ross greens were for the first 4-5 holes but then as the round continued, the greens had greater overall slope and were fairly good….and overall very large (having been expanded back to original size by Forse).  From the tips it plays 6726 yards (par 72) and I played from 5790 yards.  There were some very good maintenance practices employed on the course, such as maintaining grass at the entrances to all fairway and greenside bunkers at fairway height (so that bunkers act as “gathering point hazards”…and Knickerbocker has a whole bunch of superbly placed cross bunkers, which must be carefully considered after placing a drive in the rough.  On the other hand, the course looked and felt too green, soft, and slow and would be much better if firm and fast.  My favorite hole was #6, a 191-yard par 3 with a diamond shaped green (home plate is a point in the front middle of the green).  I hit the ball well and had a 40 – 41 = 81.   Played in 2:20.

 

I was really surprised by the amount of tree damage caused by Hurricane Isaias.  Several clubs I tried to reach this past week had lost their power for as long as 7-9 days and I saw the remains of numerous trees with trunk diameters or 3” and more that had he broken like toothpicks around the property…and this damage was evident at every course on the trip.

 

After the round I drove to my hotel where I was meeting for dinner Mitch R. (a fellow Golf Magazine panelist and member of GGCC), who would be part of our group at Mountain Ridge GC the next morning.  I first met Mitch in 2016 when he hosted me at the Chevy Chase Club (Post #46), his home club outside of Washington, DC.  Mitch completed his first GM World 100 in 2015 without having previously been a Top 100 Panelist for any magazine…quite a feat!

Dinner was good and I got to bed reasonably early…good thing as the next three days would be 36 holes/day in tough weather.

 

Mountain Ridge Country Club, August 11, 2020:  Mountain Ridge was founded in 1912 and originally was located in West Orange, NJ, with a nine-hole course designed by David Hunter.  Five years later Alfred Tillinghast had expanded the course to 18 holes, but the property was very hilly and not well suited for golf.  After subsequent evaluations by the likes of Raynor, Banks, and Travis all came back saying not much could be made with this property.  The club eventually sold their original property and purchased the current site in West Caldwell.  The new course was designed by Donald Ross and completed in 1931 with a new clubhouse designed by Clifford Wendehack (Winged Foot, Bethpage, Ridgewood, Park CC)…pretty good lineage on both fronts!  Since 1931, the club has hosted four Metropolitan Opens (the 4th being held August 20-23, 2020) and the 2012 US Senior Amateur Championship. 

 

I had played Mountain Ridge once before in 2016 (Post #46) and had heard good things about recent renovation work completed by Ron Prichard.  Golf Magazine was having a mini gathering of local Panelists, and there were about 12 of us there.  The recent work was clearly quite extensive based on my first look down holes 1 and 10 which run alongside a completely redone practice range.  The major changes to my eye are:

 

--very well done green size expansion (I would guess to original size in most cases);

--major tree removal creating superb vistas throughout the course and improving turf quality;

---elimination of areas of “double trouble” (dictating the need to pitch out) leaving the player the option of a heroic recovery and risk of a double bogey or worse;

--widening of the fairways bringing back Ross’ use of strategic options and angles; and

--excellent placement of cross bunkers along the edges of the fairways (with fairway height grass at all bunker entrances).

 

Mountain Ridge continues to have two different nines, with holes 1-9 being mostly straight and very hilly, and hole 10-18 (especially 11-17) generally being flat with many doglegs…but the nines do “fit together” very well.  IMO best holes are #6 and #7.  Overall a huge improvement, but I would like to see the course be faster and firmer, and importantly, the women’s tees here are 5500 yards (par 73).  I doubt that the average woman member can reach more than three par 4’s in regulation …and if the men members had to play at “equivalent distances” most would quit the game.  This is a problem at many “top” clubs and courses and needs to be corrected…and the costs are small.

 

In terms of historical ratings, Mountain Ridge has never cracked a Top 100.  It has been on the GW Top 100 Classic four times.  No question that 10-15 years ago a course like this would be in the USA Top 100, but the overall quality of courses out there has risen so much that I do not think it will make that goal this time.  Get firm and fast and there will be a new story here.

 

For the record, I did not play well and had a 45 – 42 = 87, playing from about 5500 yards.  From the tips it plays 7122 (par 71) and I expect it will present itself very well at the Met Open this week.

 

After the round, we had lunch with Ran Morrissett (Architecture Editor of GOLF), David DeNunizo (Editor-In-Chief), and Jason Abel (CEO) and discussed the Panel’s future plans.  Overall a very productive and interesting discussion.  Around 1:45 the lunch broke up and I headed south to the Edison NJ area.

 

Forsgate Country Club-Banks Course, August 11, 2020:  The drive to Forsgate was some 50 miles (0:55) and the course was fairly busy…so this would not be a quick afternoon round; such is golf in the COVID era, everyone has “cabin fever” and the game of golf is one of the few healthy and safe releases.

 

Forsgate has 36 holes; its first course was designed by Charles Banks and was his last course design (he passed away at the all too young age of 49 just prior to the course’s completion in 1931).  With his passing, so ended the Charles Blair Macdonald—Seth Raynor—Charles Banks lineage in golf architecture.  To some degree this trio was underappreciated, but efforts by Tom Doak and the late George Bahto have resurrected their place in golf history to its current high perch.  The second course (now called The Palmer Course) was designed by Hal Purdy and opened in 1961 and was renovated by Arnold Palmer in 1995.

 

Forsgate’s Banks Course is a demanding test.  It is filled with deep deep greenside bunkers literally built with Banks’ steamshovel.  There must be 10-15 greenside bunkers where the player must hit their bunker shot up at least 10’ to escape the hazard.  You had better bring your game!  To some degree I thought the course was too penal and lacked some of the strategic width and the mental “chess game” present in most CBM and Raynor tracks.  I thought the best holes to be #12 (named “Horseshoe” but really an adaptation of the CBM/Raynor “Short” design first displayed at National Golf Link’s 6th hole (Posts #19 and #138)…and an even better green that Sleepy Hollow’s #16 post Hanse…Post #128…but not a better view) and #17 (“Biarritz” with the longest valley I can recall seeing on a Biarritz design).  

 

The course finally was included in a Golf Week Top 200 listing in 2019 and 2020…both at #195 which earned it position #395 on my Merged GW list both years.

 

My game was fairly ugly this afternoon, yielding a 42 – 45 = 87 from 5650 yards; if I had played it from the tips (6904 yards) I might still be out there.

 

After the round I headed east to the NJ “Shore” where 3 of my rounds over the next two days would take place.

 

Hollywood Golf Club, August 12, 2020:  I first heard of Hollywood GC in the late 1970’s and the discussion centered on Mr. Robert Jacobson, who had won the club championship at Hollywood 25 times from 1932-1960.  One of Jacobson’s sons was a member at Quaker Ridge when I was there, and later in Pinehurst I met Earl E., who became a senior partner in Jacobson’s firm.  Finally, the wife of a person I did a lot of business with in the 1990’s grew up at Hollywood…and Saul P. and his wife Linda P. remain great friends.

 

I first played Hollywood in 2015 (Post #21) and loved every minute of it.  At that point the course was about one year into its renovation by Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design, and the changes since then are deep and superb, but first I need to fill in some history.  

 

Hollywood GC was founded in 1898 and the course was originally designed by Issac Mackie.  In 1914, Walter Travis (an early member of Hollywood, British Amateur Champion, and  

Three-time US Amateur Champion) redid all the greens and bunkers.  During the subsequent years, the course was revised by Rees Jones and others.  Finally, Renaissance’s Brian Schneider has been restoring Hollywood back to Travis original intent since 2014.  In terms of important events, Hollywood hosted the 1921 US Women’s Amateur, 2014 US Senior Women’s Am, and the Met Open in 1906, 1991, and 2017.  I wanted to play it after more recent work since 2015 prior to submitting my ballot for GOLF magazine’s next USA Top 100 later this summer. 

 

Hollywood has never made a US Top 100, although recently it has come close.  On my Merged GW list, it was #115 in 2005 and then started a significant drift downward to #205 in 2011.  Starting in 2016 is has made a steady climb, accelerating in the last two years:

                        2016    #199

                        2017    #190

                        2018    #184

                        2019    #157

                        2020    #108

 

Good signs and a climb that has been earned.  My favorite holes on the course are #4, #9, #11, #12, #13, and #16.  The bunkering throughout the courses is superb (featuring I think two “volcano bunkers”), as are the expanded green complexes.  When it was first redone by Travis it had some 220 bunkers, including 57 on the notorious 12th hole.  I counted the bunkers on #12 back in 2014 and came up with 39…and was told the current count there is 42.  The course is for sure playing firmer and faster.  But most of all, it meets two tests that are very hard to meet on one track:  it is both fun and an excellent test of golf.

 

No question in my mind that this one will break into the USA Top 100 ranks in the next two years…and it is about time that it is recognized by Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, and top100golfcourses.com.

 

If you have not played this is a must see and play!

 

I played with two members, Burt E., the club’s historian and member of the restoration committee, and Matt L.  All in all, a very good morning…except for my putting.  Hit the ball fairly well but could not do anything with the putter and had a 44 - 42 = 86.

 

Canoe Brook Country Club-South, August 12, 2020:  After a 45 minute drive north to Summit, NJ, I arrived at Canoe Brook CC.  I had been here in October 2015 (a few days before my afore mentioned 2015 round at Hollywood) to play the North Course (Post #20) and was back to play the South.  The North was designed by Walter Travis and opened in 1901 and the South was built by Charles Alison (of the firm Colt, Alison and Mackenzie).  Impressive heritage, but somehow road expansions etc. resulted in the need to redesign parts of both courses and these changes were made by Alfred Tull (1952), Hal Purdy (1971) and Rees Jones (1994).  Knowing the more recent history, I headed to Canoe Brook with some trepidation.

 

I arrived just before my tee time and headed to the first tee, which is a bit of a trek (via cart not so bad).  Frankly the first hole is awful….511-yard par 5 straight downhill at first, then flat to a wide and shallow green guarded by a large pond that starts about 80 yards short of the green front and covers all but the right hand 40% of the fairway.  The pin was way left and on my 7-iron third I bailed right and somehow two putted from about 90’ for a par.  On #2 (the #1 handicap hole) I hit a 3 wood second to about 4 feet and sunk the birdie putt.  The third is a downhill par 4 that I bogeyed, and #4 is a very uphill par 3 where I hit a 6-iron to about 15 inches just past the hole, for another birdie.  So, after 4 holes I am one under.  After bogeys on 5 and 6 and three pars on 7-9, I finish the front nine with a one over 38…and tell myself to grind hard on the back, where I will need a 2 over 37 for the magic number.  

 

Bogeys on 11 and 12 do not help but are followed by pars on 13 and 14.  #15 is a straight slightly uphill par 5 (489 yards from tips and 445 from my tees) and I hit my third shot to about 6’, and the putt is headed dead center in the cup when it suddenly veers right in the last 5-7”, just lipping out of the right edge and staying out, for a par.  Now I need to finished #16-18 even par, and par #16 and #17.  The final hole played 377 yards for me from an elevated tee to a slightly elevated green (overall hole is downhill).  Hit very good drive and then three wood stopped about 5 yards short of the green.  So so chip and missed 15’ putt and I had another 76…one too high.  Getting tired of this stuff!!!  Oh well, fairly pleased with how I played, just a little frustrated.  One thing is for sure, my putting substantially improved during my drive from Hollywood to Canoe Brook.

 

Obviously, course is one stroke away from a Top 50 in USA!  But actually, I liked the course and thought it was more fun than the North and made excellent use of some difficult land (still dislike #1).  It has never made a USA Top 100/200/400 but did host the 1936 US Women’s Amateur as well as four Met Ams.  Drive back down south to the Jersey shore was filled with “what-if” thoughts (as you are probably aware, the word “if” did not exist until the game of golf was invented).

 

Manasquan River Golf Club:  Founded in 1922, Manasquan River opened with a nine-hole course designed by Robert White. Four years later an additional nine holes lying to the west of the initial nine were added by White.  The topographies of those two nines are vastly different.  The initial nine (which for the most part is now occupied by holes 1 and 12-18) is basically flat and lies next to the river.  Holes 2-11 lie on land that rises sharply upward as one heads west away from the river and the initial nine holer.  Renovation work was performed by Ron Prichard and then a few years ago Andrew Green completed a major renovation.

 

Overall the golf course is very good its best holes IMO are #3, 7, 15 and 16.  The 7th hole plays 657 yards (overall very downhill) and given the raw unused land behind the 7th tee could easily be stretched to 800 yards (that is NOT my recommendation…”could” does not mean “should”).  I played with three other members of ISAGS (an international golf society) and hit the ball fairly well, shooting a 41 – 41 = 82 from 6143 yards (very long for me these days).  We were very fortunate that the rain and thunderstorms held off during our play.  The forecast for this day as of 24 hours earlier was fairly ugly, but never came to fruition.

 

Overall, I thought the course was very good…and the views looking east from holes 2-11 are often very compelling.  That club’s website says that bluff is the highest point along the Atlantic Seaboard from New Jersey thru Florida.  It plays reasonably fast and firm and is in excellent condition.

 

While the club has never been included in a USA Top 100/200/400, it hosted the US Girl’s Junior Championship in 1990.

 

After the round and a very good lunch (lobster et al), I drove about 5 miles to Spring Lake.

 

Spring Lake Golf Club, August 13, 2020:  By Thursday afternoon I was pretty tired.  When I arrived at Spring Lake, I learned that my 3:00pm tee time was just approximate…the club does not have tee times during weekdays.  With at least 4 groups in front of me, it looked like a 4pm start…and a slow 18 holes.  Plus, it had started to rain…not hard but fairly constant.  I retreated to my car for a short nap!  At 3:35 I was able to tee off.  

 

Spring Lake GC was founded in 1898 and started with a 9-hole course designed by Willie Nelson of Prestwick.  Within 10 years the club had outgrown the confines of nine holes…and soon thereafter purchased a 118-acre farm plus an adjoining 30-acre plot.  George Thomas (later known best for his brilliant designs in the Los Angeles area, including LACC-North, Riviera, and Bel-Aire CC) of Philadelphia was retained to design the new course.  After some five years of play, the club asked A. W. Tillinghast to renovate and improve on Thomas’ design, and Tillie’s work was completed by 1918.  

 

While the course was enjoyable to play and well maintained, frankly I found the architectural features to be rather bland and ordinary.  The greens reflected almost none of the contours and slopes typically found in Thomas’ and Tillinghast’s work, and the same can be said about the bunkering.  The club’s website makes no mention of any other architect’s involvement, but I had difficulty finding many of these two architect’s “fingerprints” on the layout.  I have no explanation based on facts…only conjecture.

 

From the tips Spring Lake plays a relatively short 6552 yards (I played from 5423) and a par of 72.  The course is very flat except for a couple of what appear to have been old wash areas to channel off flood waters.  The front nine played very slow and I chose not to keep score…but it would not have been pretty.  The rain persisted for about the first nine holes and then let up, and while the front nine was slow, some groups obviously quit after nine and the back nine moved along fairly well.

 

As with Manasquan, Spring Lake has never made a USA Top 100/200/400 but did host a USGA Championship, the 1981 Senior Women’s Amateur.

 

After the round I had a long (1:30) drive north to Mineola, Long Island, NY, which thankfully did not involve any heavy traffic.  One more night of sleep away from home, then 18 holes Friday and then I can get home, see me bride and hopefully get some rest!

 

Deepdale Golf Club, August 14, 2014:  In 1924 William K. Vanderbilt II commissioned C. B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor to convert part of his estate in Lake Success, NY (just east of the Queens County/Nassau County line) into a private golf course for his use.  Shortly thereafter Vanderbilt’s friends convinced him to make this new course part of a small elite private club, which would be closer to New York City and more accessible than some of the great clubs of Long Island further east (in today’s vernacular, it sounds like they convinced Vanderbilt to “downsize”).  That club became Deepdale Golf Club and was incorporated on October 26, 1924.

 

Fast forward about 30 years and plans were announced for the building of a major expressway (which would become part of the Interstate Highway System) to be known as the Long Island Expressway or I-495 eventually stretching some 70 miles from the western end of Queens at the entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel to Riverhead, NY (just northwest of the Hamptons).  I well recall the building of the LIE in the late 1950’s as it replaced a major throughfare formerly known as Horace Harding Blvd.  Believe it or not, this was important golf territory in the 1930’s.  There were four “majors” played in Queens prior to WWII:

 

            --1930 PGA Championship, Fresh Meadow CC (Post #14)

            --1932 US Open, Fresh Meadow CC

            --1939 PGA Championship, Pomonok CC

 

Fresh Meadow was located about 5 miles west of the original Deepdale GC, and Pomonock was about one mile further west.  Both were located on Horace Harding Blvd and Pomonock was about 0.5 from Kissena Golf Course, the NYC muni on which I played most of my early golf.  Shortly after WW II, Pomonock disbanded and Fresh Meadow sold its Queens location (to Met Life who built a shopping center and housing complex) and moved five miles east to Lake Success (near the original Deepdale).

 

Note…if this feels like it is getting tedious, stick with it…it will provide some interesting insights into New York politics in the 1950’s and beyond.

 

Now I need to step back into the 1920’s and 1930’s, when Robert Moses ruled the roost in NYC and NYC.  The following I learned from a fascinating book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro, published in the 1970’s.  Moses was named head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority which ended up building New York’s road system, Jones Beach and other City and State parks, etc…literally public works costing some $27 billion.  Caro explains a few of Moses’ more interesting transactions.  The routing of the Northern State Parkway through Nassau County was altered to avoid impacts on the estates and clubs (apparently particularly Wheatley Hills Country Club) of some of Moses’ friends.  If you look at a map of Nassau County, note how the Northern State Parkway suddenly heads south for about 2 miles before turning eastbound again.  Caro makes some interesting calculations regarding the amount of excess gasoline used annually by cars on this route.  Caro also claims that Moses, a Democrat, purposely built the Long Island parkways with low overpasses so that blacks could not use bus transportation to get to NYS parks such as Jones Beach.  Obviously, since Moses was a Democrat, such a claim must be summarily dismissed.  Seriously…go read the book as it is brilliant.

 

Back to Deepdale.  When the LIE was being routed, Moses was on his way out and could not control the LIE’s routing.  Unfortunately for the club, the LIE was routed directly through the original Deepdale GC property and the club purchased the Grace estate located about ½ mile from the original course, and hired Dick Wilson to build a new course on the estate, using the original Grace home as a clubhouse.  Deepdale moved to this new location in 1955 and has now been there for some 65 years.  Deepdale’s original course was sold to the Village of Lake Success and some of the original Deepdale is incorporated in the Village Club of Lake Success, which I played once in 1986 with an old friend of my parents Sid Nadworny, who was a member.

 

Interestingly, many golf courses move locations around Nassau County in the late 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s as a result of the rapid growth on LI after WW II and the construction of the LIE, including the following:

 

            --Deepdale’s move in 1955 as described above;

            --Fresh Meadow’s move from Queens and purchase of the financially troubled Lakeville CC in 1946;

            --Glen Oaks’ CC move of about 8 miles east from Lake Success to Old Westbury, NY, also necessitated by the building of the LIE.

 

Deepdale has only appeared on some recent GolfWeek USA Top 200 Classic lists, including a high of #101 in 2012 and most recently #125 in 2020.  It has not hosted any important national events but since 1972 has hosted three Met Am’s.

 

Now to the golf course.  One would doubt that Dick Wilson could design a golf course equal to one designed and built by Macdonald and Raynor…and one would be right!  This is a good golf course generally in phenomenal condition…but far from great.  Its architecture is somewhat repetitive and uninspiring.  On the other hand, the club is superb.  Very exclusive and private and filled with all of NY’s movers and shakers…today’s business, political, media, sports, and entertainment power brokers.  But, not my cup of tea, and the feeling may be mutual (no invitation to join has been received since my visit).  Am pleased I finally had the chance to play it.  I had a 44 – 41 = 85 and could not sink a putt (left two long ones just short and hanging on the edge).  Played with Fergal O. (another G2C2 member) and two mutual friends from Cape Cod (Kevan G. and Alex D.), who moved on the Garden City for an afternoon round.  I headed north and happily arrived home around 5:30.  Got out of bed Saturday morning around 10:30 (am I think!).

 


So now stand at 1240 courses played with lots left to go.  Travel in the immediate future will be limited as MA has placed restrictions on returning to MA from almost anyplace but the northeast, and I at most have 10-12 courses in the northeast on my high priority list!