Wednesday, August 19, 2015

15. July 13, 2015 Carnegie Abbey, RI

July 13, 2015 Carnegie Abbey, RI

Played in a pro-am at Carnegie Abbey with Tyler Gosselin, one of the superb group of Brookline assistant pros.  Carnegie Abbey was originally conceived as a high end club (about 10 miles north of Newport) by Peter de Savary (who purchased and renovated Skibo Castle, the old Andrew Carnegie estate near Dornoch, Scotland about 15 years ago and subsequently got into financial trouble). Course is built around lots of wetlands, which caused a bunch of design problems (e.g. first hole is a par 5 with a long carry over wetlands on second shot).  Did not like holes 1&2 but then course got much better…although it has some very long treks or drives from green to tee…and it includes a 22 story condo (that looks like it was imported from Atlanta…with apologies to the state of GA).  Fun afternoon and suffice it to say we did not win anything.

One side note about wetlands.  Reality is that most of the great old courses built from the late 19th century through the 1930’s could not have been built today.  Issues with wetlands would have made impossible these projects and resulting great courses.

July 17-19 Weekend in Philadelphia

Started off with a great Italian dinner on the very block in Philly where Rocky did his running through the open markets.  Dinner with my brother David, his wife Rosemary, and my nephew Sam (tennis player and a good one) and niece Jean (who became a mom four months ago).  Was great to catch up and to hear the wonderful news that Jean’s husband, Sebastian, was approved for his green card and would be back from Germany shortly (since arrived).

July 17 Philadelphia Cricket—Wissahockon.  Tillinghast design recently renovated by Keith Foster.  Brilliant job on renovation.  Sweeping views, fast greens and wonderful piece of land.  Hosted US Club Pro Championship some 2-3 weeks earlier (used to determine Club pros who are invited to play PGA Championship last week at Whistling Straights, WI).   Broke through in ratings with a #53 in GolfWeek (my merged list).  First top 100 ever for this course.  Best hole in my mind was #15, a 240 yard long Redan…not exactly a birdie hole.  While we loved the design, the condition was less than ideal.  The fairways looked great but had almost no root structure.  If this is to be a truly great course and find a permanent place in the top 100 (which it has the capacity to achieve), it needs to have some rest and let the grass come in properly…especially in climate such as found in Philadelphia.  Importantly, playing Wissahochon got me back to having completed all three of the current major magazine top USA Top 100’s…a status I lost when it was named to Golf Week’s Top 100 about 5 months ago.

July 18 Pine Valley Golf Club--Always a very special treat.  Simply a phenomenal design and a marvelously superb club.  Incredible variety of holes…and they integrate beautifully.  PVGC has dominated the USA and World ratings from day one.  To date, there have been 49 USA Top 100 listing which named a #1 (another eight listings named a top 10 listed alphabetically)…of those 49, PVGC has been named #1 on 40 (82% for you liberal arts types), and #2 on another 7 (plus one #3 and one #4).  Cypress Point has been named #1 on 5 of the 49, Augusta National on 3 (sorry ANGC…you don’t get credit for being listed first alphabetically on the eight that just showed a top 10), and Pebble Beach once.  On the World Top 100’s that I track, there have been 28 listings showing a #1, and PVGC has hit the #1 spot 24 times (86%), plus two #2’s and one each of #3 and #4.  Others hitting #1 Worldwide are Cypress Point (2x), Muirfield, and The Old Course at St. Andrews. 

Yours truly considers Cypress Point to be #1 in the world.  I am a great admirer of PVGC…to me, its basic design is the best in the world.  If one examines some of the early photographs of PVGC, the trees were thinner and shorter and the vistas far superior.  Some golfers love courses with each hole separated from others by trees.  In PVGC’s case, these trees have grown in height, number, and density.  The fairways still provide wide corridors (a good thing), but to me, the thick undergrowth and trees lining the fairways are a negative in several ways.  First, they restrict airflow, which negatively affects turf conditions.  Second, they impede views, which I love to see on a course.  Third, I believe that single trees are beautiful (as one can see the shape of the branching) but dense forests are not…they look like a green curtain.  One man’s opinion and others may (and obviously do) disagree.  In any case, it is still the best course in the world in terms of hole design, overall flow, etc.

I shot an 84 for handicap purposes (incalculable for stroke play) including 5 double bogeys.  I did birdie #12 and #17…but the ending was ugly.  Suffice it to say that if this had been a stroke play event, I would be close to reaching the Indian Ocean (via the direct route) by now.  I now refer to the right front bunker on #18 as “home.”

The very special thing about PVGC on this trip was that Pat was able to play it.  PVGC allows women to play every Sunday starting at noon and our host (who, consistent with my policy on this blog, shall go unnamed) was kind enough to invite two other couples as well…so the 3 men guests played with our host on Saturday (while the women played Gulph Mills in Philadelphia…wonderful and described in an earlier blog) and the women played PVGC with our host on Sunday (we played Merion that day…see below).  Was a special thrill for Pat…and she has now played all of the #1’s in history on USA and Worldwide top 100’s except ANGC…and loved all but one (do not mention Muirfield to her…it is a wonder that our marriage lasted after that round…one of a mere 11 on our honeymoon…she furious at me for bringing her to such a hayfield, and me even madder at her for not appreciating what I consider to be the world’s premier championship track).  In any case, she loved her day at PVGC and to our “host” (who reads this)…thank you from both of us again.

One final PVGC thought.  Back in the good old days (stop groaning you baby boomer and younger readers), no club gave away free tees.  The practice started in the 80’s or so and as clubs tried to outdo each other in going over the top, this was usually the first small step.  Today, almost all top clubs in the USA gives away tees.  This results in tee boxes littered with used tees and ruined mower blades.  The stupidity of this practice is astounding.  Never done in GB&I or Australia…and you won’t find old tees (broken or whole…the broken ones are great for hitting anything but drivers)…they have some sense!!!.  Since 1974, I have never paid for or taken any free tees from a basket, etc…and each year end up with about 100-200 extras.  The easiest way to cause waste is to give things away.  The point of this rant/diatribe is that PVGC has stopped giving away tees.  Hurray!!  Perhaps others will follow their lead…let’s hope so and ask our clubs to follow.  If a few more great clubs do it, it will become “socially acceptable” and a trend will begin.  Just remember, free tees are worse than denim on a golf course.

July 18 Merion Golf Club—I still remember back in June 1971, going upstairs to the 38th floor of Citibank’s headquarters in NY to watch the broadcast of the Monday Nicklaus-Trevino 18 hole playoff at Merion for the US Open Championship.  That was Trevino’s second US Open victory (having won at Oak Hill near Rochester, NY in 1968), and the genesis for one of the great quotes in golf history (from Lee of course):  “I love Merion, and I don’t even know her last name.” 

I also remember playing it for the first time in the summer of 1976…it was the 128th course I had ever played.  I recall that at the end of the round, I had several pictures of every hole in my mind and could remember every bunker and most (I thought) of its nuances.  Today, I can’t remember where I put my keys 5 minutes ago but I do know that I could play Merion 500 times and never understand all of its nuances.  It was about 6,500 yards then and played to just short of 7,000 yards for the ’13 US Open…very short for a championship track for both times.  But so brilliantly cunning!!

It was a typical Philadelphia summer day…about 95 degrees and much higher humidity.  After a good start, I ended up playing like a dog, sweated like a pig, and loved every second of it.  My last round here was May 24, 2012…and the fairways were about as wide as bowling alleys (in preparation for the ‘13 US Open).   At that time, it was impossible for mere mortals, or even club pros.  This time, with the rough at mere brutal height and fairways back to normal width, it was still extremely difficult but fun to play again.  The sheer genius of the routing…squeezed onto about 110 acres but with no sense of being crowded…is something to behold.  If you survive holes 2-6 (#1 is the perfect opening hole…not too hard but enough of a challenge to get you going), you can almost semi-relax on holes 7-13…because then you better hold on for dear life on 14-18.  Flows like a symphony…only Cypress’ flow is better.  There are a bunch of birdie holes (1, 4, 8, 10, 13) all of which quickly become double bogey holes with the wrong mistake.  There is also a collection of some of the toughest holes in the game (4, 5, 14, 16, 17, and 18).

And the club is equal to the course.  We feasted on a superb dinner Friday night that ended with a tour of the clubhouse and its incredible memorabilia.  Finally, after the round Sunday to the men’s locker room and showering under some of the world’s great shower heads.

One important note about Merion’s condition needs to be mentioned.  The club has reduced the amount of watering employed this year as well as the amount of pesticides used.  The results are interesting.  The fairways and tees look far from perfect in many spots but the course was firm and fast (despite the heat), the lies were uniformly perfect for everyone in our foursome…and that is what counts!!  Brown is good, soft and green and pretty is bad.

In terms of ratings, Merion is one of 20 courses to be included in every World Top 100 ever (note that of those 20, 11 including Merion are in the US), and one of 11 USA courses to be included in every World Top 100 ever, and one of 20 courses to be included in every USA Top 100 ever.  Its highest current World 100 rating is #9 (Golf Magazine) and highest current USA 100 rating is #5 (Golf Digest).  Pretty consistent, pretty strong.

Thank you again to our wonderful host, a close friend from NC with (if you can believe it) a sense of humor almost as sick as mine.

Our drive back to Milton, MA proved once again that all good things must come to an end.  Took seven hours, including 1:25 to get over the GW Bridge.  Arrived home at 12:25am with fond memories of a special weekend.

July 24-26 TCC Club Championship

Each year on the last weekend in July, Brookline holds its Club Championship, consisting of a stroke play qualifier on Friday, and then match play elimination rounds on Saturday and Sunday.  Pat and I competed in the Men’s and Women’s Super Senior Championships which require participants to be 65 or older.  Unfortunately we easily make that grade.  Pat was playing as defending champion, having won her gold metal last year.  On the other hand, I was laboring under the burden of losses in the finals in ’12 and ’13 and in the semi’s last year. 

Sunday July 26 was a very special day and both Pat and I won our respective events, thereby earning the title of “Mr. and Mrs. Super Senior Champion”.  A great capstone to the prior 10 days.

July 27-August 1 Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago, Minneapolis

Got up very very early the next day for a whirlwind 6-day trip and to catch a 6:30am flight.  One of my outstanding bucket lists is to play all 54 US Open venues.  Depending on definition, the number can vary.  For example, Baltusrol as hosted 7 Opens on four different courses.  In any case, as of July 27, I had seven to go.  My plans were originally to play six of these, but then I learned that Skokie CC near Chicago was commencing a regrassing project on July 27 and was closing until next year.  So this trip was reduced to a mere 9 tracks in six days.  And, I am starting out pretty tired from the prior 10 days.

July 27 St George’s--Monday morning flew from Boston to the great city of Toronto to return to St. George’s, a very popular name for great tracks (three have made a world 100…St. George’s Hill in Surrey, England, Royal St. George’s in Sandwich England, and St. George’s near Toronto…plus another with a solid reputation…St. George’s on Long Island, NY).  A superb Stanley Thompson design that unfortunately was ravaged by the winter of ‘13-’14.  In the spring of 2014, Tom Doak came in to rebuild all 18 greens and make a series of renovations.  The course was closed until approximately May 2015.  However, during June the club experienced a horrendous combination…heavy traffic (lots of play), monsoon-like rains, and also no sun.  By July, the club had 18 temporary greens.  By July 27 only three temps remained but the other 15 were wisely kept much longer and shaggier than normal.  New grass is like infants, very fragile and susceptible to disease.  My sense is that it will take until fall 2016 before these greens are fully established, and that will depend on not going through another difficult winter (in this era of global warming there of course should be no concern about that).  Renovations are not without risk (financial, operational, etc.) even when overseen by the best in the business (and Doak is one of them).  Boards of Governors need to think these through carefully…but act decisively when needed.  Courses, grass, bunkering, etc etc wear down over time and must be repaired and rejuvenated at times.  Most great clubs and courses had overseers who insured that they were kept up to date in previous decades.  Today’s overseers have a responsibility to do the same for the future members and generations an their clubs.  Those that do not run the risk of falling by the wayside.

St. George’s is currently #87 in the world on Golf Magazine, #30 in the world on Golf Digest’s initial list and #55 on www.top100courses.co.uk and has for many years generally been considered to be Canada’s finest.  My guess is that with the recent problems it will temporarily drop somewhat but then bounce back in a couple of years.

While overly slow greens can make it difficult to properly evaluate a course, I believe the changes to St. George’e are excellent. Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs are giving it a real run for the “best in Canada” title.  Who knows who will win in the next few years…but I have not see a rival to St. George’s outside of Cabot.

After a wonderful dinner at St. George’s, I drove to Buffalo with James Duncan of Coore Crenshaw to be ready for an important course to visit…the original CC of Buffalo.

July 28 Grover Cleveland Municipal:  After arriving at James’ house at 12:30am (very long story) we set the alarms for an early wake up…tee off scheduled at 6am (no typo there).  Unfortunately, Lisle and the kids were in California, so I did not get the chance to meet them. 

Some history here.  Grover Cleveland was originally designed and completed in 1889 as the home of the CC of Buffalo, was revamped by Walter Travis in 1910-11, and hosted the US Open in 1912.  Subsequently, in 1922 the club purchased land in the suburb of Williamsville and retained Donald Ross to design the new course, which opened in 1926.  While Grover Cleveland occupies much of the same land as Travis’ design, through the years there have been renovations…although the course has never been “modernized.”

In planning this trip, I faced an important decision…which venue should I play to tick off the CC of Buffalo/1912 US Open list from my bucket list.  The answer was obvious…had to go back to the original.  So at about 6:10am James and I teed off on #1.  It was fairly empty at that hour and we played quickly.  The course, which extends back to 5621 yards is a par 69 and we of course played it from the tips.  Without boring you any more, let me just say that I hit a gap wedge into 18 and left myself a birdie putt of about 7’ that would have given me a 70… shooting my age.  With the pressure mounting, I choked and missed the putt (to be fair it broke about 8”).  Opportunity lost.  Yes, I know many of you are saying right now that my age rounded to 71 (I was approximately 70.6767 years old that day).  But, I would of course never want to bring that up.  In any case, probably a good thing I missed this time…not sure I would want to listen to me if I had shot my age at a former US Open venue playing from the tips, with a golf architect as a witness.

On the way to the airport we looked quickly at the current CC of Buffalo and The Park CC, but no time to play.  Am off to Chicago to go play some more US Open venues.

July 28 Midlothian CC:  Arrived at the club around 2:20 and was off the first tee by 2:40.  Midlothian hosted the 1014 US Open won by Walter Hagen.  So, in the period from 7/26-28, I had played the venues for the 1912, 1913, and 1914 US Opens (CC of Buffalo, The Country Club, and Midlothian CC).  It also hosted the Western Open 3x (2x won by Billy Casper).  Midlothian has not been included in any Top 100 listing, but it is a fine course.  Hit the ball fairly well and enjoyed the course.  Had to jump around to play the full 18 in about 3 hours and had a 77…so total of 148 not too bad for a 36 at the old age of 70.6767 (approximately).  Drove about 30 miles north to my hotel for the next two nights near Glenview IL.  Not as tired as I should have been.

July 29 North Shore CC:  Short drive to club and played with 8:30 group of seniors who play together Wednesday mornings.  Fun bunch of guys.  One of them was celebrating his 90th birthday…and yes you guessed it, he beat his age for about the umpteenth time!!  North Shore was founded in 1900 and moved to its present location in 1924 after building a course designed by Harry Colt and Charles Alison.  It hosted the 1933 US Open (won by Johnny Goodman, that last amateur to capture the US Open) and 1939 and 1983 US Amateur (won by Bud Ward and Jay Sigel respectively).  North Shore was a regular on Golf Digest’s USA Top100 through 1985 when it peaked at #86.  Since then, it has not appeared. 

A very good course, but to my mind, way too green, soft and over watered.  Lots of Poa and the club is grappling with what to do to improve (see words above regarding St. George’s) Started with an ugly double bogey on #1 (after a perfect drive) but finished off with an 80 and our team lost $10 (each!!).  After playing in a cart Monday and then 36 Tuesday, walked this 18…and then got some much needed rest that afternoon and evening.  Almost glad Skokie was being re-grassed as my plan was to play it that afternoon.  Now down to 4 US Open venues and the weather looks good for the rest of the week here in Chicago and in Minneapolis.

July 30 Onwentsia Club:  This will be another long day.  Playing Onwentsia at 8am, then off to O’Hare Airport to catch flight to Minneapolis, and hopefully play Minneapolis Golf Club this evening.  Lots of things have to work to make this happen.

Onwentsia, founded in 1893 and located in Lake Forest IL is a very private club and a simply beautiful club.  In 1895, the club moved to a new location and retained Charles B. Macdonald to design the first nine holes in its present location.  The second nine was designed by Herbert Tweedie and James and Robert Foulis shortly thereafter and the club hosted the 1899 US Amateur (won by Herbert Harriman) and 1906 US Open (won by Alex Smith).  More recently, the course was renovated under the direction of Tom Doak.

I loved the layout…wide open with wonderful vistas.  Similar to Quaker Ridge and Muirfield, it has 9 holes around its circumference surrounding the other nine.  However, with Onwentsia, the back nine is on the circumference and moves in a counter-clockwise direction.  Walked the 18 and had a 41 on the back 9 followed by a 40 on the front.  Course was superbly firm and fast and in simply perfect condition.  Interestingly, there are three pairs of greens so close to each other that they seemed ideal candidate for double greens (#1 and #8, #3 and #6. and #7 and #11).  Apparently, this was voted down by the membership due to the fact that Shoreacres, also located in Lake Forest, has several double greens and the members did not want to be seen as “copying” Shoreacres.

Drove to O’Hare, caught flight to MSP...which was on time, rented my car at MSP, and headed off to for my next 18.

July 30 Minneapolis GC:  Founded in 1916 with a course originally designed by Willie Park Jr. and then renovated by Donald Ross in 1922 including redoing the routing due to the relocation of the clubhouse.  Hosted the US Am in 1950 (Sam Urzetta defeated Frank Stranahan in the final) and the PGA Championship in 1959 (won by Bob “He has no shot” Rosburg).  Amazingly, this course has never appeared on any Top 100 listing other than Golf Digest’s 1966 and 1967 listing of the USA’s 200 toughest courses.

In my communications with the head pro, he said I could go off at 6:30pm, but would not be more specific.  I arrived at 5:30pm, saw the tee sheet and wondered how I could possible get in 18; there was a member’s 9 hole event going off #1 until 6:00PM and those foursomes would take at least 2 hours.  I almost drove away.

Ran into the starter who said he would get me off on #10.  I played all 18 (wild order:  10-15, 9, 1, 16, 17, 2-8, 18) and to put it simply, I loved it…it is a hidden gem.  Condition is perfect…firm and fast with just enough rough.  Greens are very tough if you get above the pin, and coming out of the rough, you can play it, but it is almost impossible to have any distance control.  

The land is wonderful…rolling all over the place.  As you stand on the tees, there are all sorts of options for direction and distance as the mounds dissect the fairways at different angles…so the carry to reach a downhill portion of a fairway might be 30 yards further on the right side of the fairway compared to the left side.  I would guess that it takes many rounds to figure out how to play this course and it would be great fun learning.

Yes, lots of parallel fairways…but they go in about 3 directions.

What I do not understand is how has this course stay under the radar for 100 years?  Very special…could play it every day and never be bored.  

July 31 Minikahda Club: Founded in 1898, Minikahda has hosted a US Open (1916 with Chick Evans winning), a Walker Cup match (1957), and a US Amateur (1927 with Bobby Jones defeating Chick Evans in the finals).  Minikahda’s original course was designed by Willie Watson (the club’s first pro), Robert Foulis (also an architect at Onwentsia…see above), and C.T. Jaffrey (one of the club’s founders).  In 1916 the club brought in Donald Ross for major changes.  In the decades that followed, several architects including Geoffrey Cornish have overseen minor changes. Then in 2001, Ron Prichard was brought in to remove hundreds of trees, bring the greens back to their original dimensions, restore the bunkering and lengthen the course. 

Sitting high above Lake Calhoun, the setting is magnificent.  The variety of holes is superb as are the green complexes, with the 7th being the best in my opinion.  With limited acreage, the course could only be stretched to 6815 yards, relatively short with today’s players and length, but this is a wonderfully fun course to play.  While never piercing a USA top 100 list, Minikahda has consistently been on Golf Week’s list of USA Top 100 Classic courses (but not high enough to make the top 100 when merging GW’s Classic and Modern lists).  In summary, this is a wonderful club and course…certainly not of great “championship caliber” but no question a fun fun track that one could play every day without being bored.  It was firm and fast and in outstanding condition.

July 31 Spring Hill Golf Club:  Completed about 1999, this Tom Fazio design set on about 210 wooded acres stretches to 7042 yards (with what looked like a lot of space to lengthen if necessary) par 72.  Spring Hill has been included on Golf Week’s Top 100 Modern USA course list since 2011, but those ratings (as with Minikahda above) have not been high enough to earn a top 100 on my “merged” Golf Week list.  For example, this year, it reached #46 on the Modern list (best to date) that was #109 on my merged list.  It has never “qualified” for Golf Digest’s Top 100 as it was not “actively seeking raters” (meaning raters had to find a member to sponsor their round).  Since a course must have 45 ratings over the prior 8 years to qualify for the GD Top 100, and Spring Hill had never reached that total, it simply did not qualify (even though it is #2 in Minnesota…ahead of a top 100 course).  May seem crazy at first, but these rules make sense as Golf Digest is looking for a meaningful “sample size” when it averages raters ratings for the Top 100.  Starting recently, Spring Hill has been “actively seeking raters and is now over the 45 round hurdle (according to their head pro)…was glad to help them get over that minimum.

I played with a friend who is a member (who I know from Pinehurst) and one of the assistant pros.  We went off the back nine.  While I started off playing well (for about 3 holes), I quickly got tired.  This has been a tough trip.  In any case, I did get a good look at the course. 

Spring Hill is a beautiful facility and a superb test of golf.  Best holes are #3 (540 yd par 5 with vary well bunkered and elevated green), #8 (231 yd par 3 to slightly elevated green with subtle breaks,  #14 (455 yard par 4 with a very subtle and well positioned green), #16 (508 yard par 5 dogleg left sharply uphill from the drive with superb fairway bunkering making the layup a very tough shot).  The settings of each hole are spectacular…however, as with Pine Valley, almost all of the holes are surrounded by thick forests, which block vistas (admittedly a style issue) but also limit air circulation.  While MSP did get about 2” of rain earlier in the week, that was followed by two cool dry windy days which should have fully dried out the course.  Instead, it was a touch on the soft side and not nearly as fast and firm as Minneapolis or Minikahda.  My host pointed out a good number of places where the club had cleared trees and opened up the fairways more…and I definitely applaud these efforts.  My sense is that the course is much improved versus 10-15 years ago when it looked to me to be so difficult as to be very little fun except for folks with plus handicaps.  Much more is needed and I think the course has incredible potential if it aggressively pursues these efforts.

Had dinner w our NC friends at Spring Hill that evening.  Wonderful dinner.  Clubhouse facility is first class (as is the food).

August 1 White Bear Yacht Club:  Friday 7/31 was very tiring.  Saturday was (thank goodness) just an 18-hole day and then flights back to Boston.  Pat had played in a women’s invitational Monday-Wednesday at TCC, then went up to York, ME to play with a close friend from TCC, and then with grandkids on Friday.  Be great to see her when I get home.

My round at WBYC was originally scheduled by Fergal O’Leary (friend from Boston and fellow rater…and in case you couldn’t guess it, originally from Ireland, Dublin and Portmarnock to be specific).  Fergal was out west on business and got to play all 36 at Forest Highlands (Flagstaff, AZ) Friday followed by a horrific red-eye from Phoenix to MSP (arriving at about 4:30am).  He showed up at my hotel room about 5:15am and was able to get about 30 minutes of sleep (stop what you are thinking…room had two beds...if it didn’t I wouldn’t be writing about this).  We had a game at WBYC at 8:20 and then had to catch a flight at 2:40pm.

Arrived at White Bear around 7:40 and met out hosts, the current and incoming greens committee chairs (one of whom was from Flushing Queens…not Jamaica of course, but pretty close…trust me, our back and forth regarding Queens in the 50’s and 60’s would have bored you to tears…even more so than this blog).  Club was very busy, and has a healthy caddy program, which was great to see.  We went off on #10 to make sure we could catch our flight, but first some background.  Located on White Bear Lake north of St. Paul, WBYC was founded as a yacht club in 1889 and added an 18 hole course designed by Donald Ross in 1912 (renovated by Don Herfort in 1971 and Tom Doak in 1995 and 1999).  In the early 20th century, WHYC was a hub for the wealthy and influential of MSP as exemplified by the following except from the club’s website:

“It is said, that during the summer of 1921, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, rented a room at the White Bear Yacht Club. A year later, he published Winter Dreams, a short story that transpired at a golf club in Black Bear Lake, Minnesota…sound familiar?”

WBYC was rated #65 in the USA on Links Magazines final listing (12/31/14) and #59 on Planet Golf’s Worldwide Top 100.  In terms of historical ratings, it reached as high as #67 on Golf Week’s merged 2007 USA Top 100.

Now for my thoughts.  First and foremost…a true hidden gem.   The land and Ross’ use of the land is simply spectacular.  Almost every hole is filled with many options…and plays with the golfers mind beautifully.  My guess is that it would take at least 15 rounds to really get to know it…and even then a player is always learning some more with each round.

The course is in great condition...but would be much more fun and better if it was really firm and fast.  There had a bunch of rain 4 days earlier, but given how windy it was during those days, that should have been plenty of time to dry it out.  It was a bit soft the day we played it and if it was firmer and faster, it would play easier for B and C level players and harder for the A players.  Am not talking fast and firm like Muirfield at the Open a couple of years ago, or Royal Liverpool in 2006…but there is a lot of “room” between current conditions and that level.

WBYC have done an excellent job of clearing trees so far, but more work can be done and that would help improve the firmness of the course.  In my (always humble) opinion, a wall of trees is NOT beautiful as all you see is a curtain of green.  On the other hand, individual trees are beautiful as you can see their branches and shapes (which you cannot see when looking at a “wall” of trees).  Thinning out thick forests helps here also. Yes, I know this is a repeat of what I said in the PVGC write up…but it is worth repeating.

Only weak hole was #18.  It may be possible to build a new tee back about 50-60 yards.  In total, possible changes such as that could add as much as 200 yards to WBYC’s current 6471 yards…but of course must be done carefully and not just on the suggestion of an old hack like moi.  Since you were wondering, I had an 81.

We finished by 12:20, thanked our hosts and made it to MSP in plenty of time for our flights.  Two exhausted but happy dishrags.  Was great to get home…and exhausting to think that I had a game with two guests and another member at Brookline the next day!!



Next Stop Canada: Toronto Golf Club, Jasper Lodge, Banff Springs August 14-19

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